Sioux Falls Free Thinkers

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For all those with Open Minds!

An Open Mind by Megan Godtland

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Many Christians attack science, facts, truth, logic, and
reason and we just "respect their opinion!" It's time we
all said enough is enough and attack them right back!

"Whenever you find injustice,
the proper form of politeness is attack."
- T-Bone Slim

CMM, Child Mental Mutilation!
Speak out against it whenever you hear about it or encounter it!

We at Sioux Falls Free Thinkers are coining a new acronym CMM, "Child Mental Mutilation." Child Mental Mutilation refers to teaching children the anti-science claims that "There is no Evolution", "There was no Evolution", The Earth is only 6,000 Years Old", "Dinosaurs lived at the same time as Mankind", The Earth is Flat", "The Sun circles the Earth" and "The Earth is the Center of the Universe." Teaching these untruths to children cripples them mentally, often for life. There are few crimes greater than the deliberate mutilation of a child's mind. It ranks right up there with physical or sexual abuse of a child, which also often mentally cripple a child for life. There can be no excuse for any of these crimes against children!

FGM, Female Genital Mutilation!
Still being practiced in the United States!

6-17-17 I Underwent Genital Mutilation as a Child—Right Here in the United States
I Underwent Genital Mutilation as a Child—Right Here in the United States
A doctor in Michigan was just arrested for cutting little girls. She’s not the only one. Last week, an Indian American doctor was arrested in Michigan, charged with performing female genital cutting on two seven-year-old girls. As the story hit the local press and then the New York Times, and as it was shared by George Takei and Nicholas Kristof, my phone kept blowing up with breathless messages and links from childhood friends across the country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that half a million girls in the United States were affected by or at risk for mutilation in 2012. I know of dozens of Bohra women whose parents had them cut in America over the last 30 years, from New York City to Houston to Chicago. Others were taken out of country to have the procedure done, a practice called “vacation cutting” that’s now also illegal in the United States. There’s also little consensus about how the actual procedure is supposed to work; it’s often up to the interpretation of whoever is wielding the blade. In some cases, like mine, a “pinch of skin” from the clitoral hood is cut away, leaving no lasting physical trauma. Sometimes the entire clitoris is removed, or surrounding tissue is also damaged. Last year, writer Mariya Karimjee went on This American Life to tell the story of her cutting, which was performed in Pakistan and left her unable to have sex without unendurable pain. Bohras even disagree on why khatna is performed. The prevailing view is that it keeps girls and women from becoming sexually promiscuous. Others say it has something to do with “removing bad germs” and liken it to male circumcision, which is widely (though not universally) believed to have hygienic benefits. The World Health Organization says female genital mutilation has no known health benefits and “violates the rights to health, security and physical integrity of the person, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.” (Webmaster's comment: Female Genital Mutilation is alive and well here in the United States. Sex is for men to enjoy, women are here solely for men's pleasure and to make babies. What an evil concept!)

ATHEISM and HUMANISM

6-23-17 Political violence: Is America headed for a divorce?
Political violence: Is America headed for a divorce?
The neighbors of a mass shooter can usually be counted on to mumble shell-shocked clichés about how “normal” he seemed, said Christopher Ingraham in WashingtonPost.com. But after James Hodgkinson opened fire last week on House Republicans as they practiced for a baseball game, one of his Belleville, Ill., neighbors made a comment that “speaks volumes about political culture in the United States.” The neighbor said he rarely spoke to Hodgkinson for one simple reason: “‘He was a Democrat and I was a Republican, so we didn’t have too much to talk about.’” This is what America has become in 2017: a land where we are “partisans first and neighbors second.” We’re now a nation where more than 40 percent of Republicans and Democrats say the other party is “a threat to the nation’s well-being,” and where seething extremists like Hodgkinson, who constantly vented his partisan bile on his Facebook page, are so commonplace that no one bats an eyelid until the first shot rings out. Hostilities between militant liberals and resentful traditionalists have been intensifying for decades, said J. Robert Smith in AmericanThinker.com. As summer comes on, is that “long cold civil war” about to “finally turn hot?” (Webmaster's comment: We ain't seen nuthin' yet!)

6-23-17 Police Shootings of Civilians
Police Shootings of Civilians
Since 2005, 80 officers have been arrested for fatal on-duty shootings, and just 28 convicted. There are about 1,000 police shootings of civilians every year in the U.S.

6-23-17 When cops kill without justification
When cops kill without justification
“An American police officer can do almost anything without suffering criminal consequences,” said Daniel Payne. That’s the tragic takeaway of last week’s acquittal of Minnesota police officer Jeronimo Yanez in the shooting death of motorist Philando Castile last year. The officer pulled Castile over because the African-American’s car had a broken taillight, and Castile—whose fiancée and daughter were in the car—politely informed the officer he had a licensed handgun in the car. Yanez told Castile to produce his driver’s license, and the officer panicked when he saw the motorist go for his pocket, and fired seven shots at point-blank range, killing him. Castile’s death was utterly unjustified—the product of the officer’s unreasonable fear. No one with “murderous intent” would politely inform a police officer he had a weapon in the car. Yet the jury let Yanez walk, because Americans “have a deeply dysfunctional and unhealthy attitude about what constitutes acceptable police behavior.” Last year, a South Carolina jury failed to convict a cop who was seen on video firing five shots into a fleeing black man’s back. The police do very important and brave work, but when they “unjustly kill innocent people,” they should not be “above the law.”

6-23-17 After the gunfire ends
After the gunfire ends
Over the past two decades, more than 135,000 American students have experienced a shooting at their school, said journalist John Woodrow Cox. In one small town, first-graders remain haunted by what they saw. It was among hundreds of items—letters, ornaments, photos, posters, plush toys—that deluged the school of 290 students after the Sept. 28 attack. But the dream catcher held special meaning. It had been sent to four other schools ravaged by gun violence, and the names of each were listed on the back: Columbine High in Colorado, Red Lake High in Minnesota, Sandy Hook Elementary in Connecticut, Marysville Pilchuck High in Washington state. In each shooting’s wake, the children and adults who die and those who murder them become the focus of intense national attention. Often overlooked, though, are the students who survive the violence but are profoundly changed by it. Beginning with Columbine 18 years ago, more than 135,000 students attending at least 164 primary or secondary schools have experienced a shooting on campus, according to a Washington Post analysis. That doesn’t count dozens of suicides, accidents, and after-school assaults that have also exposed children to gunfire. “A meaningful number of those kids are going to have significant struggles,” said Bruce Perry, a psychiatrist who worked with families from Columbine and Sandy Hook. “It’s stunning how one event can have this echo that will impact so many more individuals than people realized.” Every child reacts differently to violence at school, therapists have found. Some students, either immediately or later, suffer post-traumatic stress similar to combat veterans returning from war. Many grapple with recurring nightmares, are crippled by everyday noises, struggle to focus in classes, and fear that the shooter will come after them again. Because of the lasting damage, Townville’s teachers, administrators, first responders, counselors, pastors, and parents and their children agreed to speak about what the community of 4,000 has endured over the past nine months.

6-23-17 Scalise shooting: A renewed gun-control debate
Scalise shooting: A renewed gun-control debate
In a nation filled with firearms, “no one is immune” from this country’s culture of gun violence, said Amanda Marcotte in Salon.com. Yet even as Republican lawmakers became the target of senseless carnage at a congressional softball practice in Virginia last week, they refused to make it less easy for “a madman with a vendetta to get the weaponry he needs” to wreak havoc. Deceased sniper James Hodgkinson, 66, wounded Rep. Steve Scalise (R-La.) and four others using a legally obtained semi-automatic rifle and handgun, in a rampage apparently motivated by his hatred for President Trump and Republicans. The incident was this year’s 154th mass shooting, as defined by attacks in which four people are shot. And yet to many Republicans, the only solution to this bloodshed “is yet more guns,” said The New York Times in an editorial. Some even proposed arming members of Congress. In this dark, NRA-inspired vision, everyone needs to go to work, school, and even softball practice “with a gun on their hip.”

6-23-17 The coming crisis
The coming crisis
What happens if Trump claims he's the victim of 'a coup'? This is the editor's letter in the current issue of The Week magazine. The most telling aspect of a crazed partisan's 50-round assault on Republican lawmakers last week was that it was not all that surprising. Horrifying, yes. Shocking, no. Mass shootings have become as commonplace in this country as wildfires; partisan hatred has reached a fever pitch unseen since the 1960s, and perhaps the 1850s. Millions of people despise the other political tribe with a visceral passion, and the other tribe loathes them right back. Two decades ago, according to Pew Research, just 21 percent of Republicans and 17 percent of Democrats gave the other party a "very unfavorable" rating. By last year, that contempt rating had shot up to 58 percent and 55 percent, respectively. More troubling still: 45 percent of Republicans and 41 percent of Democrats view the other party as "a threat to the nation's well-being." Combine apocalyptic panic with the most polarizing presidency in modern times, frequent and increasingly violent conflicts between far-left and far-right protesters, and 300 million or so firearms, and you've got a nation whose RPM needle is climbing into the red zone. I worry about where we are headed. Democrats and Republicans are self-segregating into geographic, cultural, and media ghettos of like-minded souls, making it easier to demonize those who are outside the wall. Compromise is dead; giving an inch to Them, a form of treason. The ongoing investigation by special counsel Robert Mueller might find no wrongdoing, but if he charges that Trump aides engaged in collusion, quid pro quos, and/or financial transactions with Russia, or concludes that the president obstructed justice, we will be thrust into a constitutional crisis. Trump will likely denounce any attempt to force him from office as "a coup." Tens of millions of furious partisans will believe him. What happens then? Our norms, institutions, and the rule of law will be sorely tested, and we'll find out what remains of the ties that bind us.

6-23-17 Germany quashes gay men's convictions and offers compensation
Germany quashes gay men's convictions and offers compensation
Germany's parliament has voted to quash the convictions of tens of thousands of gay men criminalised under notorious historical anti-homosexual laws. The law, only fully repealed in West Germany in 1994, dates to 1871 but was rarely enforced until the Nazi era. An estimated 5,000 surviving victims will receive €3,000 (£2,630; $3,350) in compensation along with €1,500 per year spent in jail. Justice Minister Heiko Maas called the new law a "belated act of justice". It "created unimaginable suffering, which led to self-denial, sham marriages, harassment and blackmail", he said. The law, known as Paragraph 175, outlawed "sexual acts contrary to nature... be it between people of the male gender or between people and animals". Sex between women was never criminalised. Under the Nazis, the offence was punishable with 10 years of forced labour, with tens of thousands of men sent to prison or concentration camps, where many perished. Between 1949 and 1969, when the law was relaxed, 50,000 men were prosecuted and there were a further 14,000 cases until 1994. (Webmaster's comment: America should do the same and compensate the tens of thoudands of women who were involuntarily sterilized and genitally mutilated in America by American doctors before those things finally became illegal in 1996!

6-23-17 Biggest Pride
Biggest Pride
Some 3 million people flocked to São Paulo this week to attend what may have been the world’s largest gay pride parade. The focus of the massive rally was supposed to be the threat of religious fundamentalism and attempts by religious conservatives in Brazil’s congress to roll back LGBT rights. The parade’s official motto was “Whatever our beliefs, no religion is law.” But O Globo reported that many revelers carried signs protesting against the government of President Michel Temer, who is under investigation for corruption and bribery.

6-23-17 Why Manning leaked secrets
Why Manning leaked secrets
Chelsea Manning is enjoying freedom for the first time, said Matthew Shaer in The New York Times Magazine. In May, the Army private was released from military prison after President Obama commuted her 35-year sentence for sending classified documents to WikiLeaks. But Manning felt she had been trapped in her own personal prison her entire life. Born as a male in Oklahoma, Manning, then named Bradley, had known she wanted to be a girl since she was 5. At school, she was bullied for her effeminate manner. “I would come home crying,” says Manning, 29, “and if my dad was there, he’d say, ‘Just quit crying and man up.’” Eventually, she sought out the structure of the military. But after being deployed in Iraq, where Manning sifted through hundreds of military reports, the stress of the tragedies she was reading about began to weigh on her. Manning downloaded every file she could get and gave them to WikiLeaks. After serving nearly seven years in jail, Manning feels free for the first time, because of the commutation of her sentence and her decision to transition. She denies that her gender dysphoria played any role in the leaks. “My values would have been the same. The things I care about would have been the same.”

6-23-17 The GOP’s health-care muddle
The GOP’s health-care muddle
“Are congressional Republicans about to walk into a trap of their own making?” asked Jonathan Bernstein. Virtually every Republican in Congress ran on “repealing and replacing Obamacare,” but the party never came up with a coherent plan that could fulfill its grandiose promises of better care for less money. So now the Senate is trying to rush through a bill in secret that will almost certainly be highly unpopular. All indications are that the legislation will reduce subsidies to people buying policies on the exchanges, raise their deductibles, and force states to push millions of low-income people off Medicaid. Nearly $1 trillion in Obamacare taxes on the wealthy will be cut. The political cost of this “symbolic” victory could be very high: Just as with Obamacare, “Trumpcare” will be blamed “for everything that goes wrong with anyone’s health care”; unlike with Obamacare, most people will see their benefits reduced. “The results could easily contribute to electoral disaster for the party in the 2018 and 2020 elections.” If Republicans are lucky, they won’t get the necessary 50 votes in the Senate. It’ll be a political embarrassment, but not nearly as damaging as taking permanent ownership of a “Trumpcare” plan that few people like.

6-23-17 5 mind-blowing things about the GOP's 'Better Care' act
5 mind-blowing things about the GOP's 'Better Care' act
After weeks of lock-down secrecy, Senate Republicans have finally released their version of TrumpCare. It's called the Better Care Reconciliation Act (BCRA), and it's quite a sight to behold. Apparently realizing this is their one shot to kill ObamaCare and remake the whole health-care safety net, the Republicans seemed to have crammed every last ounce of cruelty and hypocrisy they could muster into the bill. Here's a rundown of the BCRA's greatest hits.

  1. It's basically a plan to destroy Medicaid.
  2. Its subsidies for private insurance premiums are terrible.
  3. All this pays for massive tax cuts for the wealthy.
  4. It would hypocritically resurrect insurer "bailouts."
  5. It brazenly thumbs its nose at Senate rules.

6-23-17 Straight Talk
Straight Talk
Straight talk, after a Russian Orthodox Church leader who’s friends with Vladimir Putin declared that men should stop shaving to “protect themselves from homosexuality.” Metropolitan Kornily said, “The Lord created everyone with a beard,” and that shaving makes men weak and effeminate.

6-23-17 A Haunted House?
A Haunted House?
A Scottish couple is offering to pay a live-in nanny $64,000 a year and great benefits—so long as the new hire is willing to work in a haunted house. The husband and wife admitted in a job listing that their five previous nannies had quit the gig after getting spooked while taking care of their two young children. Each nanny cited “supernatural incidents” at the family’s historic home as the reason for leaving, “including strange noises, broken glass, and furniture moving.” The couple said they wanted “to be as up-front as possible to find the right person.”

6-23-17 Christian values are under attack?
Christian values are under attack?
In a survey of Americans in small towns and rural areas, 68% of respondents say that their values are different from those of people in urban areas. 56% of rural Americans believe that the federal government aids people in cities more than them, and 78% of rural Republicans said Christian values are under attack.

6-23-17 School’s Authoritative Nature
School’s Authoritative Nature
A Pennsylvania high school valedictorian had his microphone cut off in the middle of his speech when he began criticizing the school’s “authoritative nature.” Peter Butera received a standing ovation from fellow students when the principal ordered him off the stage for saying that administrators suppressed student expression. “Cutting the microphone,” Butera said, “proved my point to be true.”

6-23-17 Censorship Anyone?
Censorship Anyone?
A Pennsylvania radio host resigned after his bosses ordered him to stop criticizing President Trump. WTPA’s Bruce Bond said his general manager told him “it is not permissible on WTPA airwaves to talk disrespectfully of the president,” and that angry listeners had threatened “advertiser boycotts.” Bond chose to quit, saying he couldn’t “walk on eggshells” every time politics or Trump came up.

6-23-17 Kelly: Did she promote or expose Jones?
Kelly: Did she promote or expose Jones?
“Where’s the line between covering a scoundrel as a news figure and giving him a promotional platform?” said Jim Rutenberg in The New York Times. That’s the question hanging over new NBC host Megyn Kelly this week, after she interviewed deranged conspiracy theorist Alex Jones on her newsmagazine Sunday Night With Megyn Kelly. “Aside from what seemed like a blatant grab for attention and ratings,” said Don Kaplan in the New York Daily News, “there was no good reason to hand over NBC’s prime-time audience to Jones”—a “frightening, sweaty, tinfoil-hat--wearing nutjob” who through his website, Infowars.com, has made a small fortune peddling crackpot claims. Among them: Hillary Clinton ran a child sex-trafficking ring in the basement of a Washington, D.C., pizzeria, and the massacre of 20 children at Sandy Hook Elementary School was a hoax. Worse, Kelly put a spotlight on Jones’ ugly lies on Father’s Day, “even as still-grieving parents in Newtown, Conn., pleaded with her not to go with the story. What an insult.”

6-23-17 Minimun wage is a joke
Minimun wage is a joke
There is no place in the U.S. where a person working a full-time minimum-wage job could afford to rent a two-bedroom apartment without paying more than 30 percent of his or her income, a common budgeting standard, according to the National Low Income Housing Coalition. Nationwide, you would need to earn $21.21 an hour on average to afford a two-bedroom home—nearly three times the federal minimum wage of $7.25.

6-23-17 Supreme Court to weigh gerrymandering
Supreme Court to weigh gerrymandering
he Supreme Court this week agreed to review a landmark gerrymandering case that could have a radical impact on the way district lines are drawn across the country. The case involves a dispute over district lines in Wisconsin, where a divided panel of three federal judges ruled last year that the state’s Republican lawmakers had pushed through an electoral map so partisan, it violated the Constitution’s First Amendment. In the past, the justices have invalidated district lines that discriminated against minorities—but rarely those that favored one political party over another. If the court upholds the federal panel’s decision, hundreds of safely Republican or Democratic seats nationwide could potentially be up for grabs.

6-23-17 Cuba: Trump rolls back Obama’s opening
Cuba: Trump rolls back Obama’s opening
President Trump’s rollback of the Obama administration’s rapprochement with Cuba is yet another “foreign policy blunder,” said Daniel Kurtz-Phelan in NYMag.com. Trump last week reintroduced restrictions that bar Americans from traveling to Cuba without a licensed tour group and make it harder to do business there—in particular banning transactions with GAESA, a powerful corporate arm of the Cuban military. Reversing Obama’s “one-sided” deal, Trump claimed, would pressure the Castro regime to make human rights reforms. In fact, the president resurrected “one of the most glaring failures” of American Cold War policy, which actually helped strengthen the Castro regime’s grip on power. Since Obama opened up Cuba, many more Cubans have cellphones and internet access, while “hundreds of thousands have become entrepreneurs and small-business owners.” Now, by pandering to a sliver of the Republican base—Miami’s aging, fervently anti-Castro Cuban exiles—the president will succeed only in keeping the Cuban people isolated.

6-23-17 Seventy-Five Years Later
Seventy-Five Years Later
A 92-year-old from Washington state has finally graduated from her old high school. Mary Matsuda Gruenewald was an honors student at Vashon Island High School in 1942 when, like some 120,000 other Japanese-Americans during World War II, she was sent to an internment camp. Matsuda Gruenewald graduated from the camp’s makeshift school and went on to become a nurse. But she always wanted her diploma from Vashon. When the school’s principal heard her story recently, he invited her to walk in the class of 2017’s commencement. “This eliminates all the heartaches,” she says.

6-23-17 Poles were complicit in the Holocaust
Poles were complicit in the Holocaust
Poland is using the ugly history of the Holocaust to justify turning away desperate migrants, said Arno Widmann. It should be easy to spot the similarities between European Jews persecuted during World War II, many of whom were denied asylum in country after country, and the persecuted African and Syrian migrants of today, who have been turned away by Poland, Hungary, and the Czech Republic. But no. In the telling of Polish Prime Minister Beata Szydlo, the Poles are to be likened to the Jews. At a Holocaust remembrance ceremony last week, she said the great lesson of that time was that “everything must be done to defend the safety and the lives of citizens,” meaning that Poland is right to protect its people by shutting its doors to refugees. As appalling as it is to cast the Poles of today as the victims, even more appalling is the whitewashing of Polish complicity in the Holocaust. According to Szydlo, the Poles “had nothing to do with the genocide”—in her imaginings they didn’t turn Jews over to the Nazis and didn’t participate in pogroms. Polish collaboration with the Germans, a historical fact, is conveniently forgotten because it “doesn’t fit in with Poland’s new, nationalist glorification of its past.” Well, we remember—and we won’t let them forget.

6-22-17 Philando Castile: Girl, 4, calms mother in police car
Philando Castile: Girl, 4, calms mother in police car
"I don't want you to get shooted" Philando Castile was shot and killed by the police in July 2016 in the US state of Minnesota. New footage shows Diamond Reynolds and her four-year-old daughter, who witnessed the shooting, being held in a police vehicle immediately afterwards. Officer Jeronimo Yanez was found not guilty of second-degree manslaughter last week. (Webmaster's comment: What kind of country is it that we live in where children have to learn to help save their parents when the police have murdered one of them!)

6-21-17 Will the Supreme Court erode LGBT rights?
Will the Supreme Court erode LGBT rights?
While it's tempting to begin the analysis of the future of LGBT rights from the assumption that lesbians' and gays' rights to intimacy and marriage will stand, that's dangerous thinking. A Supreme Court shaped by President Donald Trump, especially if and when Justice Anthony Kennedy retires, could not only block progress but actually erase existing LGBT rights. That prospect looks increasingly likely. The only formal principle that counsels against the Court overturning the cases that established rights to intimacy and marriage — stare decisis, meaning "to stand by things decided" — is far from an ironclad guarantee against encroachment or even reversal. When a federal appellate court rules on a legal issue, even if the ruling springs from a three-judge panel that may not represent the full court, it sets precedent. Each panel that hears a related case afterward is bound by these decisions, even when the decisions have errors or hinge on an outdated principle — say, for example, the notion that discriminating against someone because of the sex of persons to whom they are attracted isn't sex discrimination. (Webmaster's comment: Prepare to go back to the closet. And to be beaten senseless by homophobes!)

  • How can precedents be overturned?
    • The principal exception lies in instances of a major new development — a clear-cut Supreme Court opinion, for example. Of course, it is a matter of debate how directly a Supreme Court decision must undercut precedent before a lower court can deviate.
  • What could SCOTUS do to roll back rights?
    • If a Trumped-up Supreme Court shies from a full-frontal assault on gay rights, their reluctance would likely stem not from stare decisis but from the jurisprudential gymnastics that would be required to walk Obergefell v. Hodges back without disrupting other precedent on marriage — and, more compellingly, without risking a blowback in public opinion. There are hundreds of thousands of married same-sex couples throughout the United States. Public opinion favors LGBT rights broadly and marriage overwhelmingly. Overruling landmark gay rights cases could generate a backlash that sees LGBT rights reinstated through legislation.

6-21-17 In US, 10.2% of LGBT Adults Now Married to Same-Sex Spouse
In US, 10.2% of LGBT Adults Now Married to Same-Sex Spouse
Two years after the Supreme Court ruled in Obergefell v. Hodges that states could not prohibit same-sex marriages, 10.2% of lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender (LGBT) adults in the U.S. are married to a same-sex spouse. That is up from 7.9% in the months prior to the Supreme Court decision in 2015, but only marginally higher than the 9.6% measured in the first year after the ruling.

  • Percentage married to same-sex spouse up from 7.9% two years ago
  • Sharp decline in same-sex domestic partnerships
  • LGBT men more likely to be married than LGBT women

6-21-17 Gay torment made NFL star Ryan O'Callaghan plan suicide
Gay torment made NFL star Ryan O'Callaghan plan suicide
The New England Patriots and Kansas City Chiefs lineman told Outsports that fear of rejection spurred him to hide his homosexuality. He even built a cabin near his Kansas City home and bought guns, planning to take his secret to the grave. It is still exceedingly rare for top-flight male US athletes to come out. The 33-year-old told Outsports, a website focused on LGBT issues in sport, that he realised he was gay while at high school in a conservative northern California town. The 6ft 7in, 330lb (149kg) hulk saw the ultra-macho world of American football as the perfect camouflage for his true identity. "No one is going to assume the big football player is gay," he said. "It's why a football team is such a good place to hide." A litany of sporting injuries eventually led O'Callaghan into painkiller addiction. "It helped with the pain of the injuries, and with the pain of being gay," he told Outsports.

6-21-17 Woman demands white doctor in Canada to see her son at local clinic
Woman demands white doctor in Canada to see her son at local clinic
A video showing a woman in Canada demanding that a "white doctor" look at her sick son has gone viral. In the footage, taken at a clinic in Mississauga, Ontario, she says that her son has chest pains but can be heard being racist towards staff. When she is told that no such doctor is available, the woman gets angry. Police said that no allegation of assault had been made by anyone involved and the matter was closed. In the four-minute video, the woman is heard repeatedly asking that her son be seen by a "white doctor". She is told by a staff member that her child has to be seen by a paediatrician and that no doctor fits her description. She responds: "So you're saying in the whole entire building, that there's not one white doctor? Can I see a doctor please, that's white? That doesn't have brown teeth, that speaks English." Fellow patients can be heard urging the woman to go to the hospital. She refuses, saying she had already been there and they only had "brown doctors that did not help my kid". She then uses a racial slur to describe the doctor and says: "Being white in this country, I should just shoot myself. My kid is part not white, so can we get someone to see him that at least speaks English."(Webmaster's comment: President Trump has unleased the not-so-well hidden racism in whites in north America.)

6-21-17 Philando Castile death: Police footage released
Philando Castile death: Police footage released
A video showing the fatal shooting of a black Minnesota motorist by a police officer has been released days after the officer was acquitted. Jeronimo Yanez shot Philando Castile during a traffic stop in Falcon Heights last July, and the aftermath was live-streamed on Facebook by his girlfriend. The shocking 10-minute video shows a calm, polite encounter between the two men that escalated quickly. Mr Yanez says he feared for his life and Mr Castile did not follow orders. The 29-year-old police officer was found not guilty on charges of second-degree manslaughter and two felony counts of intentional discharge of a dangerous weapon for endangering the safety of Mr Castile's girlfriend, Diamond Reynolds, and her four-year-old daughter, who were both in the car at the time. He has since been fired from the police force. (Webmaster's comment: Another case of the police murdering a black man and getting away with it!)

6-21-17 Americans Slow to Back Interracial Marriage
Americans Slow to Back Interracial Marriage
Fifty years ago this month, the U.S. Supreme Court ruled in Loving v. Virginia that a Virginia ban on marriage between whites and blacks was unconstitutional, thus striking down such laws everywhere they existed in the country. In advance of this ruling, Gallup found the American public evenly split: 48% of U.S. adults in January 1965 approved of laws making marriage between blacks and whites a crime, while 46% disapproved. U.S. Opposition Was an Outlier Among Western Nations: More than seven in 10 Americans (72%) disapproved of white-nonwhite marriages, in contrast with only 21% of residents in Sweden, 23% in the Netherlands, 25% in France, 34% in Finland, 35% in Switzerland and 36% in Greece.

6-21-17 US gun laws: Colorado to arm teachers in classrooms
US gun laws: Colorado to arm teachers in classrooms
Teachers are being trained to carry guns in classrooms in Colorado in order to protect children as part of a scheme motivated by a school massacre in 2012. The three-day course, which consists of firearms and medical training, was launched on Tuesday in Weld County. Seventeen members of staff who "would like to be considered armed first responders" have so far taken part. The pilot programme will allow volunteers to enter schools with guns under US "concealed carry" laws. Teachers were taken to a shooting range in Weld County, near Denver, where they were tested on their abilities with weapons. The course, provided by the Faculty Administrator Safety Training and Emergency Response group (Faster), was set up by parents, law enforcement officers and medical experts who believe that US schools are a "soft target" for violence. The group refers to schools as "victim zones". (Webmaster's comment: You can see where this is going! Everyone is going have to pack a weapon and be ready to draw and kill. Gun fights will be daily events in all communities. Innocent bystanders will be killed at least as often as the bad guys. The good, the bad, and the innocent will all be the victims of our INSANE love of guns. Noboby will even be able to imagine what a civilized society was supposed to be like!)

6-20-17 Terrorism Fears Drive More in US to Avoid Crowds
Terrorism Fears Drive More in US to Avoid Crowds
Thirty-eight percent of U.S. adults say the threat of terrorism makes them less willing to attend events where there are thousands of people. This is up from 27% in July 2011, the last time Gallup asked the question. It is also the highest level recorded since Gallup began asking the question after 9/11. (Webmaster's comment: If we do this the terrorists are winning!)

  • 38% of Americans less willing to attend large events due to terrorism
  • Previous high was 32% in 2002
  • 46% less willing to travel overseas due to terrorism concerns

6-20-17 UK foxes thankfully spared the baying pack, unlike Theresa May
UK foxes thankfully spared the baying pack, unlike Theresa May
One good outcome of the hung parliament chaos will be a Queen's speech devoid of an utterly unscientific vow to resume fox-hunting, says Stephen Harris. Talk of bringing back fox hunting is over for now after this idea was quietly erased from the Queen’s speech when the enfeebled Conservative government outlined legislative plans today. The pledge always seemed odd. After all, fox hunting is not a high priority for most UK voters – the vast majority oppose lifting the ban by repealing the Hunting Act. This feeling has been steadily rising and now includes 84 per cent of rural voters. Traditionally, though, animal welfare has not been a major decider of how people vote – in 2005 just 14 per cent thought that it was “very important”. A small group of Tories still counted on this being the case and persuaded prime minister Theresa May to include the promise of a free vote on fox hunting in the 2017 manifesto: despite assertions it was necessary to control fox numbers and reduce lamb losses, the key aim was to keep a hard core of pro-hunt rural voters on board. But it proved toxic, losing May votes, and possibly her majority – animal welfare is an increasingly important political issue, especially among young voters. A reprieve is welcome. The backdrop is that British foxes are in rapid decline despite the 12-year ban on hunting. The British Trust for Ornithology, which has an international reputation for the quality of its monitoring schemes, estimated that numbers declined by 34 per cent between 1996 and 2014, and continue to drop. (Webmaster's comment: The male drive to just kill something, anything, is still there and strong. Especially in the United States. We pay for that drive everyday.)

6-20-17 Why ecstasy and opioids should replace Prozac and Xanax
Why ecstasy and opioids should replace Prozac and Xanax
Yet a large number of well-controlled studies, and the meta-analytic research that puts them in perspective, find that SSRIs (compared with placebos) have little or no benefit for people with mild to moderate levels of depression. Their utility for severe depression is still subject to debate, with many studies showing little or no improvement, and a definitive impact on anxiety disorders has not been demonstrated. Nor are SSRIs free of serious side effects, including sexual dysfunction, rapid weight gain and, most troubling, suicidal ideation, especially in younger patients. SSRIs have not lived up to their promise. The question is whether there are drugs that can relieve emotional or psychological problems effectively and reliably, without debilitating side effects. Historically, humans have relied on a panoply of drugs to remedy emotional concerns. Our Victorian-era ancestors used opiates (eg, laudanum) to minimize anxiety, melancholia, and sleep problems. Opiates are still acknowledged as the most effective defense against pain — and also anxiety, in limited circumstances (e.g., routine colonoscopy). The indigenous people of South America have long bolstered their physical and mental endurance with coca leaves; and early 20th-century Europeans (such as Sigmund Freud) used its derivative, cocaine, to sharpen their wits. Self-actualization, presumably an overall boon to mental health, has been enhanced with natural psychedelics (e.g., peyote, ayahuasca) throughout the Americas for at least 1,000 years. And the youth of more recent times (re)discovered the value of cannabis in extending their aesthetic, social, even intellectual horizons. (Webmaster's comment: However: When regulators do too little)

6-20-17 A bird flu pandemic looms but the US is holding back the fight
A bird flu pandemic looms but the US is holding back the fight
Just two mutations could turn H7N9 flu into a deadly airborne strain, but restrictions meant to protect us from a possible pandemic are making it harder to combat the next one. BIRD flu is back. The H7N9 virus has had its deadliest year since it emerged in 2013. Since October, 714 people in China have become seriously ill, almost as many as in the previous four years combined. More than a third of those people have died. The virus is thought to be causing milder, undiagnosed disease in far more people, and each infection is a chance for it to evolve. The idea that H7N9 could gain the ability to spread readily via humans keeps virologists up at night. But restrictions on research into potentially pandemic viruses, put in place after concerns about another bird flu, are making it harder to study today’s threat. Isn’t it time we conquered our fears of what might happen so we can avoid a real pandemic? So far H7N9 has spread only in poultry across part of China, and to people who have caught it directly from birds – except for a few recent cases of limited human-to-human spread within families.

6-20-17 European Court blasts Russia 'gay propaganda' law
European Court blasts Russia 'gay propaganda' law
Russia's "gay propaganda" law is discriminatory and encourages homophobia, the European Court of Human Rights has ruled. The Strasbourg judges said Russia had discriminated against three gay rights activists who opposed the law. It was adopted in 2013, banning promotion of homosexuality among people under 18. The law "reinforced stigma and prejudice and encouraged homophobia", the ruling said. Gay rights groups condemned the law. Under the law, private individuals deemed to be promoting "homosexual behaviour among minors" face fines of up to 5,000 roubles (£67; $85), while officials risk paying 10 times that amount. Businesses and schools can be fined up to 500,000 roubles. Homosexuality was decriminalised in Russia in 1993, but anti-gay prejudice is rife. Critics see the propaganda law as part of a state campaign to marginalise LGBT activists, whose work includes dissemination of sexual health advice. The Strasbourg court said the fines imposed on three Russian gay rights activists violated Article 10 (freedom of expression) and Article 14 (prohibition of discrimination) of the European Convention on Human Rights. According to the court, the legislation aimed at curbing promotion of homosexuality was "not clearly defined" and was implemented in an arbitrary way. It "served no legitimate public interest", the court said.

6-19-17 US Supreme Court to rule on gerrymandering
US Supreme Court to rule on gerrymandering
A lower court ruled that voters in the state of Wisconsin had their constitutional rights violated. The Supreme Court recently ruled that North Carolina had carried out unconstitutional racial gerrymanders. The Supreme Court will soon determine if gerrymandering, where voting districts are re-drawn in order to favour political parties, is legal. They will review a state ruling which found that officials engaged in "an unconstitutional partisan gerrymander". A federal court ruled in Wisconsin that Republican lawmakers had violated the US Constitution's equal protection under the law and free speech clauses. The case will set a legal precedent on the long-time political practice. In May, the Supreme Court invalidated state electoral maps in North Carolina, after finding that Republicans legislators re-drew them to diminish the political clout of African-American voters.

The Evolution of North Carolina's 12th Congressional District. NUTS!

NUTS!

6-19-17 Guns kill 1,300 US children every year, study finds
Guns kill 1,300 US children every year, study finds
About 1,300 US children under the age of 17 die from gun-related injuries per year, a government study has found. Researchers at the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also found that guns seriously wounded about 5,800 children each year. Boys accounted for 82% of all child firearm deaths while black children were 10 times more likely to be killed by a gun, according to the study. More than half of these deaths were homicides while 38% were ruled suicide. The study, published in Pediatrics on Monday, also found 6% of firearm-related deaths were fatalities from accidental gun injuries. "Firearm injuries are a leading cause of death among US children aged one to 17 years and contribute substantially each year to premature death, illness and disability of children," said CDC's Katherine Fowler, who led the study. "About 19 children a day die or are medically treated in an emergency department for a gunshot wound in the US," she told Reuters. CDC researchers examined national data in what they describe as "the most comprehensive examination of current firearm-related deaths and injuries among children in the United States to date". The study found a 60% increase in gun suicides from 2007-15, according an analysis of national injury records. (Webmaster's comment: Everyone supports the right to bear arms until their child dies from being shot!)

6-19-17 'Trump death' in Julius Caesar prompts threats to wrong theatres
'Trump death' in Julius Caesar prompts threats to wrong theatres
Several theatres in the US have received threats and complaints after a show in New York depicted the assassination of a Julius Caesar made to look like President Donald Trump. Messages wished death upon theatre staff at unrelated establishments in an apparent mix-up. It appears complainers did not check which theatre they were angry about. The title character in Shakespeare's play Julius Caesar, written in 1599, is stabbed to death by Roman senators. The play draws on the real-life assassination of Julius Caesar, 2,061 years ago. In a version of the classic play running at the Public Theater in New York for the past month, the title role was played by a man in a suit with a red tie and orange-tinted blond hair. Anger over the decision led several sponsors to remove their funding and hecklers disrupted performances on more than one night. (Webmaster's comment: What would you expect? Many Trump supporters are an ignorant and a violently inclined lot. They just want to lash out and blame someone other than themselves for the fact that they are losers and know they always will be.)

6-19-17 Virginia Muslim girl found dead near mosque
Virginia Muslim girl found dead near mosque
Police in the US state of Virginia have found the remains believed to be of a 17-year-old Muslim girl who was assaulted near a mosque before disappearing. The teenager, identified as Nabra Hussein, was walking with friends when they got into a dispute with a driver in Herndon, police said. The man left the car and assaulted the girl, they said. She then disappeared. A 22-year-old suspect has been arrested and charged with murder. The reason for the attack was still unknown, but hate crime was one of the options being investigated, reports said. (Webmaster's comment: Note that the cowardly white males that hate muslims in America usually only attack safe targets like women and children.)

6-19-17 French election: Macron team complete rout with Assembly win
French election: Macron team complete rout with Assembly win
French President Emmanuel Macron is celebrating a convincing victory in National Assembly elections that gives him the mandate to push through wide-ranging social and economic reforms. Three-quarters of the assembly are new members and a record 223 of the 577 MPs are women. Mr Macron's fledgling La République en Marche (LREM) won 308 seats with 43% of the vote. But the 42.64% turnout is a record low for modern-day France. Together with its centrist MoDem allies, LREM now forms a bloc of 350 seats, well over the 289 seats needed to control parliament. The election result means that a party that only began life in April 2016 now has complete control of France's lower house of parliament and that means the president can press on with steering through his broad programme of reform. (Webmaster's comment: The fact that 40% of the parliament's members are women indicates a kinder, gentler future for France's citizens. We need to do this in America too, and stop electing males with all their greed, sexual and violence problems.)

6-17-17 Philando Castile death: Police officer found not guilty
Philando Castile death: Police officer found not guilty
A Minnesota police officer who shot dead a black man during a traffic stop has been found not guilty. The verdict sparked protests in the city of St Paul, where demonstrators temporarily blocked main roads. Jeronimo Yanez shot Philando Castile after stopping his car in Falcon Heights last July in an incident live-streamed on Facebook by his girlfriend. Speaking on Friday, his mother Valerie said the verdict proved "the system continues to fail black people". The case - one of a series of deaths of black men and boys at the hands of US police - prompted widespread outrage. About 2,000 people marched through St Paul after the verdict, blocking traffic and commuter trains while chanting: "Yanez guilty." Diamond Reynolds' video, which showed him covered in blood as an officer pointed his gun at him, was viewed by millions around the world. (Webmaster's comment: Let's face it. The police in our country can kill blacks at any time for any reason and get away with it. This is not a country with rights and liberty for all. It is the country of rights and liberty for white males.)

6-17-17 Cuba denounces Trump's policy rollback
Cuba denounces Trump's policy rollback
Cuba's government has denounced US President Donald Trump's decision to roll back on policy changes towards the island nation. However, it says it will still co-operate with its larger neighbour. Speaking earlier in Miami, Florida, Mr Trump said he was reimposing certain travel and trade restrictions eased by the Obama administration, condemning a "completely one-sided deal". But he is not reversing key diplomatic and commercial ties. "The government of Cuba denounces the new measures toughening the embargo," Cuban state TV said. But it also reiterated "its willingness to continue the respectful dialogue and cooperation". Barack Obama attempted to thaw relations by loosening trade and tourism bans. President Trump says his new policy will tighten rules on travel and on sending funds to Cuba. (Webmaster's comment: The world's biggest bully country picks on the world's smallest! We are back in grade school!)

FEMINISM

6-23-17 Magufuli ban on pregnant schoolgirls angers Tanzanians
Magufuli ban on pregnant schoolgirls angers Tanzanians
Many Tanzanians have condemned President John Magufuli's comments that schoolgirls who give birth should not be allowed to return to school. An online petition has been set up to get the president to reverse his comments. Mr Magufuli warned schoolgirls at a rally on Monday that: "After getting pregnant, you are done." A law passed in 2002 allows for expulsion of pregnant schoolgirls. The law says the girls can be expelled and excluded from school for "offences against morality" and "wedlock". Mr Magufuli, who was speaking at a public rally in Chalinze town, about 100km west of the main city Dar es Salaam, said that young mothers would be distracted if they were allowed back in school: "After calculating some few mathematics, she'd be asking the teacher in the classroom: 'Let me go out and breastfeed my crying baby.'" He said that men who impregnate the schoolgirls should be imprisoned for 30 years and "put the energy they used to impregnate the girl into farming while in jail".(Webmaster's comment: Right out of the dark ages!)

6-23-17 Why we need talkative women
Why we need talkative women
“Ah, women. How does one bear their hysterical arguments and constant chatter?” asked Christine Emba. Usually such misogynist stereotypes are only hinted at, but it’s been a banner month for sexism in business and politics. A former Trump spokesman recently labeled Sen. Kamala Harris (D-Calif.) “hysterical” after her aggressive questioning of Attorney General Jeff Sessions. The same week, Uber board member David Bonderman interrupted Arianna Huffington, the company’s sole female director, “to joke that having more female board members would simply lead to more talking.” Ironically, in both cases the qualities “being dismissed as excesses of femininity” are the ones business and politics need most. More talking would have been an “incontestable good” at Uber, where workers didn’t feel comfortable taking their concerns about harassment and discrimination to management. Having more women on the board might also have compelled the company to address its toxic, hypermasculine culture “before it spiraled out of control.” As for Sen. Harris’ forceful questioning, “in men, such intensity is read as effectiveness.” In a 2001 survey of lawmakers, “the top reason female legislators ran for office was to effect social change.” For men, it was because “they had always wanted to.” Call me crazy, but “an emotional commitment to progress sounds better than dispassionate ego stroking any day.”

6-23-17 Les Canadiennes: Women's ice hockey team left in the cold
Les Canadiennes: Women's ice hockey team left in the cold
They've won Olympic gold medals and league championships - but these top athletes still seek recognition.

6-22-17 Bill Cosby plans 'sexual assault education' speaking tour
Bill Cosby plans 'sexual assault education' speaking tour
Embattled comic Bill Cosby plans to embark on a town hall-style speaking tour to educate young people about sexual assault allegations. His spokespeople said on Thursday that due to changing laws, more young men will face sexual assault allegations. Mr Cosby narrowly escaped a prison sentence when a sexual assault trial against him ended in a hung jury. Prosecutors plan to retry the case. At least 50 other women accuse him of drugging and sexually assaulting them. Cosby spokesman Andrew Wyatt told WBRC-TV's Good Day Alabama that the comedian will begin his summer motivational speaking tour in Alabama as early as July. "This is bigger than Bill Cosby," Mr Wyatt said, adding "this issue can affect any young person, especially young athletes of today". "They need to know what they're facing when they're hanging out and partying, when they're doing certain things that they shouldn't be doing," he told the interviewer.

6-23-17 No Progress for Women
No Progress for Women
Just under 28 percent of the more than 430 vacant board seats at Fortune 500 companies were filled by women in 2016, down from 30 percent the year before. It’s the first time women have lost ground in the boardroom since executive recruiter Hedrick & Struggles began tracking director appointments in 2009.

6-21-17 Congo peacekeepers to leave CAR amid sex abuse allegations
Congo peacekeepers to leave CAR amid sex abuse allegations
Congo-Brazzaville is to withdraw more than 600 troops serving as peacekeepers in the Central African Republic (CAR) following claims of sexual abuse, the UN says. A review of the Congolese deployment pointed to "systemic problems", a statement said. The UN peacekeeping force in the CAR has faced scores of allegations of sexual abuse and exploitation. Almost 13,000 people are serving as part of the mission, known as Minusca. French troops have also been accused of sex abuse in CAR. Charges were dropped against six French soldiers earlier this year, however another investigation remains open.

6-21-17 Kenya's schoolgirls to get free sanitary pads from government
Kenya's schoolgirls to get free sanitary pads from government
All Kenyan schoolgirls are to get free sanitary pads, the government has said. It is hoped the move will improve access to education in a country where many cannot afford sanitary products like pads and tampons. The high cost has led to an estimated one million girls missing six weeks of school every year, according to the ZanaAfrica Foundation. But now the onus has been put on the Kenyan government to provide free sanitary towels to every schoolgirl. The amendment to the education act, signed into law by President Uhurru Kenyatta this week, states "free, sufficient and quality sanitary towels" must be provided to every girl registered at school, as well as providing "a safe and environmental sound mechanism for disposal".

6-21-17 Babies are dying during childbirth in the UK due to poor care
Babies are dying during childbirth in the UK due to poor care
Three-quarters of babies who die or are brain damaged during childbirth in the UK might have been saved with better medical care, an inquiry has concluded. Three-quarters of the babies who die or are brain damaged during childbirth in the UK might have been saved by better medical care, an inquiry has concluded. The report blames staff for failing to recognise when a baby is in danger, for instance, by not continuously monitoring the baby’s heart rate during labour. Other problems include staff being overworked. Called Each Baby Counts, the report is a result of the Royal College of Obstetricians and Gynaecologists investigating 1136 cases of babies born in the UK in 2015 who either suffered brain damage during birth, or died during delivery or in the next week. The report comes after a string of scandals over substandard care at UK hospitals. For instance, between 2003 and 2014, 11 babies and one mother died at a hospital run by the University Hospitals of Morecambe Bay NHS Foundation Trust as a result of poor care. Failure to monitor babies’ heart rates has also been blamed for baby deaths at the Shrewsbury and Telford Hospital NHS Trust. (Webmaster's comment: It's even worse in the United States! Infant mortality in the UK is 4.2 per 1000 births. ln the United States it is 6.5 per 1000, the fifth highest of the 35 top economic countries in the world! Compared to those countries, of which almost all have subsidized health care, US health care is the most expensive and the worst. Even Cuba's healthcare is better! They live just as long as we do and have a lower infant mortality at 4.6 per 1000 births.)

6-21-17 Reality Check: Should pregnant women shun meat and lust?
Reality Check: Should pregnant women shun meat and lust?
The claim: The Indian government is advising pregnant women to exercise, avoid eggs and meat, shun desire and lust, and hang beautiful photos in the bedroom. Reality Check verdict: Some of the advice is good, some bad, and some downright ridiculous. India's Ayush ministry, which promotes traditional and alternative medicine, last week distributed a tiny 16-page booklet on Mother and Child Care to journalists. It's three years old but it's been dominating news since its re-release just ahead of the annual International Yoga Day, which is being celebrated on Wednesday. Produced by the Central Council for Research in Yoga and Naturopathy, which is a part of Ayush, the booklet dishes out advice on the yoga exercises that pregnant women should - and should not - do; lists of food they should - and should not - eat; and also offers suggestions on what to read, what sort of company to keep, what sort of photos to look at, and so on and so forth. Doctors in India say though there is merit in some of the advice, it would not be wise to follow the guidelines in their entirety. (Webmaster's comment: More advice for women from one of the most backward nations on the earth where they still burn women alive when their husbands die, more than 8,000 of them in 2015.)

6-20-17 The wounded victims of Sri Lanka's child marriage law
The wounded victims of Sri Lanka's child marriage law
In Sri Lanka the legal marriage age is 18, but under a decades-old community law, much younger Muslim girls can get married. As calls grow for this law to be amended, BBC Sinhala's Saroj Pathirana meets one young girl forced to marry against her will. When Shafa* was 15, she was forced to get married. "While studying for exams, I fell in love with a boy," Shafa said, tears running down her cheeks. "My parents did not like it. They sent me to my uncle's place. While I was studying there, a regular visitor told my aunt and uncle that he wanted to marry me." Shafa, who comes from a Muslim family and lives in a remote village in Sri Lanka, refused. She wanted to marry the boy she loved, after completing her secondary school education. But despite her objections, her uncle and aunt arranged for her to marry their friend. Whenever she objected to the marriage, she was beaten. Her uncle and aunt even threatened to kill themselves if she did not listen to them. "I cut my arms as there was no other option," said Shafa, pulling up her sleeves to show the scars. "I also took some pills from my uncle's place. "While I was being treated in hospital, they bribed the doctors and took me - together with my saline bottle - to a private hospital. A few days later they forced me to marry that man."

6-20-17 Man jailed for dangling baby from window in Algeria
Man jailed for dangling baby from window in Algeria
A court in Algeria has sentenced a man to two years in prison for dangling his baby out of a window in order to attract "likes" on Facebook. The father posted a picture of himself holding the baby out of a window in a high-rise building with the caption: "1,000 likes or I will drop him." It prompted other social media users to demand his arrest for child abuse. He was charged with endangering the baby's safety following his arrest on Sunday, police said. The unnamed man dangled the child out of the 15th-floor window of an apartment block in the capital, Algiers, news site Al Arabiya reported.

6-19-17 Virginia Muslim girl found dead near mosque
Virginia Muslim girl found dead near mosque
Police in the US state of Virginia have found the remains believed to be of a 17-year-old Muslim girl who was assaulted near a mosque before disappearing. The teenager, identified as Nabra Hussein, was walking with friends when they got into a dispute with a driver in Herndon, police said. The man left the car and assaulted the girl, they said. She then disappeared. A 22-year-old suspect has been arrested and charged with murder. The reason for the attack was still unknown, but hate crime was one of the options being investigated, reports said. (Webmaster's comment: Note that the cowardly white males that hate muslims in America usually only attack safe targets like women and children.)

6-19-17 French election: Macron team complete rout with Assembly win
French election: Macron team complete rout with Assembly win
French President Emmanuel Macron is celebrating a convincing victory in National Assembly elections that gives him the mandate to push through wide-ranging social and economic reforms. Three-quarters of the assembly are new members and a record 223 of the 577 MPs are women. Mr Macron's fledgling La République en Marche (LREM) won 308 seats with 43% of the vote. But the 42.64% turnout is a record low for modern-day France. Together with its centrist MoDem allies, LREM now forms a bloc of 350 seats, well over the 289 seats needed to control parliament. The election result means that a party that only began life in April 2016 now has complete control of France's lower house of parliament and that means the president can press on with steering through his broad programme of reform. (Webmaster's comment: The fact that 40% of the parliament's members are women indicates a kinder, gentler future for France's citizens. We need to do this in America too, and stop electing males with all their greed, sexual and violence problems.)

6-19-17 The Tunisian women who want to be virgins again
The Tunisian women who want to be virgins again
In Tunisia, young women are expected to be virgins when they marry, leading to a growing trade in hymen reconstruction surgery. Yasmine (not her real name) looks nervous. She's biting her nails and checks her mobile phone constantly. "I consider this to be deception and I'm really worried," she says. We're on the fourth floor of a private clinic in Tunis - the gynaecology service. Around us in the pink waiting room, other women wait patiently to be seen. Yasmine confides in me that she is having a hymenoplasty, a short procedure that promises to reconstruct her virginity surgically. Her wedding is due to take place in two months' time and the 28-year-old is worried that her husband will find out she is not a virgin. She has come here to turn back the clock but is concerned that at some point in the future the truth may come out. "I might one day inadvertently betray myself in a conversation with my husband," she says. "Or my husband may have... suspicions." We claim to live in a modern society... but there's not much modernity when it comes to women's sexuality and freedom - Samia Elloumi, Sociologist.

6-17-17 I Underwent Genital Mutilation as a Child—Right Here in the United States
I Underwent Genital Mutilation as a Child—Right Here in the United States
A doctor in Michigan was just arrested for cutting little girls. She’s not the only one. Last week, an Indian American doctor was arrested in Michigan, charged with performing female genital cutting on two seven-year-old girls. As the story hit the local press and then the New York Times, and as it was shared by George Takei and Nicholas Kristof, my phone kept blowing up with breathless messages and links from childhood friends across the country. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that half a million girls in the United States were affected by or at risk for mutilation in 2012. I know of dozens of Bohra women whose parents had them cut in America over the last 30 years, from New York City to Houston to Chicago. Others were taken out of country to have the procedure done, a practice called “vacation cutting” that’s now also illegal in the United States. There’s also little consensus about how the actual procedure is supposed to work; it’s often up to the interpretation of whoever is wielding the blade. In some cases, like mine, a “pinch of skin” from the clitoral hood is cut away, leaving no lasting physical trauma. Sometimes the entire clitoris is removed, or surrounding tissue is also damaged. Last year, writer Mariya Karimjee went on This American Life to tell the story of her cutting, which was performed in Pakistan and left her unable to have sex without unendurable pain. Bohras even disagree on why khatna is performed. The prevailing view is that it keeps girls and women from becoming sexually promiscuous. Others say it has something to do with “removing bad germs” and liken it to male circumcision, which is widely (though not universally) believed to have hygienic benefits. The World Health Organization says female genital mutilation has no known health benefits and “violates the rights to health, security and physical integrity of the person, the right to be free from torture and cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment, and the right to life when the procedure results in death.” (Webmaster's comment: Female Genital Mutilation is alive and well here in the United States. Sex is for men to enjoy, women are here solely for men's pleasure and to make babies. What an evil concept!)

SCIENCE - GLOBAL WARMING and ENVIRONMENT

6-23-17 Extreme heat
Extreme heat
More than 40 flights were grounded at the Phoenix Sky Harbor Airport this week, as a record-breaking heat wave across the Southwest made it too hot for some planes to fly. Temperatures hit 119 degrees in Phoenix on Tuesday, the city’s fourth-hottest day on record, with temperatures in the 110s forecast through the week. The extreme conditions forced American Airlines to cancel some flights using the Bombardier CRJ aircraft, which has a maximum operating temp of 118 degrees. Las Vegas hit 117 degrees, tying a record temperature recorded only three other times in the city’s history. “That’s deadly heat no matter how you slice it,” said meteorologist Chris Breckenridge. Southern California also wilted, with temperatures hitting 122 degrees in Palm Springs, 124 in San Diego County and 127 in Death Valley.

6-23-17 Wildfires
Wildfires
Wildfires were once rare in the grasslands of the Great Plains, but their numbers more than tripled between 1985 and 2014—from about 33 a year to 117. Experts have attributed the rise to both climate change and an incursion of invasive plant species that have provided additional fuel.

6-22-17 Trump’s wise monkey environment plan: See no evil, hear no evil
Trump’s wise monkey environment plan: See no evil, hear no evil
If you don't measure the bad stuff, you don't have to do anything about it. That looks like the Trump philosophy, say Gretchen Goldman and Andrew Rosenberg. Just a few months into the Trump era, the White House and Congress have well and truly shown their disdain for science and science-based policy. The president’s proposed budget is the latest example showing that the role of research is being sidelined in decision-making. Perhaps most disturbing is the emerging philosophy behind all this: Don’t measure, so you don’t have to manage. The administration’s proposed funding cuts for science agencies offer an alarming window on this philosophy. For example, the cuts would kill funding of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s Air Resources Laboratory, which tracks and forecasts the release of radioactive material, volcanic ash, wildfire smoke and hazardous chemicals. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s public health preparedness programmes are also targeted, as is the entire research and development arm of the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), which is responsible for collecting, analysing and disseminating air and water quality data. And there’s more: the cuts would terminate four planned NASA Earth Science missions – projects expected to yield huge amounts of invaluable data on our planet. PACE, CLARREO Pathfinder, OCO-3 and DSCOVR would make measurements that improve greenhouse gas emission estimates; detect harmful algal blooms, volcanic ash events and oil spills; and improve air pollution measurements. All of these programmes ensure that the government collects the information we need to keep US citizens safe and healthy. Without this data, we are less prepared to deal with the big problems as a society. This appears to be the strategy. If we cannot track our greenhouse gas emissions, we can avoid commitments to reducing them. And if we can’t see the extent of pollution, then we don’t have to enact policies to protect the public, which usually means holding businesses accountable for what they cause. Does that save businesses money? Sure, but to what end?

6-22-17 Oil-exploration airguns punch 2-kilometre-wide holes in plankton
Oil-exploration airguns punch 2-kilometre-wide holes in plankton
The seismic airguns used to look for undersea oil don’t just disrupt marine mammals, their shock waves also kill and disperse the plankton population. The seismic sound blasts made by airguns searching for new oil reserves under the ocean floor can kill large swathes of plankton, the basis of the marine food chain, leaving the ocean dotted with plankton holes. Offshore oil exploration has become increasingly popular as land reserves are depleted. Since the 1960s, companies have employed airguns to probe the sea floor for oil deposits. The airguns release compressed air into the water, creating bursts of sound. The way the acoustic waves bounce back from the ocean floor gives information about whether petroleum is present. Previous research has shown that such airguns cause behavioural changes and hearing loss in whales, dolphins and giant squid, impairing their ability to find food and communicate. Now, Robert McCauley at Curtin University in Western Australia and his colleagues have shown for the first time that the noise also kills zooplankton – the microscopic animals swimming in the water. The team surveyed zooplankton populations before, and 1 hour after, setting off an airgun near the south-east coast of Tasmania in Australia. They found that the sound burst created a 2-kilometre-wide “hole” in the zooplankton population. Within this area, zooplankton abundance dropped by two-thirds and the number of dead zooplankton more than doubled.

6-22-17 Italy’s drying lakes imperil rare shrimp
Italy’s drying lakes imperil rare shrimp
The survival of ancient and unique species thriving in mountain lakes in central Italy have been threatened by a double whammy of a quake and climate change. A tiny ancient shrimp found only in a single small lake tucked away in the mountains of central Italy could soon disappear, as a combined result of climate change and an earthquake that hit the area last year. The fairy shrimp (Chirocephalus marchesonii) has evolved from a species native to the Himalayan region. Its ancestors are thought to have reached the Appennine range during the last ice age, after their eggs latched onto the feet of migratory birds. “Over the millennia, the shrimp has adapted to the specific environment of Lake Pilato, and its reproductive cycle is in sync with the seasonal hydrologic balance of the basin,” says Maria Gaetana Barelli of the Sibillini Park authority. The species is unique among freshwater shrimps in the area for its Asian origins, offering clues on the movement of animal species in prehistoric times. Barelli says that to hatch, the shrimp’s eggs need such a complex combination of environmental parameters that her five-year-long research project wasn’t enough to make them hatch in captivity. This is why she is concerned that the crustacean may go extinct if the small lake it inhabits undergoes significant environmental changes.

6-21-17 Arizona heatwave: Strange consequences of extreme heat
Arizona heatwave: Strange consequences of extreme heat
Summer has only just begun but a record-breaking heatwave in the southwest corner of the US has sparked wildfires and triggered power outages. There were 15 large blazes burning in Arizona, California, New Mexico and Utah on Wednesday. And intermittent blackouts were reported in a number of southwest cities and towns as the spike in demand for electricity to run air-conditioning units overloads power systems. But what are the more unlikely ways the blistering conditions are affecting the region? (Webmaster's comment: Welcome to the new world. And it's just beginning!)

  • Driving with oven gloves
  • Buckled roads
  • Melting mail
  • Closed zoos
  • Swimming scorpions
  • Quiet hiking trails
  • Planes grounded
  • Free ice cream
  • And, of course, eggs cooking outside

6-21-17 Firefighting in extreme Arizona heatwave
Firefighting in extreme Arizona heatwave
Extremely high temperatures in the US southwest have sent the mercury above 115F (46C), but duty still calls for the Phoenix Fire Department.

6-21-17 Donald Trump talks up solar panel plan for Mexico wall
Donald Trump talks up solar panel plan for Mexico wall
US President Donald Trump has told supporters that his proposed wall along the border with Mexico could have solar panels fixed to it. Addressing a rally in Iowa, he said the panels would provide cheap energy and help to pay for the controversial wall. He suggested the plan was his own, saying: "Pretty good imagination, right? Good? My idea." However, solar panels have been included in designs for the wall submitted by companies. During his campaign, Mr Trump pledged to build a wall along the Mexican border to stop illegal immigration and drug trafficking. He insisted he would make Mexico foot the bill, but President Enrique Peña Nieto has dismissed the idea. (Webmaster's comment: Trump Lies Again! Is the Wall's physical location the best location for the solar panels? The most cost effective location? How easy will it be to maintain? What's the weather like? Solar Panels, rather than in a typical solar panel farm configuration, in constant sun with cost savings in construction, interconnections and maintenance, the Wall will also require miles and miles of wiring. DUMB!)

6-21-17 Living with climate change: Welcome to the new normal
Living with climate change: Welcome to the new normal
The greenhouse gases we've been pumping into the atmosphere are already changing Earth's weather, ecosystems and even its tilt. Here's how. IT MAY not be immediately obvious, but the world outside your window is already a changed one. Since the industrial revolution, global temperatures have risen by about 1°C, which has had an impact at even the largest scales. For example, melting glaciers in Greenland are shifting the distribution of water on Earth, and nudging the planet’s axis. As a result, the position of the North Pole has moved eastwards by more than 1 metre since 2005. An upshot of this is that Earth will spin faster and, by 2200, days could be 0.12 milliseconds shorter. Earth’s tilt is unlikely to affect your life or even that of your children, but other changes are happening closer to home. In the UK, for instance, spring is beginning about two weeks earlier on average than it did half a century ago, and autumn a week later. In the seas, many animals have shifted their range hundreds of kilometres polewards. On land, we are seeing similar shifts, but it can be much harder for terrestrial wildlife to move, not least because of roads and cities. Another subtle change is that nights are warming faster than days. Night-time is a chance for heat to escape back out into space, but the extra greenhouse gases in the atmosphere are trapping ever more of it. This is particularly bad news during heatwaves: if our bodies don’t get a chance to cool down at night, it is harder to cope with the heat of the day. Not only are heatwaves more difficult to deal with in our changing world, they are also more frequent and more extreme. The 2003 European heatwave killed 70,000 people, many of them elderly or young children – groups who are less able to regulate their core temperature. A 2004 study showed that global warming has at least doubled the risk of such a weather event occurring.

6-21-17 Living with climate change: What’s the worst that can happen?
Living with climate change: What’s the worst that can happen?
If Earth reaches dangerous tipping points like the Antarctic glaciers melting, we'll have to engineer our way out of the crisis. It's difficult to gauge how far we are from either of those things. IN ANTARCTICA, the giant Thwaites glacier is in fast retreat. Ditto the Jakobshavn and Zachariae Isstrom glaciers in Greenland. Climate researchers worry they may have passed their tipping points, beyond which change feeds on itself and cannot be stopped. If the three glaciers melted fully, they alone would commit the world to more than 2 metres of sea level rise. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has warned that rapid warming could take key Earth systems beyond their tipping points, part of the worst-case scenario of climate change. Tim Lenton of Exeter University, UK, says a threshold was passed in 2007 when the summer melt of Arctic sea ice accelerated. The fear is that, with less ice cover, the ocean will absorb more heat and prevent winter refreeze, locking the system into perpetual decline. This is not the only system at risk. Historically, as temperatures have gone up, changing amounts of sea ice at the poles have caused ocean circulation to flip. A new flip could lose us the Gulf Stream and collapse the Asian and West African monsoons, affecting the livelihoods of billions. So far, annual changes in sea ice have not disturbed overall global ocean circulation. But the Atlantic leg has already weakened markedly, which Lenton says may mean it is inching towards its tipping point. The trouble is that although there is plenty of historical evidence that tipping points exist, we don’t know what the warning signs are. Take the methane trapped in the permafrost of Siberia and North America, both of which are expected to thaw rapidly this century. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas. It doesn’t stay in the atmosphere for as long as CO2, but if a large volume of it were released in one go, this could trigger runaway warming. Right now, methane is escaping from the permafrost, but it is minimal and nobody knows whether this is new or normal.

6-21-17 Living with climate change: Can we limit global warming to 2°c?
Living with climate change: Can we limit global warming to 2°c?
Current commitments from the world's nations mean we will overshoot the 2°c target agreed in Paris. More radical strategies are needed – and we need to work on them now. AT THE core of the Paris climate change agreement is the aspiration to “[hold] the increase in the global average temperature to well below 2°C above pre-industrial levels”. At current rates of greenhouse gas emissions, we have 20 years before such a rise is inevitable. To avoid it, we need emissions to peak as soon as possible – preferably by 2020 – before making their way to zero by about 2070. There are some grounds for optimism: energy and industry emissions may already be peaking as the world moves away from the dirtiest of fossil fuels, coal (see “Living with climate change: Turning the corner“). But this needs to be seen in context. We are still emitting almost 42 gigatonnes of carbon dioxide each year. Change is not yet happening fast enough or on a large-enough scale to meet the world’s growing energy demand. Besides, closing coal mines and investing in renewables for electricity generation is the easy part. Generating electricity accounts for only a quarter of global greenhouse gas emissions, with emissions from agriculture, forestry, industry and transportation making up the rest. Oil, the primary fuel for transport, is particularly difficult to replace. Cars and buses can be made to run on electricity, but powering planes will require the large-scale development of renewable, sustainable jet fuel. The current global production, mainly biofuel made from fermenting crops, is minuscule compared even with the annual US consumption of 90 million litres of jet fuel.

6-21-17 Living with climate change: Turning the corner
Living with climate change: Turning the corner
In 2016 for the third year greenhouse gas emissions were almost static, while the world's economy grew – showing it is possible to go green and prosper. HUMANITY’S appetite for energy has driven up the amount of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. But here’s the good news: last year, emissions from energy use stayed flat for the third year in a row. Overall emissions, including from industry, grew less than 1 per cent for the third year in a row. Energy emissions have stabilised or dropped at three other times in recent history, but only in economic downturns (see diagram). This time, the world economy is growing. At last count, 21 nations were seeing this “decoupling” of energy emissions and economic growth, including the UK, France, Germany and the US. What’s going on? For a start, king coal is dying. The biggest fall has come in the US, where this dirtiest of fossil fuels is being pushed out by gas and renewables. In China and India – growing economies with huge energy appetites – concern over air pollution are playing a part. Satellite images show that, in India for example, construction of some new coal power stations appears to have been abandoned. Renewables are also winning. Cheaper, more efficient turbines and photovoltaics mean that wind and solar energy cost the same or less to produce compared with fossil fuel power in more than 30 countries, even without government subsidies. According the World Economic Forum, this should extend to two-thirds of countries over the next few years. In 2016, the proportion of electricity from renewable sources other than large hydroelectric dams rose to 11.3 per cent, according to the UN Environment Programme, while renewables accounted for 55 per cent of the new capacity added worldwide. That in itself is turning into an economic win. According to the non-profit Environmental Defence Fund, solar and wind power in the US are creating jobs 12 times faster than the economy as a whole. Let’s be honest: to stave off the worst of global warming, this should have been sorted at least a decade ago. But the trends do show that we can change our bad habits.

6-21-17 Living with climate change: How to cope in a warmer world
Living with climate change: How to cope in a warmer world
Feeding and housing a growing human population when seas are rising and extreme weather hits will be hard – but manageable if we take the right decisions now. HITTING the agreed limit for global warming set in Paris is undoubtedly a tough ask, and it seems likely that the world will be 3 to 4°C warmer by the end of the century (see “Living with climate change: Can we limit global warming to 2°c?”). That means loss and disruption. But starting to prepare now could mean that many people, perhaps even most, can thrive despite the rising temperature. That means more than building a few flood defences, however. Take the challenge of feeding a growing population in a world where fertile land has been lost to sea level rise, extreme weather events are more common and vast tracts of land may be needed to grow biomass to burn as fuel. Perhaps the highest priority here is to develop better crops that could feed more people using less land and fewer resources. Biologists are already developing crop plants that can capture more of the sun’s energy, make their own nitrogen fertiliser and resist droughts, floods, salt, pests and diseases. But much more effort and money is needed. It’s a similar story with protecting our homes, businesses, roads and railways from extreme weather. In many cases we know what needs to be done, such as planting more trees on high ground or building bigger storm drains to deal with increased rainfall. We just need to work out how to pay for it.

6-21-17 Living with climate change: You can make a difference
Living with climate change: You can make a difference
With climate change, individual behaviour does matter. Here's how to influence the future through how you travel, where you get your electricity and what you eat. “RIGHT now, your individual behaviour does matter,” says Chris Jones. “Anyone can go carbon-neutral today. Better yet, you’ll probably end up with more money in your pocket when you’re done.” Jones’s group, the CoolClimate Network at the University of California, Berkeley, provides an online carbon footprint calculator. It estimates greenhouse gas emissions from transportation, housing, food, goods and services for any household in the US. Other groups provide similar calculators for many other countries. Despite individual and local differences, some broad generalities emerge. “Globally, the three main contributors to greenhouse gas footprints are cars, coal and cows,” says Jones. And those three things are where individual choices can make the biggest difference. For most households, especially in the US, transportation claims the biggest share of carbon emissions, about 30 per cent of the total. Most of this is from fuel, so buying a more fuel-efficient car can shrink your carbon footprint dramatically, especially if you currently drive a gas-guzzler. The other big carbon source, especially for the affluent, is air travel. “One flight will probably blow your carbon budget out of the water,” says Stephen Cornelius, chief advisor for climate change at WWF-UK. Reducing air travel, by replacing business trips with teleconferencing for instance, can make a big difference. If you must fly, consider buying carbon offsets (see box) to balance the environmental impact of your flight. Whether you can wring similar savings by improving your home’s energy efficiency depends on where you live. In cold climates, better insulation can reduce the need to burn gas or oil for heat. But turning off lights, switching to LED bulbs and buying energy-efficient appliances only makes a difference if your electricity still comes from coal. If most of your electric power comes from renewable sources or nuclear plants, saving electricity has minimal effect on your carbon bottom line. In fact, the easiest way to green your home may be to buy your electricity from a renewable energy provider, says Jones.

6-21-17 Living with climate change: Convincing the sceptics
Living with climate change: Convincing the sceptics
Global warming is real, and global warming is here. Whether old-school conservative or free-market radical, here's how to convince the doubters of the facts. Some people reject the self-evident truths of climate change; others hold world views that don’t easily find common ground with science. So how can they best be persuaded of the need for action?

  • Free market ideologues: “Saying climate change is the greatest threat to our world is a grab for global government by crazy catastrophists.” This group may not deny basic climate science, but they deny its importance. They see calls to clamp down on emissions as a threat to the free market that drives capitalism.
    • Response: Ask why markets don’t reflect the costs associated with climate change. Free markets need social and political stability, and so climate stability too. Big banks, insurance firms and oil companies have called for action on climate change. Government dilly-dallying is anathema to their bottom lines.
  • Christian ideologues: “The bible says humans have dominion over the Earth” and “it’s all part of God’s plan”. Many Christians, particularly US evangelicals, say nature is for us to use as we see fit. It ties in with a political agenda opposed to collectivism, so reticent on issues that need collective action.
    • Response: Ask what happened to the strain of evangelism that sees “dominion” as meaning stewardship. Many other Christians say this gives us a moral imperative to tackle climate change. And climate change threatens the poorest most. Christian morals (and indeed the pope) say the fortunate should help those who are less fortunate.
  • Traditional conservatives: “The weather always changes, this is a green fad. Anyhow, the scientists don’t agree. And none of my friends believe in it.” This is an age-old drumbeat. During the latest UK general election, climate campaigners identified 18 MPs in the previous parliament who were publicly opposed to action on climate change – 16 were Conservatives.
    • Response: They can be persuaded with science. Point out that this is no fad. The greenhouse effect is 200-year-old physics. And climate models say more or less the same thing as chemist Svante Arrhenius calculated using pen and paper over a century ago.
  • The “we’re doomed” brigade: “You can’t change human behaviour, so you can’t stop the emissions.”This is not so much denialism as doomsday determinism, but it’s odd how many people go from arguing that “there is no problem” to “there is nothing we can do about it anyway”.
    • Response: Buy them a drink and explain how renewables are taking over. People do change their behaviour. The bar you are drinking in would have been full of smoke just 20 years ago.

6-21-17 Why are countries laying claim to the deep-sea floor?
Why are countries laying claim to the deep-sea floor?
Around the world, countries are claiming obscure and difficult-to-reach tracts of the deep-sea floor, far from the surface and further still from land. Why? There is a long history of claiming newly discovered territories, of planting the flag at far outposts of the known world. In the early 20th Century, explorers raced to the South Pole, their sponsors keen to benefit from future exploitation of these unknown areas. In 1945, President Harry S Truman broke with convention to claim the entire continental shelf off the US. And, in 2007, Russia used a submersible to plant a flag at the North Pole. All shared a common motivation - the hunt for new resources - and there is now a new frontier: the deep-sea floor. Exploration offers the prospect of finding huge amounts of previously untapped resources, but serious environmental concerns remain.

6-20-17 Sweden commits to becoming carbon neutral by 2045 with new law
Sweden commits to becoming carbon neutral by 2045 with new law
A climate plan backed by an overwhelming majority in parliament makes Sweden the first country to significantly upgrade its target since the Paris agreement. Sweden has committed to cutting its net carbon emissions to zero by 2045, becoming the first country to significantly upgrade its carbon ambitions since the Paris accord in 2015. The law was drawn up by a cross-party committee and passed with an overwhelming majority in parliament by 254 votes to 41. The legislation establishes an independent Climate Policy Council and requires an action plan to be updated every four years. Sweden had previously committed to becoming carbon neutral by 2050. It already gets 83 per cent of its electricity from nuclear energy and hydropower, having met its 2020 target of 50 per cent renewable energy eight years ahead of schedule. To achieve carbon-neutral status, the country will focus on reducing emissions from transport by increasing the use of biofuels and electric vehicles. It plans to cut domestic emissions by at least 85 per cent, and offset remaining emissions by planting trees or investing in projects abroad. (Webmaster's comment: Another country taking the lead in reducing Global Warming. Where is the United States? Its ignorant people are still immersed in their own greed.)

6-20-17 Phoenix flights cancelled because it's too hot for planes
Phoenix flights cancelled because it's too hot for planes
As temperatures climb in Phoenix, Arizona, more than 40 flights have been cancelled - because it is too hot for the planes to fly. The weather forecast for the US city suggests temperatures could reach 120F (49C) on Tuesday. That is higher than the operating temperature of some planes. American Airlines announced it was cancelling dozens of flights scheduled to take off from Sky Harbor airport during the hottest part of the day. The local Fox News affiliate in Phoenix said the cancellations mostly affected regional flights on the smaller Bombardier CRJ airliners, which have a maximum operating temperature of about 118F (48C). The all-time record for temperatures in Phoenix is just slightly higher, at 122F, which hit on 26 June 1990. At higher temperatures, air has a lower density - it is thinner. That lower air density reduces how much lift is generated on an aircraft's wings - a core principle in aeronautics. That, in turn, means the aircraft's engines need to generate more thrust to get airborne. It's a well-known problem - a 2016 report from the International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) even warned that higher temperatures caused by climate change could "have severe consequences for aircraft take-off performance, where high altitudes or short runways limit the payload or even the fuel-carrying capacity". Those problems are why many countries in the Middle East, and some high-altitude airports in South America, tend to schedule long flights for the evening or night, when it is cooler.

6-19-17 Coffee under threat.Will it taste worse as the planet warms?
Coffee under threat.Will it taste worse as the planet warms?
Coffee drinkers could face poorer-tasting, higher-priced brews, as a warming climate causes the amount of land suitable for coffee production to shrink, say scientists from London’s Kew Gardens. Coffee production in Ethiopia, the birthplace of the high quality Arabica coffee bean and Africa’s largest exporter, could be in serious jeopardy over the next century unless action is taken, according to a report, published today. “In Ethiopia and all over the world really, if we do nothing there will be less coffee, it will probably taste worse and will cost more,” Dr Aaron Davis, coffee researcher at Kew and one of the report’s authors, told the BBC.

6-19-17 This incredible machine can suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere
This incredible machine can suck carbon dioxide out of the atmosphere
Climeworks estimates that it would need 750,000 shipping ­container–size units to capture 1 percent of global emissions. A Swiss startup wants to fight climate change with machines that suck carbon dioxide out of the air, said Adele Peters at Fast Company. Zurich-based Climeworks' CO2 collectors are housed in shipping containers. "Small fans pull air into the collectors, where a sponge-like filter soaks up carbon dioxide," which is later released "in a pure form that can be sold, made into other products, or buried underground." Eventually, governments and corporations may pay the company to remove CO2 from the atmosphere to meet ambitious climate goals, though the collecting machines would need "to be built at massive scale" to make an impact. Climeworks estimates that it would need 750,000 shipping­container–size units to capture 1 percent of global emissions. That number is not as outlandish as it seems, however. "The same number of shipping containers pass through the Port of Shanghai every two weeks." (Webmaster's comment: At at least $100,000 each we're talking 75 Billion dollars to capture 1%. We need to capture 50% of the carbon dioxide so the total bill is likely to be over 4 Trillion dollars. Trees are a lot cheaper and you get oxygen, shade and habitate for wildlife as a benefit. Add Wind Power and Solar Power and Stop Using Coal and we have a chance.)

6-19-17 Scientists fear new EU rules may 'hide' forest carbon loss
Scientists fear new EU rules may 'hide' forest carbon loss
Leading researchers have condemned attempts to change the way carbon from trees will be counted in Europe. The scientists fear that millions of tonnes of CO2 from forests will disappear from the books if the changes go ahead. Trees are important carbon sinks as they soak up about 10% of Europe's emissions every year. But some countries want to cut more trees down in future without counting the resulting loss of carbon. Europe's forests have been increasing for the last century, and over the last 10 years the equivalent of 1,500 football pitches of trees have been added every day. However accounting for carbon contained in trees is a fiendishly difficult task. Forests can both soak up and emit carbon depending on how old they are, and how they are managed and harvested. As the European Union tries to put in place wide-ranging plans to restrict future carbon emissions, officials want to ensure that accounting for the impact of forests on the atmosphere should be based on sound science. To this end they want to cap the use of forestry at the levels seen between 1990 and 2009. If countries want to harvest more trees in future than they did during this period, the loss of carbon would count towards the country's overall emissions. However several countries including Austria, Finland, Poland and Sweden want a change in these rules so that increased harvesting in the future should not be penalised.

SCIENCE - EVOLUTION and GENETICS

6-23-17 Fever raises autism risk
Fever raises autism risk
Women who develop a fever during pregnancy are at greater risk for having a baby with autism spectrum disorder—an umbrella term for a group of developmental problems affecting social interaction, behavior, and communication, a new study suggests. Researchers analyzed data compiled on more than 95,000 children born in Norway between 1999 and 2009 and found those whose mothers reported a fever while pregnant had a 34 percent higher risk for autism. The risk jumped to 40 percent if the fever occurred during the second trimester. The more fevers a pregnant woman has, the greater the odds that her baby will be diagnosed with one of these disorders, reports The Washington Post. “Fever seems to be the driving force here,” not the infection itself, says study co-author Mady Hornig. The researchers note that fevers are part of the body’s immune response to an infection, and speculate that inflammatory chemicals may cross the placenta, affecting babies at a critical time during brain development.

6-23-17 Olive oil boosts the brain
Olive oil boosts the brain
Nutritionists have long touted the heart-healthy benefits of olive oil, but a new study suggests this “superfood” and its powerful antioxidants may also act to protect the brain from tumors. Researchers at the University of Edinburgh homed in on a key ingredient in olive oil, known as oleic acid. The team performed tests on living cells and human cell extracts to assess the effects of this fatty acid on a brain molecule, called microRNA-7, that helps stop the growth of tumors. They found that oleic acid prevents a protein, known as MSI2, from halting the production of microRNA-7. By indirectly supporting this tumor-blocking molecule, oleic acid may ultimately help prevent the growth and spread of cancer, reports NatureWorldNews.com. “Our findings do suggest that oleic acid can support the production of tumor-suppressing molecules in cells grown in the lab,” says lead author Gracjan Michlewski. “Further studies could help determine the role that olive oil might have in brain health.”

6-23-17 A Side of Fries
A Side of Fries
A side of fries, after researchers in Italy revealed that study subjects who ate french fries two or more times per week were at double the risk of an early death compared with those who didn’t. “The frequent consumption of fried potatoes appears to be associated with an increased mortality risk,” the researchers concluded.

6-23-17 A global obesity crisis
A global obesity crisis
Bringing Western food to the developing world has a major downside: More than 2 billion people across the globe are now overweight, and it’s taking a toll on their health, new research reveals. “Excess body weight is one of the most challenging public health problems of our time, affecting nearly 1 in 3 three people,” study author Ashkan Afshin tells The Guardian (U.K.). After analyzing data compiled on 68.5 million people in 195 countries, a 2,300-member research team found that obesity rates have doubled since 1980 in 73 countries. Today, 10 percent of all people are considered obese—meaning their body mass index, a height-weight ratio, is 30 or above. That includes nearly 13 percent of children in the U.S., up from 5 percent 37 years ago. Experts contend that poor diet is fueling the global obesity epidemic as more people around the world gain access to cheap, processed foods that are devoid of nutrients but loaded with chemicals and calories. Even if people are overweight (with a BMI between 25 and 29) but not officially obese, says researcher Azeem Majeed, that’s still associated with heart disease, cancer, and other chronic health issues. “The risk of death and diseases increases as your weight increases.”

6-22-17 Scientists spy on the secret inner life of bacteria
Scientists spy on the secret inner life of bacteria
New images uncover mysterious structures inside microbes, including mini towers, fishhooks, train tracks and horseshoes. Researchers have discovered mysterious structures, such as these bubblelike compartments called vesicles that sit between the cell membrane and the cell wall of the bacterium Halothiobacillus neapolitanus. On the surface, bacteria may appear bland. But there’s more going on inside than meets the eye, new research is revealing. For many years, scientists thought that bacteria didn’t have internal structures and were basically “bags of enzymes,” says structural and cell biologist Martin Warren of the University of Kent in England. Now, one group of researchers has described a rich collection of mysterious structures and compartments within bacteria. No one knows the function of the constructs, the researchers report online June 12 in the Journal of Bacteriology, but they must be important for bacteria to spend so much energy building them. A different team of scientists presents the first atomic-scale look at a complete bacterial microcompartment in the June 23 Science. Microcompartments are protein shells that bacteria use to keep certain chemical reactions separate from the rest of the cell. Knowing how the microcompartment is assembled could have important applications in biotechnology and medicine, the researchers say.

6-22-17 Flight demands may have steered the evolution of bird egg shape
Flight demands may have steered the evolution of bird egg shape
Elongated, asymmetrical forms are common among strongest fliers. Bird eggs vary greatly in shape, size and color. In a new analysis, researchers look for links between egg shape and birds’ traits and lifestyles. The mystery of why birds’ eggs come in so many shapes has long been up in the air. Now new research suggests adaptations for flight may have helped shape the orbs. Stronger fliers tend to lay more elongated eggs, researchers report in the June 23 Science. The finding comes from the first large analysis of the way egg shape varies across bird species, from the almost perfectly spherical egg of the brown hawk owl to the raindrop-shaped egg of the least sandpiper. “Eggs fulfill such a specific role in birds — the egg is designed to protect and nourish the chick. Why there’s such diversity in form when there's such a set function was a question that we found intriguing,” says study coauthor Mary Caswell Stoddard, an evolutionary biologist at Princeton University.

6-22-17 Bird eggs may be shaped by the way their mother flies
Bird eggs may be shaped by the way their mother flies
Huge survey reveals that bird species spending more time on the wing tend to have long or pointy eggs. Eggs is eggs, but some are round while others are long and pointy – and now we finally know why. It’s all to do with birds’ flying ability, according to a new study. There are many explanations for the variety of birds’ egg shapes. Take the idea that cliff-dwelling birds lay conical eggs that roll in a tight circle so they don’t fall off the cliff; or that clutch size dictates what shape of egg would make incubation more efficient. To learn more, Mary Caswell Stoddard of Princeton University and colleagues analysed the shape almost 50,000 eggs from around 1400 species in museum collections. They quantified their shapes according to two measurements: the ellipticity, or length relative to width and the asymmetry, whether one end was pointier and the other rounder. While elliptical eggs can be symmetrical or asymmetrical, spherical asymmetric eggs – like the shape of a hot air balloon – don’t seem to exist in nature. The researchers compared egg shape with lots of data about each bird species, but found no correlation with clutch size, environmental factors or nest characteristics. One measurement however did correlate with egg shape: the hand-wing index, a measure of the shape of the wing.

6-22-17 Special cells explain why cabbage and stress churn your guts
Special cells explain why cabbage and stress churn your guts
When a type of cell in the intestine detects dietary irritants and stress hormones, it sends distress signals to the brain, telling it to move things along. Have you ever needed to hurry to the toilet during times of stress or after eating a spicy meal? This may be because taste buds lining your intestine can sense inflammatory chemicals and warn your brain to move things along. We know little about these taste buds, known as enterochromaffin cells. They first provoked curiosity when it was discovered that they produce 90 per cent of the body’s serotonin, a chemical mostly known for regulating mood, appetite and sleep in the brain. To find out why gut cells are releasing such large amounts of a brain chemical, David Julius at the University of California, San Francisco and his colleagues have been studying these cells in mini-intestines, grown from mouse cells in the lab. They have discovered that enterochromaffin cells have receptors for sensing dietary irritants, stress hormones and bacterial byproducts. When exposed to these substances, the cells pump out serotonin molecules, which activate intestinal nerve endings that connect back to the brain. The brain responds by speeding up bowel movements, or – if the situation is really bad – inducing diarrhoea or vomiting. “It might also give you a general sense of discomfort as a way of letting you know you’ve got some kind of inflammatory episode going on in there,” says Julius.

6-21-17 When should babies sleep in their own rooms?
When should babies sleep in their own rooms?
Babies age 6 months and older sleep longer when in their own bedroom, study suggests. By suggesting that babies age 6 months and older may sleep longer when in their own bedrooms, a new study provides ammunition to parents who want their room back to themselves after the first six months. When we brought our first baby home from the hospital, our pediatrician advised us to have her sleep in our room. We put our tiny new roommate in a crib near our bed (though other containers that were flat, firm and free of blankets, pillows or stuffed animals would have worked, too). The advice aims to reduce the risk of sleep-related deaths, including sudden infant death syndrome, or SIDS. Studies suggest that in their first year of life, babies who bunk with their parents (but not in the same bed) are less likely to die from SIDS than babies who sleep in their own room. The reasons aren’t clear, but scientists suspect it has to do with lighter sleep: Babies who sleep near parents might more readily wake themselves up and avoid the deep sleep that’s a risk factor for SIDS. That’s an important reason to keep babies close. Room sharing also makes sense from a logistical standpoint. Middle of the night feedings and diaper changes are easier when there’s less distance between you and the babe.

6-21-17 Bones make hormones that communicate with the brain and other organs
Bones make hormones that communicate with the brain and other organs
Mouse studies reveal bone-body connection in appetite, metabolism and more. The skeleton doesn’t just protect important bodily organs, it also talks to them, studies in mice show. In addition to providing structural support, the skeleton is a versatile conversationalist. Bones make hormones that chat with other organs and tissues, including the brain, kidneys and pancreas, experiments in mice have shown. “The bone, which was considered a dead organ, has really become a gland almost,” says Beate Lanske, a bone and mineral researcher at Harvard School of Dental Medicine. “There’s so much going on between bone and brain and all the other organs, it has become one of the most prominent tissues being studied at the moment.” At least four bone hormones moonlight as couriers, recent studies show, and there could be more. Scientists have only just begun to decipher what this messaging means for health. But cataloging and investigating the hormones should offer a more nuanced understanding of how the body regulates sugar, energy and fat, among other things.

6-21-17 Best evidence yet that Parkinson’s could be autoimmune disease
Best evidence yet that Parkinson’s could be autoimmune disease
People with Parkinson's show an immune response to brain cell markers that suggests the condition could be caused by having an over-active immune system. EVIDENCE that Parkinson’s disease may be an autoimmune disorder could lead to new ways to treat the illness. Parkinson’s begins with abnormal clumping of a protein called synuclein in the brain. Neighbouring dopamine-producing neurons then die, causing tremors and difficulty moving. The prevailing wisdom has been that these neurons die from a toxic reaction to synuclein deposits. However, Parkinson’s has been linked to some gene variants that affect how the immune system works, leading to an alternative theory that synuclein causes Parkinson’s by triggering the immune system to attack the brain. An argument against this theory has been that brain cells are safe from immune system attack, because most neurons don’t have antigens – the markers immune cells use to recognise a target. But by studying postmortem brain tissue samples, David Sulzer at Columbia University and his team have discovered that dopamine-producing neurons do display antigens. The team has now conducted blood tests to reveal that people with Parkinson’s show an immune response to these antigens, while people who don’t have the condition do not (Nature, DOI: 10.1038/nature22815).

6-21-17 Protein in Parkinson’s provokes the immune system
Protein in Parkinson’s provokes the immune system
Immune cells treat bits of alpha-synuclein as intruders. A micrograph shows how the protein alpha-synuclein builds up in nerve cells in brains affected by Parkinson’s disease. The immune system can react to parts of the protein, a new study finds. Bits of a protein that builds up in Parkinson’s disease trigger the immune system, causing it to tag them as foreign invaders. In a blood test, immune cells called T cells became activated when exposed to the protein in about 40 percent of Parkinson’s patients in a new study. This autoimmune response may contribute to the progression of the disease, the researchers report online June 21 in Nature. Neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson’s “have not really been thought of as autoimmune disorders,” says coauthor David Sulzer, a neuroscientist at Columbia University and the New York State Psychiatric Institute in New York City. “The data strongly indicate that we better look at autoimmune responses as at least one of the links in the chain of developing Parkinson’s.”

6-21-17 Smoking is finally dying out among young people in the UK and US
Smoking is finally dying out among young people in the UK and US
Now only 15.5 per cent of people in the UK are smokers. The largest declines have been seen in the first generation to grow up among anti-smoking laws. SMOKING is rapidly dying out in the UK and US among young people – the first generation to come of age surrounded by laws that discourage smoking. Figures from the UK Office for National Statistics reveal that the proportion of smokers in the country fell to 15.5 per cent in 2016, down 4 percentage points from 2010. Although 19.3 per cent of 18 to 24-year-olds smoke, this group has shown the biggest decline, by 6.5 percentage points. And the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that the number of smokers aged between about 12 and 18 dropped to 3.9 million in 2016, down from 4.7 million in 2015. These figures include cigarettes and e-cigarettes, both of which have seen large declines in use. “Young people are growing up in a different world to the older generation,” says Hazel Cheeseman of UK charity Action on Smoking and Health. “The notion that smoking is the norm is much less true than before.”

6-21-17 The power of a billion: India's genomics revolution
The power of a billion: India's genomics revolution
Could an effort to gather genetic data from its population of one billion people help India take the lead in advanced healthcare? India is the land of inventors and industry, spices and spirituality - and 1.3 billion human genomes. But although the subcontinent contributes around 20% of the world's population, the DNA sequences of its people make up around 0.2% of global genetic databases. In a similar vein, 81% of the world's genomic information has been collected from people with European ancestry. Still, this is an improvement from a staggering 96% back in 2009. At the same time, there's a growing interest in developing new, more effective therapies tailored to an individual's genetic makeup - an idea known as precision or personalised medicine. Missing out on mapping worldwide genetic diversity is a big mistake, according to Sumit Jamuar, chief executive of Global Gene Corp. It's a company aiming to democratise healthcare by capturing anonymised genetic data from populations around the world and share it with the global community of academic and pharmaceutical industry researchers. It will start by focusing on populations in South Asia.

6-21-17 A baby’s DNA may kick off mom’s preeclampsia
A baby’s DNA may kick off mom’s preeclampsia
Suspect is protein made by the fetus and needed to form placenta’s blood vessels. In some women, the pregnancy condition preeclampsia, which can cause blood pressure to soar, may be triggered by DNA variations carried by the fetus, a genetic study suggests. A protein made by the fetus may lead to preeclampsia in moms. People born to mothers who had the prenatal disorder were more likely to have certain DNA variations near a gene known to influence blood vessels. The results, published online June 19 in Nature Genetics, point to that gene as a possible preeclampsia culprit, and may help scientists develop ways to stop or prevent the pregnancy complication. Preeclampsia, which is marked by a dangerous spike in blood pressure, affects about 5 percent of pregnancies and is estimated to kill over 70,000 women a year globally. Scientists have known that preeclampsia can run in families, but the genetics of the fetus hadn’t been scrutinized. “Over the years, people have looked at mothers’ genes,” says geneticist Linda Morgan of the University of Nottingham in England. “This is the first large study to look at babies’ genes.”

6-20-17 Why ecstasy and opioids should replace Prozac and Xanax
Why ecstasy and opioids should replace Prozac and Xanax
Yet a large number of well-controlled studies, and the meta-analytic research that puts them in perspective, find that SSRIs (compared with placebos) have little or no benefit for people with mild to moderate levels of depression. Their utility for severe depression is still subject to debate, with many studies showing little or no improvement, and a definitive impact on anxiety disorders has not been demonstrated. Nor are SSRIs free of serious side effects, including sexual dysfunction, rapid weight gain and, most troubling, suicidal ideation, especially in younger patients. SSRIs have not lived up to their promise. The question is whether there are drugs that can relieve emotional or psychological problems effectively and reliably, without debilitating side effects. Historically, humans have relied on a panoply of drugs to remedy emotional concerns. Our Victorian-era ancestors used opiates (eg, laudanum) to minimize anxiety, melancholia, and sleep problems. Opiates are still acknowledged as the most effective defense against pain — and also anxiety, in limited circumstances (e.g., routine colonoscopy). The indigenous people of South America have long bolstered their physical and mental endurance with coca leaves; and early 20th-century Europeans (such as Sigmund Freud) used its derivative, cocaine, to sharpen their wits. Self-actualization, presumably an overall boon to mental health, has been enhanced with natural psychedelics (e.g., peyote, ayahuasca) throughout the Americas for at least 1,000 years. And the youth of more recent times (re)discovered the value of cannabis in extending their aesthetic, social, even intellectual horizons. (Webmaster's comment: However: When regulators do too little)

6-20-17 Antibacterials in soap should be regulated globally, say experts
Antibacterials in soap should be regulated globally, say experts
Two common compounds, triclosan and triclocarban, can no longer be added to some personal care products in the US, but some say this rule doesn’t go far enough. Governments and regulatory agencies around the world should be wary of the long-term effects of two antibacterial chemicals commonly added to everything from soaps to toys. That’s according to over 200 researchers, scientists and medical professionals around the world, who have signed a statement published today calling for their regulation. Dubbed the Florence Statement on Triclosan and Triclocarban, it focuses on these two antibacterial compounds, which have been used since the 1960s and can be found in a large number of products such as detergents and toothpastes. However, research is increasingly finding that both of these chemicals, and those they can break down into, persist in the environment for a long time, enabling them to spread to soil, waterways, wild animals and even breast milk. Because there is some evidence – largely from animal studies – that these chemicals can disrupt hormone systems, with possible effects on physiological development, sexual maturation and fertility, the US Food and Drug Administration banned the compounds from a number of hand and body washes in 2016. There is a partial ban on triclosan in the European Union. But the signatories of the Florence Statement would like regulatory agencies around the world to take similar action. “These chemicals don’t really obey borders,” says Rolf Halden, an author of the statement and the director of the Biodesign Center for Environmental Security at Arizona State University. “They are not a local problem, they’re an environmental issue that essentially reaches around the globe.”

6-20-17 DNA variants that are bad for health may also make you stupid
DNA variants that are bad for health may also make you stupid
A study of Scottish families hints that DNA mutations that damage health also impair intelligence. CRISPR gene-editing may be a way to boost brain and body. What makes some people smarter than others? A genetic analysis of families in Scotland, UK, hints that brainer people have fewer DNA mutations that impair intelligence and general health, rather than having more genetic variants that make them smarter. “This is one of the most exciting studies on the genetics of intelligence I’ve seen for a while,” says Steve Stewart-Williams of the University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus, who was not involved in the work. One implication is that using gene editing to fix the hundreds of mutations that slightly damage people’s health would make them smarter as well as healthier. “I think this strengthens the moral case for pursuing genome editing technologies,” says ethicist Christopher Gyngell of the University of Oxford. “It would be killing two birds with one stone, and that would be a good thing.” There is no doubt that intelligence depends partly on the environment in which we grow up. Well-nourished children brought up in safe, unpolluted and stimulating environments on average score better in IQ tests than deprived children, for instance. But our genes also play a role. Studies of twins have suggested that 50 to 80 per cent of the variation in general intelligence between people could be down to genes. However, finding the gene variants responsible for intelligence has proven tricky. So far, studies of the DNA of hundreds of thousands of unrelated people suggest that only around 30 per cent of the variation in intelligence is inherited. This big discrepancy between the results of twin studies and genome studies has become known as the mystery of the missing heritability.

6-20-17 Go ahead, be distracted
Go ahead, be distracted
Is distraction a curse or a blessing? Not giving full attention to what we should be doing makes us miss deadlines, fail classes, and crash into other drivers. Distraction certainly has a price. Nonetheless, we love our distractions! Social media, spectator sports, movies, books, TV shows, the news, video games — what would we do without them? Clearly, there are benefits to distractions as evidenced by the fact that nearly everyone on Earth seeks them out. But why? Although they seem to pull us away from more important things, what purpose do they serve? And, when at times we seem to give in to distractions, how do we ensure they serve us well?

  • Distractions can ease pain
  • Distractions can make us better
  • When are distractions destructive?

Summary:

  • Distractions aren't always bad, sometimes they are useful tools.
  • Personal technology distractions like video games and puzzles can give us strength to endure negative experiences.
  • Some distractions can strengthen our ability to tackle new challenges.
  • Personal technology is a healthy distraction for most people, but it can go bad when it becomes an escape from an uncomfortable reality. It all depends on why and how long we use it.
  • Using distractions for self-expansion builds strength, while using them for self-suppression simply shields us from the pain we're avoiding.
  • To determine if a distraction is self-expansive or self-suppressing, get to the bottom of why you are really using it.
  • Self-suppression is acceptable for coping with negative experiences in the short term, but can backfire when used as a long-term solution.

6-19-17 Anxiety drug may prevent common virus that causes birth defects
Anxiety drug may prevent common virus that causes birth defects
Cytomegalovirus is a common cause of seizures, deafness and Zika-like symptoms in infants. An anxiety drug available in France protects mice from the virus. An anxiety drug could prevent a common virus from causing birth defects and deafness, a study in newborn mice suggests. Roughly four in every 1000 babies are infected with cytomegalovirus (CMV), which can cause seizures and intellectual disability, as well as Zika-like symptoms including microcephaly. It can also cause deafness. The virus is usually passed to infants during pregnancy. While some babies are born with clear signs of infection, some don’t go on to develop symptoms until later on. Valnoctamide, an anxiety drug available in France and Italy, seems to reduce CMV levels in infected mice, but it hasn’t been clear if it would have a similar effect on the brain, where CMV causes the most damage. To investigate, Anthony Van den Pol at the Yale School of Medicine and his team injected infected mice with either a daily dose of valnoctamide or a control substance. “Mice that were injected with valnoctamide were more likely to survive. They lived longer, their body weight was greater – everything about them looked better,” says Van den Pol.

6-19-17 New fossils shake up history of amphibians with no legs
New fossils shake up history of amphibians with no legs
Tiny skulls and other bits hint at unexpected backstory for today’s snake-shaped caecilians. Small and possibly living underground, the newly named extinct Chinlestegophis still had legs but might be an ancient near-relative of today’s legless caecilian amphibians. Newly named fossils suggest that a weird and varied chapter in amphibian deep history isn’t totally over. Small fossils about 220 million years old found along steep red slopes in Colorado represent a near-relative of modern animals called caecilians, says vertebrate paleontologist Adam Huttenlocker of the University of Southern California in Los Angeles. Caecilians today have long wormy bodies with either shrunken legs or none at all. Yet the nearly 200 modern species of these toothy, burrow-dwelling tropical oddballs are genuine amphibians. The fossil creatures, newly named Chinlestegophis jenkinsi, still had legs but could be the oldest known near-relatives of caecilians, Huttenlocker and colleagues suggest.

6-19-17 Volcanoes 'triggered dawn of dinosaurs'
Volcanoes 'triggered dawn of dinosaurs'
Scientists say intense eruptions took place 200 million years ago. A million-year-long period of extreme volcanic activity most likely paved the way for the dawn of the dinosaurs, a study suggests. Scientists have analysed ancient rocks and have found traces of emissions from huge volcanic eruptions that happened about 200 million years ago. This would have led to one of the largest mass extinctions on record, enabling dinosaurs to become dominant. The study is published in the journal PNAS. Lead author Lawrence Percival, from the Earth sciences department at Oxford University, said: "The dinosaurs were able to exploit those ecological niches that were left vacant by the extinction."

6-19-17 African farmers’ kids conquer the marshmallow test
African farmers’ kids conquer the marshmallow test
Cultural parenting styles shape how children manage self-control. A 4-year-old boy from a Nso farming community in Cameroon faces down a puff-puff pastry while waiting for a second treat during a battle of self-control known as the marshmallow test. Children of Nso farmers in Cameroon know how to master the marshmallow test, which has tempted away the self-control of Western kids for decades. In a direct comparison on this delayed gratification task, Cameroonian youngsters leave middle-class German children in the dust when challenged to resist a reachable treat while waiting for another goodie, a new study finds. Of 76 Nso 4-year-olds, 53, or nearly 70 percent, waited 10 minutes for a second treat — a small local pastry called a puff-puff — without eating the puff-puff placed on a table in front of them, say psychologist Bettina Lamm of Osnabrück University in Germany and colleagues. Only 35 of 125 German 4-year-olds, or 28 percent, successfully waited for their choice of a second lollipop or chocolate bar. The study, which is the first to administer the marshmallow test to non-Western kids, shows that cultural styles of child raising can dramatically shift how self-control develops, Lamm’s team contends online June 6 in Child Development.

ANIMAL INTELLIGENCE and ZOOLOGY

6-23-17 Watched chimps change their hunting habits
Watched chimps change their hunting habits
Wild chimpanzees have changed their hunting strategies in response to being watched and followed by scientists, observations suggest. Chimpanzees in Uganda may have changed their hunting strategy in response to being watched by scientists. While studying the animals, researchers documented very different hunting habits of two closely neighbouring chimp "tribes". "Sonso" chimps hunt in small groups for colobus monkeys, while those from the "Waibira" troop hunt solo and catch "whatever they can get their hands on". The findings show how sensitive chimp society is to human presence. They are published in the journal PLoS One. Biologists who have followed and studied these animals for years think that work may have disturbed the group hunting that seems key to chasing and catching colobus monkeys. Lead researcher Dr Catherine Hobaiter, from the University of St Andrews, said the Waibira group's behaviour might have changed to a more "opportunistic" strategy because those chimps were much less used to the presence of human scientists.

6-23-17 This glass frog wears its heart for all to see
This glass frog wears its heart for all to see
Other visible organs of the new species include the kidneys and urine bladder. A newly discovered glass frog (Hyalinobatrachium yaku) has skin so transparent that its beating heart is visible. Amazon lowlands is giving researchers a window into its heart. Hyalinobatrachium yaku has a belly so transparent that the heart, kidneys and urine bladder are clearly visible, an international team of researchers reports May 12 in ZooKeys. Researchers identified H. yaku as a new species using field observations, recordings of its distinct call and DNA analyses of museum and university specimens. Yaku means “water” in Kichwa, a language spoken in Ecuador and parts of Peru where H. yaku may also live. Glass frogs, like most amphibians, depend on streams. Egg clutches dangle on the underside of leaves, then hatch, and the tadpoles drop into the water below. But the frogs are threatened by pollution and habitat destruction, the researchers write. Oil extraction, which occurs in about 70 percent of Ecuador’s Amazon rainforest, and expanding mining activities are both concerns.

6-22-17 Whale body size warning for species collapses
Whale body size warning for species collapses
The shrinking size of whales over the 20th Century could help scientists detect when wildlife populations are in trouble, a study suggests. The analysis shows that the average body size of four whale species declined rapidly during the second half of the 20th Century in response to hunting. But warning signals were visible up to 40 years before whale stocks collapsed. The work appears in Nature Ecology and Evolution journal. Christopher Clements, from the University of Zurich in Switzerland, and his colleagues looked at records on the abundance and body size of whales caught by commercial whaling vessels between 1900 and 1985, after which a global whaling moratorium took effect. "We looked at data on blue, fin, sei and sperm whales and found significant declines in body size, with sperm whales taken in the 1980s four metres shorter on average than those in 1905," said Dr Clements. This probably occurred as the biggest individuals were selectively removed from the ocean through hunting.

6-22-17 Weird amphibians found at record depth in dark underground lake
Weird amphibians found at record depth in dark underground lake
A new sighting of the olm, an amphibious salamander, in a Croatian cave extends our knowledge of this mysterious and vulnerable animal. Olms – amphibious salamanders that live in the western Balkans and Italy – are extreme divers, reaching depths in excess of 100 metres in dark lakes inside limestone caves. A team of divers and biologists has now found the curious creature 113 metres below the surface of such a lake in Croatia. “This was the deepest finding of the olm ever recorded,” says team leader Petra Kovac-Konrad. Proteus anguinus is commonly dubbed the “human fish” because of its pinkish pale skin, and the creatures were once believed to be baby dragons. They are noted for their slow lifestyle and long lifespan: these blind animals can live up to a century. Little is known about olms, and it is a race against time to find out more as the salamanders’ underground habitat is being contaminated by pollution from human activities on the surface. The animals are notoriously difficult to observe in their natural habitat, except through the complex and dangerous skill of cave diving – although technology may be about to change that.

6-21-17 LA’s endangered pumas to be saved by a $60m bridge over highway
LA’s endangered pumas to be saved by a $60m bridge over highway
Pumas in Santa Monica are trapped in small areas bisected by big roads, on which many die – but an ambitious wildlife crossing promises to change that. There are about a dozen pumas (Puma concolor) living in the Santa Monica mountain range, which bisects Los Angeles. These big cats are stuck on an island of habitat, trapped on all sides by freeways on which hundreds of thousands of cars roar past every day. But this may be about to change with an ambitious plan to build a $60 million wildlife crossing. A dozen pumas, which are also known as mountain lions or cougars, have been killed while attempting crossings since 2002. Only one born in the Santa Monica mountains has been successful in leaving the area. Dubbed P-22, that young male is now stuck living under the Hollywood sign in Griffith Park, an oasis of 4300 acres of chaparral habitat in the middle of the city. But although P-22 has prey, he’s alone, with scant chance of finding a mate. Isolation means increased competition for territory and partners. It also means rampant inbreeding and, ultimately, extinction. This subpopulation has among the lowest genetic diversity of any felid in the western US. An adult male puma’s home range can extend over about 500 square kilometres, and the Santa Monica mountains cover 700 square kilometres. With southern Californians frequently building homes in canyons abutting puma habitat, interspecies conflict has led to lions hiding in crawl spaces under homes, and sightings on trails.

6-21-17 Talk radio puts pumas off their meals so they may kill more deer
Talk radio puts pumas off their meals so they may kill more deer
The sound of people’s voices reduces pumas’ feeding time and makes them kill more deer, showing the wide-reaching effect of human activity. Does talk radio put you off your dinner? Pumas in California can sympathise. The animals abandoned their kills and fled at the sound of presenters’ voices in an experiment showing that human activity affects the feeding behaviour of large carnivores. Ecologists are increasingly recognising that fear can change ecosystems – for example, fear of predators can alter the behaviour of prey animals, which has a knock-on effect on other species. In an earlier study, Justine Smith at the University of California, Santa Cruz, and colleagues found that pumas kill more deer in areas more populated by humans, but the reason why was uncertain. So they devised an experiment to see if the presence of humans would intimidate pumas and affect their feeding. Humans are the main cause of death for pumas in the area. They may be killed for eating goats or by traffic, and historically they have been hunted. The team set up motion sensors, speakers and cameras at sites of fresh puma kills in the Santa Cruz mountains. When a puma came to feed, the speakers would play either a talk radio clip or the call of a Pacific tree frog as a control. In 29 trials on 17 pumas, they fled in 83 per cent of tests when human voices were played, and only once in response to the frog sound. The pumas took longer to return to their kills if they heard a human voice, and reduced their time feeding by half compared with if they heard a frog.

6-19-17 DNA reveals how cats achieved world domination
DNA reveals how cats achieved world domination
Analysis of 9,000 years of cat remains suggests two waves of migration. Egyptian cats may have been transported by boat to far-reaching parts of Europe, Africa and Asia, a DNA study suggests. Early Middle Eastern farmers probably brought kitties and agriculture to Europe over land. The cat is starting to come out of the bag when it comes to revealing when and how wild felines became couch kitties. A tale hidden in ancient cat DNA suggests cats were probably first domesticated in the Middle East. They later spread, first by land, then by sea, to the rest of the world, researchers report June 19 in Nature Ecology & Evolution. Early farmers brought domesticated cats with them into Europe from the Middle East by 6,400 years ago, analysis of cat remains suggests. In a second wave of migration — perhaps by ship — Egyptian cats quickly colonized Europe and the Middle East about 1,500 years ago. Exactly where and when the animals were domesticated has been a matter of great debate. Researchers previously had only modern cats’ DNA to go on. Now, new techniques for analyzing ancient DNA are shedding light on the domestication process.

6-19-17 How cats conquered the ancient world
How cats conquered the ancient world
The domestic cat is descended from wild cats that were tamed twice - in the Near East and then Egypt, according to the largest study of its kind. Farmers in the Near East were probably the first people to successfully tame wild cats about 9,000 years ago. Then, a few thousand years later, cats spread out of ancient Egypt along maritime trade routes. Today, cats live on all continents except Antarctica. Scientists think wildcats began hanging around farms to prey on mice attracted to grain stores, starting the long relationship between humans and felines. "There were two taming events - one in the Near East at the beginning and one in Egypt much later," said lead researcher Eva-Maria Geigl. "And then the cat spread very efficiently all over the ancient world as a ship's cat. Both lineages are now present in modern cats."

6-19-17 World’s largest annual wildlife drowning boosts river ecosystem
World’s largest annual wildlife drowning boosts river ecosystem
Thousands of wildebeest drown as they cross the Mara river in Kenya on their yearly migration – creating a boon for the river’s ecosystem. Wildlife deaths don’t come much more dramatic. Every year, thousands of wildebeest drown or are eaten by crocodiles when they try to cross Kenya’s Mara river on their annual migration. Most years, camera crews are on hand to witness the slaughter in the Serengeti. But the good news is that the carnage is a massive boost to local ecosystems. So says Amanda Subalusky at Yale University, who has braved hippo charges and lurking crocodiles to measure the fate of nutrients released into the local ecosystem from the 1100 tonnes of biomass that float downstream from some 6200 wildebeest carcasses in a typical year. That includes 100 tonnes of carbon, 25 tonnes of nitrogen and 13 tonnes of phosphorus – the equivalent, says Subalusky, of the weight of 10 blue whales. Crocodiles and birds benefit from the carrion, particularly vultures. But the slow liberation of nutrients benefits everything in the river from fish to insects. “These are large and very clear effects on the nutrient cycles in the Mara river,” says Grant Hopcraft at the University of Glasgow, UK. “The actual event of a herd crossing the river happens very quickly, in a matter of minutes, and yet the ecological repercussions last for months and over a much larger space.” This creates “ecosystem resilience”, he says.

6-18-17 Trump's divided desert: Wildlife at the border wall
Trump's divided desert: Wildlife at the border wall
Science reporter Victoria Gill joins researchers in Arizona to find out how President Trump's wall could affect endangered desert wildlife. President Trump's promise to build a "great wall" along the US-Mexico border remains one of the central and most controversial promises of his presidency. But scientists from the University of Arizona are starting to unravel the effect that such a wall could have on a desert ecosystem it will cut through. The team is studying wildlife in the Sonoran Desert, which stretches across the border from Arizona into Mexico and is already divided by a barrier at the border. BBC science reporter Victoria Gill joined the team in a search for some of the desert's most endangered animals.

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