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July 31, 2013

Child banned from school trip for eating chocolate—the mother had to make a 160-mile journey to collect her daughter after she was banned from a primary school trip for eating some chocolate.

Holli McCann, 11, had tucked into the 20p confectionary on the first night of the week-long break in the Isle of Wight, along with two other Year Six roommates.
She described the secret snack in her first letter home, which was read by teachers despite being in a sealed envelope.
They immediately searched her room at Beaufort House hotel in Sandown for more chocolate, removing the lining of her suitcase and tipping out her toilet bag as if she was “running an international drug smuggling operation”.
When they found more bars, Holli was thrown off the holiday for breaching a “charter” banning chocolate.
A message was sent to her mother, Kerri, asking her to urgently contact the hotel.
Yvonne Graves, the headmistress at Bromet Primary School in Watford, Herts, told her what had happened and requested she come and collect her daughter immediately.
Holli’s mother urged Ms Graves to reconsider but she refused and said if Holli was not picked up she would have to attend all the planned activities but would not be allowed to join in any of them.
As a result, Mrs McCann had to drive through the night from her home in Croxley Green, Herts, to make the 160-mile round trip with two ferry crossings to collect Holli.
The unemployed 47-year-old, who is a full-time carer for her autistic son, had saved for six months to pay for the £300 holiday and was forced to borrow another £130 from family and friends to cover her own travel costs.
She said Holli had been “so excited” about the trip, which began on July 1, and was delighted to get a room with her best friends.
"They had been planning the feast weeks before the trip and Holli was in charge of bringing the chocolate,” she said.
"It wasn't even at midnight. They ate the chocolate at about 9.30pm and it only went on for about 15 minutes. It's not like they were having a party or making noise.
"The teachers had no idea about it until they read Holli's letter to me.
"I am furious that they read her letter, it is like being in prison. It's not like she is five - she is 11 and deserves privacy in what she writes to her mum.”
"Holli said she was really upset because they emptied her toiletry bag into the sink and pulled out the lining in her suitcase.
"It was carried out in such a manner you would have thought they were running an international drug smuggling operation from their hotel room.
"I don't see how eating chocolate makes the holiday unsafe. They were not being naughty - they were just having fun."
She said she thought it “too cruel” for her daughter to stay on the trip and not be able to participate in any activities, and has formally complained to the school and governors.
The school refused to comment on the row but Hertfordshire County Council said: "Before the Year Six trip to the Isle of Wight, parents and pupils were asked to sign a behaviour charter which clearly outlines how pupils should behave during the trip.
"This is to ensure that everyone can have a safe and enjoyable holiday.
"It was made clear that breaking any of the rules within the charter would result in parents being asked to take their child home, as was the case with this pupil."

Snowden's father says FBI asked him to fly to Moscow to persuade son to return home to US

The father of the whistleblower Edward Snowden has said the FBI tried to persuade him to fly to Moscow so that he could encourage his son to return to the United States.
"I said: 'I want to be able to speak with my son … Can you set up communications?' and it was 'Well, we are not sure,'" Lon Snowden told the Washington Post. "I said: 'Wait a minute, folks, I'm not going to sit on the tarmac to be an emotional tool for you.'"
Snowden's father, who is retired from the US Coast Guard, also said he preferred Edward to remain in Russia, where he is stuck in the transit zone of Moscow's Sheremetyevo airport while Russia considers his request for temporary asylum.
"If he comes back to the United States, he is going to be treated horribly. He is going to be thrown into a hole. He is not going to be allowed to speak." The 52-year-old said he had been as "surprised as the rest of America" when his son, who worked for a contractor, was revealed as the source of the leaks about surveillance by the National Security Agency to the Guardian. "As a father it pains me what he did," Snowden said. "I wish my son could simply have sat in Hawaii and taken the big paycheck, lived with his beautiful girlfriend and enjoyed paradise. But as an American citizen, I am absolutely thankful for what he did."
Lon Snowden said that two days after Edward was revealed as the whistleblower, FBI agents had arrived at his home outside Allentown, Pennsylvania. He had spoken to them for four hours and shared emails he had exchanged with his son. Later the FBI asked him to fly to Moscow. FBI officials declined to comment on why negotiations about the idea foundered, the Post said.
As to why Lon Snowden had not flown to Moscow himself, he said: "Sure, I could get on a flight tomorrow to Russia. I'm not sure if I could get access to Edward." He said he had communicated with his son through intermediaries.
In an interview with the state-owned Rossiya 24 TV, the older Snowden, his words translated into Russian, said he had yet to decline the idea of travelling to Moscow at the FBI's request, but would first like to know what the agency wanted him to do. "If [Edward] wants to spend the rest of his life in Russia, I would agree. I am not against it. If I were in his place, I would stay in Russia, and I hope Russia will accept him."
He did not think his son would get a fair trial in the US. "I hope that he will return home and appear in court … But I don't expect that … a court would be fair. We cannot guarantee a fair court." He also thanked Vladimir Putin and his government for the "courage" they had shown in keeping his son safe. Lon Snowden also addressed his son, saying: "Your family is well and we love you. We hope you are healthy, we hope you are well, I hope to see you soon, but most of all I want you to be safe." He added: "I want you to find safe haven. I know the last 55 days have been very difficult."
Anatoly Kuchera, a Russian lawyer helping Edward Snowden, told the programme he thought the asylum request would be granted "in the coming days" and the US had not sent an official request for extradition. "Just saying 'hand him over' is absolutely dishonourable and incorrect," he said. 

Government report: TSA employee misconduct up 26% in 3 years

Their job is to keep air travelers safe in the wake of the September 11, 2001, attacks. But just how good of a job are they doing?
A new government report says misconduct by Transportation Security Administration workers has increased more than 26% in the last three years.
Some of the most serious violations include: Employees sleeping on the job, letting family and friends go without being screened, leaving work without permission and stealing.
The Government Accountability Office report released this week says more than 9,000 cases of misconduct were documented over a three-year span.


More than 1,900 of the incidents were deemed significant enough to be possible security threats.
"There's not even a way to properly report some of the offenses, so this may be just the tip of the iceberg of some of the offenses," said Rep. John Mica, a Florida Republican and longtime critic of the TSA who ordered the audit.

Theft by screeners

The report also details thefts by 56 screeners.


Former TSA employees Persad Coumar and Davon Webb pleaded guilty last year to stealing $40,000 from a checked bag at New York's John F. Kennedy Airport.
In 2011, Officer Al Raimi, 29, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Newark. He admitted that for nearly a year, he stole between $10,000 and $30,000 in cash from travelers as they passed through a security checkpoint at Newark Liberty International Airport in New Jersey.
Raimi admitted that he would "kick up" some of that money to a supervisor, who in turn allowed him to keep stealing. The supervisor, Michael Arato, also pleaded guilty to accepting kickbacks and bribes.
Airport officer claims he was fired for exposing sleeping guards

Union: Majority doing great job

Still, the union representing the screeners argues that the numbers show a majority of them are doing a great job.
"If you look at a population the size of a small city -- 56,000 people in this work force -- and the numbers then on an annual basis are then really, really small," said David Borer of the American Federation of Government Employees.
But Mica isn't buying it.
"Why are there so many cases and, then, what is TSA doing about that?" he asks. "The report says they can't really get a handle on it. That raises a lot of issues."
 

Recommendations

The government report calls on the TSA to improve how they monitor allegations of misconduct and how they follow up after investigations.
The TSA told CNN it is "already working to implement" the recommendations.

North Korea Claims to Have Nuclear Suicide Bombers

The North Koreans have added a new element to their standard military pageantry: At a military parade on Saturday, units of soldiers were seen wearing packs, like backwards backpacks, with fallout symbols on them. Apparently, Kim Jong-Un's military wants the world to think that they have, or are close to developing, a tactical nuclear device small enough to fit in a backpack. In fact, in 2011, DailyNK reported that the North Koreans had established a "backpack bomb unit." It's pretty unlikely that the nation possesses the advanced technology to miniaturize their weapons enough for such a device, but it is impossible to be sure. This kernel of a doubt is what North Korea is trying to leverage.
Not much is known about the so-called Hermit Kingdom, but there are some reasonable estimates of their military strength. South Korea calculates that the North has roughly 13,000 artillery guns, capable of shelling Seoul at a moment's notice. The North Korean Army is thought to number at 1.2 million troops. These troops greatly outnumber the South's 700,000 troops, meaning if they swarmed the DMZ they could overwhelm the South's line of defense.

The good news is the North's military equipment is vastly inferior. As seen on videos of their training exercises, it seems to be mostly Cold-War-era equipment from the communist bloc and is decades old. This weakness is most apparent when it comes to their air force. The North may initially overwhelm the South, but would quickly be repelled by U.S. air superiority, quickly destroyed by a force made up of B-2 Stealth Bombers and F-22 Raptors.
Although North Korea is believed to possess between four and eight nuclear weapons and has conducted three nuclear tests, it still has not developed a viable delivery system. That's where North Korea's best asset could compensate: its special forces. Ruthlessly trained, they number in the tens of thousands and are well-known for their proficiency with headshots, swimming up to 30 miles, and a fanatical devotion to the Dear Leader. These forces could infiltrate deep into South Korean territory through a vast network of underground tunnels, and would quickly begin waging a guerilla war inside South Korea, terrorizing the populace by attacking grocery stores and hospitals as well water plants and power stations. It is these forces that would also likely carry out the theorized nuclear backpack suicide raids.
Thankfully, it is unlikely that North Korea can fit a device on a missile, let alone make one small enough for a backpack. But they obviously want the world to think they are close, hence the establishment of the backbomb unit. It's likely that this is yet another case of saber-rattling by the North. But when it comes to nuclear war, you only need to be wrong once.

Surveillance project in Oakland, CA will use Homeland Security funds to link surveillance cameras, license-plate readers, gunshot detectors, and Twitter feeds into a surveillance program for the entire city

With this city repeatedly roiled by civil protests and the public’s attention sharply focused on government surveillance, local officials are pushing forward with a federally funded project to link surveillance cameras, license-plate readers, gunshot detectors, Twitter feeds, alarm notifications and other data into a unified “situational awareness” tool for law enforcement.
The Domain Awareness Center, a joint project between the Port of Oakland and city, started as a nationwide initiative to secure ports by networking sensors and cameras in and around the facilities. The busy port is one of seven U.S. maritime facilities that the Department of Homeland Security considers at highest risk of a terrorist attack.
Since its inception in 2009, the project has ballooned into a surveillance program for the entire city. Some officials already have proposed linking the center to a regional Department of Homeland Security intelligence-gathering operation or adding feeds from surveillance cameras around the Oakland stadium and arena complex.
On Tuesday evening, the Oakland City Council was expected to approve an additional $2 million in federal grants to fund the build-out of the surveillance center at Oakland's Emergency Operations Center on Martin Luther King Jr. Way. But following an outcry from public speakers about the center’s lack of privacy guidelines or data retention limits, the council pulled the item from the consent calendar and postponed a vote until July 30.
Councilwoman Desley Brooks criticized the decision to place the funding on the consent calendar, which normally is reserved for routine matters. “Consent items are supposed to be noncontroversial,” Brooks said. “Clearly, it is very controversial.”
Joshua Daniels, one of the speakers during the meeting, said the surveillance center would give a great deal of power to the Oakland Police Department, which he said “doesn't respect the rights” of Oakland residents. 
“This city has a huge trust issue,” Daniels said, “and it's not going to be solved by spying on your citizens.”
Approval of the $2 million grant would fund the incorporation into the Domain Awareness Center of sensors and cameras from outside agencies such as the state Department of Transportation, the Metropolitan Transportation Commission, the Oakland Unified School District, the O.co Coliseum and Oracle Arena, as well as regional law enforcement intelligence centers.
The expansion of Oakland’s surveillance facilities comes after months of Occupy Oakland unrest and recent protests over the acquittal of George Zimmerman in the Trayvon Martin shooting in Florida. And it comes amid a fierce debate about government and corporate surveillance on private activities and the massive accumulation of data about ordinary activities.
The Oakland Domain Awareness Center currently does not have privacy guidelines or limits for retaining the data it collects, raising concerns from civil libertarians and privacy advocates.  Eighteen license-plate readers mounted on Oakland police vehicles and city infrastructure already collect and retain millions of license-plate records.
Linda Lye, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California who led protests against the Alameda County sheriff’s proposed purchase of an aerial drone this year, called the Oakland surveillance center “a classic illustration of mission creep.”
“What are the limits on dissemination?” Lye asked. “And what are the privacy and safety protocols for handling this information internally and through outside agencies?”
Ahsan Baig, Oakland's information technology manager, said guidelines on privacy and data retention would be developed during the next year. Because the surveillance center will draw on different types of sensors and cameras, Baig said drafting such policies would be a complex process.
Lee Tien, a senior staff attorney with the nonprofit Electronic Frontier Foundation, said the level of unrest Oakland has experienced in recent years made the issue an easy sell to city. But Tien said he is concerned that the center lacks guidelines about data use or retention.
“There's no indication they've considered any privacy or civil liberties issue in the first place,” Tien said. He noted Oakland's center is explicitly oriented toward the city, unlike the center at the Port of Long Beach in Southern California, which he said has a maritime focus.
“They're looking at the water,” Tien said, “while the Port of Oakland is looking at the people in the city.”
When Oakland’s project first began, it was focused on the port. But Renee Domingo, the city’s director of emergency services, said the city’s public safety challenges and the sprawling nature of the port – which also operates Oakland International Airport – prompted officials to design an “all-hazards system” capable of aiding responses to crime, terrorism, earthquakes and other disasters.
Officials expect to unveil the center in mid-2014. A sergeant and an analyst from the Oakland Police Department, as well as someone from the Port of Oakland, will work at the facility. The city and port are applying for another federal grant of $2.6 million to fund these positions.
City documents indicate the projected cost is roughly $10.9 million in federal grant funding. To date, $3.4 million in federal grants has been spent on the project.
As planned, the center would integrate computer dispatch systems for the Oakland police and fire departments, gunshot detection microphones and license-plate readers. It includes use of crime mapping software and stationary video cameras, private alarm detection programs, Twitter feeds, news feeds and other alerts for increased “situational awareness” and “more effective incident response,” according to Baig, who briefed the City Council’s Public Safety Committee this month. 
Key to the operation is a geographic information system map with overlaid points that represent cameras, license-plate readers, sensors and other infrastructure that feeds into the central network. Multiple camera feeds, sensor indicators and maps can be viewed simultaneously on-screen alongside alerts from other government agencies. Alarms, crime reports and trends in offenses are accessible through a “Crime View” portal.  
For the fire department, the system would greatly expand its view of a crisis situation. Battalion Chief Darin White pointed to a fiery tanker crash on Interstate 880 in 2008 that spilled a thousand gallons of fuel and prompted a massive emergency response. In such situations, White said the surveillance center “will be able to see and have real-time situational awareness as they're responding to an incident.”
Former New York and Los Angeles Police Chief William Bratton suggested that the Oakland Police Department make use of the port surveillance project in his May report on improving the department’s investigations. The report recommended that the department “significantly increase” its surveillance cameras in commercial areas “to provide identifications and evidence in robbery, burglary and some shooting cases. Cameras would be monitored and recorded at the Domain Awareness Center that is currently under construction.”
Even before the Domain Awareness Center is open, some officials are talking about expanding its scope.
At the recent Public Safety Committee meeting, Domingo said Coliseum complex officials are willing to integrate into the system the 135 surveillance cameras around the stadium and arena.
According to Domingo, negotiations among the city, port and law enforcement officials are underway to make the system accessible to law enforcement intelligence centers, including the Northern California Regional Intelligence Center and ARIES, a regional law enforcement information-sharing network.
The item the Oakland City Council postponed until July 30 would have approved a contract for Science Applications International Corp. – a Virginia-based company that builds large-scale surveillance systems, drones and computer networks for the private and public sectors – to construct the new center. The company also would have received a waiver to the company from competitive bidding rules, because it won the contract for the surveillance center's design phase.
Mary Madden, an activist with Alameda County Against Drones, highlighted the proposed extent of the surveillance center's reach. “This would integrate city and port surveillance with private surveillance, as well as the CCTV (closed-circuit television) feeds monitoring children in Oakland schools,” she said. “How this will help protect the port, I have no idea.”
Long Beach is the site of the only other Domain Awareness Center in California, where a $21 million surveillance center monitors port facilities, surrounding waterways and rail and road infrastructure. Los Angeles and Seattle are building their own domain awareness centers for local ports with federal funding. New York and Chicago also have networked surveillance centers led by local police departments.
The Southern California fusion center and local law enforcement have access to the Port of Long Beach system, which also makes use of cameras, alarms and sensors from port facilities. Eighty-seven private and public entities participate in the system, according to Cosmo Perrone, the port’s former security director.
Perrone said the Long Beach system is oriented toward the water and facilities surrounding the port rather than the entire city. But he emphasized that each port facility has its own unique geography and security concerns.
“Each port is so different in the way they operate,” Perrone said. “It's very hard to make comparisons between ports.”

California Student Who Had to Drink His Own Urine While in DEA Custody Settles With U.S. Gov for $4 Million

A 25-year old college student has reached a $4.1 million settlement with the federal government after he was abandoned in a windowless Drug Enforcement Administration cell for more than four days without food or water, his attorneys said Tuesday.
The DEA introduced national detention standards as a result of the ordeal involving Daniel Chong, including daily inspections and a requirement for cameras in cells, said Julia Yoo, one of his lawyers.
Chong said he drank his own urine to stay alive, hallucinated that agents were trying to poison him with gases through the vents, and tried to carve a farewell message to his mother in his arm.
It remained unclear how the situation occurred, and no one has been disciplined, said Eugene Iredale, another attorney for Chong. The Justice Department's inspector general is investigating.
"It sounded like it was an accident — a really, really bad, horrible accident," Chong said.
Chong was taken into custody during a drug raid and placed in the cell in April 2012 by a San Diego police officer authorized to perform DEA work on a task force. The officer told Chong he would not be charged and said, "Hang tight, we'll come get you in a minute," Iredale said.
The door to the 5-by-10-foot cell did not reopen for 4 1/2 days.
Justice Department spokeswoman Allison Price confirmed the settlement was reached for $4.1 million but declined to answer other questions. The DEA didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.
Detective Gary Hassen, a San Diego police spokesman, referred questions to the DEA.
Since attorney fees are capped at 20 percent of damages and the settlement payment is tax-free, Chong will collect at least $3.2 million, Iredale said. Chong, now an economics student at the University of California, San Diego, said he planned to buy his parents a house.
Chong was a 23-year-old engineering student when he was at a friend's house where the DEA found 18,000 ecstasy pills, other drugs and weapons. Iredale acknowledged Chong was there to consume marijuana.
Chong and eight other people were taken into custody, but authorities decided against pursing charges against him after questioning.
Chong said he began to hallucinate on the third day in the cell. He urinated on a metal bench so he could have something to drink. He also stacked a blanket, his pants and shoes on a bench and tried to reach an overhead fire sprinkler, futilely swatting at it with his cuffed hands to set it off.
Chong said he accepted the possibility of death. He bit into his eyeglasses to break them and used a shard of glass to try to carve "Sorry Mom" onto his arm so he could leave something for her. He only managed to finish an "S."
Chong said he slid a shoelace under the door and screamed to get attention before five or six people found him covered in his feces in the cell at the DEA's San Diego headquarters.
"All I wanted was my sanity," Chong said. "I wasn't making any sense."
Chong was hospitalized for five days for dehydration, kidney failure, cramps and a perforated esophagus. He lost 15 pounds.
The DEA issued a rare public apology at the time.
U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, the Judiciary Committee's ranking Republican, on Tuesday renewed his call for the DEA to explain the incident.
"How did this incident happen? Has there been any disciplinary action against the responsible employees? And has the agency taken major steps to prevent an incident like this from happening again?" he said.

How life began on Earth may help clarify where else it might exist


A unique theory that talks about how life started on Earth has the potential to reveal clues about where else it might have arisen in the universe.

A novel and potentially testable theory of how life arose on earth, first advanced more than 25 years ago by Michael Russell, a research scientist in Planetary Chemistry and Astrobiology at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory , was further developed by Russell, Wolfgang Nitschke, a team leader at the National Center for Scientific Research in Marseille, France; and Elbert Branscomb, an affiliate faculty member at the Institute for Genomic Biology (IGB) at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

This just-released paper, together with a companion paper by Russell and Nitschke in the same journal issue significantly advance the hypothesis and bring it substantially closer to experimental testing - an effort already underway by Russell and his collaborators who are developing experimental model systems that can recreate, and test, the essential principals of the theory.

Notably, the Russell theory provides potential explanations for several puzzling aspects of how life works, including, for example, how it taps into and exploits sources of energy.

This strange energy conversion process works by using externally supplied energy to constantly pump a lot more protons onto one side of a biological membrane than the other and then having them flow back "downhill" immediately, but only through a turbine-like molecular engine which creates a chemical fuel called ATP; a fuel that cells "burn" in order to power vital cell processes.

This process would be an exact parallel to the hydroelectric generation of electrical energy if some other source of energy was first required to pump water up hill behind a dam to then flow down to drive turbines. The question is why is this strange and seemingly inefficient process used?

Russell's theory suggests an answer: when life began it wasn't necessary to pump protons, the proton gradient was already there for the taking.

Russell's theory sees life coming into being as a natural physical consequence of a geochemical process called serpentinization that produced, for free, the system's major components: cell-like compartments surrounded by membranes, the right proton concentration differences between the inside and outside of these mineral membranes, and primitive, "mineral-based" forms of the "turbine" motors needed to make a molecule like ATP.

The process of serpentinization occurs when water gravitates down cracks in hot, newly formed ocean crust, where it reacts chemically with the minerals in the rocks in a reaction that produces an extremely alkaline (pH ~13) effluent, rich in hydrogen and methane and the metal molybdenum, so important as a catalyst in life.

This effluent is then driven back to the surface where, in the ocean of early earth, it contacted cooler, acidic (~ pH 5.5), and CO2-rich water to create precipitates that form chimney-like submarine towers.

These precipitates are highly structured with a myriad of cell-like compartments surrounded by mineral membranes-akin to our own. And across these membranes, separating acidic ocean and alkaline effluent, stood essentially the same proton gradient-in strength and direction-that the cells of all living things on earth are constantly recreating and then immediately using today.

12 Foods That Lower Cholesterol Naturally

Snack on nuts. Drizzle a little olive oil on your salad. Dine on salmon. Nibble some chocolate—guilt free!
These, and more, eating strategies can help lower "bad guy" LDL cholesterol, maintain "good guy" HDL cholesterol, and help you reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke.
What follows are Prevention's choices for the top cholesterol-lowering foods. If you're already eating plenty of them, keep up the good work. If you're eating more high cholesterol foods, begin adding these alternatives into your diet today. For best results, remember to include these foods as part of a well-balanced diet and fitness plan.
From sweets to drinks, see all 12 foods that can improve your cholesterol.
 

1. Oats

If you’re looking to lower your cholesterol, the key may be simply changing your morning meal. Switching up your breakfast to contain two servings of oats can lower LDL cholesterol by 5.3% in only 6 weeks. The key to this cholesterol buster is beta-glucan, a substance in oats that absorbs LDL, which your body then excretes.
 

2. Red wine

Scientists are giving us yet another reason to drink to our health. It turns out that high-fiber Tempranillo red grapes, used to make red wine like Rioja, may actually have a significant effect on cholesterol levels. A study conducted by the department of metabolism and nutrition at Universidad Complutense de Madrid in Spain found that when individuals consumed the same grape supplement found in red wine, their LDL levels decreased by 9%. In addition, those who had high cholesterol going into the study saw a 12% drop in LDL.

3. Salmon & fatty fish

Omega-3 fats are one of the natural health wonders of the world and have been shown to ward off heart disease, dementia, and many other diseases. Now these fatty acids can add yet another health benefit to their repertoire: lowering cholesterol. According to research from Loma Linda University, replacing saturated fats with omega-3s like those found in salmon, sardines, and herring can raise good cholesterol as much as 4%.
 

4. Nuts

If you’re looking to lower cholesterol levels, research shows that you should get cracking! In a study published by the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, people who noshed on 1.5 ounces of whole walnuts 6 days a week for 1 month lowered their total cholesterol by 5.4% and LDL cholesterol by 9.3%. Almonds and cashews are other good options. However, while nuts are heart healthy, they're also high in calories, so practice portion control—1.5 ounces is about a shot glass and a half. Use a shot glass to measure out your portion so you can see exactly how it looks.
 

5. Beans

Beans, beans—they really are good for your heart. Researchers at Arizona State University Polytechnic found that adding 1/2 cup of beans to soup lowers total cholesterol, including LDL, by up to 8%. The key to this heart-healthy food is its abundance of fiber, which has been shown to slow the rate and amount of absorption of cholesterol in certain foods. Try black, kidney, or pinto beans; each supplies about one-third of your day's fiber needs.
 

6. Tea

While tea has become well known for its cancer-fighting antioxidants, it is also a great defense against LDL cholesterol levels. According to research conducted with the USDA, black tea has been shown to reduce blood lipids by up to 10% in only 3 weeks. These findings were concluded in a larger study of how tea may also help reduce the risk of coronary heart disease.
 

7. Chocolate

Ah, the sweet side of a heart-healthy diet: This powerful antioxidant helps build HDL cholesterol levels. In a 2007 study published in AJCN, participants who were given cocoa powder had a 24% increase in HDL levels over 12 weeks, compared with a 5% increase in the control group. Remember to choose the dark or bittersweet kind. Compared to milk chocolate, it has more than 3 times as many antioxidants, which prevent blood platelets from sticking together and may even keep arteries unclogged.
 

5 Ways to Reduce Inflammation In Your Body


Some of the causes of chronic inflammation…

Chronic inflammation is triggered by numerous factors, but most of them are within your control and can be avoided. Take a look at this list. Anything sound familiar?
  • Poor dietary choices like processed foods, too many animal products, sugary drinks, trans fats and certain unhealthy saturated fats, and excess alcohol
  • Gut health issues
  • Food allergies
  • Chronic infections (bacteria, viruses, yeast, parasites)
  • Stress and exhaustion
  • Sedentary lifestyle
There are countless other causes of chronic inflammation, but these are some of the biggies. If you don’t think that these things are a risk to your long term health — think again. Next stop, the toll they take on your well-being.

The results of chronic inflammation…

Over time, chronic inflammation wears out your immune system, leading to chronic diseases and other health issues, including cancer, asthma, autoimmune diseases, allergies, irritable bowel syndrome, arthritis, osteoporosis, and even (gasp!) appearing older than your years. Unfortunately, these challenges are often only treated with drugs and surgery, which may provide temporary relief from the symptoms, but do not treat the root of the problem. In addition, these drugs (and their side effects) sometimes only add to your health problems. Could it be that many of the pills in your cabinet are just band-aids and that the key to health lies in your daily diet and lifestyle choices? 

The integrative MDs are helping their patients identify and address their health issues by looking at the way they lead their lives and nipping their inflammation-inducing habits in the bud. If possible, find an integrative doctor who can help you along the way and target your unique needs. They can also test your blood for inflammation (make sure your doc requests a CRP—C-reactive Protein test).
Although this may seem overwhelming, it’s actually the opposite. The following tips will empower you and help you reduce inflammation over time.

How to reduce chronic inflammation…

1. Eat more plant-based, whole, nutrient-dense foods. Crowd out the inflammatory foods we discussed above (refined sugar and flour, processed junk, animal products, etc.) by adding a variety of plant-based whole foods to your diet. These foods will flood your body with the vitamins, minerals, cancer-fighting phytochemicals, antioxidants and fiber it needs to recover from chronic inflammation.

2. Focus on gut health. Your gut holds approximately 60-70 percent of your immune system, so it stands to reason that it would be a great place to reduce chronic inflammation. And if your gut is in bad shape, you can only imagine that your immune system is in some serious trouble. A great way to start is by taking a daily probiotic.

3. Identify and address food allergies and chronic (or hidden) infections. You could be fighting a losing battle if you’re ignoring potential food sensitivities and/or infections. If your body is working to cope and fight these challenges everyday, you can bet that you’re stoking the fires of inflammation on a regular basis.
Gluten, soy, dairy, eggs, and yeast are common food allergens that might be distracting your immune system every time you sit down for a meal. These allergies can be identified with a blood test.
Become a symptoms detective. Only you can determine how you feel when you eat, which is where an elimination diet comes in handy. While following the elimination approach, you remove all common allergens from your diet and then slowly reintroduce them, one by one. Talk to your doc about these options, and do some independent research at Google University.
Another possibility worth exploring is chronic infection (bacteria, viruses, yeast, parasites). These guys could be hiding out in your body just under the radar and dragging your immune system down. You have a couple options for testing — look at your bloodwork and/or your poop. It may not be pretty, but knowledge is power, so be brave and have your stool checked.
You may also want to look into Leaky Gut Syndrome, a condition that can result in damage to your intestinal lining. When this occurs, bacteria, undigested food and other toxins can literally “leak” into your bloodstream, triggering an autoimmune response and a host of painful inflammatory symptoms. A simple urine test, such as Genova Diagnostics’ Intestinal Permeability Test, will tell you if you need to plug up those leaks — so to speak.

4. Relax and rest more. Your body is hard at work repairing and restoring your glorious cells while you sleep. Most doctors recommend seven to eight hours of sleep per night. If you’re cutting corners in the snooze department, you’re cheating your immune system, which means it needs to kick into high gear in an effort to keep you well (hello, inflammation!).
Stress goes hand in hand with a lack of sleep and a laundry list of demands in our daily lives. Unfortunately, when you’re stressed out all the time, you’re also producing more of the hormone cortisol  — inflammation’s BFF. It stands to reason that you can easily reduce chronic inflammation by focusing on stress reduction, whether it’s through more sleep, yoga, meditation, long walks, less technology or a much needed vacation. 

5. Reduce toxins in your food, home and personal care products. Your body’s alarm system goes off when you absorb toxic chemicals and pesticides through your digestive tract and your skin. Cut down your exposure by eating organic foods whenever possible and choosing non-toxic personal care and cleaning products.

Everything You Will Ever Need to Know About Dairy-free Milk Alternatives

If you have decided to ditch the dairy in your diet, your body will thank you. Between 30 and 50 million Americans are lactose intolerant, and the consumption of dairy products has been linked to everything from increased risk of ovarian and prostate cancers to ear infections and diabetes. Fortunately, plant-based milks provide a convenient and healthful alternative to cow's milk. And if you are currently making the transition to a dairy-free diet, you will find that going dairy-free has never been easier. Soy, almond, hemp, coconut, and rice milks, among others are taking over supermarket aisles and can replace dairy in everything from your morning cereal to baked goods and desserts! There are dozens of brands of plant-based milks and hundreds of options to choose from to meet everyone's individual tastes and nutritional needs.

Check out some top plant-based milk options below:

1. Almond Milk


 Almond milk doesn't taste anything like dairy milk, offering its own unique light and nutty flavor. This yummy dairy-free beverage provides us with minerals such as copper, magnesium, manganese, and potassium, as well as antioxidants selenium and vitamin E. Almond milk is versatile and can be used in baking, hot drinks, smoothies, as well as drunk alone. It is sometimes flavored with chocolate or vanilla.

2. Coconut Milk


 Coconut milk is high in fiber, vitamins B1, B3, B5, B6, C, and E, as well as various minerals such as calcium, iron, magnesium, phosphorous, selenium, sodium, and zinc. It also contains a high level of omega 3, 6 and 9 fats along with essential amino acids. The only downside to coconut milk is the high content of saturated fat, and because of the link between this and coronary heart disease, coconut milk is seen as a food that should be consumed in moderation. Coconut milk is high in fiber, however, which makes us feel fuller for longer, therefore helping to control consumption and weight. 

3. Hemp Milk


 Hemp milk is rich in plant-based omega-3 fatty acid ALA, which has been proven to help lower blood pressure and cholesterol. It also contains omega-6 fatty acids, all 10 essential amino acids, calcium, folic acid, riboflavin, phosphorous, potassium, magnesium, iron, zinc, as well as vitamins A, B12, D and E. Hemp milk is creamier and thicker than most other milk alternatives and has a delicious and original flavor that cannot be easily distinguished from dairy milk when mixed in beverages.

4. Oat Milk


 Oat milk is high in fiber and iron, as well as low in calories, fat and sugars. It can enhance the immune system, maintain healthy blood sugar and cholesterol levels, as well as protect against heart disease, strokes, and some cancers. In addition it provides important minerals including manganese, potassium, phosphorus, as well as vitamins A, B, and E. Oat milk is very versatile and can be used in baking, cooking, drunk plain, or added to cereal and hot beverages.

5. Rice Milk


 Rice Milk is a dairy-free grain milk made from (generally) brown rice, which for the most part remains unsweetened, although some rice milks are now sweetened with natural ingredients such as sugarcane. Rice milk is fortified with minerals and vitamins, including calcium, iron, niacin, as well as vitamins A, B12 and D. It is also low in fat, making it a particularly good milk substitute for baking, cooking, and drinks. As with almond, coconut, hemp, and oat, rice milk is a great milk alternative for those who are allergic to soy, although not offering the same health benefits. 

6. Soy Milk


 Soy milk contains omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, which aid blood pressure and cholesterol reduction, and helps protect against cardiovascular and neurological diseases. It is an excellent source of copper, iron, magnesium, manganese, phosphorous and zinc, helping to control blood pressure, improve blood oxygenation, and protect against other diseases. There are an unbelievable number of soy milk brands on the market at the moment, all offering a huge array of soy milk products.  

There are a handful of other plant-based milks, including flax, hazelnut and quinoa, although these are a lot harder to obtain. Sometimes, however, it's possible to find them blended with other grains and nuts, such as almonds or rice. Good luck on your dairy-free adventures!

July 30, 2013

Russian lawmaker says gay athletes will be arrested at the Olympics in 2014

A Russian lawmaker has said the ‘gay propaganda’ law will remain enforced during the Sochi Winter Olympic Games in 2014.
Vitaly Milonov, co-sponsor of the ‘non-traditional relationships’ bill, said the government cannot decide when to selectively enforce the law.
It comes as the International Olympic Committee said the Russian government had ‘assured’ them all athletes and spectators will be safe from arrest.
Speaking to Interfax and as translated by GSN, Milonov said: ‘I have not heard any comments from the government of the Russian Federation but I know it is acting in accordance with Russian law.
‘If a law has been approved by the federal legislature and signed by the president, then the government has no right to suspend it. It doesn’t have the authority.’
In the interview, the lawmaker claimed the law is ‘defending children from the propaganda of non-traditional values’ and nothing to do with ‘the ordinary life of adults’.
Milonov said while he personally did not know any LGBT people, he said: ‘I can say that the best figure-skating in the world is the Soviet school of figure skating.
‘All of our people have been brought up in a very traditional way, I am personally acquainted with many Olympic champions. In fact, I practically grew up among many of those families.’
Milonov was the deputy responsible for the law prohibiting ‘gay propaganda’ in St Petersburg, beginning the trend that led to the nationwide ban.
After Russian LGBT rights campaigner Nikolai Alekseev said there was ‘no point’ in boycotting vodkaa petition began calling for the United States to ban Milonov from entering the country. Elena Mizulina, who was the State Duma deputy responsible for the federal law, is also on the proposed visa ban petition.
Speaking to RIA Novosti, Milonov said: ‘I get word of such things from time to time. I absolutely don’t get nervous about this subject.’
‘Having spoken with many American politicians, I understand that they support the stance I’ve taken on this issue,’ he added. ‘Such support has also been expressed to me by several members of German parliament.
According to the petition organizers, they need 100,000 signatures by 25 August for it to be considered by the Secretary of State John Kerry. At the time of writing, they have just over 2,600.

FL police arrest man having stroke for failing to follow commands. Man spent full day lying on the floor of a cell, trying to crawl. Man dies.

An inmate's death from an untreated stroke has prompted a $1 million settlement and a government investigation.
The Tampa Bay Times reports on the circumstances surrounding Allen Daniel Hicks' last days:
Hicks, 51, was arrested in May 2012 after veering off Interstate 275 in Tampa. He was booked into jail without a medical screening, rambling incoherently and dragging his left leg.
More than a full day passed — during much of which Hicks lay on the floor of his cell or tried to crawl using only his right limbs — before he was taken to Tampa General Hospital and immediately diagnosed with a severe ischemic stroke. He slipped into a coma and died months later.
Police said they arrested Hicks because he failed to follow commands to get out of his vehicle.
Now the state's health department is launching an investigation into Hicks' death which, the Times reports, will largely focus on the actions of Armor Correctional Health Services Inc., a private company that has been contracted to take care of Hillsborough prisoners.
The announcement of the investigation comes the same month that Hicks' family agreed to a $1 million settlement with the Hillsborough County Sheriff's Office and Armor, according to WFLA.
"You should be able to get help from medical personnel and police officers and not be taken to jail, and we feel the highway patrol and EMT should have much better training on recognizing stroke victims," attorney Paul Rebein, who represented Hicks' family, said.
In previous comments to The Huffington Post, David Fathi, the director of the American Civil Liberties Union National Prison Project, said the government is constitutionally required to protect prisoners' health. “Prison officials have a duty under the Constitution to provide prisoners with adequate medical care," Fathi said in an email. "When they violate that duty, the results can be tragic.”
Companies looking out for their bottom lines have no business providing services to prisoners, according to Fathi.
"We believe that incarceration is a uniquely governmental function that should never be contracted out to private, for-profit corporations," Fathi said. "When you combine the profit motive with limited oversight and an unpopular, politically powerless group like prisoners, it’s a recipe for bad outcomes.”

NSA could have planted Permanent Backdoors in Intel And AMD Chips

One of Silicon Valley’s most respected technology experts, Steve Blank, says he would be “surprised” if the US National Security Agency was not embedding “back doors” inside chips produced by Intel and AMD, two of the world’s largest semiconductor firms, giving them the possibility to access and control machines.
The claims come after The ­Australian Financial Review revealed that computers made by Chinese firm Lenovo are banned from the “secret” and “top secret” ­networks of the intelligence and defence services of Australia, the US, Britain, Canada and New Zealand because of concerns they are vulnerable to being hacked.
Internationally renowned security research engineer Jonathan Brossard, who unveiled what Forbesdescribed as an “undetectable and incurable” permanent back door at last year’s prestigious Black Hat conference, told the Financial Review that he had independently concluded that CPU back doors are “attractive attack vectors”.
If correct, the allegations would raise the stakes in a growing cyber cold war, and fuel claims that US snooping leaves the Chinese in the shade.
A spokesperson for Intel however said there was “no basis for these highly speculative claims”.
Mr Blank, who began his career working as a National Security Agency contractor at its Pine Gap facility, now teaches at Stanford University, writes for The Harvard Business Review and The Wall Street Journal, and in 2013 was nominated by Forbes as one of the 30 most influential people in technology.
Mr Blank said when he learned the NSA had secured “pre-encryption stage” access to Microsoft’s email products via the PRISM leaks, he recognised that “pretty much all our computers have a way for the NSA to get inside their hardware” before a user can even think about applying encryption or other defensive measures.
He said this may be why the Kremlin is returning to the use of electric typewritersRussia’s Federal Guard Service, which protects President Vladimir Putin and Kremlin communications, says it was prompted to adopt type-writers by the scale and complexity of the NSA operations leaked by Edward Snowden.
Mr Blank is an expert in the ‘microprocessors’ or ‘chips’ inside every computer, having helped start two semiconductor companies and a supercomputer firm.

HACKING PREFERABLE TO CRACKING CODES

He said hacking equipment was preferable for the NSA, rather than cracking codes.
“They have a proven capacity to figure out how to read messages before and after they get encrypted,” Mr Blank said.
He said that up until the mid-1990s the bugs frequently found in computer microprocessors, or CPUs, could only be physically fixed by replacing the chip.
But after a 1994 bug in Intel’s chips cost the company half a billion dollars to recall, they decided to avoid this problem by ensuring all microprocessors could be automatically fixed via patches that are loaded on to your computer by the manufacturer or online through Microsoft updates.
Other chip companies, such as AMD, have adopted the same approach.
Modern computer chips contain microcode that is reprogrammable using these occasional patches. “Since 2000, Intel has distributed 29 microcode revisions to their chips, which can be downloaded on to your computer by a Microsoft security update,” Mr Blank said.
He noted that while the NSA had been “exceptionally thorough nailing down every conceivable way to tap into communications”, two conspicuous absences from the raft of high-profile technology firms named in the PRISM leaks were Intel and AMD.
“Perhaps they are the only good guys,” he said.
“Or perhaps the NSA – legally compelling the chip vendors and/or Microsoft, or working outside of them – have compromised the microcode updates that affect most computers.”

WINDOWS UPDATE OF BACKDOOR?

Mr Blank said that if an intelligence agency was able to legally acquire or independently compromise the “signing keys” used to secure microcode updates, they could also target specific computers rather than the mass market.
“They could then install a backdoor on your computer disguised as a Windows security update – and you would think everything was great,” he said.
Mr Brossard, an international security researcher who advises Commonwealth Bank and other large financial institutions, emphatically agrees.
“If you want to own the entire internet, this is how you do it because most people run Wintel,” he said.
“If you could access, or break, the crypto keys used to ‘sign’ Intel CPU updates, you basically win.”
In the early 1990s the NSA tried (and failed) to the get the US telecommunications industry to adopt a standardised “clipper chip”, which the NSA invented as a way to encrypt voice transmissions.
All new devices with Clipper chips would have a “cryptographic key” that the US government could unlock if it wanted to monitor communications.
Mr Blank said intelligence agencies could also use microcode updates to interfere with a computer’s “random number generator”.
“Every processor has a random number generator, which is a fancy term for a roulette wheel. Every piece of encryption software depends on that roulette wheel coming up random every time,” he says.
“If you rig that process, an intelligence agency could decrypt or read that supposedly unbreakable code as fast as somebody could type,” he said.
This is not mere fantasy, Mr Blank argues: “One of the NSA’s biggest intelligence coups was insertingback doors into supposedly neutral crypto equipment Switzerland sold to other countries.”

DEA Leaves Man In Cell for 4 Days Without Any Food Or Water

The case of a detained college student who was forgotten in a holding cell for more than four days suggests a breakdown in procedure and oversight within the Drug Enforcement Administration, a California federal lawmaker said Thursday.
Republican Congressman Duncan Hunter said in a letter sent Thursday to DEA Administrator Michele Leonhart that the treatment of 23-year-old Daniel Chong raises concerns about the agency's handling and monitoring of individuals in custody.
Chong was swept up in a drug raid on April 21. After questioning him, agents told him that he would not be charged and to hang tight in the holding cell until they finished the paperwork to release him. The door did not reopen until April 25 when agents found a severely dehydrated Chong covered in his own feces.
Chong spent five days in the hospital.
The incident was one of the worst cases of its kind, law enforcement experts say.
Hunter said he wants a full account of Chong's incarceration, the process currently in place for holding individuals suspected of unlawful activity and the steps that the DEA is taking to address this matter in its entirety.
"The situation involving Chong may in fact be an isolated incident," Hunter wrote. "Regardless, my concern is that this situation could also be a symptom of a bigger problem, with errors in procedure and oversight possibly extending to the division's law enforcement function."
Hunter said such oversight is especially important given the DEA's presence in the U.S.-Mexico border region. He is asking for information on any other investigations pertaining to the San Diego division.
A federal law enforcement official familiar with DEA operations said the agency's protocols require that cells be checked each night. The official, who spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to discuss the matter, said the cell where Chong was held is not intended for overnight stays because it does not have a toilet.
The top DEA agent in San Diego, William R. Sherman, said in a statement that he was "deeply troubled" by what happened to Chong and has personally ordered an extensive review of his office's policies and procedures. Sherman also issued an apology to Chong, though the student said he was not personally contacted by Sherman.
Chong told The Associated Press in an interview that he screamed and kicked the door after waiting hours in the cell.
Then as the days dragged on, the terrifying realization set in that he was trapped. He had been forgotten in a 5-by-10-foot windowless room, hearing only the muffled sounds of voices and toilets flushing in the Drug Enforcement Administration facility in San Diego.
On the third day, he began to hallucinate. He urinated on a metal bench to be able to drink his urine. He stacked a blanket, his pants and shoes on the bench and tried to reach an overhead fire sprinkler, futilely swatting at it with his cuffed hands to set it off.
Then, the engineering student says he gave up and accepted death. He bit into his eyeglasses to break them. He says he used a shard of glass to carve "Sorry Mom" onto his arm so he could leave something for her.
He managed to finish an "S." He says he considered ending his life with the glass to quicken his death.
"I pretty much lost my mind," he told The Associated Press on Wednesday.
Help came after four days, when agents on a fluke opened the door and found him covered in his own feces. He says a bewildered agent asked: "Where'd you come from?"
Chong was treated in the hospital for dehydration, kidney failure, cramps and a perforated esophagus. He had lost 15 pounds.
His attorneys filed a $20 million claim on Wednesday against the federal agency, saying his treatment constitutes torture under U.S. and international law. The five-page notice, a required precursor to a lawsuit, was sent to the DEA's chief counsel in Washington, D.C. The $20 million figure refers to the maximum amount that Chong and his lawyers would seek.
Chong told the AP his ordeal started after he went to his friend's house on April 20 to get high, part of a national, annual countercultural ritual on that date. Chong slept there that night and, the next morning, agents stormed into the house. The raid netted 18,000 ecstasy pills, other drugs and weapons. Nine people, including Chong, were taken into custody, according to the DEA.

Moscow Metro says new tracking system is to find stolen phones; no one believes them

On Monday, a major Russian newspaper reported that Moscow’s metro system is planning what appears to be a mobile phone tracking device in its metro stations—ostensibly to search for stolen phones.
According to Izvestia (Google Translate), Andrey Mokhov, the operations chief of the Moscow Metro system’s police department, said that the system will have a range of five meters (16 feet). “If the [SIM] card is wanted, the system automatically creates a route of its movement and passes that information to the station attendant,” Mokhov said.
Many outside experts, both in and outside Russia, though, believe that what local authorities are actually deploying is a “stingray,” or “IMSI catcher”—a device that can fool a phone and SIM into reading from a fake mobile phone tower. (IMSI, or an International Mobile Subscriber Identity number, is a 15-digit unique number that sits on every SIM card.) Such devices can be used as a simple way to see what phone numbers are being used in a given area or even to intercept the audio of voice calls.
The Moscow Metro did not immediately respond to our request for comment.
“Many surveillance technologies are created and deployed with legitimate aims in mind, however the deploying of IMSI catchers sniffing mobile phones en masse is neither proportionate nor necessary for the stated aims of identifying stolen phones,” Eric King of Privacy International told Ars.
“Likewise the legal loophole they claim to be using to legitimize the practice—distinguishing between tracking a person from a SIM card—is nonsensical and unjustifiable. It's surprising it's being discussed so openly, given in many countries like the United Kingdom, they refuse to even acknowledge the existence of IMSI catchers, and any government use of the technology is strictly national security exempted.”
These devices are in use, typically by law enforcement agencies worldwide, including some in the United States. Portable, commercial IMSI catchers are made by Swiss and British companies, among others, but in 2010, security researcher Chris Paget announced that he built his own IMSI catcher for only $1,500. Still, mobile security remains spy-versus-spy to some degree, each measure matched by a countermeasure. In December 2011, Karsten Nohl, another noted mobile security researcher, released "Catcher Catcher"—a piece of software that monitors network traffic and looks at the likelihood an IMSI catcher is in use.
Keir Giles, of the Conflict Studies Research Centre, an Oxford-based Russian think tank, told Ars that Russian authorities are claiming a legal technicality.
"They are claiming that although they are legally prohibited from indiscriminate surveillance of people, the fact that they are following SIM cards which are the property of the mobile phone operators rather than the individuals carrying those SIM cards makes the tracking plans perfectly legal," he said, adding that this reasoning is "weaselly and ridiculous."
The Russian newspaper also quoted Alexander Ivanchenko, executive director of the Russian Security Industry Association, who pointed out that even to be effective, such a system would need these devices every 10 meters (32 feet).
“It is obvious that the cost of the system is not commensurate with the value of all the stolen phones,” he said. “Also, effective anti-theft technology is already known: in the US, for example, the owner of the stolen phone knows enough to call the operator—and the stolen device stops working, even if another SIM-card is inserted.”
Two major Russian mobile providers, Beeline and Megafon, have told Russian media (Google Translate) that they are unaware of this supposed anti-theft measure. On the other hand, BBC Russian reports (Google Translate) that the system is due to come online in late 2013 or early 2014.