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Friday, 21 November 2014

Obama signs secret order that expands US combat operation in Afghanistan

© AFP Photo / Ethan Miller

It's alright, I have everything under control.

President Barack Obama has secretly signed an order that expands the United States' direct combat role in Afghanistan throughout 2015, the reported.

Signed over the last few weeks, the secret order permits American forces to continue to battle the Taliban and other militants that pose a threat to either the Afghan government or US personnel.

According to the , US jets, bombers, and drones will be able to aid ground troops - be they Afghan or US forces - in whatever mission they undertake.

Under the order, ground troops could join Afghan troops on missions, and airstrikes could be carried out in their support.

If true, this marks a significant expansion of America's role in Afghanistan in 2015. Previously, President Obama said US forces would not be involved in combat operations once the new year begins. He did say troops would continue training Afghan forces and track down remaining Al-Qaeda members.

Obama signed the secret order after tense debates within the administration. The military reportedly argued that it would allow the US to keep the pressure on the Taliban and other groups should details emerge that they are planning to attack American troops. Civilian aides, meanwhile, said the role of combat troops should be limited to counter-terror missions against Al-Qaeda.

The said an administration official painted the secret order's authorization as a win for the military, but another said the US would not carry out "offensive missions" against the Taliban in 2015.

"We will no longer target belligerents solely because they are members of the Taliban, the official said. "To the extent that Taliban members directly threaten the United States and coalition forces in Afghanistan or provide direct support to Al Qaeda, however, we will take appropriate measures to keep Americans safe."

The change in direction came as the administration faces pointed criticism from those who say the US withdrew from Iraq too quickly, allowing the so-called Islamic State to make rapid gains in a country whose military proved to be easily intimidated and defeated.

Meanwhile, new Afghan President Ashraf Ghani has a much softer position on the US presence in his country compared to his predecessor Hamid Karzai. Ghani reportedly asked the US to keep battling the Taliban into 2015. He also removed restrictions against US airstrikes and joint raids that were implemented by Karzai.

It appears that the number of troops that will be operating in Afghanistan next year will remain unchanged from previous plans. There will be 9,800 soldiers left throughout next year, and that number will be cut in half by the end of the year.

By the end of 2016, the remaining US troops are scheduled to leave Afghanistan, ending the US military presence in the country.

The green children of Woolpit: the 12th century legend of visitors from another world

© Wikipedia

The ruins of the Abbey of Bury St. Edmunds

The Children of Woolpit is an ancient account dating back to the 12th century, which tells of two children that appeared on the edge of a field in the village of Woolpit in England. The young girl and boy had green-hued skin and spoke an unknown language. The children became sick and the boy died, but the girl recovered and over the years came to learn English. She later relayed the story of their origins, saying they came from a place called St Martin's Land, which existed in an atmosphere of permanent twilight, and where the people lived underground. While some view the story as a folk tale that that describes an imaginary encounter with inhabitants of another world beneath our feet or even extraterrestrial, others accept it as a real, but somewhat altered account of a historical event that merits further investigation.

The account is set in the village of Woolpit located in Suffolk, East Anglia. In the Middle Ages, it lay within the most agriculturally productive and densely populated area of rural England. The village had belonged to the rich and powerful Abbey of Bury St. Edmunds.

The story was recorded by two 12th century chroniclers - Ralph of Coggestall (died c 1228 AD), an abbot of a Cistercian monastery at Coggeshall (about 26 miles / 42 km south of Woolpit), who recorded his account of the green children in the Chronicon Anglicanum (English Chronicle); and William of Newburgh (1136-1198 AD), an English historian and canon at the Augustinian Newburgh Priory, far to the north in Yorkshire, who includes the story of the green children in his main work Historia rerum Anglicarum (History of English Affairs). The writers stated that the events took place within the reign of King Stephen (1135-54) or King Henry II (1154-1189), depending on which version of the story you read.


According to the account of the green children, a boy and his sister were found by reapers working their fields at harvest time near some ditches that had been excavated to trap wolves at St Mary's of the Wolf Pits (Woolpit). Their skin was tinged with a green hue, their clothes were made from unfamiliar materials, and their speech was unintelligible to the reapers. They were taken to the village, where they were eventually accepted into the home of local landowner, Sir Richard de Caine at Wilkes.

The children would not eat any food presented to them but appeared starving. Eventually, the villagers brought round recently harvested beans, which the children devoured. They survived only on beans for many months until they acquired a taste for bread.

The boy became sick and soon succumbed to illness and died, while the girl remained in good health and eventually lost her green-tinged skin. She learned how to speak English and was later married to a man at King's Lynn, in the neighboring county of Norfolk. According to some accounts, she took the name 'Agnes Barre' and the man she married was an ambassador of Henry II, although these details have not been verified. After she learned how to speak English, she relayed the story of their origins.

Artist’s depiction of the Green Children of Woolpit

A Strange Underground Land

The girl reported that she and her brother came from the "Land of Saint Martin", where there was no sun, but a perpetual twilight, and all the inhabitants were green like them. She described another 'luminous' land that could be seen across a river.

She and her brother were looking after their father's flock, when they came upon a cave. They entered the cave and wandered through the darkness for a long time until they came out the other side, entering into bright sunlight, which they found startling. It was then that they were found by the reapers.


Over the centuries, many theories have been put forward to explain this strange account. Regarding their green colouring, one proposal is that the children were suffering from Hypochromic Anemia, originally known as Chlorosis (coming from the Greek word 'Chloris', meaning greenish-yellow). The condition is caused by a very poor diet that affects the color of the red blood cells and results in a noticeably green shade of the skin. In support of this theory is the fact that the girl is described as returning to a normal color after adopting a healthy diet.

With regards to the description of the strange land, Paul Harris suggested in Fortean Studies 4 (1998) that the children were Flemish orphans, possibly from a nearby place known as Fornham St. Martin, which was separated from Woolpit by the River Lark. A lot of Flemish immigrants had arrived during the 12th century but were persecuted under the reign of King Henry II. In 1173, many were killed near Bury St Edmunds. If they had fled into Thetford Forest, it may have seemed like permanent twilight to the frightened children. They may also have entered one of the many underground mine passages in the area, which finally led them to Woolpit. Dressed in strange Flemish clothes and speaking another language, the children would have presented a very strange spectacle to the Woolpit villagers.

Other commentators have suggested a more 'other-worldly' origin for the children. Robert Burton suggested in his 1621 book 'The Anatomy of Melancholy' that the green children "fell from Heaven", leading others to speculate that the children may have been extraterrestrials. In a 1996 article published in the magazine Analog, astronomer Duncan Lunan hypothesised that the children were accidentally transported to Woolpit from their home planet, which may be trapped in synchronous orbit around its sun, presenting the conditions for life only in a narrow twilight zone between a fiercely hot surface and a frozen dark side.

The story of the green children has endured for over eight centuries since the first recorded accounts. While the real facts behind the story may never be known, it has provided the inspiration for numerous poems, novels, operas, and plays across the world, and continues to capture the imagination of many curious mind


Small, vulnerable ETs": The Green Children of Woolpit 229.

Europe backpedaling on U.S. aggressive agenda towards Russia?

It's long overdue but better late than never that Europe might just be back-pedalling on America's aggressive agenda towards Russia. The business-like visit to Moscow this week by Germany's Foreign Minister Frank-Walter Steinmeier suggests that Europe can come to its senses to seek a diplomatic resolution of the escalating tensions over the Ukraine crisis - tensions that could spark a wider continental war, or worse.

Steinmeier met with his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov in which the pair stressed the need to find a political end to the violence in Ukraine. The German diplomat - the first high-level European envoy to Moscow in several months - also talked about normalising relations between his country and Russia and of finding a way to rescind the economic sanctions that Brussels has imposed on Moscow over recent months.

EU ministers in Brussels balked at imposing a fourth round of sanctions earlier this week, showing a growing division over the policy among European governments.

Interestingly, Steinmeier said his visit to the Russian capital was following up on positive discussions held last weekend with President Vladimir Putin at the G20 summit in Australia. The German foreign minister said the task now was to prevent a new spiral of violence in Ukraine.

Given that Germany is the European Union's largest economy, we can fairly say that Berlin's political attitude is going to hold sway for the rest of the bloc.

Meanwhile, the contrast with the European attitude, as seen this week through Steinmeier, could not be sharper in Washington.

This week, the Republican-controlled Congress was pushing through a bill that will significantly increase military support to the Kiev regime. The ultra rightwing cabal, despite a fig leaf of elections last month, has clearly shown no interest in implementing the ceasefire brokered on September 5 in the Belarus capital, Minsk. Civilian casualties are mounting among the ethnic Russian population in Donetsk and Luhansk as the Kiev's military forces continue their practice of indiscriminate shelling of cities and villages with the use of banned weapons, including cluster bombs and unguided ballistic missiles.

Never mind violations of the Minsk Protocol, the murderous offensive by Kiev consists of multiple war crimes.

Nonetheless, the US Congress is unabashed and is in fact preparing to legalise massive overt military aid to this regime whose leaders, including its nominal President Petro Poroshenko, are becoming more and more unhinged, warning earlier this week of "not being afraid of total war with Russia".

Republican Congressman Michael Burgess, the author of the provocatively named Ukraine Freedom Act Support, said this week: "Ukraine [sic] needs weapons, ammunition, body armour and communication means. Of course, financial support is important but not as much as weapons and ammunition to fight off the Russian troops who invaded a sovereign country."

Note the assertion of Russian invasion by the Congressman without the slightest obligation to substantiate his claim. He probably heard it on Fox News or CNN and feels free to regurgitate it as incontrovertible fact.

The Kiev regime's reckless militarism over the past seven months has brought Ukraine's economy to its knees, with its currency crashing and soaring international debts unpaid - chief among the creditors being Russia. Yet Washington sees the priority as not financial assistance but rather more militarism to provoke more aggression towards Russia.

After the Republican mid-election victory earlier this month, Congress is likely to pass the above bill. Henceforth, the US government will be enabled to openly supply lethal materiel, including anti-tank and air defence systems, grenade launchers, machine-guns and sniper rifles. This marks a baleful escalation of Washington's military intervention in Ukraine, which up to now has feigned its support for the Kiev regime as "non-lethal aid".

This is just what the US Republicans have been clamouring for. Last week, swivelled-eyed Senator John McCain said: "We want to give the Ukrainians [sic] weapons to defend themselves as the Russians are dismembering their country." McCain, another Fox-News-regurgitating politician, was one of the main international sponsors of the neo-Nazi shock troops who seized power in Kiev earlier this year and who now openly vilify fellow Ukrainians in the eastern regions as "sub-human Moskals".

Up till lately, Washington and Brussels have been singing off the same propaganda hymn sheet as the Kiev regime that they both railroaded into power last February in an illegal coup against the elected Ukrainian government. In an astounding inversion of reality, the US-EU axis accuses Russia of invading and subverting Ukraine. No proof is proffered and the words of the criminal, openly hostile and Russian-hating Kiev regime are promulgated as gospel truth.

Brussels has so far toed the Washington line of imposing sanctions on Russia for allegedly violating Ukraine's sovereignty and territorial integrity. The fact that the people of Crimea voted freely and overwhelmingly to secede from the Western-installed Kiev regime in March and to join the Russian federation, followed by similar referenda for breakaway autonomy in the eastern Donetsk and Luhansk regions, is attributed, through a feat of double-think, to Moscow's meddling.

However, with the Western sanctions and Russian counter-sanctions taking the heaviest toll on an already recession-stricken Europe, the anti-Moscow nostrums are bound to be viewed with increasing leeriness. Tough talk may be cheap, even rewarding, for Washington, but not for the Europeans.

'German exports to Russia tumble' reported the at the end of last month, as a result of the standoff with Moscow - the worst rupture in relations since the formal end of the Cold War more than two decades ago. Elsewhere it is reported that German industry and businesses are feverishly lobbying Berlin to revise the sanctions policy, which is threatening thousands of German jobs and the biggest bilateral trade between Europe and Russia.

As the EU's economic powerhouse, what is bad for Germany is automatically bad for the rest of Europe.

The new EU foreign policy chief Frederica Morgherini, formerly the Italian minister, has recently expressed misgivings about the effectiveness of sanctions. Morgherini took over from Britain's Catherine Ashton who was instrumental in the Western regime-change operation in Kiev and who had displayed a pathetic servility to Washington.

Other European states are also increasingly finding a more critical voice towards what they see as senseless and self-defeating hostility against Russia.

'Hungary questions EU sanctions on Russia' reported the on October 16. Slovakia, the Czech Republic, Romania, Bulgaria and Austria have added their voices to question the official Washington-Brussels stance of trying to isolate Russia.

Serbia's Prime Minister Aleksandar Vucic has defiantly said that his country will not follow Brussels' sanctions on Russia, citing long-lasting historical and cultural ties with Moscow, even though Belgrade currently has EU accession status. Added to that are strong economic and investment ties between Russia and Serbia.

All these dissenting countries have a vested interest in developing the giant South Stream gas supply project from Russia, as well as from just maintaining decorous neighbourly relations. For them, the sanctions on Russia are tantamount to cutting off their nose to spite their face.

Perhaps the words of Vladimir Putin and other Russian leaders are finally beginning to win through reason and empirical evidence, or lack of it. Speaking at the Valdai Club in Sochi at the end of October, one of Putin's main points was that US geopolitical policy is aimed at driving a wedge between Europe and Russia out of selfish American interests. Competition for Europe's vast energy market is an obvious objective for the US, as well as the subordination of European economic policy to Wall Street and the US Federal Reserve. In short, the subordination of Europe to American capitalist hegemony.

Kremlin chief of staff Sergei Ivanov recently said that what is primarily motivating American hostility towards Moscow is that "Russia dares to have an opinion" on the future direction of global developments. This independence is seen for example in Russia's promotion of alternative international banking to the Washington-dominated IMF, or the use of bilateral currencies for seminal Eurasian energy trade instead of dependence on the US dollar.

Any sane person can see that Russia's policies are entirely legitimate and even desirable for a more balanced global economy and polity. It is ludicrous for the arrogant, self-declared exceptional American nation to criminalise Russia on this basis, and that is why Washington has used the Ukraine crisis as a cover for its unacceptable imperialist agenda.

European governments would do well to contemplate the self-indicting words of US Vice President Joe Biden. Biden told a meeting at Harvard University last month that European states were initially reluctant to adopt American sanctions toward Russia. "President Obama had to embarrass European leaders into it," said Biden with more than a hint of glee at Washington's power at bullying Europe. How's that for an atrocious admission?

Washington has everything to gain from plunging its so-called European allies into a new Cold War with Russia. And Europe has everything to lose.

But it seems now that a significant European constituency is at last waking up to the folly that has been foisted on its 500 million citizens by the likes of pro-American puppets Hermann Van Rompuy, José Manuel Barroso, David Cameron and Catherine Ashton. Will German Chancellor Angela Merkel or French President Francois Hollande grasp the courage to follow the diplomatic path being advocated by several courageous dissenting EU members?

One hopes that Europe is beginning to part ways with the US direction on Russia - a direction that is leading to an abyss.

American politics is arguably the most corporate-controlled, brainwashed, intellectually devoid and dangerous institution that the world has ever known. The buying of the latest Congressional elections with $4 billion in corporate campaign funds (that is, bribes) is proof that the US is not a democracy - it is a plutocracy. If Europeans have any residual democratic independence and enlightened reason, then they must find it and assert it urgently. Europe and Russia are far more natural allies than the warmongering American rulers could ever be.

Teacher charged after video surfaces of him forcefully dragging student into pool

A California physical education teacher has been charged with corporal injury to a child after video surfaced of him attempting to throw a 14-year-old girl into the pool during his class, News10 reports.

On the video - taken by another student - Edison High School P.E. teacher Denny Peterson can be seen dragging the girl toward the pool while she yells, "My top is falling down."

The lawyer representing her, Gilbert Somera, admitted that the girl was lying about her reason for not wanting to go in the pool - she had had her hair done earlier that day for an event she was attending that evening and didn't want it ruined - before adding that it was immaterial to the way in which she was treated, given the claim she was making.

[embedded content]

"Regardless of her participation, it should disgust you how this man put his hands on a 14-year-old girl. She said multiple times, 'My top is falling down,'" he said.

"'No' means 'no' and 'stop' means 'stop,'" Somera continued. "This isn't a situation where she's attacking a teacher and he's defending himself. When a woman or a 14-year-old girl says 'no,' it means 'no.'"

Moreover, he said, Peterson had the option of punishing her academically for her refusal to participate.

Peterson was put on leave after the incident, but was later reinstated at another Stockton Unified School District campus. After being alerted by News10 that charges had been filed against him, however, the district again placed Peterson on leave.

In a statement, the district said that it "has taken appropriate action in this case. The teacher has been placed on paid administrative leave per district policy."

Why on Earth are police going to a class called "Killology" and training to be "warriors"?


© Killology

Albuquerque, New Mexico - Just over a week after the City of Albuquerque signed an agreement with the Department of Justice, promising to scale back aggressive police tactics and address police brutality, the Albuquerque Police Department has found themselves in the midst of another scandal.

This week, it was revealed by local KRQE News 13 that a retired Albuquerque Police Officer was teaching a class that was seemingly designed to instruct other cops on how to be more aggressive.

The class is run and operated by retired Lt. Col. Dave Grossman, and is called "killology - the study of killing." The retired officer instructs a number of similar classes, including his most recent, "The Bulletproof Mind: Prevailing in Violent Encounters Before and After."

Grossman Refers to himself as "World's Leading Combat Authority."

In his classes, Grossman instructs the officers to be "warriors", and has even created promotional material for the classes that say "Are you prepared for battle?"

These classes were exposed earlier this month when officer Fernando Aragon promoted for one of Grossman's lessons using a city email account.

Aragon now claims that he was not sending out the email to endorse the program, but to just "make the other officers aware of it."

Police accountability activists have pointed out that these classes are a sign of the aggressive culture that exists at the APD, and police departments across the country.

"The DOJ was quite clear that we need to shift away from a mentality of viewing all citizens as enemy combatants of some sort. I think at this point of time, when reform is at the forefront of everyone's mind, we want to do whatever we can to break down the model that equates police work with war. This training clearly does that," ACLU Director Peter Simonson told KRQE News 13.

The mayor and the police chief have both refused to comment on the issue, stating that it was none of their business.

[embedded content]

Sheeple scanner: The FBI is very excited about this machine that can scan your DNA in 90 minutes

dna scanner

© IntegenX

A scanner, quickly: The RapidHIT 200 can generate a DNA profile in about 90 minutes.

Robert Schueren shook my hand firmly, handed me his business card, and flipped it over, revealing a short list of letters and numbers. "Here is my DNA profile." He smiled. "I have nothing to hide." I had come to meet Schueren, the CEO of IntegenX, at his company's headquarters in Pleasanton, California, to see its signature product: a machine the size of a large desktop printer that can unravel your genetic code in the time it takes to watch a movie.

Schueren grabbed a cotton swab and dropped it into a plastic cartridge. That's what, say, a police officer would use to wipe the inside of your cheek to collect a DNA sample after an arrest, he explained. Other bits of material with traces of DNA on them, like cigarette butts or fabric, could work too. He inserted the cartridge into the machine and pressed a green button on its touch screen: "It's that simple." Ninety minutes later, the RapidHIT 200 would generate a DNA profile, check it against a database, and report on whether it found a match.

The RapidHIT represents a major technological leap - testing a DNA sample in a forensics lab normally takes at least two days. This has government agencies very excited. The Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, and the Justice Department funded the initial research for "rapid DNA" technology, and after just a year on the market, the $250,000 RapidHIT is already being used in a few states, as well as China, Russia, Australia, and countries in Africa and Europe.

"We're not always aware of how it's being used," Schueren said. "All we can say is that it's used to give an accurate identification of an individual." Civil liberties advocates worry that rapid DNA will spur new efforts by the FBI and police to collect ordinary citizens' genetic code.

The US government will soon test the machine in refugee camps in Turkey and possibly Thailand on families seeking asylum in the United States, according to Chris Miles, manager of the Department of Homeland Security's biometrics program. "We have all these families that claim they are related, but we don't have any way to verify that," he says. Miles says that rapid DNA testing will be voluntary, though refusing a test could cause an asylum application to be rejected.

Miles also says that federal immigration officials are interested in using rapid DNA to curb trafficking by ensuring that children entering the country are related to the adults with them. Jeff Heimburger, the vice president of marketing at IntegenX, says the government has also inquired about using rapid DNA to screen green-card applicants. (An Immigration and Customs Enforcement spokesman said he was not aware that the agency was pursuing the technology.)

Meanwhile, police have started using rapid DNA in Arizona, Florida, and South Carolina. In August, sheriffs in Columbia, South Carolina, used a RapidHIT to nab an attempted murder suspect. The machine's speed provides a major "investigative lead," said Vince Figarelli, superintendent of the Arizona Department of Public Safety crime lab, which is using a RapidHIT to compare DNA evidence from property crimes against the state's database of 300,000 samples. Heimburger notes that the system can also prevent false arrests and wrongful convictions: "There is great value in finding out that somebody is not a suspect."

But the technology is not a silver bullet for DNA evidence. The IntegenX executives brought up rape kits so often that it sounded like their product could make a serious dent in the backlog of half a million untested kits. Yet when I pressed Schueren on this, he conceded that the RapidHIT is not actually capable of processing rape kits since it can't discern individual DNA in commingled bodily fluids.

Despite the new technology's crime-solving potential, privacy advocates are wary of its spread. If rapid-DNA machines can be used in a refugee camp, "they can certainly be used in the back of a squad car," says Jennifer Lynch, a senior staff attorney at the Electronic Frontier Foundation. "I could see that happening in the future as the prices of these machines go down."

Lynch is particularly concerned that law enforcement agencies will use the devices to scoop up and store ever more DNA profiles. Every state already has a forensic DNA database , and while these systems were initially set up to track convicted violent offenders, their collection thresholds have steadily broadened. Today, at least 28 include data from anyone arrested for certain felonies, even if they are not convicted; some store the DNA of people who have committed misdemeanors as well. The FBI's National DNA Index System has more than 11 million profiles of offenders plus 2 million people who have been arrested but not necessarily convicted of a crime.

For its part, Homeland Security will not hang onto refugees' DNA records, insists Miles. ("They aren't criminals," he pointed out.) However, undocumented immigrants in custody may be required to provide DNA samples, which are put in the FBI's database. DHS documents obtained by the Electronic Frontier Foundation say there may even be a legal case for "mandating collection of DNA" from anyone granted legal status under a future immigration amnesty. (The documents also state that intelligence agencies and the military are interested in using rapid DNA to identify sex, race, and other factors the machines currently do not reveal.)

The FBI is the only federal agency allowed to keep a national DNA database. Currently, police must use a lab to upload genetic profiles to it. But that could change. The FBI's website says it is eager to see rapid DNA in wide use and that it supports the "legislative changes necessary" to make that happen. IntegenX's Heimburger says the FBI is almost finished working with members of Congress on a bill that would give "tens of thousands" of police stations rapid-DNA machines that could search the FBI's system and add arrestees' profiles to it. (The RapitHIT is already designed to do this.) IntegenX has spent $70,000 lobbying the FBI, DHS, and Congress over the last two years.

The FBI declined to comment, and Heimburger wouldn't say which lawmakers might sponsor the bill. But some have already given rapid DNA their blessing. Rep. Eric Swalwell, a former prosecutor who represents the district where IntegenX is based, says he'd like to see the technology "put to use quickly to help law enforcement" - while protecting civil liberties. In March, he and seven other Democratic members of Congress, including progressive stalwart Rep. Barbara Lee of California, urged the FBI to assess rapid DNA's "viability for broad deployment" in police departments across the country.

No surprise: U.S. used Al-Qaeda in Yemen to blackmail government

© AP Photo/ Hani Mohammed

The United States used the presence of al-Qaeda affiliated terrorist cells in Yemen to blackmail the government in Sanaa, Yemeni president's adviser Saleh Samad told RIA Novosti Friday.

"Political vacuum in the country at the time when the government was being formed prevented authorities from taking drastic measures and declaring war on terror. The United States used al-Qaeda to blackmail the Yemeni government and impose its diktat authority," the adviser said.

Samad, who is a key figure in Houthi movement, told RIA Novosti he believed the government must do everything to preserve Yemen's sovereignty and integrity of its territories, when it comes to US interference and the use of drones to kill terrorist suspects on the Yemeni soil.

In 2012, anti-government protesters in Yemen forced autocratic President Ali Abdullah Saleh to step down after 33 years in power.

Following the power transition in the country, Yemen has seen an increase in terrorist activity, particularly by al-Qaeda fighters. The United States is the only country carrying out UAV operations in the region, after US President George W. Bush launched a drone campaign to eradicate terrorists in 2004.

Yemeni Houthis Deny Being Financed by Iran: President's Adviser

Iran does not secretly back or finance Yemen's Houthi movement Ansar Allah that has become part of the national unity government following a series of protests in August, Yemeni president's adviser from the Houthi organization told RIA Novosti Friday.

Saleh Samad, a key figure in Ansar Allah which translates as "Partisans of Allah", dismissed the claim that Tehran and Houthis have been working together as "provocations of Saudi Arabia and Americans that are carried out with the help of media campaigns to disseminate the information about our alleged links with Iran".

Gulf Arab states have accused Iran of providing financial and ideological assistance to Houthi Shiite rebels from a northern Yemeni province, while news agencies have been reporting about Yemeni coast guards intercepting ships from Iran that purportedly carried weapons and military equipment for the Houthis.

"No evidence of this has been presented so far. We share a common goal with the Iranians, Palestinians and the Lebanese which is to oppose the US-Israeli project," Samad told RIA Novosti.

The Houthis, the main opposition force in Yemen, have been carrying out protests in the country since mid-August, demanding the resignation of the Yemeni government. Houthi militias have taken over many Yemeni cities, including areas of the capital Sanaa. The fighters claim their actions are aimed at protecting civilians from terrorism.

Skyrocketing water bills: Utilities and cities using underhanded tactics to gouge customers


"In places like Benton Harbor, Michigan and Detroit, there is something called the emergency manager, which essentially is a local dictator. He can depose the mayor and offer decrees and answer to no one except the governor. In these two cities and others, because they are lacking tax revenue (because of lack of industry) they are jacking up the water rates as much as 40%. ... One of the people who was leading the charge against this stuff was recently convicted in a kangaroo court in Benton Harbor and is now facing 20 years in prison. He is Reverend Pinkney." - Brandon Turbeville

"Little bitty Benton Harbor was the testing ground. It was the testing ground to see what they can get away with. ...It's comin' to your city next, whether you like it or not.

- Rev. Edward Pinkney

Readers may remember my past article dealing with the apparent corruption regarding water rates in places like Dekalb County, Georgia. Electricity, Gas, Water. It's crucial that people be aware that they are not safe from those providing these services and necessities. They should know that their "government" can even move to take water from them.

But Dekalb County is not the only place in the United States where water rates and the restriction of access to water has become a significant issue. As the quotes above demonstrate, Benton Harbor, Michigan appears to be ground zero in the battle for access to water.

Reverend Pinkney had been, up until his recent conviction, leading the charge for the people of Benton Harbor. As the World Austerity Report writes,

For years Reverend Edward Pinkney has been fighting the slow move to takeover, privatize, loot, and gentrify Benton Harbor. He has been fighting not only for the survival of his own city as well as Michigan state, but for his personal freedom.

Since 2003, Rev. Pinkney has endured prejudice by white juries and lawyers, been fined, jailed, released, put on probation, fined for exercising his first amendment rights, and jailed again. More recently, in true David and Goliath fashion, Rev. Pinkney had successfully gathered sufficient petitions to force a recall election of Mayor James Hightower. Pinkney warned that Hightower would use all his resources (Whirlpool Corporation, Sheriff Bailey, prosecutor Mike Sepic, and County Clerk Sharon Tyler, to name a few) against Rev. Pinkney. Unfortunately, the law means very little to those who wish to privatize and asset strip public utilities, schools, roads, and even government.

Benton Harbor as well as Detroit and other cities with Emergency Managers have seen the privatization of public schools, parks, and utilities. The takeover has now shifted into a form what can only be understood as genocidal: the shutting off of water to its own citizens, as is currently happening in Detroit. [Emphasis added.]

But "emergency managers" are not the only way to take water from people or charge them fortunes they can't pay.

In Georgia, the technique is somewhat more subtle. There, water providers do not jack up the rates since doing so would cause a public outcry and protest. Instead, they send out water wills that are fictitious and that have no basis in actual water usage - bills as high or higher than 10 times more than the normal rate, often reaching the amount of three to six thousand dollars. When customers call to complain, the water board's phone system conveniently doesn't work and they end up reaching no one. And when they call the office of the CEO of the county, as people have been doing at the rate of nearly 50 calls per day for months, nothing happens. Letters of complaint go unanswered.

DeKalb water charges

DeKalb residents are receiving abnormally high water bills.

For those who may not fully understand the nature of the "Dekalb County Water Scam," I encourage you to read my past article "Is Dekalb County Georgia Government Running An Immense Financial Scam?"

In my article, I presented a sample of a number of complaints that typify the types of comments found regarding the water rates in Dekalb County. In the time since that article, the complaints have continued to roll in as can be seen from reading the reviews of Dekalb County Water and Sewer.

A sample of these reviews are as follows:

Trudy R.

28 days ago

I live alone in the last few months my bill has been between $200-400 for a single household, I have paid someone to check to see if there's a leak unseen, no leak - I'm waiting & hoping the county will see their errors, correct it & refund based on their mistakes

Clarice B.

2 months ago

My water bill has doubled since my last bill. I know it is incorrect because I had to shut off the water from the outside because I was having work done inside my house. I also turn off my water vale in my bath room when I am not home. I think they are just guestamating the meter reading and not actually coming out to read. Right now I would give Dekalb County Water & Sewer a grade of F

Rosa S.

8 months ago

Horrible Customer Service! After two billings of astronomical water bills I contacted DeKalb County Water & Sewer to come out and check my meter for a leaks. We corrected the problem and then went to the office to request an adjustment on our bill. We followed all the steps. I've made several attempts for the last 2 weeks to contact them to no avail. since their ENHANCED AUTOMATED TELEPHONE SYSTEM just takes you through the horse and pony show to tell you that all the agents are busy and to try your call at a later time. Really!? It doesn't matter the time of day you call.... it's always the same. I have resorted to emailing. As a residence of Dekalb County. I am very disappointed with the services rendered while you are empting my purse!

Bill Tyor

over a year ago

No number to call in outage - We have a water outage in our neighborhood and there is no number to call, as far as I know, to report it.

Terry R over a year ago

BILLING Is Just Incompetent with NO Follow through !! - I have had no less than 5 incorrect water bills from the utility. Some were in over $700.00 in a billing cycle.

Each occurence they have read the meter and agreed it was an incorrect reading.

Would you not think that the meter reader who was incompetent causing this many problems would be terminated and or reassingned.

My last months bill indicated over 9,000 gallons. Single household. Low flow toilets. They agreed to check the readings and call me back.

The next thing I will get is a termination notice.

What else can I do raise this valid concern for over a year.

In the case of Reverend Pinkney, are the Powers That Be coming down so hard on him because of what he might uncover and not just because of his protesting? Such was the case for Kevin Annett who was forced out of the United Church in Canada when he started looking into deaths in Catholic and Anglican residential schools for children of First Nation people. He uncovered genocide and was punished for his discoveries. He has since uncovered that many of the same things and worse are still going on there. This video explains "worse."

So what is Pinkney exposing to deserve this treatment?

A mere search engine term of "water bills double" brings up a myriad of results from all across the country regarding the doubling of water bills in places as far apart as St. Louis, Morrison, OK, St. Bernard Parrish, LA, Washington, D.C., Maryland, Chicago, and many other cities and states.

A quick search of the terms "astronomical water bills" likewise reveals that many parts of the country do not need their water bills to double officially in order for them to be outrageously expensive. In fact, the reports surrounding many of the skyrocketing water bills in many of the cities such as Seattle and Chesterfield, VA are oddly familiar to the reports surrounding the mysteriously skyrocketing water bills in Dekalb County.

For instance, as Kelly Avellino writes for NBC12,

Angry Chesterfield homeowners are calling NBC12, after getting astronomical water bills.

Ed Brooks, a resident in the River Downs neighborhood, says the water bill for his home is typically about a hundred dollars a month. However, his bill this month was more than $1,100.

"I got a bad case of sticker shock when I opened it up and saw it was $1,100," said Brooks.

Brooks is just one of a slew of neighbors in Chesterfield reporting skyrocketing water bills, right now. The River Downs neighborhood Facebook page shows one neighbor posting after another about historically high water bills.

"It is baffling," said Anne Farrell, also of River Downs.

Farrell's bill for August went up more than $170 dollars from the same time, the previous year. The bill shows that Farrell's water usage allegedly doubled.

"I know we didn't do anything differently. I know we didn't have a leak. I know we didn't have any circumstances that the bill would go up that much," said Farrell.

Lauren Nelson, another resident, says her family cut back on water usage, nixing backyard water slides and only turning on the sprinklers periodically.

"Our bill last year was $123. This year... over $310," said Nelson.

Yet, while the American people are being charged grossly high and even invented amounts for water, in California and across the country, Nestle and Arrowhead are using massive amounts water, virtually for free.

As Katie Rucke reports for Mint Press News,

As Californians struggle with the extreme drought gripping the entire state and work to preserve the precious resource by implementing bans and restrictions regarding its use, a major food supplier has been taking water from a particularly parched part of the state and bottling it.

Since 2002, Nestle has had a deal with the Morongo Band of Mission Indians that allows the food giant to pump water from the Millard Canyon aquifer located on the tribe's reservation, bottle it and sell it under the company's Arrowhead and Pure Life water brands.

How much Nestle, the country's largest bottled water company, paid the Morongo tribe for the rights to the water supply is not known, as the contract between the bottled water supplier and the tribe is not required to be disclosed.

The state has enacted severe restrictions regarding water use, aiming to conserve enough water for about 3.5 million people, or about 9 percent of the state's population, but because the water plant is located on the Morongo Band of Mission Indians' reservation, local water agencies do not have any control over the water plant.

Nestle also doesn't have to report how much water it takes from the water basin because of the plant's location on the reservation. Many say this is a point of concern, especially since water is a limited resource in the state.

Ian James of The Desert Sun also reported on Nestle's use of much-needed water supplies. He wrote,

The plant, located on the Morongo Band of Mission Indians' reservation, has been drawing water from wells alongside a spring in Millard Canyon for more than a decade. But as California's drought deepens, some people in the area question how much water the plant is bottling and whether it's right to sell water for profit in a desert region where springs are rare and underground aquifers have been declining.

"Why is it possible to take water from a drought area, bottle it and sell it?" asked Linda Ivey, a Palm Desert real estate appraiser who said she wonders about the plant's use of water every time she drives past it on Interstate 10.

"It's hard to know how much is being taken," Ivey said. "We've got to protect what little water supply we have."

Over the years, the Morongo tribe has clashed with one local water district over the bottling operation, and has tried to fend off a long-running attempt by state officials to revoke a license for a portion of the water rights. Those disputes, however, don't seem to have put a dent in an operation that brings the Morongo undisclosed amounts of income through an agreement with the largest bottled water company in the United States.

The plant is operated by Nestle Waters North America Inc., which leases the property from the tribe and uses it to package Arrowhead spring water as well as purified water sold under the brand Nestle Pure Life.

The Desert Sun has repeatedly asked the company for a tour of the bottling plant since last year, but those requests have not been granted. The company and the Morongo tribe also did not respond to requests for information about the amounts of water bottled each year.

Until 2009, Nestle Waters submitted annual reports to a group of local water districts showing how much groundwater was being extracted from the spring in Millard Canyon. Reports compiled by the San Gorgonio Pass Water Agency show that the amounts drawn from two wells in the canyon varied from a high of 1,366 acre-feet in 2002 to a low of 595 acre-feet in 2005. In 2009, Nestle Waters reported 757 acre-feet pumped from the wells during the previous year.

Even in Canada, Nestle is allowed to absorb the bulk of water resources in some locales for commercial purposes wh[ile] the people who depend on those resources for drinking water are given the shaft. For instance, Wellington Water Watchers, an organization that was opposed to Nestle's unfettered access to local drinking water supplies reported,

Despite no data on how drought or climate change will affect Guelph's water supply in years to come, Nestlé Waters of Aberfoyle has filed for an unprecedented 10-year provincial permit to take up to 3.6 million litres of water per day from the Grand River watershed.


"In our Grand River watershed, we are much more dependent on groundwater for our source of drinking water than most other places in Ontario, maybe most other places in Canada, with the exception of Prince Edward Island," Hueniken points out.

Guelph is 85 to 90 percent dependent on groundwater as the source of drinking water, Hueniken says, making this a local issue that is unique in Canada. "We could build a pipeline to the Great Lakes, but the quality of the water from a deep aquifer like ours, the Amabel, is so much better than surface water from the Great Lakes, that it just seems a shame to let Nestlé take this pure natural resource, bottle it and ship it outside of the watershed day after day."

Stopping this life-threatening crime is going to take a huge public exposure campaign. It will take more than a few lone voices crying in the wilderness.

The Irish are not only waking up. They are protesting and refusing to pay. They see water as a human right.

In the absence of widespread awareness about the issue here in the United States, however, it might help to revisit the Enron scams in order to understand and jog the memories of the American people so that they can understand what may be happening here. Remember, Enron, while involved in many different scams, was also involved in the creation of a false shortage of electric power and subsequently raised rates under the pretense of stopping "brown outs" that Enron itself created. The results were that many victims ended up committing suicide, often because their businesses were destroyed as a result of the scams.

Water is also an actual physical entity, so the technique used to bilk people around it might be more difficult but it is certainly possible to do it.

In the US, the "Power Over Water" folks seemed to have taken a page from Enron in two ways. First, create the impression of a water crisis and then invent, invent, invent. It's more sly than what happened with Bechtel in Bolivia where it was a mathematically visible issue of "rates" and Bechtel's statements did not match up with either the truth or its other statements.

But in the US, people are being charged a fortune for water without changing the rates. The bills are total inventions. They are complete scams.

And where is the data on who and how many people are being skunked? It's reading this article. You are that information! You are the evidence. And all the information you can gather is evidence needed to stop these criminals.

The reality is people are trapped in an enormous criminal scam by their own governments.

Bills can be 10 or 20 times higher than normal. The water board simply doesn't answer the phone, but the bills keep coming and then the water is cut off. Those controlling water have set up a system in which there is no public notice of rate changes, there is no relation between water usage and charges, and for each isolated individual with no knowledge of how many people who are being affected or any way to reach others in the same boat, there is no recourse.

It's Enron again - faked crisis followed by fake bills - only now more stealthily done than things were done in Bolivia, but still around a life or death resource: water.

People in every state need to investigate the water charges in their area. To be clear - they need to investigate the charges, not the rates which are posted. The bills people are receiving may have no correlation to the water they are using.

Smart meters can offer a means to make it appear that a certain amount of water was used even though it was not. Remember, Skilling's darling and the bankers' darling - digital information, can be easily rigged.

Americans are not supposed to know that drastically inflated water bills are being charged everywhere. Without that knowledge, they are alone in the scam. With it, they can see the whole country is being ripped off. Isolating people with their own crushing water bill - publicized rates unchanged - is just more case of slipping something past the "stupid Americans." The reality, however, is that we are being lied to.

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Obama fundraises off immigration speech, seeks $1,000 contributions

Obama fundraises off immigration speech, seeks $1,000 contributions

President Obama is fundraising off his controversial immigration decision Thursday night, dispatching an email that steers readers to a “Donate Today” page that seek contributions up to $1,000.

That page reads, “Thanks — now, we need to fight back. President Obama is taking action. The other side wants nothing more than to tear this progress down. Help fight back — make a donation today.”

What’s more, in his email from his Organizing for Action, he claims that he is just like every other president in taking action on issues where Congress failed to act.

Ukraine crisis: Joe Biden warns Russia

How touching, kissing with their noses.

US Vice-President Joe Biden has warned Russia faces "rising costs and greater isolation" if it fails to respect the September peace deal in Ukraine.

Mr Biden, on a visit to Ukraine where he met President Petro Poroshenko, called on Russia to withdraw its military forces from Ukraine.

Ukrainians are marking a year since the start of the uprising which ousted pro-Russian President Viktor Yanukovych.

Amid celebrations, they paid tribute to those killed over the winter in Kiev.

Ukraine formed a coalition government on Friday with a mission to overhaul the economy, fight corruption and pursue integration with the EU.

Since the ousting of Mr Yanukovych in February, Russia has annexed Crimea from Ukraine after a disputed referendum while a separatist conflict in eastern Ukraine has cost at least 4,300 lives.

Russia is regularly accused of arming separatist rebels but its officials deny the allegations.

'Russia and her proxies'

After stressing the danger posed to Ukraine by Russian aggression, the US vice-president said there was a "different path for Russia and her proxies".

He said Russia should respect the ceasefire, restore Ukrainian control over its own borders and remove "illegal military formations, military equipment and militants".

He said Russian President Vladimir Putin had agreed to carry out all of those actions, but none had occurred.

In the run-up to Mr Biden's visit, Russian officials warned the US against selling arms to the government in Kiev.

American officials told the Reuters news agency that Mr Biden would announce an increase in supplies including radars and vehicles, but would not supply arms.

Bill that would limit NSA spying on phone calls blocked by Senate

The US Senate blocked action Tuesday on a bill that would have imposed only minor limitations on a National Security Agency program that collects records of the phone calls of every American. The vote was 58 to 42 to take up the measure for consideration, with supporters falling two votes short of the 60 required to force action.

The vote was nearly by party lines in the outgoing lame duck Senate, with 52 Democrats, two independents who generally vote with the Democrats and four Republicans supporting consideration of the bill. The 41 Republican opponents were joined by one Democrat, Bill Nelson of Florida.

The effect of the vote is to delay consideration of any legislation on NSA spying until the next session of Congress, when Republicans will be in the majority and will control key committees like Intelligence and Judiciary, which originate and write legislation.

The defeated measure, drafted by the outgoing chairman of the Judiciary Committee, Democratic Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, would have placed very slight restrictions on the NSA program that collects metadata on virtually ever phone call placed in or through US telecommunications companies or the Internet.

The bill had the support of the Obama administration, demonstrating that the military-intelligence apparatus, which dictates policy on such issues, was quite content with the toothless legislation from Leahy. The main purpose of the bill was to give the impression that Obama and the Democrats are responding to the widespread public outrage over government spying sparked by last year's revelations by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, while actually doing nothing to restrict snooping by the intelligence agency.

The bill was also endorsed by a coalition of technology companies, including Apple, Google, Microsoft, Facebook, Twitter, AOL and Yahoo, which feared that Snowden's revelations had exposed them as arms of the US spy apparatus, harming their ability to sell their products and services, especially in foreign markets.

The Leahy bill would have shifted responsibility for maintaining the records of customer metadata from the NSA to the telecommunications companies themselves, while still allowing effectively unlimited data searches by the spy agency. The NSA, the FBI and other US government agencies would have been required to obtain court orders from the secret rubber-stamp FISA court that has approved government search requests 99.9 percent of the time.

Even these provisions could be waived in cases of "emergency," which would, of course, be defined by the government itself.

The metadata program itself is only one of a vast array of NSA programs that spy on the phone calls, Internet activity and communications of Americans and non-Americans alike - all of which would have remained untouched.

In return for these minor restrictions, the bill would extend the telephone metadata search authorization, a part of the USA Patriot Act that is set to expire next June. With the defeat of the bill, the intelligence agencies will demand that the next Congress take up the question of extending the search authorization before the expiration date.

These agencies already hold the whip hand over both parties in Congress. Their sneering attitude towards any concerns over civil liberties was expressed in an op-ed column published last week in the Wall Street Journal, co-authored by former Attorney General Michael Mukasey and former CIA and NSA Director Michael Hayden, which declared the Leahy bill to be "NSA Reform That Only ISIS Could Love."

Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell, who will be Majority Leader in January, led the opposition to the bill on the Senate floor Tuesday. Like Mukasey and Hayden, he cited the threat of Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, including the beheading of US citizens held prisoner by ISIS in Syria.

McConnell claimed that the measure would be "tying our hands behind our backs" and "would end one of our nation's critical capabilities to gather significant intelligence on terrorist threats."

Leahy condemned those who "went at this issue by fomenting fear," but this plea was particularly empty and insincere, given that the entire US political establishment has based its policy on whipping up fear with terrorism scares ever since the attacks of September 11, 2001. Bush and Obama, Republicans and Democrats have used the 9/11 attacks to justify every war crime committed by US imperialism over the past 13 years, and every attack on democratic rights.

In his final speech, Leahy concluded, "This is the Constitution of the US, and if we do not protect our Constitution we do not protect our country."

Again, since the outgoing Senate Judiciary chairman has apparently failed to notice, it might be worth pointing out that the Obama administration itself has ridden roughshod over the Constitution, particularly in asserting the "right" of the president to order the assassination of any person in the world, including American citizens, on his sole authority, without any judicial proceeding of any kind. This position, elaborated by Attorney General Eric Holder and the White House in great detail, effectively repeals the First, Fifth and Fourteenth Amendments to the Constitution. (See: "The legal implications of the al-Awlaki assassination")

So right-wing is the position of the Obama White House that a handful of ultra-right Republicans have sought to posture as libertarian opponents of its police-state actions. Two Senate Republicans, Mike Lee of Utah and Ted Cruz of Texas, co-sponsored the Leahy bill. Two others, Lisa Murkowski of Alaska and Dean Heller of Nevada, voted for it. Another, Rand Paul of Kentucky, voted against the bill saying it did not go far enough to restrict NSA spying.

'Totally innocent' unarmed man 'accidentally' shot dead by NYPD police

© AFP Photo / Timothy A. Clary

A rookie NYPD officer "accidentally" shot and killed an unarmed African-American man in a staircase in a New York apartment block. It happened as Ferguson is tensely waiting for a grand jury decision on a police officer who shot Michael Brown.

Akai Gurley, 28, and his girlfriend Melissa Butler were entering a staircase on the seventh floor in Pink House project in Brooklyn late Thursday evening when two policemen came down from the eighth floor. Peter Liang and his partner, Shaun Landau were doing a top-to-bottom patrol. Liang, a rookie on probationary assignment, fired a shot in Gurley's chest without a warning, Butler said.

"They didn't present themselves or nothing and shot him," Butler told DNAinfo New York. "As soon as he came in, the police opened the [door to the] eighth-floor staircase. They didn't identify themselves at all. They just shot."

Gurley and Butler tried to go down the stairs but reached only the fifth floor where Gurley lost consciousness. There a neighbor called an ambulance. Butler says the policemen did not come to help nor called the ambulance. Gurley, who has a 2-year-old son, was pronounced dead on arrival to hospital.

An NYPD spokesperson said the police department's internal affairs bureau is investigating the shooting. Liang has been placed on modified assignment and was relieved of both his badge and gun.

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The police are collecting information from witnesses and radio reports without talking to Liang as according to the policy, he will be interrogated in the District Attorney's office first and then by internal affairs officers.

"What happened last night was a very unfortunate tragedy,'' police commissioner Bill Bratton said in a statement. "The deceased is totally innocent. He just happened to be in the hallway. He was not engaged in any criminal activity.''

Bratton said it probably was an accidental discharge of weapon.

"So here's an unarmed, black 28 year old in the stairwell," former City Councilmember Charles Barron said as quoted by CBS New York. "Two officers, one Asian, one white, fully armed. He's unarmed, they meet on the stairwell and he winds up dead with a bullet in his chest. I want to hear the justification for this one. Don't tell me the hallway was dimly lit. That's no reason to kill a black man on a stairwell."

The incident happened while a grand jury decision concerning Michael Brown's death is awaited. Unarmed 18-year-old Michael Brown was shot and killed in Ferguson by police officer Darren Wilson in August. The shooting caused riots in the area and tensions between police and the African-American community.

Woman inmates at prison in India allege guards forced them into prostitution

© YouTube

Mention Parappana Agrahara to someone in India and they're not likely to assume you're talking about the neighborhood in India's fourth largest city, Bangalore. Instead, the name will probably bring to mind one of India's most infamous prisons, which has housed high-profile Indian celebrities and politicians.

The prison is an island surrounded by an urban ocean, walled off from the city of Bangalore by monstrous gates and barbed wire fences. For years, the jail has suffered from overcrowding, leading prison officials sometimes to let convicts out early in an attempt to shrink the prison population.

Last week, Indian officials investigating the prison presented a file to the local high court that included two hand-written letters by anonymous female inmates alleging that guards forced them to have sex with male prisoners. According to the letters, the guards charged between 300 and 500 rupees (between $4 and $8) to sleep with the women, a high price considering prison inmates earn about 20 rupees per day making furniture, weaving clothes and doing other odd jobs in the jail.

Investigators discovered the letters inside the grievance boxes in the women's wing of the prison. The court ordered that an inquiry of the complaints, which will be carried out by the Prisons Department and the Women and Child Welfare Department.

Officials at Parappana Agrahara Prison say that the accusations in the letters are false and an attempt, either by staff or inmates, to defame some of the guards. They say that the allegations would be impossible to carry out given that closed-circuit cameras monitor the entire area.

However, according to the , female prisoners work odd hours, between 1 a.m. and 4 a.m., in the prison's hospital and kitchen. Sources not named by the newspaper suggested that the investigation should scrutinize the work in those areas.

Sexual assault is an incendiary subject in India where rape is the fourth most common crime against women. The country has experienced several large street demonstrations against the government and police for failing to adequately prosecute men accused of rape.

In December 2013, riots broke out throughout India after a 23-year-old girl was gang raped on a bus while traveling home with a friend. The assailants, including the bus driver, allegedly beat the friend and tied him up before raping the girl for over an hour. She later died due to injuries from the assault.

Almost a year later, more demonstrations and riots occurred after a young girl was raped by six men in the Eastern city of Kolkata and then raped again the next day while on her way home from the police station after reporting the assault. Two months later she died in a hospital after being set on fire by her assailants.

The Indian government responded to the public outcry by passing several laws meant to expedite rape trials and extend sentences for those convicted. However, there is still very little trust that local police will investigate allegations of sexual assault and some accuse officers of taking bribes from accused rapists or their families in order to ignore rape accusations.

The distrust in local police has led some families to engage in revenge killings. In one instance, locals caught a man raping a young girl in a warehouse. The crowd reportedly dragged the man outside, cut off his genitals and tossed them into the street.

According to India's National Crime Records Bureau, 93 women are raped in India every day, which doesn't account for unreported rapes. Across the country, reported rapes increased by 35 percent between 2012 and 2013. During the same time period, the number of rapes in Delhi more than doubled, from 585 cases to 1,441.

In his first Independence Day speech as Prime Minister, Narendra Modi addressed the issue of rape in India.

"When we hear about incidents of rape, our heads hang in shame. I want to ask every mother and father, you ask your daughters 'where are you going, who are you going with?' But do you ever ask your sons these questions?" he said. "After all, those who rape are also someone's son."

CIA wants to erase thousands of incriminating emails

© J. Scott Applewhite/AP

A CIA plan to erase tens of thousands of its internal emails - including those sent by virtually all covert and counterterrorism officers after they leave the agency - is drawing fire from Senate Intelligence Committee members concerned that it would wipe out key records of some of the agency's most controversial operations.

The agency proposal, which has been tentatively approved by the National Archives, "could allow for the destruction of crucial documentary evidence regarding the CIA's activities," Senate Intelligence Committee Chair Dianne Feinstein and ranking minority member Sen. Saxby Chambliss, R-Ga., wrote in a letter to Margaret Hawkins, the director of records and management services at the archives.

But agency officials quickly shot back, calling the committee's concerns grossly overblown and ill informed. They insist their proposal is completely in keeping with - and in some cases goes beyond - the email retention policies of other government agencies. "What we've proposed is a totally normal process," one agency official told Yahoo News.

The source of the controversy may be that the CIA, given its secret mission and rich history of clandestine operations, is not a normal agency. And its proposal to destroy internal emails comes amid mounting tensions between the CIA and its Senate oversight panel, stoked by continued bickering over an upcoming committee report - relying heavily on years-old internal CIA emails - that is sharply critical of the agency's use of waterboarding and other aggressive interrogation techniques against al-Qaida suspects in the aftermath of the 9/11 terror attacks.

In this case, however, Chambliss - a conservative Republican who has sided with the CIA on the interrogation issue - joined with Feinstein in questioning the agency's proposed new email policy, which would allow for the destruction of email messages sent by all but a relatively small number of senior agency officials.

"In our experience, email messages are essential to finding CIA records that may not exist in other so-called permanent records," the two senators wrote in their letter, a copy of which was also sent this week to CIA Director John Brennan and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper.

The agency proposal was initiated as a response to a government-wide problem: how to preserve emails that constitute legitimate "federal records," loosely defined as dealing with the "public business" or the "functions, policies, decisions, procedures, and operations" of the government - all of which are required to be permanently retained under the law known as the Federal Records Act.

The CIA proposal, submitted to the National Archives last January but only made public in recent weeks, would replace what officials acknowledge is an imperfect and inconsistently followed current policy that directs agency officials, on their own initiative, to "print and preserve" emails that might constitute federal records.

Under the new proposal, only the emails of 22 senior agency officials would be permanently retained; all others, including all covert officers except the director of the National Clandestine Service, could be deleted three years after the employees leave the CIA "or when no longer needed, whichever is sooner," according to a copy of the agency's plan.

Agency officials said that proposal is more rigorous than that of the FBI, which allows for the deletion of agents' emails one year after they leave the bureau. And, they note, the National Archives tentatively endorsed their proposal after an archives official concluded that "it is unlikely that permanent records will be found" in the destroyed emails that are not duplicated in other agency files.

"The CIA's proposal is to preserve more records than required by law and preserve more records than many other agencies," agency spokesman Ryan Trapani wrote in an email response to the Feinstein-Chambliss letter.

But the plan has sparked criticism from watchdog groups and historians who note the agency's track record of destroying potentially embarrassing material: In 2007, it was disclosed that agency officials had destroyed hundreds of hours of videotapes documenting the waterboarding of two high-value detainees. The disclosure prompted a criminal investigation by the Justice Department as well as a separate National Archives probe into whether the agency had violated the Federal Records Act. Neither inquiry led to any federal charges.

The CIA has a history of destroying records "that are embarrassing" and "disclose mistakes" or "reflect poorly on the conduct of the CIA," said Tim Weiner, the author of "," in comments filed with the National Archives by Open the Government, a watchdog group that is seeking to block the CIA proposal. He noted that during the Iran-Contra Affair, for example, those involved "fed so many records into the shredder that they jammed the shredder."

"It cannot be left to the CIA to determine what is a record of historical significance," Weiner said.

The deadline for comments on the CIA proposal expired this week - and Feinstein and Chambliss weren't the only senators to weigh in. Three other Democrats on the intelligence committee - Ron Wyden of Oregon, Mark Udall of Colorado and Martin Heinrich of New Mexico - sent their own letter raising concerns and asking the National Archives to more closely review the agency's proposal.

A spokeswoman for the archives did not respond to a request for comment.

Disturbing! The Gulf Stream now stalling in two broken areas

Are we witnessing the Gulf Stream closing down? Is the cold November in the US just a precursor of what is to come?

A massive snowstorm has wreaked havoc in the north-eastern US and left seven people dead in upstate New York. After sweeping across the Great Lakes, the storm dumped 5ft (1.5m) of snow in the Buffalo area, with more forecast. The storm caused seven deaths there - one in a car crash, one trapped in a car and five from heart attacks.

Freezing temperatures were recorded across all 50 US states, including Florida and Hawaii, and there were more deaths elsewhere in the country.

New data from The Earth Wind Map and The NOAA Data Satellite both agree and are now showing the Gulf Stream is colder than average in not one area but two!

The huge section in the North Atlantic is still showing colder than average on both website's (see links above) but more alarming they are also both showing the Gulf itself is now colder than average and this was not the case last month.

Here are the same pictures as above but taken in October, a month ago, we can clearly see the huge colder than normal area in the North Atlantic however the Gulf itself is shown as slightly warmer than average, a trend for most of the Northern Hemisphere.

First the NOAA satellite image taken on the 27th of October.

And finally here is an old screen grab from the Earth Wind Map from last month, clearly seen is a warmer than average Gulf area!

A second push of bitterly cold air has blasted its way south and east, bringing extremely cold temperatures for millions of Americans who have already endured nearly a week of January-like chill. There have been more than 350 record lows and record cool highs set, covering 42 states, since Sunday.

On Wednesday morning record lows were broken or tied from New York to New Orleans and more record lows and record cool high temperatures are possible. With a record cold start to October and November in the US and flooding and storms in Europe we can only imagine what December and January could bring! Yesterday, coincidentally this post by L A Marzulli dropped into my mail box, it would seem this story is taking on steam!

Is the Gulf Stream Broken?

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Sexual abuse against Palestinian child detainees reported

At least 600 Palestinian children were arrested in Jerusalem since last June. Of these children, nearly 40% were reportedly exposed to sexual abuse during arrest or investigation by the Israeli authorities, according to a report by the Palestinian Prisoners Club (PPC).

Ma'an archive image.

The PCC says that the daily arrest campaigns constitute a collective punishment against Palestinian residents of Jerusalem.

Attorney with the PCC, Mufeed al-Haj, said that other violations were reported during the apprehension of children, including but not limited to night and predawn raids on family homes, physical and sexual abuse.

According to WAFA, Al-Haj added that, under the applicable laws, minors undergoing investigation should be accompanied by their parents, yet Israeli authorities pay no respect to these laws in many cases.

Forces often ignore laws and arrest Palestinians without even having warrants.

Since last June, Israel has arrested hundreds of Palestinians in Jerusalem and the West Bank, most during predawn and night raids on their family houses.

'Shame on you!' Ukrainian president booed by protesters on Maidan

© RIA Novosti / Michail Polinchak

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko speaks with Kiev residents after the ceremony of laying flowers to the Celestial Hundred Heroes Cross on the anniversary of the beginning of Maidan protests.

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko was heckled by protesters as he tried to pay tribute to the victims of the last year's Euromaidan riots in Kiev, which saw around 100 dead and led to a regime change in the country.

"Shame on you!", "Who are your heroes, Poroshenko?" and "Down with Poroshenko!" people shouted as the president lit a candle at the memorial at Institutskaya Street in central Kiev.

Around 50 people were killed on Institutskaya Street during clashes between the police and protesters, in which firearms were widely used, with the rest of the victims dying at the nearby Independence Square or Maidan.

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The relatives of the dead, known as the "Heaven's Hundred," slammed Poroshenko for failing to keep to his promise to grant the title of national hero to those who died during the Maidan riots.

"You promise that our relatives, who gave their lives for the country, are heroes. Say it to the people! Say it louder!" one of the protesters demanded from the president.

Poroshenko said that he would sign a decree to bring significant financial benefits to the families of the Maidan dead on Friday.

He added: "If shouting like this continues, everything we did on the Maidan will have been in vain."

© RIA Novosti / Mikhail Markiv

Relatives were also outraged by the inability of the authorities to bring to justice those responsible for the fatalities during pro-European rallies as banners saying: "Poroshenko, where are the killers?" were on display.

Many Euromaidan victims were gunned down by sniper fire, with the ongoing official investigation by Kiev blaming a group of elite soldiers from the Berkut riot police for the killings.

© RIA Novosti / Mikhail Markiv

However, there are strong suspicions - backed by a leaked phone call between the Estonian Foreign Minister Urmas Paet and EU foreign affairs chief, Catherine Ashton - that the snipers were, actually, hired by the leaders of the Maidan protests.

During the ceremony, Poroshenko was accompanied by US Vice President Joe Biden, who arrived in Kiev on Thursday for talks with the Ukrainian leadership.

© AFP Photo / Sergei Supinsky

Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko (R) and US Vice-President Joe Biden smile prior their statements for the results of their talks on November 21, 2014 in Kiev.

Ukraine celebrates on Friday, marking the first anniversary of the Euromaidan.

On November 21, 2013, thousands gathered on Kiev's Independence Square after then-President Viktor Yanukovich decided to postpone the signing of an association agreement with the European Union.

© RIA Novosti / Michail Polinchak

The protests, spearheaded by far-right radicals, lasted for several months and culminated in heavy violence in February 2014, which forced Yanukovich to flee the country.

The coup in Kiev resulted to the Republic of Crimea withdrawing from Ukraine and provoked a conflict in the country's southeast, in which over 4,300 people have died, according to the UN.

The high cost of sickcare: Big medicine cashes in with needless tests and scans

There are many structural reasons which I have covered in depth for years, but one that most of us can relate to from personal experience is needless, hyper-costly scans and tests.

Even those of us who have never had a CT or MRI scan (and I hope I never will) know the drill from friends and family: practically every injury is now scanned by one device or another at enormous expense--not for treatment, as M.D. Ishabaka explains, but as defensive medicine to ward off future lawsuits or in response to patient demands.

Ishabaka (M.D.) walks us through the maze of CT and MRI by using his own injuries and treatments as examples of how our system has become unaffordable and ineffective.

"When I first got into the hospital as a medical student in 1977, MRI scanners did not exist, and the Royal Victoria Hospital in Montreal had the first CT scanner in Canada. A scan took an hour, and the images were blurry as heck, compared to modern scanners which take a few minutes and produce crystal clear images - but it was MAGNIFICENT.

All of a sudden, we could see brain problems that could only be seen by operating, or doing a cerebral angiogram - a good but somewhat dangerous test (up to 3% of patients who have one suffer a stroke caused by the test).

When used appropriately, CT scans save lots of money and lives. One example is head trauma. Most people who are knocked out just have a concussion, but a few have bleeding either around or inside the brain that will kill or permanently disable them unless they are operated on ASAP.

In the old days, just when I was starting practice, most hospitals did not have a CT scanner. People who had been seriously knocked out were ALL admitted to the hospital for "neurological observation" - a nurse would check on them every hour to see how alert they were.

Two problems with that: for most patients it was a total waste of time and money (and hospitalization is way more expensive than a CT scan), and for some with a bleed - it wasn't detected until too late.

Now, when someone gets knocked out, you do a CT scan, and within 30 minutes know whether it's safe to send them home, or you need to call a neurosurgeon to operate on them - as an emergency physician working in a trauma center from 1985 - 1990 this was a REALLY GOOD THING.

Then MRI scanners came along. They show some things really well that a CT scanner doesn't and vice versa. For example, an MRI scanner is unparalleled for showing a brain tumor. A CT is much better for showing bleeding inside the skull. An MRI scan will also show torn cartilage and ligaments in a joint with almost crystal clarity - a problem for which CT scanning is almost useless.

So - used appropriately, CT and MRI scans are two of the greatest inventions in my medical career.

But they are hellaciously expensive due to the fact that the machines are so expensive, and like computers, become obsolete within about 5 years - you have to pay of the multi-million dollar cost of the machine and make a reasonable profit within about 5 years.

Let me tell you from personal experience how they get overused: In 2004 I tore a cartilage (posterior third of the media meniscus if you need to know) in my right knee. I KNEW I tore a cartilage - I had the right kind of injury, the right symptoms, and the right findings on exam. I called up an orthopedic surgeon friend of mine and asked "Do you want to operate on my knee?" Somewhat dryly he said "Well, I think I should examine you first!".

So I went to see him. He did a regular X-ray - only $60 - pretty reasonable, and my exam showed ALL the classic findings of a torn meniscus. I told him I was ready for surgery (I couldn't run or do the martial arts classes I was taking at the time) - but he insisted on an MRI - I suspect because he was nervous about malpractice operating on a doctor in case the surgery was unnecessary - a risk I was willing to take - I would have signed papers releasing him from all liability.

Guess what - the $1,700 MRI showed a torn cartilage, I had surgery, and my knee is 99% as good as before I tore the cartilage - so basically the $1,700 (which was about half my total operation cost) was health care money down the toilet.

This is important: in the pre-MRI days, I would have been operated on based on my history, exam findings, and X-ray.

Now, my back and my neck - I have had recurring problems with both. The back issue came from lifting a heavy table the wrong way. It flares up every 8 - 9 years, I rest it, use a heating pad, take some ibuprofen or naproxen and cyclobenzaprine - and it gets all better.

In 1993, I tore something in my neck - I was lifting weights with my neck with a head harness. I was going up in weight and got to 37.5 pounds. As I extended my neck, I heard and felt a tearing sound. Idiot that I am, instead of dropping the weight, I finished the rep and REALLY heard and felt something tear. I had God-awful pain - for about a week, if I had to roll over in bed, I had to hold my head with my hands so my neck didn't bear the weight - but I got better.

Once or twice a year it flares up, I have trouble swiveling my neck to back up my car. A chiropractor friend of mine gives me a free adjustment and it's all better within 24 hours.

Now - here's the deal - I don't NEED an MRI of my neck or back. I'm SURE I have torn discs and/or ligaments - but I ALWAYS get better with very inexpensive meds, and a heating pad, plus chiropractic adjustment. BUT - every patient with spinal pain wants an MRI these days. ALL of them.

The fact is - it doesn't matter a hill of beans if an MRI shows torn disc/ligaments UNLESS surgery is being contemplated. The indications for surgery are VERY CLEAR - they are loss of sensation or strength in a limb, loss of bowel or bladder control in the case of a very low back injury, or what is called "parasthesias" - burning, tingling, shock-like feelings, etc in a limb.

The most serious of these is weakness - if a person has injured their spine, and are weak in a limb, they almost all need surgery or they will be permanently paralyzed/disabled. In these instances, and MRI is marvelous - it will show the surgeon perfectly where the problem is, so he/she knows exactly where to operate and what needs to be done.

But for the gazillion and three patients who have pain only, and demand an MRI (and if I refuse one, they WILL find a doc to order one) it is complete and utter mal-investment of health care dollars. I have a friend who is REALLY in shape - a serious surfer and weight lifter. He injured his neck in a surfing wipe-out in his early 30's and his right triceps became weak. He asked me what to do and I told him to get an MRI and see a neurosurgeon.

Well, he didn't want to, so he tried all kinds of useless remedies - he kept coming to see me (as a friend, not as his doctor) - and I could see his weight-lifter's triceps shrinking away to nothing. Finally I got him to see a neurosurgeon friend of mine, an MRI was done showing a ruptured disc pressing on (and slowly killing) the nerve that activated his right triceps - he was operated on - and ALL his strength came back.

So - bottom line - in appropriate circumstances, CT and MRI scans save lives and limbs - they are wonderful tools. However, my rough estimate is that probably around 90% of MRI scans and 80% of CT scans done in the USA now are a complete waste of time and money.

The real point about scans - and so many tests - is you treat the PATIENT - not the scan, or the test. Tests are just an aid in determining what is the best treatment for the PATIENT.

The corollary to this - and what it is SO HARD to convey to many patients - is that if the results of a test will not change the treatment - there is no reason to do the test. A classic ER example is an injured small toe (the big toe is different). It DOESN'T MATTER if the toe is broken or just sprained - the treatment is the same - taping, ice and elevation for 24 hours, rest, and mild pain medication. Try telling an injured patient that you are not going to order an X-ray of their toe - they will complain to the hospital administrator, and you will be lucky if you are not fired."

Thank you, Ishabaka, for the detailed explanation. I should also add that scans costing thousands of dollars each in the U.S. are available in other countries

for a fraction of the cost in the U.S.

Add easy profits from needless tests to defensive medicine and no cost controls or real competition, and we have the perfect formula for waste, fraud, profiteering, bad medicine and dysfunctional, unaffordable healthcare.