Friday, February 28, 2014

Even CNN can see it: “Perhaps the Boston bombings may never have occurred”

‘When the possibility of a conspiracy is so blatant that even CNN comments on it, you know that the government is losing it’s grip over the Ministry of Truth…ahem..the mainstream media.

Alternative news outlets suggested immediately that something was awry with the official story. One particularly well-researched article suggested that the entire thing was a government-sponsored false flag event. There were entire websites dedicated to discussions of fake blood, crisis actors, and other strange bits of evidence that just didn’t paint the picture that we were supposed to believe.

Now, on the February 26th episode of Legal View with Ashleigh Banfield, the Canadian-American journalist asked her guest, “…did you find out something that the rest of us hadn’t pieced together, that perhaps the Boston bombings may never have occurred?”’

See the entire transcript of the interview here...

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GCHQ secretly captured images of innocent webcam users...

Images from millions of Yahoo! webcam chats conducted by people suspected of no crimes – many of which were sexually explicit – were secretly captured by GCHQ, according to documents leaked by Edward Snowden

GCHQ operated a secret surveillance project called Optic Nerve which captured images from millions of Yahoo! webcam chats made between people suspected of no crime.

Leaked documents dated from 2008 to 2010 reveal that Yahoo! was chosen because it was known to be used by “GCHQ targets”. The NSA was also involved, providing software to identify video traffic online and make screenshots searchable once intercepted.

The images were collected from 1.8 million Yahoo! accounts around the world to conduct experiments in facial recognition and to detect criminals or terror suspects who were using multiple accounts to hold webcam chats.

 The Guardian, which has access to the leaked documents supplied by former NSA contractor Edward Snowden, reports that one image was taken every five minutes, partly to satisfy human rights legislation and partly to avoid being overwhelmed with huge swathes of data. Full story...

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French woman wins right to marry dead fiancé...

In a few weeks time a heartbroken French woman will stand alone before the mayor of her village for what will be an emotional ceremony, the likes of which are rarely seen.

It was revealed this week that after an agonising wait the woman, named only as Pascale, from the town of St Omer in northern France has finally been granted her longstanding wish by France's head of state, to marry her former partner Michael posthumously.

The pair, who were together for six and half years, were initially due to get married in June 2012, but just one month before the ceremony, Michael suffered a heart attack and died.

Stricken with grief Pascale vowed to carry on with her plans.

She decided to make use of a little known and seemingly strange French law that allows someone to marry a dead person in special circumstances. Full story...

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'Venezuela is a country full of fear'

World's biggest cyberattack detected, 360 million accounts, 1.25 billion email addresses hacked...

An internet security firm has stumbled upon a "mind boggling" and "Godzilla-sized" cache of personal data put up for sale on the online black market by hackers.

One of the hacker attacks stole over 105 million records making it the single largest data breach in cybercrime history.

The trove included credentials from more than 360 million accounts and around 1.25 billion email addresses.

The discovery was made by cybersecurity firm Hold Security. "These credentials can be stolen directly from your company but also from services in which you and your employees entrust data. In October 2013, Hold Security identified the biggest ever public disclosure of 153 million stolen credentials from Adobe Systems. One month later we identified another large breach of 42 million credentials from Cupid Media," the firm said.

They accumulated the data over the past three weeks. The company first tracked over 300 million abused credentials that were not disclosed publicly (that is over 450 million credentials if one counts the Adobe find). Full story...

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Crimea boils over...

The surging crisis in Ukraine is a dramatic example of how wars begin. Take arrogance, toxic nationalism, tribalism, moral outrage and profound miscalculation, mix thoroughly, and, voilà !, another great leap forward in the march of human folly.

Russia just mobilized its western regions armed forces, an inevitable response to the growing turmoil in Ukraine. Most westerners are unaware that Ukraine is the cradle of Russian civilization and, when properly run, one of the world’s great producers of grains.

Now that western Ukraine has fallen to anti-Russian, nationalist groups, Russia-oriented eastern Ukraine is also threatening to explode. This nation of 44 million is already de facto split into two parts. How Ukraine’s armed forces respond remains an important question. On Thursday their command vowed to resist any incursion by Russian troops, but loyalties remain uncertain.

Unrest and some violence have now erupted in Crimea. Though 80% ethnic Russian, this highly strategic peninsula was given by the Soviet leadership to the Soviet Ukrainian Republic in 1954. The result, some say, of a grandiose, drunken gesture by Kremlin leader Nikita Khrushchev, a former Ukraine party boss. Back then it mattered little. Full story...

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Malaysia's Allah issue seen from afar...

Like other friends of Malaysia overseas, I have followed the controversy over the use of the word "Allah" with interest, but also with great concern. For I believe that this issue, if left unchecked, has the potential to tear Malaysia and the dream of "Bangsa Malaysia" apart.

While there are racial and religious issues in every society, what makes the situation in Malaysia different is that it is the government that has condoned and even provoked these tensions for its own political purposes.

For years, UMNO justified its existence by saying that the Malays are under threat, and that only UMNO could defend “the Malay race”.

After the 13th general election, in which UMNO candidates received only 30 percent of the national vote – and in which BN as a whole got only 47 percent – it had two choices. It could broaden its appeal or it could narrow it by trying to appeal to the PAS voter base, for whom religion rather than race is a more important concern.

Unfortunately, UMNO chose the latter course and started to play the "Muslim" card. Now, according to the government and UMNO, it is not just Malays, it is also Islam that is under threat. As for the "Malay" card, UMNO increasingly has gone to the extreme, pandering to extreme racist elements, starting with PERKASA. Full story...

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Parrot helps India police catch murder suspect...

Talking parrot has helped the police to crack the case of its owner's murder after 'identifying' the alleged killer.

Ashutosh Goswami thought he would get away with robbery when he killed his aunt who caught him red-handed. But according to local police, he hadn’t realised her pet parrot would turn stool pigeon.

In highly embellished accounts of one of the most unlikely Indian murder mysteries in living memory, Goswami was just one of a number of suspects until the victim’s widower local Hindi newspaper editor, Vijay Sharma, read out their names in front of their parrot Heera. When Ashutosh Goswami’s name was read out, the parrot squawked”Usne maara, usne maara’- ‘he’s the killer, he’s the killer.’

 Ashutosh was arrested by police in Balkeshwar Colony in Agra for the murder of his aunt Neelam and confessed to her killing, the Press Trust of India reported. According to the well-respected agency, the role of the parrot Heera was hailed by the local Senior Superintendent of Police Shalabh Mathur:”We got a lot of help from the parrot to zero in on the murderer,” he said. Full story...

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The vicious cycle of farmer suicide, human trafficking, and Monsanto...

Yesterday, members of the Uttar Pradesh General Assembly walked out of a meeting, frustrated by the state government’s denial of farmer suicide being a current and pressing issue affecting the Indian population. Cabinet Minister Shivpal Yadav addressed the House when asked about farmers committing suicide in a particular region because of debts, saying that the government did not have information about the suicides. Yadav also asserted that suicide was a crime.

Essentially, Yadav was ignoring India’s current phenomenon of increased suicide rates among the farmer demographic since the 1990s. In fact, since 2001, one farmer in India has committed suicide every 30 minutes.

In 2010, 190,000 people committed suicide in India. 10 percent of those suicides were farmer suicides but farmers make up only 20 percent of India’s population. The population of India is rising, but the number of farmers across the country is declining.

The most alarming aspect of this phenomenon is that farmer suicides have yet to be addressed properly by the Indian government and they are largely left to be dealt with by authority figures in isolated villages and, of course, the families of the deceased who inherit the farmers’ debts. Full story...

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Ukraine burning...

Thursday, February 27, 2014

Stunned French mum, 45, didn't know she was pregnant!!!

A 45-year-old French woman says she had no idea she was pregnant until her baby literally popped out while she was on holiday at a ski resort in the Alps this week. It may sound unbelievable but the phenomemon is not as uncommon as you might have thought.

The mum, named only as Karine was at the Val Thorens ski resort on holidays with her family when she rushed to the bathroom early on Tuesday morning because she was not feeling well. However she soon realized it wasn’t a case of stomach flu.

The mother from near Lille in northern France, was on birth control and says had no idea she was pregnant. Incredibly within 15 minutes of the first pain she had given birth to a healthy baby girl, French paper Dauphiné Liberé reported.

"We are flabbergasted. There had been no symptoms, no one knew. There was pains, but we were told it was psychological. Especially since my wife has used contraception for long time," said the new dad, who was named only as Eric.

 The couple already had two children, but it had been 12 years since the birth of the youngest one. Full story...

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UN official: Israel guilty of 'inhuman' and 'degrading' apartheid...

Israel's "systematic oppression" of the Palestinian people in the West Bank and Gaza appears to constitute the "inhuman" and "degrading" practice of "apartheid," charged a United Nations investigator.

Richard Falk, U.N. Special Rapporteur on Human Rights in the Palestinian Territories, chronicles Israel's human rights abuses in a searing 22-page report to the U.N. Human Rights Council — his final report after six years in the position. "Through prolonged occupation, with practices and policies which appear to constitute apartheid and segregation, ongoing expansion of settlements, and continual construction of the wall arguably amounting to de facto annexation of parts of the occupied Palestinian territory, the denial by Israel of the right to self-determination of the Palestinian people is evident," he writes.

Danny Muller, coordinator for Middle East Children's Alliance, told Common Dreams, "This report further documents the human rights violations committed against Palestinians — violations that happen every day under the US -funded Israeli occupation and apartheid system."

In East Jerusalem, the "revocation of residency permits" and "forced evictions of Palestinian families," as well as targeted demolition of Palestinian homes, amounts to a "gradual and bureaucratic process of ethnic cleansing," Falk writes. Full story...

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The collapse of bitcoin...

Bitcoin is a virtual currency that has no intrinsic value. The only thing giving bitcoin value is the faith that people have in it, and now that faith has been shattered. This week, the most prominent bitcoin exchange in the entire world, Mt. Gox, totally collapsed. At one time, Mt. Gox boasted more than a million accounts and it accounted for approximately 25 percent of all global bitcoin trading. But now the website has been taken down, there are rumors of catastrophic losses, and many investors are concerned that they will lose all of their money. In fact, according to one report, investors could be facing total losses of up to 367 million dollars. The collapse of Mt. Gox is also affecting other bitcoin exchanges. As I write this, the market value of bitcoin had fallen to about $470, but just three months ago it was trading close to $1,200. Needless to say, a lot of bitcoin investors are going to be licking their wounds tonight.

I have never written much about bitcoin because I never believed in it. Personally, I have always preferred to stick to silver and gold. But I can't blame people for wanting to create a monetary system that worked outside of the central bank-controlled paradigm that we have today.

I just didn't have any faith in bitcoin. I considered it something of a Ponzi scheme. That is why I never recommended it to anyone. Those that got in early and got out at the peak of the market made a killing. Good for them. But most investors are going to end up taking a bath - especially those that got in at the very end.

When you have an imaginary currency that has no intrinsic worth that is being managed and traded by organizations that have very little regulation or accountability, bad things can happen. And we saw a perfect example of this on Tuesday... Full story...

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Brain washing, social control and programming – Why you should kill your television...

(...)

Westerners spend four plus hours a day, the equivalent of two months a year, or nine years in a lifetime, being hypnotized by a television screen without being conscious of the effects this activity has on them. They have nearly stopped interacting with friends, neighbors, community, and even family. Their free time is spent in imaginary relationships with fictitious characters on the screen.

A few US statistics will show us the extent of the phenomenon: 99 % of households own at least one TV; there are 2.24 TVs per family; the television remains open 7 hours a day; 66 % eat in front of their television sets. The addiction starts right after birth, since 30% of kids who are 0 to 1 year old and 47 % of the 5 to 8 year-olds have televisions in their rooms. A typical US child spends 3.5 minutes per week in meaningful conversation with a parent, but 1680 minutes per week in front of TV. Is this why television is called the “one-eyed babysitter”? By the time they are 65, most people have seen 2,000,000 TV ads. This phenomenon is becoming global.

The entire population of earth has become addicted to television. If one decides to quit the TV habit, they experience psychological withdrawal symptoms that can be as severe as those related to drug or alcohol abuse. There is a direct relationship between child obesity – which is severe for 11% of 6 to 17 year olds in US – and advertisements, since the most popular types of commercials are related to junk food. A study counted more than 200 junk food ads during four hours of cartoons on Saturday morning television in the US. When compared with radio listening, television is more impactful because there are pictures. The more there are to accompany a special news report, the more tangible it will seem and the lesser the chance of people questioning its accuracy. Full story...

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Wi-Fi computer virus goes ‘airborne’ like common cold...

Researchers in Britain have shown for the first time how a computer virus can spread through Wi-Fi “as efficiently as the common cold spreads between humans.” The 'Chameleon’ Wi-Fi AP-AP virus infiltrates dense networks and spreads at an alarming rate.

Chameleon was designed by a team of researchers from the University of Liverpool, and displayed a ‘remarkable amount of intelligence’ in its capacity to spread in a similar way to the common cold.

The virus “was able to avoid detection and identify the points at which Wi-Fi access is least protected by encryption and passwords,” according to a release published on the university’s website. The areas which are generally ‘least protected’ are public access points – such as free Wi-Fi in cafes and airports.

Network Security Professor, Alan Marshall, stated that the virus doesn’t attempt to damage existing networks but instead infiltrates the data of all users connected to a network via Wi-Fi .

“WiFi connections are increasingly a target for computer hackers because of well-documented security vulnerabilities, which make it difficult to detect and defend against a virus,” said Marshall. Full story...

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Monsanto's Roundup may be linked to fatal kidney disease, new study suggests...

A heretofore inexplicable fatal, chronic kidney disease that has affected poor farming regions around the globe may be linked to the use of biochemical giant Monsanto’s Roundup herbicide in areas with hard water, a new study has found.

The new study was published in the International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health.

Researchers suggest that Roundup, or glyphosate, becomes highly toxic to the kidney once mixed with “hard” water or metals like arsenic and cadmium that often exist naturally in the soil or are added via fertilizer. Hard water contains metals like calcium, magnesium, strontium, and iron, among others. On its own, glyphosate is toxic, but not detrimental enough to eradicate kidney tissue.

The glyphosate molecule was patented as a herbicide by Monsanto in the early 1970s. The company soon brought glyphosate to market under the name “Roundup,” which is now the most commonly used herbicide in the world.

 The hypothesis helps explain a global rash of the mysterious, fatal Chronic Kidney Disease of Unknown etiology (CKDu) that has been found in rice paddy regions of northern Sri Lanka, for example, or in El Salvador, where CKDu is the second leading cause of death among males. Full story...

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Swiss to vote on world's highest minimum wage...

A proposed minimum wage of 22 francs an hour ($24.80) would have a damaging effect on Switzerland's job market, says Swiss economics minister Johann Schneider-Ammann, as voters prepare to decide.

Schneider-Ammann launched a campaign on Tuesday objecting to the proposal, which will be put to Swiss voters in a referendum on May 18th. Switzerland does not currently have a national minimum wage.

If the plan is approved, Switzerland's lowest hourly salary will exceed that of current record holder Australia by more than ten US dollars. Australian workers are entitled to A$16.37 per hour ($14.67).

The UK's minimum hourly wage is £6.31 ($10.55), while Germany recently agreed a €8.50 ($11.69) minimum from 2017. The current US rate is $7.25.

 Speaking at a media conference reported by Reuters, Schneider-Ammann said: "The government is convinced it would be wrong for the state to impose a nationwide wage." Full story...

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Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Why doesn’t anyone care about the sexual assault allegations against Bill Cosby?

Last month, Dylan Farrow published a letter in the New York Times accusing her father, Woody Allen, of molesting her, 20 years after she first spoke out against him as a 7-year-old child. The month before, the Village Voice republished reams of documents describing allegations that R. Kelly repeatedly raped young girls, more than a decade after the initial investigation first made national news. With these two buried sexual-assault allegations newly relevant, Gawker’s Tom Scocca asked why there was no similar discussion about another buried celebrity case: “Who wants to remember Bill Cosby’s multiple sex-assault accusations?”

Cosby, Scocca recounts, has been accused of targeting, grooming, then drugging and raping multiple young women as early as the 1970s and as recently as 2004. Newsweek’s Katie J.M. Baker wanted to remember, and interviewed two women who made some of the since-forgotten allegations against Cosby. And yet the rekindled discussion about Cosby’s sexual abuse hasn’t quite incited the media firestorm that those against Kelly and Allen did. Why not?

One reason might be that the news pegs for the revisiting of Kelly’s and Allen’s cases seem stronger. Farrow’s letter came on the heels of a Golden Globes tribute to Allen’s life and career and an Oscar nomination for his Blue Jasmine script. The Kelly accusations reignited after he headlined the Pitchfork Music Festival and released a well-reviewed new album. Key journalists—Maureen Orth at Vanity Fair, Nicholas Kristof at the New York Times—took the initiative to tie these events to the artists’ pasts, perhaps aware that the Internet had opened up a new audience for these old allegations. Full story...

Read also: Bowman speaks about Bill Cosby sexual abuse allegations

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Missouri spelling bee runs out of words after marathon duel between Indian-origin boy and American girl...

A spelling bee competition in the US has been tied between a 13-year-old Indian-origin boy and a 11-year-old girl after they duelled for 66 rounds until finally the judges ran out of words.

Kush Sharma, a seventh-grader at Frontier School of Innovation, and Sophia Hoffman, a fifth-grader at Highland Park Elementary, battled in Missouri county's annual spelling bee competition with both of them getting every word right.

Finally, the judges ran out of words and the contest between them will resume on March 8 for a spot in the Scripps National Spelling Bee in Washington.

"We did not want to just go through the dictionary and give them more words. We feared that someone would get a word that was too easy while the other would get an extremely difficult word," said Mary Olive Thompson, outreach coordinator for Kansas City Public Library where the event was held. Full story...

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Worse than Wal-Mart: Amazon’s sick brutality and secret history of ruthlessly intimidating workers...

When I first did research on Walmart’s workplace practices in the early 2000s, I came away convinced that Walmart was the most egregiously ruthless corporation in America. However, ten years later, there is a strong challenger for this dubious distinction—Amazon Corporation. Within the corporate world, Amazon now ranks with Apple as among the United States’ most esteemed businesses. Jeff Bezos, Amazon’s founder and CEO, came in second in the Harvard Business Review’s 2012 world rankings of admired CEOs, and Amazon was third in CNN’s 2012 list of the world’s most admired companies. Amazon is now a leading global seller not only of books but also of music and movie DVDs, video games, gift cards, cell phones, and magazine subscriptions. Like Walmart itself, Amazon combines state-of-the-art CBSs with human resource practices reminiscent of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Amazon equals Walmart in the use of monitoring technologies to track the minute-by-minute movements and performance of employees and in settings that go beyond the assembly line to include their movement between loading and unloading docks, between packing and unpacking stations, and to and from the miles of shelving at what Amazon calls its “fulfillment centers”—gigantic warehouses where goods ordered by Amazon’s online customers are sent by manufacturers and wholesalers, there to be shelved, packaged, and sent out again to the Amazon customer.

Amazon’s shop-floor processes are an extreme variant of Taylorism that Frederick Winslow Taylor himself, a near century after his death, would have no trouble recognizing. With this twenty-first-century Taylorism, management experts, scientific managers, take the basic workplace tasks at Amazon, such as the movement, shelving, and packaging of goods, and break down these tasks into their subtasks, usually measured in seconds; then rely on time and motion studies to find the fastest way to perform each subtask; and then reassemble the subtasks and make this “one best way” the process that employees must follow. Full story...

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"Robin Hood" monkey in India steals Rs 50,000, showers it over village!!!

In a bizarre incident in Uttar Pradesh's Moradabad district, a monkey stole Rs 50,000 from a school teacher's home in Harisinghpur and showered it over the village. After chasing the monkey for two hours, the villagers finally managed to collect Rs 46,000 and returned it to the teacher.

This area of Uttar Pradesh is ridden with Monkeys who take shelter in temples and houses. Known for their notorious behaviour, these monkeys have often been poisoned by the villagers. Last year itself, 42 of them were found dead in the Nakhasa area on Rahtol road.

As some of them were found in a drugged state, the police suspects that they had been poisoned. The carcasses had been sent for post mortem to ascertain the cause of the death. They had also registered an FIR In the case and investigations were on. Source...

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Monday, February 24, 2014

5 disturbing reasons not to trust the News ...

(...)

You can spot a press-sourced news article miles away. A cheap and easy way to push coverage into a publication is to commission a survey. You know the type: "New Study Shows Women Most Attracted to Morbidly Obese Men." The great thing about them is that they're a cinch to game until you get the result you want -- that hypothetical example was probably funded by Rascal Scooters and Hot Pockets, then given to the press so they could pick out the key talking points, without going into any detail about how they arrived there. You'll usually find the source in the last paragraph, if at all.

This same story wound up in my inbox before Sky News ever covered it. To be fair, we all got the email at the same time. Travel insurance firm LV= commissioned a study finding that (surprise) our luggage is really valuable. Some PR hack typed up a press release, emailed it to a mile-long list of media contacts, and waited for lazy journalists to gobble up the low-hanging story.

Crisis specialists, meanwhile, are former journalists who help corporations and governments do PR damage control in the wake of some colossal cock-up. They're experts on what is, or isn't, a story -- provided it's about their client. If you've accidentally sold poisoned Tylenol to children or gassed a teeny-weeny factory full of 3,800 workers, Burson-Marsteller has a team of Dark Side journalists ready to rehabilitate your ass. Full story...

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Homosexuals face life in jail after Uganda leader signs anti-gay law...

The president of Uganda has signed a controversial anti-gay bill toughening penalties for homosexual sex, with some acts punishable by life behind bars.

President Yoweri Museveni signed it in front of a team of scientists whose report, which stated there was no genetic basis for homosexuality, he cited as evidence.

He had agreed to wait for scientific findings from the US but said today he would not yield to pressure from western groups. ‘We Africans never seek to impose our view on others,’ he said. ‘If only they could let us alone.’

Originally, the bill called for the death penalty for some homosexual acts, but this was removed amid international criticism.

The version signed sets life imprisonment as the maximum penalty for ‘aggravated homosexuality’ and criminalises ‘promoting homosexuality’, where activists encourage people to come out. Full story...

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Kuwaiti man kills Filipina wife for getting pregnant...

A Kuwaiti man beat his Filipina wife with a stick to death after learning she was pregnant, saying she violated their agreement when they got married.

The unnamed man had told police he found his wife dead when he returned home from work in the capital Kuwait City but forensic examination showed she had been beaten.

“After coming under pressure during interrogation, the man confessed he had beaten his wife with a stick after she told him she was pregnant,” Al Anba daily said.

“He said they had agreed that she will not get pregnant and to live with him and two children from his first Ethiopian wife….the man told investigators that he did not mean to kill his wife but that he got mad when he learned she was pregnant.” Source...

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Facebook fraud...

Why Apple's recent security flaw is so scary...

On Friday, Apple quietly released iOS 7.0.6, explaining in a brief release note that it fixed a bug in which "an attacker with a privileged network position may capture or modify data in sessions protected by SSL/TLS." That's the understated version. Another way to put it? Update your iPhone right now.

Oh, and by the way, OS X has the same issues—except there's no fix out yet.

If you understand what that release note meant in full, chances are you were first in line for the iOS update. If it reads like deleted scene from Sneakers, here's what it means for you and your Apple devices.

SSL stands for Secure Sockets Layer, and it's what helps ensure that communication between your browser and your favorite websites' servers remains private and secure. TLS, or Transport Layer Security, is a more recent protocol that does essentially the same. In brief, SSL/TLS is a cryptographic key that lets a browser and a server know they are who they say they are, a secret digital handshake that keeps your financial information safe when you make an Amazon payment or log into wellsfargo.com.

This all happens in the background; your only direct interaction with SSL/TLS is when you notice the lock icon in your search bar has clamped shut. That means you've got a direct, private, secure line. Full story...

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Holy cow! Five-legged animal tours round India to bring good luck...

These extraordinary pictures show a five-legged cow, whose extra limb is rather bizarrely attached to its neck.

Many believe the four-year-old animal brings good luck to whoever touches the extra limb - with some claiming it is a manifestation of a Hindu deity.

Owner Laxman Bhosale, 35, tours the country with the animal - with hundreds regularly turning out to catch a glipse of the creature.

Laxman said: 'Cow is our holy animal. We call her our mother. With this extra limb, God is indicating to us that we must respect the animal and seek her blessings.

'Touching the limb of mother cow will bring good luck and help you fulfill all your wishes.'

After setting off last July from his home in Solapur, Maharastra, where he owns a cow shelter, Mr Bhosale's journey has seen him visit six states and 15 major cities.

Laxman said: 'People used to come to our house to see the cow. People used to come from far off districts to seek blessings. More + pictures...

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Sunday, February 23, 2014

Redevelopment of Mecca: Bulldozers bear down on site of Mohamed’s birth...

Fresh plans are being drawn up to erect a modern complex on the site of what scholars of Islam contend is the birthplace of the Prophet Mohamed as part of a sweeping multi-billion-dollar redevelopment of the pilgrimage city of Mecca that has already ravaged many sacred sites and structures.

If approved, the project, details of which have been obtained by The Independent, would entail the demolition of a small library steps away from the Masjid al-Haram, or Grand Mosque, which sits directly on top of what are believed to be the remains of the house of the Prophet’s birth.

Hopes that the library, which stands on a raised plinth, and the site beneath it would be spared rose briefly last year when Saudi Arabia’s royal family backed off earlier plans to replace it, either with a sprawling metro rail station to drop off pilgrims or an enormous new library dedicated to King Abdul Aziz, founder of the modern kingdom.

But the construction company in charge of redeveloping the area, the Saudi Binladin Group, proposes that it be razed to make way instead for the imam’s residence and an adjacent presidential palace. Full story...

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Has Germany become the 'bordello of Europe'?

A group of men in red and white robes stroll through the reception area. Women in high heels sit at the bar in a haze of cigarette smoke, chatting to clients and laughing.

This is Paradise, in Stuttgart, Germany - one of the largest brothels in Europe.

And it's legal.

Built at a cost of more than 6m euros (£4.9m), and opened in 2008, it boasts a restaurant, a cinema, a spa and 31 private rooms for the hundreds of male customers it attracts each day.

Germany legalised prostitution in 2002, creating an industry now thought to be worth 16bn euros a year.

By treating prostitution as a job like any other, the idea was to prise women away from the pimps that often run the sex trade. Full story...

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'No one cares': The tragic truth of Syria's 500,000 refuge children...

When the British photojournalist Ed Thompson arrived at a snowy Syrian refugee camp in Lebanon last December, he was greeted by a little boy who ran circles around him, making motorbike sounds. Thompson joined in and the subject of his new project was born.

We do not know the name of the boy, or his story. That is partly because Thompson did not make the trip to Lebanon with an NGO or the UN. His visit was instigated by a chance encounter with Sammy Hamze, a 20-year-old Lebanese art student studying in London. They got talking in the pub about the number of Syrians living in Hamze's hometown and, within weeks, were in Lebanon, cameras and notepads in hand.

They spent six days in Chhim, western Lebanon, interviewing refugees in camps, those taken in by Lebanese families and those forced to pay steep rent for squalid properties. Keen to break through the political soundbites – lamenting Syria as the "greatest humanitarian tragedy of our times" – Thompson wanted to personalise the crisis and draw attention to two startling statistics: that of the nearly one million (official) Syrian refugees displaced in Lebanon, almost half are children; and around one in five, according to Unicef, are less than five years old.

We have heard the stories. Children at risk of dying from the cold in refugee camps; vulnerable to trafficking; begging on the side of the road; left orphaned and out of school; girls sold into marriage. But what shook Thompson most was that the children, although appearing older than their years, were still so young. "They are innocent, completely innocent," he says now. "One father told me to look at his family; he could barely feed his son. They had been through hell, walked through hell and got to hell. All they want to do is go home." Full story...

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Louis Ck - What you get with a basic life...

Venezuela: chaos and thuggery take the place of the pretty revolution...

Hugo Chávez used to call it la revolución bonita (the pretty revolution), but the world looked at Venezuela last week and saw only ugliness. Protesters gunned down in the streets, barricades in flames, chaos. One of the dead was a 22-year-old beauty queen shot in the head.

With the government censoring and cowing TV reports, many of the images came from smartphones, grainy and jerky snippets filled with smoke and shouts. One fact loomed through them all: Chavismo, a hybrid system of democracy and autocracy built on populism, petro-dollars and quasi-socialism, was reaping the consequences of misrule.

Demonstrations in Caracas, Valencia, Mérida and other cities turned lethal, with student-led rallies provoking a fierce backlash from National Guard units and paramilitaries. They roared on motorcycles into "enemy" neighbourhoods, guns blazing. Families piled mattresses against windows to shield against bullets.

Human Rights Watch accused security forces of excessive and unlawful force by beating detainees and shooting at unarmed crowds. Worse may come. Jailings, beatings and killings have galvanised rather than deterred the mostly middle-class protesters. They vowed to continue until la salida, the exit of a government that has held power under Chávez, and now President Nicolás Maduro, for 15 years. "Change depends on every one of us. Don't give up!" Lilian Tintori, the wife of a jailed opposition leader, Leopoldo López, said via Twitter. Banners fluttered from buildings and barricades. "I declare myself in civil disobedience," read one. Full story...

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Saturday, February 22, 2014

Why decision to free Rajiv Gandhi killers is a political masterstroke...

Tamil Nadu's decision to free seven people convicted of plotting the assassination of former Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi is being described by many as a political masterstroke by the ruling state government.

The mercurial J Jayalalitha, who heads her ruling regional AIADMK party government, lost no time in taking a cue from the Supreme Court's ruling on Tuesday commuting the death sentences of three of the convicts, which cited federal government delays in deciding their mercy pleas.

With barely a few months to go until what promises to be closely fought general election, Ms Jayalalitha will be hoping that the move will gladden the vast majority of Tamil voters, who have been sympathetic to people of Tamil ethnicity in Sri Lanka and protested against Colombo's human rights record.

Gandhi's murder in May 1991 was seen as retaliation for his decision to send Indian peacekeepers to Sri Lanka in 1987.

Even Congress party leaders have been circumspect about the top court's landmark ruling on Tuesday commuting the death sentences of those who were involved in killing their top leader. Full story...

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With WhatsApp, Facebook enters your address book...

The address book is making a billion-dollar comeback.

Weary of noisy social networks filled with mundane updates from the most remote acquaintances, millions of people have turned to their smartphone address books - and the diverse array of messaging services that rely on them, like Snapchat, Secret, Kik and WhatsApp - for more intimate social connections. Now the stampede toward those messaging services has Silicon Valley's giants scrambling to catch up.

Being able to tap into this address book messaging is a major reason why Facebook decided that WhatsApp, the most popular of these services, was worth as much as $19 billion. In announcing this week it would buy WhatsApp, Facebook is betting that the future of social networking will centre on not just broadcasting to the masses but also the ability to quickly and efficiently communicate with your family and closest confidants - those people you care enough about to have their numbers saved on your smartphone.

Facebook has long defined the digital social network, and the average adult Facebook user has more than 300 friends. The company's strategy has mostly been about making that circle of friends even bigger, cajoling users into combining their friends, former friends, co-workers, second cousins and everyone they've ever met into a single, ballooning social network.

But the average adult has far fewer friends - perhaps just a couple in many cases, researchers say - to whom they talk regularly in their real-world social network. Full story...

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New research shows that garlic counteracts virulent bacteria...

Research from the University of Copenhagen shows that garlic counteracts virulent bacteria.

Garlic has been used for centuries as a cure-all for everything from the common cold to much more serious conditions.

With hospital acquired infections killing tens of thousands of people a year, and the prospect of current antibiotics not working due to resistance, the search is on for new compounds that will work against bacteria.

(...)

Supporters of garlic as a medicine have agreed with what Jakobsen is saying for years. Hopefully the interest of major pharmaceutical companies will continue his research and give us a future where we are not dying of very simple infections that current antibiotics no longer work against. Full story...

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Look over your shoulder, banker man...

“seventh banker to die recently under mysterious circumstances…”

look over your shoulder, banker man

they’re coming

what do you know, banker man,

about a missing trillion dollars

flown away

about Libor

about the other set of books

about big-time politicians who are in on it

look over your shoulder

you could take a walk from your house and never come back Full story...

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Call for warnings about Neknominate...

Twitter and Facebook should introduce warnings over the drinking game Neknominate, which has been linked to several deaths, councils have said.

The Local Government Association (LGA), which represents almost 400 councils in England and Wales, said prominent messages were needed on the websites about the dangers of the craze.

Neknominate involves people filming themselves downing alcohol, nominating someone to continue the game, and posting the video on social media sites.

Councils are now publishing warnings about alcohol through internet safety campaigns that provide links for parents, carers and young people.

The LGA said some schools had asked for warning notices about Neknominate to be put on noticeboards and read out at assemblies. Full story...

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Friday, February 21, 2014

Hands off our children, big brother...

Some friends came to us this week, troubled, to ask our advice. It seems their youngest son came home from school on Monday and asked – begged – to be homeschooled.

His request has been a recurrent theme during the past few months, but it took on a particular urgency on Monday when his biology teacher required all the students to sing a song praising Common Core.

I should add that this boy isn’t 6 years old. He’s 16. He and his classmates are long past the age of being amused by peppy propaganda songs. And our friend’s son, thanks to the vigilance of his parents, knew that what he was experiencing was nothing short of brainwashing.

So his request to homeschool took on a much more serious tone. His parents came over to discuss the subject.

While the federalizing of public schools has been going on for decades, the rapid push to capture our children has taken on a sense of urgency in the last few years. The government doesn’t just want our children’s bodies; it particularly wants their minds. If Nazi German taught us nothing else, it taught us this: Children are the currency of tyrants. Full story...

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