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Trump Season

Fri, 2017-10-20 05:15
A cartoon with a question requiring the student to demonstrate understanding of the cartoonist's intended meaning.

News quiz for week ending 10/20/17

Fri, 2017-10-20 05:00
A quiz with questions relating to the week's Daily News Articles.

Five military dogs awarded K-9 Medal of Courage

Fri, 2017-10-20 04:45

(by Diana Stancy Correll, Washington Examiner and AmericanHumane .org) – Five dogs who served in the U.S. military were awarded the American Humane Lois Pope K-9 Medal of Courage at a Capitol Hill ceremony on October 13 to recognize the canines’ extraordinary valor during their time of service.

“By helping locate enemy positions, engage the enemy, and sniff out deadly [improvised explosive devices] and hidden weapons, military dogs have saved countless lives in the fight for freedom and they deserve the recognition they are getting this evening,” Rep. Gus Bilirakis, R-Fla., said on Wednesday, Oct. 13 on Capitol Hill during the awards ceremony.

“Nowhere is the power of the human-animal bond more apparent than it is between our men and women in service and their faithful military dogs,” he said.

Four of the dogs who received the awards were present, as one has died.

The recipients were:

  • Capa, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan
  • Alphie, who served in Afghanistan
  • Coffee, who completed three tours in Afghanistan
  • Ranger, who served alongside Marines in both Iraq and Afghanistan, and
  • Gabe, who engaged in more than 200 combat missions in Iraq before passing away in 2013.

“Soldiers have been relying on these four-footed comrades-in-arms since the beginning of organized warfare and today military dogs are more important than ever in keeping our service men and women safe,” said American Humane President and CEO Dr. Robin Ganzert said. “Each dog allows so many services members to come home to be moms and dads, or sons and daughters. At American Humane…we feel it is time to recognize and honor the extraordinary feats and acts of devotion these heroic animals perform every day.” American Humane has worked to assist those in the U.S. military, veterans, and military service animals for more than 100 years.

The Lois Pope K-9 Medal of Courage was created by American Humane and veterans advocate Lois Pope in 2016. Four dogs received the award in its inaugural year.

“These remarkable dogs work side-by-side with the men and women of our Armed Forces, performing vitally important and life-saving work, while putting their own lives on the line for our country,” said Mrs. Pope, who conceived and spearheaded the American Veterans Disabled for Life Memorial, which was dedicated in Washington D.C. in October 2014 as the nation’s first and only permanent public tribute to the four million living disabled American veterans and all those who have died.

“It is high time that [the dogs’] valiant sacrifices and contributions to our nation and our men and women in uniform are properly recognized at the highest levels,” Mrs. Pope noted.

Read about each dog under “Background” below.

From WashingtonExaminer .com. Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission.

Are you smarter than a college student?

Thu, 2017-10-19 05:00

(by Robby Soave, Reason .com) – A new study conducted by the Brookings Institution’s John Villasenor, a professor at the University of California-Los Angeles, asked 1,500 students at four-year universities about their views on free speech, and the results are unsettling.

The greatest number, 44 percent answered “no” when asked if the First Amendment protects hate speech. Just 39 percent of students answered correctly and 16 percent answered “don’t know.”

Men were more likely than women to say hate speech was protected (51 percent vs. 31 percent.) And while conservative students are often thought to be more in favor of free speech than their liberal counterparts—at least in the present campus censorship wars—the study suggests this reputation is undeserved. Just 44 percent of self-identified Republicans said that hate speech was protected by the First Amendment, compared with 39 percent of Democrats and 40 percent of independents.

A striking majority of surveyed students—51 percent—thought “shouting so that the audience cannot hear” was a valid tactic for opposing a controversial speaker. Violence was acceptable to 19 percent of respondents.

“Across most categories, and in the aggregate, the majority of students appear to prefer an environment in which their institution is expected to create an environment that shelters them from offensive views,” wrote Villasenor. “The exceptions are among Republicans and Independents, though even in those categories nearly half of the students still expressed a preference for the more sheltered environment.”

It’s not just a matter of preference, however. Given that a majority of students incorrectly say the First Amendment doesn’t protect hate speech, or that they don’t know whether it does, we must also consider sheer ignorance as an explanation for the waves of student-led shut downs on American campuses in recent years.

Teenagers are somehow making it through 12 years of primary education without absorbing the most basic civics lesson: The founding documents of the United States of America zealously protect people who make offensive statements from censorship at the hands of government officials or violent mobs.

Published Sept. 19, 2017 at reason .com.  Reprinted here on October 19, 2017, for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from Reason.

U.S. indicts major Chinese traffickers for selling fentanyl online

Thu, 2017-10-19 05:00

NOTE: Fentanyl is an opioid pain medication with a rapid onset and short duration of action. Fentanyl is 50 times stronger than heroin and 100 times stronger morphine; also, some fentanyl analogues, which are designed to mimic the pharmacological effects of the original drug, may be as much as 10,000 times stronger than morphine.

(by Sarah N. Lynch, Doina Chiacu, Reuters) WASHINGTON – The U.S. Department of Justice has indicted two major Chinese drug traffickers on charges of making illegal versions of fentanyl and selling the highly addictive drug to Americans over the internet and through international mail.  [Federal prosecutors made the announcement on Tuesday, October 16].

Xiaobing Yan, 40, and Jian Zhang, 38, who are both in China and have not been taken into U.S. custody, were charged with conspiring to distribute large quantities of fentanyl and fentanyl analogues* into the United States, the Justice Department said. (*An analogue is a drug that is chemically similar in makeup to another.)

The Chinese suspects were charged in separate indictments unsealed on Monday in Mississippi and North Dakota.

“For the first time, we have indicted major Chinese fentanyl traffickers who have been using the Internet to sell fentanyl and fentanyl analogues to drug traffickers and individual customers in the United States,” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said in a statement.

The United States does not have an extradition agreement with China.

Rosenstein said the department has talked to Chinese officials about the cases. (He said he is hopeful the Chinese will take appropriate action with regard to properly charging the traffickers.)

“We believe that most, if not all, fentanyl that is distributed here in the U.S. and in Canada, originates in China,” Rosenstein said, noting that China must do more to crack down on labs making the drugs.

Speaking in Beijing, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Lu Kang claimed he did not know anything about this specific case, but added that the Chinese government took the fentanyl issue seriously and was continuing to cooperate with the United States to fight the illegal production and sale of fentanyl. …

Yan operated at least two chemical plants in China that were capable of illegally producing “ton quantities” of the drugs, and evaded detection by systematically altering their chemical makeup, the Justice Department said.

Investigators identified more than 100 distributors in the alleged scheme.

Zhang is accused of operating at least four labs in China and selling to U.S. customers over the internet. He is accused of sending “many thousands” of packages since January 2013, the government said.

Five Canadians, two residents of Florida and a resident of New Jersey were also charged in connection with the alleged conspiracy involving Zhang, the department said.

The United States is dealing with a major epidemic of opioid overdoses. In 2016, the Centers for Disease Control estimated that 20,000 Americans were killed by fentanyl, a highly addictive synthetic painkiller.

According to law enforcement officials, the drug is 50 times more potent than heroin and 100 times more potent than morphine.

(Rosenstein said President Trump and Attorney General Jeff Sessions have “made it a priority for us to combat this opioid crisis,” adding that the “DOJ is playing a leading role in those efforts.”

The President’s Commission on Combatting Drug Addiction and Opioid Crisis, chaired by New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, has a deadline of November 1 for its final report on the epidemic and recommendations it will pass along to the drug industry, with the objective of innovating pain management and addiction prevention measures.

Prior to that deadline, President Trump implied that he would probably formally declare the opioid crisis a national emergency with an event next week.

Speaking in a Rose Garden press conference with the Senate majority leader, Mitch McConnell on Wednesday, President Trump said: “We’re going to have a major announcement, probably next week, on the drug crisis and on the opioid massive problem.” He added: “This country and, frankly, the world has a drug problem … and we’re going to do something about it.”)

Additional reporting by Ben Blanchard in BEIJING

From Reuters .com. Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from Thomson Reuters.

LAPD Board Approves Controversial Drone Program

Wed, 2017-10-18 05:00

(from CBS Los Angeles) – The civilian panel that oversees the Los Angeles Police Department approved a drone pilot program Tuesday — several months after the department first presented what it called a limited plan to use the technology.

Approval of the program by the Los Angeles Board of Police Commissioners came despite opposition from activists who consider the technology a threat to civil liberties and after only 6 percent of the 1,675 emails the LAPD received about the program expressed support for it.

During the meeting, several anti-drone protesters blocked traffic outside LAPD headquarters. Just before 1 p.m., officers cleared the intersection and cited some of the protesters for unlawful assembly.

The board held a meeting two weeks ago, when it approved the guidelines for the 1-year pilot program. Now, after posting the guidelines on the department’s website for two weeks and receiving more public feedback, the board voted on its final approval.

The commission first heard a presentation on the guidelines for the proposed LAPD program in August, and the department held four public meetings to get feedback.

Commissioner Cynthia McClain-Hill voted against the program Tuesday, while Commission President Steve Soboroff, Vice President Matthew Johnson and Commissioner Sandra Figueroa-Villa voted for it. Commissioner Shane Murphy Goldsmith was not present for the vote.

A pair of Draganflyer X6 drones were given to the LAPD by Seattle in 2014, but they have never been deployed. Police Chief Charlie Beck said at the time that the drones could be used during tactical events such as manhunts and standoffs. But he also said the department planned to work closely with the American Civil Liberties Union to ensure the drones would not infringe on individual privacy rights.

The LAPD’s pursuit of a pilot program is a reversal of its policy after it abandoned the idea of using drones three years ago in the face of protests from activists.

According to the guidelines the LAPD commission approved, drones would be used in a limited capacity, including high-risk tactical operations, barricaded armed suspect responses, hostage rescues, and situations involving threats of exposure to hazardous materials and the need to detect explosive devices.

The drones will not be weaponized or used during surveillance, and their use will have be approved on a case-by-case basis.

The Los Angeles City Council cleared the way in June for the city’s fire department to begin using drones. A Los Angeles Fire Department report addressed the issue of privacy concerns and said the devices would not be used to monitor or provide surveillance for law enforcement.

In July, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department Civilian Oversight Commission voted 5-4 to call for the grounding of the LASD’s drone program, although Sheriff Jim McDonnell said the program would continue.

Members of the Stop LAPD Spying Coalition, the Drone-Free LAPD/No Drones, LA! Campaign, the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California and other civil rights organizations have been vocal about their opposition to the program over concerns of “mission creep” [the idea that police would steadily, quietly expand use of the devices – that they would be armed or used for surveillance to infringe on privacy rights..]

Reprinted here from CBS Los Angeles for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from CBSNews. Visit the website at losangeles.cbslocal .com.

Media Freezes Coverage of Study

Wed, 2017-10-18 05:00

from an Accuracy in Media report by Jon Street, Oct. 6, 2017:
A study found that more ice formed in the Arctic in 2017 than in all but four of the last 37 years, challenging the media narrative that the earth is warming and seas are rising because of manmade activity.

Instead of reporting this study, media outlets focused on another report that [supported its] narrative.

The Polar Portal, which publishes climate research from the Danish Meteorological Institute, the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland and the National Space Institute, and is funded by the Danish Cooperation for Environment in the Arctic, according to its website, published its annual surface mass budget summary in September.

The report looks at how much ice Arctic glaciers gain compared with how much ice they lose from warmer temperatures, a difference referred to by scientists as the Surface Mass Budget.

This year’s report found that the amount of ice on the Greenland ice sheet in 2017 was “the fifth highest out of the 37-year record.” The highest on record, according to Polar Portal, was between 1995 and 1996. The lowest amount of ice on record was between 2011 and 2012.

“This year, we estimate the total mass budget to be close to zero and possibly even positive,” the summary on Polar Portal read.

The explanation added how exactly scientists came to their conclusion:

“Greenland on average loses around 500 Gt of ice each year from calving and submarine melt processes. If we subtract this from our figure of 544 Gt [Gross tonnage] for the SMB it would suggest Greenland gained a small amount of ice this year.

“However, compared to the approximately 3600 Gt of ice, corresponding to 1cm of global average sea level rise that Greenland has lost since 2002, this year’s slightly positive balance does not add much extra,” it said.

But instead of reporting on these facts, (media reports) instead covered other recent studies that focused on massive chunks of ice breaking away from glaciers at the opposite tip of the globe.

“A key Antarctic glacier just lost a huge piece of ice — the latest sign of its worrying retreat,” the Washington Post’s Chris Mooney wrote in a piece published Sept. 25. Mooney, who cited researchers at NASA, said the break was caused by “warmer ocean waters reaching the base of the glacier and weakening it.”

Mooney’s Washington Post article was published 13 days after the Polar Portal summary, but his report did not acknowledge that in other parts of the world, there is more ice.

Similarly, Quartz environment report Zoe Schlanger wrote an article published on Sept. 27, two weeks after the Polar Portal summary’s publication, which focused on the size of the Antarctic glacier that broke off into the ocean.

“It’s a problem that an iceberg over twice the size of Paris just broke off Antarctica,” the Quartz headline read. The article noted that it was “the second major ice-loss event for that glacier in the last two years,” citing a similar event that occurred in 2015. And, of course, in keeping with the mainstream media’s narrative, the author quoted Glaciologist Peter Neff as calling it “concerning for future sea level rise.”

Like the Washington Post piece, Quartz failed to report the Polar Portal summary that reported more ice on the Greenland ice glacier. To the Quartz author’s credit, though, the report did cite a Verge article, which stated that the broken glacier would not cause a rise in sea levels, likening the effect to how an ice cube in a glass of water does not raise the water level in the glass after it melts.

And, in another article headline, USA Today’s Doyle Rice asked, “should we be worried?”

“Yes and no. While iceberg formation is a natural process — thousands break off each year — the warming waters in Antarctica are cause for concern,” Rice wrote.

Citing British Antarctic researcher Adrian Luckman, Rice added, “the most recent iceberg is a part of an ongoing retreat of the glacier resulting from warmer ocean waters eroding the base of the floating ice tongue.” Again, nowhere did Rice or USA Today cover the Polar Portal summary finding that, in the Arctic, the amount of new ice that formed in that part of the world in 2017 was the fifth-most to form a single year since the early 1980s.

News from Somalia, Austria and Venezuela

Tue, 2017-10-17 05:00

SOMALIA – Al-Shabaab terrorists kill more than 300 people in two bomb attacks in capital city

(from Reuters – reporting by Abdi Sheikh in MOGADISHU, writing by Duncan Miriri) – More than 300 people were killed by twin bomb explosions in Mogadishu, an official said on Monday, as locals packed hospitals in search of friends and relatives caught by Somalia’s deadliest attack in a decade.

The death toll has steadily risen since Saturday, when the blasts struck at two busy junctions in the heart of the capital city. One truck bomb detonated near a fuel truck, creating an enormous fireball.

The bomb attacks were the deadliest since Islamist terrorist group al Shabaab began an insurgency in 2007. [An insurgency is a usually violent attempt to take control of a government.] Al Shabaab has not claimed responsibility, but the method and type of attack – a large truck bomb – is increasingly used by the al Qaeda-linked organization.

“We have confirmed 300 people died in the blast. The death toll will still be higher because some people are still missing,” Abdikadir Abdirahman, the director of the city’s ambulance service, told Reuters.

Aden Nur, a doctor at the city’s Madina hospital, said they had recorded 258 deaths and that 160 of the bodies could not be recognized.

“(They)were buried by the government yesterday. The others were buried by their relatives. Over a hundred injured were also brought here,” he told Reuters at the hospital.

Some of the injured were being evacuated by air to Turkey for treatment, officials said.

Locals visiting their injured relatives or collecting their bodies filled every available space in Madina hospital.

“My last time to speak with my brother was some minutes before the blast occurred,” Halima Nur, a local mother, told Reuters. “I am afraid he was among the unrecognized charred bodies that were buried yesterday. I have no hope of getting him alive or dead. But I cannot go home.”

Abdullahi Aden, 56, said five of his cousins had died.

“The shop completely collapsed on them. I could not help them. I could not hear their screams and the nearby buildings were burning,” he said. He was still searching for two other relatives.

Al Shabaab stages regular attacks in the capital and other parts of the country. Although the group claims it targets the government and security forces, it has detonated large bombs in crowded public areas before, always killing civilians.

It has sometimes not claimed responsibility for bombings that provoked a big public backlash, like the 2009 suicide bombing of a graduation ceremony for medical students.

The group is waging an insurgency against Somalia’s U.N.-backed government and its African Union allies in a bid to impose its own strict interpretation of Islam.

The militants were driven out of Mogadishu in 2011 and have been steadily losing territory. But Al Shabaab retains the capacity to mount large bomb attacks. Over the past three years, the number of civilians killed by insurgent bombings has steadily climbed as al Shabaab increases the size of its bombs.

In 2016, 723 Somalis were killed in 395 bomb attacks, according to Nairobi-based thinktank Sahan Research, up from 193 deaths in 265 attacks in 2015. …

AUSTRIA – Austria Elects World’s Youngest Leader As Conservatives Take Power; Kurz set to become Chancellor

(by Jacob Bojesson, The Daily Caller) – Sebastian Kurz will become Austria’s next chancellor and Europe’s youngest leader at 31. Austria’s conservative People’s Party won the general election Sunday with 31.6% of the vote and looks set to form a coalition with the populist Freedom Party.

Sebastian Kurz, head of Austrian People’s Party, speaks during an interview in Vienna, Austria, Sunday, Oct. 15, 2017, after the closing of the polling stations for the Austrian national elections. (Indian Express, AP Photo/Kerstin Joensson)

The party, led by 31-year-old Sebastian Kurz, was the clear winner at 31.6 percent after more than 99 percent of the votes were counted. It’s still unclear which party will finish second with both the Freedom Party and the Social Democrats standing close to 27 percent of the votes.

“This is a clear mandate for change,” Kurz said in his victory speech. “Today is a strong order for us, to change this country, and I say thank you to you all who made this possible. I’m overwhelmed, I am happy, and I look forward to working for Austria.”

Kurz, who has served as the foreign minister since 2013, will become the world’s youngest national leader, according to BBC. He has played an integral part in designing a new set of integration laws in Austria, including a ban on the burqa and mandatory language classes for migrants.

As the foreign minister, Kurz in 2015 opposed opening European Union borders to 1 million mostly Muslim asylum seekers and migrants. That year, Austria took in around 90,000 asylum seekers, mainly Syrian Muslims.

Kurz may pick the Freedom Party as his coalition partners as both parties have focused on a cut in immigration during their campaigns.

“I hope that many [in the European parliament] will understand that the topics we are running with have strong support among the population,” said Harald Vilimsky, a Freedom Party member of the European Parliament, told Reuters.

President Alexander Van der Bellen, who is affiliated with the Greens, would have to approve the new government. A constitutional crisis could emerge if he refuses to allow the Freedom Party to take part in the government formation.

The Freedom Party’s success follows similar gains for Germany’s populist party Alternative for Germany (AfD) in last months election. AfD finished third and made parliament for the first time.

VENEZUELA – Venezuelan socialists claim victory as opposition cries foul

(by Fabiola Sanchez from Caracas, Venezuela and Christine Armario from Bogota, Colombia, AP at ABC News)  – Pro-government socialist candidates have swept to an unforeseen victory in Venezuelan gubernatorial races according to official results that have quickly been challenged by the country’s opposition.

Tibisay Lucena, president of the government-stacked National Electoral Council, announced late Sunday that the socialist party had won 17 of 22 races in which the outcomes were considered irreversible, with one other race too close to call. It was a dramatic contrast to pre-election polls that projected widespread victories for the opposition.

The council said 61 percent of the nation’s 18 million voters participated, a rate far higher than many people had anticipated in a country where many have grown disenchanted and apathetic.

Gerardo Blyde, an opposition leader, said the official results were fraudulent.

“Neither the Venezuelan people nor the world buy that story,” he said.

An hour before results were announced, the opposition’s command centers had been filled with smiles and jubilation. Leader Ramon Guillermo Aveledo told a room filled with journalists and supporters that while he couldn’t share the preliminary results, they showed a victory of “historic dimensions” for the Venezuelan people.

Independent pollsters also had projected that opposition candidates would win a majority, if not nearly all offices at a time when the country’s economy is plummeting at depression-era rates, inflation is in triple digits and crime is rampant.

“There is a wide disparity between the poll numbers and the results which show that these elections were not free and fair and don’t reflect the will of the people,” said Michael Shifter, president of the U.S.-based Inter-American Dialogue.

The opposition called for an audit and urged Venezuelans to mobilize on the streets Monday in support.

Socialist President Nicolas Maduro said he had “absolute faith” in the official results but would ask the constitutional assembly to request an audit in order to extinguish any doubts.

“A triumphant victory for Chavismo!” he proclaimed, referring to the movement founded by his predecessor and mentor, Hugo Chavez.

The disputed result threatened to heighten an already sometimes-violent standoff between the government and opposition. Four months of anti-government protests that began in April left at least 120 people dead, mostly young men in their 20s and 30s.

The regional elections were originally scheduled to take place last December, but Maduro’s electoral council postponed the vote after polls indicated socialist candidates were widely slated to lose. They were repeatedly delayed again for a variety of reasons.

In August, a new pro-government assembly was installed by President Maduro to rewrite the constitution following an election boycotted by the opposition and challenged as manipulated by voting experts.

The new assembly quickly removed the nation’s independent chief prosecutor, declared itself superior to all other branches of government and set the delayed gubernatorial elections for October.

The electoral council did not allow the opposition to remove several candidates who lost in a September primary, despite an electoral law permitting political parties to substitute contenders up until 10 days before the vote. Less than three days before voting, the council also announced it was moving more than 200 voting centers, predominantly in opposition strongholds.

Council officials defended the relocations as a security measure in areas where violent protests took place in July.

Opposition-arranged buses transported voters to the new sites, some of which were nearly an hour away.

Susana Unda, a homemaker who voted for Carlos Ocariz, the opposition’s candidate in populous Miranda state surrounding Venezuela’s capital, used her truck to transport voters whose polling sites were relocated.

“I was born in a democracy and I want to die in a democracy,” she said.

Chelsea bomber Ahmad Rahimi found guilty of all charges

Tue, 2017-10-17 05:00

(from CBS News) AP – Terrorist bomber Ahmad Khan Rahimi was found guilty on Monday of detonating a shrapnel-packed explosive device that injured 30 people on a terrifying night on New York City streets in 2016.

The verdict by the Manhattan Federal Court jury came after a two-week trial of 29-year-old Rahimi, an Afghanistan-born man living in Elizabeth, NJ. The charges, including using a weapon of mass destruction and bombing a public place, carry a maximum punishment of life in prison. Sentencing is scheduled for Jan. 18. (The first day of Rahimi’s trial was delayed for about 40 minutes after he first refused to enter the courtroom — and then, once inside, ignored Manhattan Federal Judge Richard Berman’s instruction to sit down and remain silent.)

Prosecutors said Rahimi considered himself “a soldier in a holy war against Americans” and was inspired by the Islamic State group and al-Qaida to carry out the attacks in New York and New Jersey and was intent on inflicting as much carnage as possible with his homemade pressure cooker bombs.

“He designed it,” said Assistant U.S. Attorney Shawn Crowley in her opening argument. “He built it. He filled it with explosives and deadly shrapnel, and he planted it on the street.”

He was found guilty of all eight charges against him. The defense said it will appeal.

In his closing argument, Assistant U.S. Attorney Emil Bove described an unusually large amount of evidence that pointed to Rahimi. His fingerprints and DNA were found on bombs in the Sept. 17, 2016, attacks.

Dozens of videos tracked his movements as he dragged the bombs in suitcases through Manhattan streets, and they also captured the explosion at 23rd Street in the Chelsea neighborhood that injured 30 people. The second bomb didn’t detonate.

As a bomb squad investigator testified, prosecutors showed jurors a mangled, waist-high trash bin that was sent flying 120 feet across a busy street by the bomb. The government called it a miracle that nobody was killed by the explosive, which scattered ball bearings meant to serve as shrapnel.

If that wasn’t enough, Bove said, jurors could look at a small notebook that was on Rahimi when he was arrested two days after the attack following a shootout with police in New Jersey. The prosecutor said Rahimi’s written words provided a confession as he took responsibility for the bombings in a “claim of credit” for attacks that left him feeling proud. He still faces charges in New Jersey related to the shootout. He has pleaded not guilty to attempted murder of police officers.

Assistant public defender Sabrina Shroff did not deny evidence linking Rahimi to the 23rd Street bomb but asked jurors to question whether Rahimi really intended for the 27th Street bomb to go off. She urged the jury to acquit Rahimi of three charges that could result in a mandatory life prison sentence.

And she expressed compassion for those injured by the blast, some of whom testified during the trial.

“This is a difficult case for all of us because we are all New Yorkers,” Shroff said.

Prosecutors said Rahimi left his home before sunrise to plant a pipe bomb along the route of a Marine Corps charity race in Seaside Heights, New Jersey, an oceanside community. No one was injured in the explosion because the race had been delayed. It was then canceled.

Hours later, Rahimi went into Manhattan, where he was seen walking from Penn Station to the street locations where two bombs were placed.

The first bomb, hidden near a large trash bin, set off a blast that sent the 100-pound dumpster into the air, shattered windows, scattered bits of metal and caused people on the street to scream and flee the area.

A bomb at 27th Street was discovered and deactivated before it could explode. The following day, a homeless man and his friend alerted authorities after they found a backpack containing smaller bombs in a trash can near a train station in Elizabeth, New Jersey.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew DeFilippis said in closing arguments that Rahimi had carried out a “cold and calculating” attack with a variety of explosive devices that included a backpack filled with seven bombs, some small enough to use like hand grenades.

The prosecutor said Rahimi could be convicted even if some bombs didn’t explode because the government only needed to prove that he took “substantial steps” to set off explosives.

Alluding to the numerous street videos jurors watched of Rahimi walking through Manhattan, DeFillipis reminded jurors that they had seen him take “step after step after step,” including after the 23rd Street bomb exploded.

He said Rahimi was seen “walking away so he wouldn’t get hurt while others bled.”

[Rahimi was arrested two days after the explosion after a shootout with police in Linden, N.J., where two officers were wounded when he shot them.  He was hit seven times by return fire.

He still faces attempted murder charges in New Jersey for the gunfight preceding his arrest.]

Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from CBS News. Visit the website at cbsnews .com.

Prototypes for new border wall almost finished

Mon, 2017-10-16 05:00

(Compiled from articles at WREG News Channel 3 and San Antonio Express-News at Chron .com) SAN DIEGO — Construction on eight border wall prototypes began Sept. 26 in San Diego, California, U.S. Customs and Border Protection officials announced.

Customs and Border Protection officials tweeted photos of completed or nearly finished, prototypes on Wednesday (October 10).

“Several border wall prototypes are taking form or are near completion,” they tweeted.

In a January executive order, President Trump called for a wall be built along the United States’ border with Mexico to “prevent illegal immigration, drug and human trafficking and acts of terrorism.”

Six companies were selected to build eight prototypes. Construction began last month, with crews given 30 days to complete their models.

Each prototype will be between 18 and 30 feet tall and are designed to “deter illegal crossings in the area,” officials said.

Four models are made of concrete and four are made from other materials.

The construction site is located near the Otay Mesa Port of Entry*.  (*The Otay Mesa Port of Entry is one of three ports of entry (POE) in the San Diego–Tijuana metropolitan region, connecting Otay Mesa in the City of San Diego with the Otay Centenario borough of Tijuana.)

Once complete, the government will run a series of tests on each prototype, checking for anti-climbing, anti-breaching, and anti-digging capabilities, among other things.

“We are committed to securing our border and that includes constructing border walls. Our multi-pronged strategy to ensure the safety and security of the American people includes barriers, infrastructure, technology and people,” Ron Vitiello, acting U.S. Customs and Border Protection deputy commissioner, said in a release. “Moving forward with the prototypes enables us to continue to incorporate all the tools necessary to secure our border.”

On Thursday News 8 got a chance to see five of the prototypes up close. Border Patrol agents took News 8’s Steve Price to a fenced-off area in Otay Mesa where crews are halfway into the 30 days they have to build their prototype for what will eventually be a 2,000-mile long wall along our southern border.

One wall has razor wire across the top; another bollard-style fencing that’s friendlier to wildlife; all are designed to be tough to climb or penetrate.

“It’s very interesting to see all the different types of ideas and wall prototypes,” said U.S. Border Patrol Agent Tekae Michael. “In a wall, what we would want is anything that’s going to protect us and protect the United States.”

Three more wall prototypes are coming and once completed they’ll be put to the test.

“There will be a testing and an evaluation process and we’re going to look to see if the wall prototypes meet the anti-scaling, anti-climbing, anti-digging and safety of border patrol agents,” said Agent Michael.

San Diego’s southern border spans 60 miles right now with 46 miles protected by an 8 – 10-foot primary fence that’s over 25 years old. A 20-year-old secondary fence overlaps the primary fence for 13 miles, in areas more popular with [those attempting to enter the U.S. illegally].

“What we do have with our primary and secondary fencing has proven to be effective but like anything, in age, everything needs an upgrade,” said Agent Michael.

Bids for the prototypes range from $300,000 to $500,000. As of now, the building of an actual wall lacks congressional funding.

Both the state of California and San Diego County have voiced opposition to the construction of a wall along the border.

Last month, California Attorney General Xavier Becerra filed a lawsuit against the Trump administration over its border wall plan, citing legal and constitutional violations.

San Diego City Council voted 5-3 in September to pass a resolution opposing the border wall, saying it would be detrimental to San Diego’s environment and tourism and accomplishes nothing.

The many Americans who want a wall constructed to prevent people from entering the country illegally support the construction that is going forward as promised.

Compiled from articles at WREG News Channel 3 and San Antonio Express-News at Chron.com. Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission.

Robots

Fri, 2017-10-13 05:10
A cartoon with a question requiring the student to demonstrate understanding of the cartoonist's intended meaning.

News quiz for week ending 10/13/17

Fri, 2017-10-13 05:05
A quiz with questions relating to the week’s Daily News Articles.

Shake Shack location in NYC nixes human servers, goes cashless

Fri, 2017-10-13 05:00

(Compiled from articles by Katherine Lam at Fox News and Natalie O’Neille at NY Post) – The future of Shake Shack doesn’t involve human cashiers.

The popular burger chain announced on Monday that its newest New York City location will be cashless and kiosk-only. The chain plans to use the Astor Place branch as a testing ground for the cashless kiosk model, which eliminates the job of cashier. It also gets rid of its traditional order placing area. Customers at the Astor Place location will be ordering their food using an app or the touchscreen kiosks and paying with credit cards only. Buzzers at the burger joint, which was founded by famed restaurateur Danny Meyer, will be replaced by text messages to alert diners when their food is ready.

“We’re really viewing this as an evolution of the guest experience aimed at enhancing hospitality,” Kristyn Clark, Shake Shack’s senior manager of brand communications, told Fox News.

“The Shack kiosk was developed to allow Shake Shack to serve more guests at peak times – whether in-Shack, for pickup via the Shack App, or even delivery – resulting in fewer lines, less wait time and quicker speed of service at every channel. It’s a guest-centric approach,” she added.

The idea is that instead of spending time waiting in line, customers will now be able to leisurely walk through the restaurant and spot open seats while they wait. The orders will be ready at the counter.

The restaurant won’t be completely staff-free. Workers will guide diners at the kiosks and work through potential tech glitches. The new set up will be a test run for the chain, who boasts about its $15 minimum wage at its New York, California and Washington, D.C., locations.

“The Astor Place Shack will be a playground where we can test and learn the ever-shifting needs of our guests,” the chain’s CEO Randy Garutti said in a news release. “We’re excited to lead with kiosk-only ordering, putting control of the Shake Shack experience in our guests’ hands, and an optimized kitchen with increased capacity for mobile orders and eventual delivery integration to support ongoing digital innovation.”

Clark told Fox News the kiosks are not meant to replace human workers, but to “provide greater hospitality.”

The Astor Place location is expected to open this month.

Shake Shack isn’t the only restaurant chain that has recently gone cashless. Sweetgreen, a fast-casual salad chain with locations in Manhattan, stopped accepting cash earlier this year.

Opting for touch-screen kiosks at its newest location in Manhattan’s East Village, as opposed to hiring human cashiers is a change from founder Danny Meyer’s statement last year when he said, “I know there is a temptation to replace human beings with robots or with iPads. We want you to leave there just skipping with delight, and so far we haven’t found anything that does that better, either in terms of the food or the hospitality, than people.”

[NY Business Journal reported in February, “The decision coincides with a trend where both fast-casual chains and fast-food venues alike have been embracing a new kind of automated restaurant with lower labor costs because they require fewer staff — even though their marketing materials say there will be a lot of hiring done.

McDonald’s recently took a similar cue in New York beginning with a Midtown Manhattan location on 6th Avenue.”]

Originally published at foxnews .com on October 3, 2017. Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from Fox News and NY Post. 

The media is missing the Republican takeover in New England

Thu, 2017-10-12 05:01

To which Phil Scott, Vermont’s Republican governor, responded that he:

“Is Vermont’s Republican governor.”

The moment was comical but also insightful, underscoring just how little Washington’s political class knows about who holds the executive power in the Northeast.

Here’s the surprising truth: It’s not the Democrats.

Last November, while most of the country was either cheering Donald Trump’s presidential win or making an appointment with their therapist about how to cope with the results, New Englanders in four out of the region’s six “blue” [Democrat] states — Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Maine — woke up the next morning with four Republican governors.

Two of those governorships flipped from blue to red [from Democratic to Republican]. It was a trend that the Northeast had not seen for a generation, but it received little national attention. (Connecticut and Rhode Island hold their governorship elections in 2018.)

If the reverse had happened, and four Democrats had won governorships in deep red states [Republican] last year, the news would have been treated quite differently, said Brad Todd, a Washington, DC-based GOP strategist.

“It would have been on the front pages of every major newspaper in the country. And debated for weeks about how it spells the demise of the Republican Party,” Todd said.

Vermont’s Scott won in a landslide, defeating his Democratic opponent by 9 percentage points while facing two political fronts that should have knocked him out of contention: the candidacy of Trump, who was so unpopular in Vermont, he got crushed there by 29 percentage points; and the popularity of Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders, Vermont’s sitting US senator.

Interestingly, if you drove through Vermont last year, it was not uncommon to see yard signs for both Scott and Sanders in the same yards.

Meanwhile, on a trip to Cambridge, Mass., last month, I couldn’t find anyone who didn’t approve of their Republican Gov. Charlie Baker. From the leafy halls of Harvard to locals grabbing lunch at Charlie’s Kitchen on Eliot Street, everyone I talked to was a Democrat — and everyone gave him high marks as the state’s manager.

It’s not just anecdotal. Polling has consistently shown Baker is the most popular governor in the country; the most recent survey done by Morning Consult in July showed that 71 percent of Massachusetts voters are happy with the job he is doing. Meanwhile, Republican Chris Sununu holds New Hampshire’s governor’s office, while Maine has voted for Paul LePage twice to hold their executive’s suite.

In the aftermath of the 2016 electoral — but not popular-vote — win of Trump over Hillary Clinton, Democrats have spent endless time bemoaning their inability to capture the Electoral College. They blame it on a so-called antiquated system that gives greater weight to the states populated by more cows than people. But it really is a symptom of a bigger problem for the Democrats: The Republican Party is the only party that is a national party.

Republicans, at some level, are competing in every state up and down the ballot, while Democrats are not competing anywhere but on the coasts and in the big cities. In short, they are a regionalized party, confined to the most densely populated parts of the nation — more cut off and compartmentalized than the GOP.

But if you read reports by national political reporters, you would assume that progressivism [liberalism] dominates the country’s landscape.

“The decision makers, who are close to culture and news, live in places where the Democratic Party’s last bastions are, encased in a bubble that believes everyone thinks like they do and votes like they do,” said the Republican strategist Brad Todd.

“Those noncompetitive deep-blue places are the only places they have left where they dominate, but it also happens to be the only places where cultural and media institutions are headquartered,” he added.

Seven years after the Republicans won the House and three years after they gained the US Senate majority, the media/entertainment complex still fails to accept or understand that the majority of this country is center-right. Until these institutions grasp this fact, they will continue to see their viewership drop and their trust erode.

There is a reason this year’s Trump-bashing Emmy Awards saw viewership figures tank for the second year in a row (11.38 million views — down 5 percent from 2015). You can’t expect to hold onto the middle of the country when you spend four hours mocking the choice many of them made for president.

And you can’t expect anyone to trust your sense of judgment and fairness if you treat a GOP winning streak in the Northeast as if it never happened.

Published September 30, 2017 at The New York Post. Reprinted here on October 12 for educational purposes only.

U.S. Issues $12 Million Bounties for Two Hezbollah Leaders Plotting Attacks in America

Thu, 2017-10-12 05:00

(by Jack Moore, Newsweek) – The U.S. government has issued a $12 million bounty for information leading to the capture of two senior leaders of the Lebanese Shiite [Islamic] militant group Hezbollah who are believed to be plotting attacks on U.S. soil.

Washington is offering $7 million for information that leads to the arrest of Talal Hamiyah and $5 million for Fu’ad Shukr.

“It is our assessment that Hezbollah is determined to give itself a potential homeland option as a critical component of its terrorism playbook,” Nicholas Rasmussen, director of the National Counterterrorism Center, said in a briefing Tuesday.

U.S. State Department wanted sign for Hamiyah and Shukr.

Hamiyah is the leader of Hezbollah’s “international terrorism branch,” a figure with ties to attacks and kidnap plots against Americans, the State Department said.

Shukr is a general for Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, where it shares a border with Israel, a U.S. ally that the militant force considers its archenemy. He has also played a role in Hezbollah’s operations in Syria.

This is the first U.S.-issued bounty for Hezbollah leaders in more than a decade.

A Hezbollah official told the Associated Press on Wednesday the move is part of Washington’s effort to “demonize” the group. The official said the new measures would not hamper the group’s activities in the Middle East.

“It is part of the continuous efforts to demonize Hezbollah. They are false accusations that will not have any effect on the operational activities of Hezbollah,” the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Hezbollah is a proxy of the Iranian government, which funds and arms the group to boost its strength in both Lebanon and Syria, where it is fighting in support of the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad in the six-year civil war.

The decision to place a financial bounty on the two leaders comes as [newly elected president Donald Trump is implementing a much stronger U.S. policy than previous presidents against the agressive] Iranian regime and its activities both at home and abroad.

He has for months taken aim at the landmark? nuclear deal signed between Tehran and world powers in July 2015, threatening to tear up the agreement that was reached after years of negotiating by the international community. [Although a majority of Americans opposed the deal with Iran, President Obama bypassed Congress and signed an executive order in January 2016 which ended the 20-years of sanctions against Iran for pursuing a nuclear weapons program. Then, in August 2016, the Obama administration secretly arranged a delivery of $400 million in cash to Iran on an unmarked plane on the same day Iran released four American hostages.]

Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from Newsweek. 

September TV Coverage Of Trump

Wed, 2017-10-11 05:00

President Trump received 92% bad press, vs. just 8% good press on the ABC, CBS and NBC evening news shows in the month of September, according to a study by MRC news analysts.

Since Inauguration Day (January 20), the broadcast networks have tilted 90% anti-Trump, vs. 10% pro-Trump, not counting partisan statements or neutral/informational coverage. (See our methodology statement at the bottom of this article for details.) Regardless of the topic, there has been little variation in the negative tone of coverage each month.

September’s news coverage focused on six big topics:

  • the showdown with North Korea
  • immigration policy (the DREAMers and border wall)
  • the President’s response to three major hurricanes
  • President Trump’s criticism of NFL players who kneel during the National Anthem
  • the latest effort to repeal ObamaCare
  • the controversy over several cabinet officers using expensive private jets

These six topics accounted for two-thirds of the administration’s TV news reports in September. While the North Korea crisis received the most attention, this was also the topic with the fewest evaluative comments — just 20 during nearly an hour of coverage — which translates into a large percentage of neutral coverage.

The networks focused most of their evaluative coverage on immigration, the NFL and the private jet flights of cabinet officials (especially Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, who resigned September 29).

Not surprisingly, 100% of the coverage of the expensive jet flights by Cabinet officials was negative.

Nearly all (96%) of the coverage of the administration’s immigration policy was negative. On September 5, for example, CBS Evening News anchor Anthony Mason framed the President’s decision to end the Obama-era DACA program as “a dream lost for thousands of undocumented immigrants,” while a subsequent story by correspondent John Blackstone focused only on the negative reaction of those who benefited from the policy.

“In Phoenix, DACA recipients and their families listened to Attorney General Sessions’ announcement and shed tears,” Blackstone said. Over on ABC that same night, correspondent Cecilia Vega also attempted to push viewers’ emotional buttons — “DREAMers like Jesus Conteras are terrified” — while NBC’s Kristen Welker said “immigration advocates say his move to end DACA is cold-hearted.”

The networks framed the President’s tweets about the NFL as divisive: ABC weekend anchor Tom Llamas on September 24 argued that “outrage” was “building over the President’s heated comments” as correspondent Ryan Smith saw “growing backlash across the country.”

The next night, CBS correspondent Dean Reynolds visited a cafeteria where all of the patrons he showcased criticized the President, including one woman who declared: “He has a lot of supporters that’s probably cut from the same cloth that he is: angry, bitter, racist, ignorant.”

But the next night, correspondent Jim Axelrod found fans who agreed with the President, including one Steelers’ fan who “is upset with his team for what he sees as caving to political correctness.”

A CNN poll taken in late September found more Americans (49%) said players who knelt during the National Anthem were doing the wrong thing, compared to 43% who said it was the right thing. Yet broadcast evening news coverage of this topic was slanted about four-to-one against the President, with 59 comments criticizing him (81%) vs. 14 in support (19%).

One other note from this month’s study: by September 30, Trump’s response to Hurricane Maria had already drawn nearly six times more coverage than his response to Hurricane Irma in Florida — nearly 27 minutes vs. 4 minutes, 37 seconds, with about 3 minutes spent on August’s Hurricane Harvey. (Please note: These figures do not include all network coverage of these storms, only the coverage focused on the administration’s response.)

And, while there were few evaluative comments about Trump’s response to Irma (just four, three of which were positive), the networks transmitted 29 negative statements about his response to Maria, vs. just 2 positive comments (yielding a 94% bad press score).

Methodology: Our measure of spin was designed to isolate the networks’ own slant, not the back-and-forth of partisan politics. Thus, our analysts ignored soundbites which merely showcased the traditional party line (Republicans supporting Trump, Democrats criticizing him), and instead tallied evaluative statements which imparted a clear positive or negative tone to the story, such as statements from experts presented as non-partisan, voters, or opinionated statements from the networks’ own reporters.

Using these criteria, MRC analysts tallied 393 evaluative statements about the Trump administration in June, July and August, of which 361 (92%) were negative vs. 32 (8%) which were positive. Since Trump took office on January 20, there have been 4,537 such evaluative statements, of which 4,073 (90%) have been negative, vs. 464 (10%) which have been positive.

(Adapted from a report by Rich Noyes and Mike Ciandella, Oct. 5, 2017, MRC .org)

Nobel in chemistry for amazing cryo-electron microscopy

Wed, 2017-10-11 05:00

Microscopy is the technical field of using microscopes to view objects and areas of objects that cannot be seen with the naked eye. There are three well-known branches of microscopy: optical, electron, and scanning probe microscopy. (wikipedia)

Transmission electron microscopy is a microscopy technique in which a beam of electrons is transmitted through a specimen to form an image. The specimen is most often an ultrathin section less than 100 nm thick..An image is formed from the interaction of the electrons with the sample as the beam is transmitted through the specimen. The image is then magnified and focused onto an imaging device…Transmission electron microscopes are capable of imaging at a significantly higher resolution than light microscopes (from wikipedia)

Cryo-electron microscopy is a form of transmission electron microscopy where the sample is studied at cryogenic temperatures (generally liquid-nitrogen temperatures) (wikipedia)  It is an electron microscopic technique that involves freezing the biological sample in order to view the sample with the least possible distortion. The advantages of cryo-EM over traditional EM techniques include the preservation of the sample in a near-native hydrated state without the distortions from stains or fixatives needed for traditional EM. (medicinenet .com)

(by Simon Johnson, Ben Hirschler, Reuters) – STOCKHOLM/LONDON – A trio of Swiss, American and British scientists won the 2017 Nobel chemistry prize on Wednesday, October 4 for developing cryo-electron microscopy, allowing researchers to see biological molecules frozen in action.

The work by Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank and Richard Henderson makes it possible to image proteins and other molecules after freezing them rapidly to preserve their shape, providing a powerful new tool for medical research.

“It’s like frames in a movie. Each of these pictures represents a frame and they can be put together into a movie and we can see what the molecules do,” said Peter Brzezinski, a member of the Nobel committee for chemistry.

The new approach fills a previously blank space by generating images [making pictures] of everything from the surface of the Zika virus to proteins that cause antibiotic resistance or are involved in Alzheimer‘s.

From left: Scientists Jacques Dubochet, Joachim Frank and Richard Henderson have won the Nobel Prize in Chemistry for developing cryo-electron microscopy.

The Royal Swedish Academy of Sciences, which awarded the 9 million Swedish crown ($1.1 million) prize, said the technology had moved biochemistry into a new era.

By freezing biomolecules mid-movement, scientists can unravel previously unseen processes – a major advance both for basic understanding and the potential development of new drugs.

Scottish-born scientist Henderson used an electron microscope to generate a three-dimensional image of a protein at an atomic resolution [very clear picture with a lot of detail], showing the potential of the technology.

Until then, electron microscopes were only seen as suitable for imaging dead matter, because the powerful electron beam destroyed the biological material.

His breakthrough was further developed by German-born scientist Frank, a U.S. citizen, while Dubochet of Switzerland used rapidly frozen water to preserve the natural shape of the biomolecules.

Frank said cryo-electron microscopy had “immense” potential for medical research, which is increasingly focused on processes inside cells, but it would take time for this to play out – and he was taken aback by news of the award.

“I was overwhelmed. I thought the chances of winning a Nobel prize were miniscule,” he told a news briefing by telephone.

Henderson was equally taken aback and said he had rejected the first phone call from the Swedish academy on Wednesday before picking up second time.

“The three of us who have been awarded the prize are sort of acting on behalf of the whole field,” he told a news conference in Cambridge, England.

Understanding the structure of proteins and working out how they interact in the body should spark fresh approaches to drug development, just as earlier advances had produced today’s multibillion-dollar biotech* drugs, he added. (*Biotech is short for biotechnology: the use of living cells, bacteria, etc., to make useful products – such as crops that insects are less likely to destroy or new kinds of medicine.)

“In a few years, maybe five years, we might know most of the structures … it’s quite an exciting time,” Henderson said.

Indeed, cryo-electron microscopy is already delivering results, such as the recent discovery of the structure of tau protein filaments in Alzheimer’s disease.

It was also put to work last year in the fight against Zika, when the mosquito-borne virus was linked to an epidemic of brain-damaged babies in Brazil.

As alarm about the outbreak spread, scientists were able to generate three-dimensional images of Zika at the atomic level, jump-starting the search for potential drugs and vaccines.

“The use of these methods has completely revolutionized structural biology so everyone now wants to buy this type of equipment and start this type of research, all over the world,” Johan Aqvist, another Nobel committee member, told Reuters.

U.S.-based Thermo Fisher Scientific is a leading supplier of cryo-electron microscopy instruments.

Chemistry is the third of this year’s Nobel Prizes after the winners of the medicine and physics prizes were announced earlier [last] week. …

Additional reporting by Niklas Pollard, Anna Ringstrom, Johan Ahlander, Helena Soderpalm and Johannes Hellstrom; editing by Justyna Pawlak/Jeremy Gaunt

From Reuters .com, October 4, 2017. Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from Thomson Reuters.

South Korea could use ‘blackout bombs’ to paralyze North’s electrical grid

Tue, 2017-10-10 05:00

(by Yaron Steinbuch, New York Post) – South Korea is prepared to use non-lethal graphite bombs — also known as “blackout bombs” — to short-circuit the North’s electrical grid in the event of a nuclear war, according to a report.

The bomb works by spreading a cloud of extremely fine, chemically treated carbon graphite filaments over electric facilities, military sources told South Korea’s Yonhap news agency.

South Korea’s Agency for Defense Development developed the weapon as a key component of the country’s Kill Chain pre-emptive strike program.

“All technologies for the development of a graphite bomb led by the ADD have been secured. It is in the stage where we can build the bombs anytime,” a military official told Yonhap.

The Defense Ministry had requested that next year’s budget include the equivalent of about $436,000 for the project — but the Finance Ministry turned it down, he added.

The bomb is often referred to as a “soft bomb” because it only affects targeted electrical power systems.

It was first used by the US against Iraq in the Gulf War of 1990, when it knocked out about 85 percent of the electrical supply across the country. It also was used by NATO against Serbia in 1999, when it damaged around 70 percent of the country’s electrical supply.

Analysts believe the bombs would work well in North Korea, whose targets are likely to be obsolete and not insulated, the Telegraph of the UK reported. [Graphite bombs only work on power lines that are not insulated. Carbon fibers in the cloud cling to power lines, causing grids to short circuit and cut out.  The graphite bomb can be countered by insulated power cables, and electricity would reboot once the cloud dispersed, meaning it would only be a temporary defense measure against Kim Jong-un’s nuclear threat.]

The South, which is seeking to increase its defensive capabilities against the hermit kingdom, has been eager to develop graphite bombs because they are not lethal to civilians.

The country moved up the deployment of its “three pillars” of defense by about three years as a result of North Korean despot Kim Jong Un’s saber-rattling missile launches, according to the Telegraph.

The three-pronged strategy had been scheduled to be in place by the mid-2020s, but Pyongyang’s increasingly bellicose and unpredictable behavior has forced Seoul to alter that timeline.

The Kill Chain program is designed to detect, identify and intercept incoming missiles in the shortest possible time.

The strategy’s final component is the Korea Massive Punishment & Retaliation plan, under which Seoul will attack leadership targets in the North if it detects signs that the rogue regime is planning to use nukes.

Tensions have soared as Kim has [continued to defy the UN, launching numerous missile tests in violation of the UN]. He has traded bombastic threats with President Trump, who tweeted Saturday that “only one thing will work” to tame Pyongyang.

Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from the New York Post.

Northern California firestorm, among worst in state’s history

Tue, 2017-10-10 05:00
From an October 9, 2017, 2:20 p.m. report: (by Sonali Kohli , Javier Panzar , Paige St. John and Dakota Smith, Los Angeles Times) – One person has died and at least 1,500 homes, businesses and other structures have been destroyed as more than 14 fires ravaged eight counties throughout Northern California on Monday, authorities said.

The death was related to the Redwood Valley fire in Mendocino County, according to the Mendocino County coroner’s office.

The vast devastation over just a few hours made this firestorm one of the worst in California history, with Gov. Jerry Brown declaring a state of emergency.

There have been injuries and people are unaccounted for, said Janet Upton, a spokeswoman for the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection. She could not estimate the number of injuries. Officials said additional fatalities were possible as search efforts continued.

One of the raging fires had Santa Rosa under siege Monday morning, with a large swath of the city north of downtown under evacuation order.

The fast-moving fire jumped the 101 Freeway, forcing hospitals to be evacuated and, witnesses said, burning homes and businesses.

The area of Fountaingrove appeared to be particularly hard hit, with photos showing numerous homes on fire. The Fountaingrove Inn and a Hilton hotel also burned. Officials said homes were also lost in the community of Kenwood and at a mobile home park off the 101 Freeway.

While many evacuation centers were set up, some were filled to capacity due to the large number of people fleeing. …

Schools throughout the Napa and Sonoma valleys are closed for the day, and cellphone service has been affected in Napa County, where residents and businesses are experiencing power outages and trees have been knocked down by the wind, officials said.

More than 50 structures, including homes and barns, have burned in the Atlas Peak fire alone, Napa County Fire Chief Barry Biermann said during the press conference.

Residents described running from the approaching flames early in the morning. …

Smoke from the fires drifted into the Bay Area, into San Francisco and as far south as San Jose.

“The smell of smoke is everywhere throughout the county,” Napa County spokeswoman Kristi Jourdan said.

In Santa Rosa, Kaiser Permanente Hospital and Sutter Hospital were evacuated.

“We have safely evacuated the Santa Rosa medical center due to fires burning in the area. Many patients were transported to Kaiser Permanente in San Rafael and other local hospitals,” Kaiser spokeswoman Jenny Mack said in an email. “All scheduled appointments and surgeries have been canceled for the day in Santa Rosa and the Napa medical offices.”

The Santa Rosa fire began around 10 p.m.

The cause of the fires is still under investigation.

Upward of 300 firefighters are battling the blazes in Napa County, she said. …

“We’ve had hospitals that have required evacuation…all of those take significant amount of coordination and assets to ensure… that special needs populations and others that require special assistance are taken care of. That will remain our priority,” said Mark Ghilarducci, director of the California Governor’s Office of Emergency Services.

There have been a number of injuries and “possibly some fatalities,” Ghilarducci said.

About 45,000 are without power and/or cell service in Napa and Sonoma counties, he said. …

Weather conditions — strong winds and high temperatures — made conditions ripe for a major inferno.

“We also had really gusty winds and really warm temperatures,” said National Weather Service meteorologist Matt Mehle. “This time of year it does happen quite a bit. For the San Francisco Bay Area, our summer is late September to early October; that’s when we have our warmest and driest conditions.”

The destructiveness of the fires shocked officials. The worst fire in recent California history was the Cedar blaze in San Diego County in 2003, which destroyed more than 2,800 homes. The 2007 Witch fire, also in San Diego County, destroyed more than 1,600. Both of those fires occurred in October.

“This time of year is when historically the state’s largest, most damaging and most deadly fires have occurred,” Upton said. “Critical fire conditions fanned by high wind” act as “a fuse for sparks,” she said.

A key reason why the fires burning through Napa and Sonoma counties became so devastating was that the ignitions happened at the worst possible moment: extremely dry conditions combined with so-called Diablo winds that fanned flames on the ridgetops with gusts as high as 70 mph.

It’s similar to the conditions that caused one of the most destructive fires in Northern California history, the October 1991 firestorm that struck the Oakland and Berkeley hills that killed 25 people and destroyed more than 3,300 single-family homes.

The wine country fires so far haven’t approached that level of catastrophe, with officials reporting at least 1,500 structures lost, in part because the area burned isn’t as densely populated as the area that was hit hard in 1991. …

Los Angeles Times staff writers Makeda Easter, Rong-Gong Lin II, Joy Resmovits amd Phil Willon contributed to this report.

Reprinted here for educational purposes only. May not be reproduced on other websites without permission from the Los Angeles Times. 

Columbus in his own words

Mon, 2017-10-09 05:00

(from Dave Barton, Wallbuilders) – Traditionally observed on the second Monday in October, Columbus Day commemorates the landing of Columbus in the “New World” (on a small island off Florida) on October 12, 1492.

Although Christopher Columbus clearly was not the first European to visit the “New World” (Vikings had traveled here centuries earlier), he first widely publicized, and thus “discovered,” its existence to the Europeans. Columbus undertook his first voyage facing the prospect of great danger. The professional opinion of that day not only assured him of the impossibility of his proposed endeavor, but it also warned him that dragons and death awaited him beyond the charted waters. With such advice coming from the intellectual leaders of his day, his decision to embark on this unprecedented journey must have been difficult. So, then, why did he set out? Columbus himself answered that question in his own writings:

[O]ur Lord opened to my understanding (I could sense His hand upon me) so it became clear to me that it [the voyage] was feasible. . . . All those who heard about my enterprise rejected it with laughter, scoffing at me. . . . Who doubts that this illumination was from the Holy Spirit? I attest that He [the Holy Spirit], with marvelous rays of light, consoled me through the holy and sacred Scriptures . . . they inflame me with a sense of great urgency. . . . No one should be afraid to take on any enterprise in the name of our Savior if it is right and if the purpose is purely for His holy service. . . . And I say that the sign which convinces me that our Lord is hastening the end of the world is the preaching of the Gospel recently in so many lands.

Americans celebrated Columbus’s discovery of the New World and built numerous monuments to him in the late 19th century.

The city of Columbus, Ohio was established in 1812. In addition, cities and towns, streets and health facilities, libraries, universities, schools, and in modern times sport teams bearing his name are symbols of his American stature.

Columbus Day is a national holiday in the United States, proclaimed so in 1937 by President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

The four voyages of Christopher Columbus (Encyclopædia Britannica)

Christopher Columbus wrote a book entitled Book of Prophecies, in which he copied down Scripture [verses from the Bible] pertaining to bringing the gospel to unknown coast lands. The following is an excerpt from his Introduction to the book:

At a very early age I began to sail upon the ocean. For more than forty years, I have sailed everywhere that people go. I prayed to the most merciful Lord about my heart’s great desire, and He gave me the spirit and the intelligence for the task: seafaring, astronomy, geometry, arithmetic, skill in drafting spherical maps and placing correctly the cities, rivers, mountains and ports. I also studied cosmology, history, chronology and philosophy.

It was the Lord who put into my mind (I could feel His hand upon me) the fact that it would be possible to sail from there to the Indies. All who heard of my project rejected it with laughter, ridiculing me. There is no question that the inspiration was from the Holy Spirit, because he comforted me with rays of marvelous illumination from the Holy Scriptures … encouraging me to continually to press forward and without ceasing for a moment they now encourage me make haste.

Our Lord Jesus desired to perform a very obvious miracle in the voyage to the Indies, to comfort me and the whole people of God. I spent seven years in the royal court, discussing the matter with many persons of great reputation and wisdom in all the arts; and in the end they concluded that it was all foolishness, so they gave it up. …

It is possible that those who see this book will accuse me of being unlearned in literature, of being a layman and a sailor. I reply with the words of Matt. 11:25, “Lord, because thou has hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hath revealed them unto babes. …

For the execution of the journey to the to the Indies I did not make use of intelligence, mathematics or maps. It is simply the fulfillment of what Isaiah had prophesied. All this is what I desire to write down for you in this book.

No one should fear to undertake any task in the name of our Savior, if it is just and if the intention is purely for His holy service. The working out of all things has been assigned to each person by our Lord, but it all happens according to His sovereign will even though He gives advice. He lacks nothing that it is in the power of men to give him. Oh what a gracious Lord, who desires that people should perform for Him those things for which He holds Himself responsible! Day and night moment by moment, everyone should express to Him their most devoted gratitude. …

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