Wednesday, April 30, 2014

New Superbugs Resist all Antibiotics....W.H.O. Declares it a Major Threat to World Health

(Reuters) - The spread of deadly superbugs that evade even the most powerful antibiotics is no longer a prediction but is happening right now across the world, United Nations officials said on Wednesday. Antibiotic resistance has the potential to affect anyone, of any age, in any country, the U.N.'s World Health Organization (WHO) said in a report. It is now a major threat to public health and "the implications will be devastating".
"We have a big problem now, and all of the trends indicate the problem is going to get bigger, said
Keiji Fukuda, the WHO’s assistant director-general for health security.

In its first global report on antibiotic resistance, with data from 114 countries, the WHO said superbugs able to evade event the hardest-hitting antibiotics - a class of drugs called carbapenems - have now been found in all regions of the world.
"The world is headed for a post-antibiotic era, in which common infections and minor injuries which have been treatable for decades can once again kill," Fukuda said. Drug resistance is driven by the misuse and overuse of antibiotics, which encourages bacteria to develop new ways of overcoming them.
For gonorrhoea, a dangerous sexually-transmitted disease that infects more than a million people across the world every day, antibiotic treatments are failing fast as superbug forms of the bacteria that causes it outpace them.  At least 10 countries - including Austria, Australia, Britain, Canada, France, Japan, Norway, South Africa, Slovenia and Sweden, now report having patients with gonorrhoea that is totally untreatable.   
Only a handful of new antibiotics have been developed and brought to market in the past few decades, and it is a race against time to find more as bacterial infections increasingly evolve into "superbugs" resistant to even the most powerful last-resort medicines reserved for extreme cases.
One of the best known superbugs, MRSA, is alone estimated to kill around 19,000 people every year in the United States - far more than HIV and AIDS - and a similar number in Europe.

The WHO said in some countries, because of resistance, carbapenems now do not work in more than half of people with common hospital-acquired infections caused by a bacteria called K. pneumoniae, such as pneumonia, blood infections, and infections in newborn babies and intensive-care patients.
Resistance to one of the most widely used antibiotics for urinary tract infections caused by E. coli - medicines called fluoroquinolones - is also very widespread, the WHO said.
In the 1980s, when these drugs were first introduced, resistance was virtually zero, according to the WHO report. But now there are countries in many parts of the world where the drugs are ineffective in more than half of patients.
"Unless we take significant actions to improve efforts to prevent infections and also change how we produce, prescribe and use antibiotics, the world will lose more and more of these global public health goods and the implications will be devastating," Fukuda said in a statement.
Laura Piddock, director of the Antibiotic Action campaign group and a professor of microbiology at Britain's Birmingham University, said the world needed to respond as it did to the AIDS crisis of the 1980s.
"Defeating drug resistance will require political will, commitment from all stakeholders and considerable investment in research, surveillance and stewardship programmes," she said.
Jennifer Cohn of the international medical charity Médecins Sans Frontières agreed with the WHO's assessment and confirmed the problem had spread to many corners of the world.
"We see horrendous rates of antibiotic resistance wherever we look in our field operations," she said.
Well, where do we go from there? Maybe the answer is in prevention; building up our immune systems to resist bugs without drugs or perhaps a little genetic engineering is called for.

Rob Ford Headed for Rehab

Toronto Mayor Rob Ford campaigned in Toronto on 17 April 2014
Toronto Mayor Rob Ford was stripped of many of his political powers following an admission of drug use while in office
Controversial Toronto Mayor Rob Ford is to take a leave of absence to seek help for substance abuse, his lawyer says. Dennis Morris said his client acknowledged he had an abuse problem and wanted to do something about it.
Mr Ford, who is seeking re-election in October, has been stripped of many of his powers after he admitted using and purchasing illegal drugs while mayor. He confessed last year to smoking crack cocaine in a "drunken stupor". His admission, following months of denials, came after police said they had obtained a video that appeared to show him taking the illegal drug.

The Toronto Sun quotes Mr Ford as saying he is "ready to take a break" from the election campaign to "go get help." He told the newspaper he was being urged to not leave the mayoral race by people around him.
"He acknowledges he has a substance abuse problem and he wants to do something about it,'' Mr Morris told the Associated Press news agency.  The newspaper said it had obtained a new audio recording of him making abusive comments about other politicians. Videos have emerged in recent months showing him ranting obscenely in an apparently intoxicated state.
Allegations have also surfaced in police documents that Mr Ford used racially abusive language, threatened staff, sexually propositioned a female colleague, and snorted cocaine in a restaurant. He denies these allegations.
Mr Ford was first elected in 2010 to lead Canada's largest city on a pledge to tackle wasteful spending at city hall. He draws much of his support from the suburban areas of Toronto. He soon privatized garbage collection across much of the city and did away with a vehicle tax, but quickly became bogged down in disputes with the council.
In the fallout from the drug scandal, the city council stripped Mr Ford of most of his mayoral powers and his budget, rendering him effectively mayor in name only. But Mr Ford has brushed aside pressure to quit, saying voters will decide whether to keep him in office in the October election. He has said his "track record speaks for itself", and recent polls show him running in contention with his chief challengers.

Karen Stintz, (left to right) John Tory, Olivia Chow, David Soknacki and Rob Ford shake hands before the first Toronto mayoral debate in Toronto on 26 March 2014 
Toronto's mayoral candidates, from left to right: Karen Stintz, John Tory, Olivia Chow, David Soknacki and Rob Ford

The Toronto mayor faces serious challenges from centre-right candidate John Tory, a broadcaster and former member of the provincial parliament, and former New Democratic Party (NDP) MP Olivia Chow.
Mr Tory has released a "Code of Conduct" in which he vows to "respect and defend our laws, not break them", and to "show up for work each day", in a clear rebuke to Mr Ford's recent behavior.
Ms Chow said in an interview, that Mr Ford's "performance as a mayor is a total failure". Karen Stintz, a city councillor, and David Soknacki, a former councillor, are also running.

Mr Ford will go into a rehab facility, according to sources; the location of which is yet unknown. It is hard to say if that will help him come election time. Voters tend to want stable people to lead and represent them. The amazing fact is, he still has many supporters who believe he has a deep regard for the city and it's people. They don't forget he did bring about beneficial changes to the area.

Orangutans Facing Extinction

What we do for orangutans, we do for ourselves. Peter Pratje, of the Frankfurt Zoological Society, introduces us to our orangutan family and reveals how we, as individuals, can help prevent their imminent extinction. On the brink of extinction in the wild,  orangutans share at least 28 unique physical characteristics with humans. We share only 2 with chimps and 7 with gorillas, a new scientific paper suggests. Orangutans are very likely our closest cousins. Now, how can we just sit by and watch our relatives hunted, killed for food or driven from their habitat??

Chuckles...Money jokes

A little boy wanted $100 badly and prayed for two weeks but nothing happened. Then he decided to write a letter to the Lord requesting the $100. When the postal authorities received the letter addressed to the Lord, USA, they decided to send it to President Clinton. The President was so impressed, touched, and amused that he instructed his secretary to send the little boy a $5.00 bill, as this would appear to be a lot of money to a little boy. The little boy was delighted with the $5.00, and sat down to write a thank-you note to the Lord. It said: Dear Lord, Thank you very much for sending me the money. However, I noticed that for some reason you had to send it through Washington, DC and as usual, those jerks deducted $95.

A man walks into a New York City bank and says he wants to borrow $2,000 for three weeks. The loan officer asks him what kind of collateral he has. The man says "I've got a Rolls Royce -- keep it until the loan is paid off -- here are the keys." The loan officer promptly has the car driven into the bank's underground parking for safe keeping, and gives the man $2,000. Three weeks later the man comes into the bank, pays back the $2,000 loan, plus $10 interest, and regains possession of the Rolls Royce. The loan officer asks him, "Sir, if I may ask, why would a man who drives a Rolls Royce need to borrow two thousand dollars?" The man answers, "I had to go to Europe for three weeks, and where else could I store a Rolls Royce for that long for ten dollars?"

A guy walks into a bank and says to the teller at the window, "I want to open a fuckin' checking account" To which the lady replied, "I beg your pardon, what did you say?" "Listen up dammit, I said I want to open a fuckin' checking account right now." "Sir, I'm sorry but we do not tolerate that kind of language in this bank!" The teller left the window and went over to the bank manager and told him about her situation. They both returned and the manager asked, "What seems to be the problem here?" "There's no damn problem," the man said, "I just won 50 million in the lottery and I want to open a fuckin' checking account in this damn bank!" "I see sir," the manager said, "and this bitch is giving you a hard time?"

Three men discuss the Christmas presents they bought for their wives. The first man says that he bought his wife a vacation home in the Bahamas and one in Jamaica. "That way," he explains, "if she doesn't like one, she can use the other." The second man says he had bought his wife a sports car and a limo for exactly the same reason. The third man says, "I bought my wife a negligee and a vibrator. That way, if she doesn't like the negligee, she can go screw herself."

A doctor had been attending a rich old man for some time, but it became apparent that the old chap had not long to live. Accordingly, the doctor advised his wealthy patient to put his affairs in order. "Oh yes, I've done that," said the old gentleman. "I've only got to make a will. And do you know what I'm going to do with all my money? I'm going to leave it to the doctor who saves my life."

There is the story of a preacher who got up one Sunday and announced to his congregation: "I have good news and bad news. The good news is, we have enough money to pay for our new building program. The bad news is, it's still out there in your pockets."

A guy named Joe finds himself in dire trouble. His business has gone bust and he's in serious financial trouble. He's so desperate he decides to ask God for help. He begins to pray... "God, please help me. I've lost my business and if I don't get some money, I'm going to lose my house as well. Please let me win the lottery." Lottery night comes and somebody else wins it. Joe again prays... "God, please let me win the lottery! I've lost my business, my house and I'm going to lose my car as well." Lotto night comes and Joe still has no luck. Once again, he prays... "My God, why have you forsaken me?? I've lost my business, my house, and my car. My wife and children are starving. I don't often ask you for help and I have always been a good servant to you. PLEASE just let me win the lottery this one time so I can get my life back in order." Suddenly there is a blinding flash of light as the heavens open and Joe is confronted by the voice of God Himself: "Joe, meet Me halfway on this. Buy a ticket."

Diver and seal make friends....belly rub

Have you had your daily dose of adorable seal meets scuba diver, yet? Well, now you have.
Scuba diver Jason Neilus made a new friend at the bottom of the sea while filming with his trusty GoPro camera off the coast of Northumberland, England.
How can you not melt when you see how much these little ‘dogs of the sea’ love a good belly rub? Not a far cry from those loveable house pets we shower with kisses and behind-the-ear scratches! These little guys clearly seem to enjoy it just as much.

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Sarah Palin on the Slippery Slope to Obscurity

Sarah Palin speaks at the Conservative Political Action Conference in Washington, DC, on 8 March, 2014.

Sarah Palin faces backlash over a joke about waterboarding baptisms

Sarah Palin has long been a bete noir of the left, but she has always been able to count on support from grass-roots conservatives. At least, until now. During a speech to members of the National Rifle Association this weekend, Ms Palin cracked a joke that - while being well-received by the crowd - didn't go over as well with many Christian commentators, many of whom considered her an ally.

"They obviously have information on plots to carry out jihad," she said, referring to prisoners ( probably incarcerated in  Guantanamo Bay Detention Camp). "Oh, but you can't offend them, can't make them feel uncomfortable, not even a smidgen. Well, if I were in charge, they would know that waterboarding is how we baptise terrorists."

For The American Conservative's Rod Dreher, Ms Palin's statement is "sacrilegious". He says that those who laughed at the joke should be ashamed of themselves. Baptism, he says, should be about starting a new life, not celebrating torture.
"If I thought that kind of hateful declaration and abuse of the Christian religion was what conservatism stood for, I wouldn't be able to call myself a conservative," he writes. Dreher isn't the only religious conservative unhappy with Ms Palin's jibe.
Joe Carter of the Gospel Coalition says that while it is "suicidal" to try to find tolerance and understanding within those who want to destroy the US, dehumanizing the country's enemies is just as bad. "That is not the Christian way, as Palin would have it, to have our enemies fear a pagan god and have their spirit broken by water."

The Federalist's Mollie Hemingway agrees.
"Joking about baptism in the context of this aggressive action suggests that we don't think baptism is as life-giving or important as it is," she writes. Hemingway says that while she is a longtime supporter of Ms Palin, these latest remarks cross the line. In her eyes, Ms Palin is using religion for a political endgame, and while this type of "civil religion" definitely unites people politically, it comes at the expense of the church.
"The media is finally catching on that it is time to ignore Sarah Palin”

One journalist lampooned Hemingway's criticisms, poking fun at her for missing the mark on exactly why Ms Palin's comments were inappropriate.
"You just see here, now, Ms Palin, we don't so much mind you sticking it to the godless heathen Muslims, but don't you go joking about the sacraments," he writes. " Ridiculous".
In fact, he says, it's  difficult to pin down just what is so out of line about Ms Palin's statement.
"We're not sure what the most hilarious part of this line is - the desire to live out [conservative commentator] Ann Coulter's dream of victory through forced conversion, the mistaken belief that torture gets reliable intelligence or the very notion that Sarah Palin will ever be in charge of anything but a third-rate cable TV show," he concludes.
While it is well known that Ms Palin is no longer a real politician, writes Patrick Brennan for National Review, she still stands for a group of people who are serious about the ideas of faith and freedom. He asks why any of her supporters would continue to back her after what she said.
"Torture - waterboarding being something reasonable, Christian people consider to be an act with grave moral consequences."

By some coincidence, Palin's remarks came just hours before Robert Costa of the Washington Post published an article that outlines the former governor's political decline and the diminishing power her endorsements hold.
"Even as she travels to Iowa and elsewhere to bolster her handpicked candidates," he writes, "her influence in these midterm elections has been eclipsed by a new class of stars and her circle has narrowed, with a handful of aides guiding her and few allies in Washington beyond a group of backbench troublemakers in Congress."
Ms Palin was part of the trendy 2010 Tea Party movement, he says, but increasingly among her friends in Washington she finds herself in something less than a supporting role. And for some, including Politicus USA's Jason Easley, it's about time.
"Sarah Palin is the one hit wonder who started out playing arenas, then moved down to the clubs, then moved further down to the county fair circuit," he writes.
"When you stop drawing a crowd on the county fair circuit, it's over. The media is finally catching on that it is time to ignore Sarah Palin."
Hardly prophetic words; it's been over for some time now. America doesn't suffer fools lightly or for long.

LA Clippers owner Donald Sterling banned for life

Donald Sterling. 21 April 2014

  Donald Sterling bought the Los Angeles Clippers in 1981

The owner of the Los Angeles Clippers professional basketball team has been banned from the National Basketball Association for life after a recording emerged of him making racist remarks. NBA commissioner Adam Silver said Donald Sterling would be forced to sell his interest in the team.

And the league will fine him $2.5m, the maximum allowed.
Mr Sterling was recorded asking a woman not to associate in public with black people nor bring them to games. He later said the recording "does not reflect his views". In a news conference on Tuesday, Mr Silver told reporters that Mr Sterling's "hateful opinions... simply have no place in the NBA".

Adam Silver

"This league is far bigger than any one owner. That the remarks came from an NBA owner, only heightens the damage," he said. "I am personally distraught that the views expressed by Mr Sterling came from within an institution that has historically taken a leadership role in matters of race relations."

More reaction
  • "Commissioner Silver thank you for protecting our beautiful and powerful league!! Great leader!!" - Miami Heat star LeBron James
  • "This kind of behaviour has no place in basketball, or anywhere else, and we as a league must stand together in condemning this ignorance." - New York Knicks owner James Dolan
  • "I agree 100% with Commissioner Silver's findings and the actions taken against Donald Sterling." - Dallas Mavericks owner Mark Cuban
  • "We are a single team here today, a team not only speaking out for what we're against - racism, hatred, bigotry, intolerance - but what we're for. We're for great basketball." - Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti
Mr Silver said Mr Sterling would be banned from participating in all team business, as well as attending any NBA practices or games. The fine will be donated to organizations focused on combating racism, he said. And Mr Silver said he would urge the NBA's board of governors to force Mr Sterling to sell his stake in the team, which he purchased in 1981. It is considered the harshest punishment ever meted out by the NBA.
"Commissioner Silver showed great leadership in banning Sterling", basketball great Earvin Magic Johnson tweeted following the announcement. Mr Johnson reportedly posed for a photo with Mr Sterling's female companion, leading to his comments on the controversial recording.

Following the announcement of Mr Sterling's NBA expulsion, the Clippers' website posted the message: "We are one."
"We wholeheartedly support and embrace the decision by the NBA," the statement added. "Now the healing process begins."

The row erupted on Friday when celebrity news website TMZ published a 10-minute audio recording in which a man can be heard criticizing a woman, believed to be Mr Sterling's girlfriend V Stiviano, for posting online photographs of herself with black friends at Clippers games.

LA Clippers

The Clippers players wore their jerseys inside out as a protest
"It bothers me a lot that you want to broadcast that you are associating with black people. Do you have to?" the man says.
"The little I ask is not to promote it on that... and not to bring them to my games."
On Tuesday, Mr Silver said Mr Sterling had acknowledged it was his voice on the recording. It was not clear how or when the conversation was recorded. The remarks caused an immediate uproar in Los Angeles and among basketball fans across the country. The Clippers are competing in the first round of the NBA playoffs, drawing extra scrutiny to Mr Sterling's remarks.

On Sunday before a game against the Golden State Warriors, the players staged a silent protest, going through a pre-match warm-up with shirts on inside-out to hide the team's logo. The players also wore black wristbands or armbands and all wore black socks with their normal jerseys. Mr Sterling did not attend the game.

It's encouraging to see everyone involved in the sport and the companies and organizations that support it, all standing together on this issue.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Search for tornado survivors goes on

27 hours ago Arkansas

Drone footage shows extent of devastation in Mayflower Arkansas

Emergency crews have been digging through the rubble for survivors of deadly tornadoes that ripped through several central and southern states of the US. At least 16 people died in Arkansas, Iowa and Oklahoma - 14 of them in the suburbs of Little Rock, Arkansas. Forecasters have warned millions of people to prepare for more severe storms in the region on Monday.

A large tornado damaged homes and utility lines in Tupelo, Mississippi. The North Mississippi Medical Center in Tupelo admitted six people with injuries, but they are not thought to be life-threatening. Tupelo Mayor Jason Shelton told CNN the damage was widespread and "devastating". A 9 pm curfew is in place.
There are warnings of further tornadoes, high winds and large hailstones to strike parts of Alabama, Iowa and Louisiana.

"We've got a powerful storm system affecting the eastern two-thirds of the United States over the next few days,'' said Russell Schneider, director of the Storm Prediction Center in Norman, Oklahoma.
 Authorities said the death toll from Sunday may rise as crews searched the wreckage of destroyed buildings.

"We're trying to make sure everyone is accounted for," Brandon Morris, spokesman for the Arkansas Department of Emergency Management, told the Associated Press news agency. Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe said the storm "may be one of the strongest we have seen".
"We don't have a count on injuries or missing. We're trying to get a handle on the missing part," he said.

A tornado-damaged home awaits clean up and repairs in Baxter Springs, Kansas on 28 April 2014
Parts of Baxter Springs, Kansas, were also damaged by the dangerous storms

President Obama, on a trip to the Philippines, offered his deepest condolences to those affected on Sunday and said federal emergency officials would be on the ground to help.
"Your country will be there to help you recover and rebuild, as long as it takes," he said.

Most of the casualties were in suburbs west and north of Little Rock. Authorities initially reported a preliminary death toll of 16 in the area but later amended it to 14.  Building were destroyed while vehicles and trailers were thrown into the air.  Mayflower and Vilonia, two small towns in Faulkner County, appear to have borne the brunt of the damage. In Vilonia, the County Sheriff's office spoke of a "mass casualty situation".

The Arkansas tornado touched down about 10 miles (16km) west of the city of Little Rock and left a 40-mile (65km) path of destruction. It is said to have passed through several northern suburbs - including Mayflower where a witness described a twister half a mile wide crossing Interstate 40 on Sunday evening, the National Weather Service said.

Congressman Tim Griffin told Reuters news agency an "entire neighbourhood of 50 homes or so" in Faulkner County had been destroyed, with many "completely gone except the foundation".

Many homes and businesses, including a new secondary school worth $14m (£8.3m), were left in ruins in Vilonia after the storm.

We are tracking a dangerous threat of severe storms, tornadoes and flooding rainfall now through Wednesday on The Weather Channel and For the full forecast each day through Wednesday, click the link below.
(FULL FORECAST: Multiple-Day Severe Threat)
As of 7:20 p.m. CDT Monday, the Storm Prediction Center had received 427 reports of severe weather since 7 a.m. Sunday, including 53 reports of tornadoes. Our severe weather expert Dr. Greg Forbes said it is too early to know how many separate tornadoes touched down, as damage surveys will be conducted by local National Weather Service offices to determine that figure.
Several people have already been killed by tornadoes in this outbreak and the potential for more life-threatening storms will continue for the next few days.

9:51p CT: Confirmed large dangerous #tornado near Sandersville, MS moving ENE 50mph. May graze N Wayne Co.

Tornado Warning for Bibb, Hale and Tuscaloosa Counties in AL until 10:15 PM CDT…
9:47p CT: Confirmed #tornado near Berlin in Cullman Co, AL moving NE 30mph. See map for path/timing.

New US sanctions target Russian officials and companies Linked to Putin

Russian President Vladimir Putin talks to Rosneft chairman Igor Sechin at the Kremlin (2 July 2013)

Among the targets is Igor Sechin, who has worked for Vladimir Putin since the early 1990s

The US has imposed sanctions on seven Russian individuals and 17 companies it says are linked to President Vladimir Putin's "inner circle". The White House said the move was a response to "Russia's continued illegal intervention in Ukraine". Those targeted include Igor Sechin, head of oil giant Rosneft, and Sergei Chemezov of the hi-tech firm Rostec. The announcement comes after the mayor of Kharkiv, a city in eastern Ukraine, was shot and critically wounded.

The most eye-catching name on the new sanctions list is one of the hard men of Russian politics, Igor Sechin. A former intelligence officer, and once President Putin's closest ally in the Kremlin, he now runs Rosneft - the huge state-controlled oil company.
Alexei Pushkov, who heads the Russian parliament's foreign affairs committee and often speaks for the Kremlin to English-language broadcasters is also on the list, as are the deputy prime minister who was in charge of the Sochi Winter Olympics and the head of the Kremlin bodyguards. Seventeen Russian companies face new sanctions, too. All are linked either to President Putin's childhood friends and judo partners Arkady and Boris Rotenberg or to another close friend and billionaire Gennady Timchenko - or to Bank Rossiya, which the US government claims is the personal bank for senior Russian officials.
Hennadiy Kernes was recovering after an operation to repair damage to the chest and abdomen, but his life remained in danger, his office said. Mr Kernes used to be a supporter of former pro-Moscow President Viktor Yanukovych. He then dropped his support for Mr Yanukovych in favour of a united Ukraine.
Monday also saw pro-Russian separatists seize a local government building in Kostyantynivka, a town in the eastern Donetsk region. In Donetsk itself, pro-Russian activists armed with clubs and chains attacked a pro-unity rally. A number of people were injured in the clash.
Western countries accuse Russia of actively supporting the activists in Eastern Ukraine - a claim denied by Moscow. Separatists are also continuing to detain about 40 people in the town of Sloviansk, including journalists, pro-Kiev activists and seven military observers linked to the
Organization for Security and Co-operation in Europe (OSCE) as well as three members of Ukraine's security service, according to officials in Kiev.

At an OSCE meeting in Vienna, Russian ambassador Andrei Kelin said Moscow was taking "steps" to secure the observers' release. But the area around Sloviansk was very tense and it had been "extremely irresponsible" to send them there, he added. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon later called for the immediate and unconditional release of the observers. Witnesses reported pro-Ukrainian demonstrators being chased off by pro-Russians wielding metal bars
Separately, Russian Defence Minister Sergei Shoigu in a phone call with his US counterpart Chuck Hagel said Russian troops had returned to their permanent positions after conducting military exercises on the border of Ukraine. But he did not say whether the overall number of Russian troops deployed in the region - said to be around 40,000 - had been reduced. Meanwhile, Mr Hagel warned that Russia's continued aggression would result in more diplomatic and economic pressure.

The US and EU first imposed visa bans and asset freezes on a number of senior Russian officials and companies after Moscow annexed Crimea from Ukraine last month. On Thursday, the White House said it was adding to its sanctions list "in response to Russia's continued illegal intervention in Ukraine and provocative acts that undermine Ukraine's democracy".

Map of towns in Ukraine reporting major protests by pro-Russian separatists

It accused Russia of "doing nothing to meet the commitments it made" at a meeting with Ukraine, the US and EU in Geneva on 17 April, which it said had included refraining from violence or provocative acts. Russian Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said Moscow's response would be "painful for Washington". He told the Interfax news agency the Kremlin was "disgusted" by the sanctions.

One pro-Russian in eastern Ukraine said, "Maybe we'll celebrate New Year... in Brussels or Berlin"

An injured man is treated in Donetsk. Photo: 28 April 2014

A number of people were injured in clashes in the eastern city of Donetsk

A pro-Russian armed man sits in front of the city hall in Kostyantynivka

Pro-Russian separatists seized a local government building in Kostyantynivka on Monday

A boy points a toy gun as a group of journalists stand in front of Sloviansk's town hall (28 April 2014)

Western nations accuse Moscow of supporting the separatists, including those in Sloviansk

Hennadiy Kernes (2010)

Hennadiy Kernes was reportedly out cycling in Kharkiv when he was shot in the back

Among the seven government officials facing a US asset freeze and visa ban, two are seen as long-time allies:

  • Mr Sechin is a former KGB officer and was deputy chief of staff during Mr Putin's first two presidential terms, when he masterminded Russia's energy policy
  • Mr Chemezov is described by the US as a trusted ally dating back to the 1980s
  • Alexei Pushkov is chairman of the committee of international affairs of Russia's lower house of parliament, the State Duma
  • Most of the 17 companies targeted are linked to Arkady and Boris Rotenberg and Gennady Timchenko - individuals targeted in the previous sanctions list. The latest measures also targets some hi-tech exports that "could contribute to Russia's military capabilities".
Meanwhile, diplomats in Brussels said EU governments had reached a preliminary agreement to impose similar sanctions on another 15 people as part of expanded sanctions against Russia. The names are expected to be released on Tuesday.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Ask Maxy

Dear Maxy ,
I was recently diagnosed with high blood pressure  and my doctor  told me to stay  away from salty  foods . I have been doing that. I haven't  told  any of my  friends or  co-workers  because I want  to deal with my health  challenges  in my own way . I don't think it should be any of their  business but that's where I'm having  difficulty . I go out to eat with my co-workers  several days a week . It's a nice  ritual  that we have developed  over the years, except  what  where  we usually eat has really salty food . I don't know how I can change  my eating habits  and keep going  to these greasy holes with them . I want to keep my privacy, keep my friends and improve  my health . What  can I do ?
Blood  Boiling
Dear Blood  Boiling ,
Your  doctor  likely also told you  that in order  to improve  your  health  significantly, you  will have to change  your  habits . You already know that you cannot eat  out at those places  several times a week  and consume unhealthy food if you want to lower  your blood pressure .
Until  you feel comfortable, you do not have to tell your co-workers about your health condition, but you can tell them that you have decided to get healthier . Tell them you have made a pledge  to yourself and that includes eating better . Ask if anyone  is interested  in doing this, too . Suggest alternative places to eat out together . Change  your pattern  entirely  by preparing  your lunch  and bringing  it from home . This will enable  you to  control exactly what goes into  your  body .

Dear Maxy ,
I enjoy reading  your column  and agree with most of your advice, including your recommendations  when it  comes  to handling alcohol addictions  and binge drinking .
I do not work in this  field , but I've seen alternatives to AA that may be more palatable to some who  are seeking  assistance . Would you print  this  information , too ?
Austin , Texas
Dear Austin Texas ,
I actually  have  printed  alternatives  to AA in the past  and am happy to do so again . Whatever helps . I recognize  that some people  are not comfortable with 12-step programs  or those mentioning a "higher power," and others are searching  for something more specifically tailored to their needs . So here are a few suggestions .
Moderation Management (; Hams (Harm Reduction, Abstinence and Moderation Support) at ; Smart Recovery (Self-Management and Recovery Training) at ; Rational Recovery ( ) ; Sober Recovery (; SOS (Secular Organizations  for Sobriety) at ; LifeRing ( ); Women for Sobriety  ( ).
I realize this list doesn't  include everything ,  so readers  can find more resources through the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration ( ) at 1-800-662-HELP (1-800-662-4357) .

Dear Maxy,
Every time I see my grandmother ... every month ...  she  gives  me a present . She is so sweet   and I really  appreciate it . My question is  should I be sending  her a thank you note  every time ? Since she's  been doing this  for years , I really haven't been writing  her notes . But then I  had  the thought the other  day  that she probably  would appreciate  a note  from me  and it  might even spark her  interest to write back .  It would be awesome  to have letters  from my grandmother  to hold onto.
What do you think ?
Should I write ?
Georgia Peach
Dear Georgia Peach ,
Since  you see your  grandmother  so  frequently, which is a blessing, and she always  gifts  you, you may want  to consider  your note to her differently . Yes  you can say thank you  for her  gift,  but more than that, share with her a few bits about your life . Tell her in regular notes  about experiences you are having . Write her in detail,  knowing that  she will likely use your  stories to brag to her friends  about your  experiences  . Choose to relay positive  stories  that she can  embrace . Keep your challenges and negative experiences to yourself to share with  your  parents, friends  or even a professional  when needed
Older people  tend to worry  more, and you have no reason  to  give her  something that will upset her . You can include  your thanks in the notes
Whenever you find  that you  really benefited  from something  your  grandmother gave  you ,  by all means , write to her and say so . She will surely write back  and then the two of you  will have a new  way  of interacting  with each other .
Cherish the time you have with her and build  memories to keep for the rest of your life.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Obama's Presence Reassures Allies

Japanese PM Shinzo Abe and President Barack Obama (23 April 2014)

The first objective of President Barack Obama's four-nation trip to Asia has already been accomplished - literally his arrival in Japan. After previous postponements for multiple domestic crises, including last autumn's government shutdown, Mr Obama's return to the region is itself reassuring, a personal manifestation of the foreign policy "pivot" to Asia the administration enunciated two years ago but has struggled to translate in concrete terms.

Now that Mr Obama is back in the region - his fifth visit as president - what challenges will he confront, what does he hope to accomplish and what do those people want to hear from him?
He arrives in a region that is distracted, concerned and uncertain. Two countries he will visit, South
Korea and Malaysia, are preoccupied with significant tragedies. The recent sinking of a Korean ferry claimed as many as 300 lives, the majority of them high school students. Malaysia is consumed with the ongoing multinational search for the wreckage of Malaysia Flight 370 and the 239 passengers and crew aboard. The Malaysian government has been subject to significant regional criticism for its confused handling of the disappearance and search. It will undoubtedly welcome the opportunity to change the subject, if briefly. Mr Obama's visit is the first by an American president in almost 50 years.

Another country on Mr Obama's itinerary is the Philippines, still recovering from November's
Typhoon Haiyan that killed more than 6,000 people and left four million displaced. Greater regional co-operation on disaster response and humanitarian relief will be on the agenda.
Japan and Korea, key American regional allies, continue to squabble over politically charged statements and actions that have much more to do with the past than the present. The president arranged a trilateral meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and South Korean President
Park Geun-hye last month on the margins of the nuclear summit in the Netherlands to try to restart high-level dialogue and refocus attention on current challenges such as North Korea.

Ironically, North Korea frequently takes provocative actions during such trips in an effort to steal some attention. Mr Obama will spend some time in Tokyo reviewing Japanese plans to broaden its defence role in the region, and in Seoul discussing revised US-South Korea security arrangements.
Any antics from Pyongyang will be a useful reminder of why the US presence in the region matters.
Mr Obama's trip does not include a visit to China, but Beijing will be in the background throughout and will be listening attentively to what the president says at each stop.

Children in Tacloban, Philippines (20 April 2014) 

With the Philippines still rebuilding after the autumn's Typhoon Haiyan, regional humanitarian co-operation is likely to be on the agenda in Manila

The region has welcomed renewed American engagement to balance an assertive China. Each country he visits has some kind of territorial dispute with China and will be looking for assurances the US will be there if push ever comes to shove. The US and the Philippines will announce enhanced defence co-operation during his stop in Manila, including the regular rotation of US forces back to Philippine bases.
Mr Obama faces a delicate balancing act, reasserting America's commitment to the region and the importance of its security relationships without feeding China's concerns that Washington's actual policy is not engagement but containment.
While the president is in Asia, he will keep an eye on the ongoing crisis in Ukraine. America's allies are as well, trying to judge what it means to Washington's global commitments. Mr Obama will have his own questions, such as whether Japan and others are prepared to impose meaningful economic sanctions against Russia if it moves aggressively into eastern Ukraine.
Beyond security, trade will also be on the agenda. Japan and Malaysia are engaged in negotiations regarding the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TTP). South Korea and the Philippines are waiting in the wings. Mr Obama's ability to announce some progress with Tokyo on outstanding market access issues related to Japanese agricultural products and American automobiles will be a strong signal that there are mutually beneficial policies behind the American pivot.

The presidential itinerary
 23-24 April: Japan
25-26 April: South Korea
26-27 April: Malaysia
28-29 April: Philippines
Source: White House

The Planet is Angry

Volcanoes in Peru and Guatemala continued emitting ash and lava as part of increased volcanic activity over the past few days. (April 23)

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Paralympian Oscar Pistorius exits the courtroom after his murder trial was postponed at the high court in Pretoria on March 28, 2014.
Paralympian Oscar Pistorius exits the courtroom after his murder trial was postponed at the high court in Pretoria on March 28, 2014. Werner Beukes—AFP/Getty Images

A South African columnist claims a "reliable source" told her that the accused took acting lessons before his day in court, an allegation the athlete's legal team has categorically denied.
A spokesperson for Oscar Pistorius has denied accusations that the athlete had taken acting lessons before taking the stand to defend himself from charges he murdered his girlfriend.
A South African newspaper columnist alleged that the Olympic athlete’s emotional testimony—during which he has repeatedly wept uncontrollably—wasn’t genuine. “I have it from a reliable source that you are taking acting lessons for your days in court,” Jani Allan wrote in an open letter to Pistorius on her website. “Your coach has an impossible task… Oscar, you are the latest in a long line of faux heroes.”
Pistorius, 27, testified that he mistakenly shot girlfriend Reeva Steenkamp four times through a locked bathroom door, thinking that she was a home invader.
A statement by Anneliese Burgess, the media manager for the Pistorius family, said Tuesday that the allegation was not just “totally devoid of any truth” but that it “makes a mockery of the enormous human tragedy involving the Steenkamp family and our client and his family.”
Pistorius’ trial will resume May 5.
 So , maybe all the boo hoos ,whining, and heaving into a bucket was faked to get sympathy. Well, anything is possible...especially if you have money up the yin yang and a daddy with a lot of clout.

Is it Nessie? ...Maybe

Apparently Loch Ness Monster hunters should've just asked Siri where to find the mythical beast.
A group of Loch Ness Monster enthusiasts say they've sighted the legendary Scottish beast via satellite images on Apple Maps. The creature, which purportedly is seen periodically in Scotland's Loch Ness, was spotted this time by members of the Official Loch Ness Monster Fan Club using the Apple software. They have been puzzling over the dubious image for the past six months.

loch ness zoomed

Excitable spotters say the low-resolution image can't be anything other than "Nessie," which looks to have large flippers and a long, ghostly white silhouette.
"We’ve been looking at it for a long time trying to work out exactly what it is," said Gary Campbell, president of the club, to the Daily Mail. "It looks like a boat wake, but the boat is missing. You can see some boats moored at the shore, but there isn’t one here."
Campbell told ABC News the group submitted the image to Scottish Canals, the government agency which manages the country's inland waterways. The agency couldn't identify it, either.
"Nobody has been able to explain what it is," Campbell told ABC. "It's pretty large, so it's not a seal or an otter. It's also not a whale or basking shark as some people claim, because they wouldn't go in fresh water."
Skeptics, however, have been quick to point out the Apple Maps image looks an awful lot like boat wake. Mick West of, a site devoted to investigating and debunking "mysteries" of this sort, maintains it's boat wake, but says the boat is barely visible because of the low contrast in the Apple Maps image.
Sightings of the Loch Ness Monster date back at least 1,500 years, reports PBS, to a carved stone in northern Scotland which depicts "a strange beast with an elongated beak or muzzle, a head locket or spout, and flippers instead of feet." One and a half millennia later, we're apparently still captivated by the idea, albeit with slightly updated technology.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Taking the church to the people

Guelph, Ontario, Canada is home to The Manor, a gentleman’s club ( strip club) but on Sundays,it's a church of sorts for Jack and Sharon Ninaber’s Christian fellowship services. Easter Sunday was the inaugural service at the club.

The surprising association of religion and adult entertainment was a concept that began several months ago. “If you told me I would be doing this six months ago I would be like laughing at you and saying, ‘You’re out of your mind, that's crazy,’” said Jack Ninaber, a former pastor at local Grace
Community Church.


Jack Ninaber said“It really all began when my wife and I made a point of  dropping off some grocery gift certificates to the people at Sue’s Inn.” A hotel attached to the strip club, Sue’s Inn has served as low-income transitional housing in recent years for the area’s homeless and those struggling with addictions. The Ninabers, wanted to bring religion to those that may be uncomfortable in a traditional church setting. That desire, combined with the location of the people they hoped to reach, led the couple to inquire about using the bar at The Manor for services.

Sharon Ninaber
Getting approval from The Manor proved to be the simple part. The Ninabers had to contend with the city when their request to hold services at the strip club was first denied because “the club wasn’t zoned for a religious institution.” When Mr. Ninaber spoke to the city and explained that they wouldn’t be holding traditional church services but rather social gatherings, they were given the okay.
According to Jack Ninaber’s blog, the first Sunday gathering was to begin at 12:30 p.m. with free lunch to “be followed by a time of worship music, testimonies, the Gospel shared in creative ways and prayer ministry.”

The strip club banner is taken down during services

Traces of the strip club are covered during the services but reaction is still split when it comes to the unorthodox location. Sharon Ninaber said, “Some people think we’re crazy. Some people think it’s really great.” Sam Cohen, owner of The Manor said, “Speaking to people in the adjacent areas and our tenants, they all thought it was a good idea. They normally don't go to church so they felt like if there was a service here they would probably show up.”
The place was full on Easter Sunday, and the Ninabers hope that they will return each Sunday. I think it was a wonderful and innovative idea. Take the church to the people. It will do a lot more good.

How to Live Forever


If more and more people are living past 100, how much older can we survive to, in theory, asks Frank Swain. And what would it take to achieve this in practice?

On the Art of Prolonging Life was penned by a Dr Huseland (“one of the soundest minds in Germany”) in 1797, concluding eight years of study on the topic. He identified among the many factors associated with long life: a moderate diet that was rich in vegetables and short on meat and sweetened pastries; an active lifestyle; good care of your teeth; weekly bathing in lukewarm water with soap; good sleep; clean air; and being born to parents who themselves lived long lives. Toward the end of his essay, translated for the American Review, the doctor wistfully speculated that “human life may be prolonged to double the extent of what is supposed to be its present limits, without losing activity and usefulness.”
By Huseland’s estimates, half of all children born would die before their tenth birthday, an alarmingly high mortality rate. However, if the child could run the gauntlet of youth fraught with smallpox, measles, rubella, and other childhood diseases, they stood a fair chance of making it all the way to their mid-thirties. In ideal circumstances, Huseland thought it possible that a lifetime could stretch for two hundred years.
Is there more to these claims than the fanciful imagination of an 18th century doctor? James Vaupel doesn’t think it’s out of the question. “Life expectancy is increasing two-and-a-half years every decade,” he says. “That’s twenty five years every century.” As director of the Laboratory of Survival and Longevity at the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research in Rostock, Germany, Vaupel studies longevity and survival in human and animal populations. He says that the pattern of improvements to mortality has shifted greatly in the past 100 years. Before 1950, most of the gains in life expectancy were made by combating the high infant mortality that Huseland noted. Since then, however, it’s been the over-60s and most recently the over-80s who’ve seen the greatest decreases in mortality. In other words, we are not just surviving childhood in greater numbers, we’re living longer – a lot longer.
Worldwide, the number of centenarians – people over the age of 100 – is predicted to increase 10-fold between 2010 and 2050. As Huseland testified, a strong component in whether you’ll live to see this milestone lies in the age of your parents; that is, there is a genetic component to long life. But the rise in centenarians can’t be explained by genetics alone, which clearly haven’t changed much in the last couple of centuries. Rather, it’s a host of improvements to our lives that cumulatively improve our chances of living longer and stronger, many of which echo the factors identified by Huseland. The reasons include better healthcare, improving medical treatments, public health measures like cleaner water and air, better education, and improved standards of living such as houses that are warm and dry. “Mostly it’s down to having more medicine and money,” says Vaupel.

Nonetheless, the gains offered by better healthcare and living conditions still leave many people dissatisfied, and the appetite for life-extension therapies shows no sign of abating. One popular approach is caloric restriction. In the 1930s, researchers noticed that mice fed on a near-starvation diet lived far longer than those allowed to eat until full. A subsequent study on rhesus monkeys also showed this, but this was contradicted by a 20-year-long study by the US National Institute on Ageing, which found that although rhesus monkeys kept on a calorie-restricted diet developed age-related diseases slightly later than controls, they did not live longer on average. The authors noted that though caloric restriction in long-lived animals conferred some benefits, these were subject to a complex interplay of genetics, nutrition and environmental factors.
Another great hope is resveratrol, a chemical produced naturally by plants, notably in the skin of grapes. Whether vineyards can be said to hide the fountain of youth, however, remains doubtful. but As yet, no study has shown that taking resveratrol can increase human lifespan.

But why do we age at all? “Every day we suffer damage and don’t perfectly repair it,” explains Vaupel, “and this accumulation of unrepaired damage is what causes age-related disease.” It’s not a trait that is shared by all living organisms. Hydra for example – a group of simple, jellyfish-like creatures – are able to repair almost all the damage they suffer, and readily slough cells that are too injured to heal. In humans, it’s damaged cells like these that can give rise to cancerous tumours.
“Hydras allocate resources primarily toward repair, rather than reproduction,” says Vaupel. “Humans, by contrast, primarily direct resources toward reproduction, it’s a different survival strategy at a species level.” Humans may live fast and die young, but our prodigious fertility allows us to overcome these high mortality rates. Now that infant mortality is so low, there’s really no need to channel so many resources into reproduction, says Vaupel. “The trick is to up-regulate repair instead of diverting that energy into getting fat. In theory that should be possible, though nobody has any idea about how to do it.” If the steady accretion of damage to our cells can be arrested – there isn’t any reason why we should have to die at all. 
It would be wonderful to get to a world where all death is optional. Right now, essentially all of us are sentenced to the death penalty, even though most of us have done nothing to deserve it.” So says Gennady Stolyarov, transhumanist philosopher and author of Death Is Wrong, a controversial children’s book that encourages young minds to reject the fatalist notion that death is inevitable. Stolyarov is fervently opposed to what he sees is simply a technological challenge waiting for the appropriate level of money and manpower to solve it.
Agents of change
One focus for technological intervention are telomeres. These caps on chromosomes shorten every time your cells divide, putting a hard limit on the number of times your cells can reproduce themselves.  There are good reasons to have these limitations in place. Occasional mutations can allow cells to divide without shortening their telomeres, giving rise to “immortal” cell lines. However, in an uncontrolled situation, these immortal cells would be very bad news for the person they are in, bloating into cancerous tumours.
“One hundred and fifty thousand people in the world die each day. “So even if we can hasten the arrival of these technologies by one day, we will have saved a hundred thousand lives.” “There’s a good chance that it will happen in our lifetimes."
 Stolyarov concedes that it might be possible to rapidly accelerate life expectancy through medical breakthroughs. But he warns that equally, there may be difficulties in the future that we don’t anticipate. “Disease, economic crisis, and climate change might cause increases in mortality,” he says.
       Telomeres, the protective ends of chromosomes, are linked to ageing of cells (Science Photo Library)
Stolyarov is hoping to kindle a small spark of hope into an eternal flame. “What I think is necessary right now is a determined push to dramatically accelerate the pace of technological progress,” he says. “We have a fighting chance right now, but in order to make it happen we have to be the agents of change.”
For now, readers will have to take comfort in the knowledge that there are well-documented ways to try to avoid the Western world’s two biggest killers – heart disease and cancer – through a combination of exercise, healthy eating, and moderation when it comes to alcohol and red meat. Very few of us actually manage to live by these criteria, perhaps because we think a shorter life filled with rich food and wine is a worthy trade. Which leads to the conundrum – if eternal life was possible, would you be willing to pay the price?

Sunday, April 20, 2014

More than 100 hate-crime murders linked to single website, according to report

Frazier Glenn Cross

 Frazier Glenn Cross appears at his arraignment murder charges in Kansas after three people were killed at a Jewish center. Photograph: Reuters

Article verbatim from The Guardian:
in New York

People charged with the murders of almost 100 people can be linked to a single far-right website, according to a new report from the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).
The White Nationalist web forum says it promotes values of “the embattled white minority,” and its users include Anders Behring Breivik, who killed 77 people in a 2011 massacre in Norway, and Wade Michael Page, who shot and killed six people at a Sikh temple in Wisconsin in 2012.
After a two-year investigation, the SPLC said (pdf) that since Stormfront became one of the first hate sites on the internet in 1995, its registered users have been disproportionately responsible for major killings. The report was released a month early after white supremacist Frazier Glenn Miller, also known as Frazier Glenn Cross, was accused of killing three people at a Jewish center in Kansas City on Sunday.
“We know that the people who are going to commit the kinds of crimes, like the kinds of crimes Miller committed last weekend, this is where they live,” said Heidi Beirich, report author and a director at the SPLC’s Intelligence Project. The report, released on Thursday, calls Stormfront the “largest hate site in the world” and “a magnet and breeding ground for the deadly and deranged.”
Of the site’s more than 286,000 users, only a small sliver are highly active, the report found, with fewer than 1,800 people logging in each day. While the SPLC only identified 10 murderers out of this large user base, researchers think the murderers’ connection to the site is important because it shows how the website offers a community for people who commit these crimes.
“It’s pretty clear that websites like Stormfront are breeding grounds for people who are just enraged at their situation, it’s there that people find the reasons their lives aren’t as they had hoped and Stormfront helps them find the enemy that is standing in their way – whether it be Jews, African Americans, immigrants and so on,” said Beirich. “Unfortunately it’s not very surprising that people who live in this kind of stew of violent racism eventually pick up a gun and do something about it at some point.”
Stormfront proudly declares that “every month is white history month” at the top of its site and forum discussions concern things such as the latest news stories, ideology, poetry and creative writing.
“The fact of the matter is that more people have been killed domestically by radical right extremists than Islamic extremists since 9/11 and where you find a lot of these people is on these sites,” said Beirich.
SPLC also identified 10 characteristics shared by killers who were active online including unemployment, posting on more than one hate website, and sustained activity on these sites.
Stormfront founder Don Black, a former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, criticized Miller for giving users of his site a bad reputation. “We have enough of a problem with how we are portrayed without some homicidal whack job coming along and reinforcing that,” Black told the Daily Beast. After he was banned from Stormfront, the SLPC said Miller posted more than 12,000 times on a similar forum, Vanguard News Network, whose slogan is “No Jews, Just Right.”
The SPLC’s report said hate killings skyrocketed after Barack Obama was inaugurated in 2009.
“We have seen and documented at the SPLC an enormous growth of groups on the radical right, particularly in the last five years,” said Mark Potok, the report’s editor and a senior fellow on the Intelligence Project. “That growth quite clearly seems to be driven by the appearance of Barack Obama on the political scene in the fall of 2008 and of course his subsequent election.”
Potok noted that these hate sites are protected by first amendment rights because they don’t contain concrete plots to commit crimes. He said that law enforcement official unquestionably pay attention to these sites, but criticized how much analysis is done on users by federal authorities.
“We feel pretty strongly that the Department of Homeland Security, which is the lead agency in this country for developing intelligence about these groups and individuals, has more or less taken its eye of the ball in the sense that since 2009 the department seems more focused on Jihadists terrorism,” Potok said.

Thanx to The Guardian