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Signs of the Times sott.net
A 21-year-old college student was shot and killed early Friday on Long Island after an armed man broke into the home she shared with her twin sister, held her hostage and then engaged in a gun battle with the police, the authorities said. The man who forced his way into the home was also killed It was not immediately clear who fired the fatal shots, the police said. The violence played out in the middle of the night on an ordinarily quiet residential street, only blocks from Hofstra University, where the victim went to school. Students who were preparing for their last day of exams awoke to the news that one of their own had been killed, and the normally festive atmosphere that comes with the end of the academic year turned terribly sad.
Red tide' and a loss of sea grass account for some manatee deaths, but researchers believe undiscovered factors are also at play. A record number of endangered manatees are dying in Florida's algae-choked waterways. So far this year, 582 manatees have died, more than any year on record, according to preliminary numbers from the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC). Pat Rose is an aquatic biologist and the executive director of the Save the Manatee Club, an organization devoted to preserving the animal. In his interview with TakePart, Rose reports the estimated minimum population of these gentle beasts is only 3,100 adults. That means their population has decreased by more than 10 percent in just four months. A total of 247 of these have died in the southwest of the state due to an explosion of a red-hued algae called Karenia brevis, also known as a red tide. This pesky microorganism produces neurotoxins that can kill manatees by causing them to seize to the point where they can't make it to the surface - or even lift their head out of the water - to breathe. The large marine mammals are also dying in the eastern part of the state, in Brevard County near Orlando. Rose says a gradual die-out of sea grass, upon which the manatees feed, has combined with blooms of brown algae and likely other unknown factors to kill nearly 150 more manatees. Since 2010, about 30,000 acres of sea grass have been wiped out. Luckily, it appears that both events are winding down, and the rate of manatee deaths appears to be slowing. But that's cold comfort for Rose, since the number of threats to manatees appears to be growing, and little is being done to address the problem. Traditionally, boat collisions have been the biggest killer of manatees; they're vulnerable since they're large, slow-moving and often hang out on the surface. Until this year, at least 41 percent of all manatee deaths resulted from these collisions, and likely more, because not all of these deaths are reported or detected.
As many as 50 or 60 people were injured Saturday in southwest Virginia when a car plowed into the annual Appalachian Trail Days parade in the town of Damascus, sending hundreds of people scattering amid shouts and screams. Nine of the injured were taken to hospitals after the incident at the annual trail festival, but none of the injuries appeared to be life-threatening, authorities said. "Reports to us indicate that no one was injured beyond stable" said Pokey Harris, director of emergency management in Washington County, Va. where Damascus is located, about 300 miles southwest of the District.
Train service in the busy New York-to-New Haven corridor may be restricted for days as officials investigate Friday's rush-hour collision of two trains in Connecticut -- an incident that sent dozens to hospitals -- officials said Saturday. Officials from the federal National Transportation Safety Board arrived at the site Saturday morning to begin their investigation of the Metro-North train crash in Bridgeport, Connecticut. The wreckage won't be removed until investigators finish examining it on site -- possibly Sunday, NTSB member Earl Weener said -- and then two tracks will have to be repaired before they can be reopened.
France's president has signed into law a controversial bill making the country the ninth in Europe, and 14th globally, to legalise gay marriage. On Friday, the Constitutional Council rejected a challenge by the right-wing opposition, clearing the way for Francois Hollande to sign the bill. He said: "I have taken [the decision]; now it is time to respect the law of the Republic." The first gay wedding could be held 10 days after the bill's signing. But Parliamentary Relations Minister Alain Vidalies told French TV he expected the first ceremonies to take place "before 1 July".
When it comes to mysteries, there's no better place for hiding them than the bottom of the ocean. In fact, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), as much as 95% of the world's oceans remain unexplored. And yet some people don't believe in sea monsters. Well, thanks to the advent of the internet, we can do some of that exploring from the comfort of our computer chairs, and you never know what sorts of strange stuff will turn up. Our pal Samuel Burgan (AKA IceBurg) was doing just that, and found a bunch of bizarre markings on the ocean floor, so he sent a few snapshots our way.
Senior Obama officials tell the US Senate: the 'war', in limitless form, will continue for 'at least' another decade - or two Last October, senior Obama officials anonymously unveiled to the Washington Post their newly minted "disposition matrix", a complex computer system that will be used to determine how a terrorist suspect will be "disposed of": indefinite detention, prosecution in a real court, assassination-by-CIA-drones, etc. Their rationale for why this was needed now, a full 12 years after the 9/11 attack: Among senior Obama administration officials, there is a broad consensus that such operations are likely to be extended at least another decade. Given the way al-Qaida continues to metastasize, some officials said no clear end is in sight. . . . That timeline suggests that the United States has reached only the midpoint of what was once known as the global war on terrorism." On Thursday, the Senate Armed Services Committee held a hearing on whether the statutory basis for this "war" - the 2001 Authorization to Use Military Force (AUMF) - should be revised (meaning: expanded). This is how Wired's Spencer Ackerman (soon to be the Guardian US's national security editor) described the most significant exchange: "Asked at a Senate hearing today how long the war on terrorism will last, Michael Sheehan, the assistant secretary of defense for special operations and low-intensity conflict, answered, 'At least 10 to 20 years.' . . . A spokeswoman, Army Col. Anne Edgecomb, clarified that Sheehan meant the conflict is likely to last 10 to 20 more years from today - atop the 12 years that the conflict has already lasted. Welcome to America's Thirty Years War." That the Obama administration is now repeatedly declaring that the "war on terror" will last at least another decade (or two) is vastly more significant than all three of this week's big media controversies (Benghazi, IRS, and AP/DOJ) combined. The military historian Andrew Bacevich has spent years warning that US policy planners have adopted an explicit doctrine of "endless war". Obama officials, despite repeatedly boasting that they have delivered permanently crippling blows to al-Qaida, are now, as clearly as the English language permits, openly declaring this to be so. It is hard to resist the conclusion that this war has no purpose other than its own eternal perpetuation. This war is not a means to any end but rather is the end in itself. Not only is it the end itself, but it is also its own fuel: it is precisely this endless war - justified in the name of stopping the threat of terrorism - that is the single greatest cause of that threat.
We always talk about and are lectured to about how "weather is not climate". Of course that's a flexible meme, because now when the weather turns hot or bad, climate is to blame. I had to go to Walmart today to pick up something, and as I walked down the aisles looking for things, this jumped out at me. Unfortunately, it was so ridiculous, it made me laugh out loud, and I got stares. So, I'm sharing this humor with you. I suppose it was only a matter of time before some enterprising company did this. Gotta love that "defend your hair against bad weather" line. Now even when CO2 or weather modification driven hordes of tornadoes descend upon us in retaliation for our climate sins, we can avoid bad hair days. Of course, shampoo only goes so far. They need "climate control body spray" to really be effective.
This morning, I found a little green caterpillar crawling on my arm, in bed, as I was waking up. I took it outside so it could become a butterfly or moth. If it had been a mosquito or tick, I would have killed it so it wouldn't hurt me or my family later. One shoe bomber terrorist inspired the US to invest billions in airport security, required hundreds of millions of shoes to be removed. That's because there was a risk that was known. But there are a million psychopaths and over eight million sociopaths who we know are out there, predators, doing damage, hurting people, killing people, bullying, stalking, stealing, corrupting. A small percentage get caught. Most of the ones who get caught are the low functioning, stupid ones, the violent ones, the ones who have co-morbid problems like drug addiction or alcoholism. The smart ones, the higher functioning ones get jobs at big corporations, in city, state and federal government. They even become judges and certainly become lawyers too. Some speculate that it takes a sociopath to become a CEO of a major fortune 1000 company. One commenter on a previous article in the series suggested ... The best defense is not to engage with them. You can't win. If you are forced to work with a psychopath then you either kill him or leave." Given the current situation, there's no protection from sociopaths who navigate the system avoiding arrest. They break rules but then intimidate or bully or charm people to cut them slack. They turn on their interpersonal intelligence to gain sympathy from those who say we should show them compassion. The best current defense may indeed be to leave. That's not acceptable to me, and of course, killing is not acceptable. That's why I'm engaging in writing this series. Good people should not have to leave to be safe from sociopaths.
In this 2001 Moyers Moment from Bill's documentary Trade Secrets, Bill examines the many chemicals that have been introduced into our environment over the last few decades. To find out just how pervasive these chemicals were, Bill volunteered to get his blood tested.
This piece first appeared at TomDispatch. Read Tom Engelhardt's introduction. Billionaires with an axe to grind, now is your time. Not since the days before a bumbling crew of would-be break-in artists set into motion the fabled Watergate scandal, leading to the first far-reaching restrictions on money in American politics, have you been so free to meddle. There is no limit to the amount of money you can give to elect your friends and allies to political office, to defeat those with whom you disagree, to shape or stunt or kill policy, and above all to influence the tone and content of political discussion in this country. Today, politics is a rich man's game. Look no further than the 2012 elections and that season's biggest donor, 79-year-old casino mogul Sheldon Adelson. He and his wife, Miriam, shocked the political class by first giving $16.5 million in an effort to make Newt Gingrich the Republican presidential nominee. Once Gingrich exited the race, the Adelsons invested more than $30 million in electing Mitt Romney. They donated millions more to support GOP candidates running for the House and Senate, to block a pro-union measure in Michigan, and to bankroll the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and other conservative stalwarts (which waged their own campaigns mostly to helpRepublican candidates for Congress). All told, the Adelsons donated $94 million during the 2012 cycle - nearly four times the previous record set by liberal financier George Soros. And that's only the money we know about. When you add in so-called dark money, one estimate puts their total giving at closer to $150 million. It was not one of Adelson's better bets. Romney went down in flames; the Republicans failed to retake the Senate and conceded seats in the House; and the majority of candidates backed by Adelson-funded groups lost, too. But Adelson, who oozes chutzpah as only a gambling tycoon worth $26.5 billion could, is undeterred. Politics, he told the Wall Street Journal in his first post-election interview, is like poker: "I don't cry when I lose. There's always a new hand coming up." He said he could double his 2012 giving in future elections. "I'll spend that much and more," he said. "Let's cut any ambiguity."
Turns out that the underground smuggling tunnels connecting the Gaza Strip to Egypt have been used to transport more than weapons lately. Palestinians in the Gaza Strip can now be supplied with Kentucky Fried Chicken delivered via the tunnels, as CNN reported. The American fast food is brought into the Palestinian territory by Al-Yamama, a delivery service that advertises on Facebook. The "finger lickin' good" chicken doesn't come easily to Palestinians in the Strip, however. A 20-piece bucket can cost about $30, which is about three times the amount it sells for in Egypt. The delivery also takes about three hours to travel 35 miles from the KFC branch in al-Arish, Egypt, to Gaza, sometimes being stopped by Hamas policemen who check the deliveries for other prohibited items. "Sometimes Hamas checks meals, sometimes the taxi picking up Sinai orders is late," a spokesman for the delivery company told The Mirror. Palestinians don't seem to be thrown off by the higher prices and lengthy time it takes the food to be delivered, however.
Activists protest outside White House calling for immediate closure of controversial jail. Activists demanding the closure of the Guantanamo Bay prison have marked the 100th day of a hunger strike there by submitting a petition to the White House containing some 370,000 signatures. A group of activists wearing orange jumpsuits and black hoods like those used on detainees at Guantanamo Bay gathered outside the White House on Friday to call for the immediate closure of the controversial jail. "Immoral, illegal, ineffective," a banner read. Richard Killmer, executive director of the National Religious Campaign Against Torture, said that "years of detention without charge or trial have created a sense of desperation and hopelessness among the men at Guantanamo, which has led over 100 of them to join a hunger strike".
Chilean Navy discovers more than 600 dead animals in Punta de Choros, a small fishing town north of La Serena. The bodies of sea lions, cormorants and penguins littered a seven mile stretch of beach in Punta de Choros, northern Chile on Sunday. The crime scene is in close proximity to the Humboldt Penguin Nature Reserve. Two days prior the Movement in Defense of the Environment (MODEMA) reported a band of ten fishing boats off the coastline of Punta de Choros. MODEMA and other environmental groups accused the boats of blast fishing - using explosives to catch mass quantities of fish. Sernapesca, Chile's National Fishing Service, investigated the scene and determined that all the animals were killed by the same incident. Autopsies report animals with fractured skulls, missing rib cages and multiple abrasions. Local authorities promptly called in the Investigative Police's (PDI) Environmental Crime Brigade for further investigation. Microbiological and chemical analysis tests are currently being run to determine if blast fishing is the cause of death. In Chile, blast fishing is illegal. Companies caught fishing in this manner face prison time and fines. The monetary amount depends on the damage to the ecosystem. However, causing the death of penguins during commercial activities is a jailable offense. Officials from Sernapesca told The Santiago Times that the combined offenses amount to a "serious crime."
Yeah, your trad demon-eating snake tattoo is really edgy and all, but if you're looking to take your body art to the next level, why not ditch the black ink and use hypertrophic scar tissue instead? Apparently, slicing your skin into bloody tattoos is totally a thing now, and you can go get your very own "I Love Mom" heart made out of your own mutilated skin in (where else?) Williamsburg. Called "scarification," the practice has deep roots in ancient tribal arts, but it feels creepier now that it's headed West. Having said that, it's certainly an art form: just check out the scar work done by Brooklyn resident Brian Decker, who runs Pure Body Arts in Williamsburg. He's been cutting elaborate symbols, designs and seahorses into people's skin for the past thirteen years, and told DNAinfo the practice has become more popular over the years. "People started to implement the ideas of tattoo reference to the design, which made them more extravagant, more detailed," he said. "You were able to build much more beautiful designs, which I'm sure caught more people's eyes." Then again, some people just think scar tattoos do a nice job highlighting their Alice in Chains Hot Topic tees: "Someone who is freshly 18 probably relishes the idea of someone being repulsed by that," Chris Beierschmitt, who works at Pure Body Arts, told DNAinfo of the practice. But is a scar tattoo really any more frightening in theory than shooting possibly cancerous black ink into your skin? Even if that ink is shaped like Rex Ryan's wife? Plus, scar tattoos are great for sending scary messages to time-traveling law breakers.
Fairbanks - Birds of all kinds are arriving in dizzying numbers and many long-time birders say they have never seen such a concentrated wave of migrating birds in the Tanana Valley. Bud Johnson in Tok estimates there were 100,000 sparrows descending on that area Tuesday. He reported seeing continuous flocks along the sides of the highway, and came home to hundreds of songbirds in his yard. White-crowned, golden-crowned, fox and tree sparrows mixed with juncos, rusty blackbirds and Lapland longspurs. Other viewers saw Lincoln's and Savannah sparrows and gray-crowned rosy-finches. "I have never seen anything like this ever," Johnson said. "The ground is just in constant movement and the singing (mostly from the white-crowned sparrows) is insane." Among bird-watchers, there is a phenomenon called "fallout," which is when a large number of migrating birds make landfall because they run into storm systems. Usually this happens along the coast, where exhausted birds touch down on the first solid ground they find. It's possible a combination of the late spring breakup and a current weather front has caused this unusual spring gathering. "This is turning out to be the most spectacular spring migration I think the Tanana Valley has seen in recent memory," Fairbanks birder Nancy DeWitt wrote in an email. "First, there were the unprecedented numbers of swans and white-fronted geese in the Delta barley fields (many of which are still there) accompanied by the biggest flocks of Canada geese and pintails I've ever seen, now followed by what Steve Dubois says is the largest concentration of sandhill cranes he's seen in his 28 years there. "Add in the numerous bluebird sightings (I've lost count), cloud after cloud of Lapland longspurs moving through the valley, thick groups of varied thrush at Fort Greely on Saturday night, and now the sparrow fall-out in Tok Bud describes, and I am just beside myself with glee," she said. "I assume most of this is weather related, but what happened and where along the migration route that balled up all these birds? I suppose the fact that a lot of the valley is snow-covered and many ponds and lakes are still frozen is also concentrating birds, but would sure love to know if anyone tracked migration radar data over Canada in the past month.
Denali Park, Alaska - Christmas music played Friday in the lobby of the McKinley Chalet Resort, just outside Denali National Park and Preserve. It was fitting, considering the weather outside. A heavy spring snowstorm dumped enough snow in the area to cancel some local events, keep people from driving and surprise a few tourists. A winter storm watch remained in effect until this morning. "The guests are actually enjoying the experience," said Craig Pester, district manager of Aramark's Denali resorts. "We had to change a couple tours around so they didn't get the full experience, but all the guests are very happy. They're kind of making it part of their adventure." Indeed, the Elliotts who are visiting from South Carolina thought the snow was pretty exciting, as they huddled behind an umbrella. What an Alaska experience, they said. A visitor from Germany came north for better weather and ended up camping in the snow at Riley Creek Campground. He took it all in stride.
Cold air across so much of Alaska, so late in the year, has delayed summer for the winter weary and left thousands of international travelers in holding patterns. An unexpected bonanza of migrating birds are reportedly hunkered down northwest of Denali National Park and Preserve. In the Delta-Tok region, thousands more cranes, swans, geese, and swallows than usual are waiting out conditions unusual even for Alaska. Birds often "ball-up" in foul weather, congregating along coastlines and then fly over vast Interior Alaska in waves. Not this year. One local birder told the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner he'd never seen so many stopped over, all at once, in more than 20 years. Arctic air pushing southward and smaller low-pressure systems have kept cold weather lingering. Up to 6 inches of snow was forecast over the weekend in Anchorage, with accumulation likely in Fairbanks as well, the National Weather Service predicted, though ground temperatures would melt most of it. Normally, late May sees warmer air from the Gulf of Alaska pulled north across the state, but for now, at least, much of Alaska remains near freezing or colder. "It is a real fluke. We just haven't gotten into our summer pattern yet," meteorologist Dan Peterson said. Next week, forecasts called for highs in the 50s and 60s from Anchorage, in Southcentral Alaska, north to Fairbanks.
For combat veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder, 'fear circuitry' in the brain never rests
New imaging study of combat veterans shows that brain regions linked to PTSD function abnormally even in the absence of external stress Chronic trauma can inflict lasting damage to brain regions associated with fear and anxiety. Previous imaging studies of people with post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD, have shown that these brain regions can over-or under-react in response to stressful tasks, such as recalling a traumatic event or reacting to a photo of a threatening face. Now, researchers at NYU School of Medicine have explored for the first time what happens in the brains of combat veterans with PTSD in the absence of external triggers. Their results, published in Neuroscience Letters, and presented today at the annual meeting of the American Psychiatry Association in San Francisco, show that the effects of trauma persist in certain brain regions even when combat veterans are not engaged in cognitive or emotional tasks, and face no immediate external threats. The findings shed light on which areas of the brain provoke traumatic symptoms and represent a critical step toward better diagnostics and treatments for PTSD. A chronic condition that develops after trauma, PTSD can plague victims with disturbing memories, flashbacks, nightmares and emotional instability. Among the 1.7 million men and women who have served in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, an estimated 20% have PTSD. Research shows that suicide risk is higher in veterans with PTSD. Tragically, more soldiers committed suicide in 2012 than the number of soldiers who were killed in combat in Afghanistan that year. "It is critical to have an objective test to confirm PTSD diagnosis as self reports can be unreliable," says co-author Charles Marmar, MD, the Lucius N. Littauer Professor of Psychiatry and chair of NYU Langone's Department of Psychiatry. Dr. Marmar, a nationally recognized expert on trauma and stress among veterans, heads The Steven and Alexandra Cohen Veterans Center for the Study of Post-Traumatic Stress and Traumatic Brain Injury at NYU Langone Medical Center. The study, led by Xiaodan Yan, a research fellow at NYU School of Medicine, examined "spontaneous" or "resting" brain activity in 104 veterans of combat from the Iraq and Afghanistan wars using functional MRI, which measures blood-oxygen levels in the brain. The researchers found that spontaneous brain activity in the amygdala, a key structure in the brain's "fear circuitry" that processes fearful and anxious emotions, was significantly higher in the 52 combat veterans with PTSD than in the 52 combat veterans without PTSD. The PTSD group also showed elevated brain activity in the anterior insula, a brain region that regulates sensitivity to pain and negative emotions. Moreover, the PTSD group had lower activity in the precuneus, a structure tucked between the brain's two hemispheres that helps integrate information from the past and future, especially when the mind is wandering or disengaged from active thought. Decreased activity in the precuneus correlates with more severe "re-experiencing" symptoms - that is, when victims re-experience trauma over and over again through flashbacks, nightmares and frightening thoughts. Key scientific contributors include researchers at NYU School of Medicine, the University of California at San Francisco, Mt. Sinai School of Medicine, and the Center for Imaging of Neurodegenerative Diseases at the VA Medical Center in San Francisco.