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 on: Nov 21, 2014, 07:08 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad

Muzzled bear hired by Russian footballer for son's birthday party

FC Torpedo Moscow’s Kirill Kombarov has come under fire on social media after he posted pictures of a muzzled bear wearing a tie at his two-year-old son’s birthday party

Elena Cresci, Friday 21 November 2014 12.34 GMT      

A Russian footballer has been criticised for hiring a bear to perform at his son’s second birthday party earlier this week.

Midfielder Kirill Kombarov, who plays for FC Torpedo Moscow, came under fire after he posted images of the muzzled bear, also wearing a tie, on his social media profiles. One image, now deleted from his Instagram profile, showed his two-year-old son sitting on the back of the bear while the rest of his family pose behind.

According to MailOnline, the bear was hired from the Stepan Nikulin circus and has appeared in several films. The circus confirmed the bear is available to hire for private parties.

The 27-year-old footballer deleted the picture from his Instagram account after receiving heavy criticism.

    Can someone please rescue this bear from such a horrid life. Shame on you Kirill Kombarov you disgust me.
    — Allison Keenan (@alik8) November 20, 2014

    Russian footballer Kombarov throws a birthday party for his son and lets him ride a real bear. Kid you not.
    — Yan M. (@ymatusik) November 16, 2014

Kombarov has not responded to the criticism as of yet.

 on: Nov 21, 2014, 06:58 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Spain Wakes Up to 'Homegrown' Extremist Threat

by Naharnet Newsdesk
21 November 2014, 08:58

Spain is fighting a new wave of "homegrown" Islamic extremism, raiding cells and hunting radicals on the internet as scores of Spaniards join Islamist fighters in Syria and Iraq.

Ten years after al-Qaida-inspired bombings on Madrid commuter trains killed 191 people in March 2004, Spanish authorities are tackling a new wave of extremists.

"We are seeing the hatching of homegrown jihadism," said Fernando Reinares, one of Spain's top terrorism experts, at a gathering of specialists in Madrid this week.

"This is not new in Britain and France, but it is new in Spain and Italy."

Reinares estimates that about 60 jihadists have travelled from Spain to join extremists in Syria and Iraq in the past three years.

Spain's ambassador in Iraq, Jose Maria Ferre de la Pena, this week said about 100 Spaniards had joined "jihadist militias" in conflict zones.

That is fewer than the hundreds from Britain, France and Germany who are thought to have gone to Syria to join the violent group calling itself Islamic State (IS).

But the relatively sudden emergence of the phenomenon has shocked Spanish authorities, who have arrested dozens of suspects accused of planning to join IS.

The group controls large swathes of Iraq and Syria and has killed several western hostages.

The latest video it has released showed jihadists beheading 18 Syrian prisoners and a U.S. aid worker, Peter Kassig. Two Frenchmen were identified among the IS members.

That video "must make us more alert than ever, because the globalisation of this group is an undeniable threat", Spain's junior security minister Francisco Martinez said this week.


- Girl, 14, jihadist suspect -

Among the suspects arrested in Spain is a 14-year-old Spanish girl who was detained in August as she tried to enter Morocco allegedly en route to join IS, judicial sources said.

Spanish authorities have also identified hundreds of online profiles of radicals who support the group and who mentioned Spain in their messages, said Martinez.

In the latest case, the government said police on Wednesday arrested a Moroccan in Spain's southeastern Murcia region accused of "notable jihadist activity on the internet" and of trying to travel to Syria to join a "terrorist group" there.

Martinez said a wave of arrests of online suspects over the summer had prompted the government in September to intensify its level of vigilance for attacks.

Spain's military is currently helping train Iraq soldiers to fight IS, making the country a potential target for revenge attacks by extremists, the government warns.


- Border trouble -

A study by the Royal Elcano international studies institute found that the proportion of Spanish-born suspects among those detained in Spain for suspected jihadist crimes rose "exponentially" last year.

Seventy percent of such suspects arrested since 2013 were Spanish nationals, and of those nine out of 10 were born in Spain, said Reinares, co-author of the report.

He said "the vast majority" of suspected jihadists arrested in Spain in recent years were from Ceuta and Melilla, Spanish territories on the northern shore of Morocco.

In these small fenced-off cities, Spanish police guard Europe's only borders with Africa. Security officials have voiced concern about the presence of extremist cells in neighbouring Morocco.

Jose Antonio Vazquez, a chief inspector in the Spanish national police, warned that "jihadists could move relatively easily between north Africa and our country" via Ceuta and Melilla.

"It is an unusual national border compared to the rest of the European Union," with lots of people from Morocco crossing back and forth each day to trade in the Spanish territories, he told Agence France Presse.


- 'Lone wolf' fighters -

Compared to some of its European neighbours who have suffered attacks, Spain has been "late" in adapting its laws to prosecute the latest terrorist cells, Reinares said.

In 2010 Spain broadened its anti-terrorism legislation to cover what were seen as new extremist threats such as recruitment and indoctrination.

Martinez said it is now planning a new penal reform and a new anti-radicalisation strategy to crack down on "passive training and indoctrination" which spawns "lone wolf" jihadists, particularly online.

Martinez also warned of so-called "foreign fighters" -- radicals who travel to conflict zones from other countries to train with violent groups and who authorities fear may then head to Europe.

"Spain is not so worried about the 60 or 70 fighters that have travelled from Spain to conflict zones," said Francisco Jose Vazquez, head of the international terrorism unit in Spain's military police, the Guardia Civil.

"We are more worried about the four or five thousand foreign fighters who instead of going back to their home countries, could end up in Spain."

Source: Agence France Presse

 on: Nov 21, 2014, 06:57 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
Britain's Anti-EU Party Take Second Seat in Blow for Cameron

by Naharnet Newsdesk
21 November 2014, 09:31

Britain's anti-European Union UK Independence Party (UKIP) won its second seat in parliament on Friday, in a by-election that could signal major upheaval in a general election in six months' time.

Mark Reckless was re-elected with 42 percent of the vote in Rochester and Strood in southeast England, after defecting in September from Prime Minister David Cameron's Conservative Party to UKIP, which wants strict quotas on immigration.

Furious campaigning by the Conservatives failed to stem the UKIP advance and their candidate lagged behind on 35 percent, a blow to Cameron, who had vowed to "throw everything" at Thursday's by-election battle and visited the constituency himself five times to campaign.

Reacting to the defeat, the prime minister vowed he was "absolutely determined to win" the seat back in next year's national vote, but UKIP leader Nigel Farage insisted he was "absolutely confident" the seat would remain within his camp.

In his acceptance speech, Reckless made an appeal to all voters to make UKIP the kingmaker at the general election in May 2015 in the increasingly likely outcome of a hung parliament.

"Whatever constituency you live in, whatever your former party allegiance, think about what it would mean to have a bloc of UKIP MPs at Westminster large enough to hold the balance of power," Reckless said.

"If you believe that the world is bigger than Europe, if you believe in an independent Britain, then come with us and we will give you back your country."

Farage hailed a "huge, huge victory".

"They (the Conservatives) threw the kitchen sink at it, but despite their boasts, we have beaten the ruling party of the day in this life and death struggle," he told Sky News.

It is the second seat snatched by UKIP after another Conservative defector, Douglas Carswell, won UKIP its first elected seat in the national parliament in a September by-election in Clacton.

Speculation over further defections to UKIP swirled after Reckless suggested two more Conservative lawmakers could switch -- an idea quickly dismissed by senior Conservative politicians.

Cameron has already promised a referendum on Britain's EU membership if his party wins next year's general election and has taken a harder stance on immigration in a bid to reassure wavering voters.

Experts said the latest vote result could prove a key moment in the history of British politics, proving UKIP can attract a broad range types of voters.

"UKIP was not supposed to win this by-election," said Matthew Goodwin, politics professor at Nottingham University.

The growing support for UKIP is likely to make it harder for either the center-right Conservative Party or the center-left Labor Party to win an outright majority in what is set to be closely-fought elections in May.

"All bets are off for the general election next year, literally anything could happen," said Farage.

But some commentators questioned whether Thursday's by-election might be a protest vote that could wane as the general election approaches.

"I think what you're broadly seeing is the voters using by-elections as a means of expressing their discontent at all the mainstream parties," said political commentator and columnist for the Daily Telegraph Dan Hodges.

"It's also important to remember that UKIP haven't in fact won a by-election: they've, if you like, appropriated seats via MPs who have crossed the floor from the Tories."

National opinion polls show Labor slightly ahead of the Conservatives, each with roughly a third of the vote, and UKIP's support steadily rising to about 16 percent.

The by-election results showed the traditional parties losing large chunks of support to insurgent parties on the left and right, mirroring trends across Europe and leaving pollsters puzzled about the possible make-up of the next parliament, and who will form the government.

"I've never been as uncertain this close to a general election how these things are going to play out," said Peter Kellner, president of pollster YouGov.

Reflecting anger at all main parties, seen as out of touch by many voters, the by-election also caused unexpected embarrassment for the Labor Party, which is struggling to convince working-class voters that it still has their interests at heart.

Senior Labor lawmaker Emily Thornberry was forced to resign from the shadow cabinet after posting a Tweet seen as condescending towards blue collar voters, showing a house festooned with English flags and the caption "Image from #Rochester".

Source: Agence France Presse

 on: Nov 21, 2014, 06:56 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad
'Jihad' at French Summer Camp: Leaders Mimic Executions

by Naharnet Newsdesk
21 November 2014, 13:37

Four group leaders at a French summer camp are under investigation after a series of photos were discovered of them mimicking hostage executions and acts of torture, local authorities said Friday.

A man on his knees, a knife to his throat, surrounded by "jailers" in balaclavas, is pictured in one of about 20 images uncovered by the municipality of Colombes, just outside Paris, which organized the camp.

"We filed a complaint on Thursday. They have also been suspended from their jobs and disciplinary action is under way," said Colombes mayor Nicole Goueta.

The photos were taken during the camp in August on an island in Brittany in northwest France.

The municipality was putting together an exhibition of images from summer camps when they stumbled upon the pictures on a USB key.

It is unclear whether any of the 45 children at the camp, aged between eight and 12, were involved in the staged scenes.

One of the pictures showed a child sitting in a corner looking scared but it was unclear whether "he was witnessing a horrific scene or if he was being punished," said Goueta.

"It is now up to the judicial system to find out if these men are susceptible to radical Islam."

The revelation of the photos comes as France grapples with homegrown jihadism, with several nationals seen in videos released by the Islamic State insurgent group in Iraq and Syria.

Source: Agence France Presse

 on: Nov 21, 2014, 06:55 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad

Ukraine Shelled from Russian Territory

by Naharnet Newsdesk
21 November 2014, 14:17

Ukraine's military on Friday accused Russia of shelling its territory for the first time since the signing of a nominal ceasefire in early September.

"Over the past day, for the first time since the signing of the Minsk agreement, the shooting of Ukrainian territory restarted from the side of the Russian Federation," said Ukrainian military spokesman Andriy Lysenko.

Lysenko said that artillery was fired at a border post in Ukraine's war-ravaged Lugansk region from the direction of the village of Manotsky in Russia's Rostov region.

Kiev and the West accuse Moscow of pouring in troops and weapons to bolster the pro-Russian rebellion in the east that has cost the lives of some 4,300 people since April.

Lysenko said that Russian army units on Ukrainian territory and formations of separatist fighters were reinforcing their positions and that heavier shelling had been seen in the direction of the key government-held port city of Mariupol.

Moscow denies that it is involved in the fighting in the east although it does give the separatists open political backing.

Kiev and the rebels inked a Russian-backed truce deal on September 5 but the agreement did little to stop the fighting in the region and some 1,000 more people have been killed since then, according to the United Nations.

Before the ceasefire, Kiev frequently accused Moscow of launching shelling across the border.

Source: Agence France Presse


Ukrainian Pro-Western Parties Sign Coalition Deal

by Naharnet Newsdesk
21 November 2014, 13:49

Pro-Western lawmakers in Ukraine announced Friday the creation of a parliamentary coalition which, for the first time, will be able to pass amendments to the constitution.

Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said the coalition would be made up of 300 legislators out of a total of 450 seats, during a meeting shown live on television.

The deal between five parties including those of Yatsenyuk, President Petro Poroshenko and former prime minister Yulia Tymoshenko came after negotiations in the wake of October elections.

The agreement was signed as Kiev marked the first anniversary of the start of protests on Independence Square which led to the overthrow of the previous pro-Russian regime and sparked the conflict ravaging the nation's east.

Source: Agence France Presse


Biden in Kiev as Poroshenko Heckled at Maidan Anniversary

by Naharnet Newsdesk
21 November 2014, 11:15

U.S. Vice President Joe Biden met Ukraine's leaders Friday as the ex-Soviet country marks a year since the start of protests that toppled a pro-Russian regime and sparked the conflict ravaging the nation's east.

The Ukrainian government hopes Biden will announce further U.S. assistance for its forces, locked in a drawn-out struggle with pro-Moscow separatists in the east.

The U.S. has so far limited its support to non-lethal security assistance but Kiev wants it to go further and offer weapons and ammunition.

Russia, which denies providing military support to the rebels, has warned that if the U.S. were to arm Ukrainian forces, the conflict in eastern Ukraine "will grow".

In Kiev, dozens of people gathered at the iconic Independence Square, known locally as Maidan, laying flowers at shrines to the more than 100 people who died in protests that started on November 21 last year.

Some mourners wept or crossed themselves as they remembered the dead while others said fresh protests were needed to bring real change to Ukraine, where corruption is rife.

Petro Runkiv, a 58-year-old civil engineer, left his wife, children and grandchildren in western Ukraine to join the protests last year.

"Of course, we are disappointed. Nothing changed," he said. "We need reforms and we are here to let our government know that we are ready for one more Maidan."

Student Angelika Valkova, 19, added: "The world doesn't care about us. We hear about US military help for more than two months. Where is it?"

The protests started last year after then president Viktor Yanukovych suddenly scrapped a deal for closer ties with Europe.

They eventually led to his ousting in February which prompted Moscow to seize Ukraine's Crimea peninsula and later triggered separatist unrest in the industrial east which has killed more than 4,300 people since mid-April.

President Petro Poroshenko has declared Friday a "Day of Dignity and Freedom" and a series of memorial ceremonies are planned.

Poroshenko was heckled by relatives of the Maidan dead shouting "Shame!" over authorities' failure to convict anyone in connection with the deaths when he laid a candle at the shrines Friday.

He and Biden had been due to lay a wreath at the memorials together but instead met up nearby and shook hands before the U.S. vice president went into a meeting with Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk.

Biden also will meet Poroshenko before they issue a joint statement.

During his visit, the U.S. vice president is expected to try to shore up a tattered ceasefire in the east, which has been in place since September 5 but failed to prevent almost 1,000 people from dying in fighting since, according to the United Nations.

One more Ukrainian soldier and two civilians were killed in the region in the last 24 hours, Ukrainian security officials said Friday.

Yatsenyuk said Thursday he hoped for an announcement on further U.S. assistance to Ukraine during Biden's visit following a $53 million (42 million euro) package announced in September, which included $46 million of security assistance.

That included non-lethal military equipment such as night vision goggles, body armor and radios. But Kiev wants Washington to provide lethal assistance.

Pentagon spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby told reporters Thursday that the US was "still focused on non-lethal assistance right now".

Russia has warned against the U.S. arming Ukrainian forces, with the secretary of Russia's national security council, Nikolai Patrushev, saying the conflict in eastern Ukraine "will grow" if this happened.

The Kremlin denies Western and Ukrainian accusations that it is backing the rebels with troops and military equipment, but diplomatic relations have plunged to a low not seen since the Cold War over the seven-month conflict.

In an interview with Kiev's The Day newspaper published Thursday, Biden stressed there was "no military solution to this crisis" and accused Russia of "interfering in the affairs of a sovereign state".

He added: "I will be bringing a strong message of support to the Ukrainian people and government."

Source: Agence France Presse


A Year after Kiev Protests, Ukraine Vanishes in Rebel East

by Naharnet Newsdesk
21 November 2014, 14:22

The symbols of Ukraine have been hidden somewhere in the school in the country's war-torn east -- but the headmistress will not say exactly where.

One year after the start of protests in Kiev that toppled a pro-Russian government and set in motion a chain of events that set off a bloody pro-Russian rebellion, at school Number 33 in insurgent-held Donetsk, all signs of Ukraine have been assiduously removed.

"They have not been removed because we don't respect Ukraine but because of what this government has done to the people here," said Tatyana Denisenko, the veteran school director.

In late August, the school was partially destroyed by fierce shelling between government forces and fighters from the rebel, self-proclaimed Donetsk People's Republic, one of two breakaway statelets in the east that have declared independence.

"Since then, Ukraine has done nothing for us," Denisenko said caustically.

The separatist authorities, on the other hand, have pledged to rebuild the school using materials brought in from Russia.

Dressed immaculately in a leopard-print blouse, the former high school teacher insists that the children at the school will not be taught to hate Kiev.

"But our main direction now is Russia," she said, adding that she is waiting for recommendations from the rebel authorities on a new history curriculum.

One year after the first demonstrations began on Kiev's iconic Independence Square -- dividing the country between those who wanted closer ties with the West and those who looked to Russia -- there are few signs that Donetsk was ever a part of Ukraine.

From every official building flutters the black, blue and red flag of the self-declared republic, which began to emerge in April when pro-Russian crowds stormed government buildings around the region.

Inside are propaganda posters hostile to Kiev and the European Union.

Portraits of Russian President Vladimir Putin -- the man Ukraine accuses of masterminding the brutal insurgency in the Russian-speaking east after he sent in troops to seize the Crimea peninsula in March -- can also be seen.

The Ukrainian language, however, is nowhere to be heard.

"It is difficult for me to speak of Ukraine as an enemy but the Ukrainian flag has become a fascist flag," said Valery Skorokhodov, who was elected a rebel lawmaker at a vote rejected by Kiev earlier this month.

The burly 30-year-old, who carried his Makarov pistol with him wherever he goes, says he too went to the protests in Kiev to begin with.

"But outside forces then appropriated the movement," he said.

Now, as seven months of bloody fighting that has killed over 4,300 people rumbles on, the industrial Donbass region in the east will never return to Ukraine, he claimed.

"That train has left," he added.

Market stalls in Donetsk over the past few weeks have started doing a good trade in a new line of products: miniature flags, key chains and passport covers all in the colors of the Donetsk People's Republic.

One of the salesmen, ruddy-cheeked Andrei, said he makes everything at home and can charge a bit more for the sought-after items.

"It's very popular," said the 21-year-old entrepreneur.

Following popular demand, his latest line of products is now being stamped with the word "Russia", he said.

At checkpoints, on the uniforms of rebels and on civilian cars, the colors of Russia are never far away.

Even as shelling continue to rumble on the edge of the city, Donetsk earlier this month opened its first Russian film festival, showing three films in two days.

"We have to show something to the people of Donbass," said Anatoly Teslya, the festival's head.

He swore that he does not get involved in politics but it has been over a year since he last showed a Ukrainian film in his cinema.

At the checkpoint of Uspenka, on a stretch of the Russian border under rebel control, the Ukrainian colors can still be seen painted on the guard posts.

Some 15 insurgent officials check passports quickly before sending cars on their way across the open frontier with their vast eastern neighbor.

"Everything is about to change here, at least the colors," said Alexei, who has swapped his Ukrainian customs official uniform for rebel fatigues.

Source: Agence France Presse

 on: Nov 21, 2014, 05:18 AM 
Started by sabrina.s - Last post by Skywalker
Hi Sabrina.s, Angie and others interested, also lets you choose the house system, there is an option under "extended horoscopes". What it doesn´t do is planetary nodes but those can be worked out in other sites such as Maybe users can request some new features and they can implement them in the future on

Daniel´s suggestion is a good one if you want to use Solar Fire or other Windows based programs/applications on a Mac.

All the best

 on: Nov 21, 2014, 04:53 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Skywalker
Hi Katherine,

I was asking about herbs that are natural, easy to find and legal. For those that are in a place where Cannabis is legal or de-criminalized, it can be a way to go.

I would say that in order to keep things simple, if someone were to be using Medical MJ to help with these issues, that they should probably try various different plants/strains and see which one is better for their specific needs. Also remembering that each plant is a specific "individual" in its own right and that each one will have its own character and unique combination of compounds. Therefore the phenotype is also as important when looking for what a person may need.

Cannabis/Marijuana in my understanding, has many different compounds that can alter and modulate its effects besides THC or CBD.

Relative to how to administer, I think it will depend on each unique case as some people may use it as a mood stabilizer on a constant basis, while others in more of a specific way, due to specific causes such as insomnia, apetite stimulant, muscle relaxation, depression and so on, the list is quite extensive for what this plant can help with.

Relative to the whole THC and paranoia or schizophrenia, I think that Cannabis is also a mild psychedelic and probably due to the THC content or the ratio in which THC is in relation to other compounds, can amplify these latent issues which are already within an individual, just like a psychedelic can do.

"But, I guess my questions regard the emotional body? Does CBD actually help PTSD move toward cohesion and integration, or is it numbing and a furtherance of disassociation? What would be the most effective means of administration: before, during, or after therapy?"

To answer your question, again, I think it would need to be decided on a case by case basis. The main idea would be to reach a state of inner comfort and peace, in order to look objectively at the issues which caused the trauma in the first place and to reach a point in which the person is O.K. with whatever happened, to process. Sometimes just being able to relax and be in a peaceful state can be healing as PTSD and anxiety can keep a person in a constant state of stress which does not allow for the healing to take place. I don´t think if used correctly, with the desire to heal, that one would disassociate so easily.

Below is a chart with some of the compounds within the Cannabis plant and their uses.

All the best

 on: Nov 21, 2014, 02:14 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Katherine
Hi Rad,
Thanks for your list. Do you know of any breathing techniques to induce meditation or regression?
And Skywalker,
I really appreciate the wording or your question, if there are
any natural herbs or remedies for PTSD and anxiety, something that can help one look at the causes of the traumas from a relaxed and thus more detached place. I was thinking something like Valerian root?

In reference to marijuana, Rad posted something a while back:;topicseen#msg15626
So, I thought you both might be interested in the recent research on the effects of non-psychoactive Cannabidiol aka CBD vs. psychoactive Tetrahydrocannabinol aka THC.
Briefly, THC has been shown to have negative i.e. aggravating effects for those living with autism, schizophrenia, bi-polar and other mood imbalances. Recently, CBD has been indicated for those disorders specifically, plus epilepsy, anxiety and stress, and has a universal effect i.e. across all ages and study groups to have a calming and relaxing effect on the mind-body. So, it seems currently, that for those who don't have 'issues' THC offers all its beneficial qualities (and good times) but for those who do, it makes their experiences worse.  For CBD, it seems to accommodate all and is alleviating to those with neurological conditions.

But, I guess my questions regard the emotional body? Does CBD actually help PTSD move toward cohesion and integration, or is it numbing and a furtherance of disassociation? What would be the most effective means of administration: before, during, or after therapy?
(Everybody in the pool!)

Here are some links:

God bless,


 on: Nov 20, 2014, 08:50 AM 
Started by Rad - Last post by Rad
Humans and mice are both more similar — and different — than previously thought

20 Nov 2014 at 07:21 ET 

Scientists publish hundreds of studies every day on mice, giving the rodents an antidepressant here or tweaking the animal’s immune system there.

But it’s not because we actually care that much about mouse biology; we’re really after a better understanding of ourselves. One of the most vexing questions in science has long been how well results in mice translate to humans.

A team of more than 130 scientists has collaborated over the course of seven years to lay the groundwork required to answer this question, by mapping genetic “control centers” mice use to regulate their own genes, said study co-author Michael Beer of Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore. The results of their labors were published today in Nature. 

Both the human and mouse genomes have already been sequenced, but this project takes the next step, identifying the pathways mice use to produce proteins, Beer tells Newsweek. (Protein creation is, after all, the raison d’être of DNA.)

The results, as you might imagine, are complicated, since these genetic pathways govern every aspect of biology. Scientists found that in some ways, mice are more similar to humans than previously thought, and in other ways are more different.

For example, a mouse liver cell is more similar to a mouse brain cell than it is to a human liver cell (at least in terms of protein type and quantity), Beer notes. And mouse immune systems are even more distinctive than previously thought, he says, which could have implications for scientists looking to apply immunological mouse research to humans.

But in other ways, especially in the genetic mechanisms within a cell’s nuclei, we are very similar.

“There is a lot of conservation of genes between mice and humans,” so it does make sense to continue using mice and other “animal systems to understand human biology,” says Joseph Eckert, a researcher at the Salk Institute for Biological Studies in La Jolla, California, who wasn’t directly involved in these studies. 

The upshot of the research is that now that we can delve deeper into the similarities and differences between mice and men, so to speak, hopefully we’ll be able to learn how to better test human medicine in mice.

 on: Nov 20, 2014, 08:10 AM 
Started by Steve - Last post by Rad

Cops have a new scanner that decodes DNA in 90 minutes — and they can’t wait to use it on you

Travis Gettys
20 Nov 2014 at 07:41 ET     

A California tech company has developed a relatively small device that can scan DNA in a little more than an hour.

The RapidHIT 200 is a dramatic advancement over current methods, reported Mother Jones, which take at least two days to generate a DNA profile from a sample in a forensics lab.

The desktop printer-sized machine developed by Pleasanton-based IntegenX takes samples gathered from cheek swabs, cigarette butts, or fabric and generates a DNA profile in about 90 minutes that can be entered into a database and checked against other profiles to find a match.

The machine costs $250,000, and it’s already in use in several states and Australia, China, Russia, and other countries in Africa and Europe.

Initial research for the RapidHIT 200 was funded by the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of Defense, and the Justice Department, and the website reported the company has spent about $70,000 over the past two years lobbying for its expanded use by local police departments.

The U.S. hopes to test the device in refugee camps in Turkey and Thailand to determine whether families seeking asylum here are actually related, the website reported.

The rapid DNA testing will be voluntary, said a spokesman for Homeland Security’s biometrics program – but asylum applications could be rejected without the test results.

Immigration officials are also interested in using the RapidHIT 200 to ensure children entering the U.S. are related to the adults with them, which they hope will curb human trafficking.

Homeland Security documents suggest that intelligence agencies and the military hope to use rapid DNA testing to identify factors such as sex and race that aren’t currently revealed by other machines.

IntegenX claims the device will prevent false arrests and wrongful convictions and cut deeply into the backlog of untested rape kits around the nation — although a spokesman admits the RapidHIT 200 cannot distinguish between individual DNA in mixed bodily fluids.

Privacy advocates fear the device could be used during arrests for even minor infractions – particularly once the price comes down and the RapidHIT 200 could be deployed in squad cars.

At least 28 states now maintain DNA profiles for anyone arrested for certain felonies, even if they’re not convicted.

The FBI database contains more than 11 million offender profiles and an additional 2 million for individuals who were arrested but not necessarily convicted of any crime.

No other federal agencies currently are permitted to maintain a national DNA database, but the FBI’s website shows federal investigators hope Congress expands the potential use of rapid DNA testing.

A spokesman for IntegenX said the FBI was working with lawmakers on a bill that would put “tens of thousands” of rapid DNA testing devices in police stations that would be linked to the national database.

Homeland Security insists it will not keep DNA records for refugees tested, but they have said there may be a legal case for mandating collection of DNA records for anyone granted legal immigration status under potential amnesty.


These seven corporations make billions in profit — and have tax rate of negative 2.5 percent

Travis Gettys
19 Nov 2014 at 11:43 ET   

Seven of the 30 largest U.S. corporations paid their CEOs more last year than they paid in federal income taxes, according to a new report.

The study found that those seven companies — Boeing Co, Ford Motor Co, Chevron Corp, Citigroup Inc, Verizon Communications Inc, JPMorgan Chase & Co and General Motors Co. — reported a tax rate of -2.5 percent despite claiming more than $74 billion in combined pre-tax profits.

They paid their chief executives an average of $17.3 million, according to the study by two Washington think tanks — the Institute for Policy Studies and the Center for Effective Government.

The number of American companies that pay their chief executives more than they pay Uncle Sam is growing, researchers found.

The recently released report, “Fleecing Uncle Sam,” found that 29 of the 100 highest-paid CEOs were paid more in 2013 than the corporations they oversee paid in federal income tax.

That’s up from 25 of the top 100 in 2010 and 2011 surveys.

“Our corporate tax system is so broken that large, profitable firms can get away without paying their fair share and instead funnel massive funds into the pockets of top executives,” said Scott Klinger, co-author of the study.

Those 29 corporations operated 237 subsidiaries in tax havens, and only 12 of those corporations reported U.S. losses last year.

CEO pay at those unprofitable firms averaged $36.6 million — more than three times the national average for CEOs of large companies.

Representatives for the corporations cited in the report told Reuters they abided by all tax laws, but they claimed some tax obligations were deferred due to refunds, developmental investments or carry-forwards from heavy losses several years ago.

They also stressed the corporations paid taxes worldwide.

“Corporations are quick to complain that the U.S. tax rate – 35 percent – is the highest among industrialized nations, but they neglect to mention that the average large corporation paid only slightly more than half that rate – just 19.9 percent – between 2008-2012,” the researchers found.

The study’s authors found that job creation remained anemic, with more than 9 million Americans still out of work, while corporations were repurchasing their own stock at record levels and buying out competitors through mergers.

Citigroup — which exists only because of a taxpayer bailout during the financial meltdown — received the largest tax refund.

The firm paid its CEO, Michael Corbat, $18 million last year while claiming $260 million in IRS refunds, the report found.


Obama’s Immigration Plan Could Shield Four Million

NOV. 19, 2014

WASHINGTON — Up to four million undocumented immigrants who have lived in the United States for at least five years can apply for a program that protects them from deportation and allows those with no criminal record to work legally in the country, President Obama is to announce on Thursday, according to people briefed on his plans.

An additional one million people will get protection from deportation through other parts of the president’s plan to overhaul the nation’s immigration enforcement system, including the expansion of an existing program for “Dreamers,” young immigrants who came to the United States as children. There will no longer be a limit on the age of the people who qualify.

But farm workers will not receive specific protection from deportation, nor will the Dreamers’ parents. And none of the five million immigrants over all who will be given new legal protections will get government subsidies for health care under the Affordable Care Act.

These new details about the broad reach of Mr. Obama’s planned executive action on immigration emerged as he prepared to speak to the nation in a prime-time address on Thursday night. On Friday, the president is to travel to Las Vegas to rally public support for his plan in a state where Hispanics are a growing and politically powerful constituency.

Republicans on Capitol Hill sharply rebuked the president for his executive actions even before the speech on Thursday, accusing him of vastly exceeding the authority of his office. Senator Ted Cruz of Texas, in an opinion article Tuesday on the Politico website, assailed the president for embracing “the tactics of a monarch.”

At the same time, immigration advocates rallied behind Mr. Obama’s actions, describing them as a much-delayed victory for millions of people.

Administration officials have said the president’s actions were designed to be “legally unassailable,” which activists said led the White House to make some tough choices.

Farm workers, for example, will not be singled out for protections because of concerns that it was difficult to justify legally treating them differently from undocumented workers in other jobs, like hotel clerks, day laborers and construction workers.

The White House decision to deny health benefits also underscores how far the president’s expected actions will fall short of providing the kind of full membership in American society that activists have spent decades fighting for. The immigrants covered by Mr. Obama’s actions are also unlikely to receive public benefits like food stamps, Medicaid coverage or other need-based federal programs offered to citizens and some legal residents.

The health care restriction may be the most immediate concern for many immigrants and for activists who have urged Mr. Obama to act to prevent deportations. Advocates for immigrant rights were infuriated in 2012 when the White House ruled that Dreamers would not get subsidized insurance coverage.

But the restriction reflects the political sensitivities involved when two of the most contentious issues in Washington, health care and immigration, collide. It also suggests that the White House has decided not to risk angering conservative lawmakers who have long opposed providing government health care to illegal immigrants and who fought to deny immigrants coverage under the Affordable Care Act.

Some advocates said this week that they saw a paradox in the president’s policy. On one hand, they said, Mr. Obama plans to provide relief to millions of undocumented immigrants so that they can come out of the shadows and be better integrated into American society. On the other hand, they said, the administration is shutting them out of the health care system that would help them become productive members of society.

“We would all benefit if more people had access to health care services,” said Angel Padilla, a health policy analyst at the National Immigration Law Center, an advocacy group for low-income immigrants.

Stephen W. Yale-Loehr, who teaches immigration law at Cornell, said he believed the president had the legal authority to decide whether the immigrants included in his executive actions qualified for health benefits.

“Just as the president has broad discretion to decide whether to allow undocumented individuals to get a temporary reprieve from deportation,” Mr. Yale-Loehr said, “he also has broad authority to decide whether to grant them work authorization and health benefits.”

“In this case, it appears he is willing to grant the former,” he added, “but not the latter.”

Senator Jeff Sessions, the Alabama Republican who has vehemently opposed giving benefits to undocumented immigrants, disagreed with that assessment.

“It is plain that President Obama has no authority to grant lawful status to those declared unlawful by the duly passed laws of the United States,” he said. “Nor does the president have any authority to declare such individuals eligible to receive health benefits that have been restricted to lawful residents.”

The White House decision on health benefits may be intended to undercut one line of attack by Mr. Sessions and other Republicans. In recent days, as it became clear that Mr. Obama was preparing to announce an executive order, conservative commentators and radio hosts suggested that the president wanted to give health coverage to millions of immigrants who would be given legal status.

The question of whether illegal immigrants should have access to health care benefits has long been a central part of the immigration debate. Legislation passed in the Senate in 2013 would also have denied undocumented immigrants access to federal health benefits, including the Affordable Care Act, for as long as 13 years. But in that legislation, immigrants could eventually qualify for full legal status and for federal benefits.

Sylvia Mathews Burwell, the secretary of health and human services, was asked about health care coverage in a webcast with Latina bloggers last week.

She confirmed to the bloggers that immigrants who were covered by Mr. Obama’s 2012 executive actions could not receive subsidies from the marketplace. She called that decision “more than a health care issue” and said it had to be resolved in the context of immigration laws.

“I think everyone probably knows that this administration feels incredibly strongly about the fact that we need to fix that,” Ms. Burwell said. “We need to reform the system and make the changes that we need. It will lead to benefits in everything from health care to economics.”

However, she said that federal aid, including health care benefits, could be available to children who are United States citizens but living with parents who are illegal immigrants. Such so-called mixed families “should not be scared,” she said, because they may be eligible for coverage and financial assistance.


Immigration Has Republican Governors Seething and Facing Practical Challenges

NOV. 19, 2014

BOCA RATON, Fla. — President Obama’s impending executive action on immigration is unleashing the fury of Republican governors who now control a clear majority of the nation’s statehouses — and not entirely for the reasons that partisans might expect.

The new legal protections that the president is poised to bestow on five million illegal immigrants Thursday will immediately thrust the issue back to the states, forcing dozens of governors who vigorously oppose the move to contemplate a raft of vexing new legal questions of their own, like whether to issue driver’s licenses or grant in-state college tuition to such people.

For Republican governors, the resentment is now as much operational as it is ideological.

The rapidly unfolding issue quickly overtook what was supposed to be a three-day victory lap here at a pink flamingo-colored resort where they have gathered for the annual meeting of the Republican Governors Association.

Instead of crowing about their electoral romp in the midterms, in which they captured 31 statehouses — the most since 1998 — the governors on Wednesday were bombarded by inquiries about how they would grapple with the practical and political repercussions of Mr. Obama’s action.

Many of them seethed visibly over the issue. Gov. Rick Perry of Texas accused the president of “sticking his finger into the eye of the American people” after an election that gave Republicans control over both houses of Congress.

Several governors threatened legal action to block the measure. “I would go to the courts,” said Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin. “This is illegal.”

Mr. Perry called a lawsuit against the Obama administration “a very real possibility.”

But amid the promises of retaliation and obstruction, many of the governors began to confront the sheer complexity of the new legal landscape for millions of their residents.

Gov. Sam Brownback of Kansas said that his Republican-controlled State Legislature would never stomach the concept of issuing driver’s licenses to illegal immigrants, even after Mr. Obama had given them worker permits and shielded them from deportation.

“That would be very difficult in our state,” he said.

For some of the governors, the issue took on a strikingly personal dimension. Gov. Paul R. LePage of Maine recalled the difficulty that he and his wife had encountered obtaining a green card for the Jamaican teenager they have taken into their home.

“It took us nearly 11 years,” he said. “Why should everybody just get one tomorrow?”

Asked if he would embrace greater legal standing for immigrants in Maine, such as worker permits, after Mr. Obama issues his measure, Mr. LePage swatted away the idea as “unacceptable.”

He then added, “I am fighting it, not helping it.”

For those weighing a presidential run in 2016, responding to Mr. Obama’s action requires some nimbleness: They must appeal to those conservatives who loathe Mr. Obama’s unilateral move without alienating Latino voters who crave a path to citizenship for people in the country illegally.

But here in Florida, before a crowd of devoted Republican donors and activists, the governors offered few of the compassionate overtures to Latino voters that have characterized their campaigns back at home or detailed alternatives to replace Mr. Obama’s action.

A number of those likely to run for president simply avoided offering direct or firm answers.

At one point, Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana was asked if he supported deporting illegal immigrants. He demurred, saying that “we will deal with people here illegally compassionately and fairly” before calling for greater security at America’s borders, a message echoed by most of his colleagues.

As he has in the past, Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey refused to specify a plan for dealing with illegal immigration, saying he would not articulate a plan until he had decided whether to run for president.

Going perhaps the furthest of any potential presidential candidate, Gov. John R. Kasich of Ohio, when pressed on citizenship for undocumented people, said, “I’m open to it, I will tell you that.”

He added, “We have to think about what’s going to bring about healing.”

Both Mr. Jindal and Gov. Mike Pence of Indiana suggested that Congress could use its budget authority to deprive the president of the money required to carry out his immigration action.

Mr. Pence, a former House member, encouraged Congress to “use the power of the purse to work the will of the American people.”

Normally restrained, Mr. Pence could barely contain his frustration.

“Every major change in the life of our nation has been done with the consent of our government,” he said. “I think it would be a profound mistake.”


The Meltdown Begins: Boehner Responds To Immigration Action By Calling Obama a Lawless Emperor

By: Jason Easley
Wednesday, November, 19th, 2014, 2:53 pm   

The Republican meltdown is off and running. Speaker of the House John Boehner’s office responded to the news that President Obama will announce his executive actions on immigration by calling the president a lawless emperor.

Boehner spokesman Michael Steel responded to the news that Obama will make his immigration announcement in Dallas on Thursday night by saying, “If ‘Emperor Obama’ ignores the American people and announces an amnesty plan that he himself has said over and over again exceeds his Constitutional authority, he will cement his legacy of lawlessness and ruin the chances for Congressional action on this issue — and many others.”

Who do Republicans think they are kidding? Boehner and McConnell were never planning on cooperating with the president on anything. Mitch McConnell ran for reelection on the promise that if Republicans won a Senate majority, he would break Obama and force him to do the GOP’s bidding.

The whole idea that Republicans were ready cooperate, but Obama ruined it was a myth. Republicans thought that by winning the midterm election; they could force the president to sign off on their agenda. They have been shocked by the fact that the president has moved to the left. Instead of giving Republicans everything that they wanted, the president and Democrats have geared up for a fight.

President Obama’s speech on Thursday night will be a mushroom cloud that swallows up the Republican Party. Republicans have tried for years to avoid the immigration issues, but the party is deeply divided and being government by an incredibly unpopular position on the issue.

Obama’s executive action, which is well within his constitutional powers, is already triggering an epic meltdown. The Republican camps that are calling for a government shutdown or impeachment are reaching an uncontrollable boiling point.

John Boehner sat on the Senate passed immigration reform bill and refused to allow a vote. The gridlock and obstruction chickens are coming home to roost, and the Republican Party is going to collectively lose its mind tomorrow night.

Obama is still playing chess while congressional Republicans can’t get out their checkerboards.


White House Says Emboldened Obama Wears Republican Criticism As A Badge Of Honor

By: Jason Easley
Wednesday, November, 19th, 2014, 7:33 pm      

According to White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest, President Obama wears Republican claims that he is lawless as a badge of honor.

White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest responded to Republican cries that Obama is behaving like a lawless emperor by saying, “We’ve heard this kind of rhetoric about lawlessness from the House Republicans for some time. I think their most recent statement referred to Emperor Obama. You know the fact of the matter is the president is somebody who is willing to examine the law, review the law and use every element of that law to make progress for the American people. If that is something that Republicans are critical of, then that’s, you know, maybe a criticism that the president wears with a badge of honor.”

The White House is taking the fight to congressional Republicans in a way that they never expected after their midterm election victory. One of the strategies that Republicans are kicking around as a potential way to stop the president’s immigration executive orders is to split the bill to fund the government into two parts. The first would fund the government, and the second would deny funding for the executive orders.

The administration’s position has been consistent. They aren’t going to back down. The government shutdown last year was caused by a Republican refusal to pass a clean funding bill. If Republicans try the same stunt again, Obama will likely veto the government funding bill, and Republicans will be left with a choice to either pass a clean funding bill or shutdown the government.

In other words, the country is zooming towards another government shutdown standoff. The president is being forced to take action on his own because John Boehner refuses to bring the bipartisan Senate passed immigration bill to the floor for a vote. Boehner could defuse the entire situation by allowing a vote.

Boehner and McConnell are swearing that they don’t want a government shutdown, but they are getting themselves into a battle with the president that they won’t win. Obama isn’t intimidated by the incoming Republican majority. In fact, the president seems emboldened by it.

If a president doing his job is “lawless,” Obama should wear the Republican howls of lawlessness as a badge of honor.


Liberal Democrats Form A Hell No Caucus To Block Republicans In The Senate

By: Jason Easley
Wednesday, November, 19th, 2014, 11:46 am   

Liberal Democrats flexed their muscles by coming together to block approval of the construction of the Keystone XL pipeline. Last night’s vote was the first move by a group of Democrats that are set to give Senate Republicans major headaches over the next two years.

Politico reported,

    The defeat of the Keystone XL pipeline in the Senate marked a major show of muscle for next year’s new hell-no caucus: liberals.   

    It was a remarkable move for a group that has stood behind Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) over the years, as he sought to protect vulnerable moderates, like Landrieu and some of her now-ousted colleagues, from taking tough votes on divisive environmental, health care and social issues.   

    But red-state Democrats like Mark Pryor of Arkansas and Mark Begich of Alaska are on their way out, and liberals like Jeff Merkley, Bernie Sanders and Sheldon Whitehouse — with Elizabeth Warren leading the way on messaging — may cause as many headaches for Senate Republicans as tea partyers caused Democrats in the past four years.

The good news that comes from being in the Senate minority is that the Democrats who are still there are much more liberal and will play a bigger role in the caucus. Bernie Sanders, who is an Independent who caucuses with the Democrats, Elizabeth Warren, Sheldon Whitehouse, and Jeff Merkley are just four of the members of the Democratic caucus will play a larger role in shaping policy. The Democrats no longer have to protect and cater to red state Democrats.

For every Keystone XL that will pass with the support of oil and gas state Democrats, there are three Republican bills that won’t. The Hell No caucus isn’t going to obstruct everything, but they are going stand up for the principles and values of the left.

For example, Senate Republican attacks on regulations that protect the environment are going to be in trouble. Anything that tries to expand Citizens United will likely die, tax reform disguised as a gift to the wealthy will not go very far.

The rules of the Senate make it impossible for Mitch McConnell to do what John Boehner is doing in the House. In the Senate, the minority has power and rights. Republicans abused this power to stop the Senate from functioning. The liberals are promising not to do the same, but life is about to get very difficult for Mitch McConnell and company.

The rise of the Senate liberals in combination with President Obama’s leftward shift may result in the Republican congressional majority being boxed in.

Senate liberals are leading the fight towards 2016, and yesterday’s rejection of Keystone XL was a warning shot designed to let Republicans know that there is a new day coming.

*** Note: The Hell No caucus isn’t an official Senate group, but a collection of liberals who have a set of common ideas that will more often than not vote together.

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