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Friday, 6 February 2015

Research shows well connected communities are better able to manage in times of crisis

© Barbara Mills/University of Arizona

Pinedale Polychrome bowl from the Bailey Ruin, A.D. 1275-1325. This type of vessel was made during the megadrought that hit the Southwest from A.D. 1276-1299. The distribution of this type outside of its area of production was one of the ways that people kept connected during and after the drought.

The more you know your neighbors, the better off you may be when disaster strikes, a new study from the University of Arizona suggests.

Researchers in the UA School of Anthropology examined social networks in the late pre-Hispanic Southwest and found that communities that were more connected with their neighbors had a better chance of being able to successfully manage a crisis than did communities with fewer outside connections.

It's a finding that could have implications for crisis management research today.

"In a lot of modern research in crisis management, people are looking at how communities mobilize along social networks to overcome traumatic environmental crises, like we saw with Hurricane Katrina," said Lewis Borck, lead author of the study and a Ph.D. candidate in the UA School of Anthropology in the College of Social and Behavioral Sciences.

"We've known for a long time that people rely on social networks during times of crisis. What we didn't know, or at least what we haven't really been able to demonstrate, is exactly what happened to the social networks at a regional scale as people began to rely on them, or how people modified and changed their networks in reaction to social and environmental crises," Borck said. "This research gives us insight into that."

Borck and his study co-authors, including UA anthropology professor Barbara Mills, focused specifically on the period of A.D. 1200-1400, which included the 1276-1299 megadrought in the region that is now the southwestern United States.

To understand how different communities were interacting with one another during that time, the researchers examined data gathered by the National Science Foundation-funded Southwest Social Networks Project. The project maintains a database of millions of ceramic and obsidian artifacts, compiled by Mills and collaborators at Archaeology Southwest.

When the same types of ceramics are found in similar proportions in different communities, it indicates that a relationship existed between those communities. Borck and his collaborators studied the relationships of 22 different subareas in the Southwest, based on an analysis of 800,000 painted ceramics from more than 700 archeological sites.

They found that during the 23-year drought, relationships between many groups grew stronger, as people turned to their neighbors for support and resources, such as food and information.

"It seemed to be a way to mobilize resources and to increase your variability of resources, by increasing your interaction with more distant people," Borck said. The Hopi people, still present in what is now northern Arizona, are an example of a population that employed this type of crisis management.

Still, some groups remained more insular in nature.

In general, the communities with larger social networks had a better chance of being able to withstand the drought without having to migrate, and for a longer period, than the more insular groups, Borck said. "Most of the groups that were only interacting with other communities in their group didn't persist in place. They all migrated out."

There was one exception: the Zuni people, who, despite not having strong external social networks, remain in western New Mexico to this day. Their unique success probably was due to their large population size and the diversity of resources available within the area they inhabited, Borck said.

The study will be published in a forthcoming special issue of the , co-edited by Mills, devoted to examining social networks in archaeology.

Additional authors on the study are Archaeology Southwest's Jeffery Clark, an adjunct associate professor of anthropology at the UA, and Archaeology Southwest's Matthew Peeples, a former UA post-doctoral scholar.

Mills said the study provides empirical support for the importance of social networks in times of crisis and their long-term benefits.

"A lot of people have hypothesized that this process of having more extensive social networks is sort of a backup strategy for people," she said, "but this is one of the first times we've been able to demonstrate it at a very large, regional scale.

"It backs up a lot of these hypotheses about 'social storage' being as important as the real storage of actual items. The flip side is that if you are highly insular and protectionist and don't interact with a lot your neighbors, you're really susceptible."

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Absurd! EU wants to snoop on Skype to combat terrorist threat

© Reuters/Paul Hackett

The EU agency for judicial cooperation says the bloc needs to develop a common approach to lawfully intercept services like Skype and Viber, to help keep track of European militants arriving back home from the Middle East.

The measures were outlined in a Eurojust report, which was discussed by a committee of the European Parliament on Thursday, said Reuters after they saw the report.

Following deadly terror attacks in Paris last month, EU nations are worried about the danger of radicalized and trained Islamists returning from the Middle East. Militants have often used social networks to spread ideas, jihadist propaganda and recruit new members.

"The use of the internet for terrorist purposes creates an additional burden for investigations and prosecutions of foreign fighters," the Eurojust report said.

The report touched on the fact that "the interception of Voice over Internet Protocol (VoIP) communications (e.g. Skype, Viber, etc.) is problematic and seriously hinders relevant investigations." It believes that "a harmonized approach at EU level may be necessary to address technical difficulties and legal challenges in the gathering and admissibility of e-evidence."

Eurojust highlights the problem in securing convictions in suspected terrorist cases by pointing out that evidence tracked online may not be accepted in some courts due to national laws. The report urges cooperation between judicial authorities within the bloc.

"Eurojust recommends exchange of experience, including the collection and dissemination of best practice and challenges encountered by national judicial authorities in using information extracted from the internet as evidence in terrorism cases," the report said.

In the wake of heightened security concerns, the European Commission has already announced it will require passengers flying to and from Europe to submit 42 pieces of personal data.

Some of the fields would not cause too many eyebrows to be raised, such as nationality or frequent flyer information. Others, such as meal preference or the number of one-way tickets bought are slightly more puzzling, according to the .

In December, the Commissioner for Human Rights at the Council of Europe, Nils Muiznieks said there was a need for increased transparency from intelligence agencies concerning their surveillance techniques.

Muiznieks insisted human rights violations relating to such mass surveillance could not be justified "by the fight against terrorism" or other "threats to national security."

"Such interferences can only be accepted if they are strictly necessary and proportionate to a legitimate aim," he said in his report entitled 'The Rule of Law on the Internet in the Wider Digital World'.

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Decades of public spending limitations imposed by IMF may have set the stage for Ebola outbreak


© Unknown

As 2015 began, the world received a sobering message. Not only have the number of Ebola cases exceeded 20,000, but in some affected countries, especially Sierra Leone, the virus is still spreading. The death toll now tops 8,000 and the usual answers to how this outbreak got so huge so quickly - poverty, bad governance, cultural practices, endemic disease in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone - are giving way to a deeper questioning of the poor public health response. Critics are turning to the structural causes of weak health systems and increasingly showing that international lending policies, including and especially those employed by the IMF, should carry much of the blame.

The IMF has been active in West Africa for many years; the first IMF loan to Liberia was in 1963. And for almost as long, public health activists have pointed to the detrimental effects of the strings the IMF attaches to its loans, known as conditionalities, which more often than not constrain investment in public sector health services. As a December 2014 comment in medical journal, the explained, the IMF has provided support to Guinea and Sierra Leone for nearly two decades, and to Liberia for seven years. All three countries were engaged in IMF programmes when the Ebola crisis began. IMF conditionalities meant countries have had to prioritise repaying debt and interest payments over funding critical social and health services. Countries such as Guinea, Sierra Leone and Liberia have had to limit not only the number of health workers they were able to hire (Liberia had only 60 doctors before the Ebola outbreak, Sierra Leone had 136), they've also had to cap wages to a pitifully low level to meet broader IMF policy directives. comment also points out that in Sierra Leone, IMF-mandated policies explicitly sought to reduce public sector employment. In 1995 -1996, the IMF required the retrenchment of 28 per cent of public employees. The World Health Organisation reported a reduction of community health workers from 0.11 per 1,000 population in 2004 to 0.02 in 2008. Caps on wage spending continued into the 2000s. authors state, "By 2004, [Sierra Leone] spent about 1.2 per cent of GDP less on civil service wages than the sub-Saharan African mean."

The problem is, the IMF requires cuts to the same public systems that could respond to a health crisis before it sweeps across the country. When countries sacrifice budget allocations to meet macroeconomic policy prescriptions, as per the IMF's decree, it is at the expense of social spending. Without money to fund basic infrastructure, health facilities are left crumbling, sometimes without access to water or electricity, and completely unprepared for complex emergencies. Few health workers are trained in infectious disease control, and those that have received training lack protective equipment and materials due to non-functioning supply systems. It is no wonder that when a truly serious epidemic such as Ebola entered the scene, the West African countries, which have had to deal with IMF conditions for decades, found themselves struggling to respond.

A considerable amount of money has poured in to fight Ebola, about $1billion so far, some of it from the IMF itself. Just how much of this money will go to build health systems, though, is under debate. In the past, IMF austerity conditionalities included directives to put aid money away in national reserves for a rainy day. Indeed, research has shown that increased funding for health, while under the influence of IMF programmes, actually reduces governments' spending on health - because if they did, they would be violating the conditions of IMF loans. So the $1billion of Ebola aid that could help to build the very same health systems that had deteriorated from decades of IMF constraints is constrained once again and is diverted to fund one-off NGO projects or short-term UN programmes.

There is a growing chorus calling for reform to IMF policies, and the slow response to Ebola has shone a light on just how weakened the health systems have become after decades of restrictions in the name of economic reform. First among this chorus are the presidents of affected countries. At an October 2014 press conference with the IMF, World Bank, and presidents from Guinea, Sierra Leone, and Liberia, Guinean president Alpha Condé remarked, "I'm extremely pleased to hear the IMF managing director [say] that we need help and we can increase our deficit, which is quite a change from the usual narrative."

Pressure has come from all sides for the IMF to loosen its restrictions on deficit spending as well as to forgive billions of dollars in debt and to rechannel those debt servicing payments to funding lifesaving health services, supplies, and desperately needed personnel to respond to what has been an overwhelming patient load. Even the G20 issued a statement in November 2014 urging the IMF to "ease pressures on Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone, through a combination of concessional loans, debt relief, and grants". The US, the largest shareholder of the IMF, is also pushing to erase about 20 per cent of the three countries' total IMF debt. Had these measures been taken a decade earlier, and the resources invested in public sector health systems, it is likely the Ebola outbreak could have been quickly contained and thousands of lives saved. The US Congress has pledged $5.4 billion in its 2015 budget, $2.5 billion of it going straight to African countries in their efforts to fight or prevent the virus from entering their country.

That's all a good start, but we've got to learn the true lesson from the Ebola crisis to prevent the next public health crisis in Africa. IMF conditionalities must end, debt cancelled, and health systems built - no strings attached.

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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Deranged! Family arranges kidnap of 6 year old to 'teach him a lesson'

bound wrists

© unknown

Imagine being a 6-year-old boy.

You get off your school bus and begin to walk home.

You are greeted by a man who lures you to his truck.

That man drives off with you and tells you you'll never see your mother again, and that you will be nailed to the wall of a shed.

You are terrified, of course, so you start crying.

The man pulls out a handgun and threatens to hurt you if you don't stop crying.

Then the man binds your feet and hands together with plastic bags and covers your face with a jacket.

He takes you to his house, carries you to the basement, and leaves you there for a little while.

Then a woman comes down to the basement and pulls your pants down. She shouts at you...tells you that you will be sold into sex slavery. She berates you for not trying to fight her or the man who kidnapped you.

You are then left alone in the basement for a bit longer. You wonder what is going to happen to you next.


After some time, you are unbound and allowed to go upstairs.

That's when you are told that your family planned this.


This sounds like the plot of a horror movie, or an episode of a crime TV show.

Unfortunately, it really happened. A family in Troy, MO, actually did this.

From Fox2Now:

Family members plotted to have a six-year-old boy kidnapped to teach him a lesson on stranger danger because he was "too nice" to people, the Lincoln County Sheriff's Office said Thursday.

According to the sheriff's office, deputies learned of a kidnapping in Troy on February 4.

Investigators learned that sometime before February 2, 38-year-old Denise Kroutil approached a co-worker, 23-year-old Nathan Firoved, and asked him to kidnap her nephew to "scare" him. The victim's mother, 25-year-old Elizabeth Hupp, and grandmother, 58-year-old Rose Brewer, agreed with the plan to kidnap the young boy to teach him a lesson.


The boy told school authorities about the incident on Wednesday. They contacted the Missouri Division of Family Services. The sheriff's office was called to the home and the boy was placed into protective custody.

The family told the investigators that they were only trying to educate the boy and felt they did nothing wrong.

That's mind-boggling. How could anyone think that mentally torturing a young child could be a good thing in ANY way? The only thing they taught this poor boy is that the people he likely trusted the most can't be trusted at all.


From USAToday:

Firoved, Kroutil and Rose Brewer, 58, the boy's grandmother, were charged with felony kidnapping, felonious restraint, and felony abuse and neglect of a child, the Sheriff's Office said. The victim's mother, Elizabeth Hupp, 25, of Troy was charged with felony kidnapping and felony abuse and neglect of a child. The four are being held at the Lincoln County Jail on $250,000 bond.

With family members like these, who needs enemies?

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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Mind over matter? Prototype lets humans upload their mind into mechanized 'heads'

© Screenshot from YouTube user Bloomberg Business

An Artificial Intelligence pioneer is embracing the controversial idea of uploading the memories, thoughts and feelings of a living person into a computer to create a Mind Clone or "second self." The prototype for this new self is called 'Bina-48'.

Entrepreneur Martine Rothblatt has created a new robotic head that she hopes, one day in the future, humans will be able to upload their minds into. Bina-48 is named after Rothblatt's real-life wife, Bina Aspen, and serves as a proof-of-concept for the futuristic idea. The robot version is designed to carry on a conversation, with scientists hoping that these mind clones could give human owners a sort of artificial afterlife.

"I believe Mind Clones will be humanity's biggest invention. The market opportunity is limitless," Rothblatt told Bloomberg News. "Ultimately - just like we all want a smart phone, we all want a social media account - we are all going to want a Mind Clone. It will make everything in our life more useful, more valuable. It will give us twice as much time to do everything."

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Bena-48 was created five years ago as a digital replica uploaded with Bina Aspen's thoughts, memories and feelings - all of which were broken down into computer code to create a digital version of her consciousness. Created by Hanson Robotics, Bina-48 can engage in conversation, answer questions and even have "spontaneous" thoughts that are derived from multimedia data in a "mindfile" created by the real Bina.

A similar mindfile is created when a person interacts on Twitter or Facebook and shares photos or blogs regularly - in essence, it's a digital database of thoughts, memories, feelings and opinions. Mindware mimics the way the human brain supposedly organizes information, creates emotions and achieves self-awareness.

The proliferation of robots like Bina-48 may seem farfetched now, but Rothblatt is the woman who helped pioneered satellite radio as founder of Sirius and now oversees biotech innovation at United Therapeutics.

"Mind Clone is a digital copy of your mind outside of your body," said Rothblatt. "I think Mind Clone will look like an avatar on the screen, talking, instead of a robot version. Mind Clones are 10-20 years away."

"Am I talking about a law of physics here? Am I talking about defying gravity here? No. Am I talking about going faster than light? No. All I am doing here is talking about writing some good code."

Companies such as eterni.me, Gordon Bell's MyLifeBits, and Terasem's Lifenaut are all pursuing Mind Clone to help a person's personality, work and relationships survive after death.

Eterni.me is a proposed for-profit service that will reportedly offer immortality by creating "a virtual YOU, an avatar that emulates your personality and can interact with, and offer information and advice to your family and friends, even after you pass away."

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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Police raid organic grocery store with guns drawn

raid_rawsome foods

© Rawsome Foods

Well this is just bonkers...

Multi-agency armed raid hits Rawesome Foods and Healthy Family Farms for selling raw milk and cheese.

According to a blog posted on the website:

Guns drawn, four officers fanned out across Rawesome Foods in Venice. Skirting past the arugula and peering under crates of zucchini, they found the raid's target inside a walk-in refrigerator: unmarked jugs of raw milk.

"I still can't believe they took our yogurt," said Rawesome volunteer Sea J. Jones, a few days after the raid. "There's a medical marijuana shop a couple miles away, and they're raiding us because we're selling raw dairy products?"

Cartons of raw goat and cow milk and blocks of unpasteurized goat cheese were among the groceries seized in the June 30 raid by federal, state and local authorities - the latest salvo in the heated food fight over what people can put in their mouths.

But why are cops busting into a wholesome food store wielding firearms? George Hemminger weighs in:

In the video below, he claims that the battle over organic foods is heating up because large agricultural businesses and corporations feel threatened by local co-ops and have hijacked the FDA and other government regulatory agencies. The issue is that shared farming co-ops don't necessarily fit into the corporate model, and are taking away market share value from Big Ag companies.

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Pineapple Express brings river of rain to drought stricken California

river of rain northern california

A so-called "atmospheric river of rain" began falling on Northern California on Friday, bringing worries about flash floods, high winds and mudslides but offering little relief to a state that has been left parched by several years of drought.

The storm, also known as a "Pineapple Express" because it develops from a ribbon of moist air moving across the Pacific Ocean, was forecast to dump as much as 10 inches (25 cm) of rain in coastal mountains.

National Weather Service meteorologist Austin Cross said more than three inches (7.5 cm) of rain had been already recorded in the hills of western Sonoma County by early Friday afternoon.

Fire crews responded to flooding in Siskiyou County, near the Oregon border, placing sandbags to protect homes and minor mudslides were reported in Washington state. Flash flood advisories were also issued for Sonoma, Napa and Marin counties in Northern California.

High winds caused more than 80 flights be canceled and hundreds more delayed at San Francisco International Airport, knocked down trees and caused scattered power outages.

According to Pacific Gas and Electric, more than 114,000 homes and businesses lost power, although the majority of them had been restored by late-afternoon.

Cross said heavy rains were expected to fall into Friday night and again on Sunday after a brief lull on Saturday.

Forecasters say that while the soaking would provide some relief to the drought-stricken state, it was not expected to make a significant impact, in part because the warm weather system would not add to mountain snowpacks.

The multi-year, record drought has prompted California officials to sharply reduce water supplies to farmers and impose conservation measures statewide.

Brian Fuchs, a climatologist with the U.S. Drought Monitor, said that experts were optimistic when California was hit with several strong storm in December but those hopes largely evaporated when January saw very little precipitation.

January is typically the state's wettest month, he said, with little rain falling between mid-April and December.

Fuchs said the drought's intensity was lessened in some areas, including Marin County, after December's rains and a small section of the state, on the eastern edge of San Bernardino County, was no longer considered to be in drought.

"It's one little corner of the state, a desert region that had more precipitation than they usually do and that was enough," he said, adding that it would not make a major impact on the larger crisis.

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Advent of mandatory vaccines? Unvaccinated students now barred from a New Mexico public school district

vaccine doctor

© unknown

One of New Mexico's largest public school districts, spurred by a measles outbreak that has infected about 100 people in California, will start barring unvaccinated students from class unless they have a valid state exemption, the head of the school board said on Friday.

The move by the 14,000-student Santa Fe district came as legislators in California, Oregon and Washington state are considering laws to make it harder for parents legally to opt out of vaccinating school-aged children. Bills in several other states would loosen restrictions.

The Santa Fe district notified parents this week that any students who lack up-to-date vaccinations or bona fide state waivers for medical or religious grounds will be barred from class starting on Feb. 17, board President Steven Carrillo said.

District officials have not determined how many Santa Fe public school children are unvaccinated and how many have already obtained waivers. Some schools are known to be at 100 percent compliance, others at 60 percent, Carrillo said.

The board's action comes as New Mexico has documented a steady rise in the number of vaccine exemptions obtained by school-aged children during the past two years, up 17 percent from 2012 to 2014 to a total of 3,335 waivers.

Kenny Vigil, a spokesman for the New Mexico Department of Health, said the total still represents less than 1 percent of school-aged children statewide, though the department has voiced concern over the trend.

"An increase in vaccination exemptions can increase the risk for outbreaks of vaccine-preventable diseases, such as measles," the department says on its website.

Only one case of measles has been confirmed in New Mexico so far this winter, an unvaccinated baby who was hospitalized with the highly contagious disease in December and has since recovered, Vigil said. It was the first case since 2012.

The origin of the child's infection is unknown, he said, but the case was unrelated to the California outbreak because the onset occurred in late November, before the first infection in California's Disneyland is believed to have occurred.

Even so, "the impetus (for Santa Fe's action) was obviously the measles outbreak in California," Carrillo said, adding that other New Mexico districts would likely follow suit.

California public health officials report 99 people have been diagnosed with measles in the state, many of them linked to exposure to an infected person from outside the country who visited Disneyland in late December.

More than a dozen other cases have been confirmed in 19 other U.S. states and Mexico, renewing debate over the anti-vaccination movement. Fears about potential side effects of vaccines, debunked by the medical community, have led a small minority of parents to refuse to have their children vaccinated.

In Santa Monica, California, a toddler and infant center that was closed after one baby came down with the virus reopened on Friday under the caveat that all staff and returning children provide proof of inoculation. Fourteen infants deemed too young to be vaccinated must stay home, a spokeswoman said.

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Hundreds of birds mysteriously dying in El Reno, Oklahoma

Birds are mysteriously dying in El Reno

Hundreds of dead birds were found in an El Reno parking lot.

El Reno citizen Janince Wodrings told Passoth she like to watch the birds fly around near the Walmart on Country Club Drive just off I-40.

"Have you ever seen a school of fish? They will swirl and swoop, well that's the way the starlings look," Woodring said.

In the evening, they cover every tree and telephone wire. Most fly away during the day. That is when it is obvious that something is wrong. Friday morning, there were hundreds of dead grackle and starlings.

Some of the dead birds were stuck in the trees, others fell to the ground.

"I've lived in Oklahoma all my life and I've never seen anything like this," said Joel Seymour, a truck driver, who stopped in the Walmart parking lot.

"Just strikes you as odd. I don't know what is going on," Seymour said.

"It does bother me that nobody comes out here and cleans it up because little kids drive by," said Woodring.

Not far from the dead birds, there are corn kernels scattered on the grass. It could be what's killing them. The U.S. Department of Agriculture issues permits to poison certain migratory birds if they become a nuisance. However, they say no permits were issued in the area.

They reported they were not aware of this problem until KOCO 5 called. USDA Wildlife Services is now investigating. They also cleaned up the dead birds.

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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FLASHBACK: Greek debt crisis the work of financial terrorists: What next? Default!

Journalist, entrepreneur and Russia Today opinion host Max Keiser traveled to Greece recently for a film project that looks at how the country came to be on the verge of default.

The conclusion of his interview subjects, and indeed a large portion of the Greek population, is that Goldman Sachs, perhaps the most powerful financial firm in the world, has engaged in an economic coup against the nation, taking advantage of rife tax fraud to force Greek lawmakers to hand over the country's public assets.

His mini-documentary is concise, smart and informative. Take 20 minutes to learn what happened there, before it starts happening in the U.S.

Part 1:

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Part 2:

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New York Stock Exchange sold to derivatives company in $8bn takeover

File:2001-Nov New York NYSE.jpg

The New York Stock Exchange called time on two centuries of independence on Thursday, agreeing to an $8.2bn takeover that will hand control of the icon of American capitalism to an Atlanta-based energy trader.

The stock exchange's holding company, NYSE Euronext, has agreed to an offer of $33.12 a share in cash and stock from IntercontinentalExchange (ICE). ICE was founded in 2000, NYSE in 1817. The combined company would have headquarters in both ICE's home of Atlanta and in New York.

The takeover comes amid a historic shift for Wall Street and stock exchanges around the world. The move to electronic trading, fierce competition between exchanges and the sharp decline in trading commissions has led to a wave of mergers and takeover offers that have failed amid regulatory concerns.

The exchange, also called the Big Board, has moved to embrace technology in recent years but still also uses the "open outcry" system with traders in bright-coloured jackets shouting and waving their hands to make orders.

Charles Geisst, author of Wall Street: A History and a finance professor at Manhattan College, said: "The NYSE has faded in the past few years, for most professionals this is a sign of the times. Trading could take place on the moon right now as long as you have the right communications."

Plane wing bursts into flames over Bogota, Colombia

A terrified passenger said there was panic on board when people sat on the right side of the plane reported seeing flames out the window

As flames dramatically shoot from the engine of the right wing of a plane, one of the passengers on the window seat had the presence of mind to capture it on a smartphone.

The VivaColombia Flight 8023 scheduled to go from El Dorado International Airport in Bogota to Rionegro was forced to make an emergency landing at its origin after the malfunction.

Passengers heard a bang just after take-off at around 7pm, said news website Las 2 Orillas, and the remarkable amateur footage by a passenger sitting over the wing shows what happened.

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Local reports confirmed that the plane managed to safely complete an emergency landing and all passengers and crew were unharmed in the incident on Wednesday, February 4.

Sebastian Jimenez Botero, a passenger on the plane, told Peruvian news website El Comercio: 'We could see a light and we thought the plane was about to explode. People were bewildered, scared. We asked the flight attendent what was happening but she was even more scared.'

The 31-year-old publicist said he heard an explosion on the right side of the plane when it took off and passengers were worried.

The terrified passenger said he thought about the plane that had been lost in Asia (Malaysia Airlines Flight MH370).

'There were children crying, people didn't know what to do,' he said.

At first the pilot said it must have been a tyre that burst, according to passenger accounts, but those sat on the right side of the plane were sure it was a engine.

The flames eventually died down, which helped restore some calm on board, but passengers said they were still worried about what would happen when the plane landed.

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Ukraine crisis analysis: Hollande/Merkel trip suggests situation dire - peace prospects dim

ukraine crisis

News that Hollande and Merkel are travelling to Moscow confirms what previous reports suggested -- that a major diplomatic initiative to end the Ukrainian conflict is underway.

What has triggered this initiative is increasing evidence Ukraine is approaching the point of no return.

Ukraine's economic situation is in freefall. The dwindling level of the Central Bank's foreign currency reserves has forced Ukraine to float its currency, the hryvnia, which in consequence lost almost a third of its value in the space of a single day.

The collapse of the hryvnia presents far greater problems to Ukraine than the devaluation of the rouble does to Russia.

Unlike Russia Ukraine has practically run through its foreign currency reserves, which have fallen to the level where they can cover the cost of just a few weeks' imports.

Unlike Russia Ukraine is heavily in debt and lacks money to pay its debts or support its banks. The collapse of the hryvnia is going to make payment of these debts almost impossible.

Since the IMF is now threatening to cut off funding and since alternative sources of funding from the Western states have failed to materialise, the prospect of default and of the collapse of the currency and of the banking system is becoming very real.

To the extent that the Ukrainian economy functions at all it does so because of gas, coal and electricity supplied by Russia.

As the economy disintegrates the military situation approaches crisis. Brave talk of just a few weeks ago about how the Ukrainian military had supposedly fully recovered from the disaster of the summer has proved to be untrue.

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Donetsk airport has been lost with heavy losses. Latest reports say the Debaltsevo pocket is now sealed with thousands of troops cut off.

Meanwhile the attempt to reverse the increasingly disastrous military situation through a further call-up of reservists has only triggered protest and opposition with reports of men fleeing abroad to Romania, Poland and especially Russia to escape the draft.

That in the face of what increasingly looks like an impending collapse some Western politicians who have invested heavily politically in Ukraine are now searching for a wait out is unsurprising.

Since the attempt to bully Russia through sanctions to pull the plug on the rebels has failed, this leaves them with no realistic alternative other than to talk to Russia. That is why Merkel and Hollande are going there.

Hollande has previously passed through Moscow on his way back from a summit in Kazakhstan. By doing so Hollande broke an informal pact amongst Western leaders that they would not visit Moscow whilst the Ukrainian conflict remained underway and he received some criticism for doing it. That Merkel has jettisoned this pact shows how desperate the situation has become.

There is some debate about the US position. Media reports that the US administration is considering sending weapons to Ukraine have been interpreted by some as suggesting the US administration is opposing the peace moves.

These reports have appalled Europe. All major European governments (Britain, France and Germany as well as Hungary, Finland and the Czech Republic) have publicly opposed the idea of sending arms to Ukraine, which would be a dangerous escalation and which could not reverse the course of the war.

No doubt there are some people within the US government who remain strongly committed to the Ukrainian adventure and are pressing for weapons to be supplied to Ukraine. That view is also widely held in Congress.

However, as we have discussed (here and here), there is growing evidence other US officials are becoming increasingly worried the US has dug itself into a hole. For the moment it is these officials who seem to have the upper-hand.

If so then the reports about discussions of weapons supplies, whilst undoubtedly reflecting an ongoing debate within the US government, could also be intended to give the US some diplomatic leverage over Moscow in a situation where it increasingly looks like having none.

What suggests that this may be the actual position is that Secretary Kerry during his visit to Kiev said nothing about arms supplies. Instead he came up with only paltry sums of financial aid (and those hedged around with conditions), gave some vapid words of support, and pointedly reminded Poroshenko of his commitment in the Minsk Protocol to grant special status to the rebel regions of the Donbass.

This suggests Merkel and Hollande have coordinated their position with the US and the peace initiative has, at least for the moment, US support even if for domestic US political reasons the Obama administration prefers to take a back seat.

I have to say that despite a French report that Washington was not consulted about Merkel's and Hollande's decision to go to Moscow, I personally think it is unlikely Merkel and Hollande would go to Moscow to pursue a peace initiative if they knew the US opposed it.

However even if Western leaders are now genuinely seeking peace, that does not mean peace will come. That depend on two factors (1) the terms that are being proposed and (2) if they are agreed, the degree to which the West is willing to force the Ukrainians to accept them.

We do not know what terms Merkel and Hollande are taking with them to Moscow. However what information we have is not encouraging.

It seems their objective is not so much to secure a lasting settlement of the Ukrainian conflict but rather to "freeze" the conflict so that they can save their Ukrainian protege from disaster.

Apparently they are trying to do this by seeking to revive the stalled Minsk process and by talking up the federalisation idea the Russians proposed last spring. Hollande has also suggested that they are prepared to give some sort of pledge Ukraine will not join NATO.

It remains to be seen whether for the Russians or the rebels this is anywhere near enough.

First, there must be a big question mark about whether the rebels or the people of the Donbass would be willing to accept even the loosest confederal structure with Kiev after all that has happened, except possibly as a stepping stone to outright independence. If so, then the rebels may not be willing to accept the form of federalisation Merkel and Hollande have in mind.

This question can perhaps be put off until constitutional negotiations begin. The far more pressing problem of agreeing an enforceable ceasefire along a mutually agreed boundary line cannot be. Here the problems are legion.

Reports suggest Merkel and Hollande want to return to the boundary line agreed by the rebels and the Ukrainian government in Minsk on 19th September 2014. The rebels have already ruled that out. They insist that all the territory they captured over the course of their current offensive should be retained by them. For the moment the Russians are backing them.

Some rebels go further saying that as a minimum the boundary line should be the administrative borders of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions. This would mean towns like Slavyansk, Kramatorsk and Mariupol should be returned to their control. Some rebels want to go further still. A map is circulating that sets the boundary along the borders of the 1918 Donetsk-Krivoy Rog republic, which extended beyond Kherson far to the west.

If reaching even a preliminary agreement to end the fighting faces immense difficulties, enforcing that agreement is going to present many more.

The Russians have in the past shown they are prepared to pressure the rebels to compromise and abide by agreements they make.

The single biggest obstacle to peace in Ukraine is that from the start of the Maidan crisis in November 2013 the Western powers have invariably failed to impose like pressure on their Maidan proteges even when they have promised to do so.

The result is that agreements have repeatedly fallen by the wayside as the Maidan movement ignores them. The pattern was already set before the coup and it has continued ever since.

If the West is not prepared to force Kiev to abide by the terms of whatever agreement is reached then on past evidence that agreement will fail.

The Maidan movement will simply use it to give itself time to reorganise so that it can resume the attack later. That is what happened to the various agreements Yanukovych made with the Maidan leaders before the coup, including the key agreement of 21st February 2014, which immediately preceded it. That is what happened to the ceasefire that was briefly agreed last May. That is what happened also to the ceasefire that was agreed on 5th September 2014 in Minsk.

Given the consistent Western failure to force Kiev to abide by its commitments, it is difficult to believe the Russians any longer believe in Western promises or Western guarantees to do this in the future.

If so, then it is difficult to see how any lasting agreements can be reached. Whether Western leaders want to face the fact or not, their past behaviour means there is now a critical shortage of trust and the fault for that does not lie in Moscow.

The fact that Merkel and Hollande are flying to Moscow is a sign of how critical Ukraine's situation has become. It is not a sign this conflict is coming to an end.

The obstacles to peace are immense. The likelihood remains the outcome will be decided by war. Whether that is so or not will be decided by what concessions the Western leaders are prepared to make. At the moment the signs are not promising.

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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Man steals purse from dying woman hit by lorry

A man who stole the purse of a dying elderly woman who was lying in the road having been hit by a lorry is being sought by Greater Manchester Police.

The 82-year-old was killed when she was struck on Leigh Road, Leigh, at about 11:45 GMT on Wednesday.

Police said that after the crash, officers were told a man "was seen to steal her purse before leaving".

The man is described as white, about 6ft (1.8m) tall, between 30 and 40 and of medium build with a brown beard.

Det Sgt Neil Lawless said it was "one of the most disgusting crimes I have ever investigated".

"I find it hard to believe that someone could stoop so low to commit such a horrific offence," he said.

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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US: Just 44% of adults are employed for 30 or more hours per week

Jim Clifton, the Chairman and CEO of Gallup, says that the percentage of Americans that are employed full-time has been hovering near record lows since the end of the last recession. But most Americans don't realize this because the official unemployment numbers are extremely misleading. In fact, Clifton says that the official 5.6 percent unemployment rate is a "big lie". Gallup regularly tracks the percentage of U.S. adults that are employed for 30 or more hours per week, and it is currently at 44.2 percent. It has been hovering between 42 percent and 45 percent since the end of 2009. This is extremely low. As I discussed the other day, there are 8.69 million Americans that are considered to be "officially unemployed" at this point. But there are another 92.90 million Americans that are considered to be "not in the labor force". Millions upon millions of those Americans would work if they could. Overall, there are 101 million U.S. adults that do not have a job right now. But you won't hear that number being discussed by the mainstream media, because it would make Barack Obama look really bad.

Most Americans just assume that the economic numbers that we are being given accurately reflect reality. That is why it is so refreshing to have men like Jim Clifton step forward and tell the truth. His recent article entitled "The Big Lie: 5.6% Unemployment" is making headlines all over America. The following is an extended excerpt from that article...

There's another reason why the official rate is misleading. Say you're an out-of-work engineer or healthcare worker or construction worker or retail manager:

If you perform a minimum of one hour of work in a week and are paid at least $20 - maybe someone pays you to mow their lawn - you're not officially counted as unemployed in the much-reported 5.6%. Few Americans know this.

Yet another figure of importance that doesn't get much press: those working part time but wanting full-time work. If you have a degree in chemistry or math and are working 10 hours part time because it is all you can find - in other words, you are severely underemployed - the government doesn't count you in the 5.6%. Few Americans know this.

There's no other way to say this. The official unemployment rate, which cruelly overlooks the suffering of the long-term and often permanently unemployed as well as the depressingly underemployed, amounts to a Big Lie.

And it's a lie that has consequences, because the great American dream is to have a good job, and in recent years, America has failed to deliver that dream more than it has at any time in recent memory. A good job is an individual's primary identity, their very self-worth, their dignity - it establishes the relationship they have with their friends, community and country. When we fail to deliver a good job that fits a citizen's talents, training and experience, we are failing the great American dream.

Gallup defines a good job as 30+ hours per week for an organization that provides a regular paycheck. Right now, the U.S. is delivering at a staggeringly low rate of 44%, which is the number of full-time jobs as a percent of the adult population, 18 years and older.

And Gallup is being generous.

I certainly would not define a 30 hour a week job at minimum wage as a "good job", but Gallup does.

So the truth is that the percentage of U.S. adults that do have "good jobs" is actually far lower than 44 percent.

In the video that I have posted below, there is much more from Clifton about our current employment crisis...

[embedded content]

Pretty strong stuff.

But Clifton also understands that there is danger in speaking out like this.

For example, just check out what he told CNBC during one recent interview...

"I think that the number that comes out of BLS [Bureau of Labor Statistics] and the Department of Labor is very, very accurate. I need to make that very, very clear so that I don't suddenly disappear. I need to make it home tonight."

So why are there so few good jobs for Americans?

Well, for one thing, our control freak politicians have absolutely murdered job creation in the United States.

Traditionally, small businesses have been the primary engine of job growth for the U.S. economy. But for each of the past six years , the number of new businesses being created has been lower than the number of businesses that have died.

Prior to 2008, we had never seen this happen before in all of U.S. history.

Thanks Obama.

Meanwhile, we continue to ship millions of good jobs out of the country , and millions of good jobs are being replaced by technology .

A confluence of factors are coming together to create a perfect storm that is going to be extremely bitter for American workers.

Spending our wealth is not a path to prosperity. We have got to create wealth in order to be a prosperous nation.

But instead, we continue to buy far, far more from the rest of the world than they buy from us. We just learned that the trade deficit increased to 46.6 billion dollars in December, and the total trade deficit for the year was more than half a trillion dollars.

This is complete and utter insanity, but at this point the trade deficit is not even a political issue for either major political party anymore.

And the really bad news is that this is about as good as things are going to get for the U.S. economy. The next major economic downturn is right around the corner , and our employment crisis is going to get much, much worse once that strikes.

Already, layoffs in January were 17.6 percent higher than they were in January a year ago and businesses all over the country are shutting down following a very disappointing holiday season.

In addition, the Baltic Dry Index has dropped to stunningly low levels. In fact, it is already lower than it was at any point during the last recession. The following is an excerpt from a recent article by Mac Slavo...

The Baltic Dry Index (BDI) is used by economists and stock traders alike as a leading economic indicator because it predicts future economic activity. The index tracks in US dollars and measures global supply and demand for commodity shipments among bulk carriers including raw materials like lumber, coal, metallic ores, and grains. What makes this particular measurement so distinct from others, according to economic Howard Simmons, is that the BDI "is totally devoid of speculative content" because "people don't book freighters unless they have cargo to move."

On Thursday, the Baltic Dry Index was sitting at 564, That is not too far above the record low level of 554 that was established in July 1986.

So don't be fooled by all the happy talk from the mainstream media and from politicians like Barack Obama.

They are lying to you, and their lies will soon be evident for all the world to see.

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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Bigfoot vs Buffalo: 4 big furry somethings caught on webcam in Yellowstone

Bigfoot buffalo yellowstone

Would you risk death-by-buffalo to pull off a Bigfoot hoax? In the following clip taken from a webcam at Old Faithful Geyser in Yellowstone National Park, we see four big, furry somethings (Bigfeet?) approach four buffalo in Yellowstone National Park. Well, one of them does; it's unclear what happened to the other three! All of the lit. on these critters has them just "disappearing into thin air"...

Check out ThinkerThunker's great analysis of the footage:

[embedded content]

Original footage

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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Israeli detention of Palestinian youth causing widespread trauma and educational neglect


Israeli soldiers arrest a young Palestinian boy following clashes in Hebron on June 20.

2014 was a harrowing and devastating year for many people living in Israel and Palestine. Violations of human rights, racism, and hatred did not stop after the 2014 Gaza war and today are commonplace. Presently, there is imminent concern for the increasing numbers of wrongfully detained Palestinian children from East Jerusalem and the West Bank who are subject to ongoing state violence, severe psychological trauma, and denied the basic human right to education.

Throughout 2014, increasing numbers of Palestinian youth were targets of Israeli authorities' systematic raids, arrests, and violence. According to DCI-Palestine, an average of 192.8 Palestinian children per month were placed in Israeli military detention facilities from January through November 2014. However, there are likely several hundred more Palestinian minors (under age 18) from East Jerusalem under house arrest or in detention. Many of these children have been arrested during night raids by armed Israeli forces that remove them from their homes in a terrifying and often violent manner. They are frequently handcuffed, blindfolded, beaten, and heavily disoriented when transferred to interrogation. In most cases, the children's parents have no knowledge of their whereabouts, and the detainees receive no legal counsel. Minor detainees are often coerced into submitting a confession for a crime they did not commit. Some children are placed into solitary confinement, which is not only a breach of international law, but also considered a form of torture for minors.

A 2013 UNICEF report identified the maltreatment of Palestinian children in Israeli military detention as "widespread, systematic, and institutionalized." Sadly few reforms have been made since then. Laws continue to be violated and more children suffer. The Israeli Military Order 1651 defines a child as a person under age 12. Palestinian detainees ages 12 and above can be sentenced in Israeli military courts, which violate international law and Israeli juvenile law. The sentence for stone throwing and other offenses committed by Palestinian minors can result in a maximum of 20 years. These sentencing periods do not include jail time or house arrest prior to the trial. Furthermore, detainees are not permitted to attend school during pre-trial detention.

Social workers providing services to detained Palestinian minors and their families following release from prison have identified widespread and pervasive trauma. The children often suffer from separation from their families and are subject to physical and psychological violence while detained. Children and parents alike often believe that the parents failed to protect their children. The imprisonment of these children has harmful psychological effects which severely impair a child's functioning after returning home as well as that of the family unit. Parents and children alike are subject to depression and post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).

When a child is placed under house arrest by Israeli authorities, parents are required to provide supervision and act as policemen. This shift in dynamics has a marked negative effect on the child-parent relationship. The family frequently suffers significant financial losses because at least one parent is forced to quit their job to supervise the house arrest. This adds to household stress, decreases parents' abilities to parent other children in the home, increases discord and strain on the marital relationship, and can lead to domestic violence. As for education, many children are concerned that they missed a great deal of school and can quickly fall behind. Due to increasing academic anxieties and untreated mental health issues, many end up permanently dropping out of school.

It is important to highlight that there is concurrently an educational crisis for Palestinian children in East Jerusalem due to Israeli legislation and massive budget cuts to the local education system. According to Ir Amim , there are over 8,100 Palestinian children in East Jerusalem not attending school because of enormous classroom shortages. With so many Palestinian children lacking the basic human right to receive an education and/or being psychologically and emotionally traumatized in the Israeli detention system, what will become of them in adulthood?

In contrast to Palestinian minors, Israeli youth from settlements who have been arrested are given the option to attend alternative-to-prison programs. These programs provide them with continued education, mental health treatment, and psycho-education aimed at detention prevention.

We call for the Israeli state to offer detained Palestinian youth the same protection and services given to detained Israeli minors. This form of blatant discrimination has already proven to be devastating to Palestinians with widespread and long-term damages and violation of human rights.

We at Ossim Shalom-Social Workers for Peace and Social Welfare demand that urgent changes be made to put an end to this inhumane treatment and create alternative-to-prison-programs for detained Palestinian minors. We call on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, Jerusalem Mayor Nir Barkat, the Ministry of Health, and the Ministry of Education to assume immediate responsibility for this rapidly growing social crisis. We request that a partnership be established with the aforementioned officials and ministries to create effective and preventative alternative-to-prison programs with education and mental health treatment. As an organization, we offer our 1,400 members to volunteer their social work expertise in designing future alternative-to-prison programs for detained Palestinian youth and providing direct services.

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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Thousands of starfish found dead or dying on South Padre Island, Texas

© Coastal and Marine Resources Texas Sea Grant

Thousands of starfish on the beaches of South padre Island after rough weather conditions leave them stranded.

Thousands of starfish have been stranded on the beaches of South Padre Island after what investigators are calling a "perfect storm" for starfish.

It's thought that high winds and strong currents coincided exactly to wash up the creatures that had been close to shore feeding.

It's only the third time a case like this has ever been reported, the last being in 2009.

At first it was thought they were victims of the polar vortex, which swept the country during January but then investigators realised it was something else

"These were healthy starfish," said Tony Reisinger, Cameron County Extension Agent for Coastal & Marine Resources with Texas Sea Grant at Texas A&M University. "Some of them were still alive when they were washed onto the sand. Once they are out of the water though, they pretty much die."

Reisinger credits Dr. David Hicks, chairman of the Department of Biological Sciences at the University of Texas at Brownsville, for figuring out what really caused it. "Now we have to check back for the weather and sea conditions the last time this happened and see if it matches up."

Grey sea stars are plentiful in the Gulf of Mexico and can also be found all along the coast of the Americas, from Virginia to Brazil.

"I wondered if this was nature's way of controlling the population," said Reisinger. "I knew we had them but I didn't realise there were so many out there," he said.

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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Human soul found? Quantum theory of consciousness 'Orch OR' claims both science and religion are true

Human Soul?

© The Inquisitr

Has the human soul been found by science? A controversial quantum theory of consciousness called "Orch OR" (which stands for "orchestrated objective reduction") recently had a review, and the scientists supporting this idea are claiming the recent discovery of quantum vibrations in "microtubules" inside brain neurons corroborates their beliefs.

In a related report by the , Stephen Hawking fears the movies may actually come true, but to this day, the "lowly" human brain still beats out supercomputers on multiple fronts. Louis Del Monte, the author of , also believes an AI singularity event will occur by 2045, but so far, computer AI can't even pass the Turing test.

In most religions, the totality of being human is divided into three parts; mind, soul, and body. Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and other religions typically equate the mind to the physical human brain, which works in conjunction with an immaterial human soul. What has had philosophers and scientists arguing for thousands of years is exactly how this process functions from a mechanical viewpoint. When it comes to the philosophy of the mind, dualism and physicalism have competed for the beliefs of scientists, with the latter claiming that all which exists in our world, including consciousness, is physical.

On the side of physicalism, some scientists claim the soul or consciousness can be reduced to mere computations conducted within the neural networks in the human brain, which means all consciousness can be explained by algorithms. Other scientists believe believe that quantum processes attributed to the human soul work in partnership with the observable neurological processes to produce the experience of human consciousness, although one is not completely dependent on the other to function. Essentially, these scientists claim the human brain is a quantum computer, and the informational state of qubits are influenced by the human soul.

One such scientist is Stuart Hameroff, Professor Emeritus at the Department of Anesthesiology and Psychology and the Director of the Center for Consciousness Studies at the University of Arizona. He and Sir Roger Penrose, mathematical physicist at the Mathematical Institute and Wadham College and University of Oxford, believe overall brain function derives from quantum level microtubule vibrations.

"The origin of consciousness reflects our place in the universe, the nature of our existence. Did consciousness evolve from complex computations among brain neurons, as most scientists assert? Or has consciousness, in some sense, been here all along, as spiritual approaches maintain?" ask Hameroff and Penrose in the current review, according to . "This opens a potential Pandora's Box, but our theory accommodates both these views, suggesting consciousness derives from quantum vibrations in microtubules, protein polymers inside brain neurons, which both govern neuronal and synaptic function, and connect brain processes to self-organizing processes in the fine scale, 'proto-conscious' quantum structure of reality."

In other words, they believe they've found scientific evidence for the human soul. They claim six testable prediction published in 1998 have been fulfilled, and none have been falsified. As an example, they cite the "recent discovery of warm temperature quantum vibrations in microtubules inside brain neurons," which is a big deal since man-made quantum computers typically require icy conditions in order to function at all. In addition, they point to research which "suggests that anesthesia, which selectively erases consciousness while sparing non-conscious brain activities, acts via microtubules in brain neurons." From a practical medical perspective, they also believe "treating brain microtubule vibrations could benefit a host of mental, neurological, and cognitive conditions."

From a religious perspective, Hameroff believes their Orch OR theory could also account for near death experiences, out of body experiences, and even the afterlife.

"The connection to space - time geometry also raises the intriguing possibility that Orch OR allows consciousness apart from the brain and body, distributed and entangled in space - time geometry," Hameroff says according to . When he spoke to the Huffington Post he also claimed, "It's possible that the quantum information can can exist outside the body, perhaps indefinitely, as a soul."

Skeptics have long attributed near death experiences to physical phenomena such as the brain being deprive of oxygen, not the human soul or any interaction with God or the afterlife. To put these claims in perspective, last year, even magazine's Michael Shermer wrote about a possible after-death communication from his grandfather-in-law. Other skeptics also tend to be committed materialists until they have their own experience.

One such skeptic was Dr. Eben Alexander, a neurosurgeon, whose neurons in his cerebral cortex were stunned to complete inactivity for seven days during a near-fatal bout of meningitis.

"I had always believed there were good scientific explanations for the heavenly out-of-body journeys described by those who narrowly escaped death," says Alexander in a Newsweek article. "In the fall of 2008,... I experienced something so profound that it gave me a scientific reason to believe in consciousness after death.... It exists, and what I saw and learned there has placed me quite literally in a new world: a world where we are much more than our brains and bodies, and where death is not the end of consciousness but rather a chapter in a vast, and incalculably positive, journey."

Many Christians have come forward in recent years claiming to have experienced heaven and met God. Of course, Hameroff's personal beliefs are very much different from traditional religions in regards to the nature of the human soul. He believes "consciousness, or its immediate precursor proto-consciousness, has been in the universe all along, perhaps from the Big Bang."

What do you think about this quantum theory of consciousness? Do you think science will be able to prove the existence of the human soul?

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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Two Philadelphia cops arrested after surveillance video proves they lied about brutal attack

Philadelphia Police officers Kevin Robinson(top) and Sean McKnight (bottom) have been charged with the assault of Najee Rivera(right)

Two Philadelphia police officers were arrested and publicly criticized by local officials after video proof emerged that they lied about pursuing and beating a man, WPVI-TV reported.

The footage shows Officers Sean McKnight and Kevin Robinson chasing 23-year-old Najee Rivera in their unlit patrol car and knocking him to the ground with a baton before pushing him against a wall and repeatedly hitting him. Rivera can be heard screaming throughout the attack.

"He never resisted. He never struck them," local District Attorney Seth Williams said of the May 2013 incident. "He never fought back. They just started hitting him."

The encounter began when the officers pulled Rivera over. Rivera reportedly fled out of fear for his safety. But the officers originally said that Rivera fell off of his scooter, then tried to grab one of their batons, forcing one of them to hit Rivera in the face. He was originally charged with resisting arrest.

[embedded content]

But Rivera's girlfriend recovered the video from a nearby business before the case went before a grand jury. The charges against him were dropped. He subsequently won a $200,000 settlement in a federal civil rights lawsuit he filed against the city. The two officers were taken off of street duty after the video came to light.

"The video undermined every aspect of the officers' account of the incident," Williams said.

Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey said that the two officers were suspended for 30 days, while the department initiates plans to terminate their employment. Robinson and McKnight also face several charges, including aggravated assault, criminal conspiracy, filing a false report to law enforcement authorities and tampering with public records.

reported that the arrests came a day after two other officers,Jonathan Garcia and Sydemy Joanis, were convicted on corruption charges.

"I cannot stand here and say I've got 6,500 police officers that always operate within the framework of the law, within the framework of department policy," Ramsey said. "We've got to root them out."

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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Troika Trojan horse: Will Syriza capitulate in Greece?

Greece and EU

© Reuters/John Kolesidis

The 2015 Greek tragedy is a sorry (financial) remix of the Trojan War. But now the troika (ECB, EC, IMF) has replaced Greece, and Greece is the new Troy.

It is now crystal clear the ECB will pull no punches to turn Greece into a European failed state. The rationale: others - from Spain to even, in the near future, France - must not entertain funny ideas. Toe the austerity line, or we'll get medieval on you.

It was so predictable that the destiny of Athens - and in fact the euro - would ultimately rest in the hands of ECB Governor Mario 'Master of the Universe' Draghi, purveyor of the latest QE which in thesis will grant an austerity-ravaged Europe a little extra time to pursue .

Some background is essential. The troika sold Greece an economic racket, but it's the Greek people that are paying the price. Essentially, Greece's public debt went from private to public hands when the ECB and the IMF rescued private (German, French, Spanish) banks. The debt, of course, ballooned. The troika intervened, not to save Greece, but to save private banking.

The ECB bought public debt from private banks for a fortune, because the ECB could not buy public debt directly from the Greek state. The icing on this layer cake is that private banks had found the cash to buy Greece's public debt exactly from...the ECB, profiting from ultra-friendly interest rates. This is outright theft. And it's the thieves that have been setting the rules of the game all along.

Where's our money?

The result is that Athens is now broke. Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis at least embarked on his European tour with a sound proposal; the ECB could move €1.9 billion of profit on the back of Greek bonds; and then release other €10 billion in short-term state obligations, as well as open an emergency line to banks. From the beginning, the key point for Varoufakis was to open the way to renegotiate the €240 billion of the troika plan.

ECB hawks - as in Errki Liikanen from Finland - barred these options from the outset, insisting that without a comprehensive agreement, as in total Greek surrender, not a single euro will go to Athens.

What a drag for Prime Minister Tsipras and for Varoufakis - to embark on an European tour as supplicant beggars facing a sterling collection of silky mobsters, including EC president Jean-Claude Juncker and president of the European Council, warmonger Donald Tusk.

Next week there may be an extraordinary meeting of the Eurogroup, ahead of a sparks-will-fly European summit in Brussels on February 12.

The bottom line: it does not look good.

Varoufakis tried to put a brave face, continuing to rule out a Grexit as More detrimental would be in fact the Syriza party totally capitulating to the neoliberal Masters of the Universe. This will ensure Greek depression will go on forever. And yes, eventually, the fascist Golden Dawn may accede to power.

Varoufakis, in his press conference with German finance minister Wolfgang Schauble in Berlin, even as he agreed with 67 percent of the current , stressed - soundly - it does not tackle the excesses of corruption and rent-seeking in Greece; and everything is all about debt repayments, not putting the Greek economy back into shape.

For his part, Schauble, predictably, issued a thinly veiled threat of an without a bailout program. Schauble's now famous was in fact hardball enveloped in velvet.

There is no evidence as it stands that a complex negotiation of at least a few months will ensue, as Athens tries to restructure how to deal with the troika. The ECB is now tacitly playing the game that Greece is essentially doomed. Ergo, the ECB is voting down Syriza, and actually supporting fascist Golden Dawn. That's central bank 'democracy' for you.

Bomb Frankfurt, anyone?

So in the end it breaks down to this; without ECB cash - at least some cash by the end of the month - Greece risks going back to the drachma without even firing a shot. And yet that's exactly what legions across Europe are absolutely rooting for. In parallel, no wonder - from Lisbon to Rome - rumblings multiply that if the ECB would have done that to a relatively well weaponized nation, the tanks would be out in the streets (but to do what? Bomb Frankfurt?)

Varoufakis insists, That would translate, essentially, into a Greek default. We're not there - yet. In the very short term, Draghi also knows that were Athens to get some of the cash it needs short term, there would be war against the Bundesbank. It won't happen; the ECB and the Bundesbank are partners in crime.

Once again; both the ECB and the Bundesbank came to the conclusion there is no risk of contagion even with a Grexit. So the 'strategy' won't wobble; crush Greece and all's well that ends well - as in the troika's terminator economics trampling whole countries underfoot.

Beware of Masters of the Universe dispensing smiles. Draghi and the Zegna-clad ECB goons may dispense all the smiles in the world, but what they are graphically demonstrating once again is how toxic central banking is now enshrined as a mortal enemy of democracy.

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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Russia desires peace in Ukraine, America pushes for greater war, more ethnic cleansing

putin holocaust rememberance

© Mikhail Metzel/TASS

Russia's president Vladimir Putin and Alexander Boroda, general director of the Jewish Museum and Tolerance Cente

Tired by the siege and by intermittent shelling, the rebels disregarded snow and took the strategic Donetsk airport. This airport with its Stalin-built tunnels, a symbol of solid Soviet defence work, presented a huge challenge for underequipped militia. Its many-leveled underground facilities were built to sustain a nuclear attack; still, the rebels, after months of fighting, flushed the enemy out and took it.

In a bigger offensive, they trapped Kiev's troops in Debaltsevo pocket, and Kiev already sued for a cease-fire. The rebels hope to dislodge the enemy from their lands altogether; as now they hold only about one third of Donbass; but Russia's president still gropes for brakes. He prefers a bad peace to a good war. For him, the Ukraine is important, but not a , the only problem in the world. This attitude he shares with the American leader. There is a big difference: Russia wants peaceful Ukraine, Americans prefer one at war.

Russia would prefer to see Ukraine united, federal, peaceful and prosperous. The alternative of splitting Donbass is not very tempting: Donbass is strongly connected to the rest of Ukraine, and it is not easy to switch its ties. The war already had sent millions of refugees from Donbass and from rump Ukraine to Russia and overloaded its systems. Putin can't cut off and forget about Donbass - his people would not allow him anyway. A cautious man, he does not want to go to an open-ended war. So he has to navigate towards some sort of peace.

I had a meeting with a well-informed and highly-placed Russian source who shared with me, for your benefit, some inner thoughts on condition of his anonymity. Though the West is certain that Putin wants to restore the Soviet Union, actually the Russian president did everything he could to save the Ukraine from disintegration, said the source. That's what Russia did in order to bring peace to Ukraine:

Russia supported the West-brokered agreement of February 21, 2014, but the US still pushed for the next day (February 22) coup, or , in Obama's words.

After the coup, the South-East Ukraine did not submit to the new Kiev regime and seceded. Still, Moscow asked the Donbass rebels to refrain from carrying out their May referendum. (They disregarded Putin's appeal).

Moscow recognised the results of sham May elections carried out by Kiev regime after the coup, and recognised Poroshenko as the president of the whole Ukraine - though there were no elections in the South East and opposition parties were banned from participating.

Moscow did not officially recognise the results of November elections in Donbass, to the chagrin of many Russian nationalists.

These steps were quite unpopular in Russian society, but Putin made them to promote a peaceful solution for Ukraine. Some warlike Donbass leaders were convinced to retire. In vain: Putin's actions and intentions were disregarded by the US and EC. They encouraged the 'war part‎y' in Kiev. "They never found a fault with Kiev, whatever they do", said the source.

Peace in Ukraine can be reached through federalisation, my source told me. That's why two most important parameters of Minsk accords (between Kiev and Donetsk) were those we never hear about: constitutional and socio-economic reforms. Russia wants to secure territorial integrity of the Ukraine (minus Crimea) but it can be achieved only through federalisation of Ukraine with a degree of autonomy being given to its regions. Its west and east speak different languages, worship different heroes, have different aspirations. They could manage together, just, if the Ukraine were a federal state, like the US or Switzerland or India.

In Minsk, the sides agreed to establish a joint commission for constitutional reforms, but Kiev regime reneged on it. Instead, they created a small and secretive constitutional committee of the Rada (Parliament). This was condemned by the Venice Commission, a European advisory body on constitutional matters. Donetsk people wouldn't accept it, either, and it is not what was agreed upon in Minsk.

As for integration, it was agreed in Minsk to reintegrate Donbass within Ukraine. This was disappointing for Donbass, but they accepted it, - while Kiev laid siege to Donbass, cut off its banks, ceased buying Donbass coal, stopped to pay pensions. Kiev troops daily shell Donetsk, a city of a million inhabitants (in peaceful times!). Instead of amnesty for rebels, as agreed in Minsk, there are more government troops pouring eastwards.

The Russians did not give up on Minsk accords. The Minsk agreements could bring peace, but they have to be implemented. Perhaps president Poroshenko of Kiev would like to, but Kiev war party with its western support will unseat Poroshenko if he goes too far. Paradoxically, the only way to force him to peace is war, - though Russia would prefer the West to put pressure on its clients in Kiev. The rebels and their Russian supporters used warfare to force him to sign Minsk accords: their offensive on Mariupol on the Black Sea was hugely successful, and Poroshenko preferred to go to Minsk in order to keep Mariupol. Since then, Kiev and Donetsk had a few cease-fires, they exchanged POWs, but Kiev refuses to implement constitutional and socio-economic demands of Minsk accord.

It does not make sense to cease fire, if Kiev uses it to regroup and attack again. Cease fire should lead to a constitutional reform, said my source, a reform negotiated in an open and transparent dialogue of the regions and Kiev. Without a reform, Donbass (or Novorussia) will go to war. So the Debaltsevo operation can be considered as a way to force Poroshenko to sue for peace.

Russia does not intend to take part in the war, or in peace negotiations, said the source. The Russians are adamant to stay out, while the Americans are equally adamant to present Russia as a side to conflict.

Meanwhile, the Russian-American relations were moved forty years back to Jackson-Vanik amendment of 1974 by the Ukraine Freedom [Support Act of 2014]. The US Secretary of State John Kerry considered this act an unfortunate development, but a temporary one. The Russians are not that optimistic: for them, the Act codified anti-Russian sanctions. The US tries to turn other states against Russia, with some success. In one sweep the German Kanzlerin Angela Merkel eliminated all organisations, structures and ties built between Germany and Russia for many years. Every visit of Joe Biden causes a conflagration.

The Russians are upset with the story of the Malaysian Boeing. In every high-level encounter with the Americans, they remind of the hysterical accusations and claims that the liner was downed by the rebels using Russian missiles. Six months passed since the tragedy; still the Americans did not present a single proof of Russian and/or rebel involvement. They did not present photos of their satellites, nor records of their AWACS aircraft hovering over Eastern Europe. My source told me that the American high-ranking officials do not insist anymore that Russians/rebels are involved, but they stubbornly refuse to apologise for their previous baseless accusations. They never say they are sorry.

Still the Americans want to play the ball. They insist that they do not seek Russian 'surrender', that they find the confrontation costly and unwelcome, while the US needs Russian support for dealing with Iranian nuclear programme, with removal of Syrian chemical weapons, with Palestinian problem. The Russians retort they have heard it all during the Libyan affair and aren't impressed.

Differences of opinion between Russia and the US are big in practically every area. There is one common feature: from Syria to Donbass, Russians endorse peace, Americans push for war. Now the Russians invited some opposition figures and the government representatives from Syria for talks in Moscow. They came, talked, went away and will come again. They could probably settle but the US representatives say that they will never reconcile to Bashar Assad presidency and will fight to the last Syrian for his dismissal. It makes sense for them: every war on the globe supports the US dollar and invigorates Dow Jones, as capital seeks safe haven and finds it in the US.

They do not think about fate of Syrians who flee to Jordan - or of Ukrainians who escape to Russia in ever increasing numbers. What a shame for two wonderful countries! Syria was peaceful and prosperous, the diamond of the Middle East until ruined by the US-supported islamists; the Ukraine was the wealthiest part of the USSR, until being ruined by the US-supported far-right and oligarchs. Joseph Brodsky bitterly predicted in 1994, as the Ukraine declared its independence from Russia, that the shifty Ukrainians will evoke their Russian poetry in their mortal hour. This prophesy is about to be fulfilled.

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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