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Saturday, 13 June 2015

Impact of testosterone on amygdala depends on motivation rather than on the emotion itself

The activity of the emotion centres in the brain -- the amygdalae -- is influenced by motivation rather than by the emotions themselves. This can be concluded from research carried out at Radboud University into the hormone testosterone. Testosterone increases amygdala activity in a person who is approaching a socially threatening situation and decreases the activity when such a situation is avoided.

It was already known that the amygdala response to images of angry faces was stronger in a person who had received testosterone. This new study shows that this only happens when people approach angry faces and not when they avoid them.

Testosterone or placebo

In a double-blind, placebo-controlled study, 54 young healthy women were given 0.5 mg of testosterone (or a placebo) four hours before a brain scan. This dosage is much lower than, for example, that used for a sex change treatment, or as a supplement for sportspeople, but it is sufficient to have a measurable effect on brain activity.

Happy or angry

While in the fMRI-scanner the participants were shown photos of happy and angry faces and were asked to give a sign of rejection (away from) or of approach (towards). People normally have less of a problem approaching someone who looks friendly than someone who looks angry: making a sign of approach when seeing an angry face actually requires more effort and control. The reaction times confirmed this as they were longer when an angry face was approached. Meanwhile the researchers measured amygdala activity. The actvity was greater in women who had been given testosterone only when they approached angry faces, and only then.

Amygdala for motivation

"Previous research has shown that higher testosterone levels lead to an intensified amygdala reaction in the presence of angry faces," says Karin Roelofs, Professor of Experimental Psychopathology at the Donders Institute for Brain, Cognition and Behaviour, Radboud University. "Those earlier investigations looked at what happens in non-active situations and not during action. The focus was on what you should do if you see an angry face.

It seems that testosterone facilitates social approach by specifically activating the amygdalae only if social approach is desired. This is interesting for two reasons. It explains previous research that showed that testosterone makes approaching a social threat easier. Even more important, it shows that the amygdalae are not necessarily linked to dealing with emotions, but rather to motivation. Many studies forget to look at motivation. We are the first to demonstrate that the impact of testosterone on amygdala response depends on the motivational context."

Also in cases of social anxiety?

"We're now going to repeat this study in people with social anxieties. We have already discovered that these people have lower testosterone levels. We are going to consider how we can apply these results with testosterone to improving the treatment for anxiety disorders."

Journal Reference:

  1. Sina Radke, Inge Volman, Pranjal Mehta, Veerle Van Son, Dorien Enter, Alan Sanfey, Ivan Toni, Ellen R. A. De Bruijn and Karin Roelofs.Testosterone biases the amygdala toward social threat approach., 2015 DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.1400074

Comment: The amygdala is a part of the reward circuit in the brain that records emotional memories. It acts as an "inner sentry" - and protects from repeating painful experiences by ascribing to outside stimuli a sense of "pleasure" or "pain". It is a very fast and subconsciously acting system that bypasses the much slower input from the rational brain. If humans enter a social situation and want to bond, they have to silence their amygdala to turn off the sentry. Also testosterone increases dopamine levels in the reward circuitry.

Given that the effect of testosterone can be modified by motivation, the above study seems to indicate that there are further factors involved in this feedback loop, which currently are not very clear.

Freight train derails on bridge in Houston, TX causing several cars to fall off overpass

© Air 11 / KHOU 11
There were no injuries reported when several cars derailed on the bridge over Old Katy Road in Houston on Thursday.

After a day of clean up after a train derailed along Old Katy Road, officials said the road should be reopened by Friday morning.

The incident happened around 8:30 a.m. near Washington Avenue, just north of the Katy Freeway.

According to a spokesman Jeff Degraff with Union Pacific, which runs the tracks, the Kansas City Southern train traveling from Beaumont was heading west on its way to Kendleton when the derailment happened at the Eureka Junction.

A total of nine cars and a locomotive came off the tracks. Two of the cars fell off the overpass.

The spokesman said that the cars that fell contained soy bean and plastic pellets. No hazardous materials were present.

There was a two-man crew, a conductor and an engineer, operating the train when it derailed. No injuries were reported.

Officials said this train had two locomotives - one at the front with the crew and a second in the middle to help stabilize the train. It was the second unmanned locomotive that derailed.

Nobody was driving underneath the bridge when this train jumped the tracks, but KHOU 11 News heard from plenty of folks who feel fortunate because they had just passed by.

"We are just blessed to know nobody was injured either from our company or the public," Danny Uhyrek, who works nearby, said.

At this time there are crews from both Union Pacific and Kansas City Southern working to offload the product before they can upright the cars.

Train derails over Old Katy Road

The spokesman explained that it is a lengthy process and would several hours. The railroad was also damaged during the accident and will have to be cut and replaced.

Both tracks will remain closed until the repairs are completed.

Officials could not give an exact time when the roadway would be reopened.

At this time, officials are not sure what cause the derailment.

"I am unsure of the specifics of exactly how the derailment occurred and the actions of the crew," Degraff said. "That investigation has already started, but it will take some time, we are in the process of downloading the information from both locomotives."

Once that is completed, officials say they should have a good idea of what happened and will report the findings to the Federal Railroad Commission.

Ya think?! A Machiavellian plan against Russia?


© Unknown
Just 'cause yer machiavellian don't mean yer smarter than yer opponents, Barry.

MOSCOW - To the Kremlin, recent events in its backyard have proved once and for all that the amorphous body known as 'the West' - its politicians, institutions, media, diplomats, armies, financial architecture and governance bodies - are not to be trusted. The charge sheet is long and contested: it starts with NATO's 'out of theater' bombing campaign in Yugoslavia in 1999, includes broken promises over eastern European integration into the EU and NATO in the early 1990s, color revolutions in neighboring states, botched interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq, destabilization in Libya and Syria, repeated attempts to find common security architecture rebuffed, and leads to the revolution/coup that took place in Kiev in March 2014, breakaway regions in eastern Ukraine, subsequent political and economic sanctions against Russia and, most recently, threats to remove Russia's FIFA World Cup hosting rights in 2018. Whether all of this is part of some long-term, Machiavellian plan to destabilize Russia - an entirely uncontroversial view at all levels of society here - is questionable, but calls to mind the famous quote from Catch-22: 'Just because you're paranoid, doesn't mean they're not out to get you.'

And Russia is not alone. That other great misunderstood Eurasian civilization, China, shares many of these concerns. The Bretton Woods institutions have proven incapable of self-reform, subject to the narrow influence of just a few countries and shareholders, and ignored calls to restructure. When, last year, the US Congress blocked IMF reform plans that had been agreed among the G20, it was to many the most visible sign yet that internal reform could not be expected. As a result, competitor institutions have been created - the BRICS development bank, the Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) - whose priorities, it is claimed, will more closely match 21st century realities.

It is against this backdrop that Russian President Vladimir Putin next month will play host to two of the most significant—and least trumpeted—global meetings of the year. In the remote industrial city of Ufa, located some 1000km east of Moscow in the southern Urals, the leaders of the BRICS nations and the Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) will convene separately, potentially heralding a new dawn in global summitry.

The BRICS Summit brings together the leaders of Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa for the seventh time in its history (and second time in Russia). President Vladimir Putin has been a strong proponent from the start, encouraging the initial ministerial meeting in New York in 2006 and hosting (with former President Dmitry Medvedev) the bloc's first full summit in Ekaterinburg in 2009. It is unusual for institutions to be born as shorthand acronyms created by investment bankers, and, as a result, the organization struggled initially to develop traction. But those early days seem to be behind it, and the organization is now busy creating an alternative international financial and regulatory framework to replace what it sees to be the outdated Bretton Woods model. The Ufa meeting represents the beginning of Russia's year-long presidency, which will culminate in next year's China summit. Reportedly, a 130-item discussion agenda has been created based on proposals presented to the Kremlin by all federal agencies.

The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) was created in 2001 by China, Russia, and the Central Asian states Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan and Uzbekistan. Its initial focus was on counter-terrorism and extremism, but as its membership has grown (observers now include Afghanistan, India, Iran, Mongolia and Pakistan, and 'dialogue partners' Belarus, Turkey and Sri Lanka), its objectives have broadened accordingly to include political, trade, economic, scientific, and cultural aims.

So far, real progress has been limited, but the ambitions are clear. Infrastructure projects have been inked valued in the hundreds of billions of dollars. Oil and gas pipelines, LNG ports, power plants, road links, fast rail, all are present in China's 'One Belt, One Road' (or 'Silk Road') project, a strategic initiative underpinned by the new governance structures. A $40 billion investment fund has already been created, with many times that amount in bilateral deals agreed across Central and South Asia. The AIIB alone has initial capital of $100 billion. Small wonder, then, that many citizens of EU and NATO member Greece, distressed and disillusioned after years of austerity economics, see a possible future in these new institutions.

No one doubts that there will be huge challenges. Institutional capacity, relationships based on rather than shared values, overlapping organisational structures (for example, the much-touted Eurasian Economic Union that Russia has created also includes Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and Armenia), low levels of trust between the parties, and competition for influence over Central Asia could all lead to institutional impasse.

But it is hard to deny that the momentum is on their side. Mechanisms to present alternatives to the ubiquitous US dollar are being created, with a $25 billion credit swap facility opened between Russia and China last year, maiden yuan-denominated letters of credit recently agreed between Russia's Sberbank and China's Export-Import Bank, and a proposal for a BRICS alternative to the international payment mechanism SWIFT, access to which Russia was threatened with losing last year. In the meantime, the central banks of a number of regional economies, including China, Russia, and Kazakhstan, are purchasing gold bullion in unprecedented volumes, suggesting preparations are in place to create some kind of gold-backed financial instrument in the medium term.

Russian officials have been keen to point out that the BRICS and SCO meetings will not overlap. At this stage, this is almost beside the point; the symbolism of simultaneously hosting a group that combines the world's largest economic growth markets as well as a group that seeks to secure national sovereignty and territorial security over the largest landmass, Eurasia, will not be lost on their populations. Meanwhile, in the West, US President Obama's jibe about recreating the 'glories of the Soviet empire' is consistent with an approach and narrative that look backwards rather than forwards. Western 'isolation' of Russia is inspiring the country to create new economic realities that should create the growth towards a more balanced and sustainable economy for decades to come.

Giant fire rainbow colors the sky over Bangkok and baffles residents

A giant fire rainbow appeared in the sky over Bangkok on June 9, 2015.

Many users of social networks say this iridescent cloud could presage an anomalous natural event, like an earthquake. Well hopefully not!

[embedded content]

Such clouds have been witnessed and filmed just before apocalyptic earthquakes in China.

Canada gone crazy: Teenaged "ISIS supporter" guilty of no crime in custody in Winnipeg

Warning: supporting U.S.-backed terrorist groups can get you arrested.

RCMP in Winnipeg have raided the rental home of an ISIS supporter known by the alias Harun Abdurahman and seized what's believed to be computer equipment.

Neighbours say undercover officers have been watching the home in the city's southwestern neighbourhood of Charleswood for months.

RCMP took out garbage bags containing what appeared to be computer towers.

It's unknown if Abdurahman has been arrested.

RCMP would only confirm officers executed a search warrant as part of an investigation.

"The large police presence, initially, was to ensure the safety of the officers involved, and the public," Sgt. Bert Paquet wrote in an email. "At this point, any further details could undermine the ongoing investigation."

Abdurahman gained national attention in March when he expressed his extreme views in an interview with a Toronto newspaper.

His father, a career member of Canada's Armed Forces, said CSIS had told him his 23-year-old son was considered a radical extremist.

"They told me he was on the watch list. He was considered a radical extremist and 'we hope he doesn't go to terrorist,'" said the man's father in an exclusive interview with CBC News in March. The CBC is not identifying the father.

"Here you've got your national security force, if you will, monitoring your child," he said. "How would you react to something like that? I didn't know what to say."

The father could not be reached Thursday. He is unavailable to comment for "personal, private" reasons, an official with the federal department of national defence said Friday morning.

"He's safe and is receiving the support he needs," the official said. "I can't confirm if it's directly related to the situation with his son but I can assure you he's receiving the support he needs from the chain of command."

The owner, who arrived at the residence in the mid-afternoon on Thursday to speak to officers, could not be reached by CBC News for comment.

'Very pro-Islamic State rhetoric'

Amarnath Amarasingam, a post-doctoral fellow at Dalhousie University, has been researching foreign ISIS fighters and their Canadian family and friends, as part of the Canadian Network for Research on Terrorism, Security and Society (TSAS).

He has been monitoring Abdurahman and hundreds of other Canadian ISIS supporters on Twitter for the past year.

"The son has been quite active online saying things like 'I'm happy to go to jail for something I believe in' or 'I'm happy to continue to do what I do.'

"I think he has been visited by law enforcement and warned by law enforcement and continues to be quite active in terms of posting things that are quite supportive of the Islamic State," Amarasingam said from Waterloo, Ont.

"That kind of very pro-Islamic State rhetoric has been there as well. I think it will be interesting to see if he is charged with something or whether they just took his computers and things like that to search what he has been downloading."

Abdurahman's father has been worried his son would be swept up in new security provisions in Bill C-51. Amarasingam believes that is quite possible.

"This notion that promotion of terrorism can be something you can be charged with. It will be interesting to see if someone like Harun will be the first test case," he said.

"It will be interesting to see how far the government wants to take it and whether he faces any consequences for these kinds of things."

New funding for CSIS

Just today, Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced $136.81 million over five years, and $40.97 million per year following, under his Economic Action Plan 2015 to increase the front-line capacity of the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS).

The resources will "significantly increase the agency's front-line capacity to combat the growing threat of jihadi terrorism," he said at an event in Toronto.

The money will support counterterrorism capabilities to identify and address threats from those planning acts on Canadian soil or from would-be terrorists trying to travel abroad to commit acts elsewhere.

A CSIS report recently tabled in Parliament identified three ways in which terrorism threatens Canadians:

  • Terrorists continue to plot direct attacks against Canada and its allies at home and abroad with the aim of causing death and disruption.
  • Terrorists seek to conduct activities on Canadian territory that support terrorism globally, including fundraising to support attacks and militant groups.
  • Terrorists and their supporters employ social media to reach individuals in Canada for operational purposes and to radicalize them. Some of these radicalized individuals may conduct attacks before travelling abroad or travel overseas to obtain training or to engage in terrorism in other countries. Should they return to Canada, they may pose a threat to national security by attempting to radicalize others, train them in terrorist methods, or conduct terrorist attacks on their own.

Unusual numbers of purple sea hares wash ashore near San Francisco

© Morgan Dill
Giant sea slugs called sea hares have been washing up in some East Bay beaches in unusual numbers this summer.

Giant sea slugs have been washing up on some Bay Area beaches in unusual numbers this summer, and some folks who aren't sure what the creatures are actually calling police thinking they've made a grisly discovery.

The big purple blobs, called "sea hares," are invading East Bay beaches and waterways to the wonder and curiosity of beach combers and naturalists. Because they're so strange looking, some beachgoers have even called 911 thinking they're body parts that have washed ashore.

"They're about the size of a human organ, and that's almost what they look like," said Morgan Dill, a Naturalist with the East Bay Regional Park District.

By the time they wash up, they're typically dead. Dill was fascinated when she found one that was still alive, and picked it up to take a closer look. Most people, however, though excited by the discovery find they're not the most pleasant-looking sea creatures, especially with the mess of purple ink they leave behind.

"They're usually pretty grossed out because they are kind of disgusting looking at first," said Dill.

Sea hares can weigh as much as 15 pounds and grow to be more than 30 inches long.

"There was a [sea hare] population boom about a year ago and what we're seeing is, after a year, they lay their eggs and they die and we're seeing them wash up on shore," Morgan Dill, a naturalist with the East Bay Regional Park District told KPIX.

© East Bay Regional Park District
Sea hare eggs on the beach look like a ball of wet egg noodles.

Sea hares look like giant snails in the water. They lay eggs which look like noodles in the bay then they die.

East Bay Regional Park District naturalists say the large number of dead sea hares washing up on shore is unusual, though they believe this is the second such mass die-off here in the past 15 years.

Scientists aren't certain what's behind the current population boom but one theory is that sea hares tend to reproduce more in warmer water. And bay temperatures are on the rise.

"The life cycle of a sea hare is about one year so, after that year of population boom, there's a massive death," Dill said.

Naturalists say the slugs are OK to look at and touch, but they advise not to take them home, rather leave them behind on the beach.

Russian Foreign Ministry to U.S.: Kiev National Guard just as bad as Azov Nazis

Moscow wants to remind Washington that other formations of the National guard of Ukraine are no better than the "Azov" battalion. This was stated by the official representative of Russian Foreign Ministry, Alexander Lukashevich, in connection with the ban on allocation of funds for training of "Azov", which was supported by the House of Representatives of the U.S. Congress.

"It took more then a year for the US Congress to realize that this unit is a bunch of outright Nazis, flaunting the emblems of Nazi SS troops and behaving like the Nazis on the occupied territory. But better late than never", — said the diplomat.

The next logical step - is to recognize, finally, that last year's coup in Kiev, strongly supported by Washington, was done by the hands of those same Nazi thugs.

"Obviously, the other formations of the National guard of Ukraine are no better than "Azov", — he noted.

Earlier on Friday the decision of the House of Representatives of the US Congress was commented by the Commissioner of the Russian Foreign Ministry on issues of human rights, democracy and rule of law, Konstantin Dolgov.

"The U.S. Congress banned aid to neo-Nazi battalion "Azov". It's time for Washington to open its eyes: neo-Nazism permeates all government and power structures of Kiev", — the diplomat wrote on his Twitter account.

The House of Representatives of the U.S. Congress on Thursday passed a bill to provide the Ministry of Defense appropriations for the next fiscal year, separately endorsing the amendment, which prohibits the expenditure of funds for training of fighters of the Ukrainian volunteer battalion "Azov".

Comment: Yep, it took over a year for the U.S. to admit the obvious. But it's not as if they just found out. They've known all along who they've been supporting. The U.S. has no moral qualms with funding and supporting Nazis or Islamic extremists. They've been doing it for years, and they'll keep on doing it. But when the pressure gets a little to hot, and the obvious becomes so obvious as to be undeniable, they'll throw the dog a bone. Thus, Conyers's amendments. Don't expect Kiev to become any less fascist, however...

Giant hail falls in Minooka, Illinois

As storms passed over the region, one of them found its way over Minooka and dumped giant balls of hail over the village, according to a public information statement from the National Weather Service and several photos that popped up on Facebook showing the hail.

"There were multiple reports of hail up to 4.25 inches in diameter," the statement said. "Some of this hail caused severe damage to vehicle windshields."

National Weather Service Meteorologist Andy Krein said for hail to reach this size, you need a strong updraft in the thunderstorm itself.

"That's the vertical motion that is holding the hailstone aloft and in an environment that is conducive to the growth of the ice around it," Krein said. "That would be in the range where temperatures are between 0 celsius and minus 20 celsius. The updraft would have to be strong enough to suspend that big chunk of ice that high in the atmosphere."

According to the NWS statement, this was the second largest hail in northeast and north central Illinois. The only known instance of larger hail was on April 23, 1961 when 6 inch diameter hail was reported in Kankakee County.

Besides the instance in 1961, there was one other occasion where hail above a 4 inch diameter was reported and that was June 14, 2010 when 4.25 inch hail occurred in Boswell of Benton County, Indiana, according to the NWS statement.

The hail from June 10's storm was the largest hail in the state of Illinois since April 28, 2012 when 4.5 inch diameter hail was reported in Okawville in Washington County.

Since 2005, hail of this size is reported about 35 to 40 times a year in the US. However, most of those reports are from the plains states.

Trail-blazing ants show hints of metacognition when seeking food

© FLPA/Rex
I think, therefore I ant sure.

Do they know they don't know? Ants seem to examine their knowledge, a little like humans do when unsure of which route to take.

Tomer Czaczkes and Jürgen Heinze from the University of Regensburg in Germany let black garden ants find food on a T-shaped maze, with the food always in one arm. Then they switched the food to the other arm, creating uncertainty for the ants.

Ants that headed in the wrong direction were less likely to leave a trail for the other ants to follow.

"It makes, sense," says Czaczkes. "You don't want to give your sisters wrong information."

He says this might show that ants can question their own knowledge, a basic facet of higher metacognition - awareness of one's own thoughts - although it doesn't prove this.

If true, these ants would be just the second reported case of an insect showing such advanced cognitive behaviour.

Browsing through our memories and reflecting on their quality and strength, to double check what we know and then make the best decision, is an everyday task for us.

But it has been confirmed only for relatively advanced species, such as mammals and a few birds. Recent research has shown that bees, when faced with a particularly difficult task, simply opt out of doing it - a behaviour that may be interpreted as a form of metacognition.

Now, it seems that ants might be capable of a similar mental feat, despite their tiny and simple brain.

Plagued by doubt

Ants normally rely on chemical trails to tell their sisters of a new food source. But what happens when things change and the food is no longer there?

After finding that the food was not where they expected, the ants laid a stronger chemical trail on their way back to the colony once they found the new food location.

"The problem with these trails, is that they can become outdated, but the ants can't take them away. So the next best thing is to just make a new, stronger trail," Czaczkes says.

This behaviour helps the colony deal with ever-changing environmental conditions by keeping them flexible, says Czaczkes.

But then the team noticed something unexpected. After learning about the new food locations, ants that were about to make an error by entering the arm that no longer contained food, were less likely to deposit pheromones compared with when they were on the right track.

"After finding the new food location once, they still usually think that the food is in the old location - they're just not sure," says Czaczkes.

Exploratory behaviour

According to the authors, one way to explain this is that ants are asking themselves how much they trust their memories. Then if they are not sure about the path, they don't want to tell their sisters to follow them.

Not everyone is convinced by their interpretation.

The visits the ants make to sites with no food may not be errors at all, says Ken Cheng, from Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. "Ants might have other motives, such as exploring. And when exploring, they might not lay down as much pheromone," he says.

Joachim Zeil, from the Australian National University, also thinks this behaviour could be explained by purely statistical models without evoking cognition.

Czaczkes agrees that alternative explanations are possible. He now hopes to study how ants behave under different levels of uncertainty to pin down the role of metacognition in ant behaviour.

"We don't have a smoking gun just yet for the definite proof of metacognition in ants, but we've got plans to find it," he says.

Journal reference: , DOI: 10.1098/rspb.2015.0679

Sinabung volcano unleashes hot ash a mile into the air on Indonesian island


Eruption: A farmer continues to tend to his field on the Indonesian island of Sumatra as Mount Sinabung erupts violently in the background
A volcanic eruption in western Indonesia has unleashed hot ash over a mile into the air and threatens the lives of thousands in nearby villages.

Mount Sinabung, which is located on the island of Sumatra, had been dormant for over 400 years before erupting in August 2010 when it killed at least two and made over 30,000 homeless.

Its status was raised to the highest alert level on June 2 because of the growing size of its 'lava dome', a magma-filled mound which grows inside the volcano before erupting violently.


Explosion: Stunning images have captured the 2,460m-high volcano unleashing hot ash and gas over a mile into the air


Victims: Nearly 3,000 people in nearby villages - their faces covered in the volcano's ash - have been forced to leave their homes because of the eruption
Over 2,700 people have been evacuated from their homes in villages as far as four miles away but no injuries have yet been reported - even though hot ash is falling a staggering two miles from the source of the eruption.

As many as 11 avalanches of hot ash have been recorded during this eruption and volcanologists have warned smoldering rocks mixed with heated gases could tumbled down the 2,460m-high mountain at any time.

An eruption in February last year left at least 16 people dead and in October the same year, it spewed out rivers of molten lava and giant plumes of ash for four days.

Mount Sinabung is among about 130 active volcanoes in Indonesia known as the Pacific 'Ring of Fire' which are prone to erupt because of their location between tectonic plates.

Even though Indonesia's volcanoes erupt sporadically and violently, farmers remain working on its deadly slopes because the ground there is so fertile.


Escape: Anyone living within 4.4 miles of the volcano has been evacuated (pictured) but fortunately no casualties have so far been recorded

Elephant escapes from circus and kills 65-year-old man in Buchen, Germany


Elephant attack: The 65-year-old man was killed when the African elephant (not the elephant pictured) escaped from a nearby circus in the town of Buchen and attacked him in the early hours of this morning
A 65-year-old man has been killed by an escaped circus elephant in Germany.

The man was taking his regular early morning stroll in some woods near the southwest town of Buchen.

The African elephant is believed to have attacked him shortly after 3am GMT, after escaping from a nearby circus.

A Heidelberg police spokesperson Yvonne Schmierer did not reveal what he injuries he received during the attack.

The 34-year-old female elephant, named 'Baby', has been captured and returned to the circus.

Police are investigating how the elephant was let out of its enclosure, and why it acted so aggressively towards the man.

'There's evidence of third party involvement,' said Schmierer.

'Either someone forgot to shut the enclosure, or the elephant was released intentionally.'

German news agency dpa reported that the elephant has a history of injuring people.

Animal rights group PETA has called for authorities to take the elephant away from the circus.

'Much of what elephants feel, think and do is acquired through social learning,' elephant researcher Joyce Poole told .

After more than 30 years in Kenya, Ms Poole has heard numerous tales of elephants intentionally killing humans.

'If a matriarch has a bad experience with people, her behaviour will be adjusted accordingly - either more fearful or more aggressive depending upon her own personality.

'Aggressive behaviour toward people can be learned. Just as children learn prejudices from their parents, so, too, do elephants.'

Estimates claim that some 500 people are killed by elephants worldwide every year.

Dallas police confirm shooter who attacked headquarters is dead

The man who opened fire on Dallas police headquarters early Saturday, riddling the building and a squad car with bullets from an armoured van, is dead, police confirmed.  

They did not say whether he died from being shot by a police sniper during a standoff hours earlier or when police set off controlled explosions of his van at around noon CT. 

Police set off the two controlled blasts after saying they found two pipe bombs inside the armoured van, which the shooter used to launch an assault on police HQ at around 12:30 a.m. Saturday. 

"We can now confirm that the susp[ect] in the van is deceased but unable to confirm ID pending med ex[aminer] identification," Dallas police Maj. Max Geron tweeted.

"Lots of shrapnel was included in the pipe bombs that exploded — screws, nails." 

APTOPIX Dallas Police Headquarters Shooting

A Dallas SWAT officer walks to his vehicle at the intersection of Interstate 45 and E Palestine Street, where police cornered the suspect in his van on Saturday. (Ashley Landis/The Dallas Morning News via AP)

Police fired at the man around 5 a.m. CT while he was inside the armoured vehicle at a parking lot in suburban Hutchins, south of Dallas, where he had been in a standoff with SWAT team officers.

Police Chief David Brown said a sniper hit the suspect and that officers had lost contact with him for several hours afterward. 

Officers were wary of approaching or entering the van, though, because the driver had declared it contained military-grade C4 explosives, they said.

Geron tweeted that a .50-calibre rifle was used to fire two shots into the van's engine block and one into the driver.

Dallas shooting

The shooter who opened fire on Dallas police headquarters declared himself to be James Boulware, seen here, but police were still working to confirm that. (Dallas County Sheriff's Department )

Hours earlier, witnesses said, the driver fired several rounds at officers outside the Dallas police headquarters building and rammed his van into a squad car before fleeing.

No one was injured in the gunfire.

"This suspect had already shot at our facility, had rammed a car, shot at officers, and two officers narrowly escaped being shot by the suspect," Brown said. "Then the suspect fled in a vehicle. We chased him."

Shortly after the headquarters shooting, police found four duffel bags scattered around the building, one of which had pipe bombs inside. That bag exploded as a robot attempted to remove it, but no one was injured, Brown said. Nearby residents were told to leave the area, he said.

Brown earlier told reporters police were investigating witness accounts that as many as four individuals may have been firing automatic weapons. However, he later said police believe there is only one suspected shooter. He said a motive was not yet known.

"We barely survived the intent of this suspect," he said.


Dallas police HQ attack: Suspect believed killed during standoff


Suspect Mug Shot from Dallas County Sheriff’s Office that matches name given to police – James Boulware.

A man unleashed a barrage of gunfire on Dallas' police headquarters and planted explosives outside the building early Saturday -- narrowly failing to wound anyone -- leading to a chase to a suburb that ended with officers shooting him in his parked van at a restaurant parking lot.

Police believe they killed the suspect, though they haven't confirmed his death yet. Late Saturday morning were using a robot to probe the van in the suburb of Hutchins because the suspect claimed he had rigged the vehicle with explosives, Dallas Police Chief David Brown told reporters.

"We believe this suspect meant to kill officers," Brown said. "We barely survived the intentions of this suspect."

Before he was shot, the suspect ranted to police by phone, gave his name and alleged police were responsible for his child having been taken from him, but investigators haven't confirmed his identity, Brown said.

Police planned to conduct controlled detonations at the van in the parking lot of a Jack in the Box restaurant in Hutchins to ensue the van could be safely approached later, Brown said.

The assault began shortly after midnight, with the man firing an assault weapon and then a shotgun from the outside, riddling the Dallas police headquarters' windows and police cars.

Several people -- officers and staffers -- narrowly avoided being shot. The chief said bullet holes were found in not only an occupied squad car but in the police headquarters' front lobby, its information desk and on the building's second floor.

One staffer in the lobby had just risen from a desk to get a soda -- and bullets found there make it apparent that the employee would have been shot otherwise, Brown said.

The attacker also planted at least one set of pipe bombs in a bag outside, designed to "explode upon touch," Brown said.

Parts of the initial attack were caught on video by several people nearby, including residents of an apartment building across the street, some of whom were asked to evacuate after the explosives were found.

Police returned fire and gave chase. Video recorded by a witness and aired on CNN shows the dark van ramming the front of a police car before retreating in reverse.

Chase, another shootout, and standoff

After the shootout at police headquarters, the suspect called 911 and gave a four- to five-minute rant, accusing of police of being to blame for him losing custody of a child, Brown said.

Police later found his number and called him back, eventually allowing SWAT officers to negotiate.

Officers pursued the van to the restaurant parking lot in Hutchins -- roughly 13 miles to the southeast of the Dallas police headquarters -- and the man opened a van door and again shot at police, injuring no one, Brown said.

Police called the man for negotiations. The suspect in the vehicle gave police the name James Boulware. Police said that they cannot independently confirm that it is the suspect's real identity.

Police found a previous record of domestic violence by a man under that name. The suspect told police that he was angry because they took away his child and labeled him a terrorist.

He threatened to blow them up and broke off negotiations, Brown said.

Shortly after 4:30 a.m. (5:30 a.m. ET), police used a .50-caliber rifle to hit the engine block, disabling the van, Brown said, because the man on the phone had been increasingly hostile and agitated. Police didn't want him to drive away and threaten anyone else, Brown said.

About a half-hour later, SWAT snipers shot the man through the van's front windshield, Brown said.

Investigators have no reason to believe the man had "any nexus to terrorism," Brown said.

Investigators are looking into whether a van sold in Newnan, Georgia, on eBay last week may be the van used in the Dallas attack, a source familiar with the investigation said. They are investigating, among other things, who may have purchased the vehicle.

Explosives near headquarters

Back outside headquarters, police found at least one package of pipe bombs. It was set to detonate upon touch, Brown said.

"(An officer), during the searching, almost tripped over it. If he had touched it, he wouldn't have survived," Brown said.

The package exploded when a bomb-squad robot tried to move it Saturday morning, police said.

Dallas police posted a tweet showing that vehicles were damaged in the blast.

Former Marine captured video

The crackling sound of the Dallas shootout got the attention of former Marine Rick Birt, who lives in a large loft and office building across the street from the headquarters.

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"We heard loud noises, my wife asked if I thought they were shots," he said. "I went over to the window and put one of them up. And we heard more shots being fired, and I turned to my wife and said, 'Yeah, that's definitely gunfire.'"

He got his cell phone and recorded video. After the van fled, police informed him and his wife that they had to evacuate their building.

"They've instructed us that we may be out of our home for a while," he said.

Police had discovered the suspicious bags right across from it.

Protesters slam Bilderberg big boss elitist summit for lack of transparency

The Bilderberg conference, which bills itself as a forum for informal discussions held by the world's top brass, has drawn fire from protesters gathered near the Interalpen-Hotel Tyrol in Austria, accusing the attendees of corruption and elitism.

After a rally on Friday, anti-Bilderberg activists re-emerged on Saturday afternoon to protest what many of them refer to as a gathering of criminals. Thousands of protesters are expected to assemble outside the hotel where the Bilderberg group meeting is taking place.

What we have seen is a very tight police cordon. It has been very difficult for many people to get to this area. Some journalists have been subject to rather humiliating police tactics, RT's Peter Oliver reported.

Some like it hot, but those gathered for the Bilderberg meeting in Austria seem to prefer it top secret. According to the published agenda, a total of around 140 participants from 22 countries have confirmed their attendance this year, including German Defense Minister Ursula van der Leyen, NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg, UK Chancellor George Osborne and former President of the European Commission José Manuel Barroso, just to name a few. One of its past participants is the former managing director of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss Kahn, accused of sexual assault by a New York hotel maid in 2011.

The key rule of participation is the so-called Chatham House Rule, which states that while attendees are free to use the information received, neither the identity nor the affiliation of the speaker(s) nor of any other participant may be revealed.

A 50-kilometer safety zone has been created and two checkpoints set up around the event to ensure the safety of the influential guests. Up to 2,100 officers from all over Austria will be on duty, along with 300 German police officers, should an emergency occur during the four-day conference.

American journalist Rob Dew, news director at Infowars, told RT his crew suffered from what he called police brutality.

At the beginning they were very brutal and rude to us. They saw we're from Texas, pulled us out of the car and searched us. So the next time we go to the checkpoint we start video taping because that's what we do in America “ when we're feeling tyranny, we start video taping. And we actually went to the police station live on Skype during the Alex Jones show and confronted them because they were calling our hotel manager asking where we were, when we're going to be back. We were fed up with it because we'd already shown them our papers and we have nothing to hide, but we're not going to take humiliation.

READ MORE: Bilderberg goes IT: Shadowy club to talk AI, cyber-security
Austrian police officers stand guard at a street check point before the Bilderberg meetings at Interalpen Hotel in the Austrian village of Buchen, June 12, 2015. (Reuters / Leonhard Foeger)

According to the published agenda, the Bilderberg conference will discuss a range of issues “ from artificial intelligence and chemical weapons threats to the US elections and European strategy regarding Iran, Russia and NATO.

Investigative journalist Tony Gosling told RT the Bilderberg conference tries to make sure it's as difficult as possible to cover the meetings. He says the mainstream media are actually part of the group.

We're given the minimum information and it's very high security. There are thousands of police and security services in Austria keeping journalists away. The reason journalists don't often go is because their bosses are there and want the secrecy. You're not going to upset your boss by trying to break their vow of silence, Gosling said. We've got around about 20-22 media barrens in there. These are generally controlled private media corporations, senior editors, managers or owners of the big media corporations and they are actually the fourth-largest contingent at Bilderbergs. They are not far behind the bankers and the politicians and the owners of big industry. Essentially, media has become something so you can buy and sell, he added.

Dead fin whale seen off New Jersey coast


© Courtesy of Bill Lovgren
A dead Finwhale seen here floating on Wednesday about 18 miles from the Manasquan Inlet.

A pair of Point Pleasant Beach commercial fishermen working about 18 miles east of the Manasquan Inlet spotted a dead 40-foot whale floating on the surface.

"I saw it on the horizon. We were making a tow at the time for flounders," said Capt. Dennis Lovgren of the 78-foot dragger Kailey Ann. "It was very white in color but there wasn't much deterioration to the body."

Bob Schoelkopf, executive director of the Marine Mammals Stranding Center in Brigantine, identified the whale through photos as a fin whale, which is an endangered species.

No determination of the cause the whale's death has been made, but Schoelkopf said most likely it was killed by a ship strike.

The whale was reported to Coast Guard Station Manasquan, which issued a broadcast to mariners on VHF Channel 16 to alert them of the potential danger of collision with the 40-foot carcass.

Lovgren spotted the whale between 2 and 3 p.m. Wednesday and called over Capt. Tom Anderson of the commercial boat Amber Waves.

Both fishermen were in the same vicinity in the Mud Hole, a fishing ground off the coast here, where the whale was floating belly up.

"I went around it and didn't see any signs that it had been hit. I've been fishing since 1980 and this is the first dead whale I've seen in that time," said Anderson. "It's anybody's guess what killed it unless somebody does an autopsy."

Anderson said the whale had attracted the attention of large shark, which was scavenging on the body.

Dead humpback whale found on shore of Mount Desert Island, Maine


© Allied Whale
A dead humpback whale identified by researchers as Spinnaker floats off Great Head on Mount Desert Island on Thursday.

Spinnaker, a humpback whale who cheated death a few times by becoming entangled in and then freed from ropes floating in the ocean, has run out of luck.

The body of the 40-foot-long female whale washed up Thursday on the shore of Mount Desert Island, a researcher with Allied Whale said Friday.

Spinnaker was 11 years old.

Rosemary Seton, research associate and marine mammal stranding coordinator for Allied Whales, which is affiliated with College of the Atlantic, confirmed Friday that the dead whale is Spinnaker. She said she and other Allied Whale staffers were contacted Thursday about the whale by officials at Acadia National Park and then went to Great Head in the park, where the whale was floating against the rocky shore, to see if they could identify the animal.

She said they were able to photograph the tip of the whale's right ventral fluke and, by comparing it to other photos of Spinnaker, confirmed that it is the same whale.

Allied Whale maintains the North Atlantic Humpback Whale Catalog, a photographic database created by College of the Atlantic in 1977 that researchers use to keep track of and assess the health of both individual whales and the species' overall population in the North Atlantic. Humpback whales are listed as endangered under federal law and, like all whale species, are legally protected in order to try to get their numbers to rebound.

Seton said Spinnaker, who was born in 2004, has been freed by trained rescuers from floating ropes more than once over the past 11 years.

"Yes, it has quite the entanglement history," Seton said in an email. "We do not know why the whale died. We have not been able to access it in the spot it is in [against the steep cliff]."

She added that researchers are trying to work out logistics for getting better access to the floating carcass and for perhaps performing a necropsy to determine the cause of death.

Spinnaker was disentangled last September off Mount Desert Rock and again just last month near Cashes Ledge, about 90 miles northeast of Cape Cod in the Gulf of Maine. According to the Provincetown, Massachusetts-based Center for Coastal Studies, Spinnaker also had been freed from an entanglement near Mount Desert Rock in 2006.

In a prepared statement released last month, the International Whaling Commission indicated that the number of times Spinnaker has been entangled "highlights the risk posed to whales by fishing gear and marine debris in the habitats they traditionally return to each year."

Great white shark bites boat in New Zealand waters


© nzuploader03/YouTube
Shark attack

A great white shark took a bite at a fishing boat's engine in an encounter that left three fishermen in awe.

Three boat mates Jack Lucas, Chris Pom and Adam Ellington were jigging for kingfish in Auckland's Hauraki Gulf when a small great white approached their boat. The shark began circling their boat and then attempted to take a bite out of their boat engine.

"You could feel it was going to take the motor off the boat or try to jump in," said Lucas.

The fisherman believe the shark was probably interested in the kingfish on board the boat. After biting the engine, the shark stayed close to the boat for another half hour before finally swimming away.

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Are we in a post-antibiotic world?

Antibiotics are one of modern day's greatest discoveries, but it's failing us. By our own hand, we have abused this medical achievement by using it as a "fix-all", and it has caused antibiotic resistance issues that spans across the globe. In fact, antibiotic resistance is one of the biggest health threats of the 21st century. Superbugs, Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA), vancomycin-resistant Enterococcus (VRE), drug resistant Typhoid, and multidrug-resistant Mycobacterium tuberculosis (MDR-TB) are increasing throughout the world and have the capacity to cause worldwide health issues. Moreover, no one wants to even walk into a hospital for fear of carbapenem-resistant Enterobacteriaceae, or CRE, that have been reported at hospitals around the country.

According to the CDC, each year in the United States, at least 2 million people become infected with bacteria that are resistant to antibiotics and at least 23,000 people die each year as a direct result of these infections. Last year, Keiji Fukuda, Director-General for Health Health Security at WHO warned, "Without urgent, coordinated action by many stakeholders, the world is headed for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill."

In a recent article on the subject, Fukuda once again stressed to the world:

antimicrobial resistance continues.

Keiji Fukuda, assistant director-general for health security at the World Health Organization. 'We are seeing the same patterns of resistance basically occur everywhere.'

Staphylococcus infections acquired in hospitals have become almost impossible to cure. The pathogens behind malaria and tuberculosis are evolving to elude even the best treatments."

The Reality of it All - No One is Safe

The most important factor to keep in mind is when drug resistance develops in one part of the world, it quickly spreads to other areas. To that end - no one is safe. Folks, the not-so-distant future of a post-antibiotic world is already here. In fact, an epidemic is quietly raging in parts of India where an epidemic of antibiotic resistant "superbugs" are killing the country's newborns by the tens of thousands:


This is the beginning of a new era - an antibiotic-free era. This is a doomsday scenario that means that our current medical safety nets will be much smaller. In the future, even the smallest cuts could pose a danger to our health. Moreover,we won't be able to treat cancer or diabetes, people will die earlier, and there won't be elective surgeries or organ transplants. As well, the cost of medical care will sharply increase and dealing with infections will be a very serious process.

You should also consider the reality that our food sources will also be affected. Most of the food we eat in the industrialized world: beef, chicken, fish and seafood, as well as certain food crops are raised with the routine use of antibiotics. Raising these food sources without the dependence on antibiotics would become much more expensive and may cause exacerbated illnesses in animals, or farmers would have to change their raising practices, spending more money when their margins are already spread thin.

Last Ditch Efforts Are Being Made By the Medical Community

Doctors are beginning to make preparations for a time when the world is no longer using antibiotics. Consequently, the situation has become so dire that representatives from 194 countries are meeting at the WHO's annual meeting in Geneva and have approved a new global plan to counter antimicrobial resistance. Plans are being made for every country to have a monitoring system in place by 2017 for drug resistance.

This system will also make a last ditch attempt to reduce the use and misuse of antibiotics in health care settings and agriculture, as well as invest in new drugs. Regrettably, these new, stronger antibiotics could cause more harm to the body and have the potential to attack more than just the offending bacterial cells. Scientists are also exploring the possibility of fighting fire with fire by turning to viruses to kill off bacteria.

bacteriophages, infect bacteria. Once in control, the phages use the bacterium's own internal machinery to replicate until the bacterial cell is full and then bursts like a balloon...

cationic or antimicrobial peptides. Peptides are like mini-proteins, and these antimicrobial ones have the ability to both break up bacterial clusters by disrupting communication between the organisms and to kill them off [Sources: Borel; Izadpanah and Gallo]. The bonus is that they may also stimulate our own immune systems to fight harder to wipe out the infection."


Natural Body Defenses

Our bodies are equipped to fight infection on their own, yet most of us no longer trust in natural ways of achieving this - especially in the Western world. Giving our bodies a chance to fight the infection before resorting to taking a course of antibiotics is a good start. If we don't expose the bacteria to the antibiotics, they can't develop resistance. Instead, we can take steps to develop and maintain our body's natural defenses by getting enough rest, exercise, drinking lots of water and eating the right types of foods. The following are ten foods you should make a habit of eating in order to build up your body's immune system.

10 Antibiotic Rich Foods to Build the Body's Defenses

  1. Colloidal Silver
  2. Nigella Sativa
  3. Honey
  4. Cinnamon
  5. Ginger
  6. Oil of Oregano
  7. Tea Tree Oil
  8. Garlic
  9. Echinacea
  10. Goldenseal
Modern day antibiotics are failing us and we must open our eyes to the fact we are in the beginnings of a post-antibiotic world. The signs are there, the superbugs are raging on and we are losing the fight. The world has a choice: either the medical world makes drastic changes to stave off overuse of antibiotics or they resort to other alternative methods of eliminating bacteria.

Wildfire in drought-parched California threatens small remote town


© U.S. Forest Service
A lightning-sparked wildfire has grown to nearly 1,000 acres

An out-of-control wildfire raging through a Northern California forest as the state battles a devastating drought has forced authorities to warn about 250 people to evacuate or prepare to leave their homes in a remote town, officials said on Friday.

The fire in the Shasta-Trinity National Forest follows an outbreak of lightning-sparked blazes in neighboring Oregon that prompted authorities to warn residents that drought and low mountain snowpack could lead to a destructive fire season.

California's so-called Saddle Fire has charred at least 880 acres (360 hectares) since a lightning strike sparked it on Tuesday, officials said.

The flames are tearing through forest land, much of it in areas scorched by a 2004 blaze that has left dead and downed trees on the ground which could provide ample fuel for the latest wildfire, said Shasta-Trinity National Forest spokeswoman Andrea Capps.

Also the area has many damaged trees with limbs at risk of falling, Capps said. Firefighters have not managed to build any solid containment lines against the wildfire.

"It makes it a really dangerous situation for our firefighters out in the field," she said.

Authorities placed a handful of residents on the outskirts of Hyampom, a town about 200 miles (320 km) north of San Francisco, under mandatory evacuation orders on Wednesday and told the rest of the town of about 250 people to prepare to leave if flames get near, said Trinity County Sheriff's Department spokeswoman Lynn Ward. Those orders remain in place.

One front of the fire is just a couple miles north of the town, and if it advances to the southeast the blaze could destroy homes, Capps said. So far, the blaze has not destroyed any structures.

Nearly 200 firefighters are battling the fire, setting backfires to clear trees that could be consumed by the blaze and dropping flame retardant by helicopter, she said.

The wildfire is the first major Northern California blaze in an annual fire season that normally runs from June to September in that region, Capps said. It also is the nation's highest-priority wildfire, she said.

Since it began, the fire has advanced in the late afternoon hours when winds and heat increase and moisture levels drop, Capps said.

"We have lots of resources out there, we're feeling good about the people we have on the ground, we feel hopeful about being able to catch this in the next few days," she said.

Untold stories: First-ever US Nakba Museum opens in Washington DC


© Nakba Museum Project of Memory and Hope Facebook page

When Bshara Nassar arrived in Washington, DC, he strolled along the National Mall and passed myriad museums dedicated to exposing the painful history of oppressed peoples: the National Museum of the American Indian, the Holocaust Museum, Laogai Museum, the list goes on. He quickly recognized there was no "place for the Palestinian story to be told," which inspired him to launch the first-ever Nakba Museum Project of Memory and Hope.

As Nassar worked on a master's degree in conflict transformation, the thought of a space dedicated to Palestinian voices became a working reality. He was particularly interested in telling the little-known story of the "Nakba," which means "catastrophe" in Arabic. The term is used to refer to the displacement of more than 700,000 Palestinians from their homes in 1948 when the State of Israel was created. Today, nearly 5 million people, nearly all of them descendants of the original group, are registered as Palestinian refugees with the United Nations.

A non-partisan team of Palestinian and Jewish-American artists formed to support Nassar's dream. One of the artists whose work will be featured in the upcoming exhibit, painter Ahmed Hmedat, curated the show by recruiting other Palestinian artists and helping assemble their work for display. Another collaborator of Nassar's was an American Jewish friend named Sam Feigenbaum, who did the exhibit's website and graphic design.

"I just wanted to prove that somewhere in the world that a Jew and a Palestinian could get along," said Feigenbaum, who had first met Nassar several years earlier and got back in touch with him after the outbreak of a war in Gaza last fall.

After a successful fundraising campaign earlier this year, that project will formally launch on June 13, 2015, with the opening of a two-week art exhibit at the Festival Center in Washington D.C.

The exhibit will feature the work of six Palestinian refugee artists. Nassar chose to use their painting and photography as the primary method of telling the refugees' story because art "is a language that everyone can understand."


© Nakba Museum Project of Memory and Hope Facebook page
Palestinian refugee artwork.

"This is not about victimhood, politics or religion," said Nassar, acknowledging the controversy and divisive rhetoric that often surrounds the issue of Palestinian refugees. "We want deep conversations that can lead to equality and justice in Israel and Palestine.... I'm trying to tell stories that people haven't heard."

The museum will not only be an outlet and platform for Palestinians to tell their story, but also an educational resource for others to recognize the human suffering currently endured by Palestinians under Israeli occupation.

"What's nice about this exhibit is that it uses a means of communication that is not necessarily dependent on language or education. You don't need to know about the Nakba in order to experience it through the art. My hope is that people will see something that hits them on an emotional level, and then start asking questions," he said.

These human stories of loss and suffering, confinement and inequality, must be heard by a global audience to expose the historic and current injustices in Palestine.

Nassar emphasizes that the museum is as much focused on the present as the past, and describes the Nakba as an ongoing event for Palestinian refugees who still live in camps and for all Palestinian people who live under occupation. To address that reality in their own lives, Nassar's family founded an organization called Tent of Nations. Based at their 100-acre farm in the West Bank, near Bethlehem, it is dedicated to building respect and understanding between different people and cultures.

That hasn't prevented them from living under constant fear of displacement, however. For years, the family has fought a legal battle in Israeli courts to block plans to seize parts of their land for development, and in 2014, military bulldozers uprooted 1,500 fruit trees and grape vines on their farm.

In life generally, and in his efforts to found a museum to tell the Palestinian story, Nassar continues to draw inspiration from a stone at the entrance to the family farm, inscribed with the words, "We refuse to be enemies" in three languages.

The Nakba Museum Project of Memory and Hope debuts at the Festival Center on June 13, 2015, and we invite you to join us at this profound exhibit of truth-telling, hope, and resistance.

http://bit.ly/1FRODwA for more information and future exhibits.

Saudi Arabia, another one of Washington's military proxies

© Reuters/Faisal Al Nasser
A Saudi artillery unit fires shells towards Houthi positions from the Saudi border with Yemen April 13, 2015.

Several posts on this site about Britain's 'special friend' have referred to the United States of America. Today seeing a barrage of news accumulating about another special friend, Saudi Arabia, aka Britain's biggest arms market last year, an overview of the last quarter follows.

At the closing session of a two-day Arab League summit held in the Egyptian resort city of Sharm el-Sheikh, Egypt's president el-Sisi announced that some Arab leaders had agreed to form a united military force to combat the "challenges" the region is facing. A high-level panel would work under the supervision of Arab chiefs of staff to work out the structure and mechanism of the force: roughly 40,000 elite troops, backed by jets, warships and light armour.

At the time, a Saudi-led coalition was already pressing ahead with air strikes against positions of Houthi fighters and their allies in Yemen. The United States voiced support for the intervention and sent two warships to assist with the naval blockade, but it was criticised by the European Union, Russia, and the United Nations. Saudi Arabia had been moving heavy equipment and artillery near its border with Yemen, following the Houthis seizure of the central city of Taiz.

A month later FT View described this ongoing military action as 'an increasingly aggressive proxy war with Iran in the Middle East, backing Sunni regimes and trying to counter Iranian influence in Syria, Iraq and Bahrain. Several months of war in Yemen have already claimed more than 2,000 lives. The FT writer's advice:

[T]he Saudi leadership should think again. In Yemen, Riyadh has given a brutal demonstration of its air power and marshalled a range of Arab nations to back its effort. But air strikes have not weakened the Houthis and a political settlement remains beyond reach. Nor has Saudi Arabia much cause for celebration in its fight against Iran across the region. The kingdom can claim some victories, notably the return of a military-backed government in Cairo. But its lavish funding of proxies has not yielded stability in Syria, Iraq or Libya.

On May 10th the FT Review reported that the UN's humanitarian co-ordinator for Yemen said that "indiscriminate bombing" contravened international humanitarian law, but Riyadh says the naval blockade was ordered by the legitimate Yemeni government of President Abd Rabbu Hadi — in exile in Riyadh — and cited a UN Security Council resolution calling for an arms embargo against the Houthis.

The humanitarian crisis in Yemen has been described as "catastrophic" by the UN with 20 million civilians - 80% of the population - in need of aid. In May and June there were accounts of the suffering caused by the Saudi-led blockade of the country in place since late March, which has nearly exhausted:

  • dwindling supplies of fuel, staples such as rice, medicines and other basic goods are so scarce in north Yemen that prices have risen as much as tenfold, according to Oxfam
  • fuel shortages, which pose a grave threat to Yemen's water and electricity supplies, as well as to its transport network.
On June 7th the BBC reported that peace talks between Yemen's Houthi rebels and the government will take place in Geneva on 14 June. UN chief Ban Ki-moon called on all parties to enter the talks in good faith and without pre-conditions. Its Middle East Editor, Sebastian Usher, says that the government - now mostly in exile in Saudi Arabia - and the rebels have confirmed that they will attend the peace negotiations.

But as Owen Jones says, after giving a devastating account of brutality and injustice, such allies "are up to their necks in complicity with terrorism, but as long as there is money to be made and weapons to sell, our rulers' lips will remain stubbornly sealed".

Lugansk delivers ultimatum to Poroshenko


© AFP 2015 / Pool/Grigory Dukor

If Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko intends to tighten the Donbass economic blockade, he should make such decisions in the presence of German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande, who brokered the Minsk-II deal together with Russian President Vladimir Putin, head of the self-proclaimed Lugansk People's Republic said.

On Friday, the Ukrainian parliament introduced a bill to ban trade with the so-called "temporarily occupied territories."

Kiev considers the territories under control of the self-proclaimed Donetsk and Lugansk, as well as Russia's Crimea, to be "temporarily occupied."

"If Poroshenko wants to adopt such laws, it would be relevant if he invites Merkel and Hollande and signs them or vice versa — tears them apart and throws them away — right in front of their face. In this case, we will clearly understand what is going on: either the Minsk agreement is completely broken or there is still chance to continue talks if he rejects the law," LuganskInformTsentr cited Igor Plotnitsky as saying.

The humanitarian crisis escalated in November 2014, when Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko signed a decree imposing an economic blockade on the self-proclaimed Donbass republics and withdrawing all state-funded health, educational and social protection organizations from the region under control of independence supporters, who refused to recognize new Kiev authorities that came to power after a coup in February 2014.

In early June, a Ukrainian official said that it is necessary to organize a food blockade of Donbass.

Thousands of tuna crabs invade San Diego beaches



Thousands of tuna crabs washed up on a California beach.

Thousands of tuna crabs have invaded the beaches of San Diego Bay.

The thumb-sized crustaceans started washing ashore further up the California coast earlier this year, but turned up this week in San Diego in unusually larger numbers, officials said.

They've washed ashore periodically over the years because of any number of natural effects, but research scientist Michael Shane of the Hubbs SeaWorld Research Institute in San Diego cited El Nino as the phenomenon that have pushed the crabs up from their normal habitat far offshore.

The result is certain death and nothing can be done to save the crabs.


Thousands of tuna crabs washed up on a California beach.

"The crabs start to die because the local waters are much cooler," Shane told ABC News today. "Local animals have begun to eat the crabs and they have been found in the gut contents of sea lions, fish, and birds."

The remaining carcasses will remain on the shore until they decompose or are swept back into the water.

At near absolute zero, molecules may start to exhibit 'exotic states of matter'

© Jose-Luis Olivares/MIT
MIT researchers have successfully cooled a gas of sodium potassium (NaK) molecules to a temperature of 500 nanokelvin. In this artist's illustration, the NaK molecule is represented with frozen spheres of ice merged together: the smaller sphere on the left represents a sodium atom, and the larger sphere on the right is a potassium atom.

The air around us is a chaotic superhighway of molecules whizzing through space and constantly colliding with each other at speeds of hundreds of miles per hour. Such erratic molecular behavior is normal at ambient temperatures.

But scientists have long suspected that if temperatures were to plunge to near absolute zero, molecules would come to a screeching halt, ceasing their individual chaotic motion and behaving as one collective body. This more orderly molecular behavior would begin to form very strange, exotic states of matter—states that have never been observed in the physical world.

Now experimental physicists at MIT have successfully cooled molecules in a gas of sodium potassium (NaK) to a temperature of 500 nanokelvins—just a hair above absolute zero, and over a million times colder than interstellar space. The researchers found that the ultracold molecules were relatively long-lived and stable, resisting reactive collisions with other molecules. The molecules also exhibited very strong dipole moments—strong imbalances in electric charge within molecules that mediate magnet-like forces between molecules over large distances.

Martin Zwierlein, professor of physics at MIT and a principal investigator in MIT's Research Laboratory of Electronics, says that while molecules are normally full of energy, vibrating and rotating and moving through space at a frenetic pace, the group's ultracold molecules have been effectively stilled—cooled to average speeds of centimeters per second and prepared in their absolute lowest vibrational and rotational states.

"We are very close to the temperature at which quantum mechanics plays a big role in the motion of molecules," Zwierlein says. "So these molecules would no longer run around like billiard balls, but move as quantum mechanical matter waves. And with ultracold molecules, you can get a huge variety of different states of matter, like superfluid crystals, which are crystalline, yet feel no friction, which is totally bizarre. This has not been observed so far, but predicted. We might not be far from seeing these effects, so we're all excited."

Zwierlein, along with graduate student Jee Woo Park and postdoc Sebastian Will—all of whom are members of the MIT-Harvard Center of Ultracold Atoms—have published their results in the journal .

Sucking away 7,500 kelvins

Every molecule is composed of individual atoms that are bonded together to form a molecular structure. The simplest molecule, resembling a dumbbell, is made up of two atoms connected by electromagnetic forces. Zwierlein's group sought to create ultracold molecules of sodium potassium, each consisting of a single sodium and potassium atom.

© Jee Woo Park and Sebastian Will
Researchers have created ultracold molecules of sodium potassium that have been cooled to their lowest vibrational and rotational energies.

However, due to their many degrees of freedom—translation, vibration, and rotation—cooling molecules directly is very difficult. Atoms, with their much simpler structure, are much easier to chill. As a first step, the MIT team used lasers and evaporative cooling to cool clouds of individual sodium and potassium atoms to near absolute zero. They then essentially glued the atoms together to form ultracold molecules, applying a magnetic field to prompt the atoms to bond—a mechanism known as a "Feshbach resonance," named after the late MIT physicist Herman Feshbach.

"It's like tuning your radio to be in resonance with some station," Zwierlein says. "These atoms start to vibrate happily together, and form a bound molecule."

The resulting bond is relatively weak, creating what Zwierlein calls a "fluffy" molecule that still vibrates quite a bit, as each atom is bonded over a long, tenuous connection. To bring the atoms closer together to create a stronger, more stable molecule, the team employed a technique first reported in 2008 by groups from the University of Colorado, for potassium rubidium (KRb) molecules, and the University of Innsbruck, for non-polar cesium (Ce2) molecules.

For this technique, the newly created NaK molecules were exposed to a pair of lasers, the large frequency difference of which exactly matched the energy difference between the molecule's initial, highly vibrating state, and its lowest possible vibrational state. Through absorption of the low-energy laser, and emission into the high-energy laser beam, the molecules lost all their available vibrational energy.

With this method, the MIT group was able to bring the molecules down to their lowest vibrational and rotational states—a huge drop in energy.

"In terms of temperature, we sucked away 7,500 kelvins, just like that," Zwierlein says.

Chemically stable

In their earlier work, the Colorado group observed a significant drawback of their ultracold potassium rubidium molecules: They were chemically reactive, and essentially came apart when they collided with other molecules. That group subsequently confined the molecules in crystals of light to inhibit such chemical reactions.

Zwierlein's group chose to create ultracold molecules of sodium potassium, as this molecule is chemically stable and naturally resilient against reactive molecular collisions.

"When two potassium rubidium molecules collide, it is more energetically favorable for the two potassium atoms and the two rubidium atoms to pair up," Zwierlein says. "It turns out with our molecule, sodium potassium, this reaction is not favored energetically. It just doesn't happen."

In their experiments, Park, Will, and Zwierlein observed that their molecular gas was indeed stable, with a relatively long lifetime, lasting about 2.5 seconds.

"In the case where molecules are chemically reactive, one simply doesn't have time to study them in bulk samples: They decay away before they can be cooled further to observe interesting states," Zwierlein says. "In our case, we hope our lifetime is long enough to see these novel states of matter."

By first cooling atoms to ultralow temperatures and only then forming molecules, the group succeeded in creating an ultracold gas of molecules, measuring one thousand times colder than what can be achieved by direct cooling techniques.

To begin to see exotic states of matter, Zwierlein says molecules will have to be cooled still a bit further, to all but freeze them in place. "Now we're at 500 nanokelvins, which is already fantastic, we love it. A factor of 10 colder or so, and the music starts playing."

More information: "Ultracold Dipolar Gas of Fermionic Na23K40 Molecules in Their Absolute Ground State." . 114, 205302 - Published 18 May 2015 doi

Journal reference: Physical Review Letters

Provided by Massachusetts Institute of Technology

http://bit.ly/1GDYOKE), a popular site that covers news about MIT research, innovation and teaching.

Two injured by floods and dozens of cars swept away in Ankara, Turkey


© AA
Flooding in Ankara

Two people were injured and dozens of cars were damaged in flooding after heavy rain on the evening of June 11 in Turkey's capital Ankara.

Boğaziçi Neşet Ertaş Street, one of the main thoroughfares in Ankara's Mamak district, was flooded and daily life in the capital was paralyzed by the heavy rain.

Two people were reportedly injured, while around 100 cars were swept away and damaged. Municipal workers and locals tried to rescue the cars stuck in flood.

The Turkish State Meteorological Service (MGM) on June 11 said heavy rainfall was expected in central Turkey, including Ankara, and issued severe warnings about the inclement conditions.

"Necessary measures should be taken for any sort of negative weather conditions," it said.

The Ankara flooding came less than a week after heavy rain waters flooded the Fidyekızık neighborhood of the western province of Bursa as voting during the parliamentary election was underway on June 7. The flooding caused the collapse of an outer wall of a school compound that was used as a polling station, trapping people who were responsible for the ballot boxes.

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Two brothers die after inhaling sewer fumes in Dublin tragedy

Stephen and Alan Harris were working at a housing estate

Another man has died in a double tragedy after being overcome by fumes while working in a sewer.

Stephen Harris, 34, of Monasterboice Road in Crumlin, Dublin, lost his fight for life in Beaumont Hospital at 9am today.

He was caught up in the same suspected methane gas incident which claimed the life of his brother, Alan Harris, a father of two, on Wednesday.

The pair had been inspecting underground pipes on a housing estate in the Portmarnock area of north Dublin.

Alan Harris, in his 40s, was the owner of DrainTech, a company specialising in drainage clearance and pipe and sewer unblocking in the Dublin region for about 20 years.

The accident happened on the Drumnigh Woods estate in Portmarnock.

The brothers were beginning to assess work on pipes under the road, some of which were reported to be 20ft (6m) below the surface.

Stephen Harris, who was knocked unconscious by the noxious gases, was rescued by fire crews but lost his fight for life in hospital.

His family requested that their privacy be respected during their grief.

Investigations by the Garda and the Health and Safety Authority are continuing.

"The scene of the incident is still preserved for investigation purposes," said a Garda spokesman.

Both the deceased men are cousins of Republic of Ireland striker Robbie Keane.

Keane did not speak about the tragedy as he trained with the Republic squad earlier this week in Malahide, a few miles from the scene.

Questions centre on whether the men were overcome by methane gas in a confined space as they began initial assessments of the work to be done on the sewers.

Inquiries will also look into what breathing apparatus was available to the men.

Keane, 34, is expected to play a part in Saturday's Euro 2016 battle with Scotland in Dublin.

The LA Galaxy star took to Facebook last night to pay tribute to cousin Alan and say that his family were praying for Stephen.

"As you can imagine it's been a very difficult time for our family may Alan RIP and we continue to pray for Stephen thanks everyone for your kind messages and support," he posted.

A number of people posted messages of sympathy to the footballer.

Alan's grieving widow Tracy Glynn Harris also posted on the social media website that she had lost her "best friend and soulmate".

"My heart has been shattered into a million places yet again," she wrote. "Thank you all for the kind words."

Ms Harris also implored people to say prayers for Stephen, who she said was fighting for his life after trying to save his brother.

Comment: Methane is a colorless, odorless gas at room temperature and standard pressure, and as residents 'complained of a smell' prompting the sewer inspection, this tragedy could be related to inhalation of other toxic 'sewer gases'. Such as hydrogen sulfide, which does have an odor and is "heavier than air, very poisonous, corrosive, flammable, and explosive".

In India last week, three workers died after inhaling poisonous gases inside a manhole. Those working on sewer systems or living in 'low-lying areas' may be particularly susceptible to such 'heavier than air' out gassing.

Such seeps are likely to be contributing to increased manhole explosions worldwide, and to fish die offs, such as the "catastrophic" one elsewhere in Ireland recently.