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Wednesday, 18 February 2015

Ralph Nader - What's happening to Canada? An open letter to Stephen Harper

In his letter to Canada's Prime Minister Stephen Harper, Nader warns against following the U.S. example when it comes to counter-terrorism measures. (Photo: Canada PM Office/flickr/cc)

The Right Honourable Stephen Harper, P.C., M.P.

80 Wellington Street

Ottawa, ON K1A 0A2

Dear Prime Minister:

Many Americans love Canada and the specific benefits that have come to our country from our northern neighbor's many achievements (see by Nader, Conacher and Milleron). Unfortunately, your latest proposed legislation—the new anti-terrorism act—is being described by leading Canadian civil liberties scholars as hazardous to Canadian democracy.

A central criticism was ably summarized in a February 2015 editorial titled "Parliament Must Reject Harper's Secret Policeman Bill," to wit:

"Prime Minister Stephen Harper never tires of telling Canadians that we are at war with the Islamic State. Under the cloud of fear produced by his repeated hyperbole about the scope and nature of the threat, he now wants to turn our domestic spy agency into something that looks disturbingly like a secret police force.

Canadians should not be willing to accept such an obvious threat to their basic liberties. Our existing laws and our society are strong enough to stand up to the threat of terrorism without compromising our values."

Particularly noticeable in your announcement were your exaggerated expressions that exceed the paranoia of Washington's chief attack dog, former vice-president Dick Cheney. Mr. Cheney periodically surfaces to update his pathological war mongering oblivious to facts—past and present—including his criminal war of aggression which devastated Iraq—a country that never threatened the U.S.

You are quoted as saying that "jihadi terrorism is one of the most dangerous enemies our world has ever faced" as a predicate for your gross over-reaction that "violent jihadism seeks to destroy" Canadian "rights." Really? Pray tell, which rights rooted in Canadian law are "jihadis" fighting in the Middle East to obliterate? You talk like George W. Bush.

How does "jihadism" match up with the lives of tens of millions of innocent civilians, destroyed since 1900 by state terrorism—west and east, north and south—or the continuing efforts seeking to seize or occupy territory?

Reading your apoplectic oratory reminds one of the prior history of your country as one of the world's peacekeepers from the inspiration of Lester Pearson to the United Nations. That noble pursuit has been replaced by deploying Canadian soldiers in the belligerent service of the American Empire and its boomeranging wars, invasions and attacks that violate our Constitution, statutes and international treaties to which both our countries are signatories.

What has all this post-9/11 loss of American life plus injuries and sickness, in addition to trillions of American tax dollars, accomplished? Has it led to the stability of those nations invaded or attacked by the U.S. and its reluctant western "allies?" Just the opposite, the colossal blowback evidenced by the metastasis of al-Qaeda's offshoots and similar new groups like the self-styled Islamic state are now proliferating in and threatening over a dozen countries.

Have you digested what is happening in Iraq and why Prime Minister Jean Chrétien said no to Washington? Or now chaotic Libya, which like Iraq never had any presence of Al-Qaeda before the U.S.'s destabilizing military attacks? (See the ' editorial on February 15, 2015 titled "".)

Perhaps you will find a former veteran CIA station chief in Islamabad, Pakistan, Robert L. Grenier more credible. Writing in his just released book: : (Simon & Schuster), he sums up U.S. government policy this way: "" He writes, "" (Alissa J. Rubin, Robert L. Grenier's ',' , February 15, 2015).

You may recall George W. Bush's White House counterterrorism czar, Richard Clarke, who wrote in his 2004 book, , "'"

Mr. Bush committed sociocide against that country's twenty-seven million people. Over 1 million innocent Iraqi civilians lost their lives, in addition to millions sick and injured. Refugees have reached five million and growing. He destroyed critical public services and sparked sectarian massacres—massive war crimes, which in turn produce ever-expanding blowbacks.

Canadians might be most concerned about your increased dictatorial policies and practices, as well as this bill's provision for secret law and courts in the name of fighting terrorism—too vaguely defined. Study what comparable practices have done to the United States - a course that you seem to be mimicking, including the militarization of police forces (see , December 2014).

If passed, this act, piled on already stringent legal authority, will expand your national security bureaucracies and their jurisdictional disputes, further encourage dragnet snooping and roundups, fuel fear and suspicion among law-abiding Canadians, stifle free speech and civic action and drain billions of dollars from being used for the necessities of Canadian society. This is not hypothetical. Along with an already frayed social safety net, once the envy of the world, you almost got away with a $30 billion dollar purchase of unneeded costly F-35s (including maintenance) to bail out the failing budget-busting F-35 project in Washington.

You may think that Canadians will fall prey to a politics of fear before an election. But you may be misreading the extent to which Canadians will allow the attachment of their Maple Leaf to the aggressive talons of a hijacked American Eagle.

Canada could be a model for independence against the backdrop of bankrupt American military adventures steeped in big business profits...a model that might help both nations restore their better angels.


Ralph Nader

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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Colima's violent volcanic eruption captured on film

Mexico's Colima volcano is playing to the camera. Known locally as the or Volcano of Fire, Colima's recent activity is being captured on video and time-lapse photography as well as during monitoring flights around the area.

The latest blast, featured in this BBC clip, shows a huge ash column climbing over a mile into the sky. Blankets of ash covered villages as much as 15 miles away, but there was no structural damage.

[embedded content]

One of the most dangerous volcanoes in the region

Colima is one of the most active and potentially dangerous volcanoes in Central America. Located on Mexico's west coast in the Mexican Volcanic Belt, the volcano has been a magnet for geologists and volcanologists because of its regular eruptions.

Records dating back to the sixteenth century show that there have been more than 30 periods of eruptions since 1585, including a violent explosion in 1919 and several major events in the late 1990s.

After large eruptions in 2013 and 2014, Webcams De Mexico set up cameras to capture the action. Concentrated scientific studies of Colima's activity have been ongoing for over 20 years.

Colima Eruption

© YouTube/webcamsdemexico

A history of violence

The Colima volcanic complex is made up of two main systems - Nevado de Colima to the north and the smaller Volcán de Colima to the south.

Volcán de Colima is a relatively young stratovolcano with a caldera more than two miles wide. There have been several major slope breaches and failures over the years, often accompanied by large debris avalanches. These breaches created thick layers of debris-avalanche deposits on the slopes of the volcanic complex.

Colima's ancient past is even scarier. Back in the late Pleistocene era, there was a huge landslide at the site. Millions of tons of debris travelled up to 80 miles, far enough to reach the Pacific Ocean. A vast area was covered in landslide deposits.

With around 300,000 people living within 25 miles of the volcano, Colima remains a constant danger to the local population. There have been frequent temporary evacuations of nearby villagers in recent years due to threatening volcanic activity.

The official line is that the volcano presents little risk to the population, but that won't be much consolation to those living beneath the fiery mountain.

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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Media demonizing Russia as 'guilty' of daring to resist US Empire

Vladimir Putin

© RIA Novosti Alexey Nikolsky

Russian President Vladimir Putin.

The demonization of Vladimir Putin and Russia by the British political establishment and media has never been as intense as in the wake of the recent Ukraine peace talks in Minsk.

Rather than preparing British public opinion for peace and a negotiated settlement to a conflict which thus far has cost the lives of over 5,000 people and seen over a million displaced, the opposite has been evident: British public opinion is being prepared for a continuation and intensification of the conflict.

The characterization of the Russian leader has been so off the scale it is hard to imagine anyone being naïve enough to take it seriously.

When he's not being compared to Hitler, an especially offensive caricature for historical reasons, he is being accused of harboring ambitions of forging a 'Russian Empire'.

That such accusations stem from a nation whose government has played a key part in reducing Afghanistan, Iraq, and Libya to a state of chaos in recent years, a consequence of the UK's attachment to Washington's brutal and disastrous assault on the Arab and Muslim world, only makes them all the more hypocritical if not downright noxious.

But then this should come as no surprise, as we've been here before, haven't we? Remember when Venezuela's Hugo Chavez was being similarly demonized and held up as a dictator? His crime when he came to power and remained there on the back of numerous democratic elections was his refusal to allow Venezuela's wealth to continue to be shipped out of the country, as it had been for decades, by a small group of Western-supported oligarchs.

What the crisis and conflict in Ukraine has done is remind us that we live in a unipolar world in which the West's interests and rights are the only ones deemed legitimate. This is what drives the repeated attempts by Washington and its allies, especially the UK, to push a hegemonic agenda. And whether in the Middle East or in Europe, it is this agenda that has been the root cause of instability, conflict, and human suffering across the world that we have seen unfold in recent times. And this is without taking into account the decades of mayhem that has ensued before that.

explains what Russia is up to in Ukraine http://bit.ly/1DtBdKb http://bit.ly/1CLetjC

— (@TheEconomist) February 12, 2015

The US is a global hegemony. With over 1,000 military bases covering the planet, 11 navy battle carrier groups, and a military budget currently exceeding that of every other major industrialized nation combined, the challenge facing the world is how to resist a US Empire that, to paraphrase the Roman historian Tacitus, is intent on making a desert and calling it peace.

The British political class and its media allies have made a virtue out of attaching themselves to the US Empire's coattails. It is a sordid and eminently dishonorable relationship that has allowed the UK to parade itself as a first rate power when in truth it hardly qualifies as third rate. While Britain may no longer have an empire, an empire attitude towards the rest of the world continues to poison the minds of its leaders and proponents of the ideology of 'democratization', which is not to be confused with democracy.

Vladimir Putin and Russia's crime is to dare to resist this US Empire, taking a stand against the hypocrisy, double standards, and complete lack of respect for other countries, cultures, and values it represents. The concerted attempt to expand NATO and an ever more militant EU all the way up to Russia's border has nothing to do with democracy and everything to do with the projection of imperial power masquerading as democracy.

An escalation of the conflict in eastern Ukraine benefits no one, least of all Russia. But the principle at stake is one that must be upheld - namely an end to the West dictating orders to the rest of the world and thereby spreading destabilization rather than peace, war instead of peace, and chaos at the expense of order.

At some point a viable political solution to the Ukrainian crisis will have to be agreed. But only equals can reach such an agreement, which will require an end to the infantile Russophobia that has become a feature of political discourse in the UK. Russia is not an enemy of the British people. The irresponsible and reckless disregard for European stability based on mutual respect is.

The UK has long been the cat's paw of Washington within Europe. When the US sneezes it is ready with a handkerchief to blow its nose. In fact it would be more apt to replace the word 'alliance' in Atlantic Alliance with 'dependence'.

Meanwhile, when it comes to the British press, the poet Humbert Wolfe said it best: "You cannot hope to bribe or twist, thank God, the British journalist. But, seeing what the man will do unbribed, there's no occasion to."

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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Hong Kong's chief executive publicly tells citizens to "act more like sheep"

CY Leung

© Jerome Favre/Bloomberg

CY Leung delivers his policy address in the chamber of the Legislative Council in Hong Kong last month.

Hong Kong's unpopular chief executive has infuriated pro-democracy campaigners by using a Chinese New Year message to urge the former colony's citizens to act more "like sheep".

"In the coming year, I hope that all people in Hong Kong will take inspiration from the sheep's character and pull together in an accommodating manner to work for Hong Kong's future."

In case his message had been missed, Mr Leung noted that the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac had 12 individual "character types". "Sheep are widely seen to be mild and gentle animals living peacefully in groups," he said.

- From the Telegraph article: Hong Kong leader tells people to act like 'sheep'

This is simply a spectacular admission from a clueless authoritarian. No wonder things are so volatile in Hong Kong with this clown in charge. Rather than quieting the mood, CY Leung's comments are more likely to infuriate the island's youth and strength their resolve. Not smart.

From the :

Hong Kong's unpopular chief executive has infuriated pro-democracy campaigners by using a Chinese New Year message to urge the former colony's citizens to act more "like sheep".

In a brief video address commemorating the start of Year of the Sheep , CY Leung said sheep-like behavior was required in the wake of the turbulence caused by last year's street protests.

"In the coming year, I hope that all people in Hong Kong will take inspiration from the sheep's character and pull together in an accommodating manner to work for Hong Kong's future."

In case his message had been missed, Mr Leung noted that the 12 animals in the Chinese zodiac had 12 individual "character types". "Sheep are widely seen to be mild and gentle animals living peacefully in groups," he said.

"He has every intention of gobbling up Hong Kong for his Beijing master," said Claudia Mo, a pro-democracy legislator, noting how Mr Leung's detractors knew him as "the wolf".

Ma Ngok, a political scientist, told the the comment was "not smart".

Ya think?

As Edward R. Murrow noted:

A nation of sheep will beget a government of wolves.

For related articles, see:

Meet FireChat - How Hong Kong Protesters are Communicating Without the Internet

Video of the Day - Charlie Brown Demonstrates the Sheeple Mind in One Minute!

A Wolf in Sheep's Clothing

In Liberty,

Michael Krieger

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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Coming next - DNA data storage


© Thinkstock

If you must preserve messages for people in the far future to read, Blu-ray discs and USB sticks are no good. For real long-term storage, you want a DNA time capsule.

Just 1 gram of DNA is theoretically capable of holding 455 exabytes - enough for all the data held by Google, Facebook and every other major tech company, with room to spare. It's also incredibly durable: DNA has been extracted and sequenced from 700,000-year-old horse bones. But conditions have to be right for it to last.

"We know that if you just store it lying around, you lose information," says Robert Grass of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology in Zurich. So he and colleagues are working on ways to increase DNA's longevity, with the aim of storing data for thousands or millions of years.

They began by looking at the way information is encoded on a DNA strand. The simplest method treats the DNA bases A and C as a "0" and G and T as a "1". Of course, any damage to the DNA leaves holes in the data, so the team used an error-correcting technique called a Reed-Solomon code. This includes redundant blocks that can be used to reconstruct garbled bits of data.

They also tried to mimic the way fossils keep a DNA sequence intact. Excluding all water from the environment was key, so they encapsulated the DNA in microscopic spheres of glass.

To test how long this storage system might last, they encoded two venerable documents, totalling 83 kilobytes: the Swiss federal charter from 1291, and the , a 10th-century version of ancient Greek texts. DNA versions of these texts were kept at 60, 65 and 70 °C for a week to simulate ageing. They remained readable without any errors (, doi.org/f23gmf).

The results suggest that data in DNA form could last 2000 years if kept at a temperature of around 10 °C. The Global Seed Vault in the Arctic could preserve it for over 2 million years at a chilly -18 °C, offering truly long-term storage.

Grass would like to store all the world's current knowledge for future generations, but it's far too expensive to generate DNA at present. It cost around £1000 to encode the 83 kilobytes, so doing the same with Wikipedia would run to billions. Instead, Grass suggests that we focus on what future historians might want to read. "If you look at how we look at the Middle Ages, it's very influenced by what information has been stored," he says. "It's very important that we get a relatively neutral documentation of our current time and store that."

Sriram Kosuri of the University of California, Los Angeles, thinks the projected preservation times are reasonable. In 2012 he stored a copy of a colleague's book in DNA and is now working with the band OK Go to create a DNA version of their latest album. But he's less sure about what to put in a time capsule. "I haven't given it much thought," he says. "We pretty much chose an arbitrary piece of digital information whose only constraint is that we weren't going to get in trouble for making a lot of copies of it."

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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Ukraine gas prices skyrocket 280% as part of IMF aid terms

© Reuters / Regis Duvignau

Ukraine has agreed to increase the cost of gas to consumer by 280 percent, and 66 percent for heating, as part of the IMF terms for getting extra financial aid, says Valery Gontareva the head of the National Bank of Ukraine.

"From now on, in accordance with our joint program with the IMF, the tariffs will see rather a sharp increase of 280 percent for gas and about 66 percent for heat," said Gontareva Wednesday during the 11th Dragon Capital investment conference in Kiev. She added that as a result inflation will be 25-26 percent by the end of 2015.

The tariff rises are part of the amendments to the 2015 budget the government has had to introduce in order to receive an $8.5 billion loan from the IMF by the end of the year.

The changes will also see Ukraine's budget deficit growing to 4.1 percent of GDP and forecasts a 5.5 percent decline in the Ukrainian economy.

Prime Minister Arseny Yatsenyuk had warned of future price rises for gas and heating, and stressed the IMF saved Ukraine from default, and now it's time to make moves which should eventually result in Ukraine's complete independence from Russian gas.

The tariff increase was among the subjects Ukraine and the IMF touched upon during negotiations in January. Deputy Chairman of the Ukraine parliament's budget committee Viktor Krivenko said the IMF had requested a sevenfold increase in prices.

The head of IMF Christine Lagarde said on February 12 that the preliminary agreement reached between Kiev and Western creditors envisages increasing the aid package to $40 billion over the next four years.

The program will help Ukraine receive an additional $25 billion in financial aid, of which $17.5 billion will be provided to stabilize the financial situation in the country.

The latest IMF program will replace the $17 billion package agreed in April 2014. Ukraine has already received $4.5 billion under that agreement, thus the total IMF loans to Ukraine since the beginning of the crisis amount to $22 billion.

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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Poland complicity in CIA torture program confirmed by European court

© Reuters / Kacper Pempel

Military area in the forest near Stare Kiejkuty village, close to Szczytno in northeastern Poland

The European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) rejected Poland's appeal to overturn a criminal investigation into officials working at a secret prison used in the CIA torture program. The Polish government now has to conclude its investigation and pay damages.

The original July 2014 ruling by the court included a demand that Poland swiftly conclude a criminal investigation into the jail in question - code-named Quartz - and pay compensation totaling $262,660 to two men who were held and tortured at the site. Both men are still imprisoned in the United States in the Guantanamo Bay prison complex in Cuba.

"Poland is required to finally conduct a thorough and effective investigation, make public information concerning its role and hold those responsible to account," Helen Duffy, the lawyer for one of the men, Abu Zubaydah, said of Tuesday's decision. Alleged Al-Qaeda associate Zubaydah was said to have been waterboarded 83 times during his detention by the CIA.

Polish appeal in CIA jail case fails: <br>Warsaw - The European Court of Human Rights refused on Tuesday... http://bit.ly/1CJZpFg

— Poland News Links (@dlpolandnews) February 17, 2015

Lawyers for the detainees said the investigation was being deliberately stalled to avoid a politically embarrassing trial, possibly for the senior Polish officials involved, but prosecutors denied that and said the case was complex and needed time.

Amrit Singh is a lawyer with the Open Society Justice Initiative who represents the second detainee in the case, Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri. Al-Nashiri is allegedly involved with the bombing of the USS Cole warship in Yemen in 2000, which led to the deaths of 17 US sailors. Singh said Tuesday's ruling established a precedent for other countries.

"This judgment sends a message loud and clear that European states that collaborated in the CIA torture program cannot evade accountability," she said.

Other countries with known black sites for the CIA's rendition and torture program include Romania and Diego Garcia, as well as Pakistan, Afghanistan, Morocco and Thailand.

The court's decision will add pressure on other European countries to end the secrecy about their involvement in the CIA's global torture program after the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.

The release of the US Senate Intelligence Committee report on torture in December revealed numerous details regarding how dozens of detainees were subject to torture - including waterboarding and mock executions that yielded very little, if any, intelligence as a result.

After the release of the Senate report, former Polish president Aleksander Kwasniewski and former Prime Minister Leszek Miller acknowledged for the first time that they knew the CIA had been holding people on Polish soil.

However, they said they knew nothing about what was happening inside the Quartz detention center, located in a villa on the grounds of an intelligence training academy in a Polish forest.

Meanwhile in European Court of Human Rights - Abu Zubaydah and Al-Nashiri's claim against #Poland stands. http://bit.ly/1CJZskt

— Jakub Dymek (@jakub_dymek) February 17, 2015

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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Canada adds Russian oil producer Rosneft to sanctions list

© Reuters / Chris Wattie

Canada has added Russia's largest oil producer Rosneft, and the CEO of Rostec, to a sanctions blacklist along with 37 Ukrainians and 17 Russian and Ukrainian organizations. They are all covered by economic sanctions and travel bans.

It's a coordinated move with the European Union and the United States, who have already imposed a number of sanctions on Russia, according to Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper.

"In coordination with our EU and US partners, Canada is once again intensifying its response to the situation by announcingfurther sanctions against Russian and Ukrainian individuals and entities," Harper said in a statement on his official website on Tuesday.

Canada has been trying for months to resist the pressure on taking any further restrictive measures against Russia, despite the fact it had already sanctioned 80 Russian and Ukrainian officials last year. Last May, the country decided not to impose sanctions against Rosneft and Rostec because it didn't want politics to hurt Canada's biggest business projects.

Russia's oil giant Rosneft owns about 30 percent of an ExxonMobil oil field in the Canadian province of Alberta. Rosneft purchased a stake in the Cardium basin deposit in 2012; the deal became Russia's first Canadian presence and was expected to benefit Canada's economy by accelerating resource development.

Russian state-owned industrial and defense firm Rostec, and Canadian plane and train maker Bombardier signed a $3.4 billion deal two years ago. The companies had decided to establish joint venture to produce Q400 aircraft, which Canada recognized as a "landmark opportunity for the Q400 NextGen aircraft program." The venture intended to build 24 aircraft a year, with some 250 constructed by 2030. The deal was postponed last year due to the anti-Russian sanctions imposed then by the Canadian government.

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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Learning to silence critical self-talk

self critic

Self-nurturing means, above all, making a commitment to self-compassion. - Jennifer Louden

When does your internal critic show up? Is it when you spill your coffee? When you forget to buy the bread? When you speak too harshly to your children? Is it when you made the C when you were striving for the A, or is it when you didn't get invited to the party?

There are many opportunities for the internal critic to sneak in and remind you of your faults, your failures and your frailties. For some, the internal critic appears with such regularity that it does its dirty work unnoticed. Anything we experience regularly tends to drop out of our awareness. We don't usually notice our breathing, our eyes blinking or the sensation of the shoes on our feet because those things happen to us all the time.

Self-critical thinking can become the same way. We can have hundreds of self-critical thoughts each day without any conscious awareness. Those thoughts become as natural as breathing. Unfortunately, negative thinking is not as healthy as breathing.

While there are many forms of negative thinking, self-criticism is one of the most destructive. Examples might include the following thoughts: "I can't do anything right."; "I'm fat."; "That was a stupid thing to say."; "I won't be able to do that." The list could go on.

We develop the habit of self-criticism when we experience criticism or disapproval during childhood. We develop the belief that we are inadequate. We then interpret daily events to be evidence of our inadequacy.

Children are predisposed to believe they are inadequate because they actually are. Children can't do things that adults can do. They spill the milk. They can't tie their shoes. They mess up when they try to do things.

As adults, we know that such inadequacy is normal. Children aren't expected to be able to do things because they are children. We understand that they have to learn. Unfortunately, children don't have that perspective. They often see their inability to do things as evidence of their inadequacy.

Good parents encourage their children when they mess up. They help the child understand that they have to learn to do new things, and that making mistakes is a normal part of learning. All parents criticize their children at times, and no parent is immune to the frustrations of raising children. But what about the parent who is overly critical? What about the parent who displays his frustration or disapproval whenever the child makes any mistake? Such parental behavior simply reinforces the child's feelings of inadequacy. The internal critic is born.

Children are like sponges. If you place a sponge beside clear, pure water, it will soak that up. If you place it beside acid, it will soak that up as well. The sponge has no choice. It absorbs whatever it contacts. Children are no different. When they're exposed to encouragement and love, they absorb that. When they're exposed to criticism, neglect or abuse, they absorb that as well. They have no choice.

If self-critical statements are a prominent part of your internal vocabulary, you need to understand that your well-being is being hurt by those statements. You can't have such thoughts without damaging your self-esteem and affecting your life choices. Self-critical thoughts often fuel depression and anxiety.

Pay attention to the content of your thoughts. When you notice self-critical self-talk, say to yourself, "I did it again." Then remind yourself that such thoughts are self-destructive. Try to remind yourself where the habit came from. Ask yourself whether you would ever say such things to another person. Try to replace a self-critical statement with a supportive or neutral thought. It's a gradual process, but you can change your thinking with persistent attention and effort.

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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Limpet teeth discovered to be strong enough to construct ships

limpet species

© wikipedia.org

The true limpet species Patella vulgata on a rock surface in Wales

The newest contender for the strongest material is found in the sea. Science has discovered recently that teeth belonging to tiny marine creatures called limpets are so incredibly tough they could be used to construct boats.

The chompers are 100 times thinner than the diameter of a human hair. Scientists have determined that if we built huge structures from material fashioned from limpet teeth, they would be as strong and unbreakable as the smallest piece of the material - a massive advantage for engineering.

Limpets are snail-type creatures crawling along the sea bed, carrying their portable, cone-shaped homes with them. Scientists decided to use a process known as atomic force microscopy on a set of limpet teeth to test how the material behaves at a microscopic level, and how strongly it bonds together.

The University of Portsmouth study came out with surprising results. Professor Asa Barber says: "Until now we thought that spider silk was the strongest biological material because of its super-strength and potential applications in everything from bullet-proof vests to computer electronics, but now we have discovered that limpet teeth exhibit a strength that is potentially higher."

Barber discovered that this is due to goethite, a mineral found inside the teeth and formed by the animal as it grows. Limpets develop strong teeth to latch onto rocks and scrape off algae, their primary food source. As if by design, "the fibers are just the right size to make up a resilient composite structure."

What the team also discovered is that limpet teeth stay the same strength no matter the size. This is really important, as "generally a big structure has lots of flaws and can break more easily... Limpet teeth break this rule as their strength is the same no matter what the size."

And since "engineers are always interested in making these structures stronger to improve their performance or lighter so they use less material," replicating these structures at the atomic level could catapult the science to new highs. Barber listed "F1 cars, hulls of boats and aircraft structures" as just some of the potential production applications.

Science couldn't have done anything with the discovery earlier, because techniques for splitting the ultra-thin mineral have only recently been invented. "We had to cut out a smaller volume of material out of the curved tooth structure," which is less than 1mm, Barker explains.

According to Barker, the challenge with bio-inspired science is finding natural structures that could prove useful and innovative, as there are so many to choose from.

"Nature is a wonderful source of inspiration for structures that have excellent mechanical properties. All the things we observe around us, such as trees, the shells of sea creatures and the limpet teeth studied in this work, have evolved to be effective at what they do."

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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British scientists say metal ball containing bio matter could be alien 'seed'

© Reuters / NASA

A newly discovered microscopic ball could have been sent to earth by an alien civilization in an attempt to start new life, a British scientist has claimed.

The mysterious metal sphere has been photographed spewing out a biological substance, which scientists believe could be genetic material.

It was discovered by a team of researchers at the University of Sheffield and the University of Buckingham Centre for Astrobiology.

While several theories on the tiny ball's origins have been volunteered, the most intriguing sound like pure science fiction.

A newly discovered microscopic ball could have been sent to earth by an alien civilization in an attempt to start new life, a British scientist has claimed.

The mysterious metal sphere has been photographed spewing out a biological substance, which scientists believe could be genetic material.

It was discovered by a team of researchers at the University of Sheffield and the University of Buckingham Centre for Astrobiology.

While several theories on the tiny ball's origins have been volunteered, the most intriguing sound like pure science fiction.

They include the idea it was sent here by aliens with the intention of propagating life on earth, a scientific theory known as "directed panspermia."

Notable scientists to advocate this idea include astrophysicist Carl Sagan and Nobel laureate Francis Crick, who co-discovered the structure of DNA.

Professor Milton Wainwright, who led the team, described the orb as "a ball about the width of a human hair, which has filamentous life on the outside and a gooey biological material oozing from its center."

Speaking to the , Wainwright said: "We were stunned when X-ray analysis showed that the sphere is made up mainly of titanium, with a trace of vanadium."

"One theory is it was sent to earth by some unknown civilization in order to continue seeding the planet with life."

"Unless of course we can find details of the civilization that is supposed to have sent it in this respect it is probably an unprovable theory," he added.

© University of Buckingham

Mysterious metal ball.

Scientists discovered the perplexing orb when they sent balloons 27 kilometers into the atmosphere to collect dust and particle matter from space.

Wainwright led the research project with a view to proving that microscopic life organisms are continually arriving from space.

He said the metal ball left a tiny impact when it struck the balloon.

"On hitting the stratosphere sampler the sphere made an impact crater, a minute version of the huge impact crater on earth caused by the asteroid said to have killed off the dinosaurs."

"This impact crater proves that the sphere was incoming to earth from space, an organism coming from Earth would not be traveling fast enough when it fell back to earth to cause such damage."

"This seems never before to have been found on earth," Wainwright added.

Wainwright hopes a similar research project being conducted by NASA will find the same results his team have.

The scientific findings come less than a year after British and Japanese scientists launched the Institute for the Study of Panspermia and Astroeconomics (ISPA) with the purpose of proving life on earth originated in the cosmos.

In a statement, the ISPA said: "Mainstream science and institutions have fought against theories which expound these beliefs but now evidence from meteorites, from samples of bacteria from space and from space observation is making resistance more difficult."

"Proving that the Earth is in a constant exchange of matter with the larger cosmos would have implications not only in terms of our identity, but could also give us insight into alien viruses, which may be important for our group identity, evolution and survival itself."

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Former White House chief of staff regrets not being able to disclose UFO secrets

© Jayne Clark,

Alien statues posed outside a flying saucer are the centerpiece exhibit at the International UFO Museum in Roswell.

Longtime White House insider excited UFO buffs with a tweet last week expressing his regrets as he left an advisor post with the Obama administration.

"Finally, my biggest failure of 2014: Once again not securing the #disclosure of the UFO files. #thetruthisstilloutthere," said John Podesta, who stepped down from his senior advisor post Friday.

1. Finally, my biggest failure of 2014: Once again not securing the #disclosure of the UFO files. #thetruthisstilloutthere cc: @NYTimesDowd

— John Podesta (@Podesta44) February 13, 2015

Podesta has encouraged government officials to release information about unexplained UFO cases, including an appeal during a 2002 news conference at the National Press Club.

Nearly 130,000 pages of declassified Air Force files on UFO investigations and sightings were dumped online last month by hobbyist John Greenwald, who compiled every available document from Project Blue Book and other government studies conducted between 1947 and 1969.

Other UFO watchers hope that Podesta's statement signals that more information is available and might eventually be released.

"Podesta indicated in his tweet that he made an effort, somehow or another, to engage the UFO files question," said Stephen Bassett, executive director of the Paradigm Research Group. "That's all he has indicated. He didn't say who he talked to, how he did it — he just put it out there."

Bassett is urging Congress to hold hearings to end government silence on UFOs, but he told the Huffington Post that the Pentagon would certainly want to control how that information was revealed and the president would want assurance from military officials that they would back him up after announcing the existence of aliens.

Hillary Clinton is expected to consider Podesta, her husband's former chief of staff, to oversee her second presidential campaign.

Bill Clinton has said recently that he personally looked into UFOs when he was president but never found much evidence.

EyesOnTheSkies — UFO Channel:

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Niagara Falls freezes over as extreme winter weather continues

Niagara Falls has frozen over due to temperatures which dropped to 16F on Wednesday

Extreme winter weather has been causing problems for millions across the East Coast, but it has also made for some beautiful sights.

Among those beautiful sights is Niagara Falls, which has now frozen over due to temperatures which dropped to 16F on Wednesday.

And it looks like the popular tourist destination may stay frozen, as temperatures are expected to drop even lower come Thursday.

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The popular tourist destination will stay frozen for some time because temperatures are expected to drop even more come Thursday

'The attention the Falls is receiving is bringing a crowd to view them in their majestic, winter splendor!' Michelle Blackley, communications & community relations manager for the Falls, told USA Today.

Yet another arctic blast is set to strike the central and eastern United States on Wednesday evening, bringing sub-zero temperatures to many parts.

Things are going to get even colder.

In fact, almost the entire East Coast, including parts of Florida, will reach below freezing temperatures on Thursday night.

In New York City, temperatures will stay in the teens all day Thursday and by nightfall will be in the single digits and possibly even below 0, making it the coldest it has gotten in the city during this already brutal winter.

The cold weather will also bring with it high winds, this time some reaching 40 mph in areas.

This as Boston continues to be hit harder than any city in the country, though many seem to have a sense of humor about the situation and have taken to social media to post amusing photos and videos.

Meanwhile, the effects of the winter storm that hit the South on Monday are still being felt by the 330,000 people without power in Georgia, North Carolina, South Carolina and Tennessee.

The storm system left more than a foot of snow in parts of the South, while an accompanying ice storm caused a number of fatal road accidents.

There were three traffic deaths in Tennessee, two in Virginia, one in North Carolina, one in Indiana and one in Kansas - all blamed on the storm, The Weather Channel reported.

All government offices in Washington DC were closed on Tuesday due to the dangerous blend of snow and ice that has made travel increasingly difficult.

Coleman, Kentucky, is believed to have been the worst hit, with 18 inches of snowfall.

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Massive explosion as oil tanker train derails in West Virginia


Huge explosion as a train derails in West Virginia.

A train carrying more than 100 tankers of crude oil has derailed in southern West Virginia, sending at least one tanker into the Kanawha River and igniting at least 14 others that caused a house fire, officials said.

One person was being treated for potential inhalation issues, but no other injuries were reported, according to a news release from CSX, the train company.

Nearby residents were told to evacuate as state emergency response and environmental officials headed to the scene about 30 miles (48.2 kilometres) southeast of Charleston.

The state was under a winter storm warning and getting heavy snowfall at times, with as much as five inches (12.7 centimetres) in some places.

It's not clear if the weather had anything to do with the derailment, which occurred along a flat stretch of rail.

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Explosion tears through Torrance refinery, California

Four people sustained minor injuries Wednesday morning after a “large explosion” was reported at the ExxonMobil Refinery in Torrance

Minor injuries were reported after an explosion ripped apart structures at an oil refinery in southern Los Angeles County Wednesday morning and shook homes for miles around the blast site.

Aerial video showed smoke coming from a damaged portion of the Torrance ExxonMobil Refinery, located south of the 405 Freeway. The blast, which led to an air quality advisory due to smoke, twisted metal and sent ash raining down on vehicles parked near the sprawling 750-acre refinery property.

"I thought it was an earthquake, like someone hit the back of my car," said resident Drew Magtoto.

Another resident told NBC4 he could feel shaking from about seven miles away and noticed a large flare-up from the plant's burnoff stack. The stack flaring is a safety measure used to dissipate pressure and avoid explosions.

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"All of our windows started rattling," a Redondo Beach resident told NBC4. "It rattled all the windows in our house. It was kind of crazy."

Torrance police said there were three minor injuries, and "everyone is accounted for."

In a statement, a public affairs official with the ExxonMobil Torrance Refinery said the plant "experienced an incident" at 8:50 a.m.

"Emergency procedures have been activated to address the incident, and employees are working with the appropriate agencies," according to the statement. "Our main concern is for the safety of our employees and our neighbors. We are accounting for all personnel and still evaluating the cause of the incident, or the occurrence or amount on any damages."

Torrance school officials confirmed that staff and students shelterered in place due to possible air quality issues. Tammy Khan, of the Torrance Unified School District, said parents were notified that the shelter-in-place order will remain in effect until schools are told it is safe to leave campus.

The South Coast Air Quality Management District issued a smoke advisory for any areas where residents can see or smell smoke. Torrance officials said there was no chemical release and a city-wide shelter-in-place order is not necessary, but those near the site should remain indoors.

"From my understanding, it was a significant incident," said Mayor Patrick Furey. "The most important thing to do is to shelter in place. Stay indoors, no outdoor activity, turn your air conditioners off, keep the windows closed."

NBC4 is attempting to confirm details regarding the cause of the explosion. It was not immediately clear whether the blast was related to a drill at the refinery, where about 155,000 barrels of crude oil are processed each day.

The refinery, with its signature flare stack, has been part of the South Bay landscape since the 1920s.

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Sott Exclusive: CNN says ISIS lures Western women with pictures of Nutella and kittens

On Wednesday morning, CNN revealed shocking information about the depth of dastardliness to which ISIS is now stooping in its effort to subvert the glorious freedoms and democracy of Western peoples: they're after our women, using the most devilish and devious ploy ever imagined by the mind of man or jihadi.

CNN's Carol Costello spelled out, in glorious technicolor, that Western women are being manipulated by ISIS onlineTM into thinking that life with the world's most high profile head-choppers (after Saudi Arabia) would be pretty cool and fun because there would be kittens, nutella and "emojis" (whatever they are).

Inside sources have informed Sott.net that, other than the online maneuvers, there is also a practical application of this insidious scheme. ISIS operatives smother kittens in Nutella and tie a string to them. The kittens are then surreptitiously placed where women are likely to be, shoe shops for example. When the unwitting Western female spots the kitty, she becomes entranced by the pseudo-chocolate-paste-covered-feline, at which point the ISIS operative slowly winds the kitten in.

The women, spellbound by both the smell of chocolate and their irresistible maternal instinct to cuddle the kitten, are undone. Once within range of the Isis operative, a giant cage descends and the women are captured and taken away to ISIS land, on the back of a marshmallow unicorn.

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Sperm whale dies off the Philippines coast

© Quezon police

The Sperm whale carcass floating off the coast of Bangkorohan village in Calauag town, Quezon province.

A sperm whale that had been stranded near a coastal village in the town of Calauag, Quezon province, died yesterday, an environment official of the province said.

Manny Calayag, community coordinator of the Quezon-Environment and Natural Resources Office, said the sperm whale, one of the world's largest animals, died around 7:30 a.m. in the shallow portion of the waters off Lamon Bay near the coast of Bangkorohan village.

The whale was found by fishermen a kilometer away from the shore on Tuesday, said Senior Insp. Noel Divino, Calauag police chief.

He said the whale, measuring 40 feet long and 10 feet tall, was found with a wound on the right part of the belly.

"The whale is almost as long as a bus," Divino said in a phone interview.

Local policemen secured the whale until authorities from the municipal veterinary office arrived.

Calayag said experts from the provincial veterinary office and the Bureau of Fisheries and Aquatic Resources (BFAR) traveled to Calauag at dawn yesterday to help in the rescue operation.

The whale, unfortunately, was already dead when the group reached Calauag yesterday morning.

Calayag said he recommended a necropsy of the whale to determine the cause of death. The whale's gender has yet to be determined.

According to the website of the Oceanic Research Group, sperm whales are the largest toothed whales in the world and perhaps the most abundant of great whales.

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Minnesota newspaper apologizes for calling selfie-loving narcissist Obama a 'self-absorbed assclown'

© Screenshot from youtube video by TVblip


A local newspaper in Minnesota has retracted part of a story in which its reporter criticized President Barack Obama for using a selfie stick during a BuzzFeed video piece, calling the Commander in Chief an "assclown".

The original comments were made by sports producer Kevin Cusick, who ran one of his "Loop Ten" articles - a column that pokes fun at the top newsmakers and "fakers" of the day. When President Obama granted a recent interview to BuzzFeed, he posed with the increasingly popular selfie sticks as part of a video urging young people to sign up for health care coverage.

Making fun of people for using the widely-mocked selfie stick may be par for the course these days, but Cusick found himself in trouble over his choice of words.

"A fool-proof way to make yourself look like a self-absorbed assclown," read the caption under the photo, showing Obama holding the stick as he posed for a picture.

After the caption began spreading on social media, though, Cusick ended up taking back what he wrote.

"After further review, it's a poor choice of word," he told local KMSP. "I must have been in an especially foul mood last night. I've toned it down a bit."

Now, the caption reads: "A fool-proof way to make yourself look like a self-absorbed celebrity."

Unfortunately for enemies of the selfie stick, Obama's appearance with one seems to have led to a surge in interest for the devices. Google said searches for the stick increased threefold since the president used one, and some retailers are even reporting higher sales, the reported.

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Russian researchers discover NSA spying and sabotage software hidden in hard drives

nsa facility


A National Security Agency (NSA) data gathering facility

The U.S. National Security Agency has figured out how to hide spying software deep within hard drives made by Western Digital, Seagate, Toshiba and other top manufacturers, giving the agency the means to eavesdrop on the majority of the world's computers, according to cyber researchers and former operatives.

That long-sought and closely guarded ability was part of a cluster of spying programs discovered by Kaspersky Lab, the Moscow-based security software maker that has exposed a series of Western cyberespionage operations.

Kaspersky said it found personal computers in 30 countries infected with one or more of the spying programs, with the most infections seen in Iran, followed by Russia, Pakistan, Afghanistan, China, Mali, Syria, Yemen and Algeria. The targets included government and military institutions, telecommunication companies, banks, energy companies, nuclear researchers, media, and Islamic activists, Kaspersky said.

The firm declined to publicly name the country behind the spying campaign, but said it was closely linked to Stuxnet, the NSA-led cyberweapon that was used to attack Iran's uranium enrichment facility. The NSA is the agency responsible for gathering electronic intelligence on behalf of the United States.

A former NSA employee told Reuters that Kaspersky's analysis was correct, and that people still in the intelligence agency valued these spying programs as highly as Stuxnet. Another former intelligence operative confirmed that the NSA had developed the prized technique of concealing spyware in hard drives, but said he did not know which spy efforts relied on it.

NSA spokeswoman Vanee Vines declined to comment.

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Kaspersky published the technical details of its research on Monday, which should help infected institutions detect the spying programs, some of which trace back as far as 2001.

The disclosure could further hurt the NSA's surveillance abilities, already damaged by massive leaks by former contractor Edward Snowden. Snowden's revelations have hurt the United States' relations with some allies and slowed the sales of U.S. technology products abroad.

The exposure of these new spying tools could lead to greater backlash against Western technology, particularly in countries such as China, which is already drafting regulations that would require most bank technology suppliers to proffer copies of their software code for inspection.

Peter Swire, one of five members of U.S. President Barack Obama's Review Group on Intelligence and Communications Technology, said the Kaspersky report showed that it is essential for the country to consider the possible impact on trade and diplomatic relations before deciding to use its knowledge of software flaws for intelligence gathering.

"There can be serious negative effects on other U.S. interests," Swire said.


According to Kaspersky, the spies made a technological breakthrough by figuring out how to lodge malicious software in the obscure code called firmware that launches every time a computer is turned on.

Disk drive firmware is viewed by spies and cybersecurity experts as the second-most valuable real estate on a PC for a hacker, second only to the BIOS code invoked automatically as a computer boots up.

"The hardware will be able to infect the computer over and over," lead Kaspersky researcher Costin Raiu said in an interview.

Though the leaders of the still-active espionage campaign could have taken control of thousands of PCs, giving them the ability to steal files or eavesdrop on anything they wanted, the spies were selective and only established full remote control over machines belonging to the most desirable foreign targets, according to Raiu. He said Kaspersky found only a few especially high-value computers with the hard-drive infections.

Kaspersky's reconstructions of the spying programs show that they could work in disk drives sold by more than a dozen companies, comprising essentially the entire market. They include Western Digital Corp, Seagate Technology Plc, Toshiba Corp, IBM, Micron Technology Inc and Samsung Electronics Co Ltd.

Western Digital, Seagate and Micron said they had no knowledge of these spying programs. Toshiba and Samsung declined to comment. IBM did not respond to requests for comment.


Raiu said the authors of the spying programs must have had access to the proprietary source code that directs the actions of the hard drives. That code can serve as a roadmap to vulnerabilities, allowing those who study it to launch attacks much more easily.

"There is zero chance that someone could rewrite the [hard drive] operating system using public information," Raiu said.

Concerns about access to source code flared after a series of high-profile cyberattacks on Google Inc and other U.S. companies in 2009 that were blamed on China. Investigators have said they found evidence that the hackers gained access to source code from several big U.S. tech and defense companies.

It is not clear how the NSA may have obtained the hard drives' source code. Western Digital spokesman Steve Shattuck said the company "has not provided its source code to government agencies." The other hard drive makers would not say if they had shared their source code with the NSA.

Seagate spokesman Clive Over said it has "secure measures to prevent tampering or reverse engineering of its firmware and other technologies." Micron spokesman Daniel Francisco said the company took the security of its products seriously and "we are not aware of any instances of foreign code."

According to former intelligence operatives, the NSA has multiple ways of obtaining source code from tech companies, including asking directly and posing as a software developer. If a company wants to sell products to the Pentagon or another sensitive U.S. agency, the government can request a security audit to make sure the source code is safe.

"They don't admit it, but they do say, 'We're going to do an evaluation, we need the source code,'" said Vincent Liu, a partner at security consulting firm Bishop Fox and former NSA analyst. "It's usually the NSA doing the evaluation, and it's a pretty small leap to say they're going to keep that source code."

Kaspersky called the authors of the spying program "the Equation group," named after their embrace of complex encryption formulas.

The group used a variety of means to spread other spying programs, such as by compromising jihadist websites, infecting USB sticks and CDs, and developing a self-spreading computer worm called Fanny, Kasperky said.

Fanny was like Stuxnet in that it exploited two of the same undisclosed software flaws, known as "zero days," which strongly suggested collaboration by the authors, Raiu said. He added that it was "quite possible" that the Equation group used Fanny to scout out targets for Stuxnet in Iran and spread the virus.

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British Chelsea fans push black man off train and chant 'We're racist and that's the way we like it!'

© Screenshot from theguardian.com video

Racism rears its ugly head, as this video shows a black man in Paris forcefully pushed off a subway train by rowdy British Chelsea fans headed for a match with Paris Saint-Germain. An investigation into their identities is underway.

"We're racist, we're racist and that's the way we like it" - this is the phrase they chanted during the incident, seen here in amateur video footage taken at the Richelieu-Drouot station and obtained exclusively by the .

The man tried to squeeze past them several times, before being given a hard shove.

The ride was delayed by three minutes as this was happening, according to British expat Paul Nolan.

He told the newspaper that "the doors were open and I could see and hear that a lot of chanting was going on. It looked like it was quite aggressive so I just took out my phone to record it."

"He was obviously completely shocked when they pushed him off. I don't think he realized who they were. He then tried to get on again and got pushed off a second time," Nolan says in reference to the black man.

He says he felt "completely appalled" by the spectacle, which included several Chelsea fans suggesting stabbing someone, possibly a PSG fan.

His sentiments were shared by some Frenchmen, standing by as well. He had heard someone say, "I can't believe this. It's insane."

The subsequent posting of the video has led to Chelsea issuing a strong condemnation to the guilty supporters.

"Such behavior is abhorrent and has no place in football or society. We will support any criminal action against those involved, and should evidence point to involvement of Chelsea season-ticket holders, or members, the club will take the strongest possible action against them, including banning orders," the club said in a statement.

Now, Chelsea itself could face penalties if the UEFA manages to prove that the event is football-related, and therefore falls under its jurisdiction. British and French police have started their own investigations into the identities of the Chelsea fans.

"The Metroplitan Police takes these offences very seriously, no matter where they occur. We will examine the footage with a view to seeing if we can apply for football banning orders, preventing people from travelling to future matches," a statement said. "We will of course assist French authorities to identify those people involved and support them in any action they choose to take. At the same tame we will be working closely with Chelsea Football Club."

There was condemnation at all levels for those involved in the Paris spectacle. FIFA head Sepp Blatter took to Twitter to share his thoughts.

French police had to use tear gas on British supporters on the day, shortly before the game, local reports indicate.

It is somewhat ironic that Chelsea is "a Jewish-owned football team where the majority of players are black and foreign," as the club fan magazine's editor David Johnstone pointed out, expressing his shock at the incident. He added that "I think the majority of Chelsea supporters are as disgusted by what's happened."

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Currying for future favors? Foreign government gifts to Clinton Foundation on the rise

bill and Hillary Clinton

© European Pressphoto Agency

Former President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton address the Clinton Global Initiative in New York in September 2014.

The Clinton Foundation has dropped its self-imposed ban on collecting funds from foreign governments and is winning contributions at an accelerating rate, raising ethical questions as Hillary Clinton ramps up her expected bid for the presidency.

Recent donors include the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Australia, Germany and a Canadian government agency promoting the Keystone XL pipeline.

In 2009, the Clinton Foundation stopped raising money from foreign governments after Mrs. Clinton became secretary of state. Former President Bill Clinton, who ran the foundation while his wife was at the State Department, agreed to the gift ban at the behest of the Obama administration, which worried about a secretary of state's husband raising millions while she represented U.S. interests abroad.

The ban wasn't absolute; some foreign government donations were permitted for ongoing programs approved by State Department ethics officials.

The donations come as Mrs. Clinton prepares for an expected run for the Democratic nomination for president, and they raise many of the same ethical quandaries. Since leaving the State Department in early 2013, Mrs. Clinton officially joined the foundation, which changed its name to the Bill, Hillary & Chelsea Clinton Foundation, and has become a prodigious fundraiser as the foundation launched a $250 million endowment campaign, officials said.

A representative for Hillary Clinton referred all questions to the Clinton Foundation.

A spokesman for the Clinton Foundation said the charity has a need to raise money for its many projects, which aim to do such things as improve education, health care and the environment around the world. He also said that donors go through a vigorous vetting process.

One of the 2014 donations comes from a Canadian agency promoting the proposed Keystone pipeline, which is favored by Republicans and under review by the Obama administration. The Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development agency of Canada, a first-time donor, gave between $250,000 and $500,000. The donations, which are disclosed voluntarily by the foundation, are given only in ranges.

One of the agency's priorities for 2014-2015 was to promote Keystone XL "as a stable and secure source of energy and energy technology," according to the agency's website. Mrs. Clinton's State Department was involved in approving the U.S. government's initial environmental-impact statement. Since leaving State, Mrs. Clinton has repeatedly declined to comment on Keystone.

The Canadian donation originated from an agency office separate from the one that advocates for Keystone XL, a Foundation spokesman said.

While the Canadian donation didn't appear in a Clinton Foundation online database of donors until recently, the donation of about $480,000 was announced in June in Cartagena, Colombia, where the program provides job training for youths.

Kirk Hanson, director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University in California, said the Clintons should immediately reimpose the ban, for the same reasons it was in place while Mrs. Clinton led U.S. foreign policy.

"Now that she is gearing up to run for president, the same potential exists for foreign governments to curry favor with her as a potential president of the United States," he said.

If she becomes president and deals with these nations, "she can't recuse herself," added James Thurber, director of American University's Center for Congressional and Presidential Studies. "Whether it influences her decision making is questionable, but it is a legitimate thing to focus on by her political opposition."

The donations weren't announced by the foundation and were discovered by during a search of donations of more than $50,000 posted on the foundation's online database. Exactly when the website was updated isn't clear. The foundation typically updates its website with the previous year's donations near the beginning of the year. All 2014 donations were noted with asterisks.

At least four foreign countries gave to the foundation in 2013—Norway, Italy, Australia and the Netherlands—a fact that has garnered little attention. The number of governments contributing in 2014 appears to have doubled from the previous year. Since its founding, the foundation has raised at least $48 million from overseas governments, according to a tally.

United Arab Emirates, a first-time donor, gave between $1 million and $5 million in 2014, and the German government—which also hadn't previously given—contributed between $100,000 and $250,000.

A previous donor, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, has given between $10 million and $25 million since the foundation was created in 1999. Part of that came in 2014, although the database doesn't specify how much.

The Australian government has given between $5 million and $10 million, at least part of which came in 2014. It also gave in 2013, when its donations fell in the same range.

Qatar's government committee preparing for the 2022 soccer World Cup gave between $250,000 and $500,000 in 2014. Qatar's government had previously donated between $1 million and $5 million.

Oman, which had made a donation previously, gave an undisclosed amount in 2014. Over time, Oman has given the foundation between $1 million and $5 million. Prior to last year, its donations fell in the same range.

The Clinton Foundation has set a goal of creating a $250 million endowment, an official said. One purpose was secure the future of the foundation's programs without having to rely so much on the former president's personal fundraising efforts, the official said.

The Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates and Oman donations went to the endowment drive.

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Nazi revival: supporters of Anglo Saxon charity found giving Nazi salutes, making racist rants

© Image from http://on.fb.me/1AT2Omm

Supporters of a charity which aims to support English culture have been exposed giving Nazi salutes and making racist comments in an undercover investigation.

The Steadfast Trust, set up in 2004, claims to be the only charity representing the Anglo-Saxon community in England and supports "education, legal rights and welfare" for the English community.

Supporters have now been shown proudly revealing their membership of far-right and racist groups including the National Front (NF), British National Party (BNP) and even the Ku Klux Klan (KKK).

Others were caught voicing racist tirades and chanting "victory to the Aryan race" in undercover footage obtained by a reporter on 's Exposure program.

Several members of the charity are reported to have backgrounds in racist far-right organizations.

In the video, a Steadfast Trust supporter, named Steve, is caught saying: "Remember at the Waltham Abbey last year? There was a geezer who come up with the f****** n***** wife and the n***** kid with the white dragon kid," the reports.

In the footage, the reporter also speaks to a supporter called Piers, who tells him about his background in far-right movements.

"I was a candidate for the National Front in the 1980-something [sic]. When the Ku Klux Klan started up over here I got involved in that," the reports him as saying.

In response to the allegations of becoming a hub for far-right extremists, a spokesman for the Steadfast Trust told the : "The Trust does not share or support the offensive views expressed, some by people unknown to the charity.

"We cannot be held responsible for the views, actions or political affiliations of our supporters.

"The Steadfast Trust is not, and has never been, political in its aims and we are perplexed by the suggestion it has become the focal point of the far right."

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Bad news for warmists: Sun has gone quiet - Weakest solar cycle in over 100 years

© spaceweather.com

Latest solar image with little sunspot activity



The main driver of all weather and climate, the entity which occupies 99.86% of all of the mass in our solar system, the great ball of fire in the sky - has gone quiet again during what is likely to be the weakest sunspot cycle in more than a century. For the past 5 days, solar activity has been very low and one measure of solar activity - its X-ray output - has basically flatlined in recent days (plot below courtesy NOAA/Space Weather Prediction Center). Not since cycle 14 peaked in February 1906 has there been a solar cycle with fewer sunspots. We are currently more than six years into Solar Cycle 24 and today the sun is virtually spotless despite the fact that we are still in what is considered to be its solar maximum phase. Solar cycle 24 began after an unusually deep solar minimum that lasted from 2007 to 2009 which included more spotless days on the sun compared to any minimum in almost a century.


The flatlining of solar X-ray output in recent days

Solar maximum

There was an uptick in the number of sunspots in April 2014 which produced a second peak during solar cycle 24 and it is looking increasingly likely that this will be considered the solar maximum point for this particular cycle (figure below courtesy NASA). Many solar cycles are double peaked; however, this is the first one in which the second peak in sunspot number was larger than the first peak which occurred in February 2012. Going back to 1755, there have been only a few solar cycles in the previous 23 that have had a lower number of sunspots during its maximum phase.


Sunspot numbers for solar cycles 23 and 24 (current) with second peak

Consequences of a weak solar cycle

First, the weak solar cycle has resulted in rather benign "space weather" in recent times with generally weaker-than-normal geomagnetic storms. By all Earth-based measures of geomagnetic and geoeffective solar activity, this cycle has been extremely quiet. However, while a weak solar cycle does suggest strong solar storms will occur less often than during stronger and more active cycles, it does not rule them out entirely. In fact, the famous Carrington Event of 1859 occurred during a weak solar cycle (#10). In addition, there is some evidence that most large events such as strong solar flares and significant geomagnetic storms tend to occur in the declining phase of the solar cycle. In other words, there is still a chance for significant solar activity in the months and years ahead.

Second, it is pretty well understood that solar activity has a direct impact on temperatures at very high altitudes in a part of the Earth's atmosphere called the thermosphere. This is the biggest layer of the Earth's atmosphere which lies directly above the mesosphere and below the exosphere. Thermospheric temperatures increase with altitude due to absorption of highly energetic solar radiation and are highly dependent on solar activity.

Finally, if history is a guide, it is safe to say that weak solar activity for a prolonged period of time can have a negative impact on global temperatures in the troposphere which is the bottom-most layer of Earth's atmosphere - and where we all live. There have been two notable historical periods with decades-long episodes of low solar activity. The first period is known as the "Maunder Minimum", named after the solar astronomer Edward Maunder, and it lasted from around 1645 to 1715. The second one is referred to as the "Dalton Minimum", named for the English meteorologist John Dalton, and it lasted from about 1790 to 1830. Both of these historical periods coincided with below-normal global temperatures in an era now referred to by many as the "Little Ice Age". In addition, research studies in just the past couple of decades have found a complicated relationship between solar activity, cosmic rays, and clouds on Earth. This research suggests that in times of low solar activity where solar winds are typically weak; more cosmic rays reach the Earth's atmosphere which, in turn, has been found to lead to an increase in certain types of clouds that can act to cool the Earth.


The increasingly likely outcome for another historically weak solar cycle continues the recent downward trend in sunspot cycle strength that began over twenty years ago during solar cycle 22. If this trend continues for the next couple of cycles, then there would likely be more talk of another "grand minimum" for the sun. Some solar scientists are already predicting that the next solar cycle, #25, will be even weaker than this current one. However, it is just too early for high confidence in those predictions since some solar scientists believe that the best predictor of future solar cycle strength involves activity at the sun's poles during a solar minimum and the next solar minimum is still likely several years away.

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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Not isolated: Putin visits Hungary, joint energy projects in the works

Putin Orban

© Reuters / Laszlo Balogh

Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban (R) addresses during a joint news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Budapest February 17, 2015.

Russia sees Hungary as a strategic partner and will pursue mutually beneficial energy projects, while Budapest is striving for cooperation with Moscow. The European economy will never be competitive without Russia, the Hungarian PM told Vladimir Putin.

Both Hungary and Russia need each other and are interested in reliable gas supplies and transit, Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban said after signing several deals with President Vladimir Putin.

"I have clearly stated that Hungary needs Russia. For us, Hungarians, it is important that Russia is open for Hungarian products. And Hungary is interested in reliably getting Russian energy," Orban said at a joint press-conference with Putin.

He has stressed that Hungary will strive for cooperation with Moscow as well as maintaining "good contacts".

"I am personally sure that cooperation and good relations serve the interests not only of Hungary, but also the whole of Europe," the Hungarian Prime Minister said. He then added that the deals Moscow and Budapest signed on Tuesday "perfectly serve the interests of both Russia and Hungary."

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Isolation of Moscow 'unpractical', Europe not competitive without Russia

Speaking of broader cooperation, Orban has also stressed the necessity to revive Russia-EU relations, saying "the isolation of both Russia and Europe is unpractical"

"Sanctions hurt; the response also caused harm. Of course, we respect both sanctions, and the [Russia's] responsive steps, but our common goal is to strengthen the cooperation between our countries," he said.

The European economy will not be competitive and energy security will not be ensured without cooperation with Moscow, the Prime Minister pointed out: "One who believes the European economy will be competitive without cooperation with Russia and one who thinks energy security can be guaranteed in Europe without energy supplies from Russia is cherishing illusions."

"I am certain that relations between the European Union and Russia need to be reestablished as soon as possible," Orban said. "Hungary is struggling to find appropriate solutions."

[embedded content]

South Stream termination an opportunity to cooperate on Turkish route

Hungary's role as a gas transit country has not diminished with the cancellation of the South Stream, Putin emphasized.

"Unfortunately, as you know, we had to cancel the South Stream pipeline project, but I believe that the experience that we have built together with the Hungarian partners, the jointly created venture, may be used also in expanding the work with our Turkish friends regarding the so-called Turkish stream," Putin said.

"There are different options here, and we are ready to discuss them with anyone who is interested in cooperation," the president added.

Orban confirmed that Hungary is looking forward to joining the Turkey Stream project, which could transit Russian gas to Greece, Macedonia, Serbia and Hungary, and "is fully committed to continue investments."

Energy issues dominated the talks between Orban and Putin, for whom it was the first formal visit to the EU-state since the beginning of the Ukrainian crisis in 2014. Budapest and Moscow already reached a "political agreement" on a new gas deal on Tuesday.

"We [Russia] value our reputation as a reliable supplier of energy resources to Europe and Hungary," Putin said after the talks with the Hungarian PM. "We have agreed [with PM Orban] that we will not only positively consider certain issues the Hungarian side had raised during today's talks but also agreed that all these issues will be settled."

Those issues, according to Putin, include contracts for Russian gas supplies to Hungary after 2015 and "some other issues linked with the use of gas storage facilities."

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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