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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

Special Report

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!


8-20-17 Boston march against right-wing rally draws thousands
Boston march against right-wing rally draws thousands
Tens of thousands of anti-racism protesters have opposed the "Free Speech" rally in the US city of Boston that featured right-wing speakers. The rally on Boston Common, which attracted only a small crowd, disbanded early and the participants were escorted out by police. The organisers had said they would not give a platform to racism or bigotry. Tensions are high after violent demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia last weekend turned deadly. The Boston Herald reported that up to 30,000 people attended the protest. Demonstrators had gathered at a Boston sports centre and then marched en masse to the common. Those at the conservative rally were confined to the bandstand area on Boston Common. Crowds of anti-racism protesters surrounded the bandstand but were kept some distance away. Hundreds of police were deployed and clashes broke out later between some police and anti-rally protesters. Police said that officers had had rocks and bottles of urine thrown at them. Thirty-three people have been arrested. Many anti-rally protesters wore stickers showing the face of 32-year-old Heather Heyer, who died when a car was driven into a crowd of counter-protesters at last Saturday's far-right rally in Charlottesville. (Webmaster's comment: The Free Speech rally is just a cover for advocates of white male supremacy, racism, a return to slavery, Nazi dictatorship, anti-Immigrant, anti-Muslim and anti-Jew hate speech. Outlaw the advocation of these evils. Europe does! Hitler came to power spewing his hatreds to the masses. We should not let the same happen here.)

8-19-17 Boston braces for rival protests week after Charlottesville
Boston braces for rival protests week after Charlottesville
Officials in Boston, Massachusetts, are bracing for possible confrontations as rival protests converge on the city centre. The organisers of the conservative "Free Speech Rally" said they would not offer a platform to racism or bigotry. (Webmaster's comment: THIS IS A OUTRIGHT LIE!) A counter-protest is also planned, with some 11,000 people saying on Facebook they plan to attend. Tensions are high after violent demonstrations in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend turned deadly. Police were investigating reports that some radical counter-protesters might plan to throw acid at rallygoers and even police, a law enforcement official told the Boston Globe. The city police commissioner said he had never seen so many people "almost looking for confrontation" ahead of the competing demonstrations. "I just think the rhetoric has really brought this to a different level, and that's what we're worried about," Commissioner William Evans told a news conference on Friday. The organisers of the "Free Speech Rally" said that "misinformation in the media" was "likening our organisation to those that ran the Charlottesville rally". "While we maintain that every individual is entitled to their freedom of speech and defend that basic human right, we will not be offering our platform to racism or bigotry," the group wrote on a Facebook page dedicated to the event. "We denounce the politics of supremacy and violence." The list of speakers for Saturday's free speech event has changed multiple times in previous days. At times it has included speakers that some have associated with the far-right. (Webmaster's comment: When Conservatives talk about about Free Speech they mean one thing! The freedom to speak out in support of racism, bigotry, white supremacy and hatred!)

8-19-17 Trumps to skip Kennedy honours to avoid 'distraction'
Trumps to skip Kennedy honours to avoid 'distraction'
US President Donald Trump and First Lady Melania Trump are to skip an arts awards ceremony to allow those taking part "to celebrate without political distraction", the White House says. Some of those due to take part in the Kennedy Center Honors had said they would boycott the White House reception held before the awards ceremony. The honours recognise the lifetime contributions of performing artists. Many artists have been angered by Mr Trump's plans to scrap funding. In his budget outline in March, he pushed for the end of federal support for public broadcasting and the National Endowment for the Arts. President Trump is also mired in controversy over his response to recent violence at a white supremacist rally in Virginia. Republicans and Democrats alike have criticised him for insisting that anti-racism protesters were equally to blame for the violence that ended in the death of a woman. The White House said in a statement: "The president and first lady have decided not to participate in this year's [Kennedy Center Honors] activities to allow the honorees to celebrate without any political distraction.

8-19-17 Technology could make us immortal. But there will be consequences.
Technology could make us immortal. But there will be consequences.
There are two main theories on how it might work, and each presents its own moral challenges. Immortality has gone secular. Unhooked from the realm of gods and angels, it's now the subject of serious investment — both intellectual and financial — by philosophers, scientists, and the Silicon Valley set. Several hundred people have already chosen to be "cryopreserved" in preference to simply dying, as they wait for science to catch up and give them a second shot at life. But if we treat death as a problem, what are the ethical implications of the highly speculative "solutions" being mooted? Of course, we don't currently have the means of achieving human immortality, nor is it clear that we ever will. But two hypothetical options have so far attracted the most interest and attention: rejuvenation technology, and mind uploading. Like a futuristic fountain of youth, rejuvenation promises to remove and reverse the damage of aging at the cellular level. Gerontologists such as Aubrey de Grey argue that growing old is a disease that we can circumvent by having our cells replaced or repaired at regular intervals. Practically speaking, this might mean that every few years, you would visit a rejuvenation clinic. Doctors would not only remove infected, cancerous, or otherwise unhealthy cells, but also induce healthy ones to regenerate more effectively and remove accumulated waste products. This deep makeover would "turn back the clock" on your body, leaving you physiologically younger than your actual age. You would, however, remain just as vulnerable to death from acute trauma — that is, from injury and poisoning, whether accidental or not — as you were before. (Webmaster's comment: I'm signed up for cryopreservation. See you in 200-300 years.)

8-18-17 Should Washington and Jefferson monuments come down?
Should Washington and Jefferson monuments come down?
President Donald Trump's argument that the removal of Confederate statues is a slippery slope to changing history has recharged the perennial debate about America's tormented racial legacy. "So this week it's Robert E Lee," he said on Tuesday of the rebel general's monument that was a flashpoint for last Saturday's violent rally in Virginia. "I wonder, is it George Washington next week?" he asked journalists at Trump Tower. "And is it Thomas Jefferson the week after?" Let's put aside for a moment the irony that Lee may well have supported Charlottesville's plans to remove his bronze likeness, given that he urged the country to "obliterate the marks of civil strife" and refrain from erecting such monuments. As President Trump pointed out, George Washington was a slaveholder. So might the stone obelisk dedicated to the father of the nation, looming over the heart of his eponymous capital city, be the next battleground in the US culture wars? Or even Mount Rushmore? Washington conceded the system of human bondage that underpinned the economy of 18th Century Virginia was a "wicked, cruel and unnatural trade". He was the only founding father and commander-in-chief to liberate his slaves - he owned more than 300 - when he died. (Webmaster's comment: The truth is much worse than in this article! Washington didn't free his slaves in his will until after his wife's death which was after his. It was a belief at the time that male owners of slaves should impregnate their black slaves to "improve the stock." Since it was also believed it was important to beat black men to impregnating the black women, to get the "best first child" stock improvement, black girl children were RAPED starting at the age of 10, 11, or 12 by their white owners until they became pregnant. Since masturbation was considered a sin it was also said black women were "handy receptacles for their seed." Think of the slave system as one GIANT SEX FEST FOR WHITE MEN! Many of them got syphilis and spread it to their other slaves as well as to their wives. Some of these men were the founders of our country and syphilis is why they didn't and couldn't have children! Of course none of this is taught to even high school students, EXPECT in the rest of the world!)

8-18-17 Trump scraps infrastructure council plan
Trump scraps infrastructure council plan
President Trump is dropping plans to create an advisory group on infrastructure, a day after two other business panels were dissolved. The president has faced a backlash from business leaders over his remarks this week on white supremacists. A White House official said the infrastructure council, which was still being formed, "will not move forward". Mr Trump signed an executive order last month to create the group as he looks to spend $1 trillion on infrastructure. He has made updating US roads, bridges and airports a key part of his legislative agenda. However, on Wednesday he was forced to disband two other White House business panels amid an exodus of chief executives. Business leaders quit over Mr Trump's response to a far-right rally in Virginia, which left a woman dead and dozens hurt.

8-18-17 Trump pushes debunked 'pig's blood' myth, hours after Barcelona attack
Trump pushes debunked 'pig's blood' myth, hours after Barcelona attack
US President Donald Trump has invoked a debunked myth about a general who fought Islamist militants by using pig's blood to commit mass executions. The president's tweet came hours after a driver crashed a van into a crowd of people in Barcelona, leaving many dead or injured. "Study what General Pershing... did to terrorists when caught," Mr Trump said, referring to the discredited story. Historians and fact checkers say there is no truth to it. The myth, which has circulated online, refers to General John Pershing's actions during the US war in the Philippines in the early 1900s. He is said to have rounded up 50 terrorists and then ordered his men to shoot 49 of them, using bullets dipped in pig's blood. The survivor was told to go back and tell his people what happened. Pigs are considered ritually unclean in Islam, and in his tweet the president said the general's actions acted as a deterrent to further acts of terror. His comments came shortly after more than a dozen people were killed on Thursday in the Las Ramblas area of Barcelona. Police say it was clearly a terrorist attack and they have arrested two people but not yet located the driver. On the campaign trail, Mr Trump once told the same story, but that time he said there was no Islamist insurgency for 25 years, rather than 35.

8-18-17 Charlottesville victim's mum rebukes Trump
Charlottesville victim's mum rebukes Trump
The mother of a woman killed in violent clashes at a white supremacist rally has said she has "no interest" in speaking with President Donald Trump. Susan Bro said she refuses to speak to Mr Trump after hearing him equate demonstrators, like her daughter, with white supremacists. Her daughter, Heather Heyer, was killed on Saturday after a car ploughed through a crowd of counter-protesters. She said she did not "want to be used for political agendas". Mrs Bro told ABC New's Good Morning America television programme she missed a call from the White House, which appeared to have been made during her daughter's public memorial on Wednesday. She added that she received three more "frantic messages" from Mr Trump's press team later in the day but was too exhausted from the funeral to talk. It was when she saw a news clip of Mr Trump again blaming both sides for the violence that she changed her mind about speaking to the president. "It's not that I saw somebody else's tweets about him, I saw an actual clip of him at a press conference equating the protesters... with the [Ku Klux Klan] and the white supremacists," she said on Friday. "You can't wash this one away by shaking my hand and saying, 'I'm sorry.' I'm not forgiving that." When asked if there was anything she wanted to say to Mr Trump, she added: "Think before you speak".

8-18-17 How America forgot the true history of the Civil War
How America forgot the true history of the Civil War
The Lost Cause was the most successful propaganda campaign in American history. After the clashes and white supremacist terror attack in Charlottesville, Virginia, the latest dimension of our unfolding national meltdown is over monuments to the Confederacy. In retaliation for the violence in Charlottesville, demonstrators pulled down a Confederate statue in Durham, several cities in the North quickly yanked theirs down, and several other places are considering the same thing. President Trump in turn complained about the "history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments." Confederate statues are generally not very aesthetically memorable. They are far more important for what they represent: a bill still being paid for over a century of deliberate forgetting and rewriting of the history of the Civil War and Reconstruction. Let me start with one important fact: The American Civil War was fought over slavery. Southern states seceded (and later started the war) in furious outrage over Abraham Lincoln being elected on a platform of restricting slavery's extent to the places in which it already existed. Rather than accept the result of the democratic process, secessionists decided to break the country apart and start a war to keep it that way. Preserving and extending slavery — which was the sole foundation of the Confederacy's political economy — was the objective of this war. After the war came Reconstruction. Disgruntled ex-Confederates, assisted by the deeply racist President Andrew Johnson, attempted to return their states to a condition as close to slavery as possible — in essence overturning the result of the war (in which some 200,000 black Union soldiers had constituted one key to victory) through terrorism.

8-17-17 Why the fuss over Confederate statues?
Why the fuss over Confederate statues?
Its been over 150 years since the last shots were fired in the US Civil War, but a debate still rages over how history will remember the losing side. Hundreds of statues dedicated to the Confederacy - the southern states which revolted against the US government - exist all throughout the United States, and often serve as an offensive reminder of America's history of slavery and racial oppression. Recent decisions by local governments to remove those memorials has triggered a backlash from a vocal group of Americans who see their removal as an attempt to subvert US history and southern culture. President Donald Trump waded into the debate on Thursday, tweeting that the controversial monuments are "beautiful" and bemoaning that their beauty would be "greatly missed" from cities. Most Confederate monuments were not built until nearly a generation after the war ended in 1865, mostly due to a lack of funds during the Reconstruction era. It was not until the turn of the century, as southern states began to enact so-called Jim Crow laws designed to deprive recently freed slaves of equal rights, that the monuments began to go up in public spaces. (Webmaster's comment: These statues celebrate men that supported and fought for slavery, lynchings, rape of black women and children, and racism at it's worst. They are a disgrace to a country which supposedly supports freedom and liberty for all.)

8-18-17 Pakistan's traditional third gender isn't happy about the trans movement
Pakistan's traditional third gender isn't happy about the trans movement
Identifying as neither male nor female, the Khawaja Sira are believed to be God's "chosen people". For centuries, South Asia has had its own Khawaja Sira, or third gender culture. The community, identifying as neither male nor female, are believed by many to be "God's chosen people," with special powers to bless and curse anyone they choose. The acceptance of Khawaja Sira people in Pakistan has been held up internationally as a symbol of tolerance, established long before Europe and America had even the slightest semblance of a transgender rights movement. But the acceptance of people defining their own gender in Pakistan is much more complicated. The term transgender refers to someone whose gender identify differs from their birth sex. This notion is yet to take root in Pakistan and the transgender rights movement is only beginning to assert itself formally. Now, some third gender people in Pakistan say the modern transgender identity is threatening their ancient third gender culture. Kami Choudary has made international headlines and has been billed as "Pakistan's first transgender supermodel." This year Choudary delivered her first TEDx talk and she makes regular speaking appearances, telling her story and debating transgender rights in university auditoriums. She asserts herself, not as a Khawaja Sira but as a transgender woman. She acknowledges that her experience, as a rising transgender celebrity in Pakistan, is not the norm.

8-18-17 Google's stance on neo-Nazis 'dangerous', says EFF
Google's stance on neo-Nazis 'dangerous', says EFF
Decisions by Google, GoDaddy and Cloudflare to eject a neo-Nazi site from their services were "dangerous", a US-based digital rights group has said. The Daily Stormer had denigrated 32-year-old Heather Heyer who died while protesting against a far-right rally in Charlottesville. This led to a backlash in which multiple web firms kicked the site off their platforms. But the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) has now criticised this response. "We strongly believe that what GoDaddy, Google, and Cloudflare did here was dangerous," the EFF said. "Because internet intermediaries, especially those with few competitors, control so much online speech, the consequences of their decisions have far-reaching impacts on speech around the world." It added that it believed "no-one" - including the government and private companies - should decide who is able to speak or not. "We wholeheartedly agree with the concerns raised by the EFF," said Cloudflare chief executive Matthew Prince. "They reflect the same concerns we raised in our blog." Mr Prince had said that explained that he made his decision after the Daily Stormer's administrators suggested that Cloudflare supported their cause. Google and GoDaddy said earlier in the week that they were cancelling the Daily Stormer's registration with Google Domains as it had violated the terms of service. (Webmaster's comment: The servers that the EVIL content sat on are private property. If you own a property you have every right to shun and cast off EVIL from it.)

8-17-17 Shutting down neo-Nazi Daily Stormer sets a dangerous precedent
Shutting down neo-Nazi Daily Stormer sets a dangerous precedent
The neo-Nazi website has been booted out by web services for crossing moral lines, but should tech firms decide what we see online? Who is responsible for the content of the internet? Social media companies have long been under fire to protect their users from accounts that spew hate speech. But companies that host websites have been given a free pass, while firms that sell more obscure web services haven’t even been asked to participate in the conversation. That may have changed this week, following violence between white nationalist marchers and counter-protesters in Charlottesville, Virginia, that killed one protester and two police officers. After the neo-Nazi site Daily Stormer – which organised the rally – mocked the dead protester and urged its readers to target her funeral, several web hosts refused to carry the site’s content on their servers. Then yesterday, Cloudflare, which provides security services for websites hosted by other firms, did the same. Cloudflare’s CEO, Matthew Prince, acknowledged that by taking a moral position, he had set what he considered to be a dangerous precedent: in hosting content or merely providing other services, any tech company is now implicitly endorsing the views of their customers. Is this a tenable position? For a long time, web hosts and other technology companies have excused themselves from any responsibility for the “content” other people give them to distribute, saying that they are neutral platforms, and that the free speech of their users is paramount. (Webmaster's comment: Right! Let's provide an audience for Hitler, slavers, and evil. I say anyone that shuns and casts out EVIL has the right to do so.)

8-17-17 Vice News reporter who documented the Charlottesville melee fact-checks Trump's claims about the alt-right
Vice News reporter who documented the Charlottesville melee fact-checks Trump's claims about the alt-right
During the "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, last weekend, Vice News Tonight correspondent Elle Reeve embedded herself with the neo-Nazis, white supremacists, and other alt-right participants, and her documentary of the melee is pretty intense. On Wednesday night, CNN's Anderson Cooper had Reeve on to talk about her documentary and what she saw, in the light of President Trump's less-than-robust criticism of white supremacists on Tuesday. She said the most striking thing about the "Unite the Right" activities was how well-organized they were. "Everyone who was there knew exactly what they were signing up for," Reeve said. So, Cooper asked, "when the president says that there were 'good people' at this march, that they were quietly there to protest a removal of the Robert E. Lee statue, that not all of them were neo-Nazis or white supremacists, what do you think? Is that true?" Reeve laughed. "No," she said. "Everyone who was there knew what they were doing. They were shouting 'Jews will not replace us!' It was very well coordinated, they had an order to the chants. Like, there was no mistaking, there was no innocent person wandering up and accidentally getting involved in this. ... They had a set time, they lined up, everyone got in line, they got their torches, we saw them snake all the way through the field. It was very clear that they had planned this." Cooper asked how Trump's comments are being received by the white nationalists. "They love it," Reeve said. "The president continues to exceed the expectations of white nationalists. One texted me last night, 'My god I love this man. He really has our back.'" They see Trump's condemnation of neo-Nazis and white supremacists as "for the media, so the media will quiet down, but the real statement is he's okay with them, at least in their interpretation," she added. Reeve and Cooper also discussed the radicalized Iraq and Afghanistan War veterans who protect the white nationalists, some of the shocking things the white supremacists told her in the video, their grievances, and how scary it was making the documentary. (Webmaster's comment: WATCH THE VIDEO!)

8-17-17 Could the 25th Amendment really remove Trump from office?
Could the 25th Amendment really remove Trump from office?
Since the election of Donald Trump and the subsequent descent of our country into increasingly unmanageable political and constitutional chaos, Americans have become acquainted with a previously obscure article in the 25th Amendment to the Constitution that allows a president's own Cabinet to begin the process of removing him from office. Such a backdoor to removing an incapacitated or malevolent president from office never existed before 1967 — the Constitution's architects made it extraordinarily difficult to remove the chief executive through impeachment. Trump has proven in myriad ways — most recently his inability to unequivocally condemn neo-Nazis for their role in deadly violence — that he is unfit for the presidency and incapable of carrying out his constitutional obligations to all citizens. Not only has he committed a litany of arguably impeachable offenses in his first seven months in office, his erratic, aggressive tweets, rambling public appearances and statements, lack of basic focus, and competence and inability to run a functioning executive branch, all call into question his baseline mental capacity. The president has not aides but babysitters and regents who constantly leak to the press that the president is an unhinged, undisciplined, tyrannical mess harboring racial and personal resentments against everyone from African-Americans to Mika Brzezinski. Elected Republicans, to their eternal shame, first reluctantly capitulated to this monster and then, once he was in office, served as his gleeful office assistants as he took a cudgel to America's social and political norms. With his Gallup approval hitting an astonishing low of 34 percent this week and sure to plunge more after his disgusting neo-Nazi fiasco, and with a rising percentage of Americans favoring the president's immediate impeachment, it is long past time to start gaming out scenarios where Trump is removed. We cannot take three-and-a-half more years of this nonstop hell without experiencing a collective nervous breakdown. But congressional Republicans have given no indication that they are even considering impeachment. Could the 25th Amendment really save us?

8-17-17 Trump and Charlottesville: 'Amoral' president stuns world
Trump and Charlottesville: 'Amoral' president stuns world
Former US defence secretary William Cohen and ex-presidential adviser Ron Christie condemned Mr Trump's reaction to a white supremacist rally. President Trump has made no bones about the fact that when he is criticized he lashes back. This is not so much a political strategy as a core part of his personality. "If you do not get even, you are just a schmuck!" he wrote in a 2007 book. But when Trump receives a flood of criticism over something he has done or said, something else can happen. He doesn't just strike back or dig in to his original position. Instead, he moves to take an even more extreme position. When he's being attacked from the left and center (and even by some in his own party), he retreats to the warm embrace of his most avid supporters, showing them that he's their guy and always will be. So it is that the president of the United States is turning himself into a full-blown neo-Confederate. Let's quickly run through the series of events in the wake of the Charlottesville protests that led us to this extraordinary point. Last Saturday, after confrontations between various shades of white supremacist protesters and those who came to oppose them — as well as the murder of one woman and the injuring of dozens of others in a terrorist attack — Trump said that "many sides" were to blame for the violence. When that statement was widely criticized, Trump's aides prevailed upon him to make a more emphatic statement, this one on Monday, specifically calling out neo-Nazis and the KKK. Apparently resentful at being forced to act like a human being with some sense of morality, Trump reacted by holding another press conference on Tuesday, in which he criticized liberal counter-protesters, said that many "very fine people" were among the neo-Nazis in Charlottesville, and tossed out some stock arguments about how if we take down statues of Robert E. Lee and Stonewall Jackson, the next thing you know we'll be tearing down monuments to George Washington and Thomas Jefferson.

8-17-17 Trump defends ‘beautiful’ Civil War statues
Trump defends ‘beautiful’ Civil War statues
US President Donald Trump has denounced the removal of "beautiful" Confederate statues amid a heated national debate about US race relations. "Sad to see the history and culture of our great country being ripped apart with the removal of our beautiful statues and monuments," he tweeted. "You can't change history, but you can learn from it," he continued. Mr Trump drew outrage by defending organisers of a white supremacist rally that left a woman dead and dozens hurt. The rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, supported by neo-Nazis and white supremacists, was in protest of the removal of a statue of Robert E Lee, a general who had fought for the pro-slavery Confederacy during the US Civil War. It turned deadly when a driver ploughed into a crowd of counter protesters, inflicting fatal injuries on Heather Heyer. "Robert E Lee, Stonewall Jackson - who's next, Washington, Jefferson? So foolish!" Mr Trump continued in a series of tweets on Thursday. "The beauty that is being taken out of our cities, towns and parks will be greatly missed and never able to be comparably replaced!" (Webmaster's comment: Those statues are the statues of what were the enemies of Freedom and Liberty for all our non-white population. Why not just put up statues of Nazi generals instead! The neo-Nazis will love it!)

8-16-17 Business councils disband over Trump remarks
Business councils disband over Trump remarks
President Trump has said he is scrapping two business councils after more bosses quit over his handling of violent clashes in Virginia. Business leaders left the White House manufacturing council after the backlash against how he reacted to the far-right rally last weekend. The clashes culminated in a woman's death and nearly 20 wounded when a car ploughed into a crowd of anti-fascists. Mr Trump's reaction has sparked outrage and generated global headlines. His announcement on Twitter came as the heads of 3M, Campbell Soup, Johnson & Johnson and United Technologies announced their resignations on Wednesday. Mr Trump said: "Rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople of the Manufacturing Council & Strategy & Policy Forum, I am ending both." Before Mr Trump's announcement, the Strategy and Policy Forum announced it was a joint decision to disband the council. Businesses have been under pressure to distance themselves from Mr Trump over his handling of the clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia.

8-16-17 Toronto university cancels 'free speech' event after Charlottesville
Toronto university cancels 'free speech' event after Charlottesville
A Canadian university has cancelled an event on the "stifling of free speech", citing safety concerns following the violent protests in Charlottesville. Featuring controversial speaker Faith Goldy, the event was organised by a visiting Ryerson University tutor. But on Wednesday, the school cancelled the 22 August event because it said it could not guarantee public safety. The clashes in the US claimed one woman's life when a car ploughed into a crowd of anti-fascists. A spokesperson said the university was "prioritising safety" over free speech "in light of recent events". "There is often a tension at universities resulting from our commitment to be a place for free speech and our commitment to be a place that is civil, safe, and welcoming. In light of recent events, Ryerson University is prioritising campus safety," said university spokesperson Michael Forbes in an email. Mr Forbes said a part-time instructor had rented a room on campus to host the event, but that after conducting a standard safety review, the university decided that "Ryerson is not equipped to provide the necessary level of public safety for the event to go forward". The event was to feature controversial speakers Faith Goldy, Jordan Peterson and Gad Saad. Faith Goldy is a journalist and political commentator with Canada's right-wing digital news site Rebel Media. In June, Goldy broadcast a YouTube video arguing that immigration policies were contributing to a "white genocide" in Canada. (Webmaster's comment: Shut down all KKK, neo-Nazi and Nazi, White Supremacist, Anti-Jewish, Anti-Muslim, and other hate group events. They are a clear and present danger to everyone's safety and freedom and liberty.)

8-16-17 US woman confronts her neighbour over Nazi flag
US woman confronts her neighbour over Nazi flag
Page Blaswell couldn't believe her eyes when she drove past a home flying a Nazi flag in North Carolina. She decided to confront her neighbour and told the BBC about her experience.

8-16-17 Anatomy of terror: What makes normal people become extremists?
Anatomy of terror: What makes normal people become extremists?
It takes more than religious fanaticism or hatred to make someone take innocent lives, but recognise the true roots of ISIS-inspired terror and they can be addressed. “The United States does not have a real counter-terrorism strategy,” says Martha Crenshaw. Faced with continued waves of jihadist terror attacks, in the conflict zones of Syria and Iraq but also closer to home, the West seems at a loss to know what to do. Crenshaw is something like the doyenne of terrorism studies, with a half-century career studying the roots of terror behind her. She occupies an office at Stanford University just down the hall from Condoleezza Rice, the former US national security advisor who was an architect of the “global war on terror” declared after the attacks of 11 September 2001. “There is a vast amount of money being thrown into the counter-terrorism system and nobody is in charge,” Crenshaw says. “We do not even know what success might look like. We are playing a dangerous game of whack-a-mole: terrorists pop up. We try to beat them down, hoping they will give up.” In July, al-Abadi was back in Mosul, this time to declare the final liberation of Iraq’s second city. Near-saturation bombardment of the centre by the US Air Force and a casualty-heavy, house-by-house offensive led by Iraqi forces had eliminated most of the fighters holding the city where the leader of ISIS, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, had proclaimed its caliphate in 2014. The liberation came at a huge price. Mosul lies in ruins, and tens of thousands of civilians are dead or wounded. Almost one million residents have been displaced from their homes.

8-16-17 Trump's defense of white supremacists is really a defense of himself
Trump's defense of white supremacists is really a defense of himself
Why the president needs to believe "fine people" can ally with neo-Nazis. President Trump self-immolated yesterday while sticking up for those marching alongside the violent racists in Charlottesville, Virginia. Among several jaw-dropping claims, Trump argued that there were many "fine people" marching with the far-right hate groups that converged upon Charlottesville this weekend. "You had many people in that group other than neo-Nazis and white nationalists," he said. "And the press has treated them absolutely unfairly." Trump's defense of these supposed fellow travelers of white supremacy is galling and abysmal. But when viewed through the president's ongoing psychodrama, it makes a good deal of sense. By insisting that it's possible to maintain one's moral innocence while cruising with haters and bigots, Trump is implicitly defending himself. Let's be clear: Trump's unfairly impugned "fine people" are a figment of his imagination. He explicitly pointed to the rally "the night before" where "people protest[ed] very quietly the taking down the statue of Robert E. Lee." That's the torch march where protestors chanted "Jews will not replace us" and Nazi slogans in a show of white power through the streets of Charlottesville, pretextually fighting to preserve a commemoration of the military head of a breakaway slave confederacy. Trump is either excusing some of these marchers as good ol' boys, or else concocting something that wasn't there.

8-16-17 Trump is emboldening racists. This will end disastrously.
Trump is emboldening racists. This will end disastrously.
The Trump presidency will end poorly. It's been evident from long before he officially announced his campaign that Donald Trump was catastrophically unfit for any government service, let alone the most powerful elected office in the country. The first seven months of his administration have been a cascading series of failures, scandals, and disasters, most of them self-made, and there's absolutely no reason to believe things will get better. The man has little intelligence, even less empathy, no capacity for self-improvement, and monstrous beliefs. Every action he pursues is motivated by relentless self-interest and greed. He attracts the worst people to his banner, and the few people who've signed on for senior positions out of a high-minded call to service have been corrupted and humiliated. There is no happy ending to all of this. All we're left to wonder at this point is just how bad it will get before it's over. The remarks Trump made on Tuesday afternoon regarding the weekend's deadly neo-Nazi violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, provided us a pretty clear answer: It will be extremely bad. To recap: On Saturday, a white supremacist and domestic terrorist plowed his car through a group of counter-protesters in Charlottesville, killing one and injuring 19 others. Later that day, Trump delivered brief remarks on the attack in which he denounced the violence on "many sides," thus granting the Nazis and neo-Confederates who rampaged through the city the succor of false equivalence. After sustained outcry from the media and politicians of both parties, Trump appeared on camera again on Monday to denounce white supremacists in a statement that felt forced and perfunctory.

8-16-17 Censor white supremacy
Censor white supremacy
One of the most welcome political developments of my lifetime is the growing suspicion with which attempts to cloak even the most detestable utterances under the mantle of "free speech" is regarded. From the misogynistic obscurantism of #GamerGate (years later I still can't find anyone who can tell me what the "-gate" was) and the painfully unfunny parody of stand-up comedy performed on college campuses by the expatriate employer of ghostwriters known as Milo Yiannopoulos to the latter-day phrenology of the so-called alt-right and the unabashed Holocaust denial of Stormfront, there are expressions that most of us consider on their face unacceptable and undeserving of a platform. The difference is that now increasingly it looks as if people have concluded that it is our duty to make sure they are denied one. Thank God for SJWs! This was not always the case. There is a long history in this country of making grandiose blanket defenses of freedom of speech that extend to bigots, frauds, pornographers, genocidal enthusiasts, propagators of terrorism and sedition, and kooks emotionally invested in nonsense and villainy of every conceivable variety. People who make arguments defending, say, the rights of pseudo-historians to argue that the Nazis did not murder millions of European Jews or the ancient liberty of perverts to create simulations of child pornography call themselves "free speech absolutists." Their position has never been tenable, but it has long enjoyed a mainstream currency in the United States, in classrooms, and in the pages of newspapers and magazines — and even on the bench of the Supreme Court. This is because freedom of speech in the way that is usually discussed in this country is a cartoonish fantasy. There has never been a community in which certain ideas have not been considered open for discussion or debate.

8-16-17 Trump stance on Charlottesville violence angers Republicans
Trump stance on Charlottesville violence angers Republicans
Leading figures in Donald Trump's Republican party have reacted angrily to his latest comments blaming both sides for the violent clashes in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday. They culminated with a person being killed and many injured when a car hit people opposed to a far-right rally. Many echoed House Speaker Paul Ryan who said: "White supremacy is repulsive.. There can be no moral ambiguity." Mr Trump had condemned white supremacist groups on Monday. But on Tuesday he reverted to his initial reaction. The right-wing march had been organised to protest against the proposed removal of a statue of Gen Robert E Lee, who commanded the pro-slavery Confederate forces during the American Civil War. The event drew white supremacy groups. Violence broke out after they were confronted by anti-fascism groups. A BBC correspondent at the scene described how members of the so-called "alt-right" openly carried rifles and were dressed in full tactical gear. Their leftist rivals threw bottles, rocks and paint. Pepper spray was used by both sides. (Webmaster's comment: It's obvious Trump will need the alt-right KKK, neo-Nazis and white male supremacists to be his storm troopers to suppress the civil rights of Americans just like Hitler used his storm troopers in Nazi Germany.)

8-16-17 Philippine drug war sees 'bloodiest night' of deaths
Philippine drug war sees 'bloodiest night' of deaths
Philippine police have killed 32 people in drug raids, thought to be the highest death toll in a single day in the country's war on drugs. The raids took place over 24 hours on Tuesday in Bulacan province, north of the capital Manila. Police said that those killed were suspected drug offenders who were armed and resisted officers. Thousands have been killed since President Rodrigo Duterte launched his controversial war on drugs in 2016. The campaign, aimed at wiping out the drug trade, has attracted intense international criticism over the number of deaths. Mr Duterte has in the past sanctioned extrajudicial killings. Tuesday's operation, which lasted from midnight to midnight, comprised dozens of raids carried out across Bulacan according to local reports. More than 100 people were arrested and officers seized illegal drugs and arms in the raids. (Webmaster's comment: The same thing is coming to America soon authorized by Trump and implimented by Jeff Sessions!)

8-15-17 Nothing about 'blood and soil' is American
Nothing about 'blood and soil' is American
Most of the time, politics in America features passionate debates on public policy from people across the political spectrum who just want to improve their lives and those of others. Slogans from "Yes We Can" to "Make America Great Again" speak to generally patriotic and positive motives, even while providing very little in specifics about the policy agenda attached to them. The slogan voiced this week by neo-Nazis in Charlottesville this weekend, "Blood and Soil," is an entirely different kettle of fish. It describes a racist, determinist point of view entirely antithetical to the American experience, and in complete opposition to the core of American exceptionalism. This phrase originates in Germany in reference to the German people, but it predated the Nazis. It started off as a philosophy of the German peasant as the authentic core of German nationalism, and arose after Otto von Bismarck's 1871 creation of the modern German nation, when the cultural definition of what it meant to be German in an industrializing society became acute. "Blood and soil" advocates insisted that the peasantry held the most pure stock of German ethnicity. Therefore, public policy should protect the bloodlines of Germanic stock by keeping it linked to the land, rather than polluted in the cities. "Blood and soil" directly influenced Hitlerian policies such as the conquest of eastern Europe and Russia for Lebensraum, as well as the grotesque pseudo-Darwinian eugenics programs aimed at producing the "master race," and the horrors Nazis inflicted on the Jews and other peoples.

8-15-17 Why do Confederate statues divide the United States?
Why do Confederate statues divide the United States?
Violent protest began in Charlottesville over plans to remove a statue of a Confederate general. But why is the US divided over the statues? (Webmaster's comment: Hatred runs deep in many white male Americans. They want their slaves back. They want their right to beat and rape black women back. As long as the statues stay up and the Confederate flag still flies they think they can get these rights back!)

8-15-17 Confederate statue pulled down in North Carolina
Confederate statue pulled down in North Carolina
A monument to pro-slavery forces has been destroyed, in the wake of clashes in Charlottesville. The Durham County sheriff said he would seek vandalism charges against those involved. It came as the mayors of Baltimore, Maryland, and Lexington, Kentucky, announced plans to remove Confederate monuments in their cities. (Webmaster's comment: Watch as protestors take down a monument to racism and hate!)

8-15-17 When the police really should use overwhelming force
When the police really should use overwhelming force
Black Lives Matter protests get tanks, but cops in Charlottesville stood aside for armed white supremacists! e nation was transfixed over the weekend by the horrible events in Charlottesville, Virginia. First there was the white supremacist rally on Friday night, where a pack of polo-clad, torch-toting men chanted Nazi slogans and gave the fascist salute; then there was the "Unite the Right" rally on Saturday, which quickly degenerated into brawls between white supremacists and counter-protesters, with cops often standing by mute. The worst was when James Alex Fields Jr., a rally attendee and apparent member of an openly fascist organization, allegedly drove his car into a group of counter-protesters at high speed, killing one, Heather Heyer, and wounding 19 others. (He has been charged with second-degree murder and other crimes.) That wasn't the end of the awfulness — particularly from President Trump, who refused to directly criticize fascism or white supremacist violence until three days later, when he grudgingly noted that "racism is evil" in a short address Monday. A less-noticed but perhaps even more important comment came from Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe (D), who argued that because the right-wing militias that attended the rally seriously outgunned the police, the latter were wise not to attempt to intervene immediately. In doing so, McAuliffe demonstrated how American cops are helping enable this surge in right-wing terrorism. In an interview with The New York Times, McAuliffe said: "They had better equipment than our state police had," adding, "It’s easy to criticize, but I can tell you this, 80 percent of the people here had semiautomatic weapons." (Webmaster's comment: And one person was murdered. With so many armed evil hate groups in a protest the police should have had a dozen armoured cars at least!)

8-15-17 Web firm fights DoJ on Trump protesters
Web firm fights DoJ on Trump protesters
A US service provider is fighting government demands for it to hand over details of millions of activists. The Department of Justice (DoJ) wants all visitors' IP addresses - some 1.3 million - to a website that helped organise a protest on the day of President Trump's inauguration. DreamHost is currently refusing to comply with the request and is due in court later this month. The DoJ has not yet responded to requests for comment from the BBC. It is unclear why it wants the internet protocol addresses of visitors to website, which organised a protest against President Trump on 20 January - the day of his inauguration. "The website was used in the development, planning, advertisement and organisation of a violent riot that occurred in Washington DC on January 20, 2017," it wrote in its motion to the Superior Court of the District of Columbia, which sought to compel DreamHost to hand over the information. It suggested that "a particular customer" was the subject of the warrant, but does not explain why it needed so much information on other visitors. (Webmaster's comment: The Trump administration is preparing for eventual "Enemy of the State" arrests and imprisonment in prison camps and in what will become death camps!)

8-15-17 President Trump and the perils of unchecked executive power
President Trump and the perils of unchecked executive power
How Trump exposes a dangerous problem at the heart of American government.

8-15-17 Charlottesville violence: Trump council sees more CEOs resign
Charlottesville violence: Trump council sees more CEOs resign
Two more chief executives have resigned from Donald Trump's American Manufacturing Council over the president's response to violence in Charlottesville at the weekend. Intel's Brian Krzanich and Under Armour head Kevin Plank have followed Merck's Ken Frazier in leaving the council. Mr Trump was criticised for failing to denounce white supremacist groups that held a rally, which ended in bloodshed. A woman was killed when a car rammed into a crowd protesting over the march. Mr Trump was widely rebuked for his initial response for not specifically denouncing the far right, and instead ascribing blame to "both sides". Bowing to pressure, the president issued a statement on Monday calling the Ku Klux Klan, neo-Nazis and white supremacists "repugnant" to everything Americans held dear. "Racism is evil and those who cause violence in its name are criminals and thugs," he told reporters. (Webmaster's comment: HE DID NOT WANT TO CONDEMN THE KU KLUX KLAN, THE NEO-NAZIS AND WHITE SUPREMACISTS! HE ONLY DID BECAUSE OF "PRESSURE." WHAT KIND OF MONSTER IS THIS PRESIDENT?)

8-15-17 Confederate statue pulled down in North Carolina
Confederate statue pulled down in North Carolina
A monument to pro-slavery forces is destroyed, in the wake of clashes in Charlottesville. No arrests have been reported in connection with the incident in Durham, North Carolina. It came as the mayors of Baltimore, Maryland, and Lexington, Kentucky, announced plans to remove Confederate monuments in their cities. (Webmaster's comment: REMOVE ALL THE MONUMENTS TO SLAVERY IN AMERICA!)

8-15-17 Dutch porn makers let off for church sex film in Tilburg
Dutch porn makers let off for church sex film in Tilburg
Prosecutors have rejected a complaint from a church in the Dutch city of Tilburg after two actors were filmed having sex in the confessional box. The video was posted on a Dutch porn website earlier this year. Dutch authorities said the pornographic film was offensive but there was no longer a law in the Netherlands against blasphemy. The priest at Saint Joseph's Catholic Church, Fr Jan van Noorwegen, said he was unhappy with their decision. Another church official complained that there was something deeply wrong with the legal system. The film appeared on Dutch porn star Kim Holland's website in January. She apologised and said the video had been made by an external producer and would no longer appear on her site, according to local broadcaster Omroep Brabant. Fr Van Noorwegen then held a Sunday Mass seeking forgiveness for the desecration of his church. The church authorities took the case to the public prosecutor, which has now explained its decision not to take the matter further. "We find it offensive and disrespectful, but we had a good look at the legal code and do not really see a criminal offence. Blasphemy is not a crime and there's no question here of anyone trespassing," said a spokesperson. A special Mass took place in January to cleanse Saint Joseph's church.

8-15-17 Swiss hotel's signs for Jews spark row and Israeli complaint
Swiss hotel's signs for Jews spark row and Israeli complaint
The sign in English, at Apartmenthaus Paradies in the mountain resort of Arosa, triggered much criticism. Another sign told Jewish guests to use a refrigerator only at certain times. Israel's deputy foreign minister called it "an anti-Semitic act of the worst and ugliest kind". Reports say the hotel has now removed the signs. A photo of the shower sign was tweeted, after an Orthodox Jewish guest spoke about it on Israel's Channel 2 TV. The Israeli interviewee told the TV: "The staff were really very nice to us. But one morning I came down and saw this sign. I was shocked!" "To our Jewish Guests, women, men and children, please take a shower before you go swimming," it said, adding that "if you break the rules I'm forced to cloes [sic] the swimming pool for you". (Webmaster's comment: Anti-Semitism is as alive and well in Europe as it is in the United States.)

8-14-17 'It's an act of terror, it's a hate crime'
'It's an act of terror, it's a hate crime'
A friend of Heather Heyer who was killed in the Charlottesville car attack has spoken to the BBC. (Webmaster's comment: It was a hate crime! IT WAS WHITE MALE SUPERMACIST TERRORISM! And we need to come down on the KKK, the neo-Nazis, and white supremacists with total suppression of their groups! They have no rights to be EVIL!)

8-14-17 US 1940s anti-Nazi film makes comeback
US 1940s anti-Nazi film makes comeback
A 1940s US government film warning about the dangers of intolerance has made a comeback following a violent neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, at the weekend. (Webmaster's comment: We've been aware of the white supremacist evil for a long time, but we still refuse to do anything about it because of their so-called rights. And again we see the results of that refusal. Innocent people are murdered. DRIVE A STAKE THROUGH THE HEART OF THESE TERRORIST HATE GROUPS! MAKE THEM ILLEGAL!)

8-14-17 Don't praise the GOP for calling out Trump's appalling Charlottesville comments
Don't praise the GOP for calling out Trump's appalling Charlottesville comments
Actions speak louder than words. Depressingly but predictably, a white supremacist "Unite the Right" rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, turned deadly on Saturday. James Alex Fields Jr. is accused of driving a car into a crowd of counter-protesters — apparently intentionally — killing a 32-year-old paralegal and activist named Heather Heyer, and injuring more than a dozen others. Unfortunately, this kind of bubbling bigotry sweeping the country will only get worse before it gets better. While President Trump's weak response to the weekend's events represents its own genuinely unique dangers, we also shouldn't forget about some of the more genteel white supremacy that helped put him in the White House in the first place. Trump's brief and poorly delivered speech following the rally was the latest disaster in a presidency that has been a perpetual blimp crash from the day Trump was inaugurated. Coming off as a cross between a Jim Crow-era Southern governor and a centrist pundit who assumes that both parties are equally responsible for any policy failure, Trump initially refused to call out the white supremacists specifically, and instead gave vague criticisms of the "egregious display of hatred, bigotry, and violence. On many sides. On many sides." Holding everybody and therefore nobody responsible, Trump effectively apologized for the Neo-Nazis who fomented hatred and deadly violence in Charlottesville. This is a president of the United States who is willing to call out specific individuals, often over the most trivial of grudges, yet when a very real enemy of the nation's foundation rears its ugly head, he offers little more than a shrug. This was not an oversight; he refused to call out the white supremacist groups and individuals by name for political and ideological reasons. Indeed, as Simon Maloy put it for The Week, "there's no mystery as to why Trump granted violent white supremacists the protection of false equivalence: Trump's base is angry white voters, and he's unwilling to antagonize a group of political supporters."

8-14-17 Merck chief Ken Frasier resigns from Trump council
Merck chief Ken Frasier resigns from Trump council
The head of drugs giant Merck has said he is resigning from President Trump's American Manufacturing Council following Charlottesville. A woman was killed on Saturday when a car rammed into a crowd protesting against a white supremacist rally. Following the death, Mr Trump was criticised for not specifically denouncing the far right. Ken Frazier tweeted: "I feel a responsibility to take a stand against intolerance and extremism." "America's leaders must honour our fundamental views by clearly rejecting expressions of hatred, bigotry and group supremacy, which run counter to the American ideal that all people are created equal." In response, Mr Trump tweeted that Mr Frazier would now have "more time to lower rip off drug prices". (Webmaster's comment: Shun and Cast Out all Alt-right, KKK and Neo-nazi Groups including President Trump who supports them!)

8-14-17 GoDaddy expels neo-Nazi site over article on Charlottesville victim
GoDaddy expels neo-Nazi site over article on Charlottesville victim
Web hosting company GoDaddy has given a US neo-Nazi site 24 hours to find another provider after it disparaged a woman who died in protests in Virginia. The Daily Stormer published a piece denigrating Heather Heyer, who was killed on Saturday after a car rammed into a crowd protesting at a white supremacist rally in Charlottesville. GoDaddy had faced calls to remove the white supremacist site as a result. The web host said the Daily Stormer had violated its terms of service. "We informed the Daily Stormer that they have 24 hours to move the domain to another provider, as they have violated our terms of service," GoDaddy said in a statement on Twitter. Previously, some web users had called on GoDaddy to remove the site - including women's rights campaigner Amy Siskind. Violence broke out in Charlottesville, Virginia, after white supremacists organised a controversial far-right march called "Unite the Right". (Webmaster's comment: These evil bastards celebrated in her murder. Shun and Cast Out all Alt-right, KKK and Neo-nazi Groups!)

8-14-17 Charlottesville white nationalist marchers face backlash
Charlottesville white nationalist marchers face backlash
Far-right white nationalists who attended rallies this weekend in Charlottesville, Virginia, did not cover their faces as they marched around with lit torches, chanting slogans like "you will not replace us". But they are now facing an online backlash, as Twitter users identify and denounce them. Calls have been made to have them kicked out of universities and sacked from their jobs. Cole White, one of those who attended the rally has now reportedly been fired by his employer - the Top Dog hotdog restaurant chain in Berkeley, California. The sacking came after he was identified by Yes, You're Racist, a Twitter user who has been publicly naming and shaming those who attended the rally under the hashtag #ExposetheAltRight. Meanwhile, Peter Cvjetanovic, a 20-year-old student who was captured in one of the most widely shared photos, has defended his right to attend the "Unite the Right" rally, which centred around opposition to the removal of a statue of Civil War General Robert E Lee. The rally descended into violent street brawls between white supremacists and counter-protesters. (Webmaster's comment: Shun and Cast Out all Alt-right, KKK and Neo-nazi Groups!)

8-14-17 Charlottesville: White House defends Trump response
Charlottesville: White House defends Trump response
The White House has defended President Donald Trump's reaction to deadly violence over a white supremacist rally in Virginia, amid criticism he did not explicitly condemn far-right groups. But a spokesman said his condemnation included white supremacists. A woman was killed on Saturday when a car rammed into a crowd protesting against the rally in Charlottesville. Separately, a rally organiser was chased away by protesters as he tried to give a press conference on Sunday. Jason Kessler, who organised the "Unite the Right" march, was heckled and booed as he blamed the police for not preventing the violence, which he also condemned. Nineteen people were injured in the car-ramming incident, and another 15 people were wounded in separate clashes related to the far-right march on Saturday afternoon. Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Monday said the deadly violence met "the definition of domestic terrorism", adding that the Justice Department was pursuing a case. "You can be sure we will charge and advance the investigation towards the most serious charges that can be brought because this is unequivocally an unacceptable evil attack," he said on ABC News' Good Morning America. He told the television programme that FBI agents from the terrorism and civil rights divisions were also investigating the matter. Protests and vigils in support of Charlottesville were held in many US cities on Sunday. In Seattle, police used pepper spray to stop protesters approaching a pro-Trump rally. (Webmaster's comment: The Thugs in the Alt-right movement are central to Trump's future move to an American Dictatorship. They will form the core of his personal army of Storm Troopers just like Hitler had.)

8-14-17 Australia church abuse: Priests 'must report' confessions
Australia church abuse: Priests 'must report' confessions
Catholic clerics should face criminal charges if they do not report sexual abuse disclosed to them during confession, an Australian inquiry has recommended. It is among 85 proposals to emerge from a landmark inquiry into institutional abuse in the nation. The inquiry had heard harrowing tales of abuse, which were never passed on to the relevant authorities. The Church has indicated it will oppose altering the rules around confession. The Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, which began in 2013, was contacted by thousands of victims from both religious and non-religious organisations. On Monday, it proposed wide-ranging changes to Australia's criminal justice system. The recommendations will now be put to legislators. The report recommended that people in institutions who "know, suspect or should have suspected" a child was being abused should face criminal charges. The issue of mandatory reporting was one of the most discussed aspects of the inquiry. In some cases, abusers had made admissions during Church confession in the knowledge that they would not be relayed to police. "We heard evidence that perpetrators who confessed to sexually abusing children went on to reoffend and seek forgiveness again," the report said. (Webmaster's comment: The idea that you can sexually abuse a child, confess to the church, be forgiven, and then go on and sexually abuse another is a the medieval idea promoted by the church to protect its own sexaul abusers.)

8-14-17 Australia church abuse: Why priests can't spill confession secrets
Australia church abuse: Why priests can't spill confession secrets
Priests who suspect child abuse after hearing confession should report it to the authorities - or face criminal charges. That is one of the conclusions reached by Australia's four-year Royal Commission investigating child sex abuse. The proposal applies to the suspicion of child abuse in an institutional context - for example within an organisation which provides services to children or cares for them, such as a church or a children's home. But the Roman Catholic Church in Australia is opposed to the proposal, despite saying that outside of the confession it is "absolutely committed" to reporting all offences against children to the authorities. Surely priests would have a moral duty - if not a legal one - to report any concerns, in order to protect children? Archbishop Mark Coleridge of Brisbane appeared to recognise that it can be hard for non-Catholics to understand why this is not the case: The answer lies in the special status of confession in the Roman Catholic Church. Officially known as the Sacrament of Penance, it is one of the seven sacraments of the Church. The penitent (person wishing to confess) talks to the priest or bishop, beginning with the words: "Forgive me Father, for I have sinned." Catholics believe that within the confessional the penitent is talking to God, with the priest serving as an intermediary. The priest is able to absolve the person of their sins. But, crucially, everything which takes place within the confession is secret. This is known as the Seal of the Confessional. (Webmaster's comment: This always has been bullshit. Someone who confesses to sexually abusing a child needs to be reported to the police, including all the priests that confess to sexually a child. It's time we got rid of this medieval protection of evil!)


8-19-17 Finland killings: Knifeman 'targeted women in Turku terror attack'
Finland killings: Knifeman 'targeted women in Turku terror attack'
Police in Finland say a knifeman who killed two people in the south-western city of Turku on Friday appeared to choose women as targets. They are treating the attack as a terrorist incident. The suspect, arrested after being shot by police, is an 18-year-old Moroccan. Four other Moroccans have been held. The two women stabbed to death were both Finnish. Eight people were also injured, among them a Briton, a Swede and an Italian. The ages of the casualties ranged from 15 to 67, police said, but gave no more details. PM Juha Sipila told a press conference that Finland had experienced a terror attack for the first time. (Webmaster's comment: Notice that hate crimes are usually against women because they are the physically weaker sex thus of less danger to the attacker. The MEN that do these attacks are the worst of cowards! The world should fast-track trial these EVIL creatures and publicly execute them in the center of town by hanging them with a short rope!)

8-18-17 Indian rape victim, 10, and her baby 'doing fine'
Indian rape victim, 10, and her baby 'doing fine'
A 10-year-old Indian rape victim and the baby girl she gave birth to are doing fine, her doctor told the BBC. Dr Dasari Harish said her surgery was initially scheduled for Monday, but it was moved to Thursday morning after she developed high blood pressure. The girl was denied permission to abort by the Supreme Court last month. Her story made headlines in India. But she is not aware she has given birth. She was told she had a big stone in her stomach which caused the bulge. The girl alleges she was raped by her uncle, who has been arrested. Her pregnancy was discovered in mid-July when she complained of stomach ache and her parents took her to hospital.

8-18-17 ‘We were guinea pigs’: Jailed inmates agreed to birth control
‘We were guinea pigs’: Jailed inmates agreed to birth control
In a small county in rural Tennessee, inmates were offered 30 days off their sentences in exchange for a vasectomy or a long-acting birth control implant. County officials say it was a tool in the fight against opiate abuse - opponents call it eugenics. This spring, Deonna Tollison found herself in Judge Sam Benningfield's courtroom in Sparta, Tennessee - a large, neon-lit room filled with wooden pews for the public. Tollison was accused of violating the conditions of her house arrest, the latest issue in a lifetime of trouble, which at its worst saw her living in her car, addicted to opiates. On the stand, Tollison testified she'd been trying to get her life on the right track - she was off the drugs and raising her two youngest daughters, as well as the daughter of a sister who died in a car wreck. Relapses and run-ins with the law, however, kept stalling her progress, and here she was again, accused of making unsanctioned trips to the grocery store and allowing the batteries on her ankle monitor to die. She faced the possibility of another stay in the local jail. "I'm a single mother of three beautiful girls and a brand new grandson. My mother is disabled. My sister is disabled," Tollison pleaded on the stand. "Each and every one of them depend on me because I'm the only one with a [driver's] license. I love my family very dearly...the last four years I've done everything in my power to get my life back." The hearing did not go well for Tollison. Judge Benningfield ruled that her continued missteps and her lack of employment made her unfit for home arrest. He ordered her to serve out the rest of her sentence in the county jail. Shortly afterward, Benningfield made a surprising announcement to the entire courtroom: a new programme would allow inmates like Tollison to shave time off her sentence - 30 days - if she agreed to sign up for a free long-lasting form of birth control. For the male inmates, Benningfield's new order would offer free vasectomies. Not long after Tollison arrived to the jail, sign-up sheets started going around to have an implant called Nexplanon inserted, which prevents pregnancy for up to four years. Tollison signed up, along with at least 30 other women. Over on the men's side, 38 men signed up for vasectomies. With an average daily population of 221 inmates, that represented a sizeable portion of the jail.

8-17-17 Texas: Video of invasive search shows 'rape by cop', says lawyer
Texas: Video of invasive search shows 'rape by cop', says lawyer
The lawyer for a black woman in the US state of Texas has released a police video which he says shows that she was subjected to an invasive search that amounts to "rape by cop". In 2015, Charnesia Corley, then 20 years old, had her vagina forcibly searched for drugs after being stopped by police, lawyer Samuel Cammack said. Charges against two officers have been dropped. A federal lawsuit is ongoing. The lawyer wants an independent prosecutor to investigate the case. Police officers had accused Ms Corley, then a college student who had been stopped for allegedly driving through a stop sign, of carrying marijuana. The incident happened at night on 20 June 2015 in a Texaco car park in Houston. The dashcam footage - released by Mr Cammack after the charges against two Harris County deputies were dropped earlier this month - shows her handcuffed while two officers look inside the vehicle. She is then searched, but the view of the camera is obstructed by the open rear-passenger door. Ms Corley is put on the ground, with no clothes below the waist, while a female officer shines a flashlight in her pubic area, in an operation that lasts 11 minutes. The footage does not show the alleged penetration. Ms Corley is then allowed to stand and cover her body. (Webmaster's comment: IT'S UNBELIEVABLE WHAT POLICE PIGS CAN GET AWAY WITH!)

8-17-17 Indian rape victim, 10, gives birth by Caesarean section
Indian rape victim, 10, gives birth by Caesarean section
India has a grim record of sexual assaults on children, with more than 10,000 raped in 2015. A 10-year-old rape victim who was denied permission for an abortion by the Indian Supreme Court last month has given birth to a baby girl. The girl is not aware that she has given birth. During her pregnancy she was told her bulge was because she had a big stone in her stomach. The baby weighing 2.5kg (5.5lb) was delivered by Caesarean section in Chandigarh at 09:22 (03:52 GMT). Both the mother and the newborn are doing fine, an official told the BBC. The girl alleges she was raped several times in the past seven months by her uncle, who has been arrested. Her pregnancy was discovered in mid-July when she complained of stomach ache and her parents took her to hospital. A local court in Chandigarh turned down the abortion plea on the grounds that she was too far into her pregnancy after a doctors' panel said that termination of the pregnancy would be "too risky". Later, the Supreme Court also refused to allow an abortion for her on similar grounds. (Webmaster's comment: AT LEAST 7.2 MILLION CHILDREN, BOTH GIRLS AND BOYS, ARE RAPED IN THE UNITED STATES EVERY YEAR, MOSTLY BY FAMILY MEMBERS. UNITED STATES IS THE CHILD RAPE CAPITAL OF THE WORLD!)

Stop Child Sex Abuse

8-17-17 Does the pill actually cause weight gain?
Does the pill actually cause weight gain?
The myth that won't go away. Most women have probably heard the stories: Someone says they put on 10 pounds in three months after starting the pill; someone else says they dropped a dress size not that long after they went off it. Anecdotes about gaining weight while taking birth control are commonplace enough that they largely drown out the underlying science: Many doctors insist there's no correlation between the two. Research hasn't uncovered any meaningful relationship, either. In 2014, an analysis of 49 separate trials, published in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews, concluded that oral contraceptives are not associated with weight gain. Another 2014 study, this one in the Journal of Women's Health, found that use of the pill is not associated with weight gain or changes in fat composition for either normal-weight or obese women. So what gives? As it turns out, the link between the pill and weight gain is more complicated than just saying that one does, or doesn't, cause the other — and it has to do with more than just biology. Here are a few of the main reasons why a not-quite-accurate idea refuses to go away.

  • Because women are retaining fluid.
  • Because they're gaining weight for other reasons.
  • Because they might actually be gaining weight.
  • Because it's grounded in an old truth.

8-15-17 Taylor Swift sexual assault case: Why is it significant?
Taylor Swift sexual assault case: Why is it significant?
US pop singer Taylor Swift has won a civil case against an ex-DJ who she said grabbed her bottom after putting his hand under her skirt during a pre-concert photo opportunity in 2013. The case has grabbed headlines for the star's bold testimony in court, and emphasis that she wanted to fight the case not just for herself but for all women who are victimised. Here are four reasons why it's significant.

  1. It highlighted the underreporting of sexual assault
  2. She refused to back down: Gutsy testimony praised
  3. It's being seen as a bigger victory: Dealing with groping in the office
  4. In this case the celebrity was the alleged victim, not the alleged perpetrator

8-16-17 Italy teenager's harassment account goes viral
Italy teenager's harassment account goes viral
An Italian teenager's account of being sexually harassed has gone viral after she described feeling "lucky for not being raped". Anita Fallani, 18, from the northern town of Scandicci, said she was returning home at night when an unknown man started asking her questions. She ignored him, but he kept following her. Ms Fallani wrote: "I wonder why I don't have the same freedom as a male." Her words have been reported in Italian media and shared thousands of times. Ms Fallani - who is the daughter of the mayor of the Tuscany town - described being targeted by the man while she waited for a tram after a night out with a friend. "You see me and you think you should start bothering me. I've never seen you, I have no idea who you are, but it doesn't stop you. 'Good evening miss, how are you? What's your name? Why don't you answer?'," she wrote, recalling what he said. She said she ignored his questions and, after boarding the tram, put her headphones on, hoping that the man would stop bothering her. But later, when she got off, he followed her. "I feel like crying. I feel lonely and I don't know what to do."

8-15-17 Third woman accuses Roman Polanski of sex attack
Third woman accuses Roman Polanski of sex attack
Another woman has come forward to say she was sexually molested in the 1970s by the film director Roman Polanski. The woman, named only as Robin, told a news conference that the alleged attack happened in 1973 when she was 16. She is the third woman to accuse Polanski of child abuse. He fled the US in 1978 after admitting statutory rape of a 13 year old. His victim, Samantha Geimer, asked a Los Angeles court in June to end the case against him. She said she had forgiven the filmmaker for the assault and wanted closure for herself and her family. Robin, who appeared with her lawyer Gloria Allred in Los Angeles on Tuesday, cannot sue Polanski in a criminal court because the statute of limitation has passed. However, she could testify against him in the case involving Ms Geimer. (Webmaster's comment: And how is it that raping a child is forgiven by law after some time has passed?)

8-15-17 Taylor Swift wins assault case against DJ
Taylor Swift wins assault case against DJ
Pop star Taylor Swift has won a sexual assault case against ex-radio DJ David Mueller, who she said had groped her at a 2013 concert. He assaulted her by grabbing her bottom beneath her skirt during a photo shoot, a jury in Denver, Colorado, found. She was awarded a symbolic $1 (77p) in damages that she had sought. Mr Mueller had originally tried to sue the pop star, saying that her claims had cost him his job. But that lawsuit was thrown out by a judge last week. On Monday, the jury also rejected similar claims Mueller had made against the singer's mother, Andrea Swift, and her radio liaison, Frank Bell. In a statement following the verdict, Ms Swift said: "I acknowledge the privilege that I benefit from in life, in society and in my ability to shoulder the enormous cost of defending myself in a trial like this. "My hope is to help those whose voices should also be heard. Therefore, I will be making donations in the near future to multiple organizations that help sexual assault victims defend themselves." The assault took place during a Denver stopover on the singer's Red tour. (Webmaster's comment: Trump won't like this verdict. He also also bragged about sexaully groping women against their will.)

8-15-17 Deadpool 2 stuntwoman Joi SJ Harris mourned
Deadpool 2 stuntwoman Joi SJ Harris mourned
The stuntwoman who died in a motorcycle accident while filming Deadpool 2 has been identified as Joi SJ Harris. Ms Harris, who was reportedly the first licensed female African American road racer in the US, was killed on Monday morning in Vancouver, Canada. Eyewitnesses said she had lost control of the bike, jumped a kerb and crashed into a building. Deadpool 2 star Ryan Reynolds said he was "heartbroken, shocked and devastated" at her death. Production on the film has been temporarily halted. Local media say Ms Harris had successfully practised the stunt several times before the fatal accident. Ms Harris has previously been described as a pioneer encouraging more women and African Americans to enter professional road racing. Black Girls Ride Magazine said in 2015 that she was "leading the pack in more ways than one".


8-20-17 The winners and losers of Mexico's wind power boom
The winners and losers of Mexico's wind power boom
In La Ventosa - which means windy - residents are renting out their land for wind farms. The village 700km from Mexico City, is part of Mexico's clean energy drive. But not everyone is happy.

8-18-17 Can a crowdsourced mega-forest offset Trump’s climate chaos?
Can a crowdsourced mega-forest offset Trump’s climate chaos?
It's an appealing idea, a vast forest to soak up the extra carbon released due to Trump's policies, but it may not be so easy in reality, says Olive Heffernan. Since taking up residence in the White House in January, President Donald Trump has made good on his promise to put a wrecking ball through environmental protections. Notably, the billionaire businessman has signed an executive order to rescind the Clean Power Plan, a policy that would drastically cut emissions from US coal-burning power plants, and has pulled the US out of the Paris Agreement that aims to keep planetary warming below 2°C. The Trump administration has taken many other small steps – approving the Keystone XL pipeline and rolling back restrictions on vehicle exhaust emissions, for example – that together damage aspirations of the US entering a post-carbon era soon. Even without his interventions, we are on course for the world to be more than 3°C warmer by the end of this century. So it’s hard not to feel despondent at this systematic dismantling of environmental policy. But news this week suggests a more productive response. The BBC, and other outlets, report that a global tree-planting project – aimed at countering the president’s environmental impact – is now gaining momentum, with more than 250,000 trees already pledged. The brainchild of Dan Price, Jeff Willis, and Adrien Taylor – a scientist, a PhD candidate and a sustainable hat maker – “Trump Forest” aims to soak up the extra carbon emissions that would be released as a result of Trump axing the Clean Power Plan. That’s a tall order – fully implemented, the Clean Power Plan would stop 650 million tonnes of carbon dioxide being released over the next 8 years. In practice, the forest won’t be just in one place, but planted piecemeal in many regions, through the efforts of its supporters. (Webmaster's comment: It takes about 2 trees to produce enough oxygen for a person for a year. So I'm planting six for my apartment house. Enough for me and two others. It also takes about two trees to get rid the CO2 I breath out. So I am now "personally" carbon neutral. But my use of energy in America means I am responsible for about 20 tons of CO2 being added to the atmosphere which means I need to plant another 150 trees.)

8-17-17 Radioactive 'pooh sticks' trace carbon's ocean journey
Radioactive 'pooh sticks' trace carbon's ocean journey
Radioactive iodine from nuclear reprocessing plants in the UK and France has been detected deep in the waters near Bermuda. Scientists say the contaminants take a circuitous route travelling via the Arctic Ocean and down past Greenland. Researchers believe the radioactivity levels are extremely low and present no danger. However, scientists can use the iodine to accurately map the currents that transport greenhouse gases. One scientific consequence that arose from the testing of nuclear bombs in the atmosphere in the 1950s was that their radioactive fallout provided a powerful global tracer of water circulation and deep-ocean ventilation. Other sources of radioactive material for scientists to track water movements have been the nuclear reprocessing plants at Sellafield in the UK and at La Hague in France. Contaminants have been legally released from these sites for more than 50 years. One in particular, Iodine-129 (129I), has been very useful for scientists tracing the ocean currents that help pull down greenhouse gases into the waters. "What we have found is that by tracing radioactive iodine released into the seas off the UK and France, we have been able to confirm how the deep ocean currents flow in the North Atlantic," said lead researcher Dr John Smith from the Bedford Institute of Oceanography, in Canada. "This is the first study to show precise and continuous tracking of Atlantic water flowing northward into the Arctic Ocean off Norway, circulating around the arctic basins and returning to the Nordic seas in what we call the 'Arctic loop', and then flowing southward down the continental slope of North America to Bermuda at depths below 3000 metres."

8-16-17 Fighting to breathe in the face of Canada’s wildfire emergency
Fighting to breathe in the face of Canada’s wildfire emergency
IT’S stiflingly hot and I’m trapped inside a dome of smoke. I know I’m in a river valley nestled within mountain ranges, but the visibility is cut so low that I can’t see any of the peaks that dominate landscapes across British Columbia. It’s the worst documented wildfire season since 1958. “We have a very significant fire season unfolding,” says Daniel Perrakis, a fire research scientist at the Canadian Forest Service. Over 591,000 hectares have burned so far. I’ve left my coastal home in Vancouver and travelled to Kamloops to support evacuation efforts. Shifting winds have helped funnel smoke into the city, filling the air with fine material that makes breathing difficult. My eyes sting when I walk outside. The story of how things got like this is a slow-speed disaster of climate change, a beetle invasion and the unintended consequences of well-meaning policy gone wrong. British Columbia is a mountainous province in western Canada. It is more than half covered in forest, with lodgepole pine dominating every ecosystem except the alpine tundra. Over the past century, the forest industry has transformed native woodland into denser, more homogenous stands of trees by suppressing fires and replanting the area with only the most economically valuable species for the timber industry. An unintended recent consequence has been a province-wide outbreak of the native bark beetle that has devastated the region’s forests, particularly between 2006 and 2008. The dense, homogenous stands of lodgepole pine allowed the beetles to spread quickly, while a changing climate reduced the severity and duration of winters that historically kept the beetle population in check.

8-16-17 Weird creatures are spreading polluting plastic through the sea
Weird creatures are spreading polluting plastic through the sea
Plastic particles sink to the seabed after being eaten and excreted by animals called larvaceans, which could be why we see less floating plastic than expected. Small filter-feeding animals in the world’s oceans take in bits of plastic and excrete them in pellets that sink to the ocean floor. The feeding behaviour of these creatures, known as larvaceans, may transport vast amounts of microplastics from the upper layers of the ocean down into the depths. And it could be why surveys are finding far less plastic floating in the oceans than expected. The removal of plastic from surface waters might sound like a good thing, but this isn’t necessarily the case. “It means plastic is a much bigger problem than just at the surface,” says Kakani Katija of the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute in California. “It has the potential to affect the inhabitants at various depths throughout the ocean.” It could also affect us, says her colleague Anela Choy. We eat a lot of animals that live on the seafloor, such as crabs. While terms like the “Great Pacific Garbage Patch” conjure up visions of floating islands of rubbish, most of the plastic in the oceans consists of tiny pieces invisible to the human eye. To find out what happens to the plastic, Katija and Choy studied larvaceans: filter-feeding animals that are distantly related to vertebrates. They focused on giant larvaceans (Bathochordaeus stygius). The bodies of these tadpole-like creatures are just a few centimetres long, but the mucus “houses” they secrete can be a metre across.

8-16-17 Giant larvaceans could be ferrying ocean plastic to the seafloor
Giant larvaceans could be ferrying ocean plastic to the seafloor
Giant larvaceans (Bathochordaeus stygius) appear to eat microplastics when exposed to them in underwater experiments. The sea creatures could play a role in how plastic pollution cycles through ocean ecosystems. Everybody poops, but the poop of bloblike filter feeders called giant larvaceans could be laced with microplastics. Every day, these gelatinous creatures (Bathochordaeus stygius) build giant disposable mucus mansions to round up zooplankton into their stomachs — sometimes sifting through around 80 liters of seawater per hour. Kakani Katija and her colleagues at the Monterey Bay Aquarium Research Institute now suggest that tiny plastic particles also make their way in — and out — of giant larvaceans’ guts. Microplastics pervade the ocean. Their combined mass could reach 250 million metric tons by 2025. Scientists don’t know a lot about where microplastics stick around in open water ecosystems. To see if plastics could end up on the larvacean menu, Katija and colleagues tried feeding the animals brightly colored microplastics. An underwater robot equipped with camera gear helped the researchers monitor plastic intake from above. Some animals did end up scarfing down the particles, and some of those particles ended up in the organism’s waste, which showers down on the seafloor, Katija and colleagues report August 16 in Science Advances.

8-16-17 Scotland's largest solar farm gets green light
Scotland's largest solar farm gets green light
The green light has been given for what will be Scotland's largest solar farm. Moray Council has granted Elgin Energy planning permission for a 20MW project near Urquhart, which could see about 80,000 solar panels installed. The farm will be constructed on the 47-hectare Speyslaw site - the equivalent of about 40 football pitches. The largest Scottish solar farm is currently a 13MW project at Errol Estate in Perthshire, which went live in May last year. Bristol-based Elgin Energy also developed that scheme, which includes 55,000 solar panels capable of generating power for more than 3,500 homes. A date for the start of the project has yet to be set. The project will include a substation, 20 inverter stations and a CCTV camera system. All cabling at the site - spread over three fields at the Innes Estate - will be underground, allowing sheep to graze around the panels. (Webmaster's comment: Putting the ignorant coal miners out of work one solar panel at a time! Maybe they could learn to dig ditches for Trump's infrastructure projects. Or better yet learn how to make wind turbines and solar panels.)

8-15-17 This year may be one of the worst ever for Atlantic hurricanes
This year may be one of the worst ever for Atlantic hurricanes
Between 14 and 19 storms are predicted to sweep across the Atlantic from June to November this year, threatening the US and other countries. Batten down the hatches. The US Atlantic coastline may be facing its worst hurricane season since 2010, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warned last week. Forecasters at NOAA predict there will be between 14 and 19 named storms – those with sustained wind speeds of at least 63 kilometres per hour – between 1 June and 30 November, compared with an average of 12. Six named storms have already struck the region. Likewise, NOAA predicts that two to five major hurricanes – with sustained winds of at least 179 kilometres per hour – will brew this year, compared with an average of three. None have formed so far. “Our update to the initial outlook in May increases the likelihood of an above-normal season to 60 per cent from 45 per cent,” says Susan Buchanan, director of public affairs at NOAA’s National Weather Service. NOAA upgraded its alert because of changing weather conditions since May that make storms and hurricanes more likely. One factor is abnormally warm waters in the tropical Atlantic Ocean, which increase hurricane and cyclone intensity. There are also abnormally weak vertical shear winds; strong shear winds stop hurricanes forming.

8-15-17 There are almost 100 new volcanoes hiding under Antarctic ice
There are almost 100 new volcanoes hiding under Antarctic ice
The 91 newly found volcanoes lurk beneath the vulnerable West Antarctic ice sheet and could accelerate its demise. Almost 100 volcanoes have been newly identified beneath the ice covering West Antarctica. It’s not yet known whether they’re active, but if they are, it could spell added trouble for ice sheets already in retreat because of global warming. “If they erupted, they would create water beneath the ice,” says Robert Bingham at the University of Edinburgh, UK. “That would make the ice above flow faster, so it would have the potential to increase the losses of ice we’re already seeing.” Bingham and his colleagues identified the volcanoes by examining an existing data set called Bedmap2, a collection of ground-penetrating radar scans made from aeroplanes or vehicles above or on the surface. The scans show the profile of the rock some 4 kilometres beneath the ice, and the team identified all conical structures as possible volcanoes. “No one had interrogated the data before for shapes,” says Bingham. Next, the researchers checked to see whether the cones tallied with other data from satellite imagery, such as subtle deformations on the ice surface directly above possible volcanoes, and telltale variations in gravity and magnetic fields. “We found 180 cones, but discounted 50 because they weren’t matched with the other data,” says Bingham. They settled on a final tally of 138 beneath the West Antarctic ice sheet, which includes 47 volcanoes already known because their peaks protrude through the ice – leaving 91 newly discovered. The volcanoes range in height from 100 to 3850 metres, with 29 higher than 1 km.

8-15-17 'Donald Trump forest' climate change project gains momentum
'Donald Trump forest' climate change project gains momentum
A campaign to plant trees to compensate for the impact of President Trump's climate policies has 120,000 pledges. The project was started by campaigners upset at what they call the president's "ignorance" on climate science. Trump Forest allows people either to plant locally or pay for trees in a number of poorer countries. Mr Trump says staying in the climate pact will damage the US economy, cost jobs and give a competitive advantage to countries such as India and China. The organisers say they need to plant an area the size of Kentucky to offset the Trump effect. Based in New Zealand, the project began in March this year and so far has gained pledges from around 450 people based all around the world. In the first month, 15,000 trees were pledged - that's now gone past 120,000. Some people have paid for trees to be planted in forest restoration projects in Madagascar, Haiti, Ethiopia, and Nepal. Others have simply bought and planted a tree themselves and sent a copy of the receipt to the project. The organisers, who are long-term climate campaigners, say they have tapped into a global sense of frustration with the president's climate change policies. (Webmaster's comment: You can plant a young tree for about $100-$150. Older ones for $250-$300. I'll be planting 6 older ones for the apartment house I live in.)


8-19-17 Is freelancing bad for your mental health?
Is freelancing bad for your mental health?
In a 2005 study published in the journal Work and Stress, a team of researchers examined the self-reported health of freelancers using an effort-reward imbalance model (essentially a scientifically verifiable cost-benefit analysis). Developed in 1996 by study co-author Johannes Siegrist, a senior professor at the University of Dusseldorf, the model took both extrinsic and intrinsic factors into account. The former encapsulated external experiences like client demands and compensation, while the latter examined freelancers' commitment to work, characterized by an "inability to withdraw from work, thinking about it day and night," Siegrist says. What the team discovered was alarming. Lead author Michael Ertel, a researcher at Germany's Federal Institute of Occupational Safety and Health, explains that poor subjective health was reported by 37 percent of the German freelancers who participated. The study also "found a more specific pattern of health problems in freelancers: chronic strain and a reduced ability to relax," as a result of long working hours in conjunction with an unpredictable workload, he says. To this day, subsequent studies have only added to their findings. Just this past April, a Swiss study explored the mental health of people working in "non-standard employment" conditions; researchers identified high job insecurity and financial difficulties as the most common stressors, and tied them to "sleep disturbances, depressive symptoms, a high prevalence of antidepressant drug use, and 'presenteeism,'" a term for continuing to work in the face of illness or other factors that warrant a break.

8-18-17 Can’t stop procrastinating? Try cognitive behaviour therapy
Can’t stop procrastinating? Try cognitive behaviour therapy
Do you find yourself doing absolutely any task other than the one at the top of your to-do list? There might now be a way to treat procrastination. Ever find yourself doing just about any other task to avoid doing something more urgent or important? Cognitive behavioural therapy may help. “Everybody procrastinates,” says Alexander Rozental at Stockholm University in Sweden. “It’s an everyday phenomenon. Usually it doesn’t cause more than annoyance and frustration.” But people who regularly procrastinate often say it affects their lives, and can make them feel anxiety, guilt and shame. Putting off going to bed can, unsurprisingly, lead to not getting enough sleep. “And procrastination can affect your health if you put off exercise or going to the doctor,” says Rozental. Because procrastination isn’t recognised as a clinical disorder, there is no established treatment. Rozental and his colleagues have been exploring whether cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) can help. CBT aims to change problematic behaviours and replace them with more useful ones. This has been shown to work for treating some mental health disorders, such as phobias and post-traumatic stress disorder, by teaching people how to control their breathing and deal with anxiety, for example. To develop CBT for procrastination, Rozental’s team focused on behaviours like setting goals, removing distractions and rewarding successes. The team identified procrastinators by asking student volunteers to fill in a questionnaire that assigns people a procrastination score, on a scale of 1 to 60. The average person had a score of 30, so the team tried their CBT only on people with a score of 40 or higher.

8-18-17 Genetic test helps people avoid statins that may cause them pain
Genetic test helps people avoid statins that may cause them pain
Many people who take statins ditch them due to painful side effects. But genetic testing can help choose the right drug, minimising this risk. Should you take statins? The common drugs are a safe and effective way to lower cholesterol and prevent heart disease, but many of those taking them give up due to painful side effects. Furthermore, in some people, this pain may be caused by the nocebo effect, rather than the drug itself. But genetic screening could help reduce side effects and reassure people they are unlikely to feel any pain, encouraging more people to take statins. Deepak Voora of Duke University, North Carolina, and his colleagues have been researching a gene associated with muscle pain in people taking statins. The gene encodes a protein that carries drugs into liver cells. A variant of this gene has been linked to aches in response to statins. To find out if this variant affects what side effects someone experiences from different statins, Voora and his team reanalysed data from a clinical trial that had randomly assigned three types of this drug. They found that people with the gene variant had the highest risk of side effects when they were given a statin called simvastatin, but this risk was much lower when they took pravastatin. The researchers then ran a trial in 159 people to see if genetic screening could help prescribe the most appropriate statin for each person. All the participants had previously stopped taking statins due to muscle pain.

8-17-17 Stem cell technique could reverse a major type of infertility
Stem cell technique could reverse a major type of infertility
Men with extra sex chromosomes can have difficulty producing fertile sperm. Now researchers have got around this in mice by making stem cells from their skin. Turning skin cells into sperm may one day help some infertile men have babies. Research in mice has found a way to make fertile sperm from animals born with too many sex chromosomes. Most men have two sex chromosomes – one X and one Y – but some have three, which makes it difficult to produce fertile sperm. Around 1 in 500 men are born with Klinefelter syndrome, caused by having an extra X chromosome, while roughly 1 in 1000 have Double Y syndrome. James Turner of the Francis Crick Institute in London and his team have found a way to get around the infertility caused by these extra chromosomes. First, they bred mice that each had an extra X or Y chromosome. They then tried to reprogram skin cells from the animals, turning them into induced pluripotent stem cells (iPS), which are capable of forming other types of cell. To their surprise, this was enough to make around a third of the skin cells jettison their extra chromosome. When these cells were then coaxed into forming sperm cells and used to fertilise eggs, 50 to 60 per cent of the resulting pregnancies led to live births. This suggests that a similar technique might enable men with Klinefelter or Double Y-related infertility to conceive. But there is a significant catch.

8-17-17 Culture not biology is behind many differences between the sexes
Culture not biology is behind many differences between the sexes
It is becoming ever clearer that environment and culture may be determining traits we think are down to male or female biology, says neuroscientist Gina Rippon. These are interesting times for those who are curious about evolutionary processes and their role in human characteristics, especially differences between the sexes. So far, there has been a firmly established “biology is destiny” mantra ringing down through the centuries. It has been a central tenet of traditional evolutionary explanations that differences in behavioural traits between men and women have fixed biological foundations (hence their inter-generational stability). Allegedly, these traits “hold fast” in the face of external pressures, only shifting eventually after very long periods of consistent environmental influence. This biological stability was supposedly reflected in the consistency of male/female differences down the ages. This notion of biology as holding fast against prolonged environmental pressure is crumbling; this year there were reports of “big-headed” geckos on artificial islands in Brazil adapting to the change in their environment within 15 years. The relevance of social and cultural context was demonstrated by a recent paper showing that the differences in cognitive abilities between men and women in 26 countries varied as a function of the country’s attitude to gender roles. And now we have a paper discussing how the respective roles of biology and environment as sources of stability and variability might be reversed when it comes to the evolutionary processes that determine sex/gender differences.

8-17-17 Vitamin C helps genes to kill off cells that would cause cancer
Vitamin C helps genes to kill off cells that would cause cancer
Many blood cancers are caused by mutations in the protective TET2 gene, but vitamin C may enhance drug treatments by helping to tell out-of-control cells to stop dividing. Injections of vitamin C could be a way to help fight blood cancer. Experiments in mice suggest that the nutrient helps tell out-of-control cells to stop dividing and die. Some blood cancers, including acute and chronic leukaemia, often involve mutations affecting a gene called TET2. This gene usually helps ensure that a type of stem cell matures properly to make white blood cells, and then eventually dies. But when TET2 mutates, these cells can start dividing uncontrollably, leading to cancer. Mutations in TET2 are involved in around 42,500 cancers in the US a year. Luisa Cimmino and Benjamin Neel at the New York University School of Medicine and their colleagues have genetically engineered mice to have variable TET2 function. They found that a 50 per cent reduction in TET2 activity can be enough to induce cancer, but that TET2 activity needs to remain low if the disease is to continue developing. “If we genetically restore TET2, it blocks unhealthy replication and kills the cells,” says Cimmino. Next, the team turned to vitamin C, because it is known to have an effect in embryonic stem cells, where it can activate TET2 and help keep cell replication in check.

8-17-17 Embryos kill off male tissue to become female
Embryos kill off male tissue to become female
A study in mice identifies a protein crucial to developing as a girl. A normal female mouse embryo has only female reproductive tissue, called the Müllerian duct. Removing a protein called COUP-TFII causes a female mouse embryo to develop both the female duct and male tissue called the Wolffian duct. Add a new ingredient to the sugar, spice and everything nice needed to make girls. A protein called COUP-TFII is necessary to eliminate male reproductive tissue from female mouse embryos, researchers report in the Aug. 18 Science. For decades, females have been considered the “default” sex in mammals. The new research overturns that idea, showing that making female reproductive organs is an active process that involves dismantling a primitive male tissue called the Wolffian duct. In males, the Wolffian duct develops into the parts needed to ejaculate sperm, including the epididymis, vas deferens and seminal vesicles. In females, a similar embryonic tissue called the Müllerian duct develops into the fallopian tubes, uterus and vagina. Both duct tissues are present in early embryos.

8-17-17 How an itch hitches a ride to the brain
How an itch hitches a ride to the brain
Area in the brain stem acts as a relay station between spinal cord and yet-unknown destination for prickly sensations. Scientists reveal how the spinal cord communicates the discomfort of itchy bug bites to the brain. Scientists have traced the sensation of itch to a place you can’t scratch. The discomfort of a mosquito bite or an allergic reaction activates itch-sensitive nerve cells in the spinal cord. Those neurons talk to a structure near the base of the brain called the parabrachial nucleus, researchers report in the Aug. 18 Science. It’s a region that’s known to receive information about other sensations, such as pain and taste. The discovery gets researchers one step closer to finding out where itch signals ultimately end up. “The parabrachial nucleus is just the first relay center for [itch signals] going into the brain,” says study coauthor Yan-Gang Sun, a neuroscientist at the Chinese Academy of Sciences in Shanghai. Understanding the way these signals are processed by the brain could someday provide relief for people with chronic itch, Sun says. While the temporary itchiness of a bug bite is annoying, longer term, “uncontrollable scratching behavior can cause serious skin damage.”

8-17-17 The algae that terraformed Earth
The algae that terraformed Earth
A planetary takeover by ocean-dwelling algae 650 million years ago was the kick that transformed life on Earth. That's what geochemists argue in Nature this week, on the basis of invisibly small traces of biomolecules dug up from beneath the Australian desert. The molecules mark an explosion in the quantity of algae in the oceans. This in turn fuelled a change in the food web that allowed the first microscopic animals to evolve, the authors suggest. "This is one the most profound ecological and evolutionary transitions in Earth's history," lead researcher Jochen Brocks told the BBC's Science in Action programme. The events took place a hundred million years before the so-called Cambrian Explosion, an eruption of complex life recorded in fossils around the world that puzzled Darwin and always hinted at some kind of biological prehistory. Scattered traces of those precursor multi-celled organisms have since been recognised, but the evolutionary driver that led to their rise has been much argued over. Cambridge University palaeontologist Nick Butterfield has said the period "was arguably the most revolutionary in Earth history", and not just because of the rapid biological changes. There were violent swings in climate, too, that experts have long suspected are intertwined. The context was a planet that previously had long had life-sustaining oceans and a benign climate. Yet, for over three billion years - since 3.8 billion years before present according to most estimates - all life was single-celled, mostly bacteria; little evolutionary innovation had happened. Algae, more complex than bacteria but still single-celled, had themselves had been around for over a billion years (the "boring billion" some palaeontologists call it), but without making much of an ecological impact.

8-17-17 Seven ways to tame your wandering mind and achieve better focus
Seven ways to tame your wandering mind and achieve better focus
Trying to focus but keep getting distracted? From mind-wandering to doodling, the simplest ways to stay on track are not what you expect. Mind wandering has long been thought of as the enemy of concentration, but that’s not always true – the right kind of daydreaming can actually help you focus (see “How to daydream your way to better learning and concentration”). Read on to discover how to take control of your wandering mind, and other simple ways to stay sharp when deadlines are looming.

  1. Give your mind more to do
  2. Bribe yourself
  3. Test yourself
  4. Daydream during breaks
  5. De-stress
  6. Get some zeds
  7. Doodle

8-17-17 Why adding a drop of water can make whisky taste even better
Why adding a drop of water can make whisky taste even better
Scotch aficionados know that adding a little water to their dram can bring out the flavours – now we have glimpsed more of the chemistry behind it. The traditional way to savour scotch whisky is to add a dribble of water before sipping. Pub lore says that it makes the flavour pop, and experiments confirmed it and told us why. Now, chemists have duplicated that result without resorting to complicated apparatus, and their findings could tell us how certain types of drugs move through the body. Björn Karlsson and Ran Friedman at Linnaeus University in Sweden used a computer simulation to model how the ethanol molecules in whisky interact with water. To capture the molecular motion precisely, they simulated the mixing using tiny time steps, equivalent to half a trillion frames per second. Then, they added a single molecule called guaiacol, which provides some of scotch’s distinctive smoky and bitter flavour. They found that when liquor is at or above 40 percent alcohol by volume, guaiacol molecules tend to stay in the body of the liquid, away from the surface. But when the researchers diluted the simulated whisky to about 25 percent alcohol, the guaiacol floated to the top and wafted its smoky scent and taste front and center. “We found a result that supports the claims for diluting whisky,” says Karlsson. The researchers now hope to figure out how drugs containing a similar mix of molecules behave inside the body. Some cough medicine, for instance, contains guaiacol, water and glycerol, another alcohol molecule.

8-16-17 Netflix vegan hit What the Health serves up lots of bad science
Netflix vegan hit What the Health serves up lots of bad science
Campaigning vegans will change nothing if they embrace bad science and conspiracy theories when making the health case for their diet, says Anthony Warner. I recently found myself in a room with a spokesperson for a large vegan advocacy organisation and found that we had something surprising in common. We had both experienced online abuse from vegan activists after media appearances. The vitriol aimed at me is perhaps understandable; I have publicly criticised those activists for militantly shaming and judging other people’s food choices, after which they ironically line up to militantly tell me how mistaken I am. The vegan spokesperson receives similar levels of ire, often from the same individuals, keen to inform her that her statements aren’t vegan enough. She laughed this off as a consequence of representing a passionate community, but I could see the upset in her eyes. These attacks can cause real damage, and should never be taken lightly. Food inspires strong beliefs. In our secular age, many modern tribes signal their status through diet rather than religious faith, with restrictions on what we eat a particularly potent identifier. Vegans are a particularly vociferous modern tribe. The passions of many can run hot, and it can make them believe some curious things. The recent Netflix film What the Health is a case in point. A thinly disguised piece of vegan propaganda, it bombards the viewer with a stream of misinformation and bad or outdated science; equating eating one egg with smoking five cigarettes is one example.

8-16-17 Speedy test for Lyme disease could help us treat it in time
Speedy test for Lyme disease could help us treat it in time
Lyme disease needs to be treated quickly, but it can be hard to tell it apart from other conditions. Now a test could help diagnose the infection. A new test can distinguish between Lyme disease and another tick-borne disease with nearly identical symptoms. This could enable doctors to treat the condition much sooner, preventing its debilitating symptoms from setting in. Lyme disease – a bacterial infection transmitted by the blacklegged tick (pictured above) – is a major public health problem in the US, with around 300,000 people contracting it each year. Thanks in part to climate change, the ticks that carry the disease are no longer confined to small pockets of the US but are spreading through Asia and Europe, where people aren’t used to recognising its symptoms. Diagnosis is largely based on the presence of the characteristic “bullseye” skin lesions around the site of a tick bite. However, an identical pattern is caused by a milder disease, southern tick-associated rash illness (STARI). While both are treated using antibiotics, they usually require different types. Both conditions can give you chills, fatigue and joint ache, but if Lyme disease is left to linger it can cause facial paralysis and inflammation of the brain and spinal cord. This makes it critical to determine which infection a person has as soon as possible.

8-16-17 A new tool could one day improve Lyme disease diagnosis
A new tool could one day improve Lyme disease diagnosis
‘Fingerprint’ test distinguishes between two easily confused tick-borne illnesses. It can be difficult to correctly diagnose tick-borne diseases in locales with both the black-legged tick, which spreads Lyme disease, and the lone star tick, which can transmit southern tick associated rash illness or STARI. A new testing method can distinguish between early Lyme disease and a similar tick-borne illness, researchers report. The approach may one day lead to a reliable diagnostic test for Lyme, an illness that can be challenging to identify. Using patient blood serum samples, the test accurately discerned early Lyme disease from the similar southern tick?associated rash illness, or STARI, up to 98 times out of 100. When the comparison also included samples from healthy people, the method accurately identified early Lyme disease up to 85 times out of 100, beating a commonly used Lyme test’s rate of 44 of 100, researchers report online August 16 in Science Translational Medicine. The test relies on clues found in the rise and fall of the abundance of molecules that play a role in the body’s immune response. “From a diagnostic perspective, this may be very helpful, eventually,” says Mark Soloski, an immunologist at Johns Hopkins Medicine who was not involved with the study. “That’s a really big deal,” he says, especially in areas such as the mid-Atlantic where Lyme and STARI overlap.

8-16-17 Banking a baby’s cord blood may save their life. Is it worth it?
Banking a baby’s cord blood may save their life. Is it worth it?
Parents are paying huge sums to save umbilical cord blood for future medical treatments, but they may have to wait decades for the investment to pay off. IT IS only half a cup of blood, but it could change your life. Blood taken from a newborn baby’s umbilical cord is a rich source of uniquely potent stem cells. Parents are often encouraged to donate it to a public bank, so that it might be used to treat others with rare blood disorders. However, there is no guarantee you will get to use your own blood later if you need it. This was not a problem when the disorders it treated were exceptionally rare. But this is changing. Even now, researchers are busy investigating whether cord blood could be used to treat more common disorders including heart disease, diabetes and Alzheimer’s. Hundreds of trials are under way, and some are starting to show positive results. Perhaps unsurprisingly, a growing number of people are choosing to bank their children’s cord blood privately, even before the science is settled. Given that they might not need it for decades, should you hedge your bets and bank your baby’s cord blood? The official line – touted by organisations including the American Congress of Obstetricians and Gynecologists and the American Academy of Pediatrics – is that private banking should be discouraged, or at least not recommended, because it is a waste of time and money. “Frankly, I encourage parents to put the money towards college education,” says Jeffrey Ecker at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston.

8-16-17 I paid $2500 to bank my son’s cord blood, but couldn’t use it
I paid $2500 to bank my son’s cord blood, but couldn’t use it
An anonymous father says after storing the expensive cells, his son developed a condition that the blood could not treat. The number of people banking their newborn baby’s cord blood is on the rise, as parents hope the stem cells within the blood could be used to treat their child should they develop a disease later in life. We’ve looked at the evidence behind cord blood banking, but what is the experience actually like? Alan* and his wife decided to privately store their son’s cord blood when he was born in 2005. “We thought, if we are ever going to need this, we’re really going to need it,” says Alan. “We thought, let’s just go for it.” The couple had heard about cord blood banking, and had seen leaflets from cord blood banks in their local hospital. “At the time, there was a lot of excitement surrounding stem cells,” says Alan. “We’d thought we’d err on the side of the potential for the future.” That potential was worth the one-off fee of £2000 for Alan and his wife. “We had to think carefully about spending that money,” says Alan. “It’s expensive, we didn’t know if we would end up using the cord blood.” Eleven years later, Alan did want to try using the stored blood. The couple’s son developed a heart condition called dilated cardiomyopathy, which leaves the heart unable to function properly. “I had read about the possibility of treating his condition with stem cells,” says Alan. “But a clinical trial of stem cells for his condition had been carried out a few years before, and found that it didn’t work, so the hospital that was treating him had no interest in using his cord blood. He ended up having a heart transplant.”

8-16-17 The science of how we choose our romantic partners
The science of how we choose our romantic partners
Your family has a lot to do with it. The peacock's dazzling tail feathers do not exist for them to carry out everyday activities such as eating or sleeping, but because their colorfulness is attractive to peahens: The more brilliant the feathers, the greater the chance the peacock has of finding a sexual partner. Tail feathers, to peahens, can be powerfully attractive. Scientists have long been interested in unraveling the subconscious processes that influence partner choice, since heritable characteristics that are favored in sexual partners will tend to increase in frequency in subsequent generations. That's why the peacock's tail feathers are so radiant: Over many generations, more beautiful tail feathers have been selected. This means that partner preferences tell us something about the evolutionary pressures that shape a species — including us. So what do we find attractive in each other, and why? Much of our sense of what is attractive comes into focus when viewed through the lens of successful reproduction. Childbearing and childrearing have fed into our idea of what we want in a partner. Health, fecundity, and the willingness and ability to invest in parenting are not exclusively or inevitably desired in a partner, but they are reliably found attractive across different populations, though there are of course some cultural differences. These biological preferences also align with mate choice in other species. It's clear that what we want in a partner has roots that stretch back long before Instagram, makeup counters, marketing campaigns, or corsetry. Safe to say, these preferences have something to do with our basic human nature.

8-16-17 Tiny robots crawl through mouse’s stomach to heal ulcers
Tiny robots crawl through mouse’s stomach to heal ulcers
Bacterial infections in mice have been cleared up by bubble-propelled micromotors that swim through the stomach and release antibiotic payloads - and then dissolve in stomach acid. Tiny robotic drug deliveries could soon be treating diseases inside your body. For the first time, micromotors – autonomous vehicles the width of a human hair – have cured bacterial infections in the stomachs of mice, using bubbles to power the transport of antibiotics. “The movement itself improves the retention of antibiotics on the stomach lining where the bacteria are concentrated,” says Joseph Wang at the University of California San Diego, who led the research with Liangfang Zhang. In mice with bacterial stomach infections, the team used the micromotors to administer a dose of antibiotics daily for five days. At the end of the treatment, they found their approach was more effective than regular doses of medicine. The tiny vehicles consist of a spherical magnesium core coated with several different layers that offer protection, treatment, and the ability to stick to stomach walls. After they are swallowed, the magnesium cores react with gastric acid to produce a stream of hydrogen bubbles that propel the motors around. This process briefly reduces acidity in the stomach. The antibiotic layer of the micromotor is sensitive to the surrounding acidity, and when this is lowered, the antibiotics are released.

8-16-17 Fish eat bits of plastic because they think they smell good
Fish eat bits of plastic because they think they smell good
Hungry fish are gulping down mouthfuls of plastic, perhaps because it smells like their favourite foods. Hundreds of marine species are known to eat plastic – including those that regularly end up on our dinner plates. But why? It now seems that ocean-borne plastic has a smell that marine animals find appealing. Matthew Savoca at the NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center in Monterey, California, explored the dietary preferences of marine life while he was a researcher at the University of California, Davis. He and his colleagues exposed schools of anchovies to seawater that contained odours from plastic. To make this, they left plastic beads in the ocean for three weeks, then stirred the beads into seawater samples before filtering them out – leaving just the associated odour chemicals. In the ocean, plastic quickly becomes covered with a layer of algae that releases smelly sulphur compounds. Foraging fish such as anchovies, which feed on algae-munching marine crustaceans called krill, are thought to use these compounds to help them locate their prey. When analysing videos of the anchovies, the researchers noticed that the fish reacted to the fouled plastic solutions as if they were their crustacean prey. The decision to use solutions that smelled of plastic rather than actual pieces of plastic meant the fish weren’t responding to visual cues; the fish must have smelled the odours. They did not respond to clean plastic. The work builds on Savoca’s earlier research, which suggested that similar sulphurous odours lure tube-nosed seabirds – which are also krill-feeders – into eating plastic.

8-16-17 'Frankenstein dinosaur' mystery solved
'Frankenstein dinosaur' mystery solved
Scientists have solved the puzzle of the so-called "Frankenstein dinosaur", which seems to consist of body parts from unrelated species. A new study suggests that it is in fact the missing link between plant-eating dinosaurs, such as Stegosaurus, and carnivorous dinosaurs, like T. rex. The finding provides fresh insight on the evolution of the group of dinos known as the ornithischians. The study is published in the Royal Society journal Biology Letters. Matthew Baron, a PhD student at Cambridge University, told BBC News that his assessment indicated that the Frankenstein dinosaur was one of the very first ornithischians, a group that included familiar beasts such as the horned Triceratops, and Stegosaurus which sported an array of bony plates along its back. "We had absolutely no idea how the ornithischian body plan started to develop because they look so different to all the other dinosaurs. They have so many unusual features," the Cambridge scientist said. "In the 130 years since the ornithischian group was first recognised, we have never had any concept of how the first ones could have looked until now."

8-15-17 Plants 'hijacked' to make polio vaccine
Plants 'hijacked' to make polio vaccine
Plants have been "hijacked" to make polio vaccine in a breakthrough with the potential to transform vaccine manufacture, say scientists. The team at the John Innes Centre, in Norfolk, says the process is cheap, easy and quick. As well as helping eliminate polio, the scientists believe their approach could help the world react to unexpected threats such as Zika virus or Ebola. Experts said the achievement was both impressive and important. The vaccine is an "authentic mimic" of poliovirus called a virus-like particle. Outwardly it looks almost identical to poliovirus but - like the difference between a mannequin and person - it is empty on the inside. It has all the features needed to train the immune system, but none of the weapons to cause an infection. The scientists hijacked a relative of the tobacco plant's metabolism to turn its leaves into polio-vaccine "factories".

8-15-17 Ancient warriors killed and ate their dogs as rite of passage
Ancient warriors killed and ate their dogs as rite of passage
4000 years ago in Eurasia, young warriors killed large numbers of dogs, ate their flesh, and chopped their skulls into small pieces as part of a bizarre initiation into war bands. The remains of roasted, chopped and defleshed dog skulls in the Eurasian steppe are providing evidence of a bizarre rite of passage for young boys from 4000 years ago – one that might have echoes in the foundation myth of ancient Rome. “The nature of this ritual was that they killed and then consumed very large numbers of dogs and some wolves with them,” says David Anthony at Hartwick College in New York. Anthony and his Hartwick colleague Dorcas Brown analysed the bones of at least 64 different dogs and wolves. The remains came from a Bronze Age site roughly 3900 to 3700 years old, at the ancient village of Krasnosamarskoe in present-day Russia. The researchers found that the dogs’ bodies appear to have been expertly chopped. The skulls alone were cut into about a dozen pieces after being roasted – almost all by the same method. Cut marks on some of the skull fragments show that the flesh may have been stripped from them after roasting, which Anthony says points to them having been eaten. DNA analysis shows most of the dogs were male, which Anthony says suggests a male initiation rite. The killings may not have occurred every year, but the fact that the remains were stratified in the soil suggests the same process was done several times. The dogs were killed mostly during the winter, based on chemical analysis of their teeth, while cattle and sheep bones discovered with them were killed throughout the year. This also hints that the dog killing was not just for meat, but for some sort of ritual purpose.

8-15-17 Even ‘healthy’ overweight people have a higher cardiac risk
Even ‘healthy’ overweight people have a higher cardiac risk
Being overweight or obese is linked to coronary heart disease and heart attacks even when a person has healthy blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol. Even if a person has healthy blood pressure, blood sugar, and cholesterol levels, being overweight or obese is still associated with a higher risk of coronary heart disease. That’s according to an analysis of data from more than half a million people in Europe, of whom more than 7,600 experienced coronary heart disease incidents, including heart attacks. Ioanna Tzoulaki, of Imperial College London, and colleagues compared each person’s body mass index with whether they were metabolically “healthy” or “unhealthy”. People were classed as the latter if they had three or more of a range of metabolic markers, such as high blood pressure, high blood sugar, low levels of “good” cholesterol, or a large waist circumference. Taking a range of factors into account, the team found that, compared to healthy people of a normal weight, those classed as unhealthy had double the risk of coronary heart disease – regardless of whether they were a normal weight, overweight or obese. People who were deemed “healthy” but were overweight were found to be 26 per cent more likely to develop coronary heart disease, and this rose to 28 per cent in those that were obese. The findings add to evidence that it is not possible to be “fat but fit”.

8-14-17 Choosing alternative cancer treatment doubles your risk of death
Choosing alternative cancer treatment doubles your risk of death
People who choose alternative cancer medicines tend to be wealthier and have higher levels of education, but are more than twice as likely to die in five years. People who choose alternative medicine over conventional treatment for their cancer are more likely to die from the disease. That’s what Skyler Johnson and his colleagues at Yale School of Medicine in Connecticut found when they looked at treatment and survival records from the US National Cancer Database. The team identified 281 people with breast, prostate, lung and colorectal cancer who had opted for unproven treatments, shunning conventional approaches such as chemotherapy, radiotherapy and surgery. Johnson doesn’t know what alternative treatments these people took, but has seen many of his own patients opt for a wide range of therapies. “They could be herbs, botanicals, homeopathy, special diets or energy crystals, which are basically just stones that people believe have healing powers,” he says. The team then compared the health outcomes of these people with 560 others who were similar to them in terms of age, race and disease, but instead underwent conventional treatment. They found that people who took alternative medicine were two and half times more likely to die within five years of diagnosis. This is a low estimate, says Johnson, skewed by the fact that prostate cancer, for example, takes longer than that to develop into a life-threatening disease. Among those with breast cancer, people taking alternative remedies were 5.68 times more likely to die within five years. While 41 per cent of those receiving conventional treatment for lung cancer survived for at least five years, only 20 per cent of those who opted out of such treatment did. And only 33 per cent of people using alternative medicine for colorectal cancer survived the next five years, compared to 79 per cent of those on conventional treatments.

8-14-17 Childhood exercise may protect against memory loss in old age
Childhood exercise may protect against memory loss in old age
Rats that run during their youth are better able to remember new things when they are older - a finding that suggests exercise may help prevent dementia. Can exercise during childhood protect you against memory loss many decades later? Exercise early in life seems to have lifelong benefits for the brain, in rats at least. “This is an animal study, but it indicates that physical activity at a young age is very important – not just for development, but for the whole lifelong trajectory of cognitive development during ageing,” says Martin Wojtowicz of the University of Toronto, Canada. “In humans, it may compensate for and delay the appearance of Alzheimer’s symptoms, possibly to the point of preventing them.” Wojtowicz’s team spilt 80 young male rats into two equal groups, and placed running wheels in the cages of one group for a period of six weeks. Around four months later – when the rats had reached middle age – the team taught all the rats to associate an electric shock with being in a specific box. When placed in the box, they froze with fear. Two weeks later, the team tested the rats in three scenarios: exactly the same box in the same room, the same box with the room arranged and lit differently, and a completely different box in a different room. The rats without access to a running wheel when they were young now froze the same proportion of times in each of these situations, suggesting they couldn’t remember which one was hazardous. But those that had been able to run in their youth froze 40 to 50 per cent less in both altered box settings.

8-14-17 Activated charcoal drug can protect microbiome from antibiotics
Activated charcoal drug can protect microbiome from antibiotics
A special formulation of activated charcoal can soak up excess antibiotics, protecting beneficial gut bacteria and potentially preventing diarrhoea. Antibiotics can save your life, but they can also mess up your microbiome. A special formulation of activated charcoal could help, protecting your body from the side effects of antibiotics, and perhaps even aiding the fight against antibiotic resistance. The side effects of a course of antibiotics – such as stomach pains and diarrhoea – are familiar to many. But by messing with the balance of microorganisms in a person’s body, they may also cause longer term changes, potentially leading to obesity, allergies and eczema. And by killing too many of the good bacteria in your gut, they can make way for harmful and even drug-resistant bacteria, such as C. difficile, which is responsible for around 30,000 deaths a year in the US. Jean de Gunzberg and his colleagues at Da Volterra, a biotech company based in Paris, think they have found a solution. Activated charcoal – a super-absorbent material – is routinely used to soak up excess drugs in the guts of people who have overdosed, and they have evidence that a modified version could do this for antibiotics.

8-14-17 Smart cameras spot when hospital staff don’t wash their hands
Smart cameras spot when hospital staff don’t wash their hands
One in 20 people admitted to hospital pick up an infection while they’re there, but cameras tracking people’s movements could spot who’s spreading diseases. If you end up in a hospital in Europe, you have a one in 20 chance of acquiring an infection while there. One of the leading causes is a lack of hand hygiene. Even though hospitals are filled with alcohol-based gel dispensers and advisory posters, they’re not working. The conclusion of a recent pilot study may just have found the solution. Using a combination of depth cameras and computer-vision algorithms, a research team has tracked people around two hospital wards and automatically identified when they used gel dispensers. The trial was so successful that the group is now going to fully kit out three hospitals for a whole year, to see if it puts a dent in the stubborn acquired infections statistics. “We’re trying to shed light on the dark spaces of healthcare. Understanding the problem is just the first step,” says Alexandre Alahi at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (EPFL) in Lausanne. In the initial study, during a busy Friday lunch time they collected images from cameras installed overlooking corridors, patient rooms and alcohol-based gel dispensers, among other places. Of the 170 people they recorded entering a patient’s room, only 30 people correctly used the gel dispensers. The team then used 80 per cent of the images to train their algorithms to detect healthcare staff, track them as they move from one spot to another across different cameras, and monitor their hand hygiene behaviour. Once trained up, they then tested the system on the remaining 20 per cent, and achieved an accuracy of 75 per cent in telling whether people had used the dispensers.

8-14-17 Polluted water: It’s where sea snakes wear black
Polluted water: It’s where sea snakes wear black
A reptile may be an evolutionary counterpart to dark moths in sooty areas. This dark form of a turtle-headed sea snake is shedding its skin, and maybe some toxic trace metals along with it. Maybe it’s more than reptile fashion. The high percentage of citified sea snakes wearing black might be a sign that pollution is an evolutionary force. Off the coasts of Australia and New Caledonia, some turtle-headed sea snakes (Emydocephalus annulatus) sport pale bands on their dark skins. Others go all black. In 15 places surveyed, the all-black form was more likely to predominate in waters near cities, military sites or industrial zones than along reefs near less built-up coastlines, says evolutionary ecologist Rick Shine of the University of Sydney. That trend plus some analysis of trace elements in snakes’ skin suggests that the abundant dark forms could turn out to be an example of industrial melanism, Shine and his colleagues propose August 10 in Current Biology.


8-19-17 Meet the turtles surviving an invasion of enormous tractors
Meet the turtles surviving an invasion of enormous tractors
The eastern painted turtles must now live among enormous, noisy machinery – and studying them is offering clues to how animals survive alongside heavy industry. Crouching in the woods, amid a tangle of fallen trees and brush, greenbrier, probably poison ivy and who knows what else, I am acutely aware of two things: sweat is actually a state of being, and cicadas are insanely loud. Suddenly, a new sound grabs my attention, and beside me, Aaron Krochmal holds up a hand like a ranger on recon. From the receiver slung around his neck, a rhythmic beeping signals that a radio transmitter is being picked up. Initially, it can be heard crackling with static, but it grows steadily clearer. There’s a turtle on the move. Not a giant Galapagos tortoise. Not even a monster snapping turtle that, around here in the woods of Maryland’s eastern shore, has been known to reach manhole-cover size. No, what emerges, slogging stoically through the bracken and vine, is an eastern painted turtle, maybe 12 centimetres long, the bright yellow slashes down its neck and red-edged carapace a moving artwork. This particular animal has trudged this same path, forded the same creeks, clambered through these vines and over these fallen trees, every year for at least a decade or so, unwavering. “How do they know? How do they learn how?” I whisper to Krochmal, a biologist at Washington College in Chestertown, Maryland. Since 2009, he and his colleague Timothy Roth at Franklin & Marshall College in Lancaster, Pennsylvania – along with dozens of summer research undergraduates at Washington College – have studied the navigation and spatial learning capabilities of these humble reptiles. He’s about to answer when we, the transmitter, and even the cicadas are drowned out by the roar of a massive tractor rumbling to life, preparing to work the soybean field just beyond our little slice of wilderness.

8-18-17 Grown-up chimps are less likely to help distressed friends
Grown-up chimps are less likely to help distressed friends
Chimpanzees of all ages will comfort upset companions, but adult chimps do it less – perhaps because they are more selective about who they help. There, there! Adult chimpanzees are less likely than younger ones to console their companions in times of distress. The finding raises questions about how the capacity for empathy changes with age in our closest relatives – and us. When a chimpanzee gets upset, perhaps after losing a fight, companions will often sit with them and provide reassurance by kissing, grooming or embracing them. The same is true of young children. By age 2, children typically respond to a family member crying by consoling them in a similar way. We know chimpanzees have personalities: individual differences in their behaviour that are consistent over time. But it was unclear whether their empathetic tendencies are part of their personality, and whether they change over time. Christine Webb at Emory University in Atlanta, Georgia, and her colleagues wanted to find out. The team studied eight years of observations of a group of 44 chimpanzees at Yerkes National Primate Research Center, also in Georgia. They found that individual differences were consistent over their lifespan: chimps who consoled more in their youth, relative to their peers, also consoled more than their peers later in life. This is the first evidence that chimps have “empathetic personalities”, says Webb. But they also found that juvenile chimpanzees console others more than adults, and infants console most of all age groups.

8-17-17 Monkeys can be tricked into thinking all objects are familiar
Monkeys can be tricked into thinking all objects are familiar
There is a cluster of neurons in monkeys’ brains that decides whether or not they have seen objects before, and stimulating it makes them see everything as familiar. Seen it, seen it, seen it, seen it, seen it. Most of us instinctively know whether objects are familiar or unfamiliar. Now we may know how we know. It turns out monkeys have a cluster of neurons in their brains that decides whether or not they have seen objects before. The primary visual area, at the back of the brain, does most of the early work in perceiving an object, especially its physical attributes, such as what direction it is moving. However, the temporal lobes – the bits just above our ears – are also heavily involved. In particular, a region of the temporal lobe called the perirhinal cortex has been linked with object recognition, memory and even helping primates recognise familiar faces. But researchers weren’t sure what aspects of an object were encoded by each visual area. To investigate, Yasushi Miyashita at the University of Tokyo, Japan, and his colleagues trained macaques to indicate whether an object was familiar. The monkeys saw some objects once a month, or once every 12,000 trials, and so categorised them as “new”. Meanwhile, other objects were shown in every trial, and so categorised as “old”. Then the team began stimulating different parts of the perirhinal cortex during the recognition tests. They used optogenetics: modifying neurons so they fire when exposed to light. When they stimulated the entire perirhinal cortex with light, the monkeys categorised all objects as old – regardless of whether they really were. This suggests that perirhinal neurons produce a “familiar” signal when they fire.

8-17-17 Freeze-dried dung gives clue to Asian elephant stress
Freeze-dried dung gives clue to Asian elephant stress
"Collecting fresh faecal samples is not as easy as it may sound," says researcher Sanjeeta Sharma Pokharel. But her efforts have helped scientists in India devise a unique, non-invasive way to monitor the physiological health of wild elephants. The key has been freeze-drying dung in the field to preserve the elephant's hormones. As a result, scientists found stress levels in females were more conspicuous than in male elephants. Over five years, Sanjeeta and her colleagues collected more than 300 samples from 261 elephants in the biodiversity-rich Western Ghats area. She explained her technique: "I used to hide and observe till the elephant defecated and moved away." She told the BBC: "These samples mean a lot to me." The aim of the research was to evaluate the influence of the elephants' body condition on glucocorticoid metabolites. Animals such as elephants are subjected to various stressors in their lives, with factors including threats from predators, food shortages, drought and illness. Whenever any animal faces stressful events, their body secretes hormones known as glucocorticoids. These hormones are released into the circulatory system which eventually breaks them down into metabolites that are excreted through urine or faeces. The researchers say that collecting blood samples to assess stress levels is neither ethical nor feasible, since immobilising the animals will cause additional stress, thus biasing the study. "So glucocorticoid was measured using faecal or dung samples," said Sanjeeta.

8-17-17 A licence to kill bear cubs?
A licence to kill bear cubs?
Hunters in Alaska can now shoot and bait bear cubs and hibernating bears on national wildlife refuges after President Trump abolished protections put in place by Barack Obama. In this video, reporter Claire Marshall joins hunter and conservationist Christine Cunningham on a bear hunt in the mountains to explore the ethical dilemmas of hunting.

8-16-17 Chimps can play rock-paper-scissors
Chimps can play rock-paper-scissors
Japanese researchers have taught chimps the rules of rock-paper-scissors.

8-16-17 Fish eat bits of plastic because they think they smell good
Fish eat bits of plastic because they think they smell good
Hungry fish are gulping down mouthfuls of plastic, perhaps because it smells like their favourite foods. Hundreds of marine species are known to eat plastic – including those that regularly end up on our dinner plates. But why? It now seems that ocean-borne plastic has a smell that marine animals find appealing. Matthew Savoca at the NOAA Southwest Fisheries Science Center in Monterey, California, explored the dietary preferences of marine life while he was a researcher at the University of California, Davis. He and his colleagues exposed schools of anchovies to seawater that contained odours from plastic. To make this, they left plastic beads in the ocean for three weeks, then stirred the beads into seawater samples before filtering them out – leaving just the associated odour chemicals. In the ocean, plastic quickly becomes covered with a layer of algae that releases smelly sulphur compounds. Foraging fish such as anchovies, which feed on algae-munching marine crustaceans called krill, are thought to use these compounds to help them locate their prey. When analysing videos of the anchovies, the researchers noticed that the fish reacted to the fouled plastic solutions as if they were their crustacean prey. The decision to use solutions that smelled of plastic rather than actual pieces of plastic meant the fish weren’t responding to visual cues; the fish must have smelled the odours. They did not respond to clean plastic. The work builds on Savoca’s earlier research, which suggested that similar sulphurous odours lure tube-nosed seabirds – which are also krill-feeders – into eating plastic.

8-15-17 These spiders crossed an ocean to get to Australia
These spiders crossed an ocean to get to Australia
The ancestors of the trapdoor spider Moggridgea rainbowi may have survived an ocean journey from Africa to Australia, a new study concludes. If you look at a map of the world, it’s easy to think that the vast oceans would be effective barriers to the movement of land animals. And while an elephant can’t swim across the Pacific, it turns out that plenty of plants and animals — and even people — have unintentionally floated across oceans from one continent to another. Now comes evidence that tiny, sedentary trapdoor spiders made such a journey millions of years ago, taking them from Africa all the way across the Indian Ocean to Australia. Moggridgea rainbowi spiders from Kangaroo Island, off the south coast of Australia, are known as trapdoor spiders because they build a silk-lined burrow in the ground with a secure-fitting lid, notes Sophie Harrison of the University of Adelaide in Australia. The burrow and trapdoor provides the spiders with shelter and protection as well as a means for capturing prey. And it means that the spiders don’t really need to travel farther than a few meters over the course of a lifetime. There was evidence, though, that the ancestors of these Australian spiders might have traveled millions of meters to get to Australia — from Africa. That isn’t as odd as it might seem, since Australia used to be connected to other continents long ago in the supercontinent Gondwana. And humans have been known to transport species all over the planet. But there’s a third option, too: The spiders might have floated their way across an ocean.

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