INDIANAPOLIS (AP) — An Australian man has been sentenced to 30 years in prison after authorities say he and his partner allowed at least eight others to have sex with their young adopted son for money. The 36-year-old man is a resident of Queensland and is not being identified by The Associated Press to protect his son’s identity. The man pleaded guilty in February to conspiracy to sexually exploit a child and to conspiracy to possess child pornography and was sentenced Monday by U.S. District Judge Sarah Evans Barker, the Indianapolis Star reported His partner, a 42-year-old American who had been living in Australia, was sentenced in June to the maximum 40-year sentence. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to sexually exploit a child. According to court documents, the two men became romantically involved in the late 1990s and began trying to adopt an infant boy. The men had been living with the boy in California, where they were able to use falsified records to legalize an adoption, according to court records obtained by The Associated Press. Court documents also said the men eventually paid $8,000 to adopt the boy from a woman whose husband had abandoned her. More
A total of 130 couples said “I do” in a mass wedding at Rio de Janeiro’s Superior Court of Justice, marking the city’s first gay civil marriages. In mid-May, Brazilian courts determined that public offices that oversee marriages cannot reject gay couples, even though Brazil’s national congress has passed no law on the matter. Some public offices had already been accepting marriage applications from homosexual couples, while others denied them. An emotional Viviane Soares Lessa de Faria, 38, smiled at her partner and told news site G1 “I’ve dreamed of marrying her since I met her.” Her wife’s 29-year-old son was the couple’s best man. For Giuseppe Laricchia, 21, marrying his boyfriend was about guaranteeing rights. ”We need to have equality compared with heterosexual couples,” he said. More
Pope Francis has been named Time magazine’s Person of the Year for 2013. Time’s editor revealed the magazine’s decision on NBC’s “Today” Wednesday morning. Pope Francis, who gained world praise in 2013, became the first Jesuit pope in March 2013 following the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI. Managing editor for Time Nancy Gibbs explained the magazine’s choice on Wednesday, calling the Pope “a new voice of conscience.” ”In his nine months in office, he has placed himself at the very center of the central conversations of our time,” she said. “About wealth and poverty, fairness and justice, transparency, modernity, globalization, the role of women, the nature of marriage, the temptations of power.” Huff Post
Scores of Ukrainian riot police withdrew on Wednesday morning from a protest camp after moving against demonstrators overnight in the authorities’ biggest attempt yet to reclaim streets after weeks of protests against President Viktor Yanukovich. Several columns of police left positions around the protesters’ main camp in Independence Square and moved away from government buildings occupied by demonstrators enraged at Yanukovich’s decision to pull the plug on an EU trade deal and move Ukraine further into Russia’s orbit. Overnight they had cleared streets near the protest camp and later surrounded the City Hall, where demonstrators who have set up a makeshift hospital in the occupied building sprayed them with water hoses to prevent it from being stormed.
Those moves by hundreds of black-clad police with visors and helmets were the boldest steps the authorities had ordered so far against demonstrators, although it was not clear whether they were prepared to use full force. At the main protest camp on Independence Square, pop stars, politicians and priests pleaded with police not to shed blood. Opposition politicians called for mass demonstrations to protect the square and predicted that Yanukovich would soon be toppled. The interior minister called for calm and said the square would not be stormed. Police had been bussed in to the city centre to shouts of “Get out criminal” – a reference to Yanukovich, who suspended plans to sign a trade pact with the European Union last month and instead embraced closer ties with Russia. More
A woman who wants to get married in a chapel of the Church of Scientology in London won her case on Wednesday at Britain’s Supreme Court, which ruled that Scientology was a religion and the chapel was legally a place of meeting for religious worship. Louisa Hodkin had launched legal action after officials refused to record the chapel as a place that could be used for marriages, citing a court ruling from 1970 that said Scientology did not involve religious worship. In their unanimous decision to allow Hodkin’s appeal, the Supreme Court justices said that the 1970 ruling was out of date in its definition of religious worship as involving “reverence or veneration of God or of a Supreme Being”. ”Religion should not be confined to religions which recognize a supreme deity,” wrote Lord Toulson, giving the judgment of the Supreme Court. ”To do so would be a form of religious discrimination unacceptable in today’s society,” he wrote, noting that the criterion would exclude Buddhism, among other faiths. The Court said it was not the job of the Registrar General of Births, Marriages and Deaths to venture into “fine theological or liturgical niceties” and declared that the Scientology chapel should be recorded as a place for the solemnization of marriages. Charisma
DUNEDIN, Fla. (WKRC) — A sinkhole claims two homes near Tampa, Florida. The hole is about 100 feet wide and 50 feet deep. One family got out of their house just in time. The sinkhole was only about 12 feet wide when firefighters first arrived on the scene. It eventually grew big enough to swallow up a boat and the back porch of a house and then a bedroom and the pool of the house next door. Michael Dupre says his frightened daughter woke him up shortly before 6 a.m. on Thursday. At first they thought someone was breaking in, but it wasn’t a burglar it was parts of his home collapsing into a massive crater, “and as I approach the back of the house, I see our screen room just sticking out 3 feet off the ground, so I knew instantly, ok, something opened up.” Dupre has actually known there was a sinkhole under his house for two years. Because of disagreements with his insurance company, he says, work to shore up the home only started three days ago. The Dupres say they feel lucky to be alive. The Dupres have not been allowed back in their home and they never will. Their house and the one next door have both been condemned. Crews are already demolishing it and have started to fill in the hole with dirt. Local 12 WKRC Cincinnati
The Obama administration continues to review Russian proposals to install up to six monitoring stations on U.S. territory for its satellite navigation system, despite strong opposition in Congress. In May 2012, Russia made a formal request to install base stations in the United States to monitor its Global Navigation Satellite System, or GLONASS. Kenneth D. Hodgkins, director of the State Department’s Office of Space and Advanced Technology, told a space navigation and timing advisory board meeting last Thursday that “U.S. officials have requested more information through discussions led by State in coordination with executive branch departments and agencies.” Hodgkins added, “Based on the ongoing discussions, the original Russian proposal has evolved and is currently under review within the U.S. government.” He did not provide additional details on changes in the Russian proposal. The Federal Aviation Administration and NASA “initially expressed interest in acting as hosts” for the Russian monitor stations.
On Nov. 16, The New York Times reported that the CIA and the Pentagon “have been quietly waging a campaign to stop the State Department” from approving installation of the GLONASS monitoring stations on U.S. soil. The Pentagon and CIA fear the monitor stations would help Russia spy on the U.S. and improve the accuracy of GLONASS, a system designed to rival the U.S. GPS satellite navigation system. Sen. Roger Wicker, R-Miss., on Nov. 19 introduced an amendment to the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act that prohibits the construction of foreign ground stations in the U.S. unless the Defense secretary and the director of national intelligence certify that the construction of the stations would not be used to gather intelligence or improve the accuracy of any foreign weapons systems. “I am deeply concerned about the Russian proposal to use U.S. soil to strengthen its GPS capabilities,” Wicker said. “These ground monitor stations could be used to gather intelligence. Even more troubling, these stations could actually improve the accuracy of foreign missiles targeted at the United States,” he added. More
The Chinese currency renminbi, or the yuan, strengthened 16 basis points to a record high of 6.1114 against the US dollar on Tuesday, according to the China Foreign Exchange Trading System. In China’s foreign exchange spot market, the yuan is allowed to rise or fall by 1% from the central parity rate each trading day. The central parity rate of the yuan against the US dollar is based on a weighted average of prices before the opening of the market each business day. Want ChinaTimes
A hypothetical nuclear war in South Asia could trigger worldwide famine and “probably cause the end modern industrial civilization as we know it,” the lead author of a new report tells Global Security Newswire. Published by the watchdog group Physicians for Social Responsibility, the report, titled “Nuclear Famine: Two Billion People at Risk,” updates prior studies on the potential impacts that a “limited” nuclear war between India and Pakistan could have on the global climate, and consequently on food supplies. The prior research, published in 2012, predicted that corn and soybean production in the United States would decline 10 percent on average for 10 years. It also projected a decline in Chinese middle-season rice production — on average by 21 percent during the first four years and on average 10 percent in the following six. At the time, Physicians for Social Responsibility said these effects could “put more than one billion people at risk of starvation.”
The new forecast released on Tuesday indicates the number of people at risk of starvation would actually be double that figure, the group says. The fresh analysis includes a study completed this fall showing there could be even larger drops in Chinese winter wheat production. These crops could decline by 50 percent during the first year and by more than 30 percent over 10 years. Increasing prices would exacerbate the shortage of available food, according to the report, which goes on to call for the elimination of nuclear weapons “as quickly as possible.” “Significant, sustained agricultural shortfalls over an extended period would almost certainly lead to panic and hoarding on an international scale as food exporting nations suspended exports in order to assure adequate food supplies for their own populations,” the report says. “This turmoil in the agricultural markets would further reduce accessible food.” Ira Helfand, a medical doctor from Northampton, Mass., who served as the lead author of the report, told GSN the data shows that the equivalent of 100 Hiroshima-size bombs could “probably cause the end modern industrial civilization as we know it.” A conflict of this size would represent the use of about half the nuclear arsenals that India and Pakistan possess, or a “tiny portion” of the U.S. and Russian stockpiles, according to Helfand. “This is an unbelievably huge shock to the international system,” Helfand said. “We saw what happened to the world’s economy when the housing bubble collapsed in the United States — [here] we’re talking about a shock to the international economic-social system orders of magnitude larger than that. I think it’s quite hard to imagine how this much-more-fragile-than-we’d-like-to-think system can survive that.” More
Earlier in October, Putin stated strongly that Russia would never “surrender” its Arctic area. Indeed, Temp airfield located on Kotelny Island, the largest of Russian islands in Novosiberian region, is being reactivated. The airfield has been operational beginning in 1949 then, 20 years ago, its activity was suspended, and the infrastructures preserved for future use. Since then, Russian policy towards Arctic has become more aggressive and one of the elements of that policy is to reinstate the aforementioned airfield for Russian Air Force planes. In 2012, a helicopter crash occured during a Russian specialists’ visit to the island.
Nobody died, but the mishap halted the reactivation activities. This year people and equipment were delivered by sea. Back in September an expedition included 150 people, 40 machines and vehicles. The process of reactivation of the base went fast and, at the end of October, the first An-72 transport landed there. Currently, an air traffic control service is present, along with accomodation, own water supply, a power station and heating. The airfield is not to be a minor one, since it will be able to accomodate landings of planes as large as Il-76 cargos. Air traffic on Temp is expected to be a regular, year-round and in all weathers. There are plans to continue the expansion with another airfield, Tiksi, in Yakutsia. It is said that the role of the Arctic bases is to safeguard and serve the Northern Sea Route shipping lane and adjacent Arctic zone. The Aviationist
The US is planning to station anti-ballistic-missile systems on the Pacific island of Guam, a move ostensibly to defend against unpredictable North Korea, but which analysts say may be intended to counter China. Within Washington’s defence plans for next year are provisions for siting terminal high-altitude area defence (Thaad) systems on the island territory, combined with the broader realignment of US forces in the Asia-Pacific region. Under those movements, United States troop numbers on the Japanese island of Okinawa are due to be cut, with troops from the Futenma air station relocated to an enlarged base in the northeast of the prefecture, while others will be reassigned to Guam, South Korea and Australia.
The report on the defence planning states that: “The committee recognises the strategic importance of providing ballistic missile defence for Guam and the current US asset based there. “The committee further recognises that as part of bilateral negotiations with the government of Japan, the US military presence on the island and the need to protect it from missile threat are projected to increase.” Thaad systems and Patriot interceptor missiles have been stationed on Guam in the past, supplementing warships, but the report cites the “immediate threat of missiles launches from the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea toward US military assets on Guam” as reason for the move. Politicians on Guam also requested that it have permanent missile systems as defence against North Korean missiles. More
CHICAGO (AP) – It’s not the vision of a world-class city that Chicago Mayor Rahm Emanuel typically likes to portray. More teachers losing their jobs, thousands fewer police and firefighters on duty, less frequent trash collection and miles of potholed roads going unrepaired – all as property taxes soar. But that’s the scenario Emanuel and others have said could befall the nation’s third-largest city if the state Legislature – which passed a landmark measure last week to address Illinois’ severe public pension shortfall – doesn’t deal with Chicago’s own multibillion-dollar pension problem. The economic capital of Illinois and the Midwest, Chicago holds the dubious distinction of having the worst-funded public pension system of any major U.S. city.
It’s a crisis that’s putting in peril Chicago’s reputation as “the city that works,” and its vision of being a modern transportation hub in the midst of a high-tech boom. ”Chicago sticks out for all the wrong reasons,” said Rachel Barkley, a municipal credit analyst at Morningstar Inc. (MORN), referring to a public pension system that is only 35 percent funded, compared to New York’s 60 percent and San Francisco’s 88 percent. It’s raising the question: Which version of itself will Chicago become? Just raising taxes, which could cause businesses to leave, or cutting services, which would penalize residents, won’t be enough, said Michael Pagano, dean of the College of Urban Planning and Public Affairs at the University of Illinois at Chicago. ”I don’t think either one is even a possibility,” he said. “Everybody’s going to have to give something.” Chicago’s pension funds for city workers, police officers and firefighters are about $19.5 billion short of what’s needed to meet its current obligations. More
NEW DELHI — India’s Supreme Court on Wednesday overturned a lower court’s ruling that decriminalized gay sex, a move condemned by gay rights activists as a big step backward in their struggle for acceptance in this largely conservative country. In 2009 the Delhi High Court ruled that a 19th-century provision in the country’s penal code that prohibited people from engaging in “carnal acts against the order of nature” should not apply to consenting adults, including same-sex couples. The Supreme Court rejected that decision Wednesday, saying the old law was still constitutionally valid and could only be changed or erased through Parliament, not the courts. Rights groups say the law had been used for years to harass homosexuals. People across India were shocked by the decision. Most observers expected the country’s highest court to uphold the landmark decision, which had been seen a crucial first step in empowering the gay community in India. ”This is a day of mourning for all Indians. The High Court ruling was one of the finest judgments for minority rights and for inclusion,” said Colin Gonsalves, one of India’s best known human rights lawyers and founder of the Human Rights Law Network. “This is a wrong and retrograde approach to fundamental rights. That the legislature should take it up and not the court is an obsolete notion.” Known as Section 377 for its place in an 1860 British penal code, the law makes consensual sex between same-sex adults punishable by a fine and up to a 10-year prison term. More
A resounding boom over Tucson, Arizona, roused residents from their dinner tables Tuesday and had them pointing up to the sky. The largest meteor shower of the year seemed to be giving them a sneak preview, as a whopper of a rock roared past over their heads. It exploded, rattling their houses, and a dash cam captured it on video as it vanished in a bright blaze. The spectacular annual Geminid meteor shower officially starts Thursday. Now, even with 100 to 120 meteors per hour at its peak, it has given itself a tough act to follow. Astronomer Tod Lauer heard the blast but did not bother to look outside. ”We were eating dinner and heard a good bang that rattled the roof of our house. I dismissed it as a sonic boom,” he posted to Facebook. Then a local TV station phoned the scientist, who studies images from the Hubble Space Telescope, to ask him to explain what had happened. Frantic eyewitnesses across the state called local news outlets to report what they saw. The explosion shook Tony Kubrak’s house, too, he told CNN affiliate KGUN, which received a flood of calls and hundreds of posts to its Facebook page.
Kubrak went outside to check it out. ”I see this tremendous, white, bright light in the western sky. And it was just … it was absolutely enormous, I couldn’t believe it.” Others took to social media. ”Did y’all see the meteor that flew above Tucson? Crazzzzy. That was toooo craaaazy!” Tucson resident Eric Gomez posted on Twitter. People around the world can enjoy what bedazzled Arizonans until at least Monday, NASA said. The Geminid meteor shower this year will be “rich in fire balls.” They can be viewed best from 11 p.m. to 3 a.m. ET. ”Of all the debris streams Earth passes through every year, the Geminids are by far the most massive,” said NASA astronomer Bill Cooke. “When we add up the amount of dust in the Geminid stream, it outweighs other streams by factors of 5 to 500.” NASA calls it the 900-pound gorilla of meteor showers. Most meteor showers are caused by comets, but not Geminid, which contains the name of the constellation Gemini. A large space rock named 3200 Pheathon flings the debris that makes the sparkling magic. CNN
NASA has created a robot for DARPA’s upcoming Robotics Challenge Trials. The Valkyrie is a six-foot two humanoid machine with detachable arms, sonar sensors, mounted cameras, and a glowing, Tony Stark-esque circle in the middle of its chest, that the space agency says is mobile and dexterous enough to enter disaster zones to provide search and rescue functions. Project and group lead for NASA JSC’s Dextrous Robotics Lab, Nicolaus Radford, tells IEEE Spectrum that Valkyrie was designed specifically for the DARPA competition. Strong legs mean the robot’s capable of moving around “degraded environments” typical of disaster-stricken areas, and cameras mounted on its head, body, forearms, knees, and feet, allow it to provide visual information back to its handlers.
Extra data can be provided by the robot’s sonar and LIDAR units. Unlike DARPA’s own Atlas robot, Valkyrie doesn’t require a tether, running instead on a 2kWh battery stored on the machine’s back. Valkyrie builds on the space agency’s previous humanoid robot, Robonaut, currently in orbit around the Earth in the International Space Station. Robonaut, built to work in zero-gravity environments, was the size and shape of a bulky humanoid torso. Valkyrie’s powerful legs and lighter frame make it better adapted for operating on Earth, and a modular construction means the robot’s arms can be switched by humans “in a matter of minutes.” In addition to the robot’s practical uses, Radford explains how his team was focused on creating an “awesome” looking machine. Important in that design was a more humanoid aesthetic than most of NASA’s competitors in the DARPA challenge. Valkyrie looks, moves, and even dresses like a human, wearing layers of fabric over its metal limbs. The fabric helps protect Valkyrie from falls, but Radford explains another reason for its material outerwear. “Our robot is soft. If you brush against it while you’re working, you don’t want to feel this cold, hard metal. You want it to feel natural, like you’re working next to another human being.”
The share of modern weaponry in the Russian Armed Forces will reach 30% in a year, the Voice of Russia correspondent Ilya Kramnik reports citing Russian President Vladimir Putin. ”In 2014, the armed forces must receive more than 40 most modern intercontinental ballistic missiles, more than 210 airplanes and helicopters, more than 250 units of armored vehicles. Nuclear rocket carriers the Alexander Nevsky and the Vladimir Monomakh will take over the combat watch and six new satellites will reinforce the orbital grouping,” Putin said Tuesday at the extended session of the Board of the Ministry of Defense. The president also believes that the deployment of military units and infrastructure in the Arctic region requires special attention.
“Russia is actively developing this promising region and should have every tool needed to protect its security and national interests there,” he said. The formation of new army units for the Arctic should be completed by 2014, Putin said. Putin thanked servicemen and specialists for accomplishing a complex mission involving the restoration of a Russian military base on the Novosibirsk Islands this year. The president said that the islands “had a keynote significance for control over the situation in the Arctic region.” The president also noted that this year’s military exercises have confirmed the reliability of Russia’s nuclear shield and the capabilities of its missile forces. “It was the second military exercise involving strategic nuclear forces in Russia’s modern history. Ground, air and sea-based systems carried out successful missile launches and confirmed the reliability of Russia’s nuclear shield,” he said at a meeting with defense ministry officials. The capabilities of Strategic Rocket Forces, above all the early missile warning system, have increased, Putin said. “Today, it covers all main missile-dangerous directions,” he added. More
Not only could you “shoot your eye out, kid,” you might also go to jail for owning that BB gun in certain states. New Jersey and other jurisdictions make little or no distinction between Daisy’s classic Red Ryder BB gun immortalized in the film “A Christmas Story,” and real guns. They must be registered and are subject to the same laws as any firearms. “In all honesty, kids who are charged are looking at mandatory jail time,” said New Jersey attorney William Proetta, adding that under the state’s Graves Act, a conviction could lead to prison time. “The only defense is to request a waiver but if that’s not granted, young kids can get a felony charge and their lives are basically over.” Virginia, which treats the rite-of-passage toys as firearms if they are used during criminal conduct, and other municipalities also heavily regulate BB guns.
But New Jersey goes the farthest, according to Proetta. New Jersey’s strict Graves Act gun law covers possession of a BB gun right alongside serious gun control measures outlawing sawed-off shotguns, filing serial numbers off of guns or using firearms to commit crimes. Violating the act can bring a minimum three-year prison term and steep fines. And the law is enforced. As recently as October, a man was arrested in New Jersey for shooting an airsoft gun at a rubber duck for target practice, in his own yard. Idyriss Thomas, 22, was arrested in Glassboro, N.J., after police responded to multiple 911 calls from neighbors who reported seeing a man with a gun. Once police determined the gun was unlicensed, Thomas was taken to jail and charged with unlawful possession of a weapon. His family posted a $2,500 bond. More
If you have ambitions of being one of the first people on Mars, listen up: A Dutch company says it is moving along with its plan to send four lucky Earthlings to colonize the Red Planet. The catch: They won’t ever come back. The Mars One foundation announced Tuesday that it has secured lead suppliers for an unmanned mission launching in 2018, which involves a robotic lander and a communications satellite. Lockheed Martin has been contracted to study building the lander, and Surrey Satellite Technology Ltd. will develop a concept study for the satellite, Mars One said. This first mission will demonstrate technology that would be involved in a permanent human settlement on Mars.
If all goes well — and that’s still very much an “if” — the first pioneers could land on Mars in 2025. Enthusiasm has been growing since the project’s first big announcement in April. More than 200,000 people have signed up to be prospective astronauts, Mars One CEO Bas Lansdorp said in Washington on Tuesday. Apparently, they’re OK with living out the rest of their lives on Mars. The technology for a return flight doesn’t exist — there’s no Kennedy Space Center launch pad over there! — and having a one-way trip greatly reduces costs, the company has said. The application period is now closed, and by the end of this year, the company plans to notify those special folk who made it to Round 2. More
A 6-year-old boy has been suspended from a Colorado school for kissing a girl on the cheek. School officials in Canon City are accusing Hunter Yelton of sexual harassment and they want it on his school record. The boy’s mother tells KRDO-TV her son was suspended once before for kissing the girl and had disciplinary problems, but the girl did not object to being kissed. She told the station that the two children like each other. ”They sent me to the office, fair and square. I did something wrong and I feel sorry,” Yelton told the station. A School District RE-1 official says the repeat offenses meet the school policy definition of sexual harassment and they hope the tough standards will force the boy to change his behavior. Yelton’s mother, Jennifer Saunders, wants sexual harassment removed from his record. ”I’m going to stand up and fight for him because that’s not the case, that’s not what happened at all,” she told the station. The school district, for its part, disagrees with Yelton’s mother’s opinion about the boy’s behavior and says kissing a girl at school is unacceptable, the station reported. More
When QE1 ended there was a substantial stock market correction, and when QE2 ended there was a substantial stock market correction. And if you will remember, the financial markets threw a massive hissy fit a few months ago when Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke suggested that the Fed may soon start tapering QE3. Clearly Wall Street does not like it when their supply of monetary heroin is interrupted. The Federal Reserve has tricked the American people into supporting quantitative easing by insisting that it is about “stimulating the economy”, but that has turned out to be a massive hoax.
In fact, I just wrote an article that contained 37 statistics that prove that things just keep getting even worse for ordinary Americans. But quantitative easing has been exceptionally good for Wall Street. During QE1, the S&P 500 rose by about 300 points. During QE2, the S&P 500 rose by about 200 points. And during QE3, the S&P 500 has risen by about 400 points. The S&P 500 is now in unprecedented territory, and stock prices have become completely and totally divorced from reality. In essence, we are in the midst of the largest financial bubble this nation has ever seen. So what is going to happen when the Fed starts pulling back the monetary crack and the bubble bursts? More
Iran on Tuesday dismissed an offer from Israel’s president to meet his Iranian counterpart as a propaganda ploy to ease Israeli isolation over a nuclear accord between Tehran and world powers. ”This propaganda to help the regime out of isolation will prove fruitless,” foreign ministry spokeswoman Marzieh Afkham told reporters. She said President Shimon Peres’s offer was aimed at helping Iran’s arch-foe Israel out of its isolation after its outspoken opposition to the nuclear deal clinched last month in Geneva. Asked on Sunday about a possible meeting with Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani, Peres said: “Why not? I don’t have enemies. It’s not a question of personalities but of policies.” ”The aim is to transform enemies into friends,” said the president, whose role in Israel is symbolic and ceremonial. But the foreign ministry spokeswoman said her country would never recognise the Jewish state or change its stand. ”There has not been nor will there be any change on Iran’s stance and views regarding the Zionist regime” in Israel, Afkham said. More
A private ambulance service that transported more than a half-million patients a year in six states abruptly shut down without explanation, leaving dozens of cities and towns scrambling for medical transportation options this week without a word of warning. First Med EMS, based in Wilmington, N.C., served hospitals and other medical facilities in more than 70 municipalities in Kentucky, North Carolina, Ohio, South Carolina, Virginia and West Virginia. It operated under the names TransMed, Life Ambulance and MedCorp, boasting in publicity materials: “We take pride in our performance and the safety of our patients. We refuse to compromise on this.” First Med’s website was inaccessible Tuesday, and calls to corporate offices either reached disconnected lines or weren’t answered. Company workers said in Facebook posts and tweets that they were told the corporation had declared bankruptcy, but no bankruptcy documents were yet on file in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of North Carolina. More
A “Festivus” pole will be put on display at the Florida State Capitol to protest a Nativity scene recently placed there. The six-foot pole, made of empty beer cans, celebrates the fake holiday of “Festivus” from NBC’s “Seinfeld.” Gretchen Carlson conceded that the 1997 episode was funny, but said she was “outraged” when she heard about this. ”Why do I have to drive around with my kids to look for Nativity scenes and be like, ‘oh yeah kids, look, there’s Baby Jesus behind the Festivus pole made out of beer cans!?” she argued. Watch the clip above to hear what else Gretchen and the faith panel had to say about this on The Real Story. Fox News Insider
Uruguay has become the first country in the world to legalize both the sale and production of marijuana. President Jose Mujica has championed the measure as a way of combatting the illegal drug industry that has decimated parts of Uruguay. The country’s parliament passed the bill by a vote of 16 to 13 on Tuesday evening. Senator Alberto Couriel, a member of the ruling Broad Front left-wing coalition, called the passing of the bill “a historic day” for Uruguay. Under the new legislation, the price of marijuana will be set at one dollar per gram, aiming to undercut the current price of $1.40 on the illegal market. The sale and production of the drug will be regulated by a specially-set-up government body which will administer a database of adult citizens registered to consume marijuana.
“This is an attempt to bring an end to the illegal drugs trade by identifying the market and bringing it into the light of day,” said President Mujica in a statement. Mujica added that the law does not promote the consumption of the drug; it merely identifies the consumer so that authorities may “intervene if [the consumer] overdoes it.” Before the new legislation was passed, the consumption of marijuana in Uruguay was not penalized, but the sale and production of the drug was considered a criminal offense. A number of conditions will govern the sale and production of the drug. Registered Uruguayans over the age of 18 will have the right to buy up to 40 grams of marijuana from pharmacies every month and cultivate a maximum of six plants on their property. The legislation will also allow for the creation of so-called cannabis clubs, composed of up to 45 members who will be able to grow a maximum of 100 plants. More
Tuesday is the first of what is planned to be an annual National Day of Prayer to strengthen the fight against pornography. More than 40 groups and thousands of supporters will join together. Some of the allied groups participating in this effort include Alliance Defending Freedom, the American Family Association, Family Research Council, Movieguide and Concerned Women for America. “Those in the war on pornography and those suffering the harms of pornography need almighty God’s mercy and support, and thus we set aside an entire day of prayer for victory,” says Patrick A. Trueman, president of Morality in Media. The prayer day comes on the heels of the porn industry shutdown Friday—the third of the year—after a performer tested positive for HIV. Each time, medical harms to the actors are briefly attended to and production restarts.
“This is a tragedy that repeats itself every few months, and nothing is done besides a brief halt in porn production,” Trueman says. “After three strikes, it is time to do more than just shut down the industry for a few days. From addiction to abuse to the exploitation [of] women and children, people around the world are constantly affected by the porn industry.” Pornography is inherently dehumanizing and sexually exploitative. Not only does porn lead to addiction and the breakdown of families, but it is also closely tied to sex trafficking, child abuse and violence against women. Harms from pornography include increased demand for sexual trafficking, increased violence against women, widespread addiction, sexual exploitation of children and a host of other debilitating problems. Suggested prayer requests and the complete list of supporting groups can be found at pornharms.com/prayer. People of all religious backgrounds are invited to participate. Charisma
President Barack Obama on Tuesday shook hands with Raul Castro, leader of America’s Cold War foe Cuba, in a rare gesture at the memorial service in South Africa for Nelson Mandela. Obama offered the handshake before taking the stage to eulogise Mandela, but minutes later, made a clear swipe at states like Cuba, saying those who proclaim Mandela’s legacy must honour its meaning by easing curbs on freedom. The handshake between Obama and the brother who took over the duties of longtime Cuban dictator Fidel Castro was seen by millions around the world on live television. A White House official said it was not “pre-planned”. The Cuban government hailed it as a hopeful sign, writing on its website: “May this… be the beginning of the end of the US aggressions.” But it remained unclear whether the gesture would presage a meaningful thaw in relations across the shark-infested waters off Cuba. It comes as Obama seeks to live up to his campaign promise made in 2007 to reach out directly to US enemies as president — and after he spoke by phone to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani in September. More
Top senator says new Iran sanctions will have to wait
The head of the US Senate’s Banking Committee said Tuesday he is leaning toward delaying any new legislation on Iranian sanctions, hours after Secretary of State John Kerry pressed Congress to hold off on passing new penalties. Senator Tim Johnson, a Democrat from South Dakota, said Kerry and US President Barack Obama had convinced him to put off new sanctions against Iran, pending an interim deal that curbs enrichment activity in return for eased sanctions. “The president and Secretary Kerry have made a strong case for a pause in Congressional action on new Iran sanctions, so I am inclined to support their request and hold off on committee action for now,” Johnson said in a statement. “We’ll see. Not this year,” he added to The Hill. The Banking Committee, which oversees international finance agreements, would play an important role in creating and passing new sanctions legislation. The statement came hours after Kerry took a brief break from his rigorous travel schedule to the Middle East on Tuesday to pressure Congress to delay additional sanctions against Iran, describing such legislation as “gratuitous” and potentially damaging not only to any future deal with the Islamic Republic, but also to America’s relations with fellow states in the P5+1 group. More
Google engineering director Scott Huffman says that within five years people will have microphones attached to their ceilings and microchips embedded in their brains in order to perform quicker internet searches. In an interview with the London Independent, Huffman said that Google was working towards a concept based around microphones hanging from the ceiling that would respond to verbal queries. “Like a great personal assistant, it will interrupt you and say ‘ you’ve got to leave now’. It will bring you the information you want,” said Huffman, adding that “five years from now….Google will answer you the same way a person would answer.”
When challenged on the likelihood of such a system being vulnerable to NSA wiretapping, Huffman glibly responded that people should just trust Google (a company that allowed the NSA to mine data from its cloud network “at will”) to safeguard their information. Huffman touted the features of such a system, suggesting people could ask Google to screen football highlights on their television via the microphones, or arrange travel plans. “I could ask my Google ‘assistant’ where we should have lunch, that serves French food and isn’t too expensive? Google will go ‘Ok, we’ll go to that place’ and when I get in my car it should already be navigating to that restaurant. We’re really excited by the idea of multiple devices being able to talk to each other,” said Huffman. More
Obama and his predecessor have flown on your dime to South Africa to attend the funeral of the former communist Nelson Mandela. “President Barack Obama brought former President George W. Bush with him to Africa on Monday to attend a memorial for Nelson Mandela in a high-profile show of American respect for the man who vanquished white-minority rule in South Africa,” Reuters reports. Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter went along for the ride, but on separate flights. “Obama kept his usual quarters in the front of the plane, while the medical unit cabin was transformed into the Bushes’ quarters for the flight. Clinton stayed in the senior staff cabin.” Henri Le Riche estimates “Obama’s expected 10-minute speech at Nelson Mandela’s memorial will cost taxpayers at least $500,000 per minute.” That’s not counting any cakes and coffee he and his inner circle consume aboard Air Force One during the 18,000-mile round trip to Johannesburg, via Dakar, in Senegal. The 28-hour two-way flight will cost $5 million because the four-engined Boeing 747 costs roughly $180,000 an hour to operate, according to a May 2012 report by the Congressional Research Service.
The cost includes jet fuel and subsequent maintenance of the aircraft’s engines, electronics and hotel-class facilities. Obama has been accompanied by the First Lady, Attorney General Eric Holder, national security advisor Susan Rice and confidante Valerie Jarrett. In addition to Obama and his entourage aboard Air Force One, the government sent along the presidential security detail – armed guards, bullet-proof limos, and other equipment – on a far less luxurious C-17 cargo lifters based out of Andrews Air Force base. Cost: $23,811 per hour. Obama’s trip is not merely ceremonial. The high profile event serves as a spectacular propaganda piece to highlight multiculturalism, the latest political control tool exploited by the establishment. Incidentally, the ideological heirs to Mandela’s communism do not support Obama’s presence in South Africa. More
The “coming persecution of Christians” has already begun. It is already here. So why is the mainstream media in the United States almost totally silent about this phenomenon? When some politician somewhere around the globe inadvertently offends homosexuals or Muslims, it instantly makes headline news. But very few Americans are even aware that it has been estimated that 100 million Christians are currently facing persecution and that approximately 100,000 Christians die for their faith each year. As you are about to see, Christians all over the world are being burned alive, beheaded, crucified, tortured to death and imprisoned in metal shipping containers just because of what they believe.
This persecution goes on year after year and it is steadily intensifying. But the governments of the western world and the mainstream media are almost entirely ignoring what is happening. The information shared below is extremely graphic. Some of the websites that normally run my articles may want to think twice before posting this one. The reason why I have included such graphic information is because I believe that it is very important to accurately communicate what is truly going on out there. People need to know the reality of the holocaust that is happening. The following are short excerpts from news stories about incidents of Christian persecution that took place in 12 different countries around the planet. Sadly, the vast majority of Americans have never even heard about any of these stories… More
Up until recently, health and medicine was basically a hit or miss affair. We would discover interventions such as drugs that had benefits, but also many side effects. Until recently, we did not have the means to actually design interventions on computers. All of that has now changed, and will dramatically change clinical practice by the early 2020s. We now have the information code of the genome and are making exponential gains in modeling and simulating the information processes they give rise to. We also have new tools that allow us to actually reprogram our biology in the same way that we reprogram our computers. RNA interference, for example, can turn genes off that promote disease and aging.
New forms of gene therapy, especially in vitro models that do not trigger the immune system, have the ability to add new genes. Stem cell therapies, including the recently developed method to create “induced pluripotent cells” (IPCs) by adding four genes to your own skin cells to create the equivalent of an embryonic stem cell but without use of an embryo, are being developed to rejuvenate organs and even grow then from scratch. There are now hundreds of drugs and processes in the pipeline using these methods to modify the course of obesity, heart disease, cancer, and other diseases and aging processes. As one of many examples, we can now fix a broken heart — not (yet) from romance — but from a heart attack, by rejuvenating the heart with reprogrammed stem cells. More
The US Department of Defense has designed a next-generation satellite capable of observing 40 percent of the Earth’s surface at any one time. The MOIRE satellite will be able to beam high-resolution images in real time from anywhere on our planet. The Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) – the institution that comes up with new technologies for the US military – has developed the revolutionary satellite. The Membrane Optical Imager for Real-Time Exploitation (MOIRE) is made up of 18 octagonal mirrors that unfurl to form a massive eye, measuring 68 feet (20.7 meters) in diameter. From its position 35,000 kilometers above the Earth, MOIRE will be able to view approximately 40 percent of the planet’s surface.
The satellite will transmit what it sees in high resolution and in real time. “It would be optimal to have real-time images and video of any place on earth at any time—a capability that doesn’t currently exist,” writes DARPA on its website. Currently the MOIRE is in the second phase of its development and a ground-based prototype has been successfully tested. Up until this point, the logistics of transporting such an enormous satellite into space made such a feat impossible. However, MOIRE’s 18 octagonal mirrors are made of a plastic membrane about as thick as cling film instead of heavy glass lenses. As well as being significantly lighter, the new material is also more flexible and can be folded and as a result takes up less space at launch.
Russia will create forces in the Arctic in 2014 to ensure military security and protect the country’s national interests in the region, which President Vladimir Putin has named among the government’s top priorities. Russia is returning to the Arctic and “intensifying the development of this promising region” so it needs to “have all the levers for the protection of its security and national interests,” Putin said on Tuesday at an expanded meeting of the Defense Ministry Board. He ordered the ministry to complete the formation of new military units and infrastructure in the Arctic next year. ”I would like you to devote special attention to deploying infrastructure and military units in the Arctic,” the president said in televised remarks.
Russia is reinstating its military base in the Novosibirsk Archipelago (New Siberian Islands), which had been abandoned by the military in 1993, after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. The islands “have key meaning for the control of the situation in the entire Arctic region,” Putin told the top military brass. This year, Russia has also started restoring its Arctic airfields including one called “Temp” on Kotelny Island near the city of Norilsk. It is also overhauling urban facilities in Tiksi, Naryan-Mar, and Anadyr. More