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Sunday, 15 March 2015

Phthalate exposure in pregnancy adversely affects masculinization of male genitals in babies

Exposure to hormone-altering chemicals called phthalates - which are found in many plastics, foods and personal care products - early in pregnancy is associated with a disruption in an essential pregnancy hormone and adversely affects the masculinization of male genitals in the baby, according to research led by the University of Pittsburgh Graduate School of Public Health.

The findings, presented today at the Endocrine Society's 97th annual meeting in San Diego and funded by the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences, focus on the role of the placenta in responding to these chemicals and altering levels of a key pregnancy hormone. These results suggest that there may be reason to push routine clinical testing earlier in pregnancy to check for the effects of chemicals and help guide potential interventions to protect the health of the baby.

"Phthalates are pervasive," said Jennifer Adibi, M.P.H., Sc.D., assistant professor of epidemiology at Pitt Public Health. "Reducing exposure to phthalates and other hormone-disrupting chemicals is something that needs to be addressed at a societal level through consumer advocacy and regulation, and education of health care providers."

The research builds on a study led by Shanna S. Swan, Ph.D., of the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai that was published in February in the journal Human Reproduction. Dr. Swan is senior investigator on this presentation, which provides new information about how phthalates target a key pregnancy hormone called human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG), which is made by the placenta and can be measured in the mother's blood and urine.

"The placenta, which is an extension of the fetus and a target of the chemicals in our bodies, broadcasts information early in pregnancy, through hCG, about what might be occurring to the fetus from chemical exposure," said Dr. Adibi. "With a simple blood or urine test, doctors and pregnant women may be able to act on this information to reduce exposure and improve the long-term health of the future child."

Dr. Adibi and her colleagues analyzed data collected from approximately 350 women and their babies who participated in a multicenter investigation called The Infant Development and the Environment Study (TIDES). Between 2010 and 2012, the women gave blood and urine samples in their first trimester of pregnancy and allowed researchers to take measurements of the babies at birth.

Higher levels of two molecules that are produced when phthalates are digested - mono-n-butyl and monobenzyl phthalate - in the mothers' urine early in pregnancy were significantly associated with lower levels of hCG in women carrying male babies and with higher hCG in those carrying female babies.

The new research also looked at hCG in relation to a biological marker called anogenital distance, which is the distance between the anus and genitals. In men, a short anogenital distance is associated with decreased sperm count and infertility.

Higher levels of hCG in the mother's blood were associated with a shorter anogenital distance in male babies. The researchers estimate that about 20 to 30 percent of the phthalate effect on the babies' genitals could be attributed to the influence of phthalates on hCG, specifically mono-n-butyl and mono-ethylhexyl phthalate.

"Our study is the first to look at hCG as a target of phthalate exposure in pregnancy," said Dr. Adibi. "There is growing societal concern over pediatric disorders that have a basis in the fetal period and which may be more common in one sex or another, such as autism, attention deficit disorder, obesity, asthma and infertility. It is important to find out if chemicals in our food or environment might influence these conditions."

The participants in this study were enrolled at prenatal clinics in California, Washington, Minnesota and New York. Dr. Adibi is looking ahead to future studies where she will enroll women in the earliest stages of pregnancy at clinics in Pittsburgh to assess exposures to endocrine disruptors and measure effects on the placenta and the baby.


University of Pittsburgh Schools of the Health Sciences

Poroshenko: 11 EU states to deliver weapons, including lethal, to Ukraine


© www.economist.com

Poroshenko, "up" in arms!

Ukraine has concluded deals with eleven countries of the EU on delivery of weapons, including lethal, President Petro Poroshenko told the country's TV. He, however, didn't mention which countries will provide 'defensive aid' to Kiev.

"The Head of State has informed that Ukraine had contracts with a series of the EU countries on the supply of armament, inter alia, lethal one. He has reminded that official embargo of the EU on the supply of weapons to Ukraine had been abolished," said a statement on Poroshenko's official website, citing his interview to the TV channel "1+1".

According to Poroshenko's statement, he is confident that EU and USA will support Ukraine with weapons if needed. "If there is a new round of aggression against Ukraine, I can surely say that we will immediately receive both lethal weaponry and new wave of sanctions against the aggressor. We will act firmly and in a coordinated manner."

Ukraine won't reduce its defense capacity, said Poroshenko, adding that now "intensive combat training is being held" in the country.

"We are mining the most dangerous tank directions and building engineering structures under the new plan and projects."

The statement said that the decision of the US President Barack Obama "who decided to supply Kiev with defensive weaponry" is crucial.

"This armament will increase preciseness and efficiency of the Ukrainian weapons. In addition, thermal imagers and radars that detect motion help counteract reconnaissance and subversive groups of the opponent."

The Ukrainian leader said the situation in Donetsk and Lugansk Regions is being gradually deescalated, adding that the Ukrainian army hasn't suffered casualties for several days.

In the meantime, the head of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People's Republic, Igor Plotnitsky, said he doesn't understand why Kiev is planning to buy weapons while the country is seeing a peaceful process. He was referring to a peace deal which was struck between the Ukrainian government and the rebels in the south-east of the country in Belarusian capital Minsk on February 12, after almost a year of fighting.

"We have a question: why do they [Kiev authorities] want weapons if they were the first to demand peace?" Plotnitsky asked.

On Wednesday US Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed that Washington was to send Kiev more non-lethal military aid, including drones and armored Humvees.

"We are today providing immediately some $75 million of additional non-lethal assistance, immediately, to Ukraine in order to help them in non-lethal assistance," Kerry told the Senate.

The US also announced earlier in March that they were planning to send about 300 military advisors to train the Ukrainian army from March through October.

Washington is not the only state which openly announced military aid to Ukraine. The UK said that it will send 75 British military personnel in March who will offer medical, intelligence and infantry training to the Ukrainian army. Poland has also said it is sending military advisors to Ukraine.

However, not all countries share the enthusiasm. America's NATO allies, namely France and Germany, have spoken against arming Ukraine, a move that could shatter the fragile peace that have just settled in the country torn by a civil war.

Germany has been one of the most vocal critics of sending arms to Ukraine and now the country's officials question NATO's assessment of the situation in the country.

The armed conflict in Ukraine's south-east began in April 2014, after Kiev sent its military to the area, as locals refused to recognize the new coup-imposed authorities in the capital. The fighting has seen over 6,000 killed and nearly 15,000 injured, according to the UN Human Rights Office.

Rarely seen disc-shaped clouds sighted over Cheshire, UK

lenticular clouds

Rare spectacle: These lenticular clouds, also known as altocumulus standing lenticularis, are hardly ever seen in British skies

Swirling through the air in mesmerising saucer-like shapes, these exceptionally rare lenticular clouds are the most common explanation for UFO sightings. The remarkable-looking disc shapes were spotted by amateur photographer Glenn Spencer, 42, in the sky above Chester in Cheshire.

The formations, also known as wave clouds, were scattered over miles, producing a stunning spectacle. Rarely seen in the UK, lenticular clouds are formed when a tall geographic feature, such as the the top of a mountain, obstructs a strong wind.

The interruption in airflow creates a wind wave pattern in the atmosphere on one side of the mountain and at the top of these waves, moisture in the air condenses and forms a cloud. As air moves down into the trough of these waves the water evaporates again, leaving behind clouds in a characteristic lenticular shape.

Mr Spencer noticed them while driving to the shops and was so amazed that he stopped the car to retrieve his camera from the boot. He said: 'I tried to follow them to higher ground to get a good view. They were just so mesmerising and I thought they looked amazing. It is easy to see why people mistake them for UFOs. They are brilliant. I've never seen anything like it.'

disc shaped clouds

Stunning: They form when wind blows over high ground and then undulates down in a stream of waves creating a rippled effect as the air cools

lenticular clouds

Pilots of powered aircraft tend to avoid flying near lenticular clouds because of the turbulence of the rotor systems that accompany them

Comment: There have been a number of rare cloud formations observed in the skies lately. Some, such as this one in Australia have a recognizable cause, this one being a Fallstreak Hole. Other factors which may contribute to these 'strange skies' are possible comet dust loading and changes in the layers of the atmosphere.

An indicator of this dust loading is the observed intensification of noctilucent clouds. As explained in Pierre Lescaudron's book, Earth Changes and the Human-Cosmic Connection:

The increase in noctilucent clouds is one of the effects - among others - of increased dust concentration in the atmosphere in general, and in the upper atmosphere in particular. We suspect that most of this atmospheric dust is of cometary origin, while some of it may be due to the recent increase in volcanic activity.

South Front Video News updates: Kiev deliberately violating Minsk agreements - will Russia respond?

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Would delayed school start times help teens get adequate sleep?

adolescent sleep

© Ed Yourdon/Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA

Adolescents are losing up to an hour of sleep a night more then they did ten years ago. Ed Yourdon/Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA

Sleep is the foundation of good health for all of us, especially during times of physical and mental development. But since adolescents are sleeping less these days, it may be time to delay school starting times to ensure young people can be productive and well at this important point in their lives.

Both physical and mental health both suffer when we don't get enough sleep. And this particularly so for adolescents, who are going through puberty and all its attendant physical and mental development. But in a trend that has held for the last ten years young people in this age group have been losing up to one hour of sleep every school night.

The best remedy may be to let adolescents catch up on their sleep by allowing them to start school later.

Sleep at a delicate time

There's a significant and important relationship between daytime performance, mental and physical health and sleep duration. In essence, the less young people sleep, the worse they fare in neuropsychological function (decreased attention and memory capacity and impaired learning), physiological function (increased risk of being overweight and obese, and reduced immune system function), and psychosocial function (increased aggression, withdrawn behaviours and mood disorders).

The causal relationship between these impacts and poor sleep is well established, and when sleep quantity and quality improve, negative outcomes are reversed. But the amount of sleep people across all population groups get has gradually reduced ever since the industrial revolution. That's thanks to the arrival of electric light, which has enabled us to do more during night hours.

The internet and the advent of the 24-hour society, where technology and globalisation allow continuous access to activities have no doubt contributed to this trend. Social media usage, for instance, has had a major impact as young people displace sleep time with social networking activities that in their view may be more interesting than sleep.

The problem is that adolescence is accompanied by major changes in sleeping patterns. Starting at puberty, adolescents experience a delayed release of the sleep-inducing hormone, melatonin, relative to melatonin activity in middle childhood. As a result, they are sleepy later in the evening and tend to delay bedtimes, sometimes as much as two hours later.

This results in a shorter sleep periods than in middle childhood, but with little real change in sleep need. That's why adolescents are often very tired and sleepy during the week and struggle to get up in time for school. In fact, 80% of adolescents report being sleepy on awakening in the morning before school.

teen social media, sleep

© Adam Fagen/Flickr, CC BY-NC-SA

Social media usage has had a major impact on young people who displace sleep time with social networking activities.

Young people are still undergoing considerable brain growth at this age, for which adequate sleep is especially important. And they're under pressure to undertake all sorts of activities expected of them to secure future success, as well as to cope well while doing them.

Sleep loss can have serious consequences on their academic performance, with higher incidences of school failure, and school dropout in adolescents with insufficient sleep. And it can also increase risk of depression, anxiety and stress, suicide attempts, and drug and alcohol abuse.

Radical but effective

One effective way to address this problem is to look for measures that can work across the whole of the adolescent population. And one such measure that deserves attention is delaying starting times for school. Research shows when school starts later, adolescents feel less sleepy, less moody and perform significantly better at their academic workload.

Some Australian schools have done just this for older adolescents, while others have staggered start times so students can choose between a few options. This allows students who are most affected by sleep deprivation to recuperate before facing the demands of their academic day.

But changes like this may be hindered by practical difficulties in implementation, which they need to be assessed against a cost-benefit analysis of consequences to families, school districts, and communities before wholesale implementation.

Delaying start times could result in some students not getting home until much later in the evening, for instance, and this would impact to family routines. How would families with children in both middle and senior school navigate the logistics of transporting them to school at different times?

And what could arguably be even more difficult is getting schools to address issues such as the curriculum re-scheduling and teacher workload.

What we do know is that adolescence is a time of high stress and academic pressure. Giving young people every chance to be the best they can requires good sleep and every opportunity to decrease its loss should be considered. Delaying the school starting times could deliver real benefits at a time in life when young people need a helping hand the most.

Wave of 'suicides' among former Ukrainian regional officials continuing


The wave of "suicides" among former "Regionals" in Ukraine is continuing.

Former chairman of Zaporozhye Regional State Administration Alexander Peklushenko committed suicide

The Chief Inspector of the Public Relations Department of the Ministry of Internal Affairs in the Zaporozhye region, Aleksandr Soloshenko, informed the correspondent of RBC-Ukraine. "Yes. Aleksandr Peklushenko committed suicide at his home in the village of Solnechnoe. At the moment, an investigative team is working at the scene," said Aleksandr Soloshenko.

Aleksandr Peklushenko was a suspect in the case of the dispersal of Zaporozhye Maidan on January 26, 2014. On the night of February 28, a former deputy chairman of the Party of Regions, Mikhail Chechetov, committed suicide. On the evening of March 9, Party of Regions People's Deputy of the Fifth and Sixth Radas, Stanislav Melnik, committed suicide.

PS: Judging by the pace, new "suicides" are not far off. Belonging to the Party of Regions during Yanukovych's reign is apparently now a factor in raising the risk of a sudden "suicide". Nonetheless, the "Regionals" are in fact paying the price for last year's cowardice with their positions, money and sometimes even lives, because unlike them, the coup ringleaders who replaced them are not so delicate and, in contrast to Yanukovych, they are not so embarrassed by blood.

EU unlikely to agree next week to prolong Russia sanctions

EU Foreign Ministers

© REUTERS/Ints Kalnins

European Union Foreign Ministers pose for the media during their informal European Union Ministers of Foreign Affairs meeting (Gymnich) in Riga March 6, 2015.

European Union leaders are unlikely to reach agreement at their summit next week to prolong economic sanctions on Russia that expire in July, a senior EU official said on Friday.

New sanctions on Russia are also off the table for now because EU governments want to give a chance to a fragile ceasefire in eastern Ukraine.

But some of the EU's 28 member states had pushed for an early decision on extending sanctions on Russia's financial, energy and defense sectors adopted in July last year over Russia's annexation of Crimea and support for separatists in eastern Ukraine.

While leaders will discuss sanctions at next week's summit, the senior EU official said a majority would probably want to hold over discussion of renewing the economic sanctions on Russia until July.

"I don't think there is unanimity at all for the rollover of sanctions, the sanctions that are due in July," the official, briefing reporters on condition of anonymity, said.

Slovak Prime Minister Robert Fico said on Friday that new or extended EU sanctions against Russia would not help the ceasefire in eastern Ukraine.

"The ceasefire needs to be supported and we will hardly support it by saying that we will bring some new and further and further sanctions," Fico said in Prague.

The EU is divided on sanctions and Fico has in the past called them "meaningless and counterproductive".

Slovak Foreign Minister Miroslav Lajcak said the prevailing view in the EU was that sanctions should remain in place in their current form for the time being.

"We have not gotten that far that we could talk about cancelling sanctions," Lajcak told reporters in Slovakia.

EU governments did agree on Friday to prolong sanctions on a list of Ukrainian and Russian individuals and companies accused of undermining Ukraine's sovereignty, territorial integrity and independence.

The asset freezes and travel bans on 150 people and 37 organizations were extended for a further six months, until Sept. 15. Details will be published in the EU's Official Journal on Saturday.

The decision was a formality after EU foreign ministers agreed in January to extend the sanctions.

Twin bombings at churches in Pakistan kill 14, wound 78

Lahore suicide attack

© REUTERS/Mohsin Raza

Women mourn the death of their relative who was killed in a suicide attack on a church in Lahore March 15, 2015.

Bombs outside two churches in the Pakistani city of Lahore killed 14 people and wounded nearly 80 during Sunday services, and witnesses said quick action by a security guard prevented many more deaths.

A Pakistani Taliban splinter group claimed responsibility.

Islamist militants in Pakistan have attacked Christians and other religious minorities often over the last decade or more. Many Christians accuse the government of doing little to protect them, saying politicians are quick to offer condolences after an attack but slow to take any concrete steps to improve security.

Sunday's blasts occurred minutes apart in a majority Christian suburb of the eastern city. Police said it seemed they targeted two churches, one Catholic and one Protestant, that are very close to each other.

After the explosions, enraged residents protested and lynched two suspects, police said.

"I was sitting at a shop near the church when a blast jolted the area. I rushed toward the spot and saw the security guard scuffle with a man who was trying to enter the church. After failing, he blew himself up," said witness Amir Masih.

Lahore suicide attack2

© REUTERS/Mohsin Raza

Women mourn the death of their relative who was killed in a suicide attack on a church in Lahore March 15, 2015.

"I saw his body parts flying through the air."

The guard died as well, he said. It was not clear if the first blast was also triggered by a suicide bomber, Masih said.

Fourteen people were killed and 78 wounded, said Zahid Pervaiz, provincial director of general health.

"The rescue operation is still underway and the death toll may increase," rescue services spokesman Sajjad Hussain said.

The Taliban faction Jamaat-ul-Ahrar claimed responsibility.

Following the blast, enraged residents lynched two men they suspected of involvement, a police official said. Journalist Riaz Ahmed said he had seen the two burnt bodies at an intersection.

Protesters also began smashing up shops and attacking vehicles. Police and several politicians were chased from the scene, residents said.

Pakistan's police are notoriously poorly trained and under funded and its court system overburdened with a backlog of more than a million cases.

Lahore is the capital of Punjab, Pakistan's wealthiest and most populous province and the political heartland of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

The city is generally considered peaceful compared with many other areas of Pakistan, but violence there has been increasing after the government's failed attempts to hold peace talks with the Taliban last year.

After the talks failed, the military launched an offensive in the remote northwestern region of North Waziristan along the Afghan border to push the Taliban from the last major region they controlled.

The military now holds the major urban centers there, but residents say many militants fled before the offensive began and others remain in rural areas.

Numerous reports of meteors over Ireland and Scotland

meteors ireland scotland wales


Maga Moate, co.westmeath, Ireland 21:00:00 5-6 seconds N-S. Very bright orange with a green tail, very close like firework, slow moving Brighter than Venus. No fragments. No pictures.


Jamie MacEwan aka Jamie Groobel. Screwtop Fulton, Amisfield, Dumfries and Galloway, Scotland. Approx 20.59 GMt 2-ish seconds South East towards North west. Orange ball followed by a bunson burner effect tail: yellow surrounded by pale blue/ white. Almost like a car headlight at full beam at 400 metres No. I have seen fragmentation once before. I thought that experience would never be topped (2012 - unreported). I feel as if I am in a state of shock. I watched an object travelling east to west in the small hours of the morning on a clear, crisp morning in the spring of 2012 whilst driving an HGV across the A66 from Scotch Corner to Kendal. On that occasion the Orange ball split into around 4 pieces in way that I can only describe as like a rocket breaking apart. Tonight it was not like that -'around 2 or so seconds then it appeared to 'burn out'. Incredible!!


Nick Bangor. Northern Ireland. 21.07 2 sw-ne green. Umm, it lit clouds up and roof of homes yes. Very bright, passed in and out of clouds.


Gregor White Abington, Scotland 21:00:00 6 secs S to N. Me facing West. Fireball with tail. Very bright. No Fast, S to N travel.


We were driving home tonight at 21:00 in Fortstewart ,Ramelton,Co Donegal,Ireland. We saw what looked like a green shooting star streak across the clear sky, it had a red trail, it then appeared to explode creating a large green flash. - Maura M.

Report: Ancient statues destroyed by ISIS were fake

ISIS /statue

© www.ibtimes.co.uk

A still from the video showing IS destroying ancient statues in Mosul

The ancient statues that Islamic State militants smashed in Mosul on camera last month have been proved to be exact replicas of precious artifacts of Iraqi heritage. The real masterpieces of antiquity are said to be in Baghdad.

Baghdad's museum director told Germany's Deutsche Welle. The head of the antiquity department in Iraq's cultural heritage authority, Fawzye al-Mahdi, also told the German broadcaster that "none" of the artifacts "were originals."

This, experts say, explains why in a video that shows the destruction statues crumble so easily.

winged bull

© yalibnan.com

Colossal statue of a winged bull.

Mark Altaweel of the Institute of Archaeology at University College, London said to Channel 4. However, Mosul's exiled governor Atheel Nuafi, said that, while many of destroyed items were not originals, but there were real ones demolished afterward.

"There were two items that were real and which the militants destroyed," he told Iraq television. "One is a winged bull and the other was the God of Rozhan." He also said that before destroying the museum, ISIS militants could have stolen several items.

A video appeared on Youtube in February, showing several men crashing museum statues and winged bulls monuments securing gates of ancient Nineveh, located not far away from Mosul.

Mosul Museum has the second biggest collection of ancient relics in Iraq. It owned dozens of thousands of items from Nineveh and other ancient centers of Northern Mesopotamia. In 2003, at the height of operation against Saddam Hussein, the museum was ransacked by looters, but its workers managed to save most valuable masterpieces and moved them to Baghdad before the city assault. Meanwhile, some important items were still kept there including an ancient statues and ceramics collection.

In summer 2014, ISIS took over Mosul and began destroying ritual constructions as relics are considered by the militants as "worthless idols".

It's not just ancient statues but also temples which the Islamic State targets. Thus, jihadists razed to the ground the Mosque of the Prophet Yunus, equaled to Bible's Jonah, the Mosque of the Prophet Jerjis worshiped by Shiah Muslims and other relics, including those honored by Christians Assyrians.

In February 2015 ISIS also burned the city's library as well as the libraries of a Dominican monastery and of a Catholic church. Hundreds of thousands books, rare Iraqi newspapers from the beginning of the 20th century and Ottoman Empire period maps and books were also burned or exploded in archives, while a small portion of the collection was carried off by truck in an unknown direction.

ISIS did not stop at Mosul and later in March demolished the remains of the ancient city of Hatra in the north of the country, which has been on the UNESCO World Heritage list since 1987, following a of the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud.

This week, the Islamic States threatened to beyond Iraq and destroy Egypt's Sphinx and pyramids as it was time for Muslims to erase the pharaohs' heritage.

Earlier, Iraqi Tourism and Antiquities Minister Adel Shirshab called on the US-led coalition "to activate its air strikes" to defend the cultural heritage of the country.

Shirshab and the head of the antiquities board, Qais Rasheed, said the coalition did not do enough to prevent the attacks in the ancient cities. They insist the coalition troops were able to see at least the preparations of the militants to bulldozing of Hatra.

In response to the calls and accusations, the highest military-ranking officer in the US ruled out immediate airstrikes. "Military campaigns are all about priorities," General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff stressed and then pointed out that the US would consider protecting heritage sites "as priorities shift."

"We will consider it, but it will have to fit into all the other things we are being asked to do on behalf of Iraq," the cited Dempsey as saying.

At the same time, the United States plans to return to Iraq 60 cultural artifacts which were illegally smuggled to the U.S. According to the country's state department, archeological items will be repatriated on Monday.

"At a time when ISIL is destroying the ancient monuments and artifacts of Iraq's rich history, the United States continues to work towards preserving its historical legacy for the Iraqi people and for the world," the statement added, using one of the militant group's former abbreviations.

Poroshenko submits late draft resolution on special status of districts in Donbas region


Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko has submitted a draft resolution on granting special status to separate districts, cities, settlements and villages in the Donetsk and Lugansk regions where a special order of self-government will be introduced, the Ukrainian parliament reports on its website.

Under point 4 of the package of measures to implement the Minsk agreements, Ukraine's Verkhovnaya Rada (parliament) was supposed to adopt a resolution indicating separate districts in the Donbas region that will have a special political and economic status by March 14. After the resolution had not been passed on time, the heads of the self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic (DPR) and the Lugansk People's Republic (LPR), Alexander Zakharchenko and Igor Plotnitsky, asked German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, who are the guarantors of the Minsk agreements, to exert pressure on the Ukrainian leadership and make it implement the Minsk agreements.

For the moment, Ukraine's National Security and Defense Council is the only state body in Ukraine that has supported a decision to delimitate the borders of separate districts where a special form of local self-government is to be introduced along the line of contact defined by the Minsk agreements.

The Ukrainian parliament's next plenary meeting is scheduled for March 17, the website says.

Putin documentary on Crimea: US masterminds behind Ukraine coup

© Rossiya 1 news

The Ukrainian armed coup was organized from Washington, Russian President Vladimir Putin stated in an interview for a new documentary aired Sunday. The Americans tried to hide behind the Europeans, but Moscow saw through the trick, he added.

The trick of the situation was that outwardly the [Ukrainian] opposition was supported mostly by the Europeans. But we knew for sure that the real masterminds were our American friends," Putin said in a documentary, , aired by news channel.

They helped training the nationalists, their armed groups, in Western Ukraine, in Poland and to some extent in Lithuani he added. They facilitated the armed coup

The West spared no effort to prevent Crimea's reunification with Russia, "by any means, in any format and under any scheme," he noted.

Putin said this approach was far from being the best dealing with any country, and a post-Soviet country like Ukraine specifically. Such countries have a short record of living under a new political system and remain fragile. Violating constitutional order in such a country inevitably deal a lot of damage to its statehood, the president said.

© RIA Novosti

Soldiers near a military base in the village of Perevalnoe, Crimea where a coastal defense brigade blocked the Ukrainian Navy.

"The law was thrown away and crashed. And the consequences were grave indeed. Part of the country agreed to it, while another part wouldn't accept it. The country was shattered," Putin explained.

He also accused the beneficiaries of the coup of planning an assassination of then-President Viktor Yanukovich. Russia was prepared to act to ensure his escape, Putin said.

"I invited the heads of our special services, the Defense Ministry and ordered them to protect the life of the Ukrainian president. Otherwise he would have been killed," he said, adding that at one point Russian signal intelligence, which was tracking the president's motorcade route, realized that he was about to be ambushed.

Yanukovich himself didn't want to leave and rejected the offer to be evacuated from Donetsk, Putin said. Only after spending several days in Crimea and realizing that "there was no one he could negotiate with in Kiev" he asked to be taken to Russia.

© RIA Novosti

Viktor Yanukovich after a news conference in Rostov-on-Don.

The Russian president personally ordered preparation of the Crimean special operation the morning after Yanukovich fled, saying that "we cannot let the [Crimean] people be pushed under the steamroller of the nationalists."

"I [gave them] their tasks, told them what to do and how we must do it, and stressed that we would only do it if we were absolutely sure that this is what the people living in Crimea want us to do," Putin said. He added that an emergency public opinion poll indicated that at least 75 percent of the people wanted to join Russia.

"Our goal was not to take Crimea by annexing it. Our final goal was to allow the people express their wishes on how they want to live," he said.

"I decided for myself: what the people want will happen. If they want greater autonomy with some extra rights within Ukraine, so be it. If they decide otherwise, we cannot fail them. You know the results of the referendum. We did what we had to do," Putin said.

He added that his personal involvement helped expedite things, because the people carrying out his decision had no reason to hesitate.

According to Putin, part of the operation was to deploy K-300P Bastion coastal defense missiles to demonstrate Russia's willingness to protect the peninsula from military attack.

"We deployed them in a way that made them seen clearly from space," Putin said.

The president assured that the Russian military were prepared for any developments and would have armed nuclear weapons if necessary. He personally was not sure that Western nations would not use military force against Russia, he added.

© RIA Novosti / Alexey Furman

A tent camp of the supporters of Ukraine's integration with the EU on Maidan Square in Kiev where clashes between protesters and police began in February 18, 2014.

In order to demilitarize the Ukrainian troops based in Crimea, Russia sent the army's Main Intelligence Directorate (GRU) forces, the president said.

"A specific set of personnel was needed to block and demilitarize 20,000 people, who were well-armed. Not only in quantity, but in quality," Putin said, adding that he gave orders to the Defense Ministry to "deploy the special forces of the GRU, together with marine forces and paratroopers."

However, according to Putin, the number of Russian forces did not exceed the limit of 20,000 authorized under the agreement on basing the Russian Black Sea Fleet at its military base in Crimea.

"As we didn't exceed the number of personnel on our base in Crimea, strictly speaking, nothing was violated," he said.

The Russian president added that the move to send additional Russian troops to secure Crimea and allow a referendum to be freely held there prevented major bloodshed on the peninsula.

"Considering the ethnic composition of the Crimean population, the violence there would have been worse [than in Kiev]. We had to act to prevent negative development, not to allow tragedies like the one that happened in Odessa, where dozens of people were burned alive," Putin said.

He acknowledged that there were some Crimean people, particularly members of the Crimean Tatar minority, who opposed the Russian operation.

"Some of the Crimean Tatars were under the influence of their leaders, some of whom are so to speak 'professional' fighters for the rights of the Tatars," he explained.

© RIA Novosti

Simferopol residents attending the "Crimea-Spring" concert on Lenin Square in the city center on the day of voting in a referendum about the status of Crimea.

But at the same time the "Crimean militia worked together with the Tatars. And there were Tatars among the militia members," he stressed.

The Crimean people voted in a referendum to join Russia after rejecting a coup-imposed government that took power in Kiev in February 2014. The move sparked a major international controversy, as the new government's foreign backers accused Russia of annexing the peninsula through military force.

Moscow insists that the move was a legitimate act of self-determination and that the Russian troops acted only to provide security and not as an occupying force. Russian officials cite the example of Kiev's military crackdown on the dissenting eastern Donetsk and Lugansk regions, which claimed more than 6,000 lives since April 2014, as an example of bloodshed that Russia acted to prevent in Crimea.

Polish politician accuses US of warmongering, says he understands Putin

© AP Photo/ Alik Keplicz

A Polish politician and member of the European parliament, Janusz Korwin-Mikke, is convinced his country should stick to neutrality in the Ukrainian conflict.

"We have no single reason to take part in this war," he said in an interview with the Polish news channel . "The US has not been attacked. The NATO Treaty is only invoked if coalition members are attacked."

"We are America's ally, but only on matters of defense, not offensive," he added.

Korwin-Mikke said that he understands President Putin's behavior, as Russia is surrounded by NATO bases, while there are no Russian bases around the US. In addition, he said, the US has been evidently moving towards a war in Ukraine for the past six months.

He also gave his reasons why the US wants war at this particular moment.

"Pro-war circles are very strong in America now, because the US has a huge army, and China will be stronger than the US in several years," he explained. "If America wants a war, it wants it now".

Korwin-Mikke slammed the idea of training Ukrainian soldiers in Poland, which was announced by Defense Minister Tomasz Siemoniak in February. The politician said that his country's help training Ukrainian military instructors in Ukraine, as a NATO response to Kiev's request for military assistance, was a hostile act against Russia.

Commenting on the relations between Russia and Poland, Korwin-Mikke noted that there is no tension between the two countries and the situation on the border is absolutely calm. However, he added that

Elephant kills mahout in India

Asian elephant

Gajendra, a fiery-tempered tusker which used to take part in Mysuru Dasara Utsav, on Sunday went berserk and killed its mahout at K Gudi Elephant Camp which falls under under Biligiri Ranganathaswamy Temple Tiger Reserve area in the district.

The incident occurred when the victim Ganapathi (50), a resident of Nagalapur in Hunasusu taluk, tried to cool down the flaring tempers of the tuskers Gajendra and Srirama. Gajendra attacked the mahout, who suffered serious injuries and bled to death after a while.

Ganapathi used to work as mahout at the elephant camp for the past two decades. His job was regularised only two years back.

Forest Conservator and Director of BRT S S Lingaraju visited the camp and reviewed the situation. Ramasamudra East police have registered a case and investigations are on.

Pedophilia in Britain 'woven into the fabric of society' - Theresa May

As the UK has launched a new-judge led inquiry panel to investigate a pedophile ring operated in 1980s, the Home Secretary warns the allegations are just a "tip of an iceberg" and the problem is "woven, covertly, into the fabric of our society."

© Reuters/Daniel Leal-Olivas

Britain's Home Secretary Theresa May

Following a spate of allegations concerning the abuse of children by adults, many of who abused their positions of power and status, Home Secretary Theresa May said Britons still do not appreciate the"true scale of that abuse."

Writing in the , May warned that the investigation into predators of children will "lead into our schools and hospitals, our churches, our youth clubs and many other institutions that should have been places of safety..."

Following Thursday's announcement of a four-person panel to investigate the criminal activities against minors, May said Justice Lowell Goddard would be empowered to "compel witnesses and the removal of any cut-off date from the Terms of Reference" allowing Goddard to track the evidence "wherever it takes her."

The original inquiry, which was delayed after two chairs were forced to stand down, was set up to investigate allegations of a pedophile sex ring made by the now deceased Conservative MP Geoffrey Dickens, operating in Westminster during the 1980s.

May said she had personally met with young survivors and understood that their lives would be so much harder due to the "pain and distrust that had become a part of them."

May wrote: "In my discussions with older victims and survivors and their representatives, I began to realize how abuse is woven, covertly, into the fabric of our society."

She then relayed a meeting she had with one of the victims of past abuse, who told her:"Get this inquiry right and it will be like a stick of Blackpool rock. You will see abuse going through every level of society."

"I fear she is right. I have said before and I shall say again, that what we have seen so far is only the tip of the iceberg," May said.

Aside from public institutions, the probe may also lead to the highest levels of British society.

Following allegations that British celebrity and former BBC presenter Jimmy Savile had violated hundreds of children and adults over the span of his lengthy career ("Giving Victims a Voice" organization reported that over 400 people had filed complaints against Savile), allegations of a Westminster pedophile ring possibly involving many well-known MPs have surfaced.

In July 2014 Peter Mckelvie, a whistleblower who kicked off UK police pedophile probe Operation , disclosed a list compiled by police of current and former politicians suspected of participating in the child sex abuse.

He revealed that as many as 40 British MPs and peers either knew about or took part in the Westminster "pedophile ring."

Mckelvie, who spent more than 20 years compiling evidence of alleged child abuse by people in authority claimed there was enough evidence to arrest at least one senior politician, the reported in July 2014.

"I truly believe it represents a once-in-a-generation opportunity and that once its work is done, we will never look at society in the same way again," May wrote.

The Home Secretary said: "Where there is evidence a person has abused their position - no matter how high or how low that position - it will be passed to the police to investigate. So if there has been a cover-up, we will uncover it."

Yet, she questions why some people don't understand the need for an inquiry. "What's the point?" they say. "It's so long ago and we know it all now. Leave it in the past where it belongs."

Meanwhile, hundreds of registered sex offenders have gone missing in the UK.

A Freedom of Information request by the Press Association has revealed that the whereabouts of 396 convicted offenders are unknown to police. Some have been at large for over a decade.

Caver finds 20,000 year-old drawings in the northern region of Cantabria

Cave paintings

© Government of Cantabria

Paintings found in the Aurea cave in Cantabria.

Prehistoric cave drawings have been discovered in the northern region of Cantabria, dating back about 20,000 years, making the area "the European capital of rock art".

The discovery is the first time that Paleolithic art had been found in the immediate area, the government of Cantabria said in a statement on Thursday.

Culture minister Miguel Angel Serna said the findings make the region a "museum of the Paleolithic period."

"A finding of these characteristics is not found every day, and represents a significant contribution to our heritage, making Cantabria the European capital of rock art," said Serna in a statement.

The art was discovered in the cave 'Aurea', located 50 metres above the river Deva, by the president of a caving club and his wife, La Razón reported.

The couple immediately notified the Museum of Archaeology and Prehistory in Cantabria. Experts examined the cave on Sunday and have since closed it for preservation, though officials told La Razón that the site could become attractive to tourists.

The cave drawings include what appears to be a reoccurring sign, consisting of a red vertical line and dots and appearing at different locations within the cave. Some paintings appear to be draw by fingertip while others appear to be made by blowing paint onto the wall.

The Paleolithic period is characterized as when humans first made primitive stone tools. Humans during this period usually lived together in small hunter-gatherer societies.

Another cave in Cantabria, the 'cave of the castle', contains the oldest cave art in the world, dating back more than 40,000 years.

US Congress's approval rating no longer detectable by current technology


© Michael Reynolds/EPA/LANDOV

Washington - After a challenging week for the legislative body, the approval rating of the United States Congress has shrunk to a point where it is no longer detectable by the technology currently available, a leading pollster said on Friday.

Davis Logsdon, who heads the highly regarded Opinion Research Institute at the University of Minnesota, said that his polling unit has developed highly sensitive measurement technology in recent years to gauge Congress's popularity as it fell into the single digits, but added that "as of this week, Congress is basically flatlining."

"At the beginning of the week, you could still see a slight flicker of approval for Congress," he said. "Then—bam!—the lights went out."

Logsdon said, however, that people should resist drawing the conclusion that Congress's approval rating now stands at zero. "They may have support in the range of .0001 per cent or, say, .0000001 per cent," he said. "Our equipment just isn't advanced enough to measure it."

Logsdon said that the swift descent of Congress's approval rating below detectable levels has surprised experts in the polling profession. "A couple of years ago, when they shut down the government, I wondered, What could they possibly do to become less popular than this?" the pollster said.

"Now we know."

Journalists admit intelligence services, lobbies and advertisers dictate MSM content

cia news

© www.troutinmilk.com

News - the CIA tool!

There are many reasons not to trust the mainstream media (MSM). Most, if not all those reasons, have been analyzed by independent news outlets. The MSM is owned by private companies and financed by advertising, both of which have a clear influence on its editorial content and the overall agenda setting. It has also been proven in the past, during the Church Committee, that the CIA, like other intelligence agencies, uses the mainstream media for propaganda purposes by planting stories and using journalism as a cover for agents. The mainstream media's complaisance towards governments has also been exposed, namely with the yearlong silence on wiretapping under the Bush administration.

Recently, however, several stories from mainstream journalists have emerged, exposing the corrupt nature of the MSM, thus weighing in on the growing mistrust it inspires.


© http://bit.ly/1LIFLP9

What's the source? Just checking...

The influence of money and politics on editorial content

Former chief political commentator of the Peter Oborne resigned from the newspaper because it would not publish articles on HSBC for fear of losing advertising revenues. The bank is well-known for its money-laundering for Mexican drug cartels as well as its involvement in tax evasion schemes.

In an opinion piece called "Why I Resigned From the he wrote:

"The coverage of HSBC in Britain's is a fraud on its readers. If major newspapers allow corporations to influence their content for fear of losing advertising revenue, democracy itself is in peril...

From the start of 2013 onwards stories critical of HSBC were discouraged. HSBC suspended its advertising with the . Its account, I have been told by an extremely well informed insider, was extremely valuable. HSBC, as one former executive told me, is "the advertiser you literally cannot afford to offend"...

Winning back the HSBC advertising account became an urgent priority. It was eventually restored after approximately 12 months. Executives say that Murdoch MacLennan [the chief executive] was determined not to allow any criticism of the international bank. "He would express concern about headlines even on minor stories," says one former journalist. "Anything that mentioned money-laundering was just banned, even though the bank was on a final warning from the US authorities. This interference was happening on an industrial scale." Peter Oborne, "Why I Resigned From the ," Open Democracy, February 17, 2015)

When it comes to powerful lobbies' influence on media content, the Zionist lobby is very well known for accusing journalists and editors of anti-Semitism and imposing its own propaganda. Even so-called progressive newspapers such as The Guardian are subject to Zionist propaganda. David Cronin writes about his experience:

I submitted an exposé of how the pro Israel lobby operates in Brussels. While waiting to find out if the piece would be used, I phoned Matt Seaton, who had taken over as comment editor. We had a pleasant conversation but Seaton stressed that he regarded the subject as sensitive.

I, then, modified the piece to make its tone less polemical. Still, it was not published...

Cronin decided to write about his experience when he realized that The Guardian was offering platforms to Israeli politicians and their propaganda:

"Daniel Taub, Israel's ambassador to the UK ... uses a quote attributed to Golda Meir, Israel's prime minister from 1969 to 1974, to hit back at aid agencies who accuse Israel of impeding Gaza's reconstruction: "We will only have peace when our enemies love their children more than they hate ours."

The inference that Palestinians hate Israelis more than they love their children is a racist caricature...

Taub's article was the second one published by in as many months from a senior Israeli political or diplomatic figure. In February, the paper gave Yair Lapid, until recently Israel's finance minister, a platform to describe calls for a cultural boycott of Israel as "shallow and lacking in coherence." (David Cronin, "How Told Me to Steer Clear of Palestine," Electronic Intifada, 11 March 2015)

Cronin's experience is only one of countless stories about the infamous pro-Israeli bias of the mainstream media. As someone working for the Canadian public broadcaster CBC-Radio-Canada once told me: "The journalists are not the ones who are biased. They know exactly what's going on in the Israel-Palestine conflict. It's the big bosses who are scared of the Zionist lobby."

"Non-official cover": Journalists working for the CIA and the Mossad

What is non-official cover?

"Non-official cover" occurs when a journalist is essentially working for the CIA, but it's not in an official capacity. This allows both parties to reap the rewards of the partnership, while at the same time giving both sides plausible deniability. The CIA will find young journalists and mentor them. Suddenly doors will open up, rewards will be given, and before you know it, you owe your entire career to them. That's essentially how it works. (Michael Krieger, "'Non-Official Cover' -Respected German Journalist Blows Whistle on How the CIA Controls the Media," Liberty Blitzkrieg 8 October 2014)

's former editor Udo Ulfkotte recently published a book called (Gekaufte Journalisten), in which he explains how journalists manipulate the masses for powerful interests:

Saying he believes a medical condition gives him only a few years to live, and that he is filled with remorse, Dr. Udo Ulfkotte, the editor of , one of Germany's largest newspapers, said in an interview that he accepted news stories written and given to him by the CIA and published them under his own name. Ulfkotte said the aim of much of the deception was to drive nations toward war.

Dr. Ulfkotte says the corruption of journalists and major news outlets by the CIA is routine, accepted, and widespread in the western media, and that journalists who do not comply either cannot get jobs at any news organization, or find their careers cut short. ("Ralph Lopez, Editor of Major German Newspaper Says He Planted Stories for the CIA," Reader Supported News, February 04, 2015)

Ulfkotte's book is a bestseller in Germany, yet mainstream journalists are not allowed to report on it. (Watch Ulfkotte's interview on RT)

He says "the aim of much of the deception was to drive nations toward war." In turn, when a CIA officer leaks to the press important documents showing how the agency tried to manipulate the public with fake intelligence, probably aimed at justifying another war, he's sent to jail for "breaching public trust."

In late January "a former CIA employee, Jeffrey Sterling, was convicted of giving classified information to a s reporter":

Sterling is accused of telling [ Reporter James] Risen about a CIA operation that had provided flawed nuclear weapon blueprints to Iran in 2000. The charges are unproven.

But no one disputes that Sterling told Senate Intelligence Committee staffers about the CIA action, dubbed "Operation Merlin," which Risen's book later exposed and brought to light as dumb and dangerous. While ostensibly aiming to prevent nuclear proliferation, the CIA risked advancing it. (Norman Solomon, "America's Fake Intelligence on Iran: Why Jeffrey Sterling Deserves Support as a CIA Whistleblower," Global Research, January 05, 2015)

"Operation Merlin" was actually a CIA-Mossad plot. Gordon Prather asked back in 2008:

"What if CIA-Mossad hoped that the Iranians would at least put the "Operation Merlin" stuff into their files, perhaps even correcting the errors and building working prototypes, to be found by the IAEA at a later date, providing "evidence" that the Russians were helping the Iranians develop nuclear weapons? (Gordon Prather, "Operation Merlin II," Antiwar.com, March 8, 2008)

When Sterling was convicted, US Attorney General Eric Holder claimed: "The disclosures placed lives at risk and they constituted an egregious breach of the public trust by someone who had sworn to uphold it."

So the chief lawyer of the US, the man who represents the "justice system", is clearly saying that those who disclose plots of fake evidence to justify war "breach public trust," while the plotters who want to fool the public and international officials are the ones who "uphold it." Absurdity is not strong enough a word to describe this.

Another book stirred some controversy recently, , () Roger Auque's memoirs published posthumously. Auque, a well-known journalist who worked for major French magazines as well as the French Canadian public network Radio-Canada, admitted: "I was paid by the Israeli secret services to lead operations in Syria, using reporting as a cover." , one of France's leading magazines for which he worked, writes that "he also offered his services to the DGSE, (the French CIA) before becoming an object of interest for the CIA."

Contrary to Ulfkotte who's filled with remorse, the French reporter was "not at all ashamed of this revelation."

These few examples show once again the importance of independent media and how the corporate mainstream media is nothing but a mouthpiece for powerful interests who do not want you to be informed but rather want to manufacture consent and keep you in the dark about important issues.

Chaos: Practice and Applications

The term "chaos" has been popping up a lot lately in the increasingly collapse-prone world in which we find ourselves. Pepe Escobar has even published a book on it. Titled Empire of Chaos, it describes a scenario "where a[n American] plutocracy progressively projects its own internal disintegration upon the whole world." Escobar's chaos is tailor-made; its purpose is "to prevent an economic integration of Eurasia that would leave the U.S. a non-hegemon, or worse still, an outsider."

Escobar is not the only one thinking along these lines; here is Vladimir Putin speaking at the Valdai Conference in 2014:

A unilateral diktat and imposing one's own models produces the opposite result. Instead of settling conflicts it leads to their escalation, instead of sovereign and stable states we see the growing spread of chaos, and instead of democracy there is support for a very dubious public ranging from open neo-fascists to Islamic radicals.

Why do they support such people? They do this because they decide to use them as instruments along the way in achieving their goals but then burn their fingers and recoil. I never cease to be amazed by the way that our partners just keep stepping on the same rake, as we say here in Russia, that is to say, make the same mistake over and over.


© Wikimedia Commons

Indeed, Escobar's chaos doesn't seem to be working too well. Eurasian integration is very much on track, with China and Russia now acting as an economic, military and political unit, and with other Eurasian states eager to play a role. The European Union is, for the moment, being excluded from Eurasia because it is effectively under American occupation, but this state of affairs is unlikely to last due to budgetary problems. (To be precise, we have to say that it is under NATO occupation, but if we dig just a little, we find that NATO is really just the US military with a European façade hammered onto it Potemkin village-style.)

And so the term "empire" seems rather misplaced. Empires are ambitious undertakings that seek to exert control over their domain, and what sort of an empire is it if its main activity is stepping on the same rake over and over again? A silly one? Then why not just call it "The Silly Empire"? Indeed, there are lots of fun silly imperial activities to choose from. For example: arm and train moderate opposition to a regime you want to overthrow; find out that it isn't moderate at all; try to bomb them into submission and fail at that too.

Some people raise the criticism that the empire does in fact function because somebody somewhere is profiting from all this chaos. Indeed they are, but taking this as a sign of imperial success is tantamount to regarding getting mugged on the way to the supermarket as a sign of economic success. Success has nothing to do with it, but Escobar's "internal disintegration" does seem apt: the disintegrating empire's internal chaos is leaking out and causing chaos everywhere. Still, the US makes every effort to exert control, mainly by exerting pressure on friends and enemies alike, and by demanding unquestioning obedience. Some might call this "controlled chaos."

But what is "controlled chaos"? How does one control chaos, and is it even possible? Let's delve.

Chaos Theory

There is a branch of mathematics called chaos theory. It deals with dynamic systems that exhibit a certain set of behaviors:

- For any causal relationship that can be observed, tiny differences in initial conditions cause large differences in outcome. The hackneyed example is the "butterfly effect" where the hypothetical flapping of the wings of a butterfly influences the course of a hurricane some weeks later. Or, to pick a more meaningful example, if the stock market were a chaotic system, then investing a million dollars in an index fund might result in a portfolio of about a million dollars a few months later; whereas investing a million and one dollars might result in a portfolio of minus a trillion dollars and change.

- Unpredictability beyond a short time-period: given finite initial information about a system, its behavior beyond a short period of time becomes impossible to predict. Since information about a real-world system is always finite, being limited by what can be observed and measured, chaotic systems are by their nature unpredictable.

- Topological mixing: any given region of a chaotic system's phase space will eventually overlap with every other region. Chaotic systems can have several distinct states, but eventually these states will mix. For example, if a certain bank were a chaotic system, with two distinct states—solvent and bankrupt—then these states would eventually mix.

Mathematicians like to play with models of chaos, which are deterministic and time-invariant: they can run a simulation over and over again with slightly different inputs, and observe the result. But real-world chaotic systems are non-deterministic and non-time-invariant: not only do they produce wildly different outputs based on very slightly different inputs, but they produce different outputs every time. What's more, even if deterministic chaotic systems did exist in nature, they would be indistinguishable from so-called "stochastic" systems—ones that exhibit randomness.

Control Theory

Another branch of mathematics deals with ways of controlling dynamic processes. A typical example is a thermostat: it maintains constant temperature by turning a heat source on if the temperature drops below a certain threshold, and off again if it rises above a certain other threshold. (The difference between the two thresholds is called "hysteresis.") Another typical example is the autopilot: it is a device that computes the difference between the programmed course and the actual course, called an "error signal," and applies that error signal to a control mechanism to keep the boat or the plane on course. There are many variations on this theme, but the overall scheme is always the same: measure system output, compare to reference, compute error signal, and apply it as negative feedback to the system.

In order to apply control theory to a system, that system must obey certain principles. One is the superposition principle: output must be proportional to the input. Left rudder always causes the boat to turn left; more left rudder causes it to boat to turn left faster. Another is time-invariance: the boat reacts to changes in rudder angle the same way every time. These are necessities; but most applications of control theory make an additional assumption of linearity: that changes in system behavior are linearly proportional to changes in control input. Since all real-world systems are non-linear, an effort is usually made to endow them with a relatively linear flat spot in the middle of their useful range. Turn a boat's rudder a little bit, and the boat turns as expected; turn it too far, and it stalls and no longer works.

Applying control theory to chaotic systems is tricky, because of the issue of "controllability": is it possible to put a system in a particular state by applying particular control signals? In a chaotic system, very small error signals can produce very large differences in system output. Therefore, a chaotic system cannot be controlled. However, an uncontrollable system can sometimes be stabilized and made to cycle around within a particular, useful, or at least non-lethal, part of its phase space. Generally, to stabilize the system, it must be observable: it must be possible to measure the output of the system and use it to issue corrections. However, even an an unobservable system can still be stabilized, by detecting its state periodically and applying a control signal to push it incrementally in the right direction.

Here is a real-world example. Suppose you are hurtling along a slush-covered highway in a subcompact car with bald summer tires. At some point a very minor perturbation of some sort will transform this controllable system into an uncontrollable one: the car will start spinning. Since it can no longer be steered, it will slide toward the barrier on one side of the highway or the other. It will also become unobservable: with the driver spinning along with the car, it will become impossible to observe the car's trajectory based on short glimpses of the roadway spinning past. Can this situation be stabilized?

Yes, it turns out that it can be. This is a trick I learned from a jet fighter pilot, which I was then able to apply to the exact scenario I just described. If a jet starts tumbling out of control, the pilot's job is to get it to stop tumbling and to get it back to level flight. This is done by twisting one's head back and forth in rhythm with the spin, catching glimpses of the horizon, and working the yoke, also in rhythm to the spin, to slow it down, and to make the horizon go horizontal.

In a car, the driver's job is to get the car to stop spinning without hitting the barrier on either side of the highway. This is done by twisting one's head in rhythm to the spin, catching glimpses of the barriers on each side of the road, and working the steering wheel, also in rhythm to get the car to stop spinning while keeping it away from either barrier. If the car is spinning clockwise, then a clockwise twist to the steering wheel will move it forward, a counterclockwise twist will move it backward, and a stomp on the brakes will slow down its forward or backward motion somewhat.

This is typically the best that can be done in controlling chaos: using small perturbations to keep the system within a certain range of safe, useful states, keeping it out of any number of useless or dangerous ones. But there is one more caveat: such applications of control theory to chaotic systems require finding out the properties of the chaotic system ahead of time. That's rather tricky to do if a system evolves continuously in response to these small perturbations. In situations that involve politics or military matters, applying the same control measure twice is about as effective as telling the same joke twice to the same audience: you become the joke.

The moral of this story should be obvious by now: as with the car on a slush-covered highway, any fool can get it to spin out, but that same fool is then unlikely to have the presence of mind, the skill and the steel nerves to keep it from hitting one of the barriers. Same goes for the would-be builders of an "empire of controlled chaos": sure, they can generate chaos, but controlling it in a manner that allows them to derive some benefit from it is rather out of the question, and even their ability to stabilize it, so that they are not themselves hurt by it, is in grave doubt.

Carabao (water buffalo) runs for freedom from slaugherhouse, injures 3 in Quezon City, Philippines


After a trip from Naga City, the animal ends up as a “detainee” at the QCPD-Cubao station on Saturday.

A carabao's wild run for freedom from a Quezon City slaughterhouse wreaked terror in a commercial area early Saturday, forcing an evacuation at a call center and tossing furniture in the lobby of a small hotel.

Before it could be restrained, the water buffalo injured three people, including a butcher and a call center agent. At press time, the farm animal remained tethered and caged in a freight container outside a police station in Cubao, more than a kilometer from the abattoir, where its two-hour rampage ended.

Police said the animal, a three-year-old female weighing about half a ton and with potentially lethal 18-inch horns, escaped around 3 a.m. from the Mega Q-Mart slaughterhouse on Ermin Garcia Street in Barangay (village) E. Rodriguez, after it was unloaded from a truck carrying livestock from Naga City.

"Maybe the smell of blood made it run wild," Dante Floresca, one of the workers who delivered the animals, said in an interview.

First to be gored was butcher Jonith Rufino, 35. "I ran, but it was faster. It tossed me into the air with its horns and when I woke up, I was being stitched up in hospital," he told Agence France-Presse.

"In my 14 years at work, this is the first time I was attacked by an animal," said Rufino, who required 14 stitches to a wound on his backside at Quirino Memorial Medical Center (QMMC).

Later, on Ermin Garcia Street, the carabao encountered Willie Aries, 44, who had just bought bread from a bakeshop. According to his nephew, Aidween Servantes, Aries was treated also at QMMC for bruises and leg injuries after being attacked twice by the animal. In the second attack, he said, his uncle's denim pants got caught on one of the horns and that he had to take the pants off to free himself.

The carabao then galloped toward Aurora Boulevard where it attacked 32-year-old call center agent Maria Betty Tanion. The woman was thrown off her feet and lost consciousness after her head hit the pavement.

Reaching the Araneta commercial center, the animal entered the lobby of a small hotel and tossed some furniture, according to SPO1 Kingly James Bagay of the Quezon City Police District's Cubao station.

It later barged into the building of Telus International Philippines, Bagay said.

No one was hurt at the two buildings but the call center, where some glass panels were broken, had to be evacuated, he said.

The animal was eventually trapped at the call center's reception hall, about two hours after the rampage began. "A lot of people helped the police in pulling the rope tied around the carabao to stop it," the police officer said.

"I've been a policeman in this city for 15 years. I have never seen anything like it," he said. "The animal was probably stressed after the overnight trip. Its handlers should have paid more attention."

Bagay said the carabao would likely still be destined for the abattoir.

Through the Philippine Carabao Center in Nueva Ecija province, the government promotes the conservation and propagation of the carabao as a source of draft animal power, meat, milk and hide.

Data from the Bureau of Agricultural Statistics showed that some 457,000 carabaos were slaughtered for meat in 2013, while some 6.57 million liters of carabao milk were produced that same year.

The latest inventory puts the total carabao population in the country at 2.68 million as of July 2014.

A House bill pending since 2011 seeks to prohibit the slaughter of carabaos when they reach a certain age: 7 years old and above for males and 11

Thousands evacuated due to raging forest fire near Valparaiso, Chile

© AP

Plumes of smoke from a wild fire rise over Valparaiso, Chile, Friday, March 13, 2015.

A serious forest fire spread quickly on Chile's coast Friday and threatened to reach the nearby port cities of Valparaiso and Vina del Mar.

Officials said the fire began at an illegal garbage dump in the afternoon and flames were spread quickly by high winds, leading authorities to declare a state of catastrophe in the area. Deputy Interior Secretary Mahmud Aleuy said that about 4,500 people in six neighborhoods had been evacuated as flames advanced nearby and that an additional 10,000 might need to be moved.

[embedded content]

The interior ministry said a 67-year-old woman died of cardio-respiratory causes, and firefighters reported at least 10 people injured.

Chile's Emergency Office estimated that about 300 hectares (about 740 acres) had been affected by late Friday.

Chile suffered its worst urban fire in the same general area, in April 2014, when a raging blaze that started as a forest fire leaped from hilltop to hilltop in Valparaiso, killing 15 people, injuring more than 500 and destroying more than 2,900 homes.

The city, which was declared a World Heritage Site by UNESCO in 2003, is known for colorful neighborhoods hugging hills so steep that people use stairs rather than streets. About 75 miles (120 kilometers) northwest of the capital, Santiago, it has a vibrant port and is home to Chile's national legislature.

Heavy rainfall kills 14 and damages crops in North India

© Ashok Raina

The foothills of the Dhuladhars overlooking the lush green Kangra valley experienced fresh snowfall on Sunday.

Widespread rains battered large swathes of North India on Sunday bringing mercury down by several notches, even as it claimed 14 lives and damaged crops in several regions.

Twelve people were killed in Rajasthan due to rain, lightning and hailstorms, which also destroyed Rabi crops in the state, while two were killed in Uttarakhand in rockslide triggered by heavy rain.

Cold conditions returned to Delhi after the showers as the day temperature plummeted to 19.6 degree Celsius, nine degrees below normal. According to the Meteorological department, the city received 3.6 mm rains till 5.30pm this evening. The minimum temperature was 16.6 degrees, two notches above normal, while maximum was registered at 19.6 degree. On Saturday, the maximum was recorded at 27.3 degrees.

In Rajasthan, besides those dead, scores of cattle perished while several people were also injured in thunderstorms in the last 24 hours, officials said on Sunday.

Six people were killed in Bundi district, two each in Rajsamand and Sawaimadhopur districts and one each in Bikaner and Ajmer districts, police said.

Incessant rains, hailstorm and winter's revival have not only affected normal life but also caused damage to standing Rabi crops in entire Rajasthan, a MeT official said.

Meanwhile, higher reaches of Himachal Pradesh received a fresh spell of snow while rain lashed mid and lower hills. Avalanche threat loomed large over high-altitude tribal areas above 2,500 feet as melting of snow and glacier movement could accelerate in next few days.

Rohtang and Kunzam Pass, Pin Parvati valley and Chitkul and other high-altitude tribal areas received 10 cm to 20 cm of snow while Keylong and Kalpa recorded 3 cm and 2 cm of snow. High-altitude tribal areas reeled under biting cold wave conditions with minimum temperatures ranging between minus 12 and minus 18 degrees.

Keylong and Kalpa in Lahaul and Spiti and Kinnaur districts recorded a low of minus 5.9 degree and minus 2 degree, followed by Chamba 1.0 degree. Tourist resorts Dalhousie, Manali and Shimla recorded 2.6 degree, 4.4 degree and 5.3 degree respectively.

Ancient statues destroyed by ISIS fake, real ones safe – report

The ancient statues that Islamic State militants smashed in Mosul on camera last month have been proved to be exact replicas of precious artifacts of Iraqi heritage. The real masterpieces of antiquity are said to be in Baghdad.

“They were copies. The originals are all here,” Baghdad’s museum director told Germany’s Deutsche Welle.

The head of the antiquity department in Iraq’s cultural heritage authority, Fawzye al-Mahdi, also told the German broadcaster that “none” of the artifacts “were originals.”

This, experts say, explains why in a video that shows the destruction statues crumble so easily.

“The reason they crumble so easily is that they're made of plaster. You can see iron bars inside," Mark Altaweel of the Institute of Archaeology at University College, London said to Channel 4.

However, Mosul’s exiled governor Atheel Nuafi, said that, while many of destroyed items were not originals, but there were real ones demolished afterward.

“There were two items that were real and which the militants destroyed,” he told Iraq television. “One is a winged bull and the other was the God of Rozhan.” He also said that before destroying the museum, ISIS militants could have stolen several items.

A video appeared on Youtube in February, showing several men crashing museum statues and winged bulls monuments securing gates of ancient Nineveh, located not far away from Mosul.

Mosul Museum has the second biggest collection of ancient relics in Iraq. It owned dozens of thousands of items from Nineveh and other ancient centers of Northern Mesopotamia. In 2003, at the height of operation against Saddam Hussein, the museum was ransacked by looters, but its workers managed to save most valuable masterpieces and moved them to Baghdad before the city assault. Meanwhile, some important items were still kept there including an ancient statues and ceramics collection.

In summer 2014, ISIS took over Mosul and began destroying ritual constructions as relics are considered by the militants as “worthless idols”.

It’s not just ancient statues but also temples which the Islamic State targets. Thus, jihadists razed to the ground the Mosque of the Prophet Yunus, equaled to Bible’s Jonah, the Mosque of the Prophet Jerjis worshiped by Shiah Muslims and other relics, including those honored by Christians Assyrians.

In February 2015 ISIS also burned the city’s library as well as the libraries of a Dominican monastery and of a Catholic church. Hundreds of thousands books, rare Iraqi newspapers from the beginning of the 20th century and Ottoman Empire period maps and books were also burned or exploded in archives, while a small portion of the collection was carried off by truck in an unknown direction.

ISIS did not stop at Mosul and later in March demolished the remains of the ancient city of Hatra in the north of the country, which has been on the UNESCO World Heritage list since 1987, following a “bulldozing” of the ancient Assyrian city of Nimrud.

This week, the Islamic States threatened to beyond Iraq and destroy Egypt's Sphinx and pyramids as it was time for Muslims to erase the pharaohs' heritage.

Earlier, Iraqi Tourism and Antiquities Minister Adel Shirshab called on the US-led coalition “to activate its air strikes” to defend the cultural heritage of the country.

Shirshab and the head of the antiquities board, Qais Rasheed, said the coalition did not do enough to prevent the attacks in the ancient cities. They insist the coalition troops were able to see at least the preparations of the militants to bulldozing of Hatra.

In response to the calls and accusations, the highest military-ranking officer in the US on ruled out immediate airstrikes.

“Military campaigns are all about priorities,” General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff stressed and then pointed out that the US would consider protecting heritage sites “as priorities shift.”

“We will consider it, but it will have to fit into all the other things we are being asked to do on behalf of Iraq,” the Wall Street Journal cited Dempsey as saying.

At the same time, the United States plan to return to Iraq 60 cultural artifacts which were illegally smuggled to the U.S. According to the country’s state department, archeological items will be repatriated on Monday.

“At a time when ISIL is destroying the ancient monuments and artifacts of Iraq’s rich history, the United States continues to work towards preserving its historical legacy for the Iraqi people and for the world,” the statement added, using one of the militant group’s former abbreviations.

FLASHBACK: Russian spy chief visits Washington amid Ukraine talks


© RIA Novosti/Alexey Nikolskiy

Alexander Bortnikov

The world is watching as the cease-fire in Ukraine progresses on shaky ground and France and Germany lead a spate of negotiations. However, Moscow's eyes are on Washington, where one of Russia's most powerful men — Alexander Bortnikov, director of the Federal Security Services, or FSB — arrived Wednesday.

The same day, Kiev took another important step in implementing the cease-fire when it withdrew its forces from the eastern Ukrainian city of Debaltseve, a key location along the demarcation line where heavy fighting was still taking place. Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said the cease-fire between Ukraine and Russian-backed separatist forces is largely being observed across the front line except in Debaltseve, which Lavrov called the "cauldron."

Even as Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko continued to deny that Russian-backed separatists had encircled Ukrainian troops in Debaltseve, the Ukrainian forces' retreat from the city was effectively a recognition by the Ukrainian leader that he had no choice but to give into the demands of Russia and his European counterparts. These parties were not about to see the Minsk agreement fall apart because of one battle where the separatists clearly had the upper hand.

This comes after another series of talks between the top players. On Sunday, German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande held a conference call with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Poroshenko. Merkel, Poroshenko and Putin then held another conference call Tuesday, and on Wednesday, all four leaders held yet another call. Russia understands that the European heavyweights are desperate to prevent an escalation of the crisis in Ukraine. Continued progress on the cease-fire gives Moscow more room to negotiate with the Europeans toward a further de-escalation.

But this doesn't solve Russia's primary concern: the United States. Russia has become increasingly vocal about its fear that the United States will deliver lethal weapons to Ukraine. While in Hungary on Tuesday, Putin said that Russian intelligence services had discovered that the United States had already started delivering weapons, though he did not specify whether it was providing lethal aid. Duma Speaker Sergei Naryshkin said Wednesday that delivery of lethal weapons from the United States to Ukraine would breach the Minsk agreements, and Kiev and Washington would take the official blame.

While the Europeans, Ukraine and Russia may have a fragile understanding, Moscow needs its own agreement with Washington to avoid escalating tensions. U.S. President Barack Obama has not revealed his strategy on the issue.

The arrival of Russia's spy chief in Washington creates new intrigue. Bortnikov is one of Russia's most influential men, and since the crisis in Ukraine began, he has reportedly been one of Putin's top confidants. The intelligence chief rarely travels and had not been to the United States in his seven years as FSB director. His predecessor, Nikolai Patrushev, was and still is a frequent visitor to Washington.

Bortnikov cannot travel to EU countries or Canada because he is on their sanctions list, but he is notably absent from the U.S. list. This means that someone in the United States considers him a serious negotiator.

Officially, Bortnikov is in the United States for two days to attend the White House Summit on Countering Violent Extremism. There are no reports that he will attend any other talks while he is in the country, but we would be surprised if his agenda did not include sideline meetings. Reports of Bortnikov's travels did not even emerge until the FSB published a press release announcing he was already in the United States. The release specifically mentioned that Bortnikov had been invited by the U.S. State Department and the White House.

The decision to ask Bortnikov to the United States just as the cease-fire is starting to settle into place is critical. Putin trusts very few people to speak to the United States on his behalf — Bortnikov being one of them. Moreover, as head of the FSB, Bortnikov knows the ins and outs of Russia's support for separatists and intelligence on U.S. moves in the region. Also, Bortnikov is an economist by trade and understands the pressure created by Western sanctions on Russia. He has the comprehensive knowledge needed to discuss all these issues in Washington.

These discussions come at a critical point in this stage of the crisis. However, even if the United States gives Bortnikov assurances that it will respect the line on Ukraine and tensions could ease if Russia keeps its end of the bargain, there is still little trust between the two states.