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Tuesday, 5 May 2015

Uncle Sam's scam: Is Australia that independent?

© Associated Press Photo/G20 Australia, Andrew Taylor
U.S. President Barack Obama and Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott.

In an interview with Sputnik, Australian social activists and members of Australia's Labor Party, Susan and Iman Safi, highlighted the problem of media misinformation in the West, Australia's deplorable political dependency on Washington and the role of Russia in global affairs.

"Western media, which is "best" represented by Rupert Murdoch's News Limited, has lost its honesty, independence, and the quest for investigative journalism. Where are today's equivalents of Bernstein and Woodford who broke the story of the Watergate scandal?" Susan and Iman Safi emphasized.

So far, according to the social activists, it is hardly surprising that Australia's media sources have jumped on the bandwagon of the US-led anti-Russia campaign.

On the other hand, Canberra is not "independent" when it comes to matters of foreign policy. Since the end of the Second World War, Australia's political establishment has been in cahoots with America on practically every matter, "going all the way with LBJ" (a term used by the Australian PM at the time when asked by the 36th President of the United States Lyndon Johnson to send troops to Vietnam), Susan and Iman Safi stressed.

Australia is highly concerned regarding its security and believes that if its policies suit the US' interests that will automatically guarantee Washington's assistance when such is needed.

That is why Australia's Prime Minister Tony Abbott has never missed a chance to criticize Russia, blaming it groundlessly for shooting down the infamous MH17 flight over Donbass or invading Ukraine.

"Unless Australians are prepared to question their need for dependence on America, and some are beginning to do this, PM Tony Abbott can feel at liberty of accusing Russia of the extinction of the dinosaurs," Susan and Iman Safi noted with a touch of irony.

"As a matter of fact however, a former Australian PM, Malcolm Fraser, who died recently, wrote a book titled in which he details the dangers of an alliance that no longer suits Australia's interests and goes even further to say that the alliance with America brings more danger to Australia than not having one," the social activists underscored.

Washington's military adventurism in the Middle East, NSA global surveillance exposed by Edward Snowden and the US' involvement in the Ukrainian coup of February 2014, carried out by neo-Nazi paramilitary groups, have become alarming signals to the world.

"We believe that all forms of USA/NATO/EU interventions in Ukraine are both provocative and foolish. They are based on lies with the single objective of demonizing Russia as a foreground to bring it down," they pointed out.

The world is heading to multi-polarity; Australia and other nations need more breathing space to conduct independent foreign policy.

According to Susan and Iman Safi, who created the international group "BRICS for Polycentric World" on social media, the BRICS are a driving force behind a transformation of the world economy away from a US dominated system.

Moreover, the BRICS will determine the degree to which a new international political order is developed, they believe.

Meanwhile, the West is rapidly losing its high moral ground and position as a "beacon" of liberty and free speech, since it is exercising selective censoring and sanctioning. Free media in the West is quickly becoming a thing of the past, they remarked.

"It is the lies and the deception of the media and the misinformation that Westerners accept as true that allows politicians like Australian PM Tony Abbott to accuse Russia of downing MH17 and to rudely and extremely undiplomatically use street language such as 'shirt fronting' President Putin," Susan and Iman Safi noted.

"As Australians, we feel very ashamed of this series of events and whilst we don't have the formal capacity to apologize on behalf of all of Australia, we will nonetheless say that we are very sorry that this has happened. Mr. Abbott's words and actions were not said and done in our name."

According to Susan and Iman Safi, Russia is currently at the forefront of fighting, on the diplomatic and moral front, tyranny and fascism in the world.

In light of the forthcoming 70th anniversary of the victory in the Second World War, the social activists claimed that regardless of the US-instigated boycott of the May 9 Victory Day Parade in Moscow, Westerners still remember and appreciate the outstanding role of the Soviet Union in defeating Nazi Germany in 1945.

Has a sixth DNA base been discovered?

© Adrian Sanborn, Erez Lieberman Aiden
Physics simulation of 5 megabases of DNA forming loops and domains.

Most text books talk of four DNA bases. Later research has shown there to be five. No, wait, cross that out, there could be six. Scientists suggest that the methyl-adenine is the sixth base and that it is medically important.

DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is the main component of genetic material, found in humans and all other animals. DNA is formed by combining four parts or bases. These are coded A, C, G and T (representing adenine, cytosine, guanine and thymine).

The combination of these leads to thousands of possible sequences. This variation explains the genetic variability found across and throughout living creatures.

Use of the word base is historical, in reference to the chemical properties of 'nucleobases' in acid-base reactions; the term does not really describe their biological functions.

There are, in addition to the four main bases, two other bases. These are methylated forms of other DNA bases. Methylation is a form of alkylation with a methyl group. These have epigenetic implications. Epigenetics is essentially additional information layered on top of the sequence of letters that makes up DNA.

A fifth base was identified a few years ago. Called methyl-cytosine (mC), this is derived from cytosine. The find was of significance because mC can switch genes on or off depending on the physiological needs of each tissue. There is a probable link between alterations to this base and the risk of developing cancer.

Now comes the news, via the University of Barcelona, that there could be a sixth base: methyl-adenine (mA). This base could be key in the life of the cells. The base was identified using advanced screening methods.

In terms of the significance of this base, methyl-adenine appears to regulate the expression of certain genes in eukaryotic cells. This means that it could have a key role in stem cells and in early stages of animal development. Further research will be required to determine the full significance and whether this base is commonly found in humans.

The description of the sixth base has been detailed in the journal . The science paper is called "An Adenine Code for DNA: A Second Life for N6-Methyladenine."

Like the canary in a coalmine, birds tell real story of Fukushima

Like a canary in a coalmine, birds are a good indicator of the quality of an environment. A study has found that Fukushima prefecture has not been friendly to our feathered friends since that fateful day four years ago, and things are not getting better.

© Charles J. Sharp/Sharp's Photography
Barn swallow Farmoor, Oxfordshire.

Using animals as environmental indicators is not a new idea, particularly when it involves studying the after effects of radiation. The flora and fauna in and around the site of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster have been studied for years.

Now it is Fukushima's turn to be studied. Starting a few months after March 11, 2011, when the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power plant disaster occurred, University of South Carolina biologist Tim Mousseau and his colleagues have been monitoring the avian population in and around the Fukushima plant.

Lasting three years, and studying the populations of bird species at over 400 sites around Fukushima, Dr. Mousseau's team found that half the populations of 57 species of birds had suffered declines. But what they discovered is very interesting. The populations have continued to decline, even though the radiation threat has dropped.

"There are dramatic reductions in the number of birds that should be there based on the overall patterns," Mousseau told CBS News.

"In terms of barn swallows in Fukushima, there had been hundreds if not thousands in many of these towns where we were working. Now we are seeing a few dozen of them left. It's just an enormous decline."

Not only have barn swallows been hit hard, but so have the great reed warbler, Japanese bush warbler, and the meadow bunting. Researchers are working to pinpoint the exact cause of the continuing decline.

Earlier field work by Dr. Mousseau showed the nuclear disaster had severe effects on a wide range of species, causing genetic damage to butterflies, monkeys, and other creatures.

Disputing the results of Mousseau study

In 2000, Robert Baker and Ron Chesser of Texas Tech University published a paper saying the Chernobyl nuclear disaster site had turned into a marvelous "game preserve," thanks to the absence of humans.

Both men assert that in the long term, biodiversity and the abundance of species at Chernobyl and Fukushima are not being affected by radiation. "Despite our best efforts, post-accident field studies aren't sufficient to give us a clear picture," says Chesser. "They offer no good controls because we aren't working with data from before the accident."

Mousseau found patches of bleached-white feathers on many of the birds he captured at Fukushima, and this told an important story. "The first time I went to Chernobyl in 2000 to collect birds, 20 percent of the birds [we captured] at one particularly contaminated farm had little patches of white feathers here and there—some large, some small, sometimes in a pattern and other times just irregular," said Mousseau.

The white patches are believed to be due to radiation-induced oxidative stress. This stress depletes the bird's reserves of the antioxidants that control the color of feathers and other body parts. It was also found and documented that birds suffered other abnormalities from radiation exposure, including cataracts, tumors, asymmetries, developmental abnormalities, reduced fertility and smaller brain size.

Mousseau thinks the studies at both Chernobyl and Fukushima are evidence of the cumulative effects of prolonged radiation exposure on wildlife at different stages after a nuclear disaster. Jim Smith, the editor and lead author of Chernobyl: Catastrophe and Consequences, says he doesn't believe the white patches have anything to do with radiation because the levels are considered "low-dose." He remarks, " This would mean the white feather patches—and perhaps the overall bird declines—are being caused by something other than radiation."

But Mousseau is sticking to his belief that something is, indeed going on. He says, "The relationship between radiation and numbers started off negative the first summer, but the strength of the relationship has actually increased each year. So now we see this really striking drop-off in numbers of birds as well as numbers of species of birds. So both the biodiversity and the abundance are showing dramatic impacts in these areas with higher radiation levels, even as the levels are declining."

The question on many people's minds is this: If radiation isn't causing the decline in the bird populations at Fukushima, then what is causing the decline?

Dr. Tim Mousseau's paper was published in the , March 17, 2015, under the title: Cumulative effects of radioactivity from Fukushima on the abundance and biodiversity of birds

Nepal quake survivors face threat from human traffickers supplying sex trade

© Navesh Chitrakar/Reuters
Armed Nepalese police help people in Sindhupalchok district board a helicopter to Kathmandu after last month’s earthquake.

Criminal networks using cover of rescue effort to target poor rural communities in country from which an estimated 15,000 girls are trafficked a year, warn NGOs

Tens of thousands of young women from regions devastated by the earthquake in Nepal are being targeted by human traffickers supplying a network of brothels across south Asia, campaigners in Kathmandu and affected areas say.

The 7.8-magnitude quake, which killed more than 7,000 people, has devastated poor rural communities, with hundreds of thousands losing their homes and possessions. Girls and young women in these communities have long been targeted by traffickers, who abduct them and force them into sex work.

The UN and local NGOs estimate 12,000 to 15,000 girls a year are trafficked from Nepal. Some are taken overseas, to South Korea and as far as South Africa. But the majority end up in Indian brothels where tens of thousands are working in appalling conditions.

"This is the time when the brokers go in the name of relief to kidnap or lure women. We are distributing assistance to make people aware that someone might come to lure them," said Sunita Danuwar, director of Shakti Samuha, an NGO in Kathmandu. "We are getting reports of [individuals] pretending to go for rescuing and looking at people."

Senior western aid officials in the Nepalese capital are also concerned. "There is nothing like an emergency when there is chaos for opportunities to ... traffic more women. There is a great chance that everything that is bad happening in Nepal could scale up," said one.

Sita, 20, told the how she had been taken from her village in Sindhupalchok, the hill area north of Kathmandu, to the Indian border town of Siliguri where she was sold to a brothel owner, repeatedly beaten, systematically raped by hundreds of men and infected with HIV. "I do not have nightmares about my time there. I have erased it from my memory," she said.

Last month's quake killed more than 3,000 people in Sindhupalchok, and left hundreds of thousands homeless.

"The earthquake will definitely increase the risk of abuse," said Rashmita Shashtra, a local healthworker. "People here are now desperate and will take any chance. There are spotters in the villages who convince family members and local brokers who do the deal. We know who they are."

© Manish Swarup/AP
People injured in last month’s earthquake rest inside a tent at a makeshift hospital in Chautara, Sindhupalchok district.

Sita, who was rescued last year, was taken by an uncle "for a job" in India. Her parents, who are subsistence farmers and illiterate, believed assurances she would have a good job and be able to send back her wages.

In the brothel in Siliguri, Sita was forced to have unprotected sex with up to 20 or 30 men a day, seven days a week for a year. When the premises was raided by police, she told officials she wanted to return home and was handed over to an NGO.

"I am worried now for the other girls who might be taken away. They will need the money and be tempted if someone talks to them about a job. Then the same thing will happen to them as happened to me," Sita said.

Nepal, one of the poorest countries in Asia, is the focal point of well organised smuggling networks dealing in everything from tiger skins to precious woods, from narcotics to people.

Danuwar said most of these criminal networks were based in India, which made identification of traffickers difficult. The gangs have representatives and agents looking for suitable women across Nepal, but particularly in deprived rural areas such as Sindhupalchowk.

Many local agents do not know the eventual destination of the women, with some genuinely believing they will find well-paid work in Kathmandu or India. Others are well aware of the real nature of their "jobs". One ruse is to promise marriage to wealthy foreigners.

Kathmandu also has hundreds of bars and massage parlours where women work in poor conditions, with many compelled to have sex with clients. These women are recruited locally, again often in zones hit hard by the quake. "Now [after the earthquake] it is going to be easy for brokers," said Danuwar.

The US State Department has said the Nepalese government does not comply "with the minimum standards for the elimination of trafficking" but " is making significant efforts to do so".

The uncle who abducted Sita was murdered by a contract killer. Her parents remain unaware of exactly what happened to her, though her brothers have found out. They have now disowned her. Victims of sexual violence are frequently ostracised in south Asia, where they are seen as having brought shame on their community.

Sita lives in a secret shelter run by Shakti Samuha. She does not know what has happened to her parents in the earthquake. For many days, communications to her remote village were cut. When she managed to get a line through to a brother, he refused to acknowledge her. "He said he had no sister and I had called a wrong number," Sita said.

Italian police 'reveal' what Jesus looked like as a young boy

© The Independent, UK
Using the Turin Shroud, the supposed burial cloth of Jesus, police investigators have generated a photo-fit image from the negative facial image on the material.

Detectives claim to have revealed how Jesus Christ looked as a child - based on computer forensics and the world's most famous relic.

Using the Turin Shroud, the supposed burial cloth of Jesus, police investigators have generated a photo-fit image from the negative facial image on the material. And from this they reversed the ageing process to create an image of a young Jesus, by reducing the size of the jaw, raising the chin and straightening the nose.

The technique effectively reverses the method that Italian police use to generate current likenesses of criminals, including senior mob bosses, for whom new photo fit images are needed when they have been on the run for decades.

Such techniques were used to produce an image of Mafia boss of bosses Bernardo Provenzano, from a photo taken in 1959. Provenzano was eventually captured in 2006.

© The Independent, UK

This image of Jesus as a young boy, and the methods used to create it, will be the subject of an upcoming programme on Italian television. But the exercise was done to mark the latest - a rare public display of the Shroud at Turin Cathedral.

The 14-foot-long sheet, made of herring-bone linen cloth, appears to show the front and back impression of a bearded man with long hair.

The body imprinted on the cloth appears to bear numerous injuries consistent with crucifixion, plus a gash in its side, consistent with the lance-wound suffered by Jesus.

It will be on public display for two months, with millions of visitors expected. Pope Francis is due to visit and pray before the relic on June 21.

© The Independent, UK

The ingenuity of the Italian police is unlikely to dispel the doubts of the many regarding the veracity of the image on which their detective work was based, however.

Carbon dating tests reported in 1998 in the prestigious research journal , appeared to spell curtains for Shroud wavers. The researchers estimated that the image was made between 1260 and 1390 - and therefore nothing more than a medieval hoax.

Believers countered with claims that the researchers had mistakenly tested modern inserts on the cloth, and said that other tests suggested it contained pollen grains from plants that could only be found in the Holy Land.

But just last month research by Matteo Borrini, a professor of forensic anthropology, now at John Moores University in Liverpool, and Luigi Garlaschelli at the University of Pavia, which was presented at a meeting of the American Academy of Forensic Sciences in Orlando, suggested the Shroud was a fake.

Based on Bloodstain Pattern Analysis, their experiments with a dummy to see which way the blood would have run from Crucifixion wounds and how they would have stained a burial cloth -- showed remarkably different staining from that on the Shroud.

The blood stains on the cloth bear no relation to the placement or to the type of marks caused by a crucifixion - or even the blood stains caused by a wounded body lying in the tomb, the researchers said.

96 percent of Americans expect more civil unrest in U.S. cities this summer

Are you ready for rioting, looting and mindless violence in major U.S. cities all summer long? According to a brand new poll, 96 percent of all Americans believe that there will be more civil unrest in America this summer. That leaves only 4 percent of people that believe that everything will be just fine. In this day and age, it is virtually impossible to get 96 percent of Americans to agree on anything. So the fact that just about everyone agrees that we are going to see more civil unrest should really tell you something.

The anger that has been building under the surface for so many years in this country has finally started to erupt. If you have been following my website for a while, you know that this is something that I have been warning about for a very long time. Many people may have thought that I was exaggerating when I talked about the civil unrest that was coming to American cities. But I was not exaggerating at all. In fact, if anything I was downplaying it. In the years to come, we are going to see things happen in our cities that are going to absolutely shock the world.

Ever since the violence first erupted in Baltimore, what has surprised me more than anything has been the level of hate that I am seeing all over the Internet. I am seeing white people openly proclaim how much they hate black people. I am seeing black people openly proclaim how much they hate white people. I am seeing things said about the police that are absolutely horrifying. Yes, there has been a tremendous amount of police brutality in this nation. In fact, I have been one of the leaders in writing about it. But most police officers are just trying to serve their communities the very best that they can. So why is there so much hate for anyone that is a police officer these days?

If all of this hate continues to grow, it is going to eat our nation alive. Why can't we just learn to forgive one another, love one another and work together to rebuild our once great nation?

I know that what I just said is going to mostly fall on deaf ears. But it needs to be said.

I wish that we could change course as a nation and avoid all of the rioting, looting and senseless violence that is coming. Unfortunately, I don't see that happening, and neither does the rest of the country...

Americans are bracing for a summer of racial disturbances around the country, such as those that have wracked Baltimore, with African Americans and whites deeply divided about why the urban violence has occurred, a new poll has found.

A resounding 96% of adults surveyed said it was likely there would be additional racial disturbances this summer, a signal that Americans believe Baltimore's recent problems aren't a local phenomenon but instead are symptomatic of broader national problems.

What happened in Ferguson set the precedent, and now what has happened in Baltimore has provided the spark for a national movement. Similar "demonstrations" are popping up all over the nation, and a number of them have already turned violent.

For example, check out what happened in Seattle on Friday night...

Demonstrations turned violent in Seattle after night fell, with police reporting that protesters hurled rocks and wrenches at officers and damaged 25 vehicles. Police reported that an "explosive device" was thrown at officers, and a trash bin was pushed down a hill toward police.

Three officers were injured, two seriously enough that they were taken to a hospital, Seattle police said on Twitter. At least 16 people were arrested Friday night, police said.

And just down the coast in Portland, we also witnessed some very ugly violence...

One Portland, Oregon, police officer was injured by a protester, according to police. Portland Police reported on Twitter that protesters were throwing "projectiles" and "incendiary devices" at officers.

Police used pepper spray on protesters who tried to march on a bridge Friday afternoon and later sheriff's deputies used stingballs, filled with tiny rubber balls, on protesters who were throwing chairs at police, according to the department.

These protesters are just copying what they saw in Baltimore. And things would not have ever gotten so bad in Baltimore if the police had not been ordered to stand down and let the riots spiral out of control. Now, we have learned that many police officers were so outraged by this that they want Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to immediately resign...

During a Baltimore-based radio talk show on Thursday, a man who identified himself as a Baltimore police officer named "Jeff" called into the program and said fellow police officers were organizing to push out the city's mayor.

"There is right now over 50 of us officers who are immediately asking for [Baltimore Mayor] Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to step down for what she did to us Monday," the caller told WBAL radio host Derek Hunter.

The Baltimore mayor has denied giving "stand down" orders and blamed the media for misinterpreting her comments about providing "a space" for protesters to loot.

"Any other time in my career, if somebody were to throw a brick or a block at me, we would take immediate actions to pull our weapons on them. Numerous times on Monday when our officers were being injured, our commanders are telling us 'stand down, stand down.' You had no idea what it did to us as police officers to sit there," said the self-described "21-year veteran" of the Baltimore police department.

Scenes of protesters attacking police were broadcast all over the nation, and it was inevitable that we would start to see "copycat attacks" against the police start to happen. In New York City, a plainclothes police officer was shot in the head on Saturday...

A plainclothes New York City police officer was shot in the head and critically injured while in an unmarked police car Saturday as he and his partner attempted to stop and question a man they suspected of carrying a gun, officials said.

Officer Brian Moore and his partner, Erik Jansen, noticed Demitrius Blackwell "walking and adjusting an object in his waistband" when they pulled up on him in their car, exchanging words with him before he turned and suddenly fired at least two rounds into the car, police Commissioner William Bratton said.

"The man immediately removed the firearm from his waistband and turned in the direction of the officers and deliberately fired several times at the vehicle, striking Officer Moore in the head," Bratton said at a press conference at a Queens hospital. The 25-year-old Moore was undergoing surgery but listed in stable condition.

We are seeing the same thing when it comes to racially-motivated violence. This is something that we witnessed in Baltimore, and now all over the nation people are being attacked just because of the color of their skin.

For instance, one young man in California attacked a random passerby with a baseball bat...

A Fontana man accused of beating a passerby with a bat in an apparently random attack in Rialto, leaving the victim with life-threatening injuries that he was not expected to survive, was charged Wednesday with attempted murder allegedly committed as a hate crime.

Jeremiah Ajani Bell, 22, was arrested Monday, a day after a daylight assault on 54-year-old Armando Barron, who was walking down the street when he was attacked.

So why did this happen? Well, apparently it was because the passerby had the wrong skin color...

"It appears he was targeting anybody who wasn't black," Rialto police Detective Sgt. Paul Stella said Wednesday.

We witnessed an even more disturbing example of racially-motivated violence just the other day in South Carolina...

Witnesses and police say a mob of 60 black teens took to the streets of Charleston, South Carolina, to unleash attacks on unsuspecting drivers and pedestrians, all but one of whom were white.

And of course police in some areas of the country are also using unnecessary violence. Just consider what happened to a group of peaceful protesters in Denver on Wednesday...

With much of the nation focused on the police abuse protests happening in Baltimore and New York City, the Denver police and their actions against a group of protesters on Wednesday has largely gone unnoticed.

But police were dressed for war. Paramilitary style. And they weren't going home without using a few cans of pepper spray and filling up a paddy wagon.

Video that surfaced shows a group of about 100 protesters walking the streets of downtown Denver where they were met with line of motorcycle cops who forced the group on to the sidewalk. One overzealous officer can be seen breaking away from the pack chasing down pedestrians, using his motorcycle as a large weapon.

It's war on the streets of America, and this is only just the beginning.

As we enter the next major economic downturn, people are going to become angrier and even more desperate. And desperate people do desperate things. The next few years are not going to be a good time to be living in urban areas. Even if you only have peace and love in your heart, that doesn't mean that you won't get caught in the crossfire as the violence escalates.

For years, most of our politicians have been preaching hate and division. For years, the mainstream media has been preaching hate and division. For years, Hollywood has been preaching hate and division.

Now we have a nation that is deeply, deeply divided and that is filled with hate.

Things didn't have to turn out this way, but they did. I hope that you are getting ready for what comes next.

The Dark Empire? We're it

If you've read any pulp science fiction and fantasy — and I have, though not for decades — you know all about the Dark Empire.

The Dark Empire is that distant but mighty star empire which swoops down on the peaceful settlers of the planet Zipperdork 3 and suborns them to its plans for galaxy-wide conquest.

Or, in heroic fantasies, the Dark Empire inhabits the chaotic land of Dystopia from which it dispatches hordes of spell-flinging calvary to overrun the peaceful kingdom of Dragonsbane and enslave the heir to the throne inside a tower well secured by charms, demons, and bureaucrats.

The variations are endless. What's inevitable, though it may take several thousand pages, is that a few plucky starship captains will discover the lost super weapons of the ancient Vleen race and char-broil the empire's neutronium-plated space fleet.

Or, a ragged slave boy will find the magic sword Phallusia in the lost city of Oxnard and fulfill an ancient prophecy by slicing the Dark Empire's cavalry into flank steaks. And acquire the throne of Dragonsbane in the meantime, plus an interesting scar.

Whatever. If you've seen a Star Wars movie, or a Lord of the Rings flick, or a barbarian movie starring a professional bodybuilder, you've pretty much got it.

The thing is, the thing that really bothers me, is that nobody ever fills in the back-story for the Dark Empire.

Sure, the Dark Empire can field fleets of star destroyers and hordes of well-equipped warriors. But who builds the starships? Who joins the army? Where did these people go to school? Who raises the food? You can't conquer the galaxy, or even the trackless wastes of Dragsonbane, without a complete civilization to support you.

So, somewhere there must be a Dark Empire homeland. And no doubt you will find there the Dark Empire Missiles and Space Corporation, the First Bank of the Dark Empire, the Dark Empire Unified School District, Dark Empire Mall, and the Dark Empire Parks and Recreation Ministry. There are festivals and patriotic holidays, a Dark Empire Football League, and certified public accountants.

And millions of people who lead normal lives, go to work every day, raise children, and wave the flag. It doesn't take much to keep them in line; the Dark Emperor just need to use the right words:

The emperor doesn't "invade," he "defends the Dark Empire's strategic interests." He doesn't "blackmail" the tiny Kingdom of Twee into giving him their gold and treasure, he "welcomes them into the galactic economy." It goes without saying that the Dark Empire troops never rape, torture, or pillage. But if someone does say it, the Dark Emperor talks solemnly about "human rights violations," and finds a low-ranking scapegoat.

And so the Dark Empire's citizens are reassured and go back to sleep, and to their jobs making Hyperspace Deathbots or poisoned daggers for the Dark Empire's fighting men.

And that's why, from now on, I will refer to the United States' armed drones as "flying robot assassins." Which is, up till now, a term used mainly in the Middle East. Where they see drones in action.

So what's the different between an armed drone and a flying robot assassin? Just semantics. Otherwise, they're both robots, they both fly, and they can both seek out and kill particular people who may or may not be engaged in combat. Which is the definition of assassination.

But if President Obama were to casually mention the need for flying robot assassins to protect U.S. interests abroad — questions would be asked. Those words are dangerous. People might begin to wonder why the world's leading democracy, its beacon of freedom, needs an ever-growing force of flying robot assassins.

The famous cynic George Orwell wrote that a nation's gone completely corrupt when nobody dares call anything by its real name. Bribes become "campaign contributions." Domestic spying is called "anti-terrorist activity." And flying robot assassins are just, you know, unmanned aerial vehicles. Drones.

Inside the Armed Services, of course, they don't mince words. The armed drones have model names like "Predator" and "Reaper," and the military glories in the bloody imagery. Air Force basic training squadrons even have nicknames like "The Predators" and "The Reapers." You should see the t-shirts that they issue the recruits: here's one, below, courtesy of my local Goodwill Industries thrift store.

Whatever America does in the world, wherever, it leaves behind a trail of t-shirts. I collect them; they show up in thrift stores regularly. Here is a tee for the Combined Joint Task Force - Horn of Africa that is all about flying robot assassins, even if it's not so obvious at first.
The CJTF-HOA is the future of anti-terrorism in the Middle East. In large part, it's also a grim base and airfield called Camp Lemonnier in the baking-hot desert nation of Djibouti, on the Gulf of Aden. Djibouti's resources consist of dirt, rock, salt, lizards, pastoral animals, and a free trade zone. It is one of the poorer nations you've never heard of.

And thus Djibouti was happy to let the U.S. do anything it wanted with Camp Lemonnier, a derelict French Foreign Legion base. Conveniently located near Yemen, Somalia and the underbelly of the Middle East.

Camp Lemonnier, Djibouti

Camp Lemonnier is something of a pit: hot, dry, dusty, drab, desolate. Mind you, it's a pit with a giant weight room and fitness center. And the Bob Hope Chow Hall where, on Thanksgiving, low-paid Asian contract workers dress up as Indians and Pilgrims to serve turkey, steak, and crab to beefy men and women in green uniforms. And there are volleyball tournaments and parades and visiting rock bands, and a coffee house called the Green Bean Cafe (two locations). With
Wifi. Pictures aren't easy to find -- but they're out there.

Camp Lemonnier is also home to 400 to 800 Navy Seals, Army Delta Force special ops troops, and intelligence agents; five F-15 fighter-bombers; several spy planes; and a goodly flock of flying robot assassins. I can find very few pictures of all that, though base administration let one of the visiting rock bands have their picture taken in a spy plane.

So when anyone judged to be a terrorist or sympathizer dies in Yemen or Somalia or anywhere nearby, their cause of death likely flew in from Camp Lemonnier. From a flying robot assassin, or from real live assassins working beyond the bounds of law and constitution as we know it. But who believe, or at least are told, that they're defending their country from terrorism. And they're going to keep doing it for years to come; Washington is spending over a billion to make Camp Lemonnier a permanent base. The war on terrorism will never end.

And there's the ghost of George Orwell in the back of the room, waving a finger in the air: if we can't call things by their real name anymore, what's the real name of terrorism?

© U.S. Navy
Camp Lemonnier expansion

I hate to tell you: it's "resistance."Resistance by people who aren't really awfully wonderful in any way, shape or form. Resistance led, often, by fanatical, hateful religious zealots. But zealots with one valid point, or they'd have no support at all: that U.S. and the West have been trampling the region's sovereignty for the last 70 years in the name of oil and big corporate interests. (Name one other reason we'd care so much about the Middle East.) And they'd like us to leave.

They've chosen terror as their weapon, because it's what you can use when the other guy has all the guns and bombs and planes and body armor. And when your anger and hatred, perhaps, has grown past the edge of madness. So you try to break the will of the enemy nation, because you can't break their troops. Ramming airliners into the World Trade Center is one way to do that. Especially when some people interpret "World Trade" as a code name for the Dark Empire.

The wiggly thing about a Dark Empire is that it never looks dark from the inside. It can't, or its own people would begin to disavow it. So the gentle control words are used: "defense against terrorism," "support our troops," "spreading democracy."

And since it's actually done none of those things in recent years, from the outside our Dark Empire just seems darker and darker. As it fights not the War on Terror, but the War on Resistance: resistance to a world-girdling oligarchy of power, money, and greed that is based right here in America.

Might be a hell of a pulp novel in it, eventually. Though maybe not one you'd want to be a character in.

As if you had a choice.

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Possible threat of eruption at Hakone volcano as 100 volcanic earthquakes recorded

© AFP Photo
Anglers fish from a boat floating on Lake Ashinoko in front of Japan's highest peak, Mount Fuji, and other mountains covered with coloured autumn leaves at a Hakone hot spring resort, some 100 kms west of Tokyo

There has been a rise in the number of volcanic earthquakes recorded in Hakone, Japan. The nearby Hakone volcano began belching steaming gas and meteorologists say there is a possible risk of an eruption.

There were two minor quakes registering 2.4 and 2.0 recorded at the Hakone volcano, which is located in the Kanagawa Province and is 80 kilometers southwest of the capital Tokyo. Meanwhile, there were a total of 98 volcanic earthquakes recorded at the popular hot springs resort of Hakone on Tuesday up until 15:00 local time. During the whole of Monday, 34 were logged.

Japan's meteorological agency has issued a warning to limit access to the resort.

"Activity at Hakone... is in a state of uncertainty," the agency said in an advisory, which was reported by AFP. "There is a possibility that a minor eruption may suddenly occur," it said. "Please do not enter dangerous zones."

Despite the warning, the agency still believes the risk of the Hakone volcano erupting is minimal. It is maintaining an alert level at 1 on a scale of 5. Level 1 means "normal."

"Shallow hot-water activity in parts of the Owakudani Valley has become unstable," the agency said in an advisory note, which was cited by the Kyodo news agency. "There is a possibility that a minor ejection [of hot steam] may suddenly occur," it said. "Please do not enter danger zones."

Local hiking trails are also off-limits as there has been a recent surge in volcanic activity. On May 1, just two volcanic earthquakes were recorded; however this figure has been increasing. There were 36 logged on Sunday and 34 on Monday. The figure spiked on Tuesday.

The warning comes during the middle of Japan's spring holidays and is likely to affect tourism in the area. Around 20 million people visit Hakone, which is home to some of the country's most famous hot springs.

In February 2013, 1,400 small earthquakes were recorded around the Hakone Volcano, but there was no eruption. The last one took place around 3,000 years ago.

In November, Japan's largest active volcano, Mount Aso, started spewing ash and stones, which caused local airlines to cancel flights.

However, the eruption of Mount Ontake on September 27 eventually killed 57 people, which was Japan's worst volcanic disaster in almost 90 years. The search for survivors was eventually called off on October 16.

The six faces of maternal narcissism

The disorder of narcissistic parenting creates significant emotional damage to children. If not understood, children raised by narcissistic parents grow up in a state of denial, thinking it is their fault and they are simply not good enough. If good enough, they would have been loved by that parent. While this is a cognitive distortion about self, the myriad of internal messages gleaned from childhood have a haunting effect on adult children of narcissistic parents. "Will I ever be good enough?" "Am I lovable?" "Am I only valued for what I do and how I look?" "Can I trust my own feelings?" Sound familiar?

The word "narcissism" is becoming more of a household term, but is usually used in disparaging others. It is not funny, sometimes not understood, and often used to describe a haughty or arrogant person. The reality is, true narcissism is a serious disorder that harms children. I don't find the humor. Narcissists are truly all about themselves and cannot show genuine empathy. They have a limited capacity for giving unconditional love to their children. The alarming effects are cause for concern.

Identifying parental narcissism is not about encouraging another category of victims. Carrying anger, blame, resentment or rage for that parent is not the point. It is about love, education and understanding so that healing can happen. Children and parents need some common points of connection to be able to recover and move forward with a deeper template. Being able to identify childhood internal messages is significant to thousands. Often a narcissistic parent is not a full-blown narcissist, but has many narcissistic traits. The impact of understanding can assist in repairing past damage. It is true that full-blown narcissists are unlikely to change, but the adult child can do his or her own internal work for recovery.

That said, the six faces of maternal narcissism are identified as: the flamboyant-extrovert, the accomplishment-oriented, the psychosomatic, the addicted, the secretly mean, and the emotionally needy. A parent can be a mixture of these types and often that is the case.

Although brief, the following will explain each type.

The Flamboyant-Extrovert: This is the mother about whom movies are made. She's a public entertainer, loved by the masses, but secretly feared by her intimate house partners and children. She's the show biz or stage mom and is all about performing. She's noticeable, flashy, fun and "out there." Some love her but you despise the masquerade she performs for the world. You know that you don't really matter to her and her show, except in how you make her look to the rest of the world.

The Accomplishment-Oriented: To the accomplishment-oriented mother, what you achieve in your life is paramount. Success depends on what you do, not who you are. This mom is about grades, best colleges and pertinent degrees. But... if you don't accomplish what she thinks you should, she is deeply embarrassed and may even respond with fury and rage.

The Psychosomatic: The psychosomatic mother uses illness and aches and pains to manipulate others, to get her way, and to focus attention on herself. She cares little for those around her. The way to get attention from this kind of mother is to take care of her. This kind of mother uses illness to escape from her own feelings or from having to deal with difficulties in life. You cannot be sicker than she. She will up the ante.

The Addicted: A parent with a substance abuse issue will always seem narcissistic because the addiction will speak louder than anything else. Sometimes when the addict sobers up the narcissism seems less but not always. The bottle or drug of choice will always come before the child.

The Secretly Mean: The secretly mean mother does not want others to know that she is abusive to her children. She will have a public self and a private self, which are quite different. These mothers can be kind and loving in public but are abusive and cruel at home. The unpredictable, opposite messages to the child are crazy-making.

The Emotionally Needy: While all narcissistic mothers are emotionally needy, this mother shows the characteristic more openly than others. This is the mother you have to emotionally take care of which is a losing proposition to the child. The child's feelings are neglected and the child is unlikely to receive the same nurturance that he or she is expected to provide for the parent.

If your parent had some of the above traits, it is important to note that they were not born that way. They likely had their own insurmountable barriers to receiving love and empathy when they were children. This does not take away your pain. We cannot ever condone child abuse. But, this knowledge does help accomplish a deeper understanding.

If your mirror is empty and your childhood lacked in proper nurturing, remember as an adult that recovery is the answer. It is mostly internal work that must be done. The healing five-step recovery model is outlined in . Once we understand, we can move forward and build an internal mother who is always there when you need her. Unlike the narcissistic mother who is always there when she needs you.

Do you recognize some of these faces in your up-bringing?

Late night snacking is hurting your health

© Unknown

Could those late night snacks be adding to your waistline and causing harm to your heart? A new study suggests that its better to eat during the daylight hours.

Nighttime snackers take note: eating late is harming your health, or so suggests a recent study out of San Diego State University.

While the study looked at fruit flies, and not humans, the findings do provide compelling reasons to investigate further whether there is a causal link between late night eating and heart health, amongst other health measures. I have been saying for some time, it is not just WHAT you eat, but WHEN you eat too.

Two-week-old fruit flies were divided into two groups: one group was allowed to eat a standard diet of cornmeal at anytime they wished and the second group was restricted to eating only within a twelve hour period. The amount of food each group ate was comparable. At the end of a three-week period, each fruit fly was measured on several health measures, including weight and heart health. Fruit flies on a restricted schedule were found to have stronger hearts, better sleep patterns, and to have gained less weight than their eat-anytime friends.

The results were the same when repeated at five weeks and when the study was completed with older fruit flies. What is it about late-night snacking that compromises our health, including our heart and waistline?

  • Your body's digestive system works hard each day to process the food you put into your mouth. Nighttime fasting—as I define it, no food after 7pm—allows your digestive system to take a much-deserved rest. Your stomach takes several hours to empty. A dinner or snack after 7pm likely doesn't have time to make it through the system before you fall asleep.
  • Intermittent fasting is actually good for your body, in particular for individuals who are obese or have high blood pressure. Our ancestors went through periods of famine; it is natural to assume our body functioning accommodates times of food scarcity by working more efficiently. Fasting is thought to regulate the body's hunger hormone (ghrelin), which can be out of whack for many people facing obesity. It also works as a reset button for your body: giving you a chance to clear out toxins and regulate insulin levels. It can be for those who require high-level intervention.
  • Allowing your digestive system to "take a breather" promotes better sleep.
  • Most of us are fairly sedentary after 7pm. Calories consumed past this time are more likely to be stored as fat, because our body does not have time to burn them off before we hit the hay.
  • And then there is heart health, something our fruit fly researchers suggest is important to continue examining (I agree). Another preliminary study, this time on humans, found that men who ate late at night were 55% more likely to develop coronary heart disease.
We can all benefit from restricting our food to the daylight hours. The best health advice I can give my patients who seek weight loss support is to consume their most caloric meals earlier in the day, then start to slow consumption towards the end of the day to give the body time to rest, and to ensure that calories consumed have a chance to fuel the body. We also make poor food choices at night; fatigue makes us prone to cravings. Ditch the late-night snacking habit and improve your heart health and waistline.

US and Iranian warships tangle in Gulf of Aden


© Flickr/ Official U.S. Navy Page

A couple of US planes and a navy destroyer approached several Iranian warships in the Gulf of Aden on Monday, Iranian reported, citing a report released by an Iranian TV channel.

called the incident "a provocation," citing the fact that the US warship and planes ignored the internationally set 5-mile distance that navy fleets of different countries have to keep from each other.

As the US ship and planes approached the warships of the 34th Iranian fleet, they received a warning from an Iranian destroyer. After that the Americans changed their direction, reported.

There were reports that Iran was trying to supply weapons to the Houthi rebels in war-torn Yemen. However, Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forced Hassan Firouzabadi dismissed the accusations, stating that the Iranian Navy never entered Yemen's territorial waters, but instead it was in the internationally-recognized waters conducting anti-piracy missions in the Gulf of Aden, the report said.

Deadly landslide of snow and mud triggered by Nepal earthquake captured by satellite; 200 dead



The small village of Langtang, which was located along a popular trekking route near the base of Mount Langtang, was completely buried by ice and rocks shaken loose by devastating earthquake that struck Nepal on April 25, 2015. At least 200 people died in this disaster.

The village was located below a very steep ridge and above the ridge there is a glacier towards the north-west and large snow field right above the village, MountainHydrology writes.

"There has been a lot of snow fall this year and at the moment of the earthquake there were considerable amounts of snow at higher altitudes. From a preliminary investigation we think it is most likely that either a snow avalanche from directly north of Langtang village or a debris/ice avalanche from the north-west has caused this disaster."

These are marked by red arrows in the map:


© Mountain Hydrology

While cloudy conditions have hampered satellite observations of Nepal since the earthquake, the Operational Land Imager (OLI) on Landsat 8 captured a clear view on April 30, 2015.

A mixture of snow, ice, and debris - which originated in snowfields on the slopes above Langtang - slid toward the Langtang River and buried the village.

Walter Immerzeel and Philip Kraaijenbrink, members of a group of volunteer scientists (Mountain Hydrology) with expertise in remote sensing, were the first to identify and analyze the landslide using Landsat 8.

"The Langtang River was completely covered by the deposit that buried Langtang Village, but there is no evidence yet of a lake forming behind the blockage," the scientists noted.

This may indicate that the water has found its way through the debris, snow, and ice which is significant because rivers damned with landslide debris can back up and lead to destructive downstream floods if the natural dam fails.


© Universiteit Utrecht
PDF version of this map is available on MountainHydrology as well as KMZ file for interactive data analysis.

A video uploaded by YouTube user Shaky on May 4, 2015 shows the start of the avalanche. Its description says:

"We were somewhere between Godatabela and Langtang. After the quake large boulders destroyed the forest on the opposite side of the river. Then rocks started rolling on our side and finally the huge avalanche and landslide that destroyed Langtang village created a cloud of snow and mud that came over us and covered everything."

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Man sues Florida hospital after his amputated leg was thrown in the trash


© Reuters/Suhaib Salem

A man in Florida is suing a local hospital for emotional distress after his amputated leg ended up in a dumpster with his name tag still attached to it.

The lawsuit comes after the family of 56-year-old John Timiriasieff was contacted by detectives to tell them his leg, removed in October at Doctors Hospital in Coral Gables, had been found. They were investigating whether he had been the victim of foul play.

"Rather than properly disposing of the plaintiff's limb as expected and as required by Florida law, Doctors Hospital threw [it] into the garbage, with tags indicating it belonged to the plaintiff," the lawsuit, filed on Wednesday on behalf of Timiriasieff in Miami-Dade County Circuit Court, reads.

Furious and anxious to find out what happened, the Timiriasieff family asked the hospital about violation of procedures regarding disposal of amputated parts. The procedure requires the compulsory incineration of amputated limbs.

Yet the hospital offered "no explanation for what had occurred," the lawsuit said, adding it couldn't discuss the incident in detail because of patient privacy.

"However, we can say when Doctors Hospital was notified of this situation, hospital leaders took immediate and appropriate measures to address it," Doctors Hospital said in an emailed statement, Reuters reports. "Proper procedures have been reinforced at the hospital to prevent similar situations from happening in the future."

Disposing of the amputated limb in such a way is "outrageous and beyond the bounds of human decency," Timiriasieff stated in the lawsuit, adding it must be seen as "odious and utterly intolerable."

Timiriasieff is suing for invasion of privacy, embarrassment and humiliation suffered caused by the negligence of the medical staff and the hospital.