The EU’s food safety agency challenged its doubters on Monday, making available all the scientific information used to clear a genetically modified corn which a French researcher had linked to cancer.
The European Food Safety Authority said that “given the level of public interest … (it would) make all data on genetically modified (GM) maize NK603 publicly available on its website.”
While EFSA had previously provided such information on request, “any member of the public or scientific community will now be able to examine and utilise the full data sets used in this risk assessment,” it said in a statement.
EFSA, which reviews the use and authorisation of such crops and foodstuffs, in November rejected outright a report by Gilles-Eric Seralini of the University of Caen which had linked NK603 to cancer found in laboratory rats.
It said at the time that Seralini’s work failed to meet “acceptable scientific standards” and accordingly it had no reason to review its assessment of NK603, made by US agri-food giant Monsanto.
The EU also demanded that Seralini release more details of his work but he responded in kind, calling on EFSA to open up its data first.
The EFSA said on Monday that the NK603 data was being made available as part of an initiative to make its overall workings more transparent.
Hong Kong action hero Jackie Chan has once again provoked criticism, this time from an American blogger, after suggesting on Chinese television that the US is the “most corrupt” country in the world.
“When you talk about corruption — the whole world, is there corruption in the United States? The most corrupt in the world!” the Rush Hour star, who has made headlines recently for his controversial views, told Phoenix TV last month.
Chan reaffirmed his view after the show’s host questioned him — “Of course! Where did the great breakdown come from? The world, the United States started it,” Chan said, referring to the financial crisis and gesticulating as he spoke.
His comments were rebuked Thursday by Max Fisher, a foreign affairs blogger for the Washington Post, who called them “anti-American” rhetoric that was rooted in China’s insecurity.
“To the degree that Chan’s comments were anti-American, they likewise reflect a common Chinese view of the United States, one that is rooted not just in attitudes toward America but in China’s proud but sometimes insecure view of itself,” Fisher said.
Jackie Chan also said China is a relatively young country, where in the first half of its history it was “bullied by so many people”, and that it only achieved “real success” in the past decade.
“Our country’s leaders admit they are corrupted, etcetera. We are improving — I can see our country is constantly improving and learning,” he said, adding that everyone is making an issue out of China because it is “powerful” now.
Chan, who is known for his martial arts skills and daring stunt work, sparked criticism in Hong Kong, which was returned to China in 1997, after he reportedly told a Chinese magazine last December that protest in the city should be restricted.
In the same interview, he said that he was bullied by Hong Kong triads and had to hide in the United States. He also said he needed to carry a gun everyday to protect himself, leading to a police investigation.
A greener Chicago would be a safer Chicago
Pictured: North Lawndale Green Youth Farm on Ogden Avenue
‘Glee’s’ Chris Colfer Singing a New Tune
HOLLYWOOD—Chris Colfer is best known as the openly gay singing sensation Kurt Hummel on the hit Fox TV series “Glee.” But Colfer is more than just an Emmy award-winning actor with amazing pipes. He’s also a writer, with a growing list of credits to his name. At just 22, he already has been named among Time magazine’s 100 most influential people in the world.
Last year, he published his first book, “The Land of Stories,” a children’s book that landed on the New York Times bestseller list.
He now has another book and his first produced screenplay hitting the bookstores and arriving in theaters concurrently called “Struck By Lightning.”
It’s the story of an ambitious high school student who is literally struck dead by lightning before he has a chance to realize his dreams, and then tells his story in a series of flashbacks. In this dramedy, Colfer not only wrote the screenplay and executive produced the project, he also stars as the lead character, Carson, who always speaks his mind, speaks up against would-be bullies and never allows anyone to walk all over him. He co-stars alongside Allison Janney (who plays his mother), Dermot Mulroney (who plays his philandering dad), Rebel Wilson, “Modern Family’s” Sarah Hyland and Christina Hendricks in the Brian Dannelly-directed film.
Dressed impeccable in a pink-hued preppy ensemble for an interview, the ubiquitous Colfer discussed his first leading role in a feature film, and what’s ahead for him on “Glee.”
The head of the German doctors’ lobby and politicians called Thursday for swift action to root out corruption following a scandal over preferential treatment for organ transplants.
The president of the German Medical Association, Frank Ulrich Montgomery, said physicians taking bribes in life-or-death cases would shatter the hard-earned faith that Germans have in them.
“Transplant doctors who still don’t understand that they are destroying their own field with cheating and manipulation should get out of the profession,” he told the daily Passauer Neue Presse.
Montgomery added that “all means available under criminal and professional law should be used” to bring corrupt doctors to justice.
His comments came after irregularities emerged at a transplant centre in the eastern city of Leipzig.
The clinic said that between 2010 and 2012, 38 people were wrongly registered as dialysis patients so that they would be given a higher priority on waiting lists for a liver transplant.
It could not rule out that “money had changed hands” in exchange.
The head of the clinic as well as two senior doctors have been given a leave of absence while the institution conducts an internal probe. Public prosecutors have opened a preliminary investigation.
The affair follows revelations in 2012 that other German hospitals engaged in dubious practices with organ transplants, prompting an independent commission to launch a sweeping review.
The Leipzig cases emerged in the course of that inquiry.
The chief health policy spokesman of Chancellor Angela Merkel’s Christian Democratic Union, Jens Spahn, urged root-and-branch reform of the organ transplant system, echoing calls by other parties.
“Manipulation to get certain patients higher on waiting lists could mean a death sentence for other patients who have a more urgent need for an organ,” he told the daily Rheinische Post.
Such practices must be “decisively outlawed, punished and stopped for all time”.
New Computer Bridges Classical and Quantum Computing
A new type of machine could rival quantum computers in exceeding the power of classical computers, researchers say.
Quantum computers rely on the bizarre properties of atoms and the other construction blocks of the universe. The world is a fuzzy place at its very smallest levels — in this realm where quantum physics dominates, things can seemingly exist in two places at once or spin in opposite directions at the same time.
The new computers rely on “boson” particles, and resemble quantum computers, which differ from traditional computers in important ways. Normal computers represent data as ones and zeroes, binary digits known as bits that are expressed by flicking switch-like transistors on or off. Quantum computers, however, use quantum bits, or qubits (pronouced “cue-bits”), that can be on and off at the same time, a state known as “superposition.”
This allows the machines to carry out two calculations simultaneously. Quantum physics permits such behavior because it allows for particles that can exist in two places at once or spin in opposite directions at the same time.
In principle, quantum computers could solve certain problems much faster than can classical computers, because the quantum machines could run through every possible combination at once. A quantum computer with 300 qubits could run more calculations in an instant than there are atoms in the universe.
However, keeping qubits in superposition is challenging, and the problem grows more difficult as more qubits are involved. As such, building quantum computers that are more powerful than classical computers has proven very difficult.
Now, though, two independent teams of scientists have built a novel kind of device known as a boson-sampling computer. Described as a bridge between classical and quantum computers, these machines also make use of the bizarre nature of quantum physics. Although boson-sampling computers theoretically offer less power than quantum computers are capable of producing, the machines should still, in principle, out-perform classical computers in certain problems.
In addition, a boson-sampling computer does not require qubits. As such, “it’s technologically far simpler to create than building a full-scale quantum computer,” said researcher Matthew Broome, a quantum physicist at the University of Queensland in Australia.
Boson-sampling computers are actually a specialized kind of quantum computer (which is known more formally as a universal quantum computer).
How Mysterious Molecules May Help Cool the Planet
Elusive molecules in the Earth’s atmosphere may be helping to cool the planet more efficiently than scientists previously thought, a new study suggests.
They are called Criegee intermediates, or Criegee biradicals (named after the German chemist Rudolf Criegee), and are short-lived molecules that form in the Earth’s atmosphere when ozone reacts with alkenes (a family of organic compounds). While scientists have known about the intermediates for decades, they haven’t been able to directly measure how the molecules react with other atmospheric compounds, such as the pollutants nitrogen dioxide and sulfur dioxide, until now.
Researchers used a new method to create Criegee intermediates in the lab, and then reacted them with several atmospheric compounds. They found that the reactions with the pollutants could produce aerosols, tiny particles that reflect solar radiation back into space, much more quickly than previously assumed.
Westboro Baptist Church is blaming gay marriage for the school shooting in Connecticut.
"Nothing can fill the space of a lost child."
PRESIDENT OBAMA (via inothernews
2005 Bankruptcy Amendment
And yet hostess is asking for almost 2 million in bonuses for its executives!!!
OTTAWA — A court ordered the mayor of Toronto, Canada’s largest city, to be removed from office for violating conflict of interest rules when soliciting donations for his football charity.
Mayor Rob Ford got into legal trouble when he spoke out at a city council vote in February against a $3,150 fine he was ordered to pay over the ethics breach.
A Toronto resident took him to court for violating the Municipal Conflict of Interest Act, which at trial Ford said he had not read.
Ford said he will appeal the ruling, and if he fails to have the decision overturned will run again for mayor in a by-election.
“I will fight tooth and nail to hold onto my job,” he told reporters, blaming “leftwing politics” for the court action that led to the ruling.
The court has delayed the decision for 14 days to give city officials time to put their house in order.
Salacious details of Gen. David Petraus’s adulterous relationship with biographer Paula Broadwell—and all of the attendant sexist framing—have eclipsed a much more important military story.
Yesterday, the Air Force imposed what it calls a “wingman policy” requiring its trainees at the Lackland base in San Antonio, Texas, to be with at least one classmate at all times. The move comes in response to an Air Training and Command investigation that identified 23 instructors on the base who had allegedly raped, sexually harassed or had “unprofessional relationships” with 48 trainees.
Lackland trains all Air Force recruits, [Bloomberg reports.] So far, five officials have been convicted in court martials on charges ranging from adultery to rape and others could face criminal charges.
Of course the epidemic of unpunished rape within the U.S. military—and the routine silencing of and retaliation against enlisted survivors who dare to report it—isn’t new. Due in large part to the release of the Academy Award-nominated “Invisible War” documentary, the sustained activism of Rep. Jackie Speier (D-Calif.), and several high-profile class action civil suits filed against former and current Defense Secretaries Donald Rumsfeld and Leon Panetta, the issue has captured headlines. In April, the Pentagon made several changes to its dysfunctional sexual assault protocol, such as extending evidence retention for 50 years and granting service-people who have been assaulted immediate transfers so that they don’t have to report to or interact with their attackers while the crime is being investigated.
These shifts are the bare minimum.
In 2010 alone, there were at least 19,000 intra-military sexual assaults, according to the Defense Department. Further enhancing the trauma, there remains a ban on military insurance coverage of abortions even in the case of rape and incest.
I haven’t seen sexual assault reports broken down by race. What I can say is that a disproportionate number of servicewomen on active duty are black. They make up a whopping 31 percent of the active-duty population compared to the 15 percent they comprise in the general population. (Fifty three percent of women on active duty are white, compared to 78 percent of female civilians.)
In the coming days or weeks, Congress will take up the National Defense Authorization Act and it has the opportunity to lift the ban on military insurance coverage of abortion in the case of sexual assault. It’s way past time to get rid of class-based restrictions on abortion access, including those for military women and Medicaid recipients via the Hyde Amendment. Now that “women’s issues” are all the electoral rage, we should make that demand, straight no chaser.
Consider using the Center for Reproductive Rights’s handy letter to your Congressperson urging him or her to lift the cruel, backwards ban on military insurance coverage of abortion in the case of rape or incest.
Michelle Chen’s still-relevant, excellent 2008 Colorlines feature “Home from the Military” explores some of the contours of military service and sexual assault for women of color living on low incomes.
For more context, read the (potentially triggering) September 2011 class action suit filed by 28 very brave female and male sexual assault survivors against former defense secretaries Donald Rumsfeld and Robert Gates.
The Boston-based Military Rape Crisis Center provides survivors with information, support and opportunities for activism.
Cedrico Green can’t exactly remember how many times he went back and forth to juvenile. When asked to venture a guess he says, “Maybe 30.” He was put on probation by a youth court judge for getting into a fight when he was in eighth grade. Thereafter, any of Green’s school-based infractions, from being a few minutes late for class to breaking the school dress code by wearing the wrong color socks, counted as violations of his probation and led to his immediate suspension and incarceration in the local juvenile detention center.
But Green wasn’t alone. A bracing Department of Justice lawsuit filed last month against Meridian, Miss., where Green lives and is set to graduate from high school this coming year, argues that the city’s juvenile justice system has operated a school to prison pipeline that shoves students out of school and into the criminal justice system, and violates young people’s due process rights along the way.
In Meridian, when schools want to discipline children, they do much more than just send them to the principal’s office. They call the police, who show up to arrest children who are as young as 10 years old. Arrests, the Department of Justice says, happen automatically, regardless of whether the police officer knows exactly what kind of offense the child has committed or whether that offense is even worthy of an arrest. The police department’s policy is to arrest all children referred to the agency.
Once those children are in the juvenile justice system, they are denied basic constitutional rights. They are handcuffed and incarcerated for days without any hearing and subsequently warehoused without understanding their alleged probation violations.
“[D]efendants engage in a pattern or practice of unlawful conduct through which they routinely and systematically arrest and incarcerate children, including for minor school rule infractions, without even the most basic procedural safeguards, and in violation of these children’s constitutional rights,” the DOJ’s 37-page complaint reads. Meridian’s years of systemic abuse punish youth “so arbitrarily and severely as to shock the conscience,” the complaint reads.
The federal lawsuit casts a wide net in indicting the systems that worked to deny Meridian children their constitutional rights. It names as defendants the state of Mississippi; the city of Meridian; Lauderdale County, which runs the Lauderdale County Youth Court; and the local Defendant Youth Court Judges Frank Coleman and Veldore Young for violating Meridian students’ rights up and down the chain.
The DOJ’s complaint also charges that in the course of its eight-month investigation the city blocked the inquiry by refusing to hand over youth court records. Attorneys for city officials deny that claim, and say they are bound by law to protect the confidentiality of youth who’ve been through the system and so cannot share their records with the federal government.
The parallels between the mortgage market and the student loan industry have been frequently noted. Both involve big borrowing and have a history of lax underwriting by lenders. But the two are also strikingly similar in another way: When it comes to both mortgages and student debt, the servicers, or companies that handle loan payments, sometimes add roadblocks and give struggling borrowers the runaround.
That’s the main takeaway from two recent reports by the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, the independent agency created by the financial reform law passed in 2010.
Servicers have misapplied payments, given borrowers bad advice, and reported incorrect information to credit bureaus, according to one of the reports. The findings were based on the agency’s recent tracking of student loan complaints, focusing on the companies who handle private student loans.
Borrowers facing hardship and looking for flexibility through refinancing or a more manageable repayment plan “struggled to get an answer from their lender or servicer,” wrote the agency’s Student Loan Ombudsman, Rohit Chopra. When they tried to postpone payments, they were sometimes charged a recurring fee to do so.
And even when servicers encouraged borrowers to make “good faith” partial payments in amounts they could afford, the payments sometimes still resulted in delinquency or default, according to the report.
As we’ve noted in our reporting, private loans often don’t have the same protections as federal loans: Death and disability discharges typically are not guaranteed or are decided on a case-by-case basis.
And when the loans are packaged and sold to investors, it’s even harder to know who has the authority to make decisions about repayment options, discharges, or other issues that arise: “Borrowers report that sometimes servicers cannot even answer who owns a loan,” noted an agency factsheet. Homeowners have faced similar trouble.
Sometimes, the parallels are exact. By law, members of the military are entitled to special protections, including lower interest rates on both mortgages and student loans. But thousands have been overcharged on their mortgages. And according to the government’s second report, service members have also had the same problem with student loans. The report, which focused exclusively on the loan debt of military borrowers, blamed the overcharging on servicing errors and demands for unnecessary documentation.
The report also noted that loan servicers at times “guided” members of the military into putting loans into deferment or forbearance — even though interest accrues during those periods, and there may be better options available.
Of the more than 2,000 consumer complaints received by the CFPB from March and September of this year, the two most complained-about servicers were Sallie Mae, representing 46 percent of complaints, and American Education Services, or PHEAA, with 12 percent.
Though the focus was on the servicing of private student loans, it’s worth noting that many of the companies servicing loans in the private market are the same contractors handling federal loans.
Perhaps unsurprisingly, borrowers of federal student loans have also faced some of the same challenges as those with private loans. For instance: Since last fall, the Department of Education has been transferring some borrowers to new servicers it’s contracted with to handle federal student loans — often resulting in confusion for borrowers, some of whom have even seen their repayment plans changed.
I posted this Livescience article up on scinerds because it remind me of a few months back when people were arguing about genuinely treating animals like friends and not objects. When you see an animal as a pet more than a companion I think there’s not much real respect between the two of you. But if you actually do more co-existing and frequently feeding/ cleaning them then I think that’s more of a real companionship and thus demands some level of respect. I guess it’s all about how you look at it. But from what I see, most people have this kind of ‘you obey me or else’ kind of relationship with these animals, and like the researcher above noted, that’s not respect. Just my 2 cents on this piece. I hope to see more on this topic so I can formulate a clearer opinion.
Animals Are Moral Creatures, Scientist Argues
Until recently, scientists would have said your cat was snuggling up to you only as a means to get tasty treats. But many animals have a moral compass, and feel emotions such as love, grief, outrage and empathy, a new book argues.
The book, “Can Animals Be Moral?” (Oxford University Press, October 2012), suggests social mammals such as rats, dogs and chimpanzees can choose to be good or bad. And because they have morality, we have moral obligations to them, said author Mark Rowlands, a University of Miami philosopher.
“Animals are owed a certain kind of respect that they wouldn’t be owed if they couldn’t act morally,” Rowlands told LiveScience. But while some animals have complex emotions, they don’t necessarily have true morality, other researchers argue.
Some research suggests animals have a sense of outrage when social codes are violated. Chimpanzees may punish other chimps for violating certain rules of the social order, said Marc Bekoff, an evolutionary biologist at the University of Colorado, Boulder, and co-author of “Wild Justice: The Moral Lives of Animals” (University Of Chicago Press, 2012).
Male bluebirds that catch their female partners stepping out may beat the female, said Hal Herzog, a psychologist at Western Carolina University who studies how humans think about animals.
And there are many examples of animals demonstrating ostensibly compassionate or empathetic behaviors toward other animals, including humans. In one experiment, hungry rhesus monkeys refused to electrically shock their fellow monkeys, even when it meant getting food for themselves. In another study, a female gorilla named Binti Jua rescued an unconscious 3-year-old (human) boy who had fallen into her enclosure at the Brookline Zoo in Illinois, protecting the child from other gorillas and even calling for human help. And when a car hit and injured a dog on a busy Chilean freeway several years ago, its canine compatriot dodged traffic, risking its life to drag the unconscious dog to safety.
All those examples suggest that animals have some sense of right and wrong, Rowlands said. “I think what’s at the heart of following morality is the emotions,” Rowlands said. “Evidence suggests that animals can act on those sorts of emotions.”
Instinct, not morals?
Not everyone agrees these behaviors equal morality, however. One of the most obvious examples — the guilty look of a dog that has just eaten a forbidden food — may not be true remorse, but simply the dog responding appropriately to its owner’s disappointment, according to a study published in the journal Behavioural Processes in 2009.
And animals don’t seem to develop or follow rules that serve no purpose for them or their species, suggesting they don’t reason about morality. Humans, in contrast, have a grab bag of moral taboos, such as prohibitions on eating certain foods, committing blasphemy, or marrying distant cousins.
“What I think is interesting about human morality is that often times there’s this wacky, arbitrary feature of it,” Herzog said. Instead, animal emotions may be rooted in instinct and hard-wiring, rather than conscious choice, Herzog said. “They look to us like moral behaviors, but they’re not rooted in the same mire of intellect and culture and language that human morality is,” he said.
But Rowlands argues that such hair-splitting is overthinking things. In the case of the child-rescuing gorilla Binti Jua, for instance, “what sort of instinct is involved there? Do gorillas have an instinct to help unconscious boys in enclosures?” he said.
And even if instinct is involved, human parents have an instinctive desire to help their children, but that makes the desire no less moral, he said. Being able to reason about morality isn’t required to have a moral compass, he added. A 3-year-old child, for instance, may not consciously articulate a system of right and wrong, but will (hopefully) still feel guilty for stealing his playmate’s toy. (Scientists continue to debate whether or not babies have moral compasses.)
If one accepts that animals have moral compasses, Rowlands argues, we have the responsibility to treat them with respect, Rowlands said. “If the animal is capable of acting morally, I don’t think it’s problematic to be friends with your pets,” he said. “If you have a cat or a dog and you make it do tricks, I am not sure that’s respect. If you insist on dressing them up, I’m not sure I’m onboard with that either.”
Welcome to Platform 9¾
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