Botched nuclear shipment puts pressure on Los Alamos to make changes

Small amounts of radioactive material being transported incorrectly has led to the firing of several employees after an incident at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, the prominent facility that specializes in nuclear weapons.Last month, federal regulators launched an investigation into the lab after small amounts of nuclear materials were shipped by air, instead of by ground, as they were intended to be. They were supposed to be sent to facilities in California and South Carolina aboard a commercial cargo plane. Air transport of these materials is not allowed due to US regulations, according to a press release by the National Nuclear Security Administration.The laboratory has said it will not comply with requests to provide any details about the mistakes of its employees in connection to last month’s error and have said that everyone involved in the mishap has been held to account for their actions, according to the Associated Press.

Source: Botched nuclear shipment puts pressure on Los Alamos to make changes — RT America

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4 lightweight image viewers for the Linux desktop |

Image by : Internet Archive Book Images. Modified by CC BY-SA 4.0Like most people, you probably have more than a few photos and other images on your computer. And, like most people, you probably like to take a peek at those images and photos every so often.Firing up an editor like GIMP or Pinta is overkill for simply viewing images.

On the other hand, the basic image viewer included with most Linux desktop environments might not be enough for your needs. If you want something with a few more features, but still want it to be lightweight, then take a closer look at these four image viewers for the Linux desktop, plus a handful of bonus options if they don’t meet your needs.

Source: 4 lightweight image viewers for the Linux desktop |

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Naked Surgeons? The Debate About What to Wear in the O.R.


There has been recent controversy regarding recommendations and regulations concerning operating room attire. We performed a non-systematic literature search regarding operating room attire and surgical site infection risk. Much of the literature relies on air sampling and culture of operating room equipment but does not present evidence regarding effect on surgical site infection risk. There is no evidence regarding surgical site infection risk related to operating room attire except for sterile gowns and the use of gloves. Naked surgeons shed fewer bacteria into the operating room environment than ones wearing scrub suits.

Source: Naked Surgeons? The Debate About What to Wear in the O.R. | Clinical Infectious Diseases | Oxford Academic

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So this is one of those things that existed a few years ago from the now defunct website Celebrity Butt Plugs. It appears that they stopped making their celebrity novelties around 2013.

Anyway, what I found most amusing about their products was their L. Ron Hubbard butt plug with “hypno eyes.” Yes. An L. Ron Hubbard butt plug with flashing eyes. I’m assuming this was made for shits and giggles and not for actual use. I mean, I guess there could be some folks who would find this kinky? Whatever floats your boat, right?

Sadly it’s no longer produced and I wouldn’t trust buying a used buttplug on eBay or anything, so maybe shove an E-meter up you ass instead?


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Penises aplenty: The South Korean park with enough dicks for everyone

There is a park in South Korea called Haesindang Park, and its most noteworthy feature is that the park is essentially an elaborate celebration of the erect penis. One might guess that it was dreamt up by Ron Jeremy (or his South Korean equivalent) but in fact, its origins derive from a sweet and supernatural f



olk tale from centuries ago. The park is located at the fishing port of Sinnam on the eastern coast of the country.The basic situation is a familiar one in port and fishing cities across the span of history—as in, the husband is a sailor or a fisherman and is often away at sea while the wife wait


s at home. So jump back a few centuries: a maiden named Aebawi is married to a fisherman in Sinnam. One day before boarding his boat, the fisherman places

his wife on some rocks, with a heartfelt promise to come back soon. But a storm intervenes and prevents his quick return, and poor Aebawi perishes after being swept from the rocks. But due to her premature demise, Aebawi’s purportedly virginal soul remains in the area, and the disquiet in the waters cause the fish to abandon the region in search of a calmer locale. Later on, a man wanders by and chooses Aebawi’s rock as a place to fish. Not wanting to leave his fishing line unattended, he drops trou and relives himself in the waters. The sight of the man’s penis pleases Aebawi’s soul, which has a calming effect on the waters, so the fish decide that they can return to the area.What a charminglly oddball rationale for a park as interesting as this! Haesindang Park is very much a family-friendly location, and people are unconcerned about their children being confronted with all manner of phalluses everywhere. I have never been to Korea but this park is a strong reason to visit!

Source: Penises aplenty: The South Korean park with enough dicks for everyone | Dangerous Minds

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This “Tween” YouTube Channel Clearly Caters to Pervs …

The YouTube channel SevenSuperGirls features tween girls doing random stuff. However, it also appears to be custom-made for pedos. Even worse, the channel is recruiting young girls on the internet. In my article entitled Something is Terribly Wrong With Many “Kids” Videos on YouTube, I described the numerous ways videos aimed at children can be toxic and disturbing. Unfortunately, that was only the tip of the proverbial iceberg. And that iceberg goes deep. And it stinks. It is basically a terrible iceberg.A segment on the comedy show Tosh.O exposed a YouTube channel named SevenSuperGirls which contains thousands of videos featuring young girls doing “cute” things. In his segment, Tosh.O claims that he might have stumbled on to “something dark” while adding that those who watch that channel should “put on their pants and report themselves to the FBI”.Jokes aside, there is clearly something dark about that channel – not only due to its contents but due to how it attempts to recruit new girls by requesting audition tapes.  It doesn’t take a lot of imagination to picture how things can go horribly wrong for the girls involved. Especially when one understands the system behind the channel.

Source: This “Tween” YouTube Channel Clearly Caters to Pervs … and is Recruiting Young Girls Worldwide – The Vigilant Citizen

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Battery-free Cellphone

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Amazon cashes in on war crimes and mass surveillance

By Evan Blake
13 July 2017

In recent years, the multinational corporation Amazon has risen to become the preeminent online retail giant and the fourth most valuable company in the world. One of Amazon’s most significant business contracts, which has largely been kept hidden from the public since it was finalized in October 2013, was a $600 million deal for Amazon Web Services (AWS) to build a private computing cloud for the 17 American intelligence agencies known collectively as the “intelligence community” (IC).

The deal initiated Amazon’s ever-deepening integration with the American state, and implicates the company in the international war crimes, mass spying and repressive operations carried out by the spy agencies of American imperialism. Similar to the Krupp company, which supplied arms to the German military during World Wars I and II, Amazon today provides the technological scaffolding for the wars waged by American imperialism.

Since reaching its deal with the CIA, Amazon’s stock value has more than tripled from $319.04/share to $993.80/share today. In the process, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos has amassed roughly $55.9 billion, becoming the world’s second-richest person with a current net value of $85.3 billion.

Ashton Carter and Jeff Bezos

Through the contract, known as the Commercial Cloud Service or C2S cloud, the company forged links to all 17 IC agencies. The cloud securely stores large portions of the internet and telecommunications data accumulated by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA); eight agencies of the Department of Defense, including the National Security Agency (NSA), the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA), the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA), the National Reconnaissance Office (NRO) and the intelligence wings of the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps; the Office of Intelligence and Analysis and Coast Guard Intelligence of the Department of Homeland Security (DHS); and the Intelligence Branch of the Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), to name the most prominent agencies of the IC.

Amazon runs the C2S cloud privately, behind the IC’s firewall, enabling the IC agencies to securely share data with each other, separate from the internet at large. The C2S cloud is a major component of the Intelligence Community Information Technology Enterprise (IC ITE) program initiated by then-Director of National Intelligence James Clapper in 2011. According to Clapper, the goal of the program is to “improve the ability to securely and efficiently discover, access, and share information” within the IC. Along with the Amazon-built cloud, the NSA constructed its own private cloud to store the swathes of data it continually collects. The two clouds work in complementary fashion, and are gradually replacing the isolated data centers used by each of the 17 IC agencies.

While the specific contents of the data shared between the IC agencies is classified and thus hidden from the public, it is undoubtedly used for all sorts of criminal operations. In a June 2015 speech, Clapper declared, “we have hundreds of millions of records in the cloud from the big six agencies [the CIA, NGA, FBI, NSA, NRO, and DIA] and others.”

James Clapper, former Director of National Intelligence

In April 2016, Beth Flanagan, a leading official at the NGA, revealed that data from IC ITE was used to accuse the Syrian government of carrying out the August 2013 chemical weapons attack in Ghouta. These allegations were exposed as a trumped-up lie by investigative reporter Seymour Hersh, whose arguments were substantiated by a separate investigation by the United Nations. Nevertheless, the Obama administration almost enacted full-scale war against Syria, using these false allegations as a pretext.

The sharing of data—facilitated by Amazon—enables scenarios to take place where the CIA, NSA, NGA and the Air Force collaborate to identify, precisely locate and carry out the drone assassination of anyone deemed to be a “terrorist,” including American citizens. Thanks to Amazon, the spy agencies can now more seamlessly conspire to carry out bloody military campaigns, such as the military assault on Mosul, or secretly orchestrate the Saudi-led war against Yemen. They are no doubt using such technology to simulate and prepare for the long-planned wars against North Korea, Iran, China and Russia, which threaten to coalesce into a new, catastrophic World War between nuclear-armed powers.

“One of the most important technology procurements in recent history”

In mid-2012, the CIA began conducting negotiations with AWS, IBM and an unnamed third corporation to decide which company would win the 10-year, highly lucrative contract to create the private cloud for the IC, which had to be capable of analyzing 100 terabytes of raw data at a time, an immense figure.

In February 2013, the CIA secretly selected Amazon as the winning bidder. IBM filed a bid protest, claiming they had offered a lower price than Amazon, but in October 2013, the US Court of Federal Claims sided with Amazon, which then began to build the C2S cloud infrastructure. The cloud became operational in the summer of 2014, with then-CIA chief information officer Doug Wolfe praising it as “one of the most important technology procurements in recent history.”

Last month, current CIA CIO John Edwards declared in a speech at AWS’ Public Sector Summit, “It’s the best decision we’ve ever made… It’s the most innovative thing we’ve ever done… It is having a material impact on both the CIA and the IC.”

There were a number of factors that led the CIA to partner with Amazon, one of which was their ability to save money in the long-term. While $600 million is an enormous sum, at that point the IC was spending upwards of $8 billion annually to store and analyze the billions of pieces of metadata, phone and internet records, and other information that it was collecting en masse on its self-built servers, as noted in documents leaked by Edward Snowden.

NSA headquarters in Fort Meade, Maryland

Amazon’s cloud-based server offered a means to significantly reduce these costs, as it had a unique ability to scale up or down to meet the storage, computing and analytics needs of the IC at a given time. Amazon would also incorporate any innovations or improvements devised by their engineers, which happen on an almost daily basis, directly into the C2S cloud.

Another advantage that AWS had over IBM and the third bidder was its commercial cloud marketplace, which is a place for vendors to sell software infrastructure and other online products to customers. Amazon’s commercial cloud marketplace was established in mid-2012 and rapidly grew over the following year during its bidding with the CIA.

The marketplace allows customers to test software products and developer tools before committing to a purchase. This appealed to the IC, which was tired of having spent large sums of money on inferior products. After signing the C2S cloud contract, the IC gave Amazon the green light to build a classified cloud marketplace solely for the IC, which went live in April 2016.

A third, highly significant reason that the IC transitioned to cloud-based computing and selected Amazon as their contractor stemmed from the increased need for internal security after recurring leaks made by whistleblowers, especially the cables obtained by Chelsea Manning and published by Wikileaks.

Throughout 2010, Wikileaks released the Afghan War Logs and Iraq War Logs, exposing the war crimes committed against those countries’ populations, as well as a dossier of US State Department diplomatic cables provided by Manning that exposed the US government’s foreign intrigues dating back to the 1960s, known as Cablegate. Clapper’s launching of the IC ITE initiative came the following year, in direct response to the evident weakness of the IC’s security systems.

Explaining how she walked away with immense amounts of government data, Manning wrote that she encountered “Weak servers, weak logging, weak physical security, weak counter-intelligence, inattentive signal analysis… a perfect storm.”

Centralizing data storage onto the private IC ITE clouds—using the advanced encryption methods developed by AWS and the NSA—enables the IC to prevent massive leaks from within. One of the security measures provided by the clouds is the ability to meta-tag all data with information, including where it came from and who is authorized to see it. Analysts are now only able to access data if they have the authorization. Further, if an analyst attempts to download large amounts of data, as done by Manning and Snowden, the cloud automatically flags this activity, halting it and notifying security personnel. Officials have claimed that if the current IC ITE measures had been in place in 2010 and 2013, Manning and Snowden would not have been able to walk away with troves of data.

 Amazon, war propaganda, and the suppression of free speech

This is the second in a two part series, read part one here.

Prior to and during the C2S contract negotiations process, Amazon demonstrated its willingness to collaborate with the IC to stifle growing opposition to American imperialism and its spy agencies. In November 2010, AWS deliberately crashed WikiLeaks’ website after the organization began publishing the Cablegate documents.

After WikiLeaks had already published the Afghan and Iraq War Logs, numerous politicians had denounced the organization, with some calling for the execution of Assange. Right-wing Democratic Senator Joe Lieberman, who was instrumental in forming the Department of Homeland Security and served as chairman of the Senate Homeland Security Committee from 2007 to 2013, publicly called upon Amazon and other companies to sever ties with WikiLeaks, declaring, “No responsible company, whether American or foreign, should assist WikiLeaks in its efforts to disseminate these stolen materials.” Amazon dutifully complied, cutting off the public’s access to WikiLeaks’ web page.

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange

In response, WikiLeaks tweeted: “WikiLeaks servers at Amazon ousted. Free speech the land of the free—fine our $ are now spent to employ people in Europe.”

Amazon’s sabotage of WikiLeaks forced the organization to find a new server provider, and demonstrated to the state Amazon’s readiness to crack down on those opposed to the government’s criminality. This nefarious use of its power to control Internet communications no doubt piqued the interest of the CIA, which two years later would include AWS as a bidder for its private cloud contract.

In the summer of 2013, two months after Snowden’s first revelations of massive spying by the American government, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos purchased the highly influential newspaper the Washington Post for $250 million.

After winning the Pulitzer Prize in Public Service in 2014 for its coverage of the Snowden leaks, in 2016 the Post became the first newspaper to call for the criminal prosecution of its own source. In an article headlined “No pardon for Edward Snowden,” the Post Editorial Board denounced those calling for Snowden’s pardon and demanded that he stand trial on espionage charges.

During the 2016 election campaign, the Post endorsed Hillary Clinton, the military and intelligence community’s favored candidate. Since the election of Trump, the Post has been one of the leading outlets engaged in a hysterical campaign of anti-Russia propaganda, intended to force the Trump administration to shift its foreign policy orientation toward continuing the drive to war with Russia begun under Obama. They have served as a direct conduit for the CIA and other intelligence agencies, repeatedly releasing sensationalist “breaking news” stories citing anonymous intelligence officials, in an attempt to stampede public opinion behind the right-wing campaign against Trump.

November 24, 2016, Washington Post anti-Russia article that was widely criticized as shoddy journalism

Undoubtedly, AWS’s undermining of WikiLeaks, combined with Bezos’s purchase of the Post and the increasing dominance of Amazon as a multinational corporation, influenced the CIA’s decision to award the C2S contract to the company. The company was recognized as a willing and competent ally in the fight to suppress free speech and democratic rights.

Cementing ties between Amazon and the military

In September 2013, while the Court of Federal Claims was determining whether the CIA would need to re-open the bidding competition between Amazon and IBM, AWS went ahead and posted more than 100 job listings for engineers possessing the highest security clearance offered by the US government, “Top Secret/Sensitive Compartmented Information.”

The jobs were listed for an AWS center in Herndon, Virginia, a 20-minute drive from CIA headquarters. Last month, Amazon announced that it will be locating its new AWS East Coast corporate campus at One Dulles Tower in Herndon, and are expected to employ up to 1,500 tech workers at the campus. The company situates most of its data centers in the northern Virginia area, through which an estimated 70 percent of global Internet traffic flows.

Further developing its connections to the state, in 2015 Amazon partnered with the Department of Defense (DoD) to create a program titled “AWS Military Fellowship,” in which active-duty military personnel spend time working for Amazon. The company currently has at least three soldiers working at AWS.

In its statement announcing the program, Amazon wrote that it is intended to “build a unique cadre of officers who understand not only the profession of arms, but also the nature of the strategic problems facing the DoD, and the organizational and operational opportunities made possible by revolutionary changes in information and other technologies. These officers will be at the forefront of transforming defense strategy, military forces, and the supporting infrastructure.”

In March 2016, Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter visited Amazon headquarters in Seattle, “as part of a West Coast swing aimed at strengthening ties between the Department of Defense (DoD) and the tech community,” according to an Amazon blog post on Carter’s visit.

Carter first met with the AWS Military Fellowship employees, then held a meeting with Jeff Bezos and other key figures in AWS leadership, “to discuss innovation topics and ways to strengthen military exchange programs and partnerships with the technology industry,” the report notes. Reports also suggest that there were discussions of expanding the Pentagon’s use of AWS cloud-computing technologies.

During his West Coast tour, Carter also announced the formation of the Defense Innovation Advisory Board, which would be headed by Carter and Eric Schmidt, the executive chairman of Alphabet, the parent company of Google. In July 2016, Bezos was invited to join the board, whose purpose is to further integrate leading figures from the technology sector with the military. It is a component of the broader “Third Offset Strategy,” which seeks to maintain the global supremacy of the American military over potential rivals, in particular Russia and China.

Announcing the program, Carter declared that the board is “charged with keeping DoD imbued with a culture of innovation in people, organizations, operations, and technology … and also to ensure that we’re always doing everything we can to stay ahead of potential adversaries.”

Over the past year, the board has met with leading figures in the military, including at the headquarters of U.S. Central Command and U.S. Special Operations Command in Tampa, Florida. In early January, the board voted to approve 11 recommendations to enhance the military in areas ranging from strengthening cybersecurity for advanced weapons to increasing funding for artificial intelligence research.

Jeff Bezos (far left) meeting with Donald Trump and other tech executives

During the 2016 election campaign, Bezos made mild criticisms of Trump, who accused the Post of being a “fake news” outlet. Since Trump’s inauguration, however, the two have reconciled their differences, with Trump appointing Bezos to the American Technology Council that he formed in May. Bezos and the 18 other tech executives on the council met cordially with Trump in June.

The fight against Amazon requires a struggle against imperialism

The integration of Amazon with the state and its spy agencies typifies a broader trend of modern capitalism, in which all of the major corporations closely collaborate with their respective governments and facilitate imperialist war abroad. This is one of the defining features of imperialism.

Under the catch-all justification of protecting “national security,” a euphemism for upholding the global interests of the American capitalist class, the military-intelligence apparatus has carried out unremitting atrocities abroad and erected the infrastructure for a police state within the US. Since its contract with the IC in 2013, Amazon has directly facilitated these behind-the-scenes machinations.

Amazon’s fulfillment center in San Fernando de Henares, Spain

As Lenin noted in the Preface to his 1917 work State and Revolution, written during World War I and in the midst of the Russian Revolution, “The imperialist war has greatly accelerated and intensified the transformation of monopoly capitalism into state-monopoly capitalism. The monstrous oppression of the laboring masses by the state—which connects itself more and more intimately with the all-powerful capitalist combines—is becoming ever more monstrous. The foremost countries are being converted—we speak here of their ‘rear’—into military convict labor prisons for the workers.”

Amazon exemplifies these characteristics described by Lenin. While collaborating with the spy agencies to wage war abroad, Amazon subjects its workforce in the US and around the world to brutal sweatshop working conditions.

As the International Amazon Workers Voice (IAWV) has reported, the company pushes its workers to their utmost limit, causing widespread workplace injuries and even fatalities. It tracks employees’ movements and enforces ever-increasing productivity requirements, creating conditions at Amazon warehouses that increasingly resemble the “convict labor prisons” described by Lenin.

The struggle to put an end to class exploitation and war are inseparably connected. There can be no fight against war without a fight against its root cause, capitalism and its division of the world into rival nation states. The resources squandered on imperialist war and the spy agencies, and the immense wealth accumulated by figures like Bezos, must be seized by the working class and redirected to provide for social needs, not private profit or the destruction of foreign countries.

orignal source

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Space Corps Military Branch Approved by House

The House of Representatives passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) yesterday, including legislation that would require the Air Force to create a new branch of the military called the ‘Space Corps’ by the beginning of 2019. The Space Corps would replace the Air Force’s current space departments and receive more funding as well as its own command.It was a major step for those in favor of creating a sixth military branch, but the Space Corps is still far from reality. The Senate Armed Services Committee’s current markup of the NDAA, a $696 billion measure, does not include the Space Corps, but rather creates a new officer to oversee space defense in the Pentagon, according to a summary of the bill acquired by Space News.The creation of a Space Corps is also opposed by Air Force leadership and Secretary of Defense James Mattis along with the Trump administration. The White House issued a statement about the NDAA this past week that said space defense needed to be addressed, “the creation of a separate Space Corps, however, is premature at this time.”The Senate’s current version of the NDAA seems to agree. Rather than creating an entirely new military branch, the Senate bill would create a new Chief Information Warfare Officer (CIWO) in the Defense Department to oversee “cybersecurity and cyber warfare, space and space launch systems, electronic warfare, and the electromagnetic spectrum.” The Senate bill would also require the head of Air Force Space Command to serve for six years, rather than two or four years.

Source: Space Corps Military Branch Approved by House – House Passes National Defense Authorization Act With Space Corps

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Former Head Of GCHQ Says Don’t Backdoor End-To-End Encryption, Attack The End Points

When he was head of GCHQ, Robert Hannigan said some pretty clueless things about the Internet and encryption. For example, in 2014, he accused tech companies of ‘facilitating murder’, and joined in the general demonization of strong crypto. Last year, he called for technical experts to work more closely with governments to come up with some unspecified way around encryption. Nobody really knew what he meant when he said:”I am not in favor of banning encryption. Nor am I asking for mandatory back doors. … Not everything is a back door, still less a door which can be exploited outside a legal framework.”Now, speaking to the BBC, he has clarified those remarks, and revealed how he thinks governments should be dealing with the issue of end-to-end encryption. As he admits:”You can’t uninvent end-to-end encryption, which is the thing that has particularly annoyed people, and rightly, in recent months. You can’t just do away it, you can’t legislate it away. The best that you can do with end-to-end encryption is work with the companies in a cooperative way, to find ways around it frankly.”

Source: Former Head Of GCHQ Says Don’t Backdoor End-To-End Encryption, Attack The End Points | Techdirt

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‘Slap In the Face’: DeVos Under Fire for Including Fringe Men’s Rights Group in Sexual Assault Talks

Education Secretary Betsy DeVos is under fire on Thursday as she holds three meetings on campus sexual assault—including one where she’ll hear from a fringe “men’s rights” group with a history of harassing sexual assault survivors and placing the blame for sexual and physical violence on victims.The “listening sessions” are aimed at assessing the Obama administration’s expanded protections for students who are sexually assaulted on campus. In 2011 the Department of Education introduced guidance for Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, requiring schools that receive federal funding to quickly investigate complaints of sexual assault and offer protections to survivors, and banning schools from retaliating against those who file sexual assault complaints.In her confirmation hearing earlier this year, DeVos would not commit to upholding Title IX guidance. Since being confirmed DeVos has reportedly ignored requests for meetings with survivors’ advocacy groups including the National Women’s Law Center, SurvJustice, and the Victim Rights Law Center.

Source: ‘Slap In the Face’: DeVos Under Fire for Including Fringe Men’s Rights Group in Sexual Assault Talks | Common Dreams

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The U.S. Has Been At War For Over 220 In 241 Years

The United States presents itself to the world as a beacon of liberty and a proponent of human rights around the world, ready and willing to stand up for and defend the downtrodden. Florida Senator Marco Rubio recently said that the world looks to the U.S. as an example of democracy. This myth is not believed outside of the United States’ borders, and decreasingly within. There is simply too much evidence to the contrary.The U.S. has been at war for over 220 of its 241 year history. During that time, it has shown a complete lack of respect for the human rights of both the citizens of the nations against which it wages war, and its own soldiers. We’ll take a look at examples from recent history, and see how the U.S. continues these barbaric practices today.

Source: The U.S. Has Been At War For Over 220 In 241 Years

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A greyhound dies on a Florida track every three days.

Greyhound racing industry drugs dogs


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Comatose Football Fan Responds to Mention of Archrivals

(NEWSER) – The family of an Ohio man who returned to the US comatose in April after suffering a traumatic brain injury from a car accident in the Republic of Georgia was given little chance of recovering by doctors who said they should be prepared to turn off his feeding tube within six months to a year. Yet 38-year-old Zach Lawrence, of Dublin, Ohio, apparently wasn’t listening to the physicians at Ohio State University’s Dodd Hall Rehabilitation Center, the AP reports. He’s begun making sounds, keeping his eyes open, and smiling at his children. Some of the best evidence that he’s aware came when he was asked to respond with a push of a “yes” or “no” button to the question: “Do you like Michigan?”Ohio State and the University of Michigan have one of the fiercest and most storied rivalries in college football and just about everything else. To the delight of his family, Lawrence pushed the “no” button not once but twice. “He always makes a face when we mention Michigan,” Lawrence’s wife, Meghan, tells the Columbus Dispatch. “We’re pretty sure he’s in there.” Meghan Lawrence says Dodd Hall’s Disorders of Consciousness program has made all the difference. Therapists have been helping Lawrence stand on a treadmill and have been using electric stimulation to move messages from his brain to other parts of his body.

Source: Comatose Football Fan Responds to Mention of Archrivals

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Ohio Looks to Alter ‘Gun Free Zone’ Penalties 

As of right now, it is a felony to carry a firearm into a “gun free zone” in Ohio. There is also the risk of a year in prison and a $2,500 fine! However, lawmakers are looking to make a significant change to that!Ohio legislature is currently considering a bill that will lessen the penalty of a concealed hand gun in a no gun zone so that people are not risking a felony background to having their firearm. With a felony, people lose their right to vote AND own guns. The bill, which is sponsored by Republicans, will allow licensed carries to take their firearm into places that are considered gun-free zones, including government buildings, restaurants, and schools. Here’s the kicker, they just can’t get caught!However, if they DO get caught, they will simply be asked to leave and the citizen also won’t face criminal charges.

Source: Ohio Looks to Alter ‘Gun Free Zone’ Penalties – Godfather Politics

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Now Uber sued for textual harassment

Taxi app turned lawsuit magnet Uber last week was sued by Donna Giacomaro, a resident of Levittown, New York, for text message harassment, in violation of the Telephone Consumer Protection Act (TCPA) and New York state law.The complaint, filed in the Eastern District of New York, alleges that Uber last month began sending Giacomaro text messages that she never consented to receive.The court filing claims Uber’s need to grow its customer database has made it disinclined to maintain an accurate list of Uber customers.”Because Defendant’s income is dependent on the number of consumers registering as customers of Defendant, Defendant’s customer enrollment process does not include procedures necessary to confirm the accuracy of the information Defendant receives from potential customers, including their phone numbers,” the complaint says.

Source: Now Uber sued for textual harassment • The Register

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Spam Hacks: 12+ Things to Do with SPAM


Love it or hate it, SPAM is a cultural icon. The little loaves of spiced pork shoulder are recognized all over the US (and beyond!) for their saltiness, their fattiness, their ability to withstand all manner of emergency up to and incuding thermonuclear war and zombie apocalypse, and the distinctive schlllloooooop sound they make as they slide out of their cheery blue cans. That noise is more powerful than a mating call for certain Hawaiians I know.

A few weeks ago, we tasted every flavor of Spam on the market. It was… interesting. But the real question is: What do you do with over a dozen cans’ worth of leftover Spam?

You get creative, that’s what.

Each one of these recipes is just one small step for Spam, one giant leap for Spamkind (as we community of Spam lovers like to call ourselves).


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Amazon ‘Security Enhancement Protocol’ Phishing Scam 

According to this email, which purports to be from Amazon, the company has observed multiple login attempt errors on your account during it’s “usual security enhancement protocol.”  Supposedly, Amazon is concerned that someone other than you has been trying to access your account. Therefore, claims the email, Amazon has suspended your account for security reasons and your access will be restricted until you click to update your details.However, the email is not from Amazon and the claim that your account has been suspended is untrue. Instead, it is a phishing scam designed to steal your Amazon account login details and a large amount of your personal and financial information.Here’s what the scam email looks like:Dear Customer,During our usual security enhancement protocol, we observed multiple login attempt error while login in to your online Amazon account.We have believed that someone other than you is trying to access your account for security reasons,we have temporarily suspend your account and your access to online Amazon and will be restricted if you fail to update.

Source: Amazon ‘Security Enhancement Protocol’ Phishing Scam – Hoax-Slayer

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Google Home Smart Device Hears Trouble, Calls 911 During Violent Domestic Dispute

As reported by ABC News, New Mexico man Eduardo Barros was house-sitting at a home in Tijeras with his girlfriend and her daughter this past Sunday.

Barros then got into a fight with his girlfriend, and things grew violent. At some point, he allegedly threatened her with a gun, saying: “Did you call the sheriffs?” However, the home that the couple was occupying had an active smart home device running inside.

The Google Home misinterpreted Barros’ threat as a voice command, and called 911. When the police heard the altercation over the phone, they immediately rushed over with a SWAT team. After a long standoff, the police were able to capture Barros.

His girlfriend sustained some injuries, but was not hospitalized. Her daughter was unharmed.


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Morals Without God?

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Does sexual abuse cause pedophilia?

Child Sexuality Research

Some psychologists have suggested that pedophilia is caused by childhood abuse. There is no empirical evidence to support this hypothesis.

Freund, Kurt; Watson, R.; and Dickey, R. (1990). “Does sexual abuse in childhood cause pedophilia: an exploratory study,” Archives of Sexual Behavior, 19(6), 557-568.

The first however, to investigate the reliability of these offenders retrospective reports was Hindman (1988). This therapist compared paroled male adult sexual offenders against children in two periods: In the first (1980-1982) she interviewed 40 patients and in the second (1982-1988) she saw 129. The second period differed from the first in that the patients were told that they would have to submit to a polygraph test and that if their self-reports were contradicted they would be returned to jail. In the first period, during which patients were not threatened with polygraph testing, 67% indicated that they had been molested when children. In the second period…

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NASA at Saturn: Cassini’s Grand Finale

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Liberal Silence on Transgender Violence

For the last few days, we’ve seen the headlines about Randy Stair and his murderous rampage all over our news feeds. We’ve learned about Stair’s bizarre obsession with a Nickelodeon cartoon character. We’ve learned about his unapologetic admissions of racist, sexist, and homophobic prejudice.We’ve also learned that Stair was a transgender woman; a male who claims to “feel” like a woman on the inside, somehow trapped in the wrong body.On any other occasion, an admitted racist, sexist, homophobic white man who planned and executed a murder-suicide would illicit the publishing of several liberal op-eds on the same day. Yet, there seems to be an incredible reluctance when it comes to discussion of Stair’s transgender identity as it relates to his crimes.But, why?It turns out that claiming a transgender identity is a coat of armor against justifiable criticisms of male violence. In a way, it’s magical. Even a homicidal bigot can be insulated from the wrath of social justice criticisms if he claims to be trapped in the wrong gender. Randy Stair is only one example.In 2016, Dana Rivers, a transgender-identified white male, made headlines for murdering a black lesbian couple, Patricia Wright and Charlotte Reed, as well as their teenage son, Toto M. Diambu. Where was the liberal outrage? It seemed that when liberals did step forward to express their indignation, it had more to do with anger at Rivers being misgendered. The homicide of a black family at the hands of a white male didn’t seem to warrant a national discussion about transgender identity politics and male violence against women. It certainly didn’t inspire a conversation about liberal sexism, liberal racism, or the ridiculous reasoning behind the prioritization of a murderer’s identity preferences. Instead, the story faded into the ether almost as spontaneously as it came.There are several others.In 2014, transgender woman Donna Perry was charged with three counts of first-degree murder. His victims were three women known to law enforcement as prostitutes. Where were the liberal think-pieces on protections for sex workers? In 2016, charges against Julianna Fialkowski, a transgender woman who was accused of raping and choking a female victim, were dropped because of supposed inconsistencies in the victim’s story. Where were the liberal protests against disbelieving the victim? This year, Patrick “Tara” Pearsall was convicted for sexually assaulting two pregnant teenagers. Where were the liberals? Perhaps a better question to ask would be:Why do transgender-identified males consistently receive the utmost sensitivity from liberals, even when they harm women?

Source: Liberal Silence on Transgender Violence – The Fifth Column

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How Google Rigs Search and Hurts Consumers

I’m sure all of you heard about the $2.7 billion fine imposed by the EU on Google as a result of its anti-competitive behavior, but not many of you probably know exactly what the search giant did to earn it. To shine some light on the topic, let’s take a look at a few excerpts from a recent article written by Silicon Valley antitrust lawyer Gary Reback.

Below are some choice excerpts from the piece, You Should Be Outraged at Google’s Anti-Competitive Behavior:

Before 2007, if a user searched for a product on Google, other sites listing prices for that product would appear among the general search results, ranked in the order of their quality to users. These “comparison shopping sites” were designed to identify merchants with the lowest prices. The more accurate and comprehensive their results, the higher they were ranked and the more traffic they generated.

But the more successful that comparison shopping sites became, the more they threatened Google’s business plan. Google makes money by selling ads placed next to its free search results, and merchants could not be expected to bid for ad placement if the listings in comparison shopping sites on the same search undercut their prices.

To address this, Google developed a cunning plan, the first phase of which was documented in a report by the FTC. Portions of the report were published by the Wall Street Journal more than two years ago.

Quoting internal Google documents and emails, the report shows that the company created a list of rival comparison shopping sites that it would artificially lower in the general search results, even though tests showed that Google users “liked the quality of the [rival] sites” and gave negative feedback on the proposed changes.

Google reworked its search algorithm at least four times, the documents show, and altered its established rating criteria before the proposed changes received “slightly positive” user feedback. Internal Google documents predicted that the proposed changes would reduce rivals’ user traffic up to 20 percent and subsequently reported producing the desired results once the changes were implemented.

At the same time, Google started putting the results from its own comparison shopping service at the top of search results. After these changes, the only source of low-price information readily available on Google’s search platform came from Google’s own comparison shopping service, known at the time as Google Product Search, which listed the lowest prices for products in its database at no charge to merchants. 

Google’s conduct certainly hurt its rivals, particularly after a second round of search-listing demotions documented by the European Union. Many companies have been forced to lay off all of their employees and even shut down operations.

In 2012, Google took the extraordinary step to kill Google Product Search, replacing it with Google Shopping. This new service did not display the lowest price (or even a low price) in the general search results; rather, it displayed ads at the top of the search results page in response to the user’s search term. The ads were carefully placed by Google’s algorithms to minimize price competition among merchants, by, for example, showing ads next to each other that featured different product models at different price points.

Google Shopping also permitted merchants to purchase ads on a separate shopping page. Merchants — no longer promoted in search results for having lower prices — now must pay for better placement. Not surprisingly, they have raised prices to cover these costs.

Google’s competitors argued in a study, which I submitted to the European Commission a few years ago, that the prices in Google Shopping ads for specified products on search results pages were among the highest in Google’s database. Google’s displayed prices for everyday products, such as watches, anti-wrinkle cream and wireless routers, were roughly 50 percent higher — sometimes more — than those on rival sites. A subsequent study by a consumer protection group found similar results. A study by the Financial Timesalso documented the higher prices.

The Post’s editorial board claimed that the online availability of large merchant sites might restrain Google’s power over consumers. But those sites haven’t stopped Google from executing its plan so far. There is no denying that Google eliminated services showing the lowest prices, free to merchants, and replaced them with high-priced ads.

Some people like to blame all of the world’s problems on government. Others blame business for everything that ever goes wrong. I don’t fall into either of these categories. I think the greatest threat to humanity, freedom and our overall happiness comes down to concentrations of power. Too much concentration of power within business or government ultimately leads to tyranny and oppression, and the best solution is for all of us to fight against concentrations of power in all its manifestations. Personally, I think Google has far too much power in a service as important to modern life as search, and it seems executives there are doing what always happens with concentrated power — abusing their position.

My increased aversion to Google is a large driver behind my recent creation of a Patreon page. My goal is to get pledges up to $1,000 per month by the end of 2017, at which point I will remove Google ads from the site. If you have the means and care to support my drive to turn Liberty Blitzkrieg into a more reader-supported project, consider becoming a patron.


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FBI kept tabs on Aldous Huxley’s dark vision of the future

Bureau followed with interest Huxley’s warnings of technology eroding the foundation of democracyWritten by JPat BrownEdited by Beryl LiptonThe FBI file of Aldous Huxley, released after a FOIA request by Joseph Lloyd, reveals that while the English author was never under official investigation, the Bureau found his dystopian view of the future interesting enough to follow him and take notes.The file begins in 1958, after Huxley had been interviewed on television by Mike Wallace. The interview was the work of the Fund for the Republic, a think tank founded in opposition to McCarthyism, which was itself enough to raise the FBI’s eyebrows. Huxley, the file notes, had never been deemed sufficiently suspicious to warrant an investigation …

Source: FBI kept tabs on Aldous Huxley’s dark vision of the future

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Listen to the privacy geeks… 

The story of Google’s AI subsidiary DeepMind took a not-unexpected turn this week when the ICO ruled that the Royal Free NHS Foundation Trust failed to comply with the Data Protection Act when it provided patient details to DeepMind. This is the latest step in a saga that looks set to rumble on for some time – and one from which there are many, many lessons to be learned. One of those – sadly one that does not seem likely to be heeded as much as it should be – is that those involved in projects like this should pay more attention to those who can loosely be described as ‘privacy geeks’.Two in particular have been critically involved in this process – Hal Hodson (@halhod) and Julia Powles (@juliapowles). Hal started the ball rolling with a serious piece of investigative journalism in New Scientist in April 2016, which brought the issue to light, and as well as further journalistic work Hal and Julia wrote a piece of ‘proper’ academic work – ‘Google DeepMind and healthcare in an age of algorithms’ in the journal Healthcare and Technology. This led, ultimately, to the ICO’s investigation and ruling – though it has to be noted that the ICO’s ruling is on DeepMind’s trial with the Royal Free: the real test will be when DeepMind’s work rolls out. The ICO has asked the Royal Free, amongst other things, to do a full ‘privacy impact assessment’ prior to further work. That they did not do so prior to the previous trial is one of the serious shortcomings of the project. As Julia Powles put it in the Guardian yesterday:

Source: Listen to the privacy geeks… | Paul Bernal’s Blog

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Vegetarian Cattle Farmer Who Can’t Kill His Cows Gives Away Whole Heard to Animal Sanctuary

When his father died, in 2011, Jay Wilde inherited the family cattle farm, in Ashbourne, UK. He has been constantly sending cows to the slaughterhouse ever since, but he recently decided he couldn’t do it anymore, so he gave away his heard of 59 cows to an animal sanctuary, where they will live out the rest of their natural lives in peace.59-year-old Wilde has been a vegetarian for 25 years, so having to sell animals to be killed for meat was particularly difficult, but he had promised his father that he would take over the family farm. Having to send off the animals to the slaughterhouse after seeing them grow under his eyes and spending time with them was extremely unpleasant, and the farmer recently decided that he couldn’t bear to do it anymore.Share PinPhoto: Jay Wilde“I began to see that cows recognize each other, and they’ve got very good memories,” Jay Wilde told the Vegan Society. “They experience a range of emotions – they can be sad, happy, bored or excited. They do also have facial expressions. You can tell what a cow is thinking by looking at them. I’ve even seen cows cry.”“Cows are conscious of what goes on around them ,they have personalities and an inner life,” the farmer adds. “They’re not just units of food. Knowing them personally makes it more difficult to think about eating them.”

Source: Vegetarian Cattle Farmer Who Can’t Kill His Cows Gives Away Whole Heard to Animal Sanctuary | Oddity Central – Collecting Oddities

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122 Nations Create Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapons. North Korea is the only Nuclear Country Which Voted Yes

On Friday the United Nations concluded the creation of the first multilateral nuclear disarmament treaty in over 20 years, and the first treaty ever to ban all nuclear weapons. While 122 nations voted yes, the Netherlands voted no, Singapore abstained, and numerous nations didn’t show up at all.The Netherlands, I’m told by Alice Slater, was compelled by public pressure on its parliament to show up. I don’t know what Singapore’s problem is. But the world’s nine nuclear nations, various aspiring nuclear nations, and military allies of nuclear nations boycotted.The only nuclear country that had voted yes to begin the process of treaty-drafting now completed was North Korea. That North Korea is open to a world without nuclear weapons should be fantastic news to numerous U.S. officials and media pundits apparently suffering traumatic fear of a North Korean attack — or it would be fantastic news if the United States were not the leading advocate for expanded development, proliferation, and threat of the use of nuclear weapons. The U.S. ambassador even staged a press conference to denounce this treaty when its drafting was initiated.Our job now, as citizens of this hapless world, is to lobby every government — including the Netherlands’ — to join and ratify the treaty. While it falls short on nuclear energy, it is a model law on nuclear weapons that sane human beings have been waiting for since the 1940s. Check it out:

Source: 122 Nations Create Treaty to Ban Nuclear Weapons. North Korea is the only Nuclear Country Which Voted Yes | Global Research – Centre for Research on Globalization

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The United Nations Prohibits Nuclear Weapons

After a decade-long effort by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), and 72 years after their invention, today states at the United Nations formally adopted a treaty which categorically prohibits nuclear weapons.

Until now, nuclear weapons were the only weapons of mass destruction without a prohibition treaty, despite the widespread and catastrophic humanitarian consequences of their intentional or accidental detonation. Biological weapons were banned in 1972 and chemical weapons in 1992.

On adoption of the treaty, ICAN’s executive director, Beatrice Fihn, said:

“We hope that today marks the beginning of the end of the nuclear age. It is beyond question that nuclear weapons violate the laws of war and pose a clear danger to global security.

“No one believes that indiscriminately killing millions of civilians is acceptable – no matter the circumstance – yet that is what nuclear weapons are designed to do. Today the international community rejected nuclear weapons and made it clear they are unacceptable.

“It is time for leaders around the world to match their values and words with action by signing and ratifying this treaty as a first step towards eliminating nuclear weapons.”

The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons was adopted Friday morning and will open for signature by states at the United Nations in New York on 20 September 2017. Civil society organizations and more than 140 states have participated in negotiations.

This treaty is a clear indication that the majority of the world no longer accepts nuclear weapons and does not consider them legitimate tools of war. The repeated objection and boycott of the negotiations by many nuclear-weapon states demonstrates that this treaty has the potential to significantly impact their behavior and stature.


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Transgender women ‘will soon get womb transplants’ so they can have babies

Transgender women born as boys can have babiesWomb transplants for transgender women who want to be mothers could be available in just a decade’s time, a leading NHS doctor has said.

Medical professionals have told the Mail on Sunday that at least three UK women could be offered wombs through a new charity-funded programme launching this year.

Womb transplants could make it possible for mothers who are born male to get pregnant and have babies.

Sweden has already seen success in ‘uterine transplantations’.

Since 2014, at least five babies have been born to womb-less women, after they received donor wombs in a series of operations at Gothenburg University in Sweden.


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A satellite may be falling apart in geostationary orbit [Updated]

In the early hours of 1st July, the SES Satellite Control reestablished contact to AMC-9. SES and the satellite manufacturer Thales are working around the clock to evaluate the status and define the next steps.
Tracking information received on 29 June had suggested that at least two separate objects were located in the vicinity of AMC-9. Their source has still to be determined. The new piece of information was included by Thales and SES in their investigations.

All relevant operators and agencies are being kept informed and will receive regular updates from SES. The current assessment is that there is no risk of a collision with other active satellites. AMC-9 and its status continue to being tracked by SES and agencies, including the Joint Space Operations Centre (JSpOC) and ExoAnalytic, a private firm and tracking service provider.


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Within 30 years we will no longer use sex to procreate, says Stanford professor

Within three decades people will no longer be having sex to procreate, a professor from Stanford University has said.

Hank Greely, the director of Stanford’s Law School’s Center for Law and the Biosciences, believes the reproductive process will begin with parents choosing from a range of embryos created in a lab with their DNA.

Although this can already take place, Mr Greely believes it will become far cheaper to do so and couples will opt for this method to prevent diseases.

The process involves taking a female skin sample to create stem cells, which is then used to create eggs.

These eggs are then fertilised with sperm cells, resulting in a selection of embryos.


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Professor: I Don’t Trust White People, They All Need To “Resign From Their Position of Power”

The University of Hawaii professor who wanted universities to stop hiring white men also said, “I don’t trust white people” and “cis het white people need to lose more,” according to screenshots obtained Friday by The Daily Caller News Foundation.

Piper Harron, a temporary assistant math professor at the University of Hawaii at Manoa, made these remarks and others on Facebook in May and June 2017.

“I need to take a long break from disagreeing with white people,” Harron wrote in May. “Their Have You Considereds have worn me down and I’m showing signs of weakness. If you wanna know why I don’t trust white people, it’s because of what that trust costs me.”


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Cuckoos mimic the sound of musk hogs to avoid being eaten

Banded Ground-Cuckoo (Neomorphus radiolosus) perched on a branch in Ecuador, South America.
Hog mimicker

All Canada Photos/Alamy Stock Photo

Bird or beast? A cuckoo seems to have learned how to mimic the sounds made by the pig-like peccaries it lives alongside, perhaps to ward off predators.

The Neomorphus ground cuckoos live in forests in Central and South America, where they often follow herds of wild peccaries so they can feed on the invertebrates that the peccaries disturb as they plough through the leaf litter.

Ecologists have noticed that when the cuckoos clap their beaks together they sound a lot like the tooth clacks the peccaries make to deter large predatory cats. To find out whether this is just coincidence or evidence of mimicry, Cibele Biondo at the Federal University of ABC in Brazil and her team analysed the cuckoo and peccary sounds, and compared them with the beak clapping sounds made by roadrunners – close relatives of the ground cuckoos.

Logically, the cuckoos should sound most similar to roadrunners, given that the two are closely related. But the analysis suggested otherwise. “The acoustic characteristics are more similar to the teeth clacking of peccaries,” says Biondo.


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Tylenol May Kill Kindness


Simulation theories of empathy hypothesize that empathizing with others’ pain shares some common psychological computations with the processing of one’s own pain. Support for this perspective has largely relied on functional neuroimaging evidence of an overlap between activations during the experience of physical pain and empathy for other people’s pain. Here, we extend the functional overlap perspective to the neurochemical level and test whether a common physical painkiller, acetaminophen (paracetamol), can reduce empathy for another’s pain. In two double-blind placebo-controlled experiments, participants rated perceived pain, personal distress and empathic concern in response to reading scenarios about another’s physical or social pain, witnessing ostracism in the lab, or visualizing another study participant receiving painful noise blasts. As hypothesized, acetaminophen reduced empathy in response to others’ pain. Acetaminophen also reduced the unpleasantness of noise blasts delivered to the participant, which mediated acetaminophen’s effects on empathy. Together, these findings suggest that the physical painkiller acetaminophen reduces empathy for pain and provide a new perspective on the neurochemical bases of empathy. Because empathy regulates prosocial and antisocial behavior, these drug-induced reductions in empathy raise concerns about the broader social side effects of acetaminophen, which is taken by almost a quarter of adults in the United States each week.

“I feel your pain.” – President William J. Clinton.

Bill Clinton’s memorable line during the 1992 presidential campaign (New York Times, 1992) became emblematic of his ability to connect with the American populace. This empathic ability to ‘put oneself in other people’s shoes’ and feel their pain is important not only in leadership, but also in daily social interactions with friends, family members, coworkers and strangers. Among its many forms, empathy for other people’s pain is particularly vital for societally important processes. For example, empathizing with another’s suffering is considered an important trigger of prosocial actions (Batson, 1998; see Eisenberg and Miller, 1987, for a meta-analysis).


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Hollywood’s obsession with franchises is costing studios millions

As anyone who has been to the cinema recently will tell you, Hollywood are currently pumping out franchises and sequels like original concepts never existed.

We’ve had Pirate of the Caribbean 5: Salazar’s Revenge, Transformers 5: The Last Knight**, The Mummy, Cars 3, King Arthur: Legend of the Sword, Alien: Covenant, Baywatch, and Despicable Me 3, all within almost two months.

As a seeming result of “franchise fatigue”, each of these has underperformed to some degree in the United States, failing to match the only two blockbusters that have managed to do notably well this Summer: Wonder Woman and Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2.

The current state of cinema was been brought to a head over the weekend with the release of Despicable Me 3, the threequel opening to $72.4 million, down from an expected $85 million and below both Despicable Me 2 and spinoff Minions, according to The Hollywood Reporter.


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With a Single Wiretap Order, US Authorities Listened In on 3.3 Million Phone Calls

NEW YORK, NY — US authorities intercepted and recorded millions of phone calls last year under a single wiretap order, authorized as part of a narcotics investigation.

The wiretap order authorized an unknown government agency to carry out real-time intercepts of 3.29 million cell phone conversations over a two-month period at some point during 2016, after the order was applied for in late 2015.

The order was signed to help authorities track 26 individuals suspected of involvement with illegal drug and narcotic-related activities in Pennsylvania.

The wiretap cost the authorities $335,000 to conduct and led to a dozen arrests.

But the authorities noted that the surveillance effort led to no incriminating intercepts, and none of the handful of those arrested have been brought to trial or convicted.

The revelation was buried in the US Courts’ annual wiretap report, published earlier this week but largely overlooked.

“The federal wiretap with the most intercepts occurred during a narcotics investigation in the Middle District of Pennsylvania and resulted in the interception of 3,292,385 cell phone conversations or messages over 60 days,” said the report.


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Magpies recruited to safeguard vineyards from grape-eating birds

Birds flying over vineyard
A smart solution isn’t necessarily a high-tech one

Macduff Everton/NGS/Getty

Bring in the big guns. Magpies are being lured in to help ward off smaller birds that feast on grapes.

Fruit-eating birds like starlings, rosellas and thrushes cause substantial damage to Australian vineyards, in some cases munching through 80 per cent of the fruit.

Farmers try to deter them using balloons that look like predatory birds, gas cannons that let off loud booms, and reflective tape that flutters in the wind. However, the birds soon wise up to these tricks and ignore them.

Another strategy is to cover the vines with netting, but this is labour-intensive, expensive and makes the grapes harder to spray.

Now, Rebecca Peisley at Charles Sturt University in Australia and her colleagues have come up with a cheap, easy, environmentally friendly alternative that halves bird damage to grapes.

In each of six vineyards in Victoria, they installed two wooden perches, each designed to attract large, aggressive birds like magpies and predatory birds like falcons – both of which can scare off small grape-eating birds.


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This Augmented Reality Helmet Helps Firefighters See Through Smoke to Save Lives

Sam Cossman was hit by a big idea next to a lava lake. With his sight obscured by fumes and vapors, he couldn’t be confident of his next step. Traditional thermal imaging was a solution, but not an ideal one. So, Cossman cofounded Qwake Tech with Dr. John Long, Ömer Haciömeroglu, and Bahar Wadia.

Qwake Tech’s augmented reality helmet.

Qwake Tech’s augmented reality system, C-Thru, is built into a futuristic helmet and relies on a thermal imaging camera, toxicity sensors, edge detection, and an AR display to cut through smoke with useful visuals. It might have been born in a volcano, but Qwake Tech thinks the system has wider applications in disaster situations, such as a burning building.

The company is working with firefighters to improve current handheld thermal imaging, which requires a firefighter to stop, hold up a device, look through it, interpret the display, put it down, and move forward. C-Thru’s display is positioned in front of the eyes, providing a hands-free AR video feed. It further clarifies the video by highlighting key details with bright edges. The company says this will allow firefighters to move much more quickly through buildings.


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