Thursday, July 02, 2015

Pentatonix and the evolution of Michael Jackson...

Young Greeks flee abroad as crisis deepens...

What does the future look like for young people in crisis-hit Greece, where years of hardship and sky-high unemployment were followed this week by bank closures? The answer: self-imposed exile.

"I don't see a future in Greece," sighs Dani Iordake. The 21-year-old, who proudly sports self-styled tattoos on his arms, was forced to drop out of university to help his mother pay the bills.

"It's a beautiful country... [but] I couldn't imagine living here and struggling every day," he said.

With youth unemployment at nearly 50% and a breakdown in negotiations with Greece's international creditors heralding further financial woes, many of Iordake's contemporaries are packing their bags.

Over 200 000 Greeks have quit the country since the financial crisis began in 2010, according to Endeavor Greece, a local chapter of an entrepreneurial promotional group. They have been driven away by a dearth of jobs, pitiful wages, endemic corruption and lack of meritocracy. Full story...

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Fluoridation may not prevent cavities, scientific review shows...

If you’re like two-thirds of Americans, fluoride is added to your tap water for the purpose of reducing cavities. But the scientific rationale for putting it there may be outdated, and no longer as clear-cut as was once thought.

Water fluoridation, which first began in 1945 in Grand Rapids, Michigan, and expanded nationwide over the years, has always been controversial. Those opposed to the process have argued—and a growing number of studies have suggested—that the chemical may present a number of health risks, for example interfering with the endocrine system and increasing the risk of impaired brain function; two studies in the last few months, for example, have linked fluoridation to ADHD and underactive thyroid. Others argue against water fluoridation on ethical grounds, saying the process forces people to consume a substance they may not know is there—or that they’d rather avoid.

Despite concerns about safety and ethics, many are content to continue fluoridation because of its purported benefit: that it reduces tooth decay. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s Division of Oral Health, the main government body responsible for the process, says it’s “safe and effective.”

You might think, then, that fluoridated water’s efficacy as a cavity preventer would be proven beyond a reasonable doubt. But new research suggests that assumption is dramatically misguided; while using fluoridated toothpaste has been proven to be good for oral health, consuming fluoridated water may have no positive impact. Full story...

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How Google is erasing the human brain with every search...

Britons rely so much on their hi-tech devices that they no longer remember vital phone numbers.

A study found 70% cannot recall their child’s mobile and 90% would have to Google their school number.

Security firm Kaspersky Lab said: “Connected devices enrich lives but have also given rise to digital amnesia.”

The study found six in ten adults could not remember their work number and had to look it up on their smartphone or the internet.

Yet just a generation ago, half of ten to 15-year-olds were able to reel off their home and friends’ phone numbers. Full story...

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What happens when a state is run by movie stars: the Jayalalithaa story...

On the evening of May 8, I stood in the offering hall of a Hindu temple in Chennai, the capital of the South Indian state of Tamil Nadu, amid a phalanx of anxious politicians dressed in their customary white shirts and dhotis. ‘‘Lord Perumal, we pray that justice will prevail,’’ a priest intoned. ‘‘Tamil Nadu was on the verge of prosperity, but evil powers have left it stagnant. Let Amma resume her work. Let her opponents be punished. Let the evil that has imprisoned her be banished into hell.’’ While we waited for the ceremony to begin, the politicians showed me their tattoos. The minister of higher education had a woman’s plump face inscribed on his forearm. A district secretary had the words ‘‘Long Live Amma.’’

Amma means ‘‘mother,’’ and in Tamil Nadu, it’s the nickname for an indestructible politician named Jayalalithaa Jayaram, a former actress who is now the general secretary of the state’s ruling party, the A.I.A.D.M.K. Until Sept. 27, when she was sentenced to four years in prison, she was also the state’s chief minister. The charge was ‘‘disproportionate assets’’: the court found that her wealth exceeded her known sources of income by 660 million rupees, or around $10 million. A raid on her house found 10,500 saris, 750 pairs of shoes and 66 pounds of gold. It is a pittance compared with the 10-billion-rupee hauls some North Indian public servants are said to have amassed. Nevertheless, she was the first chief minister in India to be ejected from office for corruption.

Across the state, her followers pelted buses with stones and set them on fire. At Perungalathur junction, on the highway to Chennai, people lay down in the road and tried to persuade bus drivers to turn the buses on them. ‘‘Run us over, run us over!’’ they yelled. ‘‘Why should we live when our Amma is in jail?’’ According to the A.I.A.D.M.K., hundreds of people committed suicide in response to her conviction, dozens by self-immolation.

How to account for this histrionic devotion? You don’t find people begging bus drivers to kill them in Kerala, the state just next door. One explanation is movie mania. Before she went into politics, Jayalalithaa was the most popular Tamil movie actress of her time, the heroine in more than 100 films. She followed the model of her mentor and co-star, an actor-politician named Marudhur Gopalan Ramachandran but more commonly known by his initials M.G.R. He ruled Tamil Nadu for 11 years, and since his death in 1987, Jayalalithaa and her archenemy, a wily 92-year-old screenwriter named Muthuvel Karunanidhi, have taken turns running the state. As the head of the D.M.K. — the party to which M.G.R. belonged until their rivalry forced a split — Karunanidhi has built a cult following on par with Jayalalithaa’s. The two of them rule as if in a melodrama, having each other arrested, dropping snide insults and wild accusations, destroying each other’s pet projects. The D.M.K. and the A.I.A.D.M.K. have almost no policy differences, but no other party can gain a foothold. Full story...

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Wednesday, July 01, 2015

US police killings in 2015: inside the shocking numbers in 2 minutes...

New evidence links fluoride to increasing cases of ADHD...

(...)

There are many other scientifically documented health conditions associated with fluoride intake which are much more serious than ADHD. However, it is the medical treatment(s) for ADHD which often clearly cause even more serious future health problems for these fluoridated children.

The various pharmaceutical medications that are routinely prescribed for ADHD are both powerful and dangerous over the long term. Drugs like Adderall, Ritalin, and Wellbutrin each have their long list of adverse side effects. What is not listed in the prescription drug side effects summary are those symptoms that are unique to the child because of their individual biochemistry or genetic predispositions. Nor are those allergic reactions which often develop with the long term usage of these drugs.

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder has been on the rise ever since water districts nationwide have been approving fluoridation regimes. By implementing these water-polluting programs under the guise of a preventative measure for childhood caries, they are often blindly accepted by uniformed parents.

The voters have actually been duped into passing this harmful form of water treatment. The Big Agra corporations which produce this toxic waste have no other use for it, ‘so why not put it in the water.’ This is where they have had to collude with the water district authorities, as well as other city representatives.

Perhaps now that the children of those districts, which add higher amounts of fluoride to the water, are showing signs of even more hyperactivity, the official posture will change. Surely, as more wake up to the truth about the dangers and harm associated with drinking fluoridated water, a sea change in policy will occur. Full story...

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What happens when people meditate for the first time?

There have been numerous studies detailing what happens to the brain in long-term meditators, but what exactly happens to people who meditate for the first time?

Sara Lazar, a Harvard researcher, has gained quite some notoriety detailing how the brain actually grows grey matter when people meditate. Other studies have shown that meditation improves IQ, and lessens depression. In addition to these benefits, meditation also:

Reduces alcohol and substance consumption, reduces blood pressure
Decreases anxiety, depressive symptoms, and relapses
Helps patients suffering from various types of chronic pain
Lowers the incidence of stress
Aids cancer patients 


Most people think they have to meditate for years before they start seeing any of these improvements, but a study conducted by Chiesa, Calati, and Serretti shows that after just eight short weeks of meditation, people start to experience improved cognitive functioning.

Still not fast enough for you? Full story...

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Uber is your Big Brother: It tracks you everywhere, even when you're not using the Uber app...

Uber, the popular mobile ride-finding app, has been at the center of controversy since its launch in 2009. Much of the uproar has been due to the fact that its low-cost ride service poses a direct threat to the livelihood of cab drivers and other professional drivers who claim that the competition is unfair, unethical and downright illegal. In March 2015, Brussels cab drivers went on strike in protest of the Uber service, and since then, there has been increasing pressure on the company regarding its practices.

In June, the debate reached a fever pitch when taxi drivers in France staged anti-Uber demonstrations that turned violent, leading to a raid by police on the Uber headquarters in Paris and the detainment of two Uber executives for questioning.

However, there is another issue with the Uber smartphone app that has raised serious concerns among the public and various privacy groups: Uber tracks and records information regarding the location of passengers who use the service even when the app is not in use.

In the first years of its operations, Uber came under fire over charges that the company had "casually" used the information it gathered with its "God View" technology, which gives the company the capability of monitoring the location of all its drivers as well as users who have flagged its vehicles. The company even reportedly shared some of this data with third parties who did not work for Uber.

Recently, however, it has been revealed that Uber's updated policy tracks passengers and allows access to their personal information. Full story...

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Pilots fired for letting Playboy playmate fly plane...

A pair of Argentinian pilots have been fired after videos of a Playboy model in the cockpit were leaked.

Model Victoria Xipolitakis, who has posed for the Greek edition of Playboy magazine, recorded six videos of herself and the pilots in the cockpit, according to Mashable.

In one of the videos, one of the pilots tells Xipolitakis she will control the plane for part of the takeoff.

“You sure?” she asks. “Nothing could happen?”

There were reportedly 36 passengers on the flight when the model took over. Full story...

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John Oliver on transgender rights...

Suicide by soda: Sugary drinks kill 184,000 people a year, study says...

If you love the taste of an ice cold soda, you may want to determine whether the flavor is actually worth the risk. Sugary drinks are killing around 184,000 people each year, according to a new study.

The research, published in the American Heart Association's Circulation journal, points the finger at sugar-laden drinks ranging from sodas to sweetened iced tea, fruit drinks, and sports/energy drinks.

"Many countries in the world have a significant number of deaths occurring from a single dietary factor, sugar-sweetened beverages,” said study author Dariush Mozaffarian from Tufts University in Boston.

According to the research, most of the 184,000 global deaths are from people who die of diabetes due to the consumption of “sugar-sweetened beverages” (SSBs).

 Another 45,000 die globally from cardiovascular diseases caused by sugary drink consumption, and 6,450 people die from cancers linked to sugar-laden beverages. Full story...

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Australian politicians slam TPP for ‘excessive secrecy’

Australian lawmakers have slammed the country’s deal-making process as one lacking transparency and oversight. They’ve particularly criticized the currently negotiated Trans-Pacific Partnership for its “excessive secrecy.”

The report, entitled the “Blind Agreement,” was a joint party report from the Labor, Liberal and Green parties. They were scathing of the lengths of secrecy that those supporting deals like the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) are prepared to go to, in order to get the bill passed.

“It is no longer satisfactory for parliamentarians and other stakeholders to be kept in the dark during negotiations when Australia's trading partners, including their industry stakeholders, have access under long-established and sensible arrangements,” said Labor Party Senator Alex Gallacher, who chaired the committee.

 The report mentioned that confidence in negotiating free trade agreements is “at its lowest ebb in Australia,” due to the “excessive secrecy around TPP negotiations,” while those who had concerns were often frowned upon and were effectively “blindfolded” due to a lack of information. Full story...

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Singapore mom of detained teen blogger Amos Yee: 'Sorry, son'

The mother of detained teen blogger Amos Yee has written a heartfelt apology letter to her son, as he faces years in "reformative training" after being jailed for a Youtube video where he criticized Singapore's founding politician.

"Sorry for not teaching you well... Mummy is wrong," wrote Mary Toh in a widely-shared Facebook post yesterday. "Sorry for telling you that you are in the safest country. You are feeling so insecure and scared now."

"Sorry for urging you to be a law-abiding citizen. The laws are doing you more harm than good now," the note continued. "Sorry for encouraging you to be creative and expressive. You are regarded as crazy and rebellious instead."

In March, Yee, then an unknown 16-year-old blogger, was arrested after publishing a Youtube video praising the death of Singapore's first prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew and comparing him unfavorably to Jesus. Full story...

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Greece becomes first developed nation to default on international obligations...

The International Monetary Fund has confirmed that it didn't receive the €1.5 billion payment from Athens that was due by the end of June 30, Brussels time, as Greece becomes the first developed country to default on its international obligations.

IMF spokesman Gerry Rice said in a statement that Greece had asked for a repayment extension earlier on Tuesday and that the Fund’s board will consider it “in due course.”

The news hardly comes as a surprise. On Tuesday, Greek Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis told journalists that Athens would not make the IMF debt payment on time.

Skipping a payment to the IMF is referred to as arrears – owed money that should have been paid earlier – in the terminology of the Fund. It should be officially reaffirmed by the IMF chief Christine Lagarde who in a month should notify the Executive Board of the Fund.

In fact, this could be classified as a default, as any other failure to pay its debt on time. This could trigger a cross-default on Greece's multibillion-dollar commitments to the European Financial Stability Fund (EFSF). The IMF cannot issue new loans the country, which has arrears.

 The question now is what’s next for the country’s financial system, the people and its membership in the Eurozone. Source...

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Tuesday, June 30, 2015

US now has more Spanish speakers than Spain – only Mexico has more...

The United States is now the world’s second largest Spanish-speaking country after Mexico, according to a new study published by the prestigious Instituto Cervantes.

The report says there are 41 million native Spanish speakers in the US plus a further 11.6 million who are bilingual, mainly the children of Spanish-speaking immigrants. This puts the US ahead of Colombia (48 million) and Spain (46 million) and second only to Mexico (121 million).

Among the sources cited in the report is the US Census Office which estimates that the US will have 138 million Spanish speakers by 2050, making it the biggest Spanish-speaking nation on Earth, with Spanish the mother tongue of almost a third of its citizens.

By state the highest concentration is in the former Spanish colonies of the south and south-west, with New Mexico top at 47%, followed by California and Texas (both 38%) and Arizona (30%). Some 18% of New Yorkers speak Spanish while only 1.3% of West Virginians do. Perhaps surprisingly, more than 6% of Alaskans are Spanish speakers. Full story...

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Muse - The Handler

Bill Gates’s idiocy (or is it psychopathy?)

Bill Gates was interviewed in the Thursday June 25th Financial Times, about global warming investments, and he said some remarkably stupid things, but explaining what he said requires a lot of intelligence; so, maybe what he said isn’t actually that stupid. Might he be an idiot savant? Perhaps there’s a deeper truth here.

After all, idiot savants should be respected in the areas where they have their gift, but not outside it. Occasionally, distinguishing between an idiot savant and a genius can be hard to do.

For example, at the beginning of the 20th Century, Henry Ford was considered to be a genius of industry and of technology, and he was sometimes America’s wealthiest person, but he was also a bigot, and no one can be stupider than that; so, he was just an idiot savant, after all. He was additionally famous as a philanthropist, having founded the Ford Foundation, but his donations to Hitler’s Nazi Party and his propagandizing in the United States against Jews and for the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” hoax, might have done the world more harm than his Foundation ever did good. It certainly helped to produce World War II, Hitler’s war to exterminate all Jews.

Global warming will do even more harm in the world than anti-Semitism has done; and the only way that it might be prevented from actually destroying the world is if very little of the already-discovered fossil-fuel reserves that are in the ground will ever be sold and burnt — in other words: used. This is the subject that Bill Gates was talking about; so, the key scientific finding about “unburnable reserves” must be stated, as it was clearly expressed in the 25 January 2013 study “Oil and Carbon Revisited: Value at Risk from ‘Unburnable’ Reserves,” from the giant global bank HSBC, Full story...

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Facebook now harvesting the list of all the other websites you visit: total online surveillance is here...

If you're one of the millions of people who have a love/hate relationship with Facebook, there are now even more reasons for hating the immensely successful social media giant.

You probably know that Facebook collects and stores your personal data and preferences to form a profile that it uses to generate advertising content targeted directly at you. But did you know that Facebook also looks at all the other websites you visit and stores that data, too? Facebook also collects your online search data along with some of the details you give to retailers when you purchase something.

Zuckerberg and his Facebook shareholders make huge amounts of money by partnering with what are known as "data brokers."

Bruce Schneier, a data security expert, defines data brokers as entities which:

"collect demographic information: names, addresses, telephone numbers, e-mail addresses, gender, age, marital status, presence and ages of children in household, education level, profession, income level, political affiliation, cars driven, and information about homes and other property. They collect lists of things you've purchased, when you've purchased them, and how you paid for them. They keep track of deaths, divorces, and diseases in your family. They collect everything about what you do on the Internet." Full story...

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How football moved the goalposts for girls in rural India...

Kusum Kumari had no great agenda in mind when she started playing football aged nine near her home in rural Jharkhand in India. She just wanted to have fun. Now 15, she is pushing the boundaries of what can be achieved by girls in a state notorious for human trafficking and child marriage.

“People believe girls should fetch water from the well, wash dishes, wash clothes in the pond, work in the field, cut grass for the cows, collect firewood and cook food,” she said at the Girl Power in Play symposium, on the sidelines of the Women’s World Cup, in Ottawa this month. “My team-mates and I know that when we stay together, then our dreams will happen in real life. We see in our family and village that when girls finish the 10th grade, they get married. We don’t want to get married until we can stand on our own feet.”

With the support of Yuwa, an NGO that uses girls’ team sports as a platform for social development, Kumari and her team-mates have challenged the widely held idea that girls belong at home. They have gained recognition in their community and on football pitches abroad.

In 2013, the team finished third in an under-14 tournament in Spain, and last year they travelled to the US to take part in the Schwan’s USA Cup. Full story...

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China's latest stomach-churning food scandal: Frozen meat from the 1970s!!!

Some 800 tonnes of smuggled frozen meat have been seized by Chinese authorities, including one batch dating from the 1970s, state media reported.

The meat was bound for restaurants, retailers and supermarkets in Hunan province, where it was found, and other Chinese provinces and major cities, according to a report from Xinhua, China's state news agency, on Tuesday.

The meat, which included poultry and beef, was confiscated on June 1 and was worth 10 million yuan ($1.6 million), the English-language China Daily said.

Some packages were rotten and others were around 40 years old -- packed and stamped at the height of China's Cultural Revolution.

"The products fully filled an entire compartment. It was really smelly, and I nearly threw up when I opened the door," the China Daily quoted Zhang Tao, a local official, as saying. Full story...

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'Blind agreement' and closed-door deals: Report slams TPP negotiations...

As a trade deal between Australia and its allies edges closer towards completion, leading critics to warn of an impending "attack [on] internet freedoms," a parliamentary committee has slammed the deal-making process saying it lacks adequate "oversight and scrutiny."

The comments come as Australia engages in closed-door negotiations with 11 other countries over the Trans-Pacific Partnership -- a trade agreement that could change the copyright and piracy landscape in Australia and have major ramifications for the way Australians access online content.

A joint-Parliamentary report on the TPP and other trade deals has declaimed that "not is all right with the current process" and that politicians and key stakeholders are being "kept in the dark" on the negotiation process.

The "Blind Agreement" report warns that under the current system, "Parliament is faced with an all-or-nothing choice" on whether or not to approve trade agreements and can only officially review trade laws once they've officially passed.

"This does not provide an adequate level of oversight and scrutiny," the report reads. "Parliament should play a constructive role during negotiations and not merely rubber-stamp agreements that have been negotiated behind closed doors." Full story...

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Monday, June 29, 2015

Greferendum looms: Greeks rush to ATMs, EU saddened, closes door...

School principal beaten to death by mob after 2 students found dead in Bihar, India...

The principal of a school in Bihar's Nalanda district died today after he was thrashed by a mob following the recovery of the bodies of two students from a ditch.

The principal, Devendra Prasad, died while he was being treated at the Patna Medical College and Hospital (PMCH), Nalanda's Superintendent of Police (SP) Sidharth Mohan Jain told Press Trust of India.

A post-mortem was being carried out to determine the exact cause of the death, he said.

TV footage showed that Mr Prasad was mercilessly beaten up with sticks by a mob who held him responsible for the death of two students of the school.

 Some in the crowd mercilessly beat up Mr Prasad with sticks, while some of them kicked him as he lay on the ground with his face down, the officer said. Full story...

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Bavarian school warns girls should dress ‘modestly,’ due to Syrian refugees nearby...

A school in Bavaria, Germany, has sent a letter to parents, asking them to ensure their daughters refrain from wearing revealing clothes, because refugee accommodation has been set up next to the school’s gym.

Two hundred Syrian refugees have been living for a week near the Wilhelm-Diess-Gymnasium’s gym, Die Welt reported.

The gym was shut down and PE lessons relocated to a primary school in the vicinity.

The head teacher also rushed to inform parents about additional security measures.

"For the refugees, access to the school gardens and buildings is strictly forbidden. The same goes for the school grounds during the day. The number of teachers on duty during breaks has been increased," Martin Thalhammer wrote. Full story...

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U.S. ruling on same-sex marriage likely to affect other countries...

The landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling in favor of same-sex marriages has no legal force outside the United States, but gay rights activists in many parts of the world believe the court ruling will help their cause.

In the Philippines, in India, in Australia and elsewhere, gay rights advocates think the U.S. ruling may help change attitudes, just as American activists — and judges, educators and legislators — had earlier been influenced by the easy acceptance of same-sex marriage in some European countries where the laws were changed smoothly without much fuss.

In today’s wired world, political movements cross national boundaries in the blink of an eye, and the trend toward legal acceptance of same-sex marriage is gaining pace, though still rejected outright in some parts of the globe. The U.S. is neither laggard nor leader in this movement, which reflects a fundamental change in public views in many parts of the world, but the ruling of its highest court is expected to have a ripple effect elsewhere.

In the Philippines, activists seeking to win legal recognition for same-sex marriages believe the U.S. ruling will be useful, particularly since the country’s legal setup is largely based on the U.S. system, said Sylvia Estrada Claudio, a gender rights advocate and professor at the University of the Philippines. Full story...

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Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Singapore is to hold Amos Yee for psychiatric tests, defying international calls for his release...

A Singapore court ruled on Tuesday that a teenage blogger who was convicted of obscenity and insulting religious feelings after he posted a video criticizing the late leader Lee Kuan Yew this year should be held for two weeks pending a psychiatric examination.

The teenager, Amos Yee, drew international attention when he was arrested for posting the video shortly after Mr. Lee, the founding father of modern Singapore, died on March 23.

The case has highlighted Singapore’s strict limits on speech and has drawn criticism from human rights groups, which said the treatment of the 16-year-old, including more than a month in detention and the possibility of at least 18 months in reformative training, was unduly harsh.

In Singapore, offenders under 21 can be sentenced to reformative training, in which they are housed separately from adult inmates and given “a structured environment of discipline,” according to the Singapore prosecutor’s office. Full story...

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Google eavesdropping tool installed on computers without permission...

Privacy campaigners and open source developers are up in arms over the secret installing of Google software which is capable of listening in on conversations held in front of a computer.

First spotted by open source developers, the Chromium browser – the open source basis for Google’s Chrome – began remotely installing audio-snooping code that was capable of listening to users.

It was designed to support Chrome’s new “OK, Google” hotword detection – which makes the computer respond when you talk to it – but was installed, and, some users have claimed, it is activated on computers without their permission.

“Without consent, Google’s code had downloaded a black box of code that – according to itself – had turned on the microphone and was actively listening to your room,” said Rick Falkvinge, the Pirate party founder, in a blog post. “Which means that your computer had been stealth configured to send what was being said in your room to somebody else, to a private company in another country, without your consent or knowledge, an audio transmission triggered by … an unknown and unverifiable set of conditions.” Full story...

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Monday, June 22, 2015

Italy: Margherita GALORE! The world's longest pizza is 1.5 km long...

Inside the gaudy world of Romania's wealthiest witches...

Last year, Slovakian photographer Lucia Sekerková travelled to Romania to meet Maria Câmpina, the self-proclaimed queen of the fortune tellers. Locally, fortune tellers are referred to as "witches". Usually of Roma origin, these witches are said to be able to read a person's future in their palm, in grains of wheat or in the stars.

Lucia made friends with Maria and spent time documenting the witches, their houses and their trade – a trade that has been passed down from generation to generation since ancient times. I got in touch with her to find out a bit more about her project.

(...)

I just looked up their addresses and telephone numbers on the internet and in the papers, but it was pretty hard to convince them to let me take their picture. Some of them asked for money, others didn't. Anyway, most of them were willing to bargain. The prices ranged somewhere between 20 (£14) and 50 euros (£36) per session.

I told them I was taking their pictures for a newspaper in Slovakia. They probably wouldn't have let me do it if I told them the truth: that I was working on my final project. Moreover, telling them I work for a newspaper assured them that I could pay the price they asked.

 After days of searching and bargaining, I finally met Maria Campina – the self-proclaimed queen of the witches – and struck a deal with her. In order to take her and her acquaintances' pictures, I had to promise her the newspaper that I was working for would publish a full story about her, as well as give her the front page. This way, I didn't have to pay any money for the photo session. Maria's photo did end up on the front page of SME, a weekly Slovakian newspaper. More + photos...

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Southeast Asia's moment of shame...

For decades, the Southeast Asian region has been hailed for its multicultural diversity, economic miracles that gave birth to tiger cub economies of Malaysia and Singapore, and the almost total absence of inter-state conflict. Next to the industrialised powers of Japan, China, and South Korea, much of Southeast Asia has stood as the embodiment of Asia's growing fortunes.

Perennially underperforming countries like the Philippines and Indonesia are now seen as among the most promising emerging markets. And with regional countries aiming to establish a common market, Southeast Asia is poised to become a major global investment destination. In recent weeks, however, the region has been in the global spotlight - but not for good reasons.

(...)

For long, at least going as far back as the colonial period, Myanmar has been home to the Rohingya, a Muslim minority ethnic group in a majority Buddhist country.

There are an estimated 1.3 million of them in Myanmar, but they have struggled to gain recognition as citizens in their own country. They were even excluded from the latest national census in Myanmar. For decades, they have suffered various forms of persecution and marginalisation, but recent years have seen a spike in inter-ethnic strife in the state of Rakhine, which has been a home to many from the Rohingya minority group.

Up to 140,000 Rohingyas are reported to have left their homes in search of safety in neighbouring countries. The refugee crisis has been compounded by the simultaneous waves of Bangladeshi citizens escaping crushing poverty at home in search of greener pastures in the relatively more prosperous states of Southeast Asia. Full story...

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Watch more cat videos on internet to be happy ...

Enjoy watching clips with Grumpy cat or Colonel Meow? Or do you feel “positive” just looking at Snoopy the Cat? Then don’t stop browsing YouTube for more adorable felines, as a recent study shows these videos are a form of low-cost pet therapy.

At least 7,000 cat-lovers were questioned by assistant professor Jessica Gall Myrick from Indiana University Media School for her study entitled, “Emotion regulation, procrastination, and watching cat videos online: Who watches Internet cats, why, and to what effect?”

Myrick tested the motivations of participants “for consuming cat-related content,” be it for killing time or for treating a depression.

The study has been posted on ScienceDirect.com, a website for scientific, technical, and medical research. It is to be published in Computers in Human Behavior journal in November.

“Some people may think watching online cat videos isn’t a serious enough topic for academic research, but the fact is that it’s one of the most popular uses of the Internet today,” Myrick said. More + videos...

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Sunday, June 21, 2015

How phones are tearing us apart...

It’s a busy crosswalk. Cars are rushing by and pedestrians are hurrying across the street—except for one. A middle-aged woman stands in the middle of the road, selfie stick out, presumably snapping a pic with some bright orange traffic cones. If the scene hadn’t been so comical, I probably would’ve started crying. Has our society become so self-obsessed and engrossed by technology that people can’t even cross the street without whipping out their iPhones?

We see these little, glowing electronic blocks everywhere—in restaurants, on the subway, in the airport. While some people are constantly checking text messages and work emails, others are posting mundane images of their pets (“look at Sparky’s new leash! #bark”) on social networking sites like Instagram and Facebook.

Besides the blatant narcissism and negative self-comparison that goes hand-in-hand with selfies and newsfeeds, research suggests that smartphones may also decrease our trust in one another, lower the quality of our relationships, and degrade the quality of our conversations.

In a study (link is external) published in the Journal of
Social and Personal Relationships, researchers found that the mere presence of a mobile phone is enough to diminish relationship quality. Strangers engaged in a brief conversation about interesting personal events that occurred in the prior month with a nondescript mobile phone either present (resting on a book nearby) or absent (replaced by a pocket notebook). Participants in the presence of a phone reported lower relationship quality with their conversational partner than those in the phone absent condition, as measured using a seven-item version of the connectedness subscale of the Intrinsic Motivation Inventory. They also perceived less empathy from their partner and trusted them less. Full story...

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Kenya Volleyball girls sexy dance after clinching African title...

Charles's heir miles bill soars over £1million: Cost of 'green' Prince's globetrotting has risen by £100,000 a year... thanks to 28-seat luxury jet...

His environmental credentials are well known – but then so is his taste for some of the finer things in life.

So Prince Charles will be braced for scrutiny when figures released this week reveal he has spent more than £1million of public money on air travel in the past year, thanks in part to his use of a luxury French jet named Head of State.

Boasting a double bed, shower room, ‘presidential’ area and an array of plush, clubman-style recliner seats, the converted Airbus A320-232 has been hired for three of the Prince’s foreign trips. One of these alone – to America – cost almost a quarter of a million pounds.

Charles and Camilla used the lavish jet, based at Le Bourget airport outside Paris, for their tours of Mexico and Colombia in October last year, the Middle East in February and America in March.

For their four-day trip to the US, the aircraft was flown to RAF Brize Norton in Oxfordshire before travelling to Andrews Air Force Base in Maryland. Full story...

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750,000 UK men want child sex, say crime chiefs: Astonishing figures from UK's 'FBI' reveal that 'one in 35 men may be child abuser'

Up to 750,000 men living in Britain may have an interest in having sex with children, the Government has been warned.

A shocking analysis by the National Crime Agency reveals that about one in 35 adult males poses a potential risk of being a child abuser or of seeking out child sex images online.

Horrifically, as many as 250,000 men may be sexually attracted to pre-pubescent children – defined as those under 12 – according to the findings disclosed exclusively to The Mail on Sunday.


Phil Gormley, the deputy director general of the National Crime Agency (NCA), said: ‘We are starting to get a real sense of the scale.’

He also warned that paedophiles are so numerous that ‘the reality is that we are all living not far away from one’.

Calling for an urgent new approach to safeguard children from potential abusers before they strike, he said: ‘If all we have is arrest and incarceration that will not help them come forward.’ Full story...

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Los Angeles police shoot unarmed man in head – and then handcuff him...

An unarmed man was shot in the head and critically wounded by Los Angeles police officers on Friday night, after he appeared to be flagging them down for assistance.

A passerby recorded graphic video of the incident from a car, and then posted it on Twitter. The video showed officers turning over the man, who appeared to be unconscious and lying on his face, and handcuffing his hands behind his back as his head bled profusely.

The Los Angeles police department said the man, who was not immediately named, had a towel wrapped around his hand and the two officers believed he was concealing a weapon.

The man reportedly waved over the officers in their patrol car in the quiet Los Feliz area of LA, north-east of Hollywood, at about 6.30pm. The officers got out of their vehicle and one ordered the man to “drop the gun”, LAPD lieutenant John Jenal told local television news on Friday night.

Jenal said the man “extended his arm towards the officers”. The man did not respond to the police order and he was shot, Jenal said. Full story...

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The last Maggi: The hysteria and hypocrisy of India’s noodle ban...

A few days back I consumed the last packet of Maggi noodles, allegedly infused with lead and MSG, as per tests conducted by our food authorities, many of whom we hear are quite serious about their work. Given their diligence, maybe, someday in the distant future poor and underfed children across India will not die or be frequently hospitalised due to acute food poisoning in school meals that are managed by the government.

Maybe someday in the distant future the street food I often consume on the streets of Delhi and anywhere else in India will be free of faecal matter, pesticides, insecticides, contaminated water and bacteria. My guess is that such food safety standards will not be witnessed either by me or Prime Minister Narendra Modi in our lifetimes, unless we decide to settle down in Europe.

Given all the dirty food circulating around us, it was a bit of shock, as it must have been for countless others, when Maggi noodles were banned. After all, Maggi can easily be added to the list of things that Indians, rich and poor, obsess about – Bollywood, cricket and politics, to name a few. It has a cultural, historical, traditional zing to it.

I recall my college days, more than two decades ago: I owned a second hand scooter and ate Maggi. I could afford both without begging my parents for more pocket money. The contamination issue was a shocker too. It was unexpected. It would perhaps have been more apt to ban the noodles and also Cola, French Fries, potato chips and MacDonald burgers for causing obesity among countless children addicted to junk. Full story...

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The town that banned Wi-Fi...

Up and up the roads to Green Bank went, winding into the West Virginian hills as four lanes thinned to one. It was early March and snow was still spattered on the leaf mould between the firs and larches. Hip-hop and classic rock radio stations were gradually replaced by grave pastors and bawdy men twanging banjos and, eventually, they too faded to crackling white noise. The signal pips on my phone hollowed out. I was nearly there.

Over a crest in the road was the cause of the electronic silence: the National Radio Astronomy Observatory (NRAO), an array of radio telescopes set against the indigo vastness of the Blue Ridge Mountains. These giant white ears are cocked to interstellar whispers: the formation of stars, nebulae and supernovae. So sensitive are the devices, and what they are listening for so faint, that even tiny signals nearby can be disruptive: a badly fitted microwave or a faulty electric blanket. It’s like trying to eavesdrop across a room while listening to heavy metal in your earphones.

In the same zone is another telescope, run by the National Security Agency (NSA), and there is a chance some of your Facebook messages may have passed this way. But if that scheme caused international outrage, then the Green Bank telescope has been more controversial locally. Thanks to the unusual lack of interference, the town has become a haven for those looking to escape electromagnetic radiation and over the past decade, as many as 40 people have moved here. Full story...

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