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Tuesday, 3 March 2015

Italian prime minister begins trip to Kiev and Moscow

Matteo Renzi


Italy’s Prime Minister Matteo Renzi.

Italy's Prime Minister Matteo Renzi, who took the office exactly a year ago, is beginning a short tour, which includes visits first to Kiev, and then to Moscow.

In Ukraine, Renzi will have a meeting with President Petro Poroshenko, and on March 5 he will come to Russia, where he will have meetings with Russia's President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. Italy's presidential press service said the talks will focus on international issues - settlement of the crisis in Ukraine, the situations in the Middle East and in Libya, as well as fighting terrorism.

Renzi's route repeats exactly the 2014 route Federica Mogherini - the then Prime Minister, and currently the EU foreign affairs chief. This was also the order of visits to the two capital cities of Germany's Chancellor Angela Merkel and France's President Francois Hollande in early February before the meeting in Minsk, where the parties signed an agreement on ceasefire in Ukraine's south-east.

In Italy, the authorities have been criticized for being on the side of the "European initiative" on settlement of the Ukrainian crisis. There are quite often reproaches that Renzi is not interested much in foreign policy, where on key issues the country has practically lost its say at the international level. Local analysts say during the second year in the office, Renzi will try to lift Italy's rating in this matter, and one of the objectives for him is improvement of relations with Russia, which recently were at a high level due to his predecessors Silvio Berlusconi and Romano Prodi.

Though having supported the EU sanctions against Russia, Italy belongs to a group of European countries sharing a rather flexible position on their possible lifting. The country's foreign ministry said Rome had always insisted on keeping a dialogue with Moscow, which role remains essential in settlement of international crisis situations. Anyway, Rome will have to smooth over the fact that the sanctions were implemented in the six-month period of Italy's chairing the EU.

Italian experts say, one of the issues on the agenda will be the situation in Libya. Italy is very nervous about what is happening in that country, which is only 300 kilometres from the Apennines. The concerns are not only about the resumed inflows of migrants, but also in the threats from the Islamic State, which has been expanding its influence in Libya, where the unrest features two governments and dozens militarised groups. Italy has been trying for quite a time to attract attention of the international community to the Libyan problem and hopes Russia will be its ally, especially on the eve of the discussions at the UN Security Council, where Russia's vote may be critical.

Local business, who have suffered from the sanctions and would not want to lose access to the promising Russian market, are expecting from the prime minister a clear political signal about closer positions with Russia. Some political figures, including Matteo Salvini, leader of the Lega Nord political party, and his allies insist on lifting the sanctions, which along with the economic slump in Russia have cost over five billion euro to the Italian economy.

This will be Renzi's first visit to Moscow, the aide added. Matteo Renzi was sworn in as Italy's prime minister on February 22, 2014. Last year, Putin and Renzi met twice - in Italy's Milan (at Asia-Europe Summit in October) and Australia's Brisbane (at G20 summit in November).

"All key issues of Russian-Italian cooperation, as well as pressing international problems, will be discussed at the meeting. The emphasis will be made on the crisis situation in Ukraine," Russian presidential aide Yuri Ushakov stressed. "Italy expects to have a comprehensive exchange of opinions on the Libyan problem, situation in the Middle East, Syrian conflict," he added.

"Renzi's position on Ukraine has its peculiarities, but taking into account these nuances, we think the talks will be comprehensive and helpful," the aide said.

Renzi will also meet with Russian Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. Talks with Putin will be held in a narrow format with participation of the two countries' delegations. After the talks, Putin and Renzi will make a public statement for the press.

Renzi will visit Moscow at President Putin's invitation. "At Putin's talks with Renzi, a number of pressing international issues are on the agenda, including the state of affairs in Syria and Libya, spreading threat from terrorist activities of the Islamic State, as well as the situation in Ukraine and implementation of the Minsk agreements," Ushakov added.

Putin and Renzi will also discuss the development of bilateral ties, including trade and investment cooperation, interactions in the cultural and humanitarian spheres.

Presidential candidate Scott Walker plans to sign bill banning abortions after 20 weeks

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker says he will sign into law a ban on abortions after 20 weeks of pregnancy.

Mr. Walker on Tuesday issued what he called an "open letter on life" in which he stated his support for the ban, saying he expects the Republican-controlled Legislature to pass such a bill.

Mr. Walker, a likely presidential candidate, also says he supports a federal ban.

Putting a ban on abortions after 20 weeks is based on the assertion that fetuses are capable of feeling pain at that point.

Opponents of the ban say such claims are disputed in medical research, while supporters say there is evidence that by 20-weeks gestation, fetuses react to pain stimuli.

The U.S. Supreme Court's landmark 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade allowed states to limit abortions in cases where there's a viable chance the fetus could survive outside of the womb, generally considered to be between 22 and 24 weeks.

Comment: This guy is definitely proving his "worth" to the pathological elite in the US. A woman's right to choose has been a fundamental right for over 40 years, and if the elites have their way, that right along with many others will be taken away as soon as possible. No wonder he is a presidential candidate. He's doing all he can to appeal to them.

Italy threatens military intervention in Libya

Four years after an international coalition intervened to force the overthrow of Libya's long-time ruler Muammar Gaddafi, Italy's government is pressing for a new military intervention.

This is being sold to the public based on the rising influence of Islamist militias, which are supposedly also threatening Italy. In reality, the drive to intervention is being driven by major Italian oil and business interests in the North African country, where Italy has a long and bloody colonial history. The sabre-rattling over Libya also serves to divert attention from the growing domestic social and political tensions.

Defence Minister Roberta Pinnotti declared on 15 February that a military mission in Libya was "urgently required." Italy was prepared to lead a coalition of European and North African states, and send 5,000 soldiers to Libya, she told the newspaper.

The statement came a day after Italy had ordered the withdrawal of all diplomatic personnel from Libya. Diplomats and business people from Britain, the United States and other Western countries had already left Tripoli.

Foreign Minister Paolo Gentiloni confirmed three days later that it was time for a "robust response" in Libya. "We are dealing with a country that has a large territory, and whose institutions have failed. This has potentially grave consequences." In parliament on Friday, Gentiloni reaffirmed Italy's readiness to intervene militarily in Libya.

Italian warships have been patrolling the Libyan coastline since Monday. Officially, the operation "Open Sea" has been declared an exercise. The commanding admiral, Pierpaolo Ribuffo, stated that there was no direct connection to the Libya crisis, but added, "Obviously the presence of ships at sea also means security, deterrence and dissuasion."

By contrast, the Italian press is reporting, based on information from defence experts, that warships are ready to intervene in an emergency and secure the offshore oil installations of the Italian oil concern ENI.

The media are daily invoking the spectre of an attack by Islamic State (IS) on Italy. Last year, a branch of IS proclaimed a caliphate in the Libyan coastal town of Darna on the Egyptian border. Darna is located, as the Italian media continually repeats, just 850 kilometres from Italy. According to reports, the militia in Darna consists of 800 fighters, of whom 300 had previously fought in Syria against the Assad regime. The Egyptian air force bombed the town on February 15, following the beheading of 21 Coptic Christians. The Islamist militia has subsequently reportedly withdrawn from Darna.

On Saturday, the Italian media seized on a 64-page document that is circulating in Italian on the Internet calling on Muslims to aid the Caliphate by conquering Rome and Constantinople.

The growth of Islamist militias in Libya is the direct result of the imperialist intervention four years ago. Darna is in the Bengasi region, where the Western-financed uprising against Gaddafi began early in 2011. To overthrow the long-time ruler, the United States, France, Britain and their allies not only provided the rebels with air support, they also armed and financed them, including the Islamist militias. Italy made available its military bases in Sicily and participated in many bombing raids during the war.

Italian colonial rule

This was how Italy marked the 100th anniversary of its colonial rule over the country. In 1911, Italian troops invaded then Cyrenaica and Tripolitania, turning these regions into Italian colonies. But during the First World War, Italy lost most of its control again.

The fascist leader Mussolini conquered the colony once again and expanded it to include all of present-day Libya. More than 100,000 Libyans were killed at the time through hunger, terror, pogroms, kidnappings and poison gas attacks. Throughout the whole of North Africa, 500,000 fell victim to imperialist aggression, which was only concluded with Italy's defeat in 1943.

When oil was discovered in Libya following the Second World War, Italy's Agip oil concern, a predecessor to and now part of ENI, led the way and secured production rights in 1959. Libya possesses the largest proven oil reserves in Africa, and for more than 60 years, since the founding of ENI, Italy has led the way in exploiting these resources.

The nationalisations under Gaddafi, who came to power in 1969 at the head of an army officers' coup that overthrew the British-installed King Idris, interrupted this bonanza temporarily. But from 2008, the Berlusconi government was able to form close ties with the Gaddafi clan, and the Libyan leader invested his money not only in ENI, but also in arms concern Finmeccanica, Juventus football club and numerous other Italian firms. Until 2011, when Gaddafi was overthrown and the country fell into conflicts between rival militias, Italy produced 300,000 barrels of oil and gas daily.

Italy took part in the NATO war against Gaddafi so as to defend its interests, including its production and processing facilities, under the new setup. Italy sought quickly to establish relations with the transitional council in Benghazi. ENI was the first company to resume and expand its production in Libya, and Italy was soon obtaining 15 percent of its oil and gas demand from GreenStream, the 516-kilometre-long pipeline from the Libyan town of Mellitah to Sicily. Contracts with the Libyan government are to guarantee these projects until 2047.

All this has now been called into question with the new civil war. Oil production has practically come to a halt. On February 15, Italy pulled out the employees of a number of Italian subsidiaries, mainly of ENI, along with its diplomats.

The Renzi government

Along with Italy's imperialist interests, the internal political crisis is also driving the preparations for war in Libya. Militarism, terror and anti-immigrant chauvinism are designed to divert attention from mounting social tensions.

Since Matteo Renzi took over as premier at the age of 39 a year ago, he has pushed forward attacks on social rights and deregulation of the labour market. The country has debts of more than €2 trillion (135 percent of GDP) and has been in recession for years with terrible consequences. Fully 28 percent of the population are at risk of poverty, and in the south it is even higher, at 46 percent.

To maintain control over the opposition to his austerity agenda, Renzi has manoeuvred between different sections of the bourgeoisie to win them over to his goals. To begin with, he was raised to power by the trade unions and the SEL (Left, Ecology, Freedom) party of Nichi Vendola. Once in office, he maintained the coalition of his predecessor, Enrico Letta, with the New Centre Right (NCD) of Angelino Alfano, which had split from Silvio Berlusconi's party.

In order to pass the Jobs Act labour market reform, constitutional amendments and electoral reforms through parliament, Renzi concluded the so-called Nazerener pact (named after the address of Renzi's Democratic Party on Largo Nazereno) with Berlusconi. The pact held until the end of January 2015, when Renzi enforced the naming of former judge and Christian Democrat Sergio Mattarella as president against Berlusconi's opposition.

Renzi's political manoeuvres have produced sharp political tensions. Many politicians have reached the end of their nerves. On February 13, after strong verbal exchanges in parliament, a brawl broke out between SEL and Democratic Party deputies, slightly injuring two SEL parliamentarians. The SEL felt angered because the government, without acknowledging the demands of the opposition, forced the constitutional and electoral reforms through parliament in a marathon overnight session.

After the brawl, all opposition parties left parliament and boycotted the vote on the constitutional reforms, which the government's deputies passed by 309 votes to 2 in front of half-empty benches. Along with the extreme right-wing Lega Nord, Berlusconi's Forza Italia, the neofascist Fratelli, D'Italia and Beppe Grillo's Five Star Movement, SEL held a press conference in which it condemned the government.

The SEL is once again fully behind the government with its war preparations against Libya. It has justified this by pointing to the supposedly growing Islamist danger. Nichi Vendola declared that the time had come when a big country like Italy could influence Europe and play a role. "The fight to defeat ISIS and the insane proposal for a caliphate" was an enormous obligation and would take several years.

SEL collaborates closely with Syriza and Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras. In May 2014, they ran in the European elections as the Tsipras List.

Both SEL and Renzi are seeking international backing for an Italian military intervention in Libya by pressing for a UN mandate and the broadest possible coalition. As Renzi declared on television on February 18, the UN has to make sure that "all players, the local tribes, the members of the African Union and the Arab and European countries" would be integrated into such an intervention.

The war preparations are accompanied by an ever-sharpening wave of anti-immigrant propaganda. Thousands of desperate people are arriving in Italian ports, fleeing from war, terror and extreme poverty produced by imperialist interventions in the Middle East and North Africa. Now, the government is attempting to connect these immigrants with the infiltration of terrorists.

The extreme right profits

The coming together of SEL and the government, and the anti-immigrant propaganda is giving encouragement to the far right.

On Saturday, tens of thousands of people participated from across Italy in a major rally in Rome, called by the Lega Nord, but which also included openly fascist forces like Fratelli D'Italia and CasaPound.

The Lega Nord, which initially emerged with its calls for the separation of Italy's richer northern regions, has been trying to portray itself as a national party since the leadership was taken over by 42-year-old Matteo Salvini. Their model is the French National Front under Marine Le Pen.

The rally took place under the slogan "Send Renzi home." Salvini denounced the prime minister as a "stupid slave of the EU" and a friend of big capital, while he posed as the advocate of small and medium-sized businesses. He attacked the euro, Brussels and German chancellor Angela Merkel, and defamed immigrants as "insects."

Marine Le Pen spoke by video link to the demonstrators in Rome. A message of greeting was also read out from Hans-Christian Strache, head of the extreme right-wing Austrian Freedom Party (FPÖ). In the polls, the Lega Nord is currently at 15 percent, ahead of Berlusconi's Forza Italia. At the last election in 2013, it obtained just 4 percent.

Seven tips for survival learned from the Walking Dead

The is one of the most popular post-apocalyptic shows ever seen on television, and while the gripping story focuses on the characters and their travels through the ruined world, there are some lessons to be learned by us along the way.

Sure, not everything the characters do is spot-on correct for survival, and honestly much of what they do is the opposite of what you should do in a survival situation, but even bad actions can be learned from, just never repeated. We've rounded up seven lessons to be learned for survival from watching the and listed them below. The show does a great job at showing us what average people will do in an EOTWAWKI situation, and thanks to their many mistakes, we can learn and be better.

1. Beware of Other Survivors, No Matter How Nice They Seem


If there's one thing this show has taught us, it's that you need to be just as scared of your fellow survivors as you are the enemy. While someone might seem nice, they could easily be playing you for a chump so they can steal your supplies or just so they can do you harm.

The Governor seemed like a really nice guy and we saw how that turned out. The same goes for countless others in the show that lead people on just to take advantage of them later. Don't even get us started on the "people" at Terminus. Remember, if it looks too good to be true, it probably is.

2. A Secure Location is Great, But Never Perfect


This is best shown with the example of the jail in seasons 3 and 4, but can be applied to just about any refuge taken in the show. It doesn't matter how secure you think your location is, something can always happen to make you have to bug out.

Keep your eyes open and no matter how safe you feel, always have a plan to get out quickly and to meet up after you bug out. As we saw in season 4 when the survivors were pushed from the prison, not having a plan to meet up after an emergency can leave your fellow survivors scattered to the wind and in constant danger.

3. Someone Always Has a Bigger Gun


It doesn't matter how big your gun is, or how many guns you have, there will always be someone out there with something bigger. Don't rely on the size of your guns or the amount of ammo you have to protect yourself.

Learn how to survive and make sure you have other methods of defending your camp that aren't guns. If you think you'll be safe because you have the biggest guns, you're destined to fall. Just look at The Governor and his tank for a great example.

4. Basic Survival Skills Will Save Your Life


When it's all said and done, at the end of the day it's basic survival skills that will keep you alive. All the guns and gadgets in the world won't replace the basic skills like building a fire, tracking prey, and building snares. At the core of most episodes is the innate skills of the survivors.

Finding water, catching dinner, and setting up a safe camp are all core necessities to keep the survivors in the alive. Without these, they'd be zombie bait pretty quickly.

5. "Zombies" are Everywhere


While the chances or real zombies being everywhere is pretty low, in a survival situation you'll have to deal with a different sort of walking dead. While you might be prepared for most of what the world might throw at you when the SHTF, most people out there won't have the slightest bit of preparation ready.

These people could be considered zombies, since they will be wondering around, ready to pounce on anyone who is prepared and take what they want. While you probably won't find one that wants to munch on your brains, most of these real-life zombies will want to take everything you have.

6. Learn Weapons Other Than Guns


Guns are pretty useful tools. While you'd rather not think about having to use one against another person, especially when a major disaster may have wiped many people out already, sometimes it's a necessary evil. If things have gotten so bad that there isn't any real law enforcement, your gun might be the only thing standing between survival and death.

This doesn't mean it will be useful forever. Ammo manufacturers are not likely to be pumping out rounds to buy at your local gun shop in a major survival situation, and finding a gunsmith to fix a majorly broken firearm will be nearly impossible.

Learn how to use and fight with weapons that aren't guns. This includes knives, bows, and heck, even a samurai sword if that's your thing. Don't just carry these, learn how to use them and use them well. You'll be glad you did when things go bad.

7. Always Have Your Bug Out Bag Ready


The last tip is very much a summary of all the tips above. The basic idea here is that you never know when things will go bad. It doesn't matter if you're behind walls of wire and cement, it doesn't matter if you have a cache of rifles and handguns, and it doesn't matter if you have the best-trained group out there. Things can go bad quickly and easily get away from you.

Always keep your bug out bag handy with all the supplies you need to get out of dodge quickly. Whether it's a tank rolling over the fences surrounding your compound, or some "zombies" overtaking your camp, being able to pick up and run at a moment's notice is vital to your survival. Keep this in mind and you'll be far more likely to escape the hordes and make it to another season.

New study shows salt boosts immune response

© Thebubbleblog.com


The dietary tides are once again turning for salt.

You may remember a landmark study in 2011 that showed that contrary to what the medical community espoused for years - salt actually lengthens your life; it doesn't cut your life or raise the risk of hypertension. That study found that people actually lived longer if they consumed salt. Notably, they were not studying pink Himalayan salt, but regular old, processed table salt.

Additionally, a Cochrane study confirmed that salt did not cause heart or blood pressure problems and that reducing the substance offered no reduction of heart risks.

Some people are consuming salt in their water to help with adrenal function and hydrate better in the summer heat.

Now researchers, in a study published by Cell Press March 3rd in reveals that dietary salt could have a biological advantage: defending the body against invading microbes.

Study author Jonathan Jantsch, a microbiologist at Universitätsklinikum Regensburg and Universität Regensburg said:

Up to now, salt has been regarded as a detrimental dietary factor; it is clearly known to be detrimental for cardiovascular diseases, and recent studies have implicated a role in worsening autoimmune diseases.

Our current study challenges this one-sided view and suggests that increasing salt accumulation at the site of infections might be an ancient strategy to ward off infections, long before antibiotics were invented.

A press release goes on to say:

A high-salt diet increased sodium accumulation in the skin of mice, thereby boosting their immune response to a skin-infecting parasite. The findings suggest that dietary salt could have therapeutic potential to promote host defense against microbial infections.

Senior study author Jens Titze adds:

Despite the overwhelming evidence linking dietary salt to disease in humans, the potential evolutionary advantage of storing so much salt in the body has not been clear.

They first curiously teamed up to study this idea when they noticed that some wounded cage mice had unusually high amounts of salt accumulated at the infected wound sites.

They found that infected areas in patients with bacterial skin infections also showed remarkably high salt accumulation. Moreover, experiments in mice showed that a high-salt diet boosted the activity of immune cells called macrophages, thereby promoting the healing of feet that were infected with a protozoan parasite called Leishmania major.

This writer has to laugh upon realizing that the aim for future similar studies is to create drugs that modify salt metabolism to protect against disease. Yet, the whole idea behind demonizing salt all those decades was to offer salvation blood pressure drugs.

As always, they must offer a caveat, as one does not flippantly violate one of the biggest medically dogmatic tenants of the last century.

Jantsch says:

Due to the overwhelming clinical studies demonstrating that high dietary salt is detrimental to hypertension and cardiovascular diseases, we feel that at present our data does not justify recommendations on high dietary salt in the general population.

Nevertheless, in situations where endogenous accumulation of salt to sites of infection is insufficient, supplementation of salt might be a therapeutic option. But this needs to be addressed in further studies.

Could these findings mean that various kinds of salt baths could offer protection too? Jantsch says, "We also think that local application of high-salt-containing wound dressings and the development of other salt-boosting antimicrobial therapies might bear therapeutic potential." The benefits of the Dead Sea rings a bell.

Deputy of European Parliament from Latvia denied permission into Russia

Sandra Kalniete

© AP Photo Archive/LUXPRESS/Jean-Claude Ernst

Sandra Kalniete (right).

Sandra Kalniete — deputy of the European Parliament from Latvia, who arrived in Russia to attend the funeral of Boris Nemtsov, has not been admitted into Russia because of her "anti-Russian activities and in retaliation for sanctions taken by the European Union against a number of Russian officials," spokesman for the Russian Foreign Ministry Alexander Lukashevich said on Tuesday.

"The Latvian side had been warned about the Russian act beforehand," the spokesman said.

"The reason of the arrival of the above-mentioned deputy of the European parliament was no other than provocation," Lukashevich said.

Sandra Kalniete arrived in Moscow late on March 2 to attend the funeral of Boris Nemtsov. She was detained at Sheremetyevo airport in Moscow, where her passport was taken away for checks. Afterwards, she was informed that she was denied permission to visit Russia.

Norway's Nobel Peace Prize Committee replaces Jagland

Thorbjoern Jagland

© AP

Thorbjoern Jagland, former chair of The Norwegian Nobel Committee, arrives at the Nobel institute in Oslo, Tuesday, March 3, 2015.

The Nobel Peace Prize awarding Norwegian Nobel Committee on Tuesday elected a new chairman to replace Thorbjoern Jagland, whose six-year tenure has been lined with controversies.

Jagland will remain a member of the voting panel but was a contentious leader, attracting criticism for his dual role as committee chairman and head of the European Council when the prize was awarded to the European Union in 2012. His leadership also was clouded by the decision to give the prize to Barack Obama in 2009 after he had just been elected president, and the 2010 prize to the jailed dissident Liu Xiabo drew fury from China.

The former labor politician was replaced by the panel's deputy chairman, Kaci Kullmann Five, a former conservative party leader. She denied that Jagland's ousting had anything to do with pressure from China, which froze diplomatic ties to Norway after the 2010 award.

The composition of the committee reflects the power structure in Norway's Parliament which appoints the members. The leadership change follows 2013 parliamentary elections that brought the Conservatives into power after years of Labor Party rule.

Tuesday's panel meeting also reviewed the candidates for this year's prize after nominations closed at the beginning of February. The committee said they numbered 276 — two less than last year's record — with 49 nominations for organizations and 227 for people.

The Norwegian Nobel Institute keeps the names of nominees locked up for 50 years, but lawmakers and members of peace organizations who are qualified to name candidates can reveal their choices independently.

Nominees mentioned include Saudi blogger Raif Bedawi, jailed for 10 years and sentenced to 1,000 lashes for insulting Islam and Flemming Rose, an editor at Danish broadsheet daily Jyllands-Posten, which published cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad in 2005-2006.

Former U.S. National Security Agency contractor turned fugitive, Edward Snowden, and Pope Francis have been nominated for the second year in a row.

Other candidates include the often-nominated Congolese doctor Denis Mukwege, a group committed to Japan retaining its pacifist constitution and Egypt's Maggie Gobran, a Coptic Christian who works in the slums of Cairo.

Petition against mandatory vaccination reaches over 100,000 signatures. Will the White House respond?

vaccine petition

The petition up on WhiteHouse.gov against mandatory vaccinations — the one the White House tried to bury — has, at the time of writing this, reached well over the 100,000 signatures needed by March 6th in order to supposedly garner a response from our president's administration.

The petition is short, sweet, and to the point:

No human being should be FORCED to be vaccinated against their will and/or personal/religious beliefs. I petition against making vaccinations of any kind mandatory. This includes forcing children to be vaccinated to attend public schools, activities, and daycare centers. This also includes adults working in the public or private sector.

The fact that this even has to be petitioned in the first place, however — that the people so fear their government would take away their basic sense of medical freedom — is a sure sign of tyranny.

According to the WhiteHouse.gov site, "A minimum number of signatures is necessary in a given amount of time in order for the petition to be reviewed by the White House, distributed to the appropriate policy officials within the Administration and receive an official response." At the time of writing this, the petition currently has 102,206 signatures and counting with three days left to go to accrue even more. Sign it if you haven't. Why not.

The real question is, do you think they will officially respond?

If so, what will that response be?

This government is so tyrannical... If this country was still the America founded on the Constitution and Bill of Rights and not a plasticine front for megacorporations like those scurrying under the banner of Big Pharma, it would be ashamed to even have to answer to such a charge of forcing its population to be shot up with unproven chemical cocktails.

Considering that, in the wake of the propagandized measles hysteria, states all across the country including Texas are introducing bills to take away people's right to object to vaccines on any grounds, we have definitely long ago passed the mark founding father Benjamin Rush warned about if medical freedom was not included in the Constitution like religious freedom was.

"The Constitution of this Republic should make special provision for medical freedom. To restrict the art of healing to one class will constitute the Bastille of medical science. All such laws are un-American and despotic. ... Unless we put medical freedom into the constitution the time will come when medicine will organize into an undercover dictatorship and force people who wish doctors and treatment of their own choice to submit to only what the dictating outfit offers."

Netanyahu speech protest: Is public opinion regarding Israel changing?

netanyahu protest

© ANSWER Coalition/Phil Portluck

Outside, in the streets surrounding the U.S. Congress, a strong, spirited crowd of demonstrators denounced Benjamin Netanyahu for committing war crimes against the Palestinian people and for attempting to whip up a war fever against Iran. We were met by police lines and cops who grabbed and shoved people as they attempted to exercise their Constitutional right to protest at Congress.

Inside, from within the hallowed halls, Netanyahu was given a boisterous two-minute-long standing ovation by the millionaire politicians in Congress.

The irony of what happened today speaks volumes about the nature of democracy in this country.

Netanyahu was treated as a visiting hero in that cesspool of corruption that he labeled "the greatest legislative body" on earth. These bought-and-paid-for politicians genuflected and congratulated his every platitude.

The timid, mild voices of criticism from the Obama White House and its supporters in Congress for Netanyahu's and Boehner's "violation of protocol" were drowned out in ovation after ovation.

The only place where the actual voice of the American people could be heard was in the streets.

More than 63 percent of the people thought Netanyahu's speech should have been cancelled. There is a sea change happening inside of U.S. public opinion, which is increasingly opposed to U.S. support for every Israeli aggression. This dramatic shift in public opinion is also registering very profoundly among Jewish-Americans, who are increasingly outspoken in opposition to Israeli policies.

Thirteen years ago, 100,000 people protested in Washington, D.C., in support of Palestine when the Israeli Defense Forces reinvaded the West Bank. That massive demonstration against Israel was the first of that magnitude. Since then, this new movement has broadened, widened and extended its influence.

Instead of supporting Israel there developed mass demonstrations inside the United States when Israel went to war against Lebanon in 2006, invaded Gaza in 2008, bombed Gaza in 2012, and launched its massive slaughter in Gaza last summer.

Public opinion about Israel is changing irreversibly inside the United States. The negative impression of Israel will grow because of Netanyahu's arrogant speech today. The fawning opportunists in Congress don't reflect the views of the people. Netanyahu's gross performance before Congress today will be remembered at best as an ephemeral triumph for his electoral effort back home. But its lasting significance is that it will further erode support for the Israeli government among an ever-larger segment of the U.S. public that is learning year by year and day by day that the Israeli government more resembles the old South African apartheid regime rather than the idyllic picture that is spoon-fed to the people by the corporate-owned media.

We will continue to organize, mobilize and counter the lies of the Israeli propaganda machine and the U.S. mainstream media, which works as an echo chamber for its falsehoods and lies.

NSA headquarters damaged by multiple gunshots

© Reuters / NSA / Handout via Reuters

National Security Agency (NSA) headquarters building in Fort Meade, Maryland.

Multiple gunshots reportedly struck a National Security Agency office building in Fort Meade, Maryland, where the department's headquarters are located, according to local law enforcement officials.

No injuries have been reported at the scene, though the NSA told that one of its buildings was damaged by "what appear to be" several gunshots. Law enforcement officials are investigating the situation, but US Park Police say they don't know who may have fired the shots.

According to the , US Park Police spokesperson Alicia Woods said the NSA "found evidence of multiple shots hitting a wall of a building."

Police are also looking into reports of several gunshots being fired along the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and Route 32, which is located near the NSA. No injuries have been reported from that incident, and officials are trying to determine if the two events are related.

About two hours before the incident near the NSA was came to light, gunshots were reported at the Maryland Intercounty Connector, about 12 miles away from the NSA campus. Two people suffered minor injuries during this shooting, though they have been hospitalized and were not actually hit by bullets.

Nuland in Azerbaijan: Another destabilization attempt planned on Russia's southern border?

Nuland in Azerbaijan

What is Nuland up to in Azerbaijan?

The US' Assistant Secretary of State for European and Eurasian Affairs, Victoria Nuland, visited Baku on 16 February as part of her trip to the Caucasus, which also saw her paying stops in Georgia and Armenia. While Azerbaijan has had positive relations with the US since independence, they've lately been complicated by Washington's 'pro-democracy' rhetoric and subversive actions in the country. Nuland's visit, despite her warm words of friendship, must be look at with maximum suspicion, since it's not known what larger ulterior motives she represents on behalf of the US government.

A Bad Omen

Nuland is most infamously known for her "Fuck the EU!" comment that was uncovered during a secretly recorded conversation with the American Ambassador in Ukraine, Geoffrey Pyatt. The two were conspiring to build a new Ukrainian government even before democratically elected (but unpopular and corrupt) president Viktor Yanukovich was overthrown by the US-supported EuroMaidan coup. Nuland played a direct role in events, not only behind the scenes, but also on the streets, since she proudly handed out cookies and other foodstuffs to the 'protesters' that would violently seize power just over two months later. Her role in the Ukrainian events forever marks her as an agent for US-supported regime change in the former Soviet sphere, and her visit anywhere in that space should be seen as the bad omen that it is.

Like Husband, Like Wife

Normally an individual's personal life doesn't have any bearing on their professional one, but in the case of Nuland, it's the opposite because her husband is the leading neo-conservative thinker Robert Kagan. He and his ilk are known for their expertise in exploiting foreign geography to maximize US power, regardless of the regional cost. Also, he previously referred to Azerbaijan in 2006 as a "dictatorship" and said the US will "pay the price" for dealing with it when responding to a user-submitted Q&A session with the Financial Times:

"During the Cold War, both Europeans and Americans had to compromise with dictators around the world in order to weaken the Soviet Union and communism. What would be, in your view Mr Kagan, the new sort of compromises that the US government is willing to make to defeat terrorism?

Corneliu, Bucharest

Robert Kagan: Clearly we are making such kinds of compromises all over the place in the war on terrorism, although I must say I doubt they are proving very useful.

We are turning a mostly blind eye to the Mubarak dictatorship in Egypt, despite much rhetoric to the contrary, as well in Saudi Arabia. We have been forgiving of the dictatorships in Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan. Nor have we been very critical of the Putin dictatorship in Russia, no matter how many people he assassinates.

This is all largely in the service of the war on terror. During the Cold War I actually believed that we wrong to support so many dictators, for it often did not help but hurt in the struggle against communism, in addition to being a violation of the principles we were struggling to defend.

I am equally unpersuaded today that our support for these dictatorships will help us fight terrorism, and once again we pay the price of moral and ideological inconsistency."

Given the ideological context in which Nuland likely sees eye-to-eye on with her husband, plus her experience in instigating the Color Revolution in Ukraine, it is not likely that she came to Baku with positive intentions, or even with a positive image of the country in her mind. This is all the more so due to the recent scandal over Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty.

Foreign Agent, Domestic Punishment

The US-government-sponsored information agency was closed down at the end of December under accusations that it was operating as a foreign agent. While the US has harshly chided the Azeri government for this, at the end of the day, it remains the country's sovereign decision and right to handle suspected foreign agents as it sees fit. Azerbaijan's law is similar to Russia's, in that entities receiving foreign funds must register as foreign agents, and interestingly enough, both of these laws parallel the US' own 1938 Foreign Agents Registration Act (FARA).

So why does the US feel that it reserves the sole right to register foreign agents and entities, and if need be, identify and punish those that are acting in the country illegally, but Azerbaijan is deprived of this exercise of sovereignty? The reason is rather simple, actually - it's the US that is the most likely to use these foreign agents to destabilize and potentially overthrow governments (as in Ukraine most recently), whereas Azeri agents in America, should they even exist, are nothing more than an administrative nuisance incapable of inflicting any real harm on the authorities. This double standard is at the core of the US' relations with all countries in the world, not just Azerbaijan, but it's a telling example of the power and leverage Washington attempts to hold over Baku, which is seen most visibly by the blistering criticism leveled on the government after Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty's closing in compliance with the law.

Duplicitous Games

Even more concerning for Azerbaijan isn't the seditious game that the US and Nuland might be playing within the country, but the geopolitical one that they might be playing next door with Armenia. Although Washington says that it values Baku as a strategic and pragmatic partner, one needs to wonder to extent a prosperous, neutral Azerbaijan is more important to the US than a destabilized one that could be used as a weapon against Russia. To put everything into context, take a look at the threat that then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton issued towards Russia and the Eurasian Union back in December 2012:

"There is a move to re-Sovietise the region, It's not going to be called that. It's going to be called a customs union, it will be called Eurasian Union and all of that, but let's make no mistake about it. We know what the goal is and we are trying to figure out effective ways to slow down or prevent it."

One year later, Ukraine, which could have been of immense value to the US and its geostrategy as a neutral, stable state, was in the middle of the US-supported EuroMaidan Color Revolution, showing that Washington will go to great and dramatic lengths to sacrifice its pragmatic interests for the sake of destabilizing Russia. So the question is, could the US also do the same in the Caucasus in order to simultaneously destabilize Russia from the southern flank while it's distracted in dealing with Ukraine?

In Armenia Against Azerbaijan, The US Always Wins

Armenia is arguably the weakest member of the Eurasian Union, and is thus the most prime for any external destabilization attempt. As the world has seen, the US will even go as far as instigating a war on Russia's borders (the Ukrainian Civil War) just to hamper its regional integration efforts in the west. Could it also try to instigate a new war in Nagorno-Karabakh, too, in order to facilitate this goal in the south? Azerbaijan doesn't know what matters Nuland discussed with Armenia behind closed doors, nor what convincing promises or irresistible threats she may have given Yerevan. The authorities can no longer be assured that Azerbaijan's enormous energy reserves guarantee it a safe place in the US' regional vision, especially considering the caustic language the US has used since the closing of Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. If America is successful in instigating a continuation war between Armenia and Azerbaijan over Nagorno-Karabakh, neither of the two states would emerge as the strategic victor, since it's the US that would ultimately triumph because it would have succeeded in destabilizing Russia at the entire Caucasus' expense.

Walking A Tightrope

Given the fact that Azerbaijan can no longer trust the US to not conspire against its internal or external affairs, it is necessary for the country to tweak its foreign policy in order to best safeguard its interests. This means that although Baku cannot outright reject Washington or forget the two-decades-long history of fruitful cooperation with it (nor should it), it must pragmatically reorient its policies to adapt to multipolarity. By this, it is meant that Azerbaijan should look to diversify its partners and foreign policy dealings, namely, in the direction of Russia and Iran, the two neighborly countries that would support its leadership against any US-inspired plot against it.

Although there are certainly challenges existing in bilateral relations with Iran, this doesn't mean that they can't be overcome in the interests of preserving Azerbaijan's prosperity and protecting the country's overall population from any unwanted trans-Atlantic tinkering that could endanger it. Despite the fact that the US is most definitely interested in seeing Azeri energy power the EU, it is not yet known whether this objective of EU energy diversification is more important than the one of Russian destabilization. Under such circumstances, Azerbaijan must carefully walk a tightrope between the West (US/EU) on one hand, and the East (Russia/Iran) on the other, and if it is successful in delicately balancing between both worlds, then it can pivotally reap the resultant benefits thereof and propel its global prominence.

Non-drug approaches to caring for dementia patients work better, carry far fewer risks


© Unknown

Doctors write millions of prescriptions a year for drugs to calm the behavior of people with Alzheimer's disease and other types of dementia. But non-drug approaches actually work better, and carry far fewer risks, experts conclude in a new report.

In fact, non-drug approaches should be the first choice for treating dementia patients' common symptoms such as irritability, agitation, depression, anxiety, sleep problems, aggression, apathy and delusions, say the researchers in a paper just published by the .

The best evidence among non-drug approaches is for those that focus on training caregivers -- whether they are spouses, adult children or staff in nursing homes and assisted living facilities -- to make behavioral and environmental interventions.

The researchers, from the University of Michigan Medical School and Johns Hopkins University, reviewed two decades' worth of research to reach their conclusions about drugs like antipsychotics and antidepressants, and non-drug approaches that help caregivers address behavioral issues in dementia patients.

They lay out their findings along with a framework that doctors and caregivers can use to make the most of what's already known. Called DICE for Describe, Investigate, Evaluate, and Create, the framework tailors approaches to each person with dementia, and as symptoms change.

"The evidence for non-pharmaceutical approaches to the behavior problems often seen in dementia is better than the evidence for antipsychotics, and far better than for other classes of medication," says first author Helen C. Kales, M.D., head of the U-M Program for Positive Aging at the University of Michigan Health System and investigator at the VA Center for Clinical Management Research. "The issue and the challenge is that our health care system has not incentivized training in alternatives to drug use, and there is little to no reimbursement for caregiver-based methods."

Coincidentally, a new U.S. Government Accountability Office report published the same day as the paper addresses the issue of overuse of antipsychotic medication for the behavior problems often seen in dementia. It finds that one-third of older adults with dementia who had long-term nursing home stays in 2012 were prescribed an antipsychotic medication -- and that about 14 percent of those outside nursing homes were prescribed an antipsychotic that same year.

The GAO calls on the federal government to work to reduce use of these drugs further than it's already doing, by addressing use in dementia patients outside nursing homes.

Kales, however, cautions that penalizing doctors for prescribing antipsychotic drugs to these patients could backfire, if caregiver-based non-drug approaches aren't encouraged.

She and her colleagues from Johns Hopkins, Laura N. Gitlin PhD and Constantine Lyketsos MD, note in their paper that "there needs to be a shift of resources from paying for psychoactive drugs and emergency room and hospital stays to adopting a more proactive approach."

But they also write, "drugs still have their place, especially for the management of acute situations where the safety of the person with dementia or family caregiver may be at risk." For instance, antidepressants make sense for dementia patients with severe depression, and antipsychotic drugs should be used when patients have psychosis or aggression that could lead them to harm themselves or others. But these uses should be closely monitored and ended as soon as possible.

The authors lay out five non-pharmacologic categories to start with based on their review of the medical evidence. These approaches have been shown to help reduce behavior issues: - Providing education for the caregiver - Enhancing effective communication between the caregiver and the person with dementia - Creating meaningful activities for the person with dementia - Simplifying tasks and establishing structured routines - Ensuring safety and simplifying and enhancing the environment around the patient, whether in the home or the nursing/assisted living setting

They also note that many "hidden" medical issues in dementia patients -- such as urinary tract infection and other infections, constipation, dehydration and pain -- can lead to behavioral issues, as can drug interactions. So physicians should look to assess and address these wherever possible.

Kales, Gitlin and Lyketsos are working with the U-M Center for Health Communications Research to launch a National Institute of Nursing Research-sponsored clinical trial this spring that will test the DICE approach through a computer based tool for caregivers called the WeCareAdvisor. The tool will help families identify tips and resources in a single computer interface to address behavioral symptoms. The tips are designed to prevent or mitigate possible triggers for common behavioral symptoms such as pacing, repetitive questioning, restlessness, or shadowing. .

For instance, de-cluttering the environment, using music or simple activities that help to engage a person with dementia , or using a calm voice instead of being confrontational, could help greatly to reduce behavioral symptoms, Kales says. And making sure that caregivers get breaks from their responsibilities and take care of themselves, especially in the home, can help them avoid burnout and taking their frustration out on patients.

"Behavior-based strategies may take longer than prescriptions," acknowledges Kales, a member of the U-M Institute for Healthcare Policy and Innovation. "But if you teach people the principles behind DICE, the approach becomes more natural and part of one's routine. It can be very empowering for caregivers or nursing home staff."

More research on both new drug options and the best ways to assess and address behavioral symptoms is needed, the authors conclude. But in the meantime, the evidence to date comes down in favor of non-drug approaches in most cases.

The components of the DICE approach are:

- D: Describe -- Asking the caregiver, and the person with dementia if possible, to describe the "who, what, when and where" of situations where problem behaviors occur and the physical and social context for them. Caregivers could take notes about the situations that led to behavior issues, to share with health professionals during visits.

- I: Investigate -- Having the health provider look into all the aspects of the person's health, dementia symptoms, current medications and sleep habits, that might be combining with physical, social and caregiver-related factors to produce the behavior.

- C: Create -- Working together, the patient's caregiver and health providers develop a plan to prevent and respond to behavioral issues in the person with dementia, including everything from enhancing the patient's activities and environment, to educating and supporting the caregiver.

- E: Evaluate -- Giving the provider responsibility for assessing how well the plan is being followed and how it's working, or what might need to be changed.

New research validates chronic fatigue sufferers

© Jae S. Lee / The Tennessean

Esther Siebert, who has chronic fatigue syndrome, moved to Nashville from California a year ago. She still travels back to California for treatment, having no luck finding an internist locally who can help.

Esther Siebert, 67, has been living with a draining and debilitating disease for nearly 30 years, one that is only just recently being widely recognized as something real. Most commonly called chronic fatigue syndrome, it is a disease many doctors have been unable to diagnose, while many sufferers have been made to feel it was all in their head.

Siebert, who moved to Nashville from California a year ago, was lucky that her condition was recognized very early on by an understanding doctor. That isn't always the case.

"A lot of people are in the closet about it because it has been so ridiculed and maligned and neglected," Siebert says.

But a report released in February proposing a name change and diagnostic criteria, followed just a few weeks later with breaking research that scientists have discovered biomarkers for the disease, could change everything.

Commissioned by the Department of Health and Human Services, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Food and Drug Administration and other health groups, the Institute of Medicine was tasked to examine the evidence base for myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS).

The result is a comprehensive review of all of the literature about the illness available, and in the report, Beyond Myalgic Encephalomyelitis/Chronic Fatigue Syndrome: Redefining an Illness, the IOM committee proposes new criteria that will help diagnosis patients and enhance understanding of what the symptoms are.

"When I was working on this project, and when I told people what I was doing, one of the most common responses I got was, 'Is this even real?' " says Dr. Ellen Wright Clayton of Vanderbilt University, who chaired the committee. "My answer is, 'Yeah, it is really real. People really have this. And it is a diagnosis that needs to be made.' "

According to the report, the disease is characterized by profound fatigue, cognitive dysfunction, sleep abnormalities, autonomic manifestations, pain, and other symptoms that are made worse by exertion of any sort. At least one-quarter of patients are bed- or house-bound at some point in their illness.

"The fatigue really gets in the way of your ability to do all the things you used to do, and it is often profound, severe and long-lasting, going on at least for six months in order to make the diagnosis," Clayton says. "But in many of these patients, it has been going on for years, even decades."

Name change adds legitimacy

The IOM committee has proposed a new name in the hopes of removing some of the stigma associated with ME/CFS and legitimizing the symptoms an estimated 836,000 to 2.5 million Americans are currently living with. The report suggests the name "chronic fatigue syndrome" trivializes the seriousness of the condition as well as the perception of doctors and loved ones who may have brushed it off as something in their head.

"We recommended changing the name for two reasons," Clayton says. "One, the stigma associated with chronic fatigue syndrome is enormous. And two, we think the best possible name is a name that is focused on the symptoms."

The recommendation is to change the name to systemic exertion intolerance disease (SEID), which Clayton says captures a central characteristic of the disease, the fact that exertion of any sort — physical, cognitive or emotional — can adversely affect patients in many organ systems and in many aspects of their lives.

And this isn't the kind of exertion like you would feel after a long day or rigorous hike. Siebert says it is almost like paralysis, and each movement she makes has to be mentally calculated ahead of time. She tells of a time when she was initially bedridden when she would only use her eyes to look at something instead of turning her head, and having to lay on the bathroom floor and try and regain some energy after becoming utterly drained from sitting up to use the restroom.

"The idea of exertion has to be brought down to our level," Siebert says. "I saw an article that talked about minor exertion as going to the grocery store. Going to the grocery store is not a minor exertion for us — being able to stand up while you brush your teeth? That is a victory."

New biomarkers found

The cause of ME/CFS remains unknown, although symptoms are most commonly attributed to being triggered by certain viral infections. Siebert was originally diagnosed with chronic Epstein-Barr Virus, which Clayton says is a major trigger in adolescence.

"Our knowledge of that in this area is really nascent," Clayton says.

Plus, there is no cure for what is affecting Siebert, and treatment, if people are lucky enough to find a doctor with an understanding of the illness, is only to help manage symptoms. That's why Clayton feels the most important part of the report is elaborating the diagnostic criteria.

"There is no question about it — this is the most comprehensive review of the literature that has ever been done, period, on this disorder," Clayton says. "This is something you don't want to have. But, it can be diagnosed and it should be diagnosed and it should be treated. Our major hope is that people will start making this diagnosis, taking these patients seriously, and taking care of them."

Last week's finding of a biological marker distinguishing differences in the immune systems of people with chronic fatigue syndrome and those of healthy people, as well as differences between people who have been sick for less than three years and those who have been sick longer, could eventually lead to a diagnostic test to identify the disease.

Siebert believes the report and research will do more than change the perception of the disease. She hopes it will lead to more funding and research to discover what causes it, how it develops and progresses, and finally develop an effective diagnostic marker and treatment.

"I'm so excited to see this study follow on the heels of the recent Institutes of Medicine report," says Siebert, the day the findings were released. "It's great to have yet another biomedical study confirm that this illness is a real, biological disease. And I hope this study is just the beginning of a massive effort to discover more clinical biomarkers as well as how to prevent, treat and cure this life-devastating disease."

Last year, the National Institute of Health dedicated $5 million to research for chronic fatigue syndrome. By comparison, Fibromyalgia got $11 million, asthma got $207 million, and Alzheimer's got $504 million.

"One of the reasons we don't understand the biology is because there hasn't been the money for the research," Clayton says. "The funding for this disorder is just shameful — $5 million a year for a disease that affects probably millions of people? That is just crazy."

Families struggle

Siebert considers herself one of the lucky ones, having maintained unwavering support from loved ones, both financial and emotional. In July she will be married for 34 years, only five of which she was healthy, and has three supportive grown children who have spent their lives watching their mother suffer.

"This is really a family disease," she says. "Part of the pain of it is how you are unable to take care of your loved ones, especially the children who need help. I was one of the fortunate ones in that my husband didn't leave me and I had income. There are so many patients out there, destitute, unable to even go out and get food. Having family and friends reject them because this illness was seen for so long — until now really — for being all in our heads."

Siebert has a bachelor's degree in journalism and a master's in communications from the University of Chicago. Before becoming sick, she worked in marketing and sold large computer systems to Fortune 500 companies. Yet, at times, she has been made to feel she didn't know her own body.

She spends her time mentally pacing out her days in order to get the simplest tasks done, like taking a shower or tidying up her kitchen. Rest doesn't help restore energy, so it could be days before crossing just those two things off her list.

"I did some advocacy writing yesterday and exhausted myself," she says. "I probably wrote four hours total, spread out throughout the day. Because of that overexertion — which was mainly sitting down at my computer — my brain would not allow me to go to sleep. I woke up and I am aching, my stomach is upset, and I can't function today at all."

And, for now, she still has to travel back to California for treatment, having no luck finding an internist locally who can help.

"We were living with doctors telling us we were crazy, family and friends or doctors telling you there is no such thing, and being sick with this could make you crazy," she says. "It is a gift I can sit up in a recliner a lot of the day without having to lay flat."

Key facts about ME/CFS

- Myalgic encephalomyelitis/chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/ CFS) affects 836,000 to 2.5 million Americans.

- An estimated 84 to 91 percent of people with ME/CFS have not yet been diagnosed.

- ME/CFS affects women more often than men.

- Most patients currently diagnosed with ME/CFS are Caucasian, but some studies suggest that ME/CFS is more common in minority groups.

- The average age of onset is 33, although ME/CFS has been reported in patients younger than age 10 and older than age 70.

Five main symptoms of ME/CFS

1. Reduction or impairment in ability to carry out normal daily activities, accompanied by profound fatigue.

2. Post-exertional malaise (worsening of symptoms after physical, cognitive or emotional effort).

3. Unrefreshing sleep.

4. Cognitive impairment.

5. Orthostatic intolerance (symptoms that worsen when a person stands upright and improve when the person lies back down).

Proposed diagnostic criteria

Diagnosis would require the following three symptoms:

- A substantial reduction or impairment in the ability to engage in pre-illness levels of occupational, educational, social or personal activities, that persists for more than six months and is accompanied by fatigue, which is often profound, is of new or definite onset (not lifelong), is not the result of ongoing excessive exertion, and is not substantially alleviated by rest

- Post exertional malaise

- Unrefreshing sleep

At least one of the two following would also be required:

- Cognitive impairment

- Orthostatic intolerance


Netanyahu's Iranophobic talk to U.S. Congress before election campaign

Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham.

On Tuesday, Iran's Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Marziyeh Afkham called the speech a deceitful show and part of the hardliners' political propaganda in Tel Aviv.

Netanyahu (pictured below during the address) addressed the Congress earlier in the day, calling on the United States not to negotiate "a very bad deal" with Iran over its nuclear energy program. He said, "We've been told for over a year that no deal is better than a bad deal. Well this is a bad deal, a very bad deal. We're better off without it."

Afkham said the address reflected the abject weakness and isolation of radical groups even among the supporters of the Israeli regime and their attempt to impose radical and illogical agendas upon the international politics.

She said "there is no doubt that the international opinion does not consider any value or standing for a child-killing regime" like Israel.

The Iranian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman further called the Israeli premier's recurrent fabrication of lies about the intentions of Iran's peaceful nuclear energy program very platitudinous and tedious.

"With the continuation of [nuclear] talks and Iran's serious will to diffuse the fabricated crisis [over its nuclear energy program], Iranophobic policy has met with serious problems and the founders of such propaganda and the planners of the fake crisis have started struggling."

Iran and the P5+1 group - Russia, China, France, Britain, the US and Germany - are negotiating to narrow their differences over the Islamic Republic's nuclear energy program ahead of a July 1 deadline.

Netanyahu said that it is not true that "the only alternative to this deal is war."

"The alternative to this deal is a much better deal. A better deal that doesn't leave Iran with a vast nuclear infrastructure and such a short breakout point," he added.

He said that the ongoing nuclear negotiations would provide Iran "with a short breakout time for a bomb."

"According to the deal not a single nuclear facility would be demolished," he said.

"So this deal won't change Iran for the better, it will only change the Middle East for the worst," he noted.

Netanyahu had been invited by US House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner hours after President Barack Obama threatened to veto any sanctions legislation against Iran during his State of the Union address on January 20.

Some 60 House Democrats boycotted the event. The Obama administration is both angry at Netanyahu's accepting the Republican invitation to address Congress two weeks before the Israeli election without consulting the White House and excessive Israel Lobby interference in American foreign policy.

Unimpressed Obama

US President Barack Obama said there was "nothing new" in the speech.

He told reporters that Netanyahu "did not offer any viable alternative."

"I am not focused in the politics of this, I am not focused on the theater," Obama said. "As far as I can tell, there was nothing new."

"We don't yet have a deal. But if we are successful, this will be the best deal possible with Iran," the US president said.

Child Protective Services children found in human trafficking sex trade

Child Protective Services agencies are intended to take care of children with nowhere else to go, but corruption has infiltrated the government custodial system - putting kids at great risk.

National Safe Child founder Tammi Stefano takes a look at the problem and reveals cases of CPS children who ended up working in the growing human sex trafficking trade in this short clip from the full length Buzzsaw interview with Sean Stone.

[embedded content]

Tammi Stefano is the Executive Director of The National Safe Child Coalition (NSCC). Tammi has spent over two decades on front lines fighting for child safety. She understands the emotions of being victimized, having survived a kidnapping in her younger years. Determination was the driving force that prompted her to go undercover to catch a pedophile school teacher. Tammi's hands-on advocacy work has drawn comparisons to Erin Brockovich. She brings a background of legal research, training in child sexual abuse, certification as a Supervising Visitation Monitor and years working with parents on their Family Court cases. Having launched Capital Campaigns for Law Enforcement, Fire Organizations and Public Schools, Tammi is eager to launch a campaign to reform a broken system.

Watch the full interview and discussion of child abuse, child endangerment and the corruption in Child Protective Services below.

[embedded content]

Just how Islamic is 'Islamic State'?

ISIS and Qu'ran

© www.commdiginews.com

Islamic State and the Qu'ran - mission or excuse?

IS not only misreads texts, most clerics say, it also ignores Quranic verses requiring mercy, preservation of life and protection of innocents.

Three British schoolgirls believed to have gone to Syria to become "jihadi" brides. Three young men charged in New York with plotting to join the Islamic State group and carry out attacks on American soil. A masked, knife-wielding militant from London who is the face of terror in videos showing Western hostages beheaded.

They are among tens of thousands of Muslims eager to pledge allegiance to the Islamic State group (Daesh). An estimated 20,000 have streamed into the territory in Iraq and Syria where the group has proclaimed what it calls a "caliphate" ruled by its often brutal version of Islamic law.

But how rooted in Islam is the ideology embraced by this group that has inspired so many to fight and die?

President Barack Obama has insisted the militants behind a brutal campaign of beheadings, kidnappings and enslavement are "not Islamic" and only use a veneer of Islam for their own ends. Obama's critics argue the extremists are intrinsically linked to Islam. Others insist their ideology has little connection to religion.

The group claims for itself the mantle of Islam's earliest years, purporting to recreate the conquests and rule of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) and his successors. But in reality its ideology is a virulent vision all its own, one that its adherents have created by plucking selections from centuries of traditions.

The vast majority of Muslim clerics say the group cherry picks what it wants from Islam's holy book, the Quran, and from accounts of Muhammad's actions and sayings, known as the Hadith. It then misinterprets many of these, while ignoring everything in the texts that contradicts those hand-picked selections, these experts say.

The group's claim to adhere to the prophecy and example of Muhammad (PBUH) helps explain its appeal among young Muslim radicals eager to join its ranks. Much like Nazi Germany evoked a Teutonic past to inspire its followers, Islamic State propaganda almost romantically depicts its holy warriors as re-establishing the caliphate, contending that ideal of Islamic rule can come only through blood and warfare.

It maintains its worst brutalities — beheading captives, taking women and girls as sex slaves and burning to death a captured Jordanian pilot — only prove its purity in following what it contends is the prophet's example, a claim that appalls the majority of the world's 1.6 billion Muslims.

Writings by the group's clerics and ideologues and its English-language online magazine, Dabiq, are full of citations from Quranic verses, the Hadith and centuries of interpreters, mostly hard-liners. But these are often taken far out of context, said Joas Wagemakers, an assistant professor of Islamic Studies at Radboud University Nijmegen in the Netherlands, who specializes in Islamic militant thought.

Muslim scholars throughout history have used texts in a "decontextualized way" to suit their purposes, Wagemakers said. But the Islamic State goes "further than any other scholars have done. They represent the extreme," he said. It would be a mistake to conclude the Islamic State group's extremism is the "true Islam" that emerges from the Quran and Hadith, he added.

Despite its claim to the contrary, the Islamic State group is largely political, borne out of the conflicts in Syria and Iraq, said Khaled Abou El Fadl, an Islamic law scholar at the University of California, Los Angeles. The group, he said, is trying to make God "a co-conspirator in a genocidal project."

Ahmed al-Dawoody, an assistant professor at the Institute for Islamic World Studies at Zayed University in Dubai, agreed. The phenomenon of reading religious sources out of context "has existed throughout the ages," he said. "We should not grant any legitimacy to those who violate Islam, then hijack it and speak on its behalf. This is not Islamic terror, this is terror committed by Muslims," he said.

IS not only misreads the texts it cites, most clerics say, it also ignores Quranic verses and a long body of clerical scholarship requiring mercy, preservation of life and protection of innocents, and setting out rules of war — all of which are binding under Islamic Shariah law.

Many mainstream clerics compare the group to the Khawarij, an early sect that was so notorious for "takfir," or declaring other Muslims heretics for even simple sins, that it was rejected by the faith. The Islamic State group denies that, but it draws heavily from 20th-century theories of "takfir" developed by hard-liners.

Part of the problem in countering the group's ideology is that moderate clerics have struggled to come up with a cohesive, modern interpretation, especially of the Quranic verses connected to Muhammad's wars with his enemies. Militants often point to the Quran's ninth sura, or chapter, which includes calls for Muslims to "fight polytheists wherever you find them" and to subdue Christians and Jews until they pay a tax. Moderate clerics counter that these verses are linked to specifics of the time and note other verses that say there is "no force in religion."

And while moderate clerics counter the Islamic State group's interpretation point-by-point, at times they accept the same tenets.

Sheikh Ahmed el-Tayeb — the grand imam of Egypt's Al-Azhar, one of Sunni Islam's most prestigious seats of learning — denounced the burning of the Jordanian pilot as a violation of Islam. But then he called for the perpetrators to be subjected to the same punishment that IS prescribes for those who "wage war on Islam" — crucifixion, death or the amputation of hands and legs.

This turns the debate into one over who has the authority to determine the "correct" interpretation of Islam's holy texts. Since many of the most prominent clerics in the Middle East are part of state-run institutions, militant supporters dismiss them as compromised and accommodating autocratic rulers.

The Islamic State group's segregation of the sexes, imposition of the veil on women, destruction of shrines it considers heretical, hatred of Shiites and condoning of punishments like lashings or worse are accepted by clerics in U.S.-allied Saudi Arabia, who follow the ultraconservative Wahhabi interpretation of Islam.

But IS goes further.

For example, most militaries in the era of Muhammad — the 7th century — beheaded enemies and enslaved populations they captured in war, including taking women as concubines. There are citations in the Hadith of Muhammad or his successors ordering beheadings, and verses in the Quran set out rules for dealing with slaves.

Pivoting off these, the Islamic State group contends that anyone who rejects beheadings or enslavement is not a real Muslim and has been corrupted by modern Western ideas.

One Islamic State cleric, Sheikh Hussein bin Mahmoud, wrote a vehement defense of beheadings after the killing of American journalist James Foley. "Those who pervert Islam are not those who cut off the heads of disbelievers and terrorize them," he wrote, "but those who want (Islam) to be like Mandela or Gandhi, with no killing, no fighting, no blood or striking necks." Islam, he wrote, is the religion "of battle, of cutting heads, of shedding blood."

To support beheadings, the group cites the Quran as calling on Muslims to "strike the necks" of their enemies. But other clerics counter the verse means Muslim fighters should swiftly kill enemies in the heat of battle, and is not a call to execute captives. Moreover, IS ignores the next part of the verse, which says Muslims should set prisoners of war free as an act of charity or for ransom.

The Islamic State group "appears to have adopted violent ideas first, then searched books of religious interpretation to find a cover for their actions," said Sheikh Hamadah Nassar, a cleric in the ultraconservative Salafi movement.

In June, the extremists declared a caliphate, or "khilafa" in Arabic, in the lands it controls in Iraq and Syria, with its leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi as the caliph — a declaration roundly ridiculed by Muslim clerics of all stripes. But here too, the group went further, saying that Islam requires the existence of a caliphate and anyone who refuses to recognize its declaration is not a true Muslim.

"The hopes of khilafa became an undeniable reality," the group proclaimed in its online magazine, Dabiq. Any Muslim who refuses IS authority will be "dealt with by the decisive law of Allah."

After that, the stream of IS recruits swelled by thousands.

Venezuelan president Maduro revokes visa rights for "U.S. human rights abusers" Bush, Cheney, and others on his "anti-terrorism list"

The Venezuelan government has responded to increased pressure from Washington by revoking visa rights for former US politicians such as George W. Bush and Dick Cheney, described by President Nicolas Maduro as "terrorists against the peoples of the world" on Saturday.

"I have decided on a prohibition list for people who will not be permitted visas and who can never enter Venezuela, for a set of chief US politicians who have committed human rights violations. They have bombed the people of Iraq, the people of Syria, the people of Vietnam... It is an anti-terrorist list," declared the head of state to an impassioned crowd.

The statements were part of a rousing speech delivered by the president on Saturday to thousands of marchers who had taken to the streets of Caracas to reject White House interference in the South American country. The march was a direct response to a string of further US sanctions enacted against the Venezuelan government in early February and to what Maduro characterised as a "moment of increased aggression" from the Obama administration. The head of state went on to call for a "global rebellion against US imperialism".

"The US thinks it is the boss, the police of the world... Something happens somewhere, let's say in Asia, and a spokesperson for the US comes out saying that the US government thinks that such and such a government shouldn't do such and such a thing in Asia... Are we going to accept a global government? Enough of imperialism in the world!" stated an incensed Maduro.

During his speech, the head of state also announced a slew of new diplomatic measures against the US which include the implementation of visa requirements for all US citizens visiting Venezuela.

"They must pay what Venezuelans pay when they want to travel to the United States," said the president.

Maduro explained that the changes were designed to "protect" Venezuelans, after a number of US citizens were discovered to be taking part in acts of espionage by Venezuelan authorities.

One of the most recent detections includes the pilot of a US airplane who was stopped and questioned by authorities on the border last week. A number of US citizens were also detained last year for their participation in the armed barricades or Guarimbas which sought to bring down the government and led to the deaths of at least 43 Venezuelans.

Despite the latest measures, Maduro emphasised that Venezuela continued to value its relationship with US citizens.

"You can count on the fact that the people of Bolivar respect the people of the US, and recognise in you a brother peoples, these decisions are against the imperialist elite," he stated.

The new measures will see the number of staff at the US embassy in Caracas significantly reduced and US representatives obliged to inform Venezuelan authorities of any meetings that they intend to hold.

The diplomatic institution currently has over 100 employees, in comparison to just 17 who work at the Venezuelan embassy in Washington. Venezuelan Foreign Minister, Delcy Rodriguez, has explained that the US diplomatic mission will be obliged to reduce its staffing numbers to 17 over the next 2 weeks.

Tense Relations

Recently the US embassy in Caracas has become embroiled in a diplomatic altercation with the Maduro administration which has intensified since the discovery of a planned coup against the government in February. The Venezuelan head of state has accused the White House of conspiring against his government and charged embassy personnel with having advanced knowledge of the coup plot, which was allegedly being funded in US dollars from Miami.

Prior to the discovery of the coup, the US embassy was reported to have attempted to bribe senior military and government officials to partake in insurrectionist actions against the government. US Vice-president Joe Biden also made a series of statements accusing the Venezuelan government of repression following a meeting with the wife of jailed opposition leader, Liliana Tintori.

Current opinion polls suggest significant support amongst the population for government actions against the US. According to a February poll conducted by opposition aligned think tank, Hinerlaces, 92% of Venezuelans oppose any kind of foreign intervention while 62% think that the US should not be allowed to pass judgement on the country's internal affairs.

In 2014, the US government issued 103 statements against Venezuela and another 65 since the start of the year. Just a few weeks ago, the Obama administration also approved increased funding for Venezuelan opposition groups and Non-Governmental Organisations.

China's warning to U.S.: Stop the proxy Ukrainian war against Russia

A much-ignored huge news report from Reuters on Friday, February 27th, was headlined "Chinese diplomat tells West to consider Russia's security concerns over Ukraine."

China's Ambassador to Belgium (which has the capital of the EU) said that the "nature and root cause" of the Ukrainian conflict is "the West," and that "The West should abandon the zero-sum mentality, and take the real security concerns of Russia into consideration."

By "real security concerns," he is clearly referring to NATO's expansion right up to Russia's border, and America's surrounding Russia with U.S. military bases, now increasingly including the most strategic of Russia's bordering countries: Ukraine.

In other words, this diplomat says: "the West" has a "zero-sum" attitude toward Russia, instead of seeking to move forward with an approach in which neither side among the nuclear superpowers benefits at the other's expense — the entire world moves forward together.

This is a direct criticism of Barack Obama, and of all of the pro-Obama, anti-Putin, EU leaders.

It's also an implicit repudiation of Obama's having repeatedly referred to the U.S. as "the one indispensable nation." (Another example of that phrase is here.) Obama keeps saying: every other nation, except the U.S., is "dispensable." He clearly thinks that Russia is.

That's not merely an insult: it's an act of provocation; it is virtually asking for a fight. And all for what? For whose nuclear char?

This criticism of the aggressive nationalist Obama does not come from China's top leadership, but it would not have come at all if they had not approved of it in advance.

China thus now tells Obama: Stop it. Stop it in word, and in deed.

Implicitly, China is also telling Obama: China is not dispensable, either. In fact, the entire mentality, which Obama embodies, is not just callous and insulting; it's dangerous.

Like President G.W. Bush, Obama is increasingly an embarassment to his country.

Shortly before Obama's coup in Ukraine, Gallup International issued, on 30 December 2013, a poll of 65 countries, which found that:

"The US was the overwhelming choice (24% of respondents) for the country that represents the greatest threat to peace in the world today. This was followed by Pakistan (8%), China (6%), North Korea, Israel and Iran (5%). Respondents in Russia (54%), China (49%) and Bosnia (49%) were the most fearful of the US as a threat."

More details of that poll were reported here.

When the U.S. Government is hankering for a war with the only other nuclear superpower, such findings certainly make sense. And the 54% of Russians who cited the U.S. as the greatest threat to peace would probably be far higher today. But Gallup International didn't publish any update on that poll-question, perhaps because the original financial backer (which was unnamed) wouldn't fund it.

Already, the finding was bad enough. But Obama keeps calling the U.S. "the one indispensable nation in the world." He keeps telling other nations: you are dispensable. He keeps rubbing it in — not the fact, but his own nationalism.

It reminds some people of Mussolini, and of Hitler. But Obama pretends to be a democrat, not a fascist.

Maybe he's just a bigger liar than they were. Maybe that's what he is so arrogant about: his terrific ability to deceive.

After all, he won the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize for it: for lying. For misrepresenting himself as being progressive, instead of regressive.

Well, now: anyone who doesn't know the reality is deluded by propaganda — and it's not coming from Russia, nor from China. It's coming from their own nation's 'news' media.

Which heads-of-state want to be publicly associated with a foreign leader like that, one who tells the given leader's public: your nation is dispensable. Fools. Only fools.

Obama is encouraging other countries to oppose the United States.

Wow. He's the black George W. Bush.