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Tuesday, 23 December 2014

John Stewart on US budget circus: The Bill Cosby of legislation

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Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea, Hawaii, under blizzard watch

blizzard hawaii

© Ethan Tweedie

Snow on Mauna Kea - taken Oct. 14, 2014

The summit areas of Mauna Loa and Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii have been placed under a Blizzard Watch from Tuesday morning through Wednesday afternoon.

The National Weather Service in Honolulu said low pressure developing near the islands could spread a band of deep moisture and layered clouds over the Big Island. If that happens, heavy snow and blizzard conditions are possible at summit areas about 12,000 feet.

A Blizzard Watch means there is a potential for falling and/or blowing snow with strong wind and extremely poor visibility, leading to whiteout conditions that will make travel very dangerous.

blizzard hawaii

Snow expected in Hawaii

Forecasts are calling for the possibility of very strong winds and bitterly cold wind chills, with accumulations of six inches or more if snow occurs. Temperatures may drop to the upper 20s to lower 30s with wind chills in the teens.

There is still some uncertainty whether the area of deep moisture will extend over the Big Island or remain just to the east. However, even if the snow doesn't materialize, very strong winds are still possible. Forecasters have issued a High Wind Warning for the summit areas through 6 a.m. Thursday. South winds of 70 miles per hour with gusts to 95 miles per hour are expected Tuesday night and Wednesday, with or without snow.

The Blizzard Watch replaces the Winter Storm Watch that was issued earlier.

US: A short history of police brutality, cops let off the hook by the psychopathic justice system

The preordained failure of biased local prosecutors to obtain indictments against Darren Wilson and Daniel Pantaleo should not surprise us. But the outrage that followed has brought widespread attention to the nationwide problem of systemic and racist police violence and highlighted the movement that has come together to battle against it.

The Ferguson grand jury's decision not to indict Ferguson police officer Darren Wilson for the killing of African-American teenager Michael Brown, followed by an equally unfair result in New York City in the Eric Garner case, were equally heartless. But it is important to place these cases in context with the history of police violence investigations and prosecutions in high profile cases - and the systemic and racist police brutality that continues to plague the nation. In doing so, there are lessons for the movement for justice in the Michael Brown and Eric Garner cases as well as for those who are engaged in the broader struggle against law enforcement violence.

What follows, then, is a brief history of similar high profile cases where public outrage compelled the justice system to confront acts of racially motivated police violence - with, to say the least, less than satisfactory results.


Over the past 45 years, Chicago has been a prime example of official indifference and cover-up when it comes to prosecuting the police for wanton brutality and torture.

On December 4, 1969, Black Panther leaders Fred Hampton and Mark Clark were slain in a police raid that implicated the Cook County State's Attorney and the FBI's Cointelpro program. A public outcry led to a Federal Civil Rights investigation. Despite finding that the raiding police fired more than 90 shots to one by the Panthers, the Grand Jury in 1970 did not indict, but rather issued a report that equally blamed the police perpetrators and the Panther victims.

Outrage at this decision led to the appointment of a Cook County Special Prosecutor who, in the face of extreme official resistance, obtained an indictment against the police and the State's Attorneys who planned and executed the raid - not for murder and attempted murder, but rather for obstruction of justice.

The case came to trial in front of a politically connected Cook County judge who dismissed the case without even requiring that the charged officials put on a defense. Again, the outrage, particularly in the African-American community, was so extreme that the chief prosecutor, Edward V. Hanrahan, was voted out of office a week after the verdict was rendered in 1972.

Cook County State's Attorney Richard M. Daley was tendered powerful evidence of this torture as early as 1982, but did not investigate or prosecute Burge and his men. Daley's office continued to use confessions tortured from the victims to send scores of them to prison - 10 of whom went to death row, though they were later saved by a death penalty moratorium in 2000 and by a grant of executive clemency in 2003 by then-Governor George Ryan - during the next seven years.

In 1989, the local U.S. Attorneys' office declined to prosecute, as did the Department of Justice in 1996 and Cook County State's Attorney Richard Devine for the five years directly thereafter. In 2001, due to continuing public pressure, a politically connected Cook County Special Prosecutor was appointed to investigate the torture. But after a four year, $7 million investigation, he too refused to indict, instead issuing what is widely considered to be a whitewash report that absolved Daley, Devine, and numerous high Chicago police officials.

Finally, in 2008 the U.S. Attorney for the Northern District of Illinois indicted Burge for perjury and obstruction of justice, and Burge was convicted in 2010, and sentenced to 4 ½ years in prison. However, the U.S. Attorney has subsequently declined to prosecute Burge's confederates for similar offenses.

New Orleans

Chicago is by no means an isolated example of how difficult it is to obtain justice for wanton police violence through the judicial system. In New Orleans, a city that closely parallels Chicago when it comes to police brutality and corruption, a crew of white detectives responded to the killing of a white police officer in 1980 by terrorizing the black community of Algiers, killing four innocent people and torturing numerous others by "booking and bagging" them - beating suspects with telephone books and suffocating them with bags over their heads.

Seven officers were indicted by the Department of Justice for civil rights violations arising from the torture of one of the victims and three were convicted. No officers were charged for the four killings or for the other acts of torture.

In 2005, in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, an NOPD officer fatally shot an unarmed black man named Henry Glover, then several of his fellow officers burned his body to cover-up their crime. NOPD officers also shot and killed two unarmed black men on the Danziger Bridge.

After state authorities botched their investigation, the Civil Rights Division of the Justice Department indicted the officers involved in the two cases and obtained convictions of some of the main police actors. However, the Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit overturned the verdict in the Glover case, and, on re-trial, the shooter cop was acquitted. In the Danziger case, the trial judge, citing government misconduct, took the extraordinary step of granting the convicted officers a new trial, and that decision is now on appeal.

New York

In 1997, an NYPD officer sexually assaulted a Haitian-American man named Abner Louima in a precinct station bathroom by shoving a broken broomstick up his rectum. Louima's attacker was subsequently charged with federal civil rights violations, while three of his police accomplices were charged with covering up the crimes.

After Louima's attacker pleaded guilty, his accomplices were convicted, but the Second Circuit Court of Appeals overturned their convictions on the grounds that the lawyers who represented the officers had a conflict of interest. After they were convicted a second time, the Appeals Court again overturned their convictions - this time on the basis that there was insufficient evidence of intent.

In 1999, four officers from the NYPD's Street Crimes Unit fired 41 shots at Amadou Diallo, a Guinean immigrant who was reaching for his wallet, hitting him 19 times. The officers were indicted for second degree murder and the case was moved to upstate New York, where a jury acquitted the officers.

Los Angeles

Among the most notorious cases was the brutal 1991 beating of Rodney King by five LAPD officers. A videotape captured most of the brutality and also showed several other officers standing by and doing nothing to stop the pummeling of a defenseless black man.

Four officers were charged at the state level with assault with a deadly weapon and use of excessive force. The trial was moved to a predominantly white suburban county, and three of the officers were acquitted of all charges, while the fourth was acquitted of assault with a deadly weapon and other lesser charges. But the jury failed to reach a verdict on his use of excessive force.

After an angry uprising in the African- American community of Los Angeles that left 53 dead and around 2,000 injured, the U.S. Justice Department indicted the four officers, and a federal jury convicted two of them, while acquitting the other two.

This past August, LAPD officers fatally shot an unarmed mentally ill African-American man named Ezell Ford, who witnesses said was shot in the back while lying on the ground. Despite massive protests, there has been no grand jury investigation to date, the autopsy report is yet to be released, and the LAPD has not completed its investigation. LA Mayor Eric Garcetti has promised release of the report by years end.


In Oakland, California in the late 1990s, a unit of police officers dubbed the "Rough Riders" systematically beat, framed and planted narcotics on African Americans whom they claimed were dealing drugs. Four of the "Riders" were indicted by the District Attorney's Office, and the trial was moved to a suburban county. The ringleader fled the country, and was tried in absentia.

After a year-long trial before a bitterly divided jury on which there were no blacks, the officers were acquitted of eight charges, and the jury was hung on the remaining 27 counts. At the urging of then-Mayor Jerry Brown, the officers were not re-tried.

Also in Oakland, in the early morning hours of New Years Day, 2009, a Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) officer shot and killed a young black man named Oscar Grant, who was lying face down, unarmed, in a busy transit station. The shooting was videotaped, and led to militant protests in Oakland.

Another jury with no black members rejected the charge of murder and instead found the officer guilty of involuntary manslaughter. As a result, Oscar Grant's killer spent less than a year behind bars. The Department of Justice subsequently opened a civil rights investigation, but no charges were brought. A recent movie entitled documents this senseless killing.


From 2007-2012 in Milwaukee, a unit of white police officers, spurred on by the Department's CompStat program of aggressive policing, stopped and illegally body cavity searched more than 70 African-American men whom they claimed to be investigating for drug dealing.

In conducting these searches, most commonly performed on the street, the searching officer reached inside the men's underwear, and probed their anuses and genitals.

After this highly illegal practice came to light, the unit's ringleader, Michael Vagnini, was indicted by the Milwaukee County District Attorney on numerous counts of sexual assault, illegal searches, and official misconduct, while three of the other unit officers were also charged for participating in two of the searches. The unit's sergeant and several other members of the unit, all of whom were present for many of the searches, were not charged.

The charged officers were permitted to plead guilty to the lesser included offenses of official misconduct and illegal strip searches, with Vagnini receiving a 36-month sentence while the other three received sentences that totaled, collectively, less than a month in jail. By pleading guilty, they also received promises that they would not be charged with federal civil rights violations.

These high profile cases represent only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to cases where racist police violence has not been subjected to equal justice under the law.

Recently, the Justice Department declined to prosecute Little Rock, Arkansas, officers who shot and killed Eugene Ellison, an elderly African American man who was walking in his home with a cane in his hand, while there have been documented reports of unarmed black youth recently being shot down by the police in Cleveland, Chicago, Houston, San Antonio, Beaver Creek, Ohio, and Sarasota, Florida. The victim in Cleveland was Tamir Rice, a twelve year old boy who was playing with a toy gun, and whose slaying was captured on videotape.

Pattern and Practice Investigations

In 1994, the United States Congress, recognizing that police misconduct and violence was systemic in many parts of the country, passed 42 U.S. Code Section 14141, which empowered the Justice Department to file suit against police departments alleging patterns and practices of unconstitutional conduct, and to obtain wide ranging court orders, consent decrees, and independent monitors in order to implement reforms to those practices.

Although understaffed, the Pattern and Practice Unit of the Justice Department has attacked systemic and discriminatory deficiencies in police hiring, supervision, and monitoring in numerous police departments over the past 20 years. A particularly egregious act or series of acts of police violence often prompts the Unit to initiate an investigation, and its lawyers have obtained consent decrees or court orders in Cincinnati, Pittsburgh, Cleveland, Steubenville, Ohio, New Orleans, Puerto Rico, Oakland, Seattle, and Miami.

This past October, lawyers handling the Little Rock cases requested that the DOJ do a pattern and investigation of the LRPD, and the Unit is now investigating the practices of the Ferguson Police Department. While these investigations are not a panacea, they offer a mechanism for exposing and reforming blatantly unconstitutional police practices, and have also demonstrated how pervasive the problem systemic police violence continues to be.

Combined with the powerful movement that is now in the streets, the legal struggle now turns to the Federal Courts and the Department of Justice, seeking federal civil rights indictments against Wilson and Pantaleo, a full scale pattern and practice investigation of the Ferguson Police Department, and, no doubt in the near future, comprehensive 42 U. S. C. Sec. 1983 civil rights damages suits.

As the history of the battle against systemic and racist police violence so pointedly teaches, the public outcry and agitation must continue all across the nation. Because, as Frederick Douglas rightly stated many years ago, power concedes nothing without a demand.

6-year old Canadian girl raped, beaten into coma, left to die in the snow

© Shutterstock

A man in Canada has been placed under arrest for allegedly beating a 6-year-old girl, and then leaving her naked to die in the snow.

According to Global News, emergency services responded on Saturday at 4 p.m. to the Paul Band First Nation, a group of Aboriginal peoples in Alberta.

A spokesperson for the Shock Trauma Air Rescue Service (STARS) said that first responders found a 6-year-old girl suffering from "traumatic injuries related to blunt trauma." She was taken to a hospital in Edmonton, where she was described in critical condition on Sunday.

Family members told Global News that the girl returned home from skating with friends, and then left the home with a relative. Family and friends assumed at the time that the girl had gone back to the skating rink.

But the 6 year old was later found lying in the snow, naked and unconscious. The family said that she was left for dead in the woods.

"The way he beat her, put her in a coma, and raped her. That shouldn't happen to little children," one family member explained to Global News. "This person that did that has got to be some kind of an animal, to not even think that he's harming another human being."

The girl was beaten so badly that she could not be recognized, a family member recalled.

"It's so heartbreaking," another relative lamented. "I can't imagine... I mean, she's just a little girl. And he's a full grown man."

Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) arrested a man, and an investigation was ongoing. The RCMP said that it was not releasing the suspect's name to protect the identity of the victim.

In a statement, Paul First Nation asked the media for privacy.

"We trust the family's wishes will be fully respected so they can focus all of their energy, attention and prayers on the victim's immediate well-being and what we are all hoping and praying will be a speedy and full recovery," the statement said.

Watch the video below from Global News, broadcast Dec. 21, 2014.

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China's Yellow River Hukou Waterfall freezes in -12° Celsius temperatures

© Independent

China's recent cold snap as given some added icy glamour to an old landmark.

Tourists have been flocking to a section of China's Yellow River in far greater numbers recently as part of the Hukou Waterfall has frozen over in the incredibly cold weather.

With temperatures dropping to as low as -12° Celsius, part of China's second-largest waterfall has become a wall of ice, making it seem like someone has emptied the contents of a fire extinguisher over the entire scene.

The Hukou Waterfall is situated where the provinces of Shanxi and Shaanxi meet and it is roughly 66-ft high.

Located on China's Yellow River - the third-longest on the continent - the waterfall is hugely popular among tourists and the recent cold snap in the area has not deterred many visitors now keen to see the natural phenomenon in its new guise as an ice palace.

One tourist told reporters, "Ice is everywhere. Icicles on the waterfall; everywhere. I did not know the Yellow River could be frozen so it's surprising. I came here specifically for the stunning view of the Yellow River."

While some may be in a hurry to see "Hukou on ice", temperatures in the far west of China may drop even further. Two years ago, the mercury fell to -40° Celsius, so the waterfall could freeze over entirely by the onset of Spring.

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Your questions, our food: McDonald's scary website

[embedded content]

No, seriously.

Or maybe alternately,

See video above. They don't say, "Hi, how are you?" or try to dazzle you with the requisite "Here are all of our glorious food products you know and love" slideshows...or really anything remotely close.

You don't even get the flat, emotionless "Hey..." you might expect to receive from one of the teenagers working the cash register after school.

No, what you are confronted with when you currently visit the front page of the main U.S. version of the McDonalds website is something downright...

It's point blank "Your questions. Our food."

Questions like, "Are there worms in your beef?," "Is 'pink slime' in a chicken McNugget?," and "Why doesn't your food rot?"

Appetizing. (Oh and that's, by the way, in addition to a notice about a Happy Meal toy recall.)

Are they sure the slogan is "I'm lovin' it!" and not, "I'm afraid of it!"?

Hey people...not to overstate the glaringly obvious here, but if you even have to ask those questions IN THE FIRST PLACE, maybe instead you should first ask yourself WHY you would ever eat it to begin with!

McDonalds recently went so far as to bring in the guys from the TV show to try and "prove its McRibs aren't that gross."

If a company's first contact with you is a creepy attempt to justify their crappy products and dispel rumors about whether or not they are real, natural, or possibly ... Even Monsanto pretends to love itself more than this.

Are we living in Idiocracy? Because our food obviously comes from there...

Hamas senior spokesperson demands withdrawal of draft resolution on Palestinian statehood

© Sputnik/ Nazar Aljan

The draft resolution on Palestinian Statehood that was submitted to the United Nations Security Council last week must be withdrawn, a senior spokesperson for Hamas Sami Abu Zuhri told Sputnik Tuesday.

The resolution sets a deadline of 12 months from the document's approval to the removal of Israeli forces from the occupied Palestinian territories.

Zuhri said that the different Palestinian factions had not managed to reach a consensus regarding the resolution's project and therefore it must be cancelled.

The Hamas spokesperson noted that the draft resolution "leaves many loopholes" and does not satisfy the minimum demands of Palestinians, therefore making the resolution of conflict impossible.

Last week, the Permanent Observer of Palestine to the UN, Riyad Mansour said that following the submission of the draft resolution, Israel and the Palestinians will continue negotiating. Mansour expressed hope that the document that the UN Security Council may adopt would "open a serious door to peace."

The State of Palestine was proclaimed by the Palestine National Council on November 15, 1988. It has laid claims to the territories occupied by Israel in the course of the Six-Day War in 1967, including the West Bank with East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip.

In November, 2012, the Palestinian Authority obtained non-member observer nation status at the United Nations. Currently, 135 countries recognize the Palestinian Authority as a sovereign state.

Dallas cop forces mother to perform 'sex acts' while holding service weapon; threatens daughter

© Shutterstock

A Dallas police officer has been charged with allegedly forcing a woman to perform multiple sex acts while he was on duty.

According to the , police arrested Officer David Kattner on Sunday at around 1:20 a.m.

An arrest warrant obtained by the paper said that Kattner had sexually assaulted the woman three times. The woman said that Kattner had shown her warrants for her arrest, and told her that he knew where her daughter lived.

The warrant stated that Kattner was wearing his Dallas Police Department uniform, and driving a marked patrol car when the assault occurred. It also stated that the officer kept his hand on his service weapon while he forced the victim to perform the sex act on him.

The woman felt that she had to comply because Kattner had threatened her safety and the safety of her daughter, the warrant said.

Officials with the Dallas Police Department said that Kattner was accused of making prostitutes perform sex acts. It was not immediately clear, however, that the victim was a prostitute.

Kattner was placed on administrative leave and booked into the Dallas County Jail. His bond was set at $50,000.

Investigators were seeking other potential victims in the case.

Exposing The Deception: How The US Economy “Grew” By $140 Billion As Americans Became Poorer

Regular readers will recall that last month, at the same time as the US Bureau of Economic Analysis reported was a far better than expected 3.9% GDP (since revised to 5.0% on the back of the previously noted Obamacare spending surge), it also released its Personal Spending and Income numbers for the month of October, or rather revised numbers, because as we explained exactly one month ago “Americans Are Suddenly $80 Billion “Poorer“” thanks to (upward) revised spending data and (downward) revised income. What this meant a month ago is that as a result of a plunge in the imputed US savings rate, some $80 billion in personal savings was revised away from the average American household and right into the US economy.

After all, something had to grow the US GDP by a massive amount in order to give the Fed the green light it needs to hike rates eventually, just so it can then ease when the global dry powders from all the other central banks is used up.

And sure enough, this is how just one month ago, personal income was revised lower…

… Even as personal spending was revised higher:

Leading to an $80 billion revision lower in personal saving, and by mathematical identity, a comparable growth in US GDP.

* * *

Fast forward to today when we find that… absolutely nothing has changed, and in order to boost US GDP some more, the BEA engaged in precisely the same data revision trick!

On the surface, today’s Personal Income and Spending data were inline to a little bit better than expected:

  • Personal Income supposedly rose 0.4% in November, up from a 0.3% revised growth in October, and in line with expectations.

  • Personal Spending supposedly also rose, this time by 0.6%, up from an upward revised 0.3%, and just above the 0.5% expected. Of note: real spending on gasoline and other energy goods rose 4.1%. Wait, what? Wasn’t spending on energy supposed to drop?

So far so good: nothing abnormal, and in fact, in isolation this data would be good, suggesting the US consumer is spending more as the year closes.

And then we looked at the Personal Savings number: it was reported at 4.4% in November, down from 4.6% in October. Which is odd because last month, the October savings rate was disclosed as 5.0%, in turn down from a downward revised 5.6% in September.

Wait, could the BEA be engaging in precisely the same deception in November as it did in October.

Why yes, Virgina: not only did the US Department of Economic Truth completely fabricate its GDP numbers earlier, but the way it got to said fabrication is by fudging – for the second month in a row – both the entire Personal Income and Personal Saving data series.

Behold what the original data looked like in October, in November, when the extensive and already documented data revision took place, and just now, when the December data shows that the BEA once again revised everything just as it had previously.

To wit: here is Personal Income, revised substantially lower yet again, for every single datapoint of Q3 and then some, from July until October!

Sure enough, here is the revision to Personal Outlays: once again, a reduction in income magically meant that US household spent more in retrospect. As the chart below shows, Personal Outlays (Spending) was revised higher from July until October as well. What is most impressive is how the revision shifted the slope of US personal spending from one of Slowdown as reprted in October, to a literal explosion based on the latest data.

So how was all this spending funded? Simple: Americans “supposedly” dug massively into their savings, and as the following chart shows, Personal Savings have now crashed from what was originally an “unrevised” 5.6% in September, subsequently revised to 5.0% in November and 4.5% currently, and all the way down to 4.4% in November. Incidentally, this is the lowest savings rate since 2013, and the lowest savings rate for the month of November since 2006!

So what do all these revisions mean numerically? Luckily we can put absolute numbers alongside the savings rates, and as the following chart show, as of September 30, or the end of Q3, when US GDP supposedly soared by 5% annualized we now know that data revisions of personal income and spending alone generated…

… A whopping $140 billion in GDP!

So what does this mean? Well, as we learned earlier US GDP grew in Q3 by a nominal $272 billion to $17.6 trillion. We now know that more than half of this increase came from, drum roll please, data revisions!

In other words, US GDP, using pre-revision data, would have been less than 2.5%. But that woul dhardly lead to the euphoric blow-off top rally we have seen today which sent the DJIA for the first time ever above 18,000, which in turn is so critical to boost consumer confidence so Americans will, in real life, do what the BEA hopes they have already done at least on paper, and that is reduce their savings by a whopping 20% at the end of September, or by some $140 billion, to $593 billion in order to spend, spend, spend.

And the other irony: as the BEA also reported, what did Americans allegedly spend the bulk of their savings on?


So in short, today the market is euphoric and hitting all time highs because Americans dug into their savings and spent billions on the “Affordable” Care Act.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is the short answer why the US is “growing” when the rest of the world is mired in a triple (or quadruple if one is Japan) recession.

Source: Bureau of Economic Analysis

Nanotechnology linked to lung damage and cell death

Nanotechnology is still in its early days, and whether it will be of value to resource-poor countries is still hotly debated. Critics argue that when millions of people in countries like India or those in Sub-Saharan Africa are dying because of a lack of access to even basic healthcare, investing in cutting-edge technologies is a ludicrous waste of money. And experts are concerned that the toxicity of nanoparticles to human health and the environment has not been studied extensively enough.

nanotechnology dangers

For instance, a 2004 report by the UK Royal Society and Royal Academy of Engineering recommended that nanoparticles and nanotubes cylindrical carbon molecules be treated as hazardous waste.

Some drugs can now be delivered through 'nano-vehicles'. For example liposomes, which can deliver the drug payload by fusing with cell membranes, have been used to encapsulate HIV drugs such as stavudine and zidovudine in vehicles ranging from 120 to 200 nanometres in size. Since both these drugs have short half-lives, the liposome coating could potentially make them active for longer periods.

However, nanotechnology carries risks, the primary one being lung damage . Studies have shown that most nanoparticles migrate to the lungs. Other organs are susceptible to damage as well. Instead of inducing apoptosis, nanoparticles induced autophagy, a process that degrades damaged materials in a cell. Scientists have found that sometimes an over activity of this destruction process leads to cell death.

One area where nanoparticles seem to be growing in popularity is colloidal silver. Still, studies show cause for concern. Nanosilver may damage mitochondria, which leads to DNA damage. Until further evidence concludes nanoparticles safe it may be best to use what has been true and tested for several decades and consider Colloidal Silver, without nanoparticles.

When illness threatens to put a damper on your holiday, turn to Colloidal Silver for a safe, reliable immunity alternative. The suspended silver mimics and works with our own immune system, charging it upon delivery.

Comment: As with GMOs, mad scientists in the nanotech field believe that they can get away with manipulating mother nature. They will soon learn who is boss. From Nanotechnology - the new threat to food:

Nanotechnology in agriculture is based on the premise that we can improve efficiency and productivity by rearranging atoms in seeds, by developing even more potent chemical inputs, by using high technology surveillance to allow electronic, rather than person-based surveillance of on-farm conditions, and by further automating inputs to plant growth. Applications of nanotechnology to food processing assume that humans can 'improve' the taste, texture, appearance, nutritional content and longevity of food by manipulating it at the atomic level. It has even been argued that this will result in food that is 'safer'.

These assumptions are based on a flawed belief that humans can remake the natural world from the atom up - and get a better result. It assumes that we can predict the consequences of our actions, even when we are dealing with highly unpredictable processes and forces - such as quantum mechanics. Unfortunately, history tells us that we are simply not very good at predicting the outcomes of complex systems - witness the disasters that resulted from the introduction of biological controls such as the Cane Toad, or the introduction of rabbits and foxes for sport. History is similarly littered with examples of huge health and environmental problems that resulted from the failure to respond to early warning signs about previous perceived "wonder" materials such as CFCs, DDT and asbestos. This suggests that we should take the early warning signs associated with the toxicity of nanoparticles very seriously.

Grieving Family Hooked With $1M Medical Bill After Cops Throw Grenade at Baby, Govt Refuses to Help


GEORGIA — The government has refused to compensate grieving parents whose 18-month-old infant was burned alive when a team of SWAT officers threw a flash bang grenade directly into the baby’s playpen.

The incident occurred on the morning of May 28, as parents Alecia and Bounkham Phonesavanh and their three children were sleeping.

Their baby, nicknamed “Bou Bou Jr.” was in his playpen sound asleep.

That’s when the Habersham County Sheriff’s officer performed a SWAT no-knock raid on their home, busting their door open with a battering ram.

The officers claimed that the a nephew in the family was “suspected of selling drugs for $50″ to a police informant.

The nephew was actually not even living in the home, and the family hadn’t seen him in months.

No drugs or weapons were found during the raid.

Yet that didn’t stop the officers from busting into the house with assault rifles and terrorizing the family to the point of throwing a grenade at their infant.

Bou Bou was in his playpen as officers tried to open the door.

Because of the way Bou Bou’s playpen was positioned near the door, officers believed that “resistance” was blocking them from getting inside.

They then pulled out a flash bang grenade, and threw it into the opening in the door, down directly into Bou Bou’s playpen.

The grenade exploded at Bou Bou’s head, leaving the pillows and blankets in the playpen soaked in blood and blackened with burns.

Bou Bou’s face and body were scorched as he screamed in agony.

In an interview with ABC News, medical personnel in the hospital’s burn treatment center said that the grenade blast had “torn down” Bou Bou’s chest wall, stripping it off all the way down to the muscle tissue, and “it tore his face down to bone, down to his teeth.”

The mother, horrified after seeing officers throw a grenade at her child, asked officers what happened to her baby? She was being restrained and the officers would not let her go to her baby.

The officers lied to her, according to reports, saying “your son is fine.”

The truth was, Bou Bou’s skin was literally torn apart and melted by their grenade.

Bou Bou entered a coma and did not come out for more than an entire month.

He has permanent burn scarring on his face and his chest is disfigured, as the police grenade blew off one of his nipples.

To be blown up by police at such a young age, it is unimaginable what kind of psychological trauma the child will suffer as he grows up.

Extremely traumatic events like this can permanently destroy once healthy neural connections in the brain, leading to a life of pain, confusion, depression, and addiction.

Now, Bou Bou’s family is faced with $1 million in medical bills, and they don’t have the means to pay it.

The Habersham County government said it would be “against the law” to compensate the family for their loss, and has so far refused to give any financial aid to the grieving parents.

The family may spend the rest of their lives in poverty.

“Before they did this to us, we didn’t owe anybody anything,” said the mother.

“And now after all this, they have completely financially crippled us,” she continued.

The officers who performed the raid were, of course, not indicted by a grand jury — a situation that has become all too familiar in the US.

Watch the video below:

Teenaged boy saves his 4 year old sister from kidnapper

A boy, 13, is being credited with saving his 4-year-old sister from being kidnapped, authorities say.

Lancaster sheriff's deputies say the boy took swift action when a man entered their fenced yard in Lancaster on Saturday and grabbed hold of his sister. The man made it about 10 feet before dropping the girl, deputies said, thanks to her brother.

"He definitely acted on his own instincts," said Deputy Miguel Ruiz, calling the boy's actions courageous and heroic.

The suspect was identified as Earl Williams, 61, of Los Angeles. Williams, who had been seen pacing around the children's home in the 300 block of West Kildare Street, entered their yard about 11:55 a.m., authorities said. He asked the girl's name, then reached down and grabbed her, said Lt. Slade Carrizosa of the Los Angeles County sheriff's station in Lancaster.

As the girl was being carried away, her brother quickly grabbed hold of her hand and screamed for help, authorities said.

Neighbors who heard the boy's screams for someone to call 911 flagged down deputies and directed them to Williams, who was still in the neighborhood, Carrizosa said.

Williams was taken into custody on suspicion of kidnapping and was being held on $100,000 bail.

The girl was not injured during the kidnapping attempt.

The children come from a single-parent home, Ruiz said, and deputies have gathered donations of toys to deliver to them for the holiday.

Multiple UFOs filmed in daytime over mountain in Santiago Chile

E-mails sent to Sott.net become the property of Quantum Future Group, Inc and may be published without notice.

Argonne system captures toxic airborne mercury

mercury capture system

© Habegger et. al.

The mercury capture system significantly reduces the amount of vaporized mercury produced by gold shops. Pictured here: the approximate cost for the entire system is approximately $500 and uses materials already available in remote locations.

In any given year, workers in artisanal and small-scale gold mining shops in remote locales like Brazil and Peru release an estimated 700 tons of airborne mercury from their rooftops.

Collectively, these shops purify nearly 20 percent of the world's gold supply before it is shaped and sold in stores. Through a generations-old process, small-scale miners use hand tools and chemicals to extract gold from the ground. Miners use mercury as an easy way to extract gold pieces during the sifting process, which separates out dirt and other materials. The resulting gold and mercury mixture is then brought to shops that separate this harmful chemical from the gold.

Gold is separated out by burning off mercury with high-temperature torches that release vaporized mercury into the air. Eventually, these vapors fall back to the ground and contaminate food and water.

To decrease these emissions and the accumulation of mercury in the environment from artisanal and small-scale gold mining shops, the U.S. Department of Energy's Argonne National Laboratory, led by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), designed a prototype mercury capture system (MCS). The MCS channels the vaporized mercury droplets into a converted steel drum that condenses the mercury and captures nearly 80 percent of the aerosol particles.

Though this purification process does not occur in the United States, the global reach of airborne mercury does settle into our waterways, which gets into the fish that we eat.

Site evaluations found that only five percent of the Brazilian gold shops had any type of mercury control system, and all sites exceeded safe levels of exposure to mercury.

"All of the shops we assisted in Brazil were venting mercury out of long ducts directly into the street or into homes, and those in Peru had no ventilation at all," said Argonne environmental systems engineer Margaret MacDonell. "So we were not just concerned with the particles in the air but also the mercury that settled in the water supply, where people fish."

These locations experience an increased risk of exposure and potentially negative health effects. Mercury is considered neurobehavioral (affecting the nervous system, which affects a person's behavior); significant exposure can lead to effects such as difficulty learning and tremors.

The Argonne/EPA team built, installed and tested MCS prototypes at several gold shops in the Amazon region, and worked with locals on the ground to determine the best configuration of fume hoods and exhaust chimneys to capture mercury vapors.

With this information, the team created MCS prototypes that cost less than $500 in materials to build. This low cost was key to the system's success; if gold shops could not afford it, they would not use it. The MCS can also be retro-fitted to nearly any type of hood that gold shops use to funnel mercury vapors out of their shops.

The system's components include a 55-gallon steel drum, drum cover, circulating fan, flow pipe and drainage tube to collect the mercury. Stacked slotted plates, called baffles, provide layered surfaces onto which the particles of mercury stick as the fan moves the hot air from the hood to the exhaust pipe outside.

"I knew this was going to work once we realized that we were dealing with much larger particles," said Argonne mechanical engineer Jim Bailey, "especially when they took apart some of the ducts from the shops, and there in the bottom lay pools of mercury. We just needed to capture it."

The team's second prototype was the breakthrough, removing nearly 80 percent of the particles from the air exhaust, and was first to use the baffle-plate system. The key to this prototype's efficiency was its unusually large hood and exhaust duct, which allowed the mercury particles more time to stick together.

"We wanted to design a system to address the significant mercury exposure affecting both the shops and the homes that purify gold," said MacDonell. "Many people have been burning mercury for decades because that is the way their grandparents or neighbors did it. We helped develop a better way of thinking about the process."

Since October 2013, 122 countries have signed the Minimata Convention on Mercury. This international convention protects human health and the environment from mercury's negative impacts by promoting mercury-free mining practices. But until those practices become widespread, the MCS can help developing countries reduce mercury emissions.

Minamata is a city in Japan where scientists first discovered the deadly mercury-linked neurological disorder, now known as Minamata disease, in 1956. Residents there suffered widespread sickness, disability and death following decades of mercury poisoning.

The 2013 Minimata Convention convened to address this global issue and bring greater awareness to the environmental and health effects of mercury. The convention sparked an international conversation to promote mercury awareness and protect human health and the environment from mercury emissions.

"This is a global cycling problem," said Marilyn Livingood, senior program manager with the EPA's Office of International and Tribal Affairs. "Just in the areas where we installed the prototype systems, there are dangerously high levels of mercury in and outside of these gold shops. Our job is to try and help people there and let them know that they can reduce exposure. That's why the more countries that know about our technology, the better situation we are in."

"As engineers, the things we create help people, albeit in an indirect way," said Bailey. "But this was something really special. We had direct involvement in bettering the lives of real people. That human aspect just makes you feel good about the work you do."

Vulnerable UK pensioners choose between eating or using the toilet due to outsourced care

© Reuters/Jon Nazca

Hundreds of thousands of vulnerable British pensioners receive home state care that is so cursory and inadequate they are forced to choose between eating and being assisted to the bathroom, a Freedom of Information (FoI) request reveals.

An overwhelming 75 percent of local authorities in England offer pensioners visits that last a mere 15 minutes, the FoI request indicates. The number of councils booking care workers for these "flying care" visits has shot up 5 percent in the past year.

Britain's health secretary, Jeremy Hunt, said the sobering statistics revealed a situation that was simply "unacceptable." Alluding to dangers associated with cost cutting in an era of outsourcing, Hunt said there are "too many examples of councils buying rushed care visits."

Councils warn crippling funding cuts are to blame for the situation, and have jeopardized their capacity to maintain basic services. They say they need an extra £400 million if they are to provide adequate services to those who rely on them.

Outsourced and unaccountable

In a climate of rampant privatization, UK public services are increasingly outsourced. In the case of state care, 90 percent of such services for elderly and disabled Britons are now offered by private companies or charities.

Some 110 councils across Britain are currently paying for care workers to conduct these 15-minute visits.

Severely criticized, the whistle-stop visits generally occur daily or every two days. Critics warn the rushed timespan is simply too short to allow pensioners and the disabled the time needed for adequate care.

Frustrated care workers say they don't have sufficient time to dress, feed and wash their clients and make sure they have taken any medication they depend on.

The director of Leonard Cheshire Disability Campaigns, Peter Jenkins, told the there are "far too many of these 'flying care' visits taking place."

"Fifteen minutes is simply not long enough to deliver quality personal care, and these visits can leave disabled and older people facing impossible choices like whether to go to the toilet or to have a cup of tea, because they simply don't have time for both," he warned.

Britain's health secretary claims he is currently developing a slew of new regulations to dictate how councils purchase care services. He hopes the policy shift will go a long way to ending undignified and rushed forms of state care.

Ministers had previously tried to stop the practice by amending the Care Act, so that councils would be obliged to consider the well-being of pensioners when arranging care facilities. But their efforts were unsuccessful.

© Reuters/Stefan Wermuth

Councils in crisis

Britain's councils have been heavily hit with relentless government cuts to public spending in recent years, propelled by the government's attempt to reduce the nation's deficit.

The UK is suffering from spiraling inequality, plummeting standards of living, and millions of workers have slid deeper into poverty as zero-hours contracts proliferate. And despite relentless austerity measures, the deficit continues to grow.

Statistics released by UK government spending watchdog, the National Audit Office, indicate funding to councils has plummeted by 28 percent since 2010. Local authorities' funding will take a further hit in 2015-16, increasing the overall reduction of council funding to 37 percent.

Last week, it emerged that glaring failures by councils to protect vulnerable children and teenagers have reduced them to sleeping rough on British streets, on night buses, in police stations and in drug dens. Many are thought to be at high risk of abuse.

A spokesman for London Councils told the BBC that local authorities are doing their best to cope with the crisis amid crippling cuts and dwindling resources in a climate of ongoing austerity.

Bizarre execution of 2 NYPD cops a godsend to US government reeling from nationwide protests against police brutality

NYPD killed

© Kevin Hagen/NYT

Tamir Rice did not receive and honored funeral. He was 12 years old when officers shot and killed him this year.

Two police officers sitting in their patrol car in Brooklyn were shot at point-blank range and killed on Saturday afternoon by a man who, officials said, had traveled to the city from Baltimore vowing to kill officers. The suspect then committed suicide with the same gun, the authorities said.

The officers, Wenjian Liu and Rafael Ramos, were in the car near Myrtle and Tompkins Avenues in Bedford-Stuyvesant in the shadow of a tall housing project when the gunman, Ismaaiyl Brinsley, walked up to the passenger-side window and assumed a firing stance, Police Commissioner William J. Bratton said. Mr. Brinsley shot several rounds into the heads and upper bodies of the officers, who never drew their weapons, the authorities said.

Mr. Brinsley, 28, then fled down the street and onto the platform of a nearby subway station, where he killed himself as officers closed in. The police recovered a silver semiautomatic handgun, Mr. Bratton said.

Mr. Brinsley, who had a long rap sheet of crimes that included robbery and carrying a concealed gun, is believed to have shot his former girlfriend near Baltimore before traveling to Brooklyn, the authorities said. He made statements on social media suggesting that he planned to kill police officers and was angered about the Eric Garner and Michael Brown cases.

Authorities in Baltimore sent a warning that Mr. Brinsley had made these threats, but it was received in New York at essentially the same time as the killings, officials said.

The shootings, the chase, the suicide of Mr. Brinsley and the desperate but failed bid to save the lives of the officers - their uniforms soaked in blood - turned a busy commercial intersection on the Saturday before Christmas into a scene of pandemonium.


The manager of a liquor store at the corner, Charlie Hu, said the two police officers were slouched over in the front seat of their patrol car. Both of them appeared to have been shot in the head, Mr. Hu said, and one of the officers had blood spilling out of his face.

"Today two of New York's finest were shot and killed with no warning, no provocation," Mr. Bratton said at Woodhull Hospital in Williamsburg, where the officers were declared dead. "They were, quite simply, assassinated - targeted for their uniform and for the responsibility they embraced to keep the people of this city safe."

"Officer Ramos and Officer Liu never had the opportunity to draw their weapons," he continued. "They may have never even seen the assailant, their murderer."

Mayor Bill de Blasio, standing beside the police commissioner, said, "It is an attack on all of us; it's an attack on everything we hold dear."

Mr. de Blasio said he had met with the officers' families, including Officer Ramos's 13-year-old son, who "couldn't comprehend what had happened to his father."

Late Saturday night, President Obama condemned the "murder of two police officers in New York City," noting that officers who serve their communities "deserve our respect and gratitude every single day. Tonight, I ask people to reject violence and words that harm, and turn to words that heal - prayer, patient dialogue, and sympathy for the friends and family of the fallen."

The double killing comes at a moment when protests over police tactics have roiled the city and other parts of the nation. Since a grand jury declined to bring criminal charges in the case of Mr. Garner, a black Staten Island man who died after a police chokehold in July, protesters have filled the streets on numerous occasions. Those protests followed more violent ones in Ferguson, Mo., after there were no charges in the police shooting of Mr. Brown, an unarmed black teenager.

The mayor has taken care to praise officers' work repeatedly since the grand jury decision, but he has stressed the rights of protesters to express themselves and spoken of his personal experience instructing his biracial son, Dante, to "take special care" during any police encounters.

Some union leaders suggested the mayor had sent a message that police officers were to be feared. Cries for the police to use more restraint have been buttressed by historic drops in violent crime. The city has seen roughly 300 killings so far this year, a number so low as to be unheard-of two decades ago.

But the shooting on Saturday seemed reminiscent of decades past, when the city was mired in an epidemic of drugs and violence and, in 1988, a police officer was shot while he sat alone in his patrol car guarding the home of a man who had testified in a drug case. That killing shook the city, sparking an escalation in the war on drugs and an aggressive crackdown on violent crime. Mr. Bratton said that the attack on Saturday was the seventh time since 1972 that partners in the Police Department had been killed at the same time.

The killing seemed to drive the wedge between Mr. de Blasio and rank-and-file officers even deeper. Video posted online showed dozens of officers turning their backs to the mayor as he walked into a news conference on Saturday night.

"There's blood on many hands tonight - those that incited violence on the street under the guise of protests, that tried to tear down what New York City police officers did every day," the head of the Patrolmen's Benevolent Association, Patrick Lynch, said outside Woodhull Hospital. He added, "That blood on the hands starts on the steps of City Hall, in the office of the mayor."

Mr. Brinsley, whose records indicate that he was born in New York, had been arrested several times in Georgia and Ohio. He was arrested on accusations of carrying a concealed weapon and stealing in Georgia, and in Ohio in connection with theft and robbery, among other run-ins with the police. His last known residence was in Georgia. Mr. Bratton said the suspect also had ties to East Flatbush, Brooklyn, but would not be more specific.

Earlier on Saturday, law enforcement officials said, Mr. Brinsley shot his former girlfriend in the stomach near Baltimore. She survived.

Mr. Bratton said investigators believed that after the Maryland shooting, Mr. Brinsley posted to an Instagram account that he was headed to New York to attack police officers and that the posting might be his last. Mr. Bratton lamented the timing of the warning from authorities. "The tragedy here is that just as the warning was coming in, the murder was occurring," he said.

Mr. Bratton said that the Instagram posts reviewed by investigators, which he said had been widely circulated and may have been on the account of a girlfriend, revealed a "very strong bias against police officers."

In the Instagram posting that was apparently written by Mr. Brinsley, he called the attack retribution for the deaths of Mr. Garner and Mr. Brown.

Below a photo of a firearm, the Instagram posting, which misspells Mr. Garner's name, reads: "I'm Putting Wings On Pigs Today. They Take 1 Of Ours......Let's Take 2 of Theirs #ShootThePolice #RIPErivGardner #RIPMikeBrown."

Mr. Brinsley's sister, Nawaal Brinsley, said on Saturday that she had not seen her brother in two years. "Oh my goodness, oh my goodness," she said when told of the attack. She said she did not remember hearing her brother express anger at the police.

Mr. Bratton said that Officer Liu had been a seven-year veteran of the force and that Officer Ramos had been an officer since 2012. Officer Liu, he added, had been married two months.

The shootings seemed poised to cool the protests of recent months. The Rev. Al Sharpton, who has been an outspoken backer of the protests in recent weeks, condemned the attack.

"Any use of the names of Eric Garner and Michael Brown in connection with any violence or killing of police is reprehensible and against the pursuit of justice in both cases,"he said.

The Brooklyn borough president, Eric Adams, worried that the attack would "tarnish" the campaign against police brutality that has swept the city.

"It's horrific to have someone intentionally shoot a police officer; it's the wrong message," he said. "And that is not the message that many have been calling on when they talk about reform."

The intersection where the shooting occurred, which is dominated by the Tompkins housing project across the street, is a spot where residents often see police keeping watch. The officers had been assigned to patrol the Tompkins Houses in response to an uptick in violence there this year, Mr. Bratton said.

The increased police presence had improved the neighborhood, some said.

"It's changed and gotten better through the years," said Felix Camacho, 40, an airport ramp agent who has lived for eight years on the block where the shooting happened. But other residents worried that the episode on Saturday would inflame relations.

More than 100 officers lined the hospital's exit ramp as the bodies of Officers Liu and Ramos were driven out in ambulances.

Financial Maidan: Thousands of Ukrainians protest austerity measures

© Sputnik/ Evgeni Kotenko

A crowd of thousands gathered on Tuesday outside the parliament building in Kiev to show their opposition to cost-cutting measures proposed by the government of Ukraine.

"First of all, they want to pass a budget, with which the majority of people gathered here today are dissatisfied, and they want to extend the powers of the National Security and Defense Council of Ukraine," Vitaly Yahno, the coordinator of the protest told the Ukrainian news website. "And our task - is to ensure that the laws are passed, which we submitted."

"The 'Financial Maidan' is demanding the passing of legislation which has already been registered, but they [the authorities] don't want to put them on the agenda," Yahno explained.

The protest site on Tuesday stretched from the immediate boundary of the parliament building to the nearby Mariinski Park, and also blocked traffic on the road between the park and parliament building. According to a correspondent from RIA Novosti, on Tuesday afternoon around two and a half thousand protestors were assembled in largely peaceful protest, while the perimeter of the parliament building was guarded by several hundred security officers, including those of the National Guard.

However, one protestor told that the protestors were ready to take their demonstration to the next level: "If our demands are again ignored we are ready to take radical measures. We are addressing you, the servants of the people. You have already done everything, so that we don't have anything more to lose," adding that the protest was waiting until two p.m. for a response.

reports that the demonstration began last week, when around 400 borrowers and investors from across Ukraine marched to the building of the Ukrainian National Bank and demanded to meet with the central bank's head, to ensure the passing of laws to regulate bank credit and deposits. The demonstrators also demanded to meet with the Ministers of Finance and Justice, and with Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

RIA Novosti's correspondent reported that during the course of the day's demonstration other movements also joined the protest, including representatives from Ukrainian trade unions, and supporters of the Svoboda party. Slogans heard from the crowd included "The National Bank is seeping hryvnia," and "Lvov is against being at the mercy of the banks."

On Tuesday, the Ukrainian parliament is due to hear around 40 legislative proposals for the 2015 budget from the Ukrainian government, which include sharp cuts comprising pay freezes, pension reductions and the abolition of educational and healthcare benefits.

More from Press TV:

On Tuesday, as many as 2,000 demonstrators outside the Verkhovna Rada, Ukraine's parliament, called on Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk to end the measures dictated by international creditors.

The protesters demanded the premier to stop cutting social benefits, subsidies, and price controls on utility rates, since the state budget is expected to be slashed by 10 percent and gas prices are to become three times more expensive.

Most of the cuts are to be made in the social sector, with 10 percent of the country's public workers expected to lose their jobs.

Students also took part in the protest, slamming a 20-percent drop in education spending, the abolition of scholarships, and a rise in tuition fees. They also protested against the closure of some 400 schools.

The demonstration comes after Yatsenyuk announced the measures designed by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and other creditors in return for financial aid.

According to the premier, Ukraine has "received a total of USD 9 billion in financial aid from the IMF, World Bank, and other financial institutions" this year, but has spent USD 14 billion servicing its debts. He added that Kiev would need another USD 15 billion next year.

Information, intelligent design, and 'paper trades'

Particle tracks in an accelerator - possibly a way to visualize the pathways extending from a single point.

I've been reading , by John C. Lennox, a book arguing for "intelligent causation" - the idea that the universe and life are too irreducibly complex to have arisen by chance. Lennox, a professor of mathematics at Oxford who has debated Richard Dawkins, makes a powerful case that information lies at the heart of life, and that this information (epitomized by, but not restricted to, the instructions encoded in DNA) cannot be explained by natural processes.

If this is true (and I strongly suspect that it is), it naturally raises the question of how this "intelligent causation" could actually be brought about. The notion of God as a chemist, reaching down with his mighty hand to splice the correct amino acids into the desired proteins, is hardly intellectually satisfying.

One approach that occurs to me is suggested by the idea of pure information underlying the physical world, a notion that we've played with before. We could imagine this informational matrix as something akin to a giant information processing system - a vast database, with the numbers constantly being crunched by algorithms. By analogy, think of the whole shebang as a computer run by a program; the numbers are processed in the background, between screen refreshes; changes in the informational content would be reflected in each new refresh, just as changes dictated by a computer program are seen in new combinations of pixels on the screen.

How, then, would intelligent causation manifest itself in such a system? Let's assume there is a problem to be solved - the emergence of life from nonliving antecedents. A great deal of evidence and statistical analysis suggests that natural processes and chance are inadequate to explain this development, because there simply is not enough time in the universe to play out all the scenarios necessary for the construction of even one protein by random combination of amino acids - let alone the dozens or hundreds of proteins needed for a functioning cell, not to mention the complexly encoded DNA molecules that run the cell itself.

So did God just snap his fingers and say, "Let there be life"? Or can we look at the issue from a slightly different perspective?

Suppose that in the timeless interval between screen refreshes, the information matrix is able to sketch out every possible scenario for a given batch of amino acids. Any outcome with a nonzero probability is included in a vast array of potentialities, ramifying in all directions. Far more than 99.999% of these pathways do not lead to a functioning protein. But somewhere in the cloud of potentia - somewhere in the dizzying web of possible paths - there is at least one pathway that does produce a protein.

If an intelligent agent - a super-mind acting behind the scenes - could select that one outcome out of all the others, and (in effect) collapse the wave function along that particular pathway, then the necessary steps would be actualized or manifested in the physical world, and the protein would come into existence.

The same procedure could be used to produce other proteins and even the desired encoding of a DNA molecule - by allowing every scenario to play out in virtual reality (behind the scenes) and then intelligently selecting the one scenario in every case that would accomplish the objective.

Of course, this presupposes that there an objective - a goal - and that there is a consciousness capable of holding this objective in mind and making the necessary selections. Both premises take us very far from naturalism or materialism, and very far from mainstream science as it's practiced today. Whether this is a feature or a bug depends on one's personal worldview.

It might be objected that the whole procedure is unnecessary, since if the mind in question already knows what it wants, why should it need to spin out a multiplicity of scenarios, most of which are dead ends? But I'm suggesting that while the mind may know its goal, it may not know the best way to get there. It may have to let a million pathways take temporary shape in order to find, by hit and miss, the one pathway that will actually work. In other words, the mind we're talking about may be very, very smart, but not omniscient. Though its resources and capabilities are vastly greater than ours, it may still have to grope its way to the best answer to a given problem.

The same idea would apply, naturally, to macroevolutionary change - not to microevolution (relatively trivial changes in coloration, size, resistance to antibiotics, etc.), but major alterations significant enough to bring about new species.

Perhaps most of the time nature is stuck in a kind of stasis, with small mutations occurring and mostly being weeded out or producing temporary, minor changes and often reverting to the mean. But if a species comes under serious pressure and a more dramatic response is called for, perhaps once again the information-processing program starts spinning out pathways to new features and new modalities. Any major change will involve a large number of genetic mutations and probably other alterations as well, all occurring simultaneously or at least in a compressed time frame. The odds of this happening are incredibly remote, but they may not be zero. Somewhere in the cloud of ramifying potentialities, there may be one scenario that gets the endangered population where it needs to go. If the intelligence working behind the scenes identifies and selects that pathway, no matter how unlikely it may be, then that is the one that will manifest. It may still take many generations; there may be no shortcut that allows for the emergence of a new species overnight; it may be imperfect, requiring awkward compromises or the retention of vestigial or superfluous features; and in many cases there may be no viable path, and the population will become extinct. Still, if a path can be selected, it will be the most efficient path possible, one so improbable that it would almost never actualize if left to chance alone.

Now, I know that natural selection involves more than chance; but in mainstream science the genetic mutations on which natural selection operates are attributed to chance. Any suggestion that these mutations are guided or directed toward a goal, or brought into being by an intentional agency, would be rejected out of hand as superstition and teleology. Still, that's what I'm suggesting: that in periods of acute distress, when a population must change radically or perish, an intelligent agent behind the scenes selects from among all possible mutations (and other adaptations) that could, in principle, occur - all mutations with a nonzero probability, even if that probability is vanishingly small - and then selects whatever pathway allows for the most promising set of mutations in the shortest available time.

Some storyline like this may perhaps help to visualize how intelligent causation, using the underlying information matrix, could select outcomes that allow for the origin and macroevolution of life, without the need for miracles (only for extremely improbable events), violations of natural law, or overt (as opposed to covert, behind-the-scenes) divine intervention.

Incidentally, something similar could be imagined for the intelligent causation of the universe itself - if we suppose that every possible scenario proceeding from the Big Bang could be spun out in virtual terms, with the scenario best suited to produce a stable, complex, habitable universe being selected and manifested.

In a way, it's like trading stocks in a virtual trading environment - so-called "paper trades." You can buy and sell as many stocks as you like and play out any scenario that interests you, without risking any money, because the trades are not real. In this way you can gain a great deal of trading experience before ever investing a cent.

Einstein said that God does not play dice with the universe. Maybe not. But who knows? He might make paper trades.

New study reveals agriculture has weakened human bones

According to a new study, the ends of human bones became much lighter and less dense around 12,000 years ago -- a loose demarcation that corresponds with modern man's transition from an existence reliant on hunting and gathering to one dedicated to agriculture.

In other words, scientists conclude, as humans settled down to farm -- abandoning their mobile ways and assuming a more sedentary disposition -- their bones weakened.

The difference in bone structure was first noticed by Habiba Chirchir and her fellow researchers at the at the Smithsonian's National Museum of Natural History, who were analyzing bones of both primates and humans. Chirchir and her colleagues noticed that the ends of human bones, the portions near joints made of what's called trabecular bone, were less dense and almost spongelike when compared to primate bones.

Chirchir initially estimated that humans developed less weighty bones when they first made their exodus out of Africa. Lighter, less dense bones would make traveling easier, she hypothesized. But further research showed that less hardy bone ends didn't arrive until 12,000 years ago -- much later than she and her colleagues anticipated.

"Our study shows that modern humans have less bone density than seen in related species, and it doesn't matter if we look at bones from people who lived in an industrial society or agriculturalist populations that had a more active life," Habiba Chirchir explained in a recent press release. "They both have much less bone density."

In the new study, published this week in , Chirchir and her colleagues show that trabecular bone is less strong and less dense among longtime farming communities than among foraging populations.

"Despite centuries of research on the human skeleton, this is the first study to show that human skeletons have substantially lower density in joints throughout the skeleton, even in ancient farmers who actively worked the land," said co-author Brian Richmond, a researcher at the George Washington University.

Research indicates lost memories can be restored offering hope for early stage Alzheimer's

research lost memories restored

© renta / Fotolia

New UCLA research indicates that lost memories can be restored. The findings offer some hope for patients in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease.

New UCLA research indicates that lost memories can be restored. The findings offer some hope for patients in the early stages of Alzheimer's disease.

For decades, most neuroscientists have believed that memories are stored at the synapses -- the connections between brain cells, or neurons -- which are destroyed by Alzheimer's disease. The new study provides evidence contradicting the idea that long-term memory is stored at synapses.

"Long-term memory is not stored at the synapse," said David Glanzman, a senior author of the study, and a UCLA professor of integrative biology and physiology and of neurobiology. "That's a radical idea, but that's where the evidence leads. The nervous system appears to be able to regenerate lost synaptic connections. If you can restore the synaptic connections, the memory will come back. It won't be easy, but I believe it's possible."

The findings were published recently in

Glanzman's research team studies a type of marine snail called Aplysia to understand the animal's learning and memory. The Aplysia displays a defensive response to protect its gill from potential harm, and the researchers are especially interested in its withdrawal reflex and the sensory and motor neurons that produce it.

They enhanced the snail's withdrawal reflex by giving it several mild electrical shocks on its tail. The enhancement lasts for days after a series of electrical shocks, which indicates the snail's long-term memory. Glanzman explained that the shock causes the hormone serotonin to be released in the snail's central nervous system.

Long-term memory is a function of the growth of new synaptic connections caused by the serotonin, said Glanzman, a member of UCLA's Brain Research Institute. As long-term memories are formed, the brain creates new proteins that are involved in making new synapses. If that process is disrupted -- for example by a concussion or other injury -- the proteins may not be synthesized and long-term memories cannot form. (This is why people cannot remember what happened moments before a concussion.)

"If you train an animal on a task, inhibit its ability to produce proteins immediately after training, and then test it 24 hours later, the animal doesn't remember the training," Glanzman said. "However, if you train an animal, wait 24 hours, and then inject a protein synthesis inhibitor in its brain, the animal shows perfectly good memory 24 hours later. In other words, once memories are formed, if you temporarily disrupt protein synthesis, it doesn't affect long-term memory. That's true in the Aplysia and in human's brains." (This explains why people's older memories typically survive following a concussion.)

Glanzman's team found the same mechanism held true when studying the snail's neurons in a Petri dish. The researchers placed the sensory and motor neurons that mediate the snail's withdrawal reflex in a Petri dish, where the neurons re-formed the synaptic connections that existed when the neurons were inside the snail's body. When serotonin was added to the dish, new synaptic connections formed between the sensory and motor neurons. But if the addition of serotonin was immediately followed by the addition of a substance that inhibits protein synthesis, the new synaptic growth was blocked; long-term memory could not be formed.

The researchers also wanted to understand whether synapses disappeared when memories did. To find out, they counted the number of synapses in the dish and then, 24 hours later, added a protein synthesis inhibitor. One day later, they re-counted the synapses.

What they found was that new synapses had grown and the synaptic connections between the neurons had been strengthened; late treatment with the protein synthesis inhibitor did not disrupt the long-term memory. The phenomenon is extremely similar to what happens in the snail's nervous system during this type of simple learning, Glanzman said.

Next, the scientists added serotonin to a Petri dish containing a sensory neuron and motor neuron, waited 24 hours, and then added another brief pulse of serotonin -- which served to remind the neurons of the original training -- and immediately afterward add the protein synthesis inhibitor. This time, they found that synaptic growth and memory were erased. When they re-counted the synapses, they found that the number had reset to the number before the training, Glanzman said. This suggests that the "reminder" pulse of serotonin triggered a new round of memory consolidation, and that inhibiting protein synthesis during this "reconsolidation" erased the memory in the neurons.

If the prevailing wisdom were true -- that memories are stored in the synapses -- the researchers should have found that the lost synapses were the same ones that had grown in response to the serotonin. But that's not what happened: Instead, they found that some of the new synapses were still present and some were gone, and that some of the original ones were gone, too.

Glanzman said there was no obvious pattern to which synapses stayed and which disappeared, which implied that memory is not stored in synapses.

When the scientists repeated the experiment in the snail, and then gave the animal a modest number of tail shocks -- which do not produce long-term memory in a naive snail -- the memory they thought had been completely erased returned. This implies that synaptic connections that were lost were apparently restored.

"That suggests that the memory is not in the synapses but somewhere else," Glanzman said. "We think it's in the nucleus of the neurons. We haven't proved that, though."

Glanzman said the research could have significant implications for people with Alzheimer's disease. Specifically, just because the disease is known to destroy synapses in the brain doesn't mean that memories are destroyed.

"As long as the neurons are still alive, the memory will still be there, which means you may be able to recover some of the lost memories in the early stages of Alzheimer's," he said.

Glanzman added that in the later stages of the disease, neurons die, which likely means that the memories cannot be recovered.

The cellular and molecular processes seem to be very similar between the marine snail and humans, even though the snail has approximately 20,000 neurons and humans have about 1 trillion. Neurons each have several thousand synapses.

Glanzman used to believe that traumatic memories could be erased but he has changed his mind. He now believes that, because memories are stored in the nucleus, it may be much more difficult to modify them. He will continue to study how the marine snail's memories are restored and how synapses re-grow.

Co-authors of the study include Shanping Chen, Diancai Cai and Kaycey Pearce, research associates in Glanzman's laboratory.

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health's National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, the National Institute of Mental Health and the National Science Foundation.

Almost all the processes that are involved in memory in the snail also have been shown to be involved in memory in the brains of mammals, Glanzman said.

In a 1997 study published in the journal Science, Glanzman and colleagues identified a cellular mechanism in the Aplysia that plays an important role in learning and memory. A protein called N-methyl D-aspartate, or NMDA, receptor enhances the strength of synaptic connections in the nervous system and plays a vital role in memory and in certain kinds of learning in the mammalian brain as well. Glanzman's demonstration that the NMDA receptor plays a critical role in learning in a simple animal like the marine snail was entirely unexpected at the time.

13,800-year-old Haida site found 400 ft. underwater in Canada

Bluefin-12S AUV

The University of Victoria's Bluefin-12S AUV is being off-loaded from the Parks Canada vessel Gwaii Haanas II at the end of the project. The team plans to return next summer for further investigation. (University of Victoria/Canadian Press)

Estimates of people's presence in the Americas have ranged from about 12,000 to 50,000 years. A new study by a team of archaeologists that has been researching the subject, has found a site dating back 13,800 years, now underwater in the Juan Perez Sound off British Columbia in Canada.

The underwater area they examined was once dry land, inhabited by the Haida people. The Haida have an old flood tale on Frederick Island that tells of how the peoples became dispersed in the New World. Frederick Island is a different site than the one recently studied.

The team, led by archaeologist Quentin Mackie of the University of Victoria, found the site this past September near the Haida Gwaii Archipelago. They found a fishing weir, a stone channel structure that was probably used to catch salmon, the CBC reports.

Haida Gwaii islands

Haida Gwaii islands as seen from Hecate Strait (Wikimedia Commons)

"He's far from certain, but Mackie is hopeful the images show at least one stone weir - a man-made channel used to corral fish. The scan suggests a wall of large stones was placed in a line at a right angle to the stream, a fishing technique used by many other ancient cultures, including those that thrived along B.C's coasts," the CBC says.

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Global BC news broadcast on the Haida discovery

Mackie says the findings make sense in the context of his research there over the past 20 years. Indian Country Today Media Network says the findings also fit in with tribal oral histories.

A Haida story from the book by Richard Erdoes and Alfonso Ortiz tells of a great flood that force people to move. An excerpt:

... the old people told them to stop laughing at the stranger. At that moment the tide was at low ebb, and the woman sat down at the water's edge. The tide began to rise, and the water touched her feet. She moved up a little and again sat down. The water rose again, and again she moved back. Now she sat down at the edge of the village. But the tide kept rising; never before had it come so high. The villagers grew frightened and awe-struck. Having no canoes, they did not know how to escape, so they took big logs, tied them together into a raft, and placed their children on it. They packed the raft with dried salmon, halibut and baskets of spring water for drinking.

The woman kept sitting on higher and higher ground, and the water kept climbing. Waters covered their island, the Haida story says, and hundreds of survivors were adrift without anchors.

By and by the people saw peaks sticking out of the ocean. One of the rafts drifted to a piece of land and its survivors stepped off there, while other rafts were beached elsewhere. It was at that time that the tribes became dispersed. - Based on a tale related by Henry Young in 1947 and repeated by Marius Barbeau in 1953.

Spirit of Haida Gwaii

© Bengt Oberger

Spirit of Haida Gwaii, the Black Canoe, sculpture by Bill Reid in bronze, outside the Canadian Embassy in Washington

The superintendent of the Gwaii Hanaas park, Ernie Gladstone, told the CBC that people lived in the area for many thousands of years, but much of their ancient territory is under waters of Hecate Strait now. Stories like the one recounted in and other collections may be actual history told in semi-metaphor.

The book says the waters and lands where the Haida people lived were so rich with fish and game that they had a social structure more like advanced agricultural societies. They had private property, ranked social classes and a rich history of art. Governments and missionaries made strenuous efforts to assimilate Haida people on the islands and mainland. But the Haida resisted and instead preserved much of their culture and homelands, wrote the authors, David M. Jones and Brian L. Molyneaux.

Several months ago, the archaeologists used an unmanned, robotic vehicle to examine under the waters around the islands. The weir is under 400 feet (122 meters) of water. The researchers say the area under water was dry land at sea level 14,000 years ago, from the islands to what is now the British Columbia mainland. The area has been underwater since after the last Ice Age ended and a warming period began about 11,000 years ago.

The archaeologists saw other formations on the sea floor that they think may have been camps from around the same time.

The oldest artifact ever found previously in Canada came from near the same weir site, in Gwaii Hanaas National Park Preserve from 12,700 years ago. The latest finding therefore constitutes the oldest ever evidence of human habitation in Canada.

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