Wednesday, October 01, 2014

10 untold stories from the wild days of the Beatles...

When The Beatles arrived in America in 1964, they sparked a wild tide of mass hysteria that we all know as Beatlemania. Over 75 million people tuned in to watch their performance on The Ed Sullivan Show, and when they showed up in Washington, D.C., they had to rent the entire seventh floor of the Shoreham Hotel to escape their frenzied fans.

During their 34-day tour, the band played at Carnegie Hall and San Francisco’s Cow Palace, but perhaps their most painful performance was at the Coliseum in D.C. A boxing arena, the stage was set in the middle of the auditorium, meaning the boys were surrounded. Throughout the gig, they had to turn around continually so everyone could glimpse their faces. That meant Ringo had to get up between songs and drag his kit around by himself.

Then fans brought out the jelly beans.

Before their performance, The Beatles had been interviewed by the New York Times, and George made a comment about how much he liked “jelly babies.” Eager to please, starstruck fans loaded their pockets with jelly beans and hurled them at the stage, hitting the band from every side. The candies hit their guitar strings, pinged against Ringo’s cymbals, and smacked the performers in the face.

There’d been a major misunderstanding. Jelly beans aren’t jelly babies. Babies are soft (the US equivalent would be gummi bears), while beans are pretty hard. George was worried he might go blind. “It’s a bit dangerous, you know,” he once said, “because if a jelly bean, traveling about 50 miles an hour through the air, hits you in the eye, you’re finished.” Fortunately, the boys made it through, battered but alive, and went on to play another day. Full story...

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A doctor accuses his profession of dangerous dishonesty...

The noblest professional of all-to heal fellow human beings- is certainly witnessing its worst decay. Dr Peter Gotzsche, Director, Nordic Cochrane Centre and Professor in University of Copenhagen, said to Citizen News Service (CNS): "There is a lot that needs to change in healthcare. It is one of the most corrupted sectors in society. In Denmark, for example, we have thousands of doctors who are on industry payrolls - they are consultants, they sit on advisory boards - but in reality it is a soft form of bribery because if you do not behave as expected you will no longer be on the payroll." Dr Gotzsche is one of the sanest voices in medical fraternity striving hard to bring evidence-based medicine, ethics and integrity back in fashion.

Dr Gotzsche spoke with CNS on the sidelines of 22nd Cochrane Colloquium.

Normalization of practices that stink of 'soft bribery' such as gifts, incentives or other financial favours of pharmaceutical companies and other medical manufacturers to medical professionals is indeed a slap on the face of medical ethics. The conflict of interest between pharmaceutical companies/medical manufacturers, and public health is seldom made evident. "This contributes to using expensive drugs, or at times using drugs that are not totally rational, or even using drugs instead of thinking of other evidence-based treatments - this has been well documented. I have tried to change attitudes towards accepting industry money. We should learn to say, 'No, Thank you'" asserted Dr Gotzsche.

 Not just corrupted, but medical practices are often not evidence-based. Despite strong evidence pointing to the contrary, they remain popular as some strong opinion makers in medical field keep propelling them. Despite Cochrane review showing that directly observed treatment therapy for anti-tuberculosis treatment has no edge over self-administered therapy, there was no hesitation in aggressively promoting what we knew will not give any better results. Similarly mammography screening for breast cancer remains popular despite research evidence pointing against it. Full story...

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Young entrepreneur uses $23,000 worth of air miles to travel on most luxurious flight in the world from Singapore to New York...

With endless lobster meals, a full-size bed and designer toiletries, it could be a five-star hotel.

But this is actually a private suite on a Singapore Airlines Airbus A380 - worth a staggering $23,000.

Young entrepreneur Derek Low cashed in his frequent flier miles to travel in the airlines's Suites Class - voted the most luxurious cabin in the world - from Singapore to New York.

He snapped photos of his experience - from an exclusive departure lounge called 'The Private Room' to hand-stitched leather armchairs - before posting them online.

His Medium.com blog, titled 'What it’s like to fly the $23,000 Singapore Airlines Suites Class', documents his incredible flight experience, from check-in to landing. More + photos...

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'Ugly' fruit and vegetables prove a hit in France...

"Ugly" fruit and vegetables – such as bumpy oranges, two-legged carrots or misshapen aubergines – have proved such a hit in France that supermarket chains – which would previously dump them – are putting the produce on sale in thousands of outlets across the country.

The initiative lets consumers buy the products at a 30 per cent discount compared to their "beautiful" equivalents and allows farmers to sell vegetables that were previously rejected, says Intermarché, one of the supermarkets involved.

It tested selling the oddly-shaped food in one outlet in the town of Provins earlier this year and the trial was such a success that it plans to launch the initiative across its 1,800 stores from next month to encourage customers to try “fruit and vegetables that are ‘ugly’ (twisted, deformed, the wrong size) but just as tasty”.

 A government-sponsored day of action against food waste in general is scheduled to run at the same time as the Intermarch√© initiative. French officials say that seven million tonnes of food are thrown out every year and the government is aiming to reduce this by half within the next decade. Full story...

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Beating of African students by mob in India prompts soul-searching on race...

As India’s prime minister visited the Martin Luther King Jr. Memorial with President Obama in Washington on Tuesday, a debate about racism was taking shape in the Indian news media, prompted by video of an angry mob beating three African students in a New Delhi metro station this week.

The video clips show that the men unsuccessfully sought cover inside and on top of a glass booth in the station used by the Delhi Police, who were notably absent for at least five minutes as the students were beaten with sticks and fists.

“Delhi’s ugly face — racist and without a trace of humanity or compassion — was visible at Rajiv Chowk Metro station on Sunday evening,” The Times of India editorialized. “That an entirely avoidable situation with racial overtones was allowed to develop so easily must sit heavy on the conscience of this city.”

As the Indian website Scroll reported, “The video shows what looks startlingly like a lynch mob beating the black men with sticks while yelling, ‘Bharat Mata Ki Jai,’ ” or “Victory for Mother India.” More + videos...

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Three Israeli soldiers who fought in Gaza war commit suicide...

Three IDF soldiers who fought in Operation Protective Edge have taken their own lives in recent weeks. The army is investigating whether there was a connection between the suicides and traumatic experiences the soldiers had during the war.

The three soldiers, conscripts serving in the Givati Brigade, each ended their lives within days of each other. The three are believed to have used their personal weapons, which were found next to their bodies, to commit suicide.

The IDF's criminal investigation division (CID) opened an investigation into the three incidents.

One of the possible lines of inquiry is the possibility the soldiers were suffering serious emotional trauma as a result of their experiences in the war, and decided to end their lives as a consequence.

The IDF spokesman said in response: "The IDF expresses its condolences to the families and will continue accompanying them. The CID is investigating the incidents."

Several days ago, the Medical Corps sent text messages to conscript soldiers who took part in Protective Edge, informing them of the option to receive psychological help should they need it from the mental health officer in their unit. Source...

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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Web Magna Carta: WWW inventor Tim Berners-Lee calls for ‘online bill of rights’

Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the inventor of the World Wide Web has spoken out against world governments and corporations, which he says are seeking to control the web for their own gain.

He called for a revolutionary bill of rights to guaranty the web’s independence.

When he invented the nexus 25 years, ago, the British Berners-Lee dreamed of a neutral space where humanity, with all of its “ghastly stuff,” would be free to be itself. Now, however, he sees no choice but to institute a sort of Magna Carta for the online world – a document that would be modeled on the 13th-century English charter on basic rights and freedoms.

"If a company can control your access to the internet, if they can control which websites they go to, then they have tremendous control over your life," Berners-Lee spoke at London’s ‘Web We Want’ festival, which discussed the future of the internet and its guidelines.

"If a government can block you going to, for example, the opposition's political pages, then they can give you a blinkered view of reality to keep themselves in power."

"Suddenly the power to abuse the open internet has become so tempting both for government and big companies,"
he said. Full story...

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Jayalalitha: Tamil film industry fasts for jailed politician...

The film industry in India's Tamil Nadu state is on a day-long fast to protest against the jailing of former chief minister Jayaram Jayalalitha.

Jayalalitha has been jailed for four years for corruption and is in a Bangalore prison.

She has challenged her conviction and applied for bail. The Bangalore high court will hear her plea on Monday.

In a case lasting 18 years, she was found guilty of amassing unaccounted wealth of more than $10m (£6.1m).

In its ruling on Saturday, the special court in Bangalore also ordered her to pay a 1bn rupee ($16m; £10m) fine and resign as chief minister.

A former film actress, Jayalalitha is one of India's most colourful and controversial politicians and has a huge following in Tamil Nadu. Full story...

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'Anti-Facebook' platform Ello attracts thousands...

Social media network Ello is currently receiving up to 31,000 requests an hour from people wishing to join its platform, its founder has told the BBC.

It was initially designed to just be used by about 90 friends of its founder Paul Budnitz.

But the bike shop owner, from the US state of Vermont, opened it to others on 7 August.

It has been dubbed the "anti-Facebook" network because of a pledge to carry no adverts or sell user data.

However some experts have cautioned that it might struggle with plans to charge micro-payments for certain "features". Full story...

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Myanmar, Sri Lanka Buddhist hard-liners join hands...

A hard-line Buddhist monk from Myanmar known for his anti-Muslim stance said his movement would join hands with a like-minded Sri Lankan group to "protect" Buddhists, whom he called an endangered world minority.

Ashin Wirathu, leader of 969, a fundamentalist movement, was a special invitee Sunday at a rally of Bodu Bala Sena, or Buddhist Power Force, a Sri Lankan group accused of instigating deadly violence against the country's minority Muslims in June.

Joining 969 could further boost an already soaring support base for Bodu Bala Sena, an ultranationalist group that has enlisted thousands of youth and Buddhist monks in just two years of existence. This, in turn, could exacerbate mistrust and tensions between Sri Lanka's majority Sinhalese-Buddhists and its Muslims.

Politically, President Mahinda Rajapaksa's credibility among Muslims stands to erode further after his government allowed Wirathu to visit Sri Lanka despite opposition from Muslim groups, including his own allies. Rajapaksa is already under criticism for not taking action against Buddhist monks whose inflammatory speeches are blamed for anti-Muslim violence in June that killed two people and wounded dozens, and saw many shops and homes set on fire in three western towns.

Three local body guards accompanied Wirathu as he walked onstage for his speech Sunday at a packed indoor stadium in Colombo, Sri Lanka's capital. Full story...

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Australia's Cambodian refugees really, really don't want to get sent back...

Five detainees on the South Pacific island of Nauru—including two unaccompanied minors—have stitched their lips together in response to the arrangement signed last Friday for Australia to palm off unwanted refugees to Cambodia in exchange for more than £21.5 million in development aid, according to Ian Rintoul, spokesman for the Refugee Action Coalition.

"Inside the detention center there's really just despair and desperation," Rintoul told VICE. He explained that a 400-person demonstration went on late into Sunday night in the offshore asylum facility on Nauru, during which the detainees sewed their mouths shut. As he said, this is due to Cambodia's inadequate ability to provide for refugees. "It’s not a workable solution for anyone on Nauru," he added. "How many more statements do we need about the poverty and human rights issues there?”

Scott Morrison, the Australian Minister for Immigration and Border Protection, was in the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh to sign the agreement last week, while about 100 protesters gathered outside the Australian embassy. Shortly after Morrison drained his champagne flute, a 14-year-old girl and a 24-year-old man also sewed their lips together during a 500-strong protest on Nauru. Another man is believed to be in serious condition after cutting his own throat. The ABC reports that a 16-year-old has attempted suicide by drinking laundry detergent.

 Australian Prime Minster Tony Abbott and Morrison are the figureheads of a relentless “stop-the-boats” crusade. Despite being a signatory to the 1951 Refugee Convention, no asylum seekers can currently be resettled on mainland Australia and all refugee-processing arrangements are outsourced to detention centers on Manus Island, Papa New Guinea, and Nauru. Under the military-led “Operation Sovereign Borders," launched in September 2013, Australia's navy has been put to use dragging boats of would-be asylum seekers back in to international waters. The UN’s Refugee Agency has described Australia’s latest maneuver as “a worrying departure from international norms” that could set a “disturbing precedent." Full story...

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The limits of ideology: Lessons from Singapore...

Next year will see the 50th anniversary of the creating of Singapore, widely hailed as one of the most successful of the Asian tigers. In that short space of time, the tiny nation state has grown into one of the world's largest financial cities and most important ports. It has done so by becoming the partner every nation wants to work with: efficient, trustworthy and stable. In education, healthcare and economic competitiveness, Singapore routinely occupies a high position in global rankings. So it's not surprising that commentators like Thomas Friedman often point to Singapore as doing well what the west does badly.

That polarization - between Singapore where everything works and the west, where nothing seems to - is alluring, not least in its simplicity. In a brilliant new book about their country, Hard Choices: Challenging the Singapore Consensus, Donald Low and Sudhir Vadaketh dare something few Singaporeans attempt: they question this orthodox view of Singapore and ask how fit for the future their country is. In doing so, they do something infinitely more subtle and profound than identify weaknesses in national policy; they implicitly question many of the central assumptions on which all developed nations today are pinning their hopes for the future.

Commentators routinely praise the competitive nature of Singapore's schools and civil service. Slavish devotion to exams and credentials, they like to believe, is what bring the best to the top. In the early days of Singapore's independence, this principle was coupled with the belief that everyone should have a fair shot at success. But as inequality has risen and social mobility has declined, those values look more like a justification for elitism. Does preserving this meritocracy does more to protect those in power than enable those who aspire to it?

Without social mobility and the continuing expansion of choices to the multi-ethnic population, meritocracy can come to feel like intrinsic, existential superiority: the sense that some are intrinsically more deserving than others. The bubble of money and power is isolating, severing the connections between governors and the governed. The surprise that greeted the 2011 election, in which the opposition to the governing PAP made significant gains, illustrated just how self-referential many in power had become. Full story...

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Nagpur businessman helps run online abortion clinic...

Amidst rows of capsules and other pharmaceuticals that line the shelves of his drug export business in Nagpur, Mohan Kale stores two box-files crammed with e-mails from grateful women. "God bless you. We're living in a country where women don't have basic rights. I got scared when I got pregnant," writes one from Pakistan. Another from Thailand reads, "Now that I'm no longer pregnant, I'm very happy. Thank you, Women on Web. I love you."

Every month, Kale couriers 2,000 kits containing one mifepristone and four misoprostol tablets to women in countries where abortions are restricted.

These tablets, if consumed within the first nine weeks, help women terminate their pregnancies. Their sale is legal in India with a prescription. However, 26% of the world's population lives in 72 countries where abortion is prohibited altogether or allowed only to save the mother's life, says a World Health Organization report.

 The 44-year-old owner of Kale Impex may never have joined the ranks of abortion-rights activists if he hadn't met Dutch physician Rebecca Gomperts in 2012. A Dutch physician, Gomperts attracted international media attention in 2001 when she fitted a ship with a mobile abortion clinic and set sail for Dublin. Her plan was to bring women on board and give them the pills in international waters; thus, circumventing Ireland's strict anti-abortion laws. Full story...

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Hong Kong citizens step up protests as riot police withdrawn...

Thousands of Hong Kong citizens protested across the city on Monday, blocking roads and prompting the closure of banks and schools, as they stepped up their calls for democracy.

Police attempts to use teargas to clear huge protests from Admiralty and Central in downtown Hong Kong late on Sunday backfired by spurring more people to take to the streets, with numbers peaking in the tens of thousands. Fresh protests sprang up in Causeway Bay and Mongkok, in Kowloon.

Parts of the financial hub, generally known for its orderliness, were paralysed by the demonstrators. The government announced on Monday morning that riot police had been taken off the streets as citizens “have mostly calmed down” and urged people to unblock roads and disperse.

Hong Kong enjoys considerable autonomy under the “one country, two systems” framework and has long been promised universal suffrage for the election of the next chief executive in 2017. But protesters are furious that the rules announced by Beijing will impose such tight controls on candidates that a democrat could not even stand. They see the decision as part of a broader attempt to tighten controls on the region. Full story...

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Monday, September 29, 2014

France announces world’s toughest anti-smoking laws...

France, where a Gauloise once hung from the bottom lip of every actor or intellectual, plans to move to one of the toughest anti-tobacco regimes in the world.

Garish colours and brand names on cigarette packets will be replaced by health warnings in large type and by prominent photographs of the diseased organs of smokers. Car drivers and passengers will be banned from lighting up in the presence of children under 12.

Although these measures will not take effect until 2016, an uncompromising TV and radio campaign started today, warning that tobacco kills one in two smokers. There will also be a levy on tobacco companies to fund anti-smoking campaigns, and measures to expose the hidden lobbying of the tobacco industry.

The Health Minister, Marisol Touraine, said: “We can no longer accept the fact that the number of deaths caused by tobacco in France is the equivalent of an airliner crashing each day with 200 people on board.”

Ms Touraine’s long-term objective is to abolish smoking over 40 years by discouraging new generations from taking up the habit. Her medium-term objective is to reduce the French smoking rate – one in three adults– to the present British rate of one in five adults, by 2024. Full story...

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Gitmo in Germany? Security guards abuse asylum seekers...

Two asylum seekers have been severely beaten and abused by security guards in a German town. The police compared the brutal actions to those committed by US guards in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, against the prisoners.

The seekers were abused in shelter home in a small community of Burbach, North Rhine-Westphalia, the most populous state of Germany, reported the country’s press.

The alleged suspects filmed all the guards’ actions on smartphones. A local journalist received a DVD showing the abuse. Police authorities immediately opened investigation into the case.

One video shows an asylum seeker lying on the floor and one of the members of security staff pinning his neck down with his boot. The other guard is sitting near-by, seeming posing to the camera.

Another video shows one more refugee sitting on the vomit-covered mattress.

"These are pictures that most of us would associate with Guantanamo Bay," Frank Richter, police chief in nearby city of Hagen, told local media. "Both security guards are grinning." Full story...

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4 ways Amazon’s ruthless practices are crushing local economies...

Even by the anything-goes ethical code of the corporate jungle, Amazon.com’s alpha male, Jeff Bezos, is considered a ruthless predator by businesses that deal with him. As overlord of Amazon, by far the largest online marketer in the world (with more sales than the next nine US online retailers combined), Bezos has the monopoly power to stalk, weaken, and even kill off retail competitors—going after such giants as Barnes & Noble and Walmart and draining the lifeblood from hundreds of smaller Main Street shops. He also goes for the throats of both large and small businesses that supply the millions of products his online behemoth sells. They’re lured into Amazon by its unparalleled database of some 200 million customers, but once in, they face unrelenting pressure to lower what they charge Amazon for their products, compelled by the company to give it much better deals than other retailers can extract.

Lest you think predator is too harsh a term, consider the metaphor Bezos himself chose when explaining how to get small book publishers to cough up deep discounts as the price for getting their titles listed on the Amazon website. As related by Businessweek reporter Brad Stone, Bezos instructed his negotiators to stalk them “the way a cheetah would pursue a sickly gazelle.” Bezos’ PR machine tried to claim this sneering comment was just a little “Jeff joke,” but they couldn’t laugh it off, for a unit dubbed the “Gazelle Project” had actually been set up inside Amazon.

This top-level team focused on doing exactly what Bezos instructed: Pursue vulnerable small publishers and squeeze their wholesale prices to Amazon down to the point of no profit, thus allowing the online retailer to underprice every other book peddler. When Stone exposed Gazelle last year in his book, The Everything Store, the project was suddenly rebranded with a bloodless name—“Small Publisher Negotiation Program”—but its mission remains the same.

Today, Amazon sells a stunning 40 percent of all new books, up from 12 percent five years ago. It is even more dominant in the digital book market, which is fast catching up to the sales level of physical books and is widely perceived as the future of publishing. Electronic book sales were non-existent just seven years ago; today about a third of all books sold are e-books, and Amazon sells two-thirds of those. Of course, Amazon also owns Kindle, the largest-selling device for reading digital books. Full story...

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Apple locks out NSA with iPhone 6

Devoted customers of Apple products these days worry about whether the new iPhone 6 will bend in their jean pockets. The National Security Agency and the nation’s law enforcement agencies have a different concern: that the smartphone is the first of a post-Snowden generation of equipment that will disrupt their investigative abilities.

The phone encrypts emails, photos and contacts based on a complex mathematical algorithm that uses a code created by, and unique to, the phone’s user — and that Apple says it will not possess.

The result, the company is essentially saying, is that if Apple is sent a court order demanding that the contents of an iPhone 6 be provided to intelligence agencies or law enforcement, it will turn over gibberish, along with a note saying that to decode the phone’s emails, contacts and photos, investigators will have to break the code or get the code from the phone’s owner.

Breaking the code, according to an Apple technical guide, could take “more than 5 1/2 years to try all combinations of a six-character alphanumeric passcode with lowercase letters and numbers.” (Computer security experts question that figure, because Apple does not fully realize how quickly the N.S.A. supercomputers can crack codes.)

Already the new phone has led to an eruption from the director of the F.B.I., James B. Comey. At a news conference on Thursday devoted largely to combating terror threats from the Islamic State, Mr. Comey said, “What concerns me about this is companies marketing something expressly to allow people to hold themselves beyond the law.” Full story...

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Sixteen people commit suicide after Jayalalithaa verdict...

At least 16 people committed suicide or died of cardiac arrest across Tamil Nadu after a special court in Bangalore convicted AIADMK supremo J Jayalalithaa in the 66.65 crore disproportionate assets case on Saturday and sentenced her to four years in prison. Two people have been hospitalized with severe burns.

Police said three people hanged themselves, one AIADMK supporter committed suicide by self-immolation, one person ended his life by jumping in front of a bus and one person died after consuming poison after the court pronounced its verdict. Ten others died of cardiac arrest, apparently due to shock after Jayalalithaa's conviction, a police officer said.

Two people, including a Class 12 student, attempted self-immolation self and have been hospitalised with severe burns. Another ardent AIADMK supporter chopped off his little finger in Tirupur.

Ironically, the chief minister had in August written a letter to a woman who attempted to kill herself after a Sri Lankan government website carried a derogatory post on Jayalalithaa. She urged the woman not to be overcome with emotion and asked her to understand that suicide is an act of cowardice.

 Party leaders said the extreme reactions were testimony to Jayalalithaa's popularity but called on party supporters not to take the step. Full story...

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Vatican paedophilia scandal: Archbishop Jozef Wesolowski stored over 100,000 child porn videos...

A former Vatican archbishop accused of paedophilia stored tens of thousands of child porn videos and photos on a computer in his office at the Holy See diplomatic compound in the Dominican Republic, it has emerged.

Details of Jozef Wesolowski's massive child porn stash have been revealed after the 66-year-old was arrested at the Vatican earlier this week.

He is the highest-ranking Vatican official ever to be investigated for sex abuse, and the first top papal representative to receive a defrocking sentence. He has been charged with sexually abusing minors and child porn possession and might face up to seven years in the Vatican's tiny jail.

Vatican detectives analysed the PC Wesolowski used in his office in Santo Domingo, where he served as Holy See envoy from 2008 to 2012 as part of an investigation into the alleged sexual abuse of underage boys.

The probe reportedly revealed a collection of horrors. The Polish native held more than 100,000 sexually-explicit files, Il Corriere della Sera newspaper reported. Full story...

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Sunday, September 28, 2014

UK arms sale to Bahrain triples...

Prominent Bahraini human rights activist Nabeel Rajab says the UK arms sale to Bahrain has more than tripled amid the Manama regime crackdown on dissent.

He said in a message posted on the internet that the Al Khalifa regime is buying Britain’s silence over its human rights violation with the huge purchase of weapons.

Some media reports have said that Britain sold military equipment worth about USD 30 million to Bahrain last year.

The UK is also reportedly seeking to sell Typhoon warplanes worth more than one billion dollars to the Manama regime as part of its efforts to strengthen military ties with Bahrain.

Rajab further stressed that the British government’s support for the Al Khalifa regime, despite its acts of violence against peaceful protesters in the kingdom, is based on the UK’s business interests. Full story...

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Gaza and the 'crime of crimes'

Nelson Mandela frequently declared that "Palestine was the greatest moral issue of our time". After we toppled the Apartheid regime in 1994, he went further, saying "We South Africans cannot consider ourselves free until the Palestinian People are free".

Millions of us in South Africa collectively recoiled from Israel's gruesome assault on the people of Gaza during those 51 nightmarish days of "Operation Protective Edge" and the attendant ongoing cruelty in the West Bank. As the dust settled, we were left shocked beyond belief as we witnessed a community of 1.8 million in ruins; Khozaa, Shujaiyya, Beit Hanoun, with entire families and neighbourhoods, gone.

According to the United Nations, 2,131 Palestinians were killed during Israel's offensive. Of those 501 were children, with 70 percent under 12.

The Ministry of Health in Gaza recorded 10,918 people injured including 3,312 children and 2,120 women. According to the United Nations, 244 schools were shelled and one used as a military base by Israeli soldiers. Al Mezan human rights organisation documented at least 10,920 houses damaged or destroyed of which 2,853 were completely flattened. Eight hospitals - resulting in six being taken out of service - 46 NGOs, 50 fishing boats, 161 mosques, and 244 vehicles were also hit.

Eighty percent of Gazan families have no way to feed themselves and are dependent on aid. Farmland in the border areas has been defined as a buffer zone which Israel unilaterally extends by direct gunfire upon farmers. When you deprive a population of the means of life and of movement, when the injured cannot access healthcare, when the exiled are forced time and again back into canvas tents, and when all of this happens under ferocious attack by land, sea and air with the international community looking on whilst quietly arming Israel - what would you call this? Full story...

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Russia at U.N. accuses U.S., allies of bossing world around...

Russia used its annual appearance at the U.N. General Assembly on Saturday to accuse the United States and its Western allies of bossing the world around, complaining they were attempting to dictate to everyone "what is good and evil."

The speech by Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov to the 193-nation assembly was the latest example of the deteriorating relations between Moscow and Western powers, which have imposed sanctions on Russia over the conflict in neighboring Ukraine.

"The U.S.-led Western alliance that portrays itself as a champion of democracy, rule of law and human rights within individual countries ... (is) rejecting the democratic principle of sovereign equality of states enshrined in the U.N. Charter and trying to decide for everyone what is good or evil," he said.

"Washington has openly declared its right to unilateral use of force anywhere to uphold its own interests," Lavrov added. "Military interference has become a norm - even despite the dismal outcome of all power operations that the U.S. has carried out over the recent years."

Lavrov cited the 1999 NATO bombing of Yugoslavia during the Kosovo war, the 2003 invasion of Iraq, the war in Afghanistan, and the 2011 NATO intervention in Libya that led to the toppling and death of longtime Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi as examples of U.S. failures. Full story...

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Curry spice turmeric 'could help brain heal itself'

A spice commonly used in curries could help the brain heal itself, new research has suggested.

A report in the journal Stem Cell Research and Therapy found a compound in the curry spice turmeric may hold the key to repairing the brains of people with neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's.

A team in Germany say aromatic turmerone promoted the proliferation of brain stem cells and their development into neurons during laboratory tests on rats.

Rats were injected with the compound and scientists from the Institute of Neuroscience and Medicine in Julich scanned their brain.

The team examined the effect of aromatic turmerone on endogenous neutral stem cells (NSCs) found within adult brains. Full story...

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Obama blasts brutality and bullying, but not by Israel...

When US President Barack Obama addressed the UN General Assembly Wednesday, he was outspoken in his criticism of Russia for "bullying" Ukraine, Syria for its “brutality” towards its own people, and terrorists of all political stripes for the death and destruction plaguing Iraq, Syria, Yemen and Somalia.

But as the New York Times rightly pointed out, Obama made only a “fleeting” reference to Israel and Palestine in his 47-minute speech to the world body.

Nadia Hijab, executive director of Al-Shabaka: The Palestinian Policy Network, told IPS much of what Obama said about the “brutality” of the Assad regime in Syria and his criticism of “a world in which one nation’s borders can be redrawn by another” applies directly to Israel.

But he simply paid lip service to “the principle” that two states would make the region and the world more just without any indication of what the US might do – or stop doing, she added.

Addressing the US president directly, Hijab said: “Mr. Obama, the world would be a lot more just, if the US just stopped footing the bill for Israel’s gross violations of human rights and international law.” Full story...

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'You are not a product': Privacy-friendly ad-free 'anti-Facebook' network Ello explodes...

A mostly obscure, privacy-orientated social network - an ‘anti-Facebook’ of sorts - has recently undergone meteoric growth. It poses itself as an advert-free enterprise which is not going to become a tool to manipulate its users.

‘Anti-facebook’ network Ello kicked off in July as an invite-only social network seeking to have an advert-free user-orientated role rather than becoming a profit-generating enterprise, according to its manifesto.

“Your social network is owned by advertisers. Every post you share, every friend you make and every link you follow is tracked, recorded and converted into data,” it points out.

Ello pledges that it will never sell user data to advertisers, forfeiting the one source of income keeping afloat online giants like Facebook and Google. Instead it attempts to cover expenses by selling premium features, such as managing several accounts from a single login – a service that appeals to privacy-focused users.

“We believe a social network can be a tool for empowerment. Not a tool to deceive, coerce and manipulate — but a place to connect, create and celebrate life. You are not a product,” Ello calmly states. Full story...

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India court jails ex-film star politician Jayalalithaa for corruption...

One of India’s most powerful regional leaders was sentenced to four years in jail and fined £10 million after she was convicted of corruption on Saturday.

Jayalalithaa Jayaram's conviction brought a dramatic end to a career which began on screen as a popular teenage film actress and spanned four terms as chief minister of Tamil Nadu, one of India’s most developed states.

She was found guilty along with three other aides, including her live-in partner, of having disproportionate assets she could not explain – a £6 million fortune including a portfolio of properties, 2,000 acres of land and 30 kilogrammes of gold. She also owns her own television channel, JJTV.

Her legions of supporters held protests in the state capital Chennai to condemn the verdict as a political conspiracy, but it was welcomed by anti-corruption campaigners as a boost for justice in the country.

 The verdict highlights the scale of corruption throughout India and especially in Tamil Nadu where two leaders of her party’s main regional rival, the Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam, were charged in the ‘2G scandal’ which tainted the last Congress-led government. Full story...

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Elderly couple to die together by assisted suicide even though they are not ill...

An elderly husband and wife have announced their plans to die in the world's first 'couple' euthanasia - despite neither of them being terminally ill.

Instead the pair fear loneliness if the other one dies first from natural causes.

Identified only by their first names, Francis, 89, and Anne, 86, they have the support of their three adult children who say they would be unable to care for either parent if they became widowed.

The children have even gone so far as to find a practitioner willing to carry out the double killings on the grounds that the couple's mental anguish constituted the unbearable suffering needed to legally justify euthanasia.

The couple, from Brussels, are receiving regular medical treatment for age-related ailments.

Francis has received treatment for prostate cancer for 20 years and is unable to spend a day without morphine and Anne is partially blind and almost totally deaf. Full story...

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Saturday, September 27, 2014

Australia offers new home to its would-be migrants… in Cambodia!!!

In a lavishly decorated conference room in the Cambodian capital Phnom Penh, champagne glasses clinked incongruously as the ink dried on Australia’s latest deal to divest itself of asylum-seekers fleeing torture, war and persecution.

Under the secretive agreement, Cambodia will resettle an unspecified number of refugees currently held in an Australian-run detention centre on the Pacific island of Nauru. In exchange, as well as paying resettlement costs, Canberra will donate an extra A$40m (£21.5m) in aid over the next four years.

The Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) signed by Australia’s Immigration Minister, Scott Morrison, and Cambodia’s Interior Minister, Sar Kheng, cements Australia’s hardline stance on asylum-seekers who arrive by boat. But even seasoned observers of its policy over the past decade are appalled.

Still recovering from civil war, genocide and Vietnamese occupation, Cambodia is one of the world’s poorest nations. It has a shocking human rights record. It has sent asylum-seekers and refugees back to countries from which they fled. Those who escape that fate live on the margins of Cambodian society. Full story...

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Isis, we are told, is a 'clear and dangerous threat to our way of life'. I’m sorry, but I just don’t buy it...

Of all the arguments advanced in favour of British military intervention abroad, the one that has always seemed to me most treacherous and least convincing is the one about “over there” and “over here”. It was much-used by Gordon Brown, when he was trying to persuade a sceptical public of the need for beleaguered UK troops to remain in Afghanistan, though it was current in the United States well before that. Now it is back, in nice time for today’s recall of Parliament.

The battleground is no longer Afghanistan, and the enemy is no longer al-Qaeda or the Taliban. The conflict has moved westwards to northern Syria and Iraq, and the new adversary is the self-styled Islamic State and its rampaging Caliphate. But the argument and the wording are practically identical.

As David Cameron told the UN General Assembly on Wednesday, in tones that strongly suggested a rehearsal for today’s unanimity-fest in the Commons, Isis constitutes “a clear and present danger to the United Kingdom”. He had earlier described the behavior of Isis to reporters as “psychopathic, murderous and brutal”.

Our new Defence Secretary, Michael Fallon, started preparing the ground last weekend. In an interview in The Spectator he said: “We’ve had attacks on the streets of London, on our transport system, at Glasgow Airport, the murder of Lee Rigby – how much more evidence do you need that this is a very clear and dangerous threat to our way of life and to all the democracies of the West? This is a new Battle of Britain.” Full story...

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“TheTerrorists R Us.” The Islamic State “Big Lie”

Under the auspices of the United Nations Security Council, with president Obama chairing the Council session, the United States has called upon the international community to adopt strong measures, at national and international levels, to curtail the recruitment of Islamic State fighters.

What is not mentioned in the media reports is that the heads of State and heads of government who have endorsed America’s campaign against the Islamic State, advised by their respective secret services, are fully aware that US intelligence is the unspoken architect of the Islamic State, which is part of a vast network of US supported “jihadist” terrorist entities. Countries are either coerced into supporting the US sponsored resolution or they are complicit in the US terror agenda.

Lest we forget, Saudi Arabia, Qatar, have been financing and training the ISIL terrorists on behalf of the United States. Israel is harboring the Islamic State (ISIL) in the Golan Heights, NATO in liaison with the Turkish high command has since March 2011 been involved in coordinating the recruitment of the jihadist fighters dispatched to Syria. Moreover, the ISIL brigades in both Syria and Iraq are integrated by Western special forces and military advisers.

All this is known and documented, yet not a single head of state or head of government has had the courage to point to the absurdity of the US sponsored United Nations Security Council resolution, which was adopted unanimously on September 24.

“Absurdity” is an understatement. What we are witnessing is a criminal undertaking under UN auspices. Full story...

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Black woman says speaking properly shouldn't be attacked for 'talking white'




To understand your future, study Zimbabwe...

When Money Destroys Nations by Philip Haslam and Russell Lamberti is perhaps one of the most alarming books on the current state of the world to have come out in recent years. To set the scene, the authors describe in chilling detail how Zimbabwe went from 20% inflation in 1997 to 89,700,000,000,000,000,000,000% in 2008. I might have left out a few zeros there, but you get the point. The cause was entirely political – and, hence, avoidable. “The Zimbabwean government lived beyond its means for years, spending more than it could really afford on government programmes, including war and social security.”

It attempted to solve this problem with rampant money printing. “Money printing gathered momentum and fuelled an inflation frenzy, which poured down economic ruin upon millions of ordinary people. It ultimately led to the Zimbabwe dollar being abandoned as a currency beginning at the end of 2008.”

But Zimbabwe’s experience is not unique. In fact, money printing has become a global phenomenon that always, always leads to inflation and impoverishment. Anyone who believes that “it couldn’t happen here” had better read this book. In Zimbabwe, the money printing started slow and then, over the course of the next 11 years, spiralled out of control. The scale of the carnage wrought by this idiocy is well documented: one-third of Zimbabweans were forced into exile, repatriating funds each month to family members left behind; the government responded to food inflation by setting price controls which were promptly ignored; a black market in alternative currencies flourished as people sought to feed themselves anyway they could (hint: a bottle of whiskey holds its value surprisingly well in a hyper-inflationary environment); barter returned as a means of exchange; stores closed down; mass hunger ensued, resulting in social unrest which was promptly extinguished by the military. Full story...

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