Category Archives: Alerts

Tensions Rise In Middle East After Iranian General Dies In Drone Strike

By: David Brennan of Newsweek

A senior commander within Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has warned that U.S. forces must leave the Middle East or risk deadly retailiation to the assassination of IRGC General Qassem Soleimani,

Soleimani—the influential commander of the Quds Force and director of the IRGC’s foreign military and covert operations—was killed in a U.S. drone strike outside Baghdad airport in Iraq on Thursday evening.

The general was one of the most powerful figures in Iran, and was credited with driving the country’s campaign of influence across the Middle East. From Yemen to Lebanon, Tehran’s regional strategy was said to have been formulated by the 62-year-old. Reports indicate he was killed soon after he arrived in Iraq from either Syria or Lebanon.

His killing marks a stunning escalation in the U.S.-Iranian conflict and has prompted threats of fierce retaliation against Americans and American interests in the Middle East.

Among those vowing revenge was General Mohammad Reza Naghdi, a senior officer within the IRGC and the coordinating deputy to the organization’s commander. According to the Associated Press, Naghdi said that “the White House must leave the region today or it must go to the market to order caskets for soldiers.”

He added, “We don’t want bloodshed. They have to choose by themselves.”

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Trump Impeachment Official

By: BBC

Democratic lawmakers are preparing to approve two impeachment charges against the Republican president.

Mr Trump would then face a Senate trial next month, but members of his party control that chamber and are unlikely to remove him from office.

The president has called the process an “attempted coup” and a “scam”.

In a six-page letter to the Democratic Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi, on the eve of the vote, the 45th president of the United States argued he had been treated worse than “those accused in the Salem witch trials”

As debate got under way in the House, President Trump was due to fly to Battle Creek, Michigan, for a “Merry Christmas” rally along with Vice-President Mike Pence.

Meanwhile, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo told reporters he would be happy to testify and produce documents for a Senate trial of Mr Trump “if that’s appropriate and required by law”.

At midday local time (1700 GMT) on Wednesday, members of the House began six hours of debate on the matter. They are expected to vote on both articles of impeachment afterwards. 

In her opening remarks Ms Pelosi said it was “tragic” that the president’s “reckless actions” had led to impeachment but said he had left lawmakers with “no choice”.

“The president is an ongoing threat to our national security, and the integrity of our elections, the basis of our democracy,” she said.

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Tropical Storm Barry Threatens Louisiana With Epic Flooding

Compliments of CNN

Tropical Storm Barry presents New Orleans with an unprecedented problem, according to the National Weather Service. The Mississippi River, which is usually at 6 to 8 feet in midsummer in the Big Easy, is now at 16 feet, owing to record flooding that’s taken place this year all along the waterway.

In the meantime, Barry is spinning away in the Gulf of Mexico, threatening a storm surge of 2 to 3 feet at the mouth of the river, said Jeffrey Graschel, a hydrologist with the weather service’s Lower Mississippi River Forecast Center in Slidell, Louisiana.

The unusual confluence of factors adds up to a forecast that has the river cresting Saturday at 19 feet, a level not seen since February 1950 and about 2.3 feet shy of the record set in April 1922, the weather service said Thursday.

“Look, there are three ways that Louisiana floods: storm surge, high rivers and rain,” Gov. John Bel Edwards said Thursday. “We’re going to have all three.” States of emergency have been declared in Orleans, Jefferson, St. Bernard, Plaquemines and St. Charles parishes. Jefferson Parish and Plaquemines Parish have instituted mandatory evacuations as a precaution in low-lying areas or those outside major levees.

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Why Are People Planning To Storm Area 51

By Leah Asmelash and Brian Ries of CNN

Stretch those quads and prep that tinfoil hat!

Over 300,000 people have signed on to a Facebook event pledging to raid Area 51 in Nevada in a quest to “see them aliens.” 
The event, titled “Storm Area 51, They Can’t Stop All of Us,” is inviting users from around the world to join a “Naruto run” — a Japanese manga-inspired running style featuring arms outstretched backwards and heads forward — into the area.
“We can move faster than their bullets,” the event page, which is clearly written with tongue in cheek, promises those who RSVP for September 20.

What they’re after

The mysterious Area 51 has been the focus of conspiracy theories for decades, and many people think it’s where the US government stores its secrets about aliens and UFOs. 
The area was officially acknowledged as a military site in 2013, but the theories live on.
Though the September event is most certainly a joke, it comes just a few weeks after a group of US senators was briefedabout reported encounters between the US Navy and an unidentified aircraft — literally an unidentified flying object.
So what do they know? Where can we sign up to hear about that?

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July 4th Holiday Earthquakes Roll & Rock Southern California

The magnitude 6.4 earthquake on July 4th, 2019 in the Mojave desert was widespread and felt from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.  This earthquake was followed by a magnitude 7.1 on July 5th in the same community, 11 miles north of Ridgecrest.  Shaking was felt from Monterey to San Diego and from Los Angeles to Las Vegas.

The July 4th event affected a small community in the Mohave desert with multiple fires reported and buildings knocked off their foundations.  Fortunately no reports of bodily injury were reported.  The July 5th earthquake was more intense and felt over a wider region.  Residents throughout the region report a rolling and rocking experience that lasted up to one minute.

These events are reminders for all communities to check their emergency supplies, review emergency plans, update family communication, evacuation, and re-connection plans.

Visit the UC Network #911 DAPP (Disaster Awareness Preparedness and Planning) channel  for more emergency preparedness information.

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HPV Vaccines has significantly cuts rates of cancer causing infections

By: Jessica Hamzelou of New Scientist

The HPV vaccine appears to be working. Countries with vaccination programmes are lowering the rate of virus infection, precancerous lesions and genital warts in girls and women. Boys and men are benefiting too, even when they aren’t vaccinated.

That’s the conclusion of a review of 65 studies across 14 high-income countries, including 60 million people, over eight years. “Our results provide strong evidence that HPV vaccination works to prevent cervical cancer in real-world settings,” says Mélanie Drolet of Laval University in Canada, who led the work.

HPV vaccination programmes are currently running in around 115 countries, says Marc Brisson, also at Laval University, who co-authored the study. It is too soon to measure how these programmes might impact rates of cervical cancer, so the team looked at rates of HPV infection and the incidence of precancerous lesions and anal and genital warts, which can result from infection.

The team found that, between five and eight years into a vaccination programme, the prevalence of two strains of HPV that the vaccine protects against dropped by 83 per cent among teenage girls and 66 per cent in women aged 20 to 24. The prevalence of the virus also dropped by 37 per cent in women aged between 25 and 29, even though most were unvaccinated.

The incidence of anogenital warts also dropped – by 67 per cent among girls aged 15 to 19, and 54 per cent in women aged 20 to 24. Diagnoses of anogenital warts was reduced in unvaccinated boys and men too – by 48 per cent in boys aged 15 to 19, and 32 per cent in men aged 20 to 24. This suggests that vaccinating girls and young women can protect boys and men too, thanks to herd immunity, says Brisson.

The team also looked at the incidence of precancerous lesions in girls and women. Cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN) is the term given to abnormal cervical cells, which can be diagnosed as CIN1, CIN2 or CIN3. The latter two can develop into cervical cancer if untreated.

Diagnoses of CIN2 and CIN3 decreased by 51 per cent among 15 to 19-year-old girls between five and nine years into vaccination programmes. Incidence of these lesions in unvaccinated women, on the other hand, increased over the same period.

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Reparations Debate Takes Place In U.S

Compliments of BBC

Some witnesses said reparations would damage the relationship between white and black Americans, while others said it was imperative to achieve justice.

Several Democratic White House hopefuls have taken up the idea of reparations.

But Republican leader Mitch McConnell has made it clear no reparations bill will pass while he controls the Senate.

The House of Representatives judiciary subcommittee on the constitution, civil rights and civil liberties said Wednesday’s hearing would examine “the legacy of the Trans-Atlantic Slave Trade, its continuing impact on the community and the path to restorative justice”.

Lawmakers considered a bill proposed by Texas Democrat Sheila Jackson-Lee to set up a commission to study the question of reparations for slavery.

Hundreds of people lined up outside the hearing venue and filled the overflow room to watch.

What are the arguments against reparations?

Republican witness Coleman Hughes, an African-American writer and New York student, argued during the hearing that such restitution “would insult many black Americans by putting a price on the suffering of their ancestors”.

“If we were to pay reparations today, we would only divide the country further, making it harder to build the political coalitions required to solve the problems facing black people today.

The second Republican witness, African-American former NFL player Burgess Owens, also rejected the idea, saying: “What strangers did to other strangers 200 years ago has nothing to do with us because that has nothing to do with our DNA.”

Congressman Mike Johnson, a Louisiana Republican, was booed as he spoke against “the injustice of monetary reparations from current taxpayers for the sins of a small subset of Americans from many generations ago”.

The hearing was held on Juneteenth, which commemorates 19 June 1865 when Texas slaves finally learned they were free, two-and-a-half years after President Abraham Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation.

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Atmospheric Carbon Levels Are Reaching Dangerous Levels

By: Jon Queally of Common Dreams

Atmospheric levels of carbon registered 415 parts per million over the weekend at one of the world’s key measuring stations, a concentration level researchers say has not existed in more than 3 million years – before the dawn of human history.

Taken at the Mauno Loa Observatory in Hawaii by the Scripps Institution of Oceanography, the measure continues the upward trend of atmospheric carbon concentration that lies at the heart of the global warming and climate crisis:

415.26 parts per million (ppm) CO2 in air 11-May-2019 http://scripps.ucsd.edu/programs/keelingcurve/  First daily baseline over 415ppm

Writing on his Informed Comment blog Monday, historian Juan Cole said that life on Earth in that pre-historic era, known as the Pliocene Period, is not a place humans would recognize:

In the Pliocene, it was much hotter.

In the Pliocene, oceans were much higher, maybe 90 feet higher.

That is our fate, folks. That is what 415ppm produces. It is only a matter of time, and some of the sea level rise will come quickly.

Amsterdam, New Orleans, Lisbon, Miami – the list of cities that will be submerged is enormous.

Elsewhere online, reaction to the unsettling milestone was met with a mix of frustration, alarm, and fresh demands for urgent action to address the crisis.

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Mexico Wants To Decriminalize Drugs With The Help of U.S.A

By: Jason Lemon of Newsweek

Mexico’s president released a new plan last week that called for radical reform to the nation’s drug laws and negotiating with the United States to take similar steps.

The plan put forward by the administration of President Andrés Manuel López Obrador, often referred to by his initials as AMLO, calls for decriminalizing illegal drugs and transferring funding for combating the illicit substances to pay for treatment programs instead. It points to the failure of the decades-long international war on drugs, and calls for negotiating with the international community, and specifically the U.S., to ensure the new strategy’s success.

“The ‘war on drugs’ has escalated the public health problem posed by currently banned substances to a public safety crisis,” the policy proposal, which came as part of AMLO’s National Development Plan for 2019-2024, read. Mexico’s current “prohibitionist strategy is unsustainable,” it argued.

The document says that ending prohibition is “the only real possibility” to address the problem. “This should be pursued in a negotiated manner, both in the bilateral relationship with the United States and in the multilateral sphere, within the [United Nations] U.N.,” it explained.

Drug reform advocates have welcomed AMLO’s plan. Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, told Newsweek that the Mexican president’s plan “reflects a shift in thinking on drug policy that is taking place around the world, including here in the U.S.”

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Instagram To Hide Likes

By: Hamza Shaban of Washington Post

Instagram will test hiding the number of likes and views that photos and videos receive — a central aspect of its platform — to rein in competitive tendencies and make the experience a little “less pressurized.”

Instagram’s head, Adam Mosseri, said the change is designed to minimize the stress of posting online, where users can fixate on how many likes their videos draw. “We want people to worry a little bit less about how many likes they’re getting on Instagram and spend a bit more time connecting with the people that they care about,” he said Tuesday during Facebook’s annual developer conference, F8.

In the test run, which will roll out in Canada this week, the Facebook-owned site will display user posts as it would normally, but people scrolling through the feed won’t see like counts. Account owners will still be able to check the tallies on their own photos and videos by clicking through a prompt.

Mosseri said the experiment is part of a broader effort to rethink the fundamentals of how Instagram works and create a more welcoming experience. The company also is testing a redesigned profile page that de-emphasizes follower counts. “We don’t want Instagram to feel like a competition, we want to make it a less pressurized environment,” he said.

The psychological drawbacks of social media use have gained more attention in recent years, with parents, consumer advocates and even tech companies pointing to its potential to increase anxiety and social isolation. Technologists also have taken issue with popular social media platforms that place engagement metrics at center stage, encouraging users to maximize those figures by spending more time on the site and perpetuating a feedback loop of notifications and social validation.

Though shielding like counts might curtail strategic efforts to punch up engagement numbers on Instagram, other troublesome aspects like social exclusion won’t be addressed with the change, said Karen North, a professor at the University of Southern California with expertise in social media and psychology. Young people might still feel left out, or worse, if they see their friends posting from parties and other social events without them, and then read the comments that follow. Neither is directly tied to likes, she said.

Hiding the counts could potentially introduce new problems for users, such as diminishing the feeling of camaraderie from liking a popular post tied to a social cause or a massive in-joke. “While we can focus on the negative side of comparing likes, it is also true that people enjoy the game of supporting a post, a friend or an influencer,” she said.

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