Author Archive: mrdsk

Protests Erupt Over U.S. Police Killings of Terence Crutcher in Tulsa and Keith Lamont Scott in Charlotte

Protests escalated in Charlotte, North Carolina, when hundreds took to the street and blocked Interstate 85 to express outrage over the police shooting of 43-year-old African American Keith Lamont Scott on Tuesday. Video footage shows people blocking the highway, where fires were lit. North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory has declared a state of emergency in the city. This comes as police in Tulsa, Oklahoma, have released a video showing a white police officer shooting and killing 40-year-old African American Terence Crutcher while his hands were in the air. Protestors called for the arrest of police officer Betty Shelby, who fatally shot Crutcher. It has since been reported that she will be charged with manslaughter. Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez speak to Vincent Warren, executive director of the Center for Constitutional Rights; Bree Newsome, artist and activist from Charlotte who scaled the 30-foot flagpole on the South Carolina state Capitol and unhooked the Confederate flag last year; Rashad Robinson, executive director of Color of Change; Corine Mack, president of the NAACP Charlotte-Mecklenburg Branch; and Marq Lewis, founder and a community organizer for We the People Oklahoma, a Tulsa-based grassroots organization. (Democracy Now!)

Google Patent: Driverless Cars Would Detect Police Lights, Pull Over

Levi Sumagaysay reports for Silicon Beat:

Image result for pulled over by policeMost drivers know to pull over to the side of the road when a cop car’s lights are flashing, or when an ambulance is rushing to the scene of an emergency. But let’s face it, some drivers don’t have a clue.

Google’s driverless cars to the rescue?

A recent patent filing by the tech giant describes how its self-driving cars could detect flashing lights, determine the type of emergency vehicle based on the color of the lights and the order in which they’re flashing and then pull over if needed.

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Britain’s Labour Leadership Contest: Who Will Be Leader of Europe’s Largest Socialist Party?

Afshin Rattansi speaks to former Shadow Schools Minister Nic Dakin, and upcoming member of Labour’s NEC Claudia Webbe, about Britain’s Labour Party leadership contest and who will be leader of the party when the votes are counted this weekend. (Going Underground)

U.S. Media Ask Which Candidate Can Better Exploit Our Irrational Fear of Terrorism

Adam Johnson writes for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting:

Politico: Who Has the Upper Hand on Terrorism?The media’s tendency to focus on horserace issues—who’s up and who’s down, what the cosmetics are of an event rather than the substance—is routinely derided by media critics, and mocking it has become something of an election year tradition. But one 2016 topic in particular, terrorism, has become the hot horserace topic of the year in a way that goes beyond the silly to the potentially damaging:

  • Clinton, Trump Jockey Over Who Would Best Fight Terrorists (WNBC, 9/20/16)
  • Who Has the Upper Hand on Terrorism, Clinton or Trump? (Politico, 9/20/16)
  • Terror Threat Clash: Trump, Clinton Accuse Each Other of Boosting Enemy (Fox News, 9/19/16)
  • Clinton, Trump Spar Over Terrorism in Wake of Latest Attacks (USA Today, 9/20/16)

Something missing from these reports is any discussion of the relative danger of terrorism. The reporters begin with the premise that voters are afraid of it, never challenging the underlying rationality of those fears.

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Ralph Nader: Donald Trump is a Freeloading, Pontificating Empty Suit Who Has Cheated on Everything He’s Done

Amy Goodman speaks to consumer advocate and former U.S. presidential candidate Ralph Nader, who says that Donald Trump is “a freeloader on the backs of taxpayers who have to make up the difference for the taxes he doesn’t pay or get less public services.” (Democracy Now!)

The Trump Foundation: What’s Known Is Shocking, But We Need to Know More

Jill Abramson writes for The Guardian:

[…] If the Clinton Foundation had done all of these things, Hillary (and perhaps Bill and Chelsea too) might well be headed to prison, the place Donald Trump and his supporters insist she belongs.

But it’s the Trump Foundation, not the Clinton Foundation, which reportedly bought a portrait of its namesake, settled legal claims for him, donated money to a rightwing advocacy group and whose purpose is somewhat opaque.

I know about the Trump Foundation’s ersatz charity mostly from the work of one dogged investigative reporter from the Washington Post, David Fahrenthold, who bothered to contact more than 300 charities to see whether they’d received donations from the Trump Foundation. His reporting unfolded as so many other journalists were writing their 50th stories about Hillary Clinton’s emails. It is only in the past week that the Post’s reporting on the Trump Foundation has gained traction. The issue should come up in the first presidential debate Monday, as those “damn emails”, as Sanders called the over-covered controversy over Clinton’s private email server, surely will. (The Trump campaign, by the way, has claimed that the report is “peppered with inaccuracies and omissions”.)

There is a clear disparity in the attention focused on Clinton’s supposed ethics problems compared with Trump’s. There has been some excellent reporting on everything from Trump University to his business practices, especially the tax breaks he received on real estate deals uncovered by the New York Times. But these revelations seem to roll off Trump’s back, while in the Clintons’ case they create indelible stains.

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Donald Trump on Terror Is Just McCarthyism For a New Age

Simon Jenkins writes for The Guardian:

[…] In 1950, a little-known American senator, Estes Kefauver, achieved national fame by holding televised hearings into America’s “organised crime”, drawing on blood-curdling fantasies of a Sicilian-American “mafia”. This mafia was, Kefauver claimed, holding American cities to ransom. Communities lived in fear of it. The national economy was menaced by it.

The televised hearings were at times ludicrous. One hoodlum after another was dragged to Washington to protest that all he was running was a few protection rackets on the Lower East Side. Try as Kefauver might to find a Mr Big to justify his extravagant hearings, he found only a disorganised trail of small-time hoods. He still demanded a new Washington bureaucracy to “crack down on organised crime” – and ran unsuccessfully for president. The search for “a mafia” was subcontracted to Hollywood.

Two years later another senator, Joe McCarthy, decided to exploit a different “existential” scare. His committee investigated what he claimed was the “massive” penetration of the government and military by communists and homosexuals. Fear of a spurious threat to the state was turned into a witch-hunt by McCarthy and his aide, a certain Richard Nixon. There was a red under every bed – and a blackmailer in it. McCarthy, until his mental collapse, became a national celebrity. Americans have seemed to get a frisson from being told they are threatened, perhaps because they never have been.

Likewise with Trump. The New York bomber was no more attacking America than, in Britain, Lee Rigby’s killers were “attacking Britain”. Why lend them such glory? These are pathetic groups, sometimes just individuals, committing nasty crimes. For better or worse, it happens every day. That the criminals occasionally yell, “Allahu Akbar” should be neither here nor there. That they may have travelled to the Middle East or downloaded jihadi tracts is a legitimate concern to the police. It is not a threat to the stability, let alone the existence, of the state. Yet such is the current hysteria that he is to be prosecuted for having a “weapon of mass destruction”, namely a pressure cooker.

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Lie Witness News: Donald Trump’s Tax Returns

Instead of Trump’s Wall, Why Not a Binational Border City?

Tanvi Misra reports for City Lab:

Donald Trump keeps talking about the big, beautiful wall he’s going to erect on the U.S.-Mexican border. Meanwhile, Hillary Clinton wants to build bridges—metaphorical ones, that is.

Mexican architect Fernando Romero has taken a more literal approach to Clinton’s proposition. He’s long been a proponent of “building bridges,” and believes that boundaries are obsolete. “With technology, those borders are just becoming symbolic limits,” he recently told Dezeen Magazine. “The reality is that there exists a very strong mutual dependency of economies and trades.” That’s why he has now designed a master plan for a walkable, super-connected metropolis straddling the U.S.-Mexico border.

Back in the early 2000s, Romero’s architecture firm conceptualized a tunnel-like “Bridging Museum” in the Rio Grande Valley, which would act as “both a funnel and a window between the borders.” But his vision for a utopian border city, on display at the London Design Biennale, is much more complex and detailed.

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The War Against the Assad Regime Is Not a “Pipeline War”

Gareth Porter writes for Truthout:

Crude oil is refined into diesel and other products near al-Jawadiyah, Syria, on Oct. 24, 2015. (Tyler Hicks / The New York Times)[…] That argument has been made in a number of places over the last few years, but the most widely republished version is an essay by Robert F. Kennedy, Jr. in Politico, arguing that the Obama administration began to lay the groundwork for overthrowing the Assad regime in 2009 after Syrian President Bashar al-Assad rejected a pipeline proposed by Qatar. That planned pipeline agreed to by Qatar and Turkey, Kennedy argues, would have linked Qatar’s natural gas to European markets through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and Turkey, so it would have deprived Russia of Europe’s dependence on its natural gas.

But Assad not only prevented the realization of the Qatari plan but signed up with Iran for an alternative pipeline that would make Iran, not Qatar, the principal Middle East supplier of natural gas to European energy markets, according to the “pipeline war” account, so the Obama administration decided that Assad had to be removed from power.

It’s easy to understand why that explanation would be accepted by many anti-war activists: it is in line with the widely accepted theory that all the US wars in the Middle East have been “oil wars” — about getting control of the petroleum resources of the region and denying them to America’s enemies.

But the “pipeline war” theory is based on false history and it represents a distraction from the real problem of US policy in the Middle East — the US war state’s determination to hold onto its military posture in the region.

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Ravaged by Conflict, Yemen’s Coast Faces Rising Malnutrition

Ahmed Al-Haj reports for the Associated Press:

Mideast Yemen MalnutritionSitting by her son’s hospital bed, Houdaid Masbah looks at her 5-year-old boy’s skeletal body and sunken cheeks, helplessness engulfing her like a thick cloud — a desperation she shares with many other mothers in Hodeidah.

Even before the war, Hodeidah was one of the poorest cities in Yemen, the Arab world’s most impoverished nation. Now, the destruction of the port city’s fishing boats and infrastructure by the Saudi-led coalition’s airstrikes over the past 18 months of war has deprived the townspeople of their prime livelihood.

The U.N. estimates that about 100,000 children under the age of five in the city and the surrounding province, also called Hodeidah, are at risk of severe malnutrition.

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Washington Post Makes History: First Paper to Call for Prosecution of Its Own Source (After Accepting Pulitzer)

Glenn Greenwald writes for The Intercept:

Three of the four media outlets which received and published large numbers of secret NSA documents provided by Edward Snowden – The Guardian, The New York Times and The Intercept – have called for the U.S. government to allow the NSA whistleblower to return to the U.S. with no charges. That’s the normal course for a news organization, which owes its sources duties of protection, and which – by virtue of accepting the source’s materials and then publishing them – implicitly declares the source’s information to be in the public interest.

But not The Washington Post. In the face of a growing ACLU-and-Amnesty-led campaign to secure a pardon for Snowden, timed to this weekend’s release of the Oliver Stone biopic “Snowden,” the Post editorial page not only argued today in opposition to a pardon, but explicitly demanded that Snowden — their paper’s own source — stand trial on espionage charges or, as a “second-best solution,” “accept a measure of criminal responsibility for his excesses and the U.S. government offers a measure of leniency.”

In doing so, The Washington Post has achieved an ignominious feat in U.S. media history: the first-ever paper to explicitly editorialize for the criminal prosecution of its own paper’s source — one on whose back the paper won and eagerly accepted a Pulitzer Prize for Public Service. But even more staggering than this act of journalistic treachery against their paper’s own source are the claims made to justify it.

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There Is No Media

David Uberti writes for Columbia Journalism Review:

Screen Shot 2016-09-15 at 12.00.53 PM.png[…] Herein lies the caveat journalists should consider before they wet the bed over Gallup’s latest data: There is no media. There is only my media and your media.

“The media”—“such as newspapers, TV, and radio” per Gallup’s definition—has given way to an amorphous blob of email newsletters, podcasts, blogs, YouTube channels, tweets, Snaps, Facebook Live streams, and countless other vessels we couldn’t have imagined 20 years ago. Many people who produce content for them adhere to journalistic standards, but an increasing proportion of them do not. Consuming the fruits of that labor is an intensely personalized experience.

Peer further into Gallup’s data. Trust in media among self-identified Republicans, Democrats, and independents was in the same ballpark in 1998. That was in the early years of the cable news wars. The nearly two decades since coincided with an intense fragmentation of media among more digitally focused individuals and organizations.

Nowhere has this explosion been more forceful than with conservatives, whose half-century project of demonizing the lamestream media has begun splattering into myriad splotches on the internet. The world of a lone conservative media superpower, Fox News, is gradually giving way to a multi-polar world of abundant right-leaning choices.

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Why Do Americans Distrust the Media?

Derek Thompson writes for The Atlantic:

Do Americans “trust” “the media”? The question is often asked and often answered. But, to be fair, it’s not a very precise question.

Trust is a slippery measuring stick. Do I “trust” technology? Well, I trust strangers on Uber to be on time, but don’t trust my cable company to arrive within a four-hour window; I trust my iPhone to not explode, but don’t trust my email to be unhackable. Asking whether I trust “technology,” yes or no, is asking for an non-summarizable opinion of a diverse group of products and people, which fall along a continuum of confidence.

“The media,” like “technology,” is not a single tangible object, but rather an information galaxy, a vast and complex star system composed of diverse and opposing organizations, which are themselves composed of a motley group of people, each of whom are neither all good nor all bad, but mostly flawed media merchants, with individual strengths, weaknesses, biases, and blindspots. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, there are almost 200,000 Americans working for broadcast television and cable programming, 197,000 employed in digital publishing and broadcasting, 183,000 working for newspapers, 99,000 working for magazines, 86,000 in radio, and 64,000 employed in the editing and production of books. Asking survey respondents to briefly summarize their feelings about the daily work of one million strangers is asking for an impossible, and potentially meaningless, oversimplification, like, “Do you think food is too raw?” or “Is clothing red?”

With these enormous caveats out of the way, the fact remains that Americans’ “trust” in “the media” is falling steadily, according to Gallup. Even if the precise definitions of these terms is debatable, the overall decline is clear and noteworthy.

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Why the News Media May Be Too Broken to Stop Trump by Itself

John Ziegler writes for Mediate:

trump[…] During the past couple of weeks it has become clear that the news media may not really be fully devoted to disqualifying Trump and, to the extent that they are, they may be too badly broken as institution to pull it off. This growing concern has led to several interesting opinion pieces in the mainstream media which range from frustration/confusion to overt panic.

The rising realization seems to be, just as I wrote about a couple of months ago, that the modern media may just not be equipped to properly deal with a candidate like Trump. There are many reasons this is the case; his lack of any formal political record, his talent for bringing ratings (which is like kryptonite to the media’s intensity of criticism), his amazing ability to constantly make stuff up so that” lies” are no longer considered “news,” and a dramatic lack of public trust in the news media (especially among conservatives) are all significant elements of this phenomenon.

However, for my money, the three most significant explanations for the news media’s impotence (at least so far) regarding Trump have to do with their pathetically short attention spans in this ratings-driven environment, Trump offering too MUCH fodder for attack, and a “false equivalency” which results in a “fake fairness” of coverage effect.

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Former McClatchy DC Bureau Chief: Clinton Surrogate Blumental Pitched Me ‘Birther’ Story in 2008

Rachel Stoltzfoos reports for The Daily Caller:

Hillary Clinton surrogate Sid Blumenthal personally pitched a reporter on the President Obama “birther” story when she was campaigning for president in 2008, a former Washington reporter said Thursday.

The Clinton campaign and the media have consistently refuted Trump’s claim Clinton started the birther movement, which Trump re-upped Friday when he said for the first publicly that he believes Obama was born in the United States. “Hillary Clinton and her campaign of 2008 started the birther controversy,” Trump said, drawing a slew of media fact checks almost immediately. “I finished it.”

But former McClatchy Washington Bureau Chief James Asher has backed up Trump’s version of events, saying he was personally pitched the story by a Clinton surrogate in 2008.

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The Behavioral Science Behind the Negative TV Ads of Trump and Clinton

Christopher Graves and Steve Simpson writes for Harvard Business Review:

In a series of conversations leading up to the U.S. presidential election in November, Christopher Graves — a recent Rockefeller Foundation Bellagio Resident honoree for behavioral science, Global Chairman of Ogilvy Public Relations, and chair of the PR Council — and Steve Simpson — Chief Creative Officer of Ogilvy & Mather North America — will dissect and debate the candidates’ communications and marketing strategies and techniques.

Graves: Steve, let’s kick off with two television spots that have been running head to head from Clinton and Trump. Trump’s first authorized general election spot, called “Two Americas: Immigration” sets a vision of a dystopian America under Clinton against a safe America under Trump. The first half, under Clinton, is dark and foreboding. Then the tone shifts abruptly.

 

Disinfo Wars: Alex Jones’ War on Your Mind

Nolan Higdon wrote for Project Censored in 2013:

In 1833, William Miller predicted the second coming of Jesus Christ in the year 1843. Only after his fourth failed prediction, each of which saw hundreds of thousands of followers turn out, did his followers abandon him. By this time, Miller had already absconded with copious amounts of their money, spent on his publications and for ascension robes that were supposed to prepare them for Jesus Christ’s arrival. A profiteer relying on distortion and unfulfilled predictions, contemporary radio personality and activist Alex Jones operates in the same mode as Miller. Instead of ascension robes, Jones profits from the fear and uncertainty he relentlessly peddles via DVDs, publications, books, a TV show, a radio show, and websites.

Jones is recognized as a spearheading figure of anti-establishment reporting for many Google-searching-truth-seekers. Jones’s work includes an abundance of unfulfilled predictions that often rely on distorted and unproven claims. Despite his many predictions going unfulfilled, Jones and his claims increasingly appear in the corporate press as major media outlets rely on Internet sources for news content. As a result, the works of Alex Jones have broken into the so-called mainstream. This creates a serious problem for investigative journalists and scholars who focus on controversial subjects. Jones’ self-promotional, unfulfilled predictions and his speculative writings and reports can take away from other legitimate, fact-based researchers who investigate similar topics by shifting the focus from the relevant facts of the particular topic to his unverified and often sensational claims. The result is that those inclined to believe the so-called mainstream media disassociate themselves with some political movements and topics because Jones’ and his speculative reports become the face of said particular movements and topics. Jones’ ability and pattern of delegitimizing controversial, yet evidence-based contingents of so-called truth movements through radicalization and guilt by association, is eerily analogous to the blueprints of various US Government programs– most notably COINTELPRO from the 1960s and ‘70s. More recently, this has also been the case regarding establishment efforts to discredit the Occupy Wall St. Movement. This article will explore the work of Alex Jones’ and the effects he has had on others who research similar controversial subjects, and how research into those very subjects comes to be viewed in the public once Jones is perceived as a spokesperson or figurehead.

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Is the Bayer-Monsanto Merger Too Big To Succeed?

David Francis writes for Foreign Policy:

Image resultIt took $66 billion — the largest all-cash transaction in history – for German biotech giant Bayer to win control over Monsanto, the global seed market leader. The takeover creates a very unique — and to some, very unsettling — kind of corporate beast, one tasked with feeding billions as temperatures rise and farmlands shrink.

If the merger goes through — and that’s a very big if, given that both EU and American regulators are likely to carefully scrutinize the deal — the new firm would corner more than a quarter of the world market for seeds and pesticides. In the United States, it would control some 58 percent of cottonseed sales. According to Vox, the new company would be the largest agribusiness in the world, selling 29 percent of the world’s seeds and 24 percent of its pesticides.

That puts one firm in a pole position to influence, and potentially control, how the world feeds itself. Regulators are likely to investigate whether the merged company will be too big and able to squeeze farmers and shoppers at the price register. And it comes as the rest of the agribusiness industry is also consolidating, in part to counteract slumping commodity prices due to the economic slowdown in China, which trickles down and forces farmers to spend less on supplies.

The specter of greater market power for firms that make the seeds that many poor farmers need to buy each spring before planting is sparking panic in the developing world.

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Heroin, Nazis, and Agent Orange: Inside the $66 Billion Merger of the Year

Lydia Mulvany reports for Bloomberg:

Image result for monsanto bayer historyTwo giants of the farming and chemical industries agreed to merge Wednesday in a $66 billion deal: the U.S.’s Monsanto and Germany’s Bayer, the original maker of aspirin. It’s the year’s biggest deal and will create the world’s largest supplier of seeds and farm chemicals, with $26 billion in combined annual revenue from agriculture. If the merger goes through, it will combine two companies with a long and storied history that shaped what we eat, the drugs we take and how we grow our food.

Bayer: Then & Now

Two friends making dyes from coal-tar started Bayer in 1863, and it developed into a chemical and drug company famous for introducing heroin as a cough remedy in 1896, then aspirin in 1899. The company was a Nazi contractor during World War II and used forced labor. Today, the firm based in Leverkusen, Germany, makes drugs and has a crop science unit, which makes weed and bug killers. Its goal is to dominate the chemical and drug markets for people, plants and animals.

Monsanto: Then & Now

Monsanto, founded in 1901, originally made food additives like saccharin before expanding into industrial chemicals, pharmaceuticals and agriculture products. It’s famous for making some controversial and highly toxic chemicals like polychlorinated biphenyls, now banned and commonly known as PCBs, and the herbicide Agent Orange, which was used by the U.S. military in Vietnam. It commercialized Roundup herbicide in the 1970s and began developing genetically modified corn and soybean seeds in the 1980s. In 2000, a new Monsanto emerged from a series of corporate mergers.

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U.S. Foreign Policy for Sale? Behind the Trump Organization’s Vast Financial Network

Amy Goodman and Narmeen Sheikh speak to Newsweek senior writer Kurt Eichenwald and author of a new article on the Trump Organization’s business ties overseas. (Democracy Now!)

The Shady History of Big Sugar

David Singerman writes for The New York Times:

On Monday, an article in JAMA Internal Medicine reported that in the 1960s, the sugar industry paid Harvard scientists to publish a study blaming fat and cholesterol for coronary heart disease while largely exculpating sugar. This study, published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine in 1967, helped set the agenda for decades of public health policy designed to steer Americans into low-fat foods, which increased carbohydrate consumption and exacerbated our obesity epidemic.

This revelation rightly reminds us to view industry-funded nutrition science with skepticism and to continue to demand transparency in scientific research. But ending Big Sugar’s hold on the American diet will require a broader understanding of the various ways in which the industry, for 150 years, has shaped government policy in order to fuel our sugar addiction.

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Harvard’s Sugar Daddy

Michael Cook reports for Bio Edge:

Harvard nutrition researchers in the 1960s were suborned by the sugar industry to deflect the attention of the public away from its baneful role in chronic disease, claim hard-hitting articles in JAMA released this week.

Based on studies of the archives of the Sugar Research Foundation (SRF), researchers found that in the early 1960s three Harvard scientists were paid US$6,500 (about $50,000 in today’s dollars) to write a review of research into the role of sugar and fat in heart disease. The sugar industry selected the papers and the resulting two-part review, published in the New England Journal of Medicine, minimized the role of sugar and painted saturated fat as the villain. Its conclusion was that “there was ‘no doubt’ that the only dietary intervention required to prevent CHD was to reduce dietary cholesterol and substitute polyunsaturated fat for saturated fat in the American diet.” The SRF’s intimate involvement in the study was not disclosed.

The links of the scientists to the sugar industry were scandalously close. Dr. Fredrick J. Stare, the chairman of Harvard’s nutrition department at the time, and the senior author of the 1967 research review, was an ad hoc member of the sugar industry’s scientific advisory board.

This lack of transparency and conflict of interest may have had far-reaching effects. For the next 50 years, nutritionists focused on fighting fat while underestimating the role of sugar in coronary heart disease. For years they warned of the dangers of fat, leading people to eat low-fat, high-sugar foods which have contributed to America’s obesity epidemic.

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When Evolution Fights Back Against Genetic Engineering

Brooke Borel writes for The Atlantic:

In a crowded auditorium at New York’s Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory in August, Philipp Messer, a population geneticist at Cornell University, took the stage to discuss a powerful and controversial new application for genetic engineering: gene drives.

Gene drives can force a trait through a population, defying the usual rules of inheritance. A specific trait ordinarily has a 50-50 chance of being passed along to the next generation. A gene drive could push that rate to nearly 100 percent. The genetic dominance would then continue in all future generations. You want all the fruit flies in your lab to have light eyes? Engineer a drive for eye color, and soon enough, the fruit flies’ offspring will have light eyes, as will their offspring, and so on for all future generations. Gene drives may work in any species that reproduces sexually, and they have the potential to revolutionize disease control, agriculture, conservation and more. Scientists might be able to stop mosquitoes from spreading malaria, for example, or eradicate an invasive species.

The technology represents the first time in history that humans have the ability to engineer the genes of a wild population. As such, it raises intense ethical and practical concerns, not only from critics but from the very scientists who are working with it.

Messer’s presentation highlighted a potential snag for plans to engineer wild ecosystems: Nature usually finds a way around our meddling. Pathogens evolve antibiotic resistance; insects and weeds evolve to thwart pesticides. Mosquitoes and invasive species reprogrammed with gene drives can be expected to adapt as well, especially if the gene drive is harmful to the organism—it’ll try to survive by breaking the drive.

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Everything You Wanted to Know About Genetic Engineering in One Chirpy Video

This chirpy video about genetic engineering explains the complex present and speculative future quite well although it probably takes too optimistic a view of how the new technology will be used. (Bio Edge)

The Man Who Squeezes Muscles

Jon Kelly writes for BBC News Magazine:

Image result for The man who squeezes musclesFor three decades, a bizarre offender has racked up dozens of court appearances and several spells in prison over a strange fetish that drives him to touch young men’s muscles.

Across the North West, Akinwale Arobieke has become a modern-day bogeyman and an internet sensation, and now a court order that curtailed his activities has been lifted.

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House Intel Panel Blasts Snowden In New Report, One Day Before Movie Release

Jenna McLaughlin reports for The Intercept:

The House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence urged President Barack Obama on Thursday not to pardon Edward Snowden, concluding in an unclassified summary of a two-year investigation that the former NSA contractor was “not a whistleblower” — echoing what White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said during a press briefing earlier in the week.

Edward Snowden is no hero — he’s a traitor who willfully betrayed his colleagues and his country. He put our service members and the American people at risk after perceived slights by his superiors,” said Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., in a statement about the report on Snowden’s disclosure of documents on NSA worldwide surveillance programs.

The entire panel — Democrats and Republicans alike — signed a letter sent directly to the president, asserting that Snowden is “not a patriot.” The unclassified summary of the report, disclosed alongside the letter, is just three pages long; the classified version is 36 pages with 230 footnotes.

The summary was released one day before the premiere of Oliver Stone’s movie about the NSA whistleblower.

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Snowden by Oliver Stone (Trailer)

Pardon Edward Snowden

Kenneth Roth of Human Rights Watch and Salil Shetty of Amnesty International write for The New York Times:

Edward J. Snowden, the American who has probably left the biggest mark on public policy debates during the Obama years, is today an outlaw. Mr. Snowden, a former National Security Agency contractor who disclosed to journalists secret documents detailing the United States’ mass surveillance programs, faces potential espionage charges, even though the president has acknowledged the important public debate his revelations provoked.

Mr. Snowden’s whistle-blowing prompted reactions across the government. Courts found the government wrong to use Section 215 of the Patriot Act to justify mass phone data collection. Congress replaced that law with the USA Freedom Act, improving transparency about government surveillance and limiting government power to collect certain records. The president appointed an independent review board, which produced important reform recommendations.

That’s just in the American government. Newspapers that published Mr. Snowden’s revelations won the Pulitzer Prize. The United Nations issued resolutions on protecting digital privacy and created a mandate to promote the right to privacy. Many technology companies, facing outrage at their apparent complicity in mass surveillance, began providing end-to-end encryption by default. Three years on, the news media still refer to Mr. Snowden and his revelations every day. His actions have brought about a dramatic increase in our awareness of the risks to our privacy in the digital age — and to the many rights that depend on privacy.

Yet President Obama and the candidates to succeed him have emphasized not Mr. Snowden’s public service but the importance of prosecuting him.Hillary Clinton has said Mr. Snowden shouldn’t be brought home “without facing the music.” Donald J. Trump has said, “I think he’s a total traitor and I would deal with him harshly.”

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Colin Powell in Leaked Email Says Israel Has 200 Nukes

Jack Moore reports for Newsweek:

Former U.S. Secretary of State Colin PowellFormer U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell alleged that Israel has a nuclear arsenal of 200 warheads, a thorny subject that Israel never comments on, according to an email that Russian hackers leaked earlier this week.

Israel is not a signatory of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and maintains a policy of nuclear ambiguity, refusing to speak about its rumored nuclear arsenal and never even going as far as to admit that it has possession of nuclear weapons.

But Powell may have given away the size of Israel’s nuclear arsenal. Speaking to Democratic party donor Jeffrey Leeds about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s speech to the U.S. Congress focusing on the Iranian nuclear deal, he wrote that Iran would never use a nuclear weapon if it was able to develop one. He then stated that Israel has hundreds of nukes and Washington thousands, suggesting that such firepower would deter any Iranian action.

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