Trump’s Racism Strikes Again Calling Africa A Sh*t hole

By: Cara Ana

Africans were shocked on Friday to find President Donald Trump had finally taken an interest in their continent. But it wasn’t what people had hoped for.

Using vulgar language, Trump on Thursday questioned why the U.S. would accept more immigrants from Haiti and “shithole countries” in Africa rather than places like Norway in rejecting a bipartisan immigration deal. On Friday he denied using that language.

The African Union continental body told The Associated Press it was “frankly alarmed” by Trump’s comments.

“Given the historical reality of how many Africans arrived in the United States as slaves, this statement flies in the face of all accepted behavior and practice,” AU spokeswoman Ebba Kalondo said.

Some African governments found themselves in an awkward position. As top recipients of U.S. aid, some hesitated to jeopardize it by criticizing Trump, especially as his administration has sought to slash foreign assistance.

“Unless it was specifically said about South Sudan, we have nothing to say,” South Sudan government spokesman Ateny Wek Ateny told the AP.

But Botswana’s government called Trump’s comment “reprehensible and racist,” saying the U.S. ambassador had been summoned to clarify whether the country was regarded so poorly after years of cordial relations. Senegal’s President Macky Sall said he was shocked and that “Africa and the black race merit the respect and consideration of all.”

Both nations have been praised by the U.S. government as stable democracies in the region.

South Africa’s ruling African National Congress called Trump’s comments “extremely offensive,” while opposition leader Mmusi Maimane said “the hatred of Obama’s roots now extends to an entire continent.” Uganda’s state minister for international relations, Henry Okello Oryem, called the remarks “unfortunate and regrettable” and hoped that heads of state will reply at an African Union summit later this month.

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Republicans Losing Hold Of The House As More Senators Hang Up Their Hats

By: Elena Schneider and John Bresnahan

A flurry of Republican retirements in recent weeks has further weakened the party’s hold on the House heading into the midterms — and the exodus probably isn’t over.

California Reps. Darrell Issa and Ed Royce both bailed on their reelection campaigns in the past 48 hours, bringing the total of Republican-held open seats to a staggering 29 districts, a figure that includes lawmakers seeking higher offices. The Issa and Royce retirements open up seats that Hillary Clinton carried in the 2016 presidential race and will be more difficult — and expensive — for Republicans to defend, particularly if the party is swept under a Democratic wave.

“There’s no putting lipstick on that: They’re both competitive districts,” Ohio Rep. Steve Stivers, chairman of the National Republican Congressional Committee, said in an interview Wednesday.

Stivers, who said he believes the party will keep control of the House, still cautioned that more retirements could be coming — a statement likely to rattle Republicans’ nerves.

“We’re talking to a handful [of members],” Stivers said. “There’s not much hand-holding now because people have pretty much made their decision. Filing days are coming, so I think we’re pretty much through it.”

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MoneyGram Signs Up For The Digital Currency Movement

By: Ryan Brown of CNBC

U.S. money transfer giant MoneyGram is teaming up with blockchain firm Ripple to test payments using the latter’s cryptocurrency.

MoneyGram, based in Dallas, Texas, will use the XRP cryptocurrency to speed up and reduce the cost of transferring money through Ripple’s payment network xRapid.

XRP was seen surging on the news, and flew almost 15 percent higher to $2.22 at 9:55 a.m. ET, according to Coinmarketcap data. The move marked a recovery following downward pressure across most major cryptocurrencies Thursday after reports of South Korea preparing a bill to ban cryptocurrency trading.

Ripple claims an average transaction on its network takes between two and three seconds to process. Bitcoin transactions, on the other hand, take around 51 minutes on average to go through, according to data by industry website Blockchain.info.

Ripple has made headlines in recent weeks, as its native digital currency has surged — and fallen — dramatically. It temporarily became the second-largest cryptocurrency by market value last month, usurping ethereum, after a huge rally.

XRP declined significantly after that rally but Ripple said its price has not been reflected accurately, claiming that industry website Coinmarketcap’s decision to remove Korean cryptocurrency exchanges from its platform has affected prices. The website removed Korean exchanges due to the “extreme divergence” in prices compared to the rest of the world.

“The inefficiencies of global payments don’t just affect banks, they also affect institutions like MoneyGram,” Ripple CEO Brad Garlinghouse said in a statement Thursday.

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Earthquake Strikes Caribbean

By: Everett Rosenfield of CNBC

A strong earthquake struck the Caribbean Tuesday evening, according to the United States Geological Survey.

The U.S. Geological Survey said the quake, initially reported as a magnitude 7.8, was centered 125 miles (202 km) northeast of Barra Patuca in Honduras and 191 miles (307 km) southwest of George Town in the Cayman Islands.

The quake was very shallow, at only 6.2 miles (10 km), which would have amplified its effect.

A tsunami advisory was in effect for Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands after the quake, according to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center, but subsequent model forecasts indicated no tsunami threat to those areas.

Hazardous tsunami waves were originally deemed “possible” for coasts of Jamaica, Mexico, Honduras, Cuba, Belize, Costa Rica, Panama, Nicaragua, Guatemala and more — but U.S. authorities subsequently concluded there was no such threat to the region.

The earthquake rattled windows in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa roughly 323 miles to the east, but no damage was immediately reported.

It was also lightly felt in the Mexican state of Quintana Roo north of Honduras, according to Mexico’s civil protection director.

The tremors were felt in Belize’s capital, Belize City, but there were no immediate reports of damage.

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Bill Gates Claims Cancer Will Be A Thing Of The Past

By: Chris Weller of Business Insider

Bill Gates is betting big that certain cancer therapies, if manufactured correctly, could help “control all infectious disease.”

Gates, cochair of the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, made the announcement during his keynote address at the recent JP Morgan Healthcare Conference.

“This would be a huge victory for humanity – and potentially a significant market for the life sciences,” Gates said, referring to the prospect of broadly effective immunotherapies.

Since stepping down from his post as Microsoft CEO in 2006, he and his wife Melinda have dedicated their lives to reducing poverty around the world. Infectious diseases such as malaria, HIV, and tuberculosis remain the top enemies.

The Gates Foundation has spent billions of dollars in grant money to this end, funding companies that research and manufacture disease therapies. In his recent keynote remarks, Gates mentioned a handful of deserving companies that could pave the way for controlling infectious disease.

One of the Gateses’ investments is the company Immunocore, which developed technology that stimulates patients’ immune system. The technology relies on the body’s own immune cells (known as T-cells), essentially reprogramming them, and using them to fight the cancer in a way that is personalized to the patient.

“Initially, Immunocore’s ‘T-cell receptor’ technology targeted cancers, but it could also be applied against infectious diseases,” Gates said.

The Gates Foundation has also taken an interest in gene therapies using a component of the human body known as messenger RNA, or mRNA. Modifying these molecules and injecting them back into the body can produce a stronger immune response. In his address, Gates pointed out that such vaccines would be cheaper, easier, and faster to make than traditional vaccines.

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Democrats Move To Resolve Net Neutrality Fiasco

By: Julie Bort of Business Insider

On Monday, Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri announced she was the 30th senator to call for the Senate to vote on whether to restore net-neutrality rules.

Thirty is the “magic number of cosponsors needed to get a #NetNeutrality vote in the full Senate,” she tweeted.

Net neutrality means internet service providers, like your cable company, can’t do things like slow down or block certain websites or apps – like Netflix or Google, or those from their competitors – or charge you more to access them.

The rules were put in place in 2015, during the Obama administration, to keep the people who own the wires that bring you the internet – for which you pay a monthly fee – from giving their other businesses a competitive advantage.

But last month, the Republican-led Federal Communications Commission voted to repeal net-neutrality rules, despite an outpouring of comments from those who believe that handing such control over to cable companies and other ISPs is a bad for everyone but the ISPs.

Soon after the vote, Democratic Sen. Edward Markey of Massachusetts, a member of the Commerce, Science, and Transportation Committee, said he planned to introduce a resolution under the Congressional Review Act to allow the Senate to vote on whether to restore the rules.

As you might expect, all the senators sponsoring the resolution are Democrats (except for Sens. Bernie Sanders and Angus King, independents who caucus with the Democratic Party).

But forcing a vote alone isn’t enough to restore the rules – Democratic senators can approve the resolution with a simple-majority vote, so at least two Republicans would have to vote to support the effort, too. Then it would head to the House and, if approved there, the president’s desk.

But the brilliant part is that even if everyone votes along party lines and the resolution fails, senators will have had to take a public stand either way. And those Republicans who voted against it will have handed a bit of political fodder to opponents ahead of the midterm elections this fall.

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More Major Companies Join Net Neutrality Battle

By: David Morris

The Internet Association, a trade group that counts Airbnb, Google, Amazon, Facebook, and other giants as members, said Friday that it will join in legal action aimed at restoring net neutrality regulations. The announcement came after the Federal Communications Commission on Thursday released the final version of its repeal decision, the Restoring Internet Freedom Order, which was approved on December 14.

The order opens the door for internet service providers to throttle, block, or charge more for certain content. Major internet retailers, content providers, and social media companies fear ISPs could start charging them for faster connections, which would also present a roadblock to smaller startups.

Supporters of the rollback say it encourages greater investment in internet infrastructure and, perhaps more importantly, aligns with free-market ideology.

The Internet Association said it will “act as an intervener in a judicial action against this order.” An intervener, while not a direct litigant, is granted certain rights by a court to comment or act in a case.

Since the FCC vote to repeal net neutrality rules in December, opponents of the decision have been preparing to fight it in the courts. New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has said he will sue to block the decision, in part on the basis of millions of apparently fraudulent public comments submitted prior to the vote. Legal challenges may also argue that the decision oversteps the FCC’s procedural authority to change rules, though courts have in the past given the agency broad leeway.

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The New Jim Crow Book Banned From Some New Jersey Prisons

By: Jon Swaine of The Guardian

An acclaimed book about discrimination against African Americans in the criminal justice system has been banned from some prisons in New Jersey, according to newly obtained records.

The New Jim Crow, an award-winning book by Michelle Alexander published in 2010, appears on lists of publications that inmates in state correctional facilities may not possess.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), which obtained the banned book lists in response to a public records request, called for the ban to be lifted and said it violated the rights of inmates under the first amendment to the US constitution.

In a letter due to be sent on Monday to Gary Lanigan, New Jersey’s corrections commissioner, the ACLU said the ban was particularly troubling because the state had the country’s widest disparity between white and black incarceration rates.

“For the state burdened with this systemic injustice to prohibit prisoners from reading a book about race and mass incarceration is grossly ironic, misguided, and harmful,” Tess Borden, an ACLU staff attorney, said in the letter.

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Magic Mushrooms Used To Treat Depression

By: Eric W. Dolan

New research suggests that psilocybin-assisted therapy helps alleviate treatment-resistant depression by reviving emotional responsiveness in the brain.

Psilocybin is the primary mind-altering substance in psychedelic “magic” mushrooms. The drug can profoundly alter the way a person experiences the world by producing changes in mood, sensory perception, time perception, and sense of self.

The new study, published in the scientific journal Neuropharmacology, found that depressed people had increased neural responses to fearful faces one day after a psilocybin-assisted therapy session, which positively predicted positive clinical outcomes.

“I believe that psychedelics hold a potential to cure deep psychological wounds, and I believe that by investigating their neuropsychopharmacological mechanism, we can learn to understand this potential,” explained study author Leor Roseman, a PhD student at Imperial College London.

For the study, 20 patients with major depression underwent two psilocybin-assisted therapy sessions. The participants received fMRI brain scans before their first session and on the morning after their second session.

While receiving the brain scans, the participants viewed images of faces with fearful, happy, and neutral expressions.

The researchers were particularly interested in a brain structure known as the amygdala, which is associated with emotional processing and threat detection.

Following the psilocybin-assisted therapy sessions, the majority of patients reported that the treatment improved their depressive symptoms.

Roseman and his colleagues observed heightened amygdala responses to both fearful and happy faces after treatment with psilocybin. However, only increased amygdala responses to fearful faces were associated with successful clinical outcomes one week later.

“Psilocybin-assisted therapy might mitigate depression by increasing emotional connection, this is unlike SSRI antidepressants which are criticized for creating in many people a general emotional blunting,” Roseman told PsyPost.

Though more studies are being conducted on psychedelic drugs like psilocybin, the research is still in its early phases.

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Netflix Takes Net Neutrality To The Next Level

By: Sean Burch of The Wrap

Netflix isn’t letting net neutrality go without a fight.

The streaming giant retweeted its support for the Internet Association’s Friday announcement it would “intervene in judicial action to preserve net neutrality protections.” The IA plans on pushing back against the FCC’s decision last month to pull back Obama-era regulations that blocked internet providers from blocking access to particular sites, as well as creating paid “fast lanes” to view content.

“In 2018, the Internet is united in defense of #NetNeutrality,” retweeted the Netflix account. “For the FCC, we will see you in court.”

In the retweeted announcement, IA President and CEO Michael Beckerman said the decision, spearheaded by FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, hurts consumers and startups.

“The final version of Chairman Pai’s rule, as expected, dismantles popular net neutrality protections for consumers.

This rule defies the will of a bipartisan majority of Americans and fails to preserve a free and open internet,” said Beckerman in the post. “IA intends to act as an intervenor in judicial action against this order and, along with our member companies, will continue our push to restore strong, enforceable net neutrality protections through a legislative solution.”

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