Scientist Get Another Green Light to Play God by Genetically Modifying Genes

By Paris Finnie

Fast forward  three decades and all those Sci-Fi plots from the 80s and 90s are becoming a reality. The United Kingdom has given their scientist the ability to genetically modify genes. There are still restrictions, for no scientist is able to implant a genetically modified embryo into a Female carrier, however the controversy still arises. Should a group in a lab be able to manipulate the very foundation of Life?

Europe was second to cross the controversial waters behind China. The population giant was able to snip a gene in our DNA strand which causes a blood disorder. Since their discovery chinese scientist continue to experiment in efforts to combat genetical malice. In new sciences it often seems that laws and regulations  trail behind new discoveries. Within the new venture of gene manipulation it is very unclear as to how far science is able to impede on our DNA. Prof Robin Lovell-Badge Fertility Regulator in the UK adds, “China has guidelines, but it is often unclear exactly what they are until you’ve done it and stepped over an unclear boundary.” Europe claims they have implemented strict regulations, the first of their kind in fact, and their meticulous approval system will provide contingency for future experimentation.

How It Works

Scientist are to receive donated embryos and in a window of seven days after the cell is fertilized entering the Blastocyst stage. The researchers will study how particular cells contribute to the development of the embryo, the yolk sac, and the placenta. Further research will allow for manipulation of these cells but current science solely allows for strict observation. After the window of observation is passed the embryos are destroyed.

Source: BBC

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Widespread Food Deserts Result of Wal-Mart’s Shutdown.

By Ophelia Eden 

Imagine having to drive over 15 miles to the nearest grocery store, in order to purchase fresh ingredients for dinner.

In our society we are accustomed to a grocery store on nearly every block, always stocked with a variety of fruits, vegetables, and dairy products. However, the harsh reality that many low-income communities in this country face, is an epidemic known as a “Food Desert”.

Food Deserts are problems that occur across the country, predominantly in low-income neighborhoods, where residents lose access to fresh produce and meat. The effected community is restricted to cheap fast food, and snacks purchased in liquor stores. These options may seem harmless, but considering an increase of food deserts results in decreased health and higher rates of obesity due to lower nutrients, added fats in fast food, and other factors within dietary options no longer of ease access.

The catalyst to food deserts were brought about by latest decision to shut down 154 Walmart stores due to their poor performance. The mass closure will leave 31 neighborhoods in 15 states without locations for fresh food.

Nearly five years ago Michelle Obama created a campaign to end childhood obesity. Within her campaign several major food retail companies pledged to help end food deserts by renovating or building new stores. Only Walmart and an independent store had met their goals. However, the areas that will now suffer the most from the closures are the same locations that were promised access to healthy foods within those pledges. The effects of closing markets extend past health risks, but into the rate of employment and access to medication

In Fairfield Alabama, over 1,000 jobs were lost to the lay offs of U.S Steel Corp. The city must also face an additional 300 from the Walmart locations closing in their area. When the Walmart shoping hub was built nearly 4 years ago in Wichita Kansas, residents rejoiced. The Walmart shopping center replaced an area previously riddled with prostitution and gang related activity. Now residents are heart broken, and fear illicit activities will soon return. In Coal Hill, Arkansas, The Walmart shopping center was the only pharmacy and grocery store within 15 miles. Residents without cars or transportation now have no way to fulfill their basic needs.

Source: The Big Story. AP 

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Mutant Mosquitoes to be Deployed to Stop Zika Outbreak in Brazil

Compliments of Digital Journal

A Brazilian town plans to release millions of genetically modified mosquitoes to suppress the wild mosquito population responsible for Zika and Dengue outbreaks.

Genetically modified male mosquitoes were released in parts of Piracicaba city in Southern Brazil as a pilot project in April 2014. Studies have shown that these GM mosquitoes have reduced the wild mosquito population by 82% in areas covered under the pilot project.

The city now plans to expand the program to other neighborhoods. Oxitec, a company that breeds genetically modified (GM) mosquitoes, is opening a factory in Piracicaba to produce millions of genetically modified mosquitoes after getting approval from Brazil’s National Biosafety Committee for releases throughout the country.

City mayor Gabriel Ferrato said:

The city of Piracicaba has always sought innovative solutions to serious problems. In the case of Aedes aegypti, we looked for the tool that seemed most appropriate to help in the tough battle against this mosquito that transmits dengue, Zika and chikungunya. Based on the results presented today, we decided to extend the project in CECAP/Eldorado district for another year and also signed a record of intent to expand the project to the central area of Piracicaba.

The mosquitoes produced by Oxitec are genetically modified so that when mated with wild-type mosquitoes they produce larvae that don’t make it to adulthood.

Oxitec, started in 2002 by Oxford University’s Isis Innovation technology transfer company, is currently owned by US company Intrexon.

Hadyn Parry, CEO of Oxitec said the proposed production facility in Piracicaba will have capacity to protect over 300,000 people from Dengue, Zika and chikungunya viruses.

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Snow Fall In Japan Tallies 8 dead and over 160 wounded

The recent snowfall in Japan is doing a little more harm then good. Reporting over 25 inches of snow in some Japanese cities, it is no surprise public services are coming to a slow and frozen stop.

Non railed vehicles suffered the worst of the hindrances. Every automobile on highway 378 in the city of Yawatahama  caught without snow tires was forced to remain on emergency lanes overnight. Nippon Airways and Japan Airlines were both forced to ground their flights on the main Island of Kyushu. There were also many reports of car incidents, including a bus which lost control and crashed into a bus stop near JR Nagoya Station. Luckily no one was reported injured. Regretfully, the snowfall’s record breaking magnitude reaches far beyond public and private transportation.

There has been reports of snow and temperature levels unheard of in generations. The subtropical island in Kagoshima Prefectrure where many injuries have been reported witnessed snowfall for the first time in 115 years. The tip of the iceberg when they also reported temperatures reaching -15.2 degrees Celsius. The snow, piling and blocking waterways, has lead to land slides in some areas while in other areas avalanches. The severity of the season is taking a tole on the country of Japan, but luckily the weather is said to diminish in severity over the weekend of 1/29/2016

Source: mainichi.jp

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N.S.A. Collecting Millions of Faces From Web Images

Compliments of New York Times 

The National Security Agency is harvesting huge numbers of images of people from communications that it intercepts through its global surveillance operations for use in sophisticated facial recognition programs, according to top-secret documents.

The spy agency’s reliance on facial recognition technology has grown significantly over the last four years as the agency has turned to new software to exploit the flood of images included in emails, text messages, social media, videoconferences and other communications, the N.S.A. documents reveal. Agency officials believe that technological advances could revolutionize the way that the N.S.A. finds intelligence targets around the world, the documents show. The agency’s ambitions for this highly sensitive ability and the scale of its effort have not previously been disclosed.

The agency intercepts “millions of images per day” — including about 55,000 “facial recognition quality images” — which translate into “tremendous untapped potential,” according to 2011 documents obtained from the former agency contractor Edward J. Snowden. While once focused on written and oral communications, the N.S.A. now considers facial images, fingerprints and other identifiers just as important to its mission of tracking suspected terrorists and other intelligence targets, the documents show.

Photo

Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab, left, who tried to bomb an airplane, and Faisal Shahzad, who tried to set off a car bomb in Times Square. The attempts prompted more image gathering.CreditReuters; U.S. Marshals Service, via Associated Press

“It’s not just the traditional communications we’re after: It’s taking a full-arsenal approach that digitally exploits the clues a target leaves behind in their regular activities on the net to compile biographic and biometric information” that can help “implement precision targeting,” noted a 2010 document.

One N.S.A. PowerPoint presentation from 2011, for example, displays several photographs of an unidentified man — sometimes bearded, other times clean-shaven — in different settings, along with more than two dozen data points about him. These include whether he was on the Transportation Security Administration no-fly list, his passport and visa status, known associates or suspected terrorist ties, and comments made about him by informants to American intelligence agencies.

It is not clear how many people around the world, and how many Americans, might have been caught up in the effort. Neither federal privacy laws nor the nation’s surveillance laws provide specific protections for facial images. Given the N.S.A.’s foreign intelligence mission, much of the imagery would involve people overseas whose data was scooped up through cable taps, Internet hubs and satellite transmissions.

Because the agency considers images a form of communications content, the N.S.A. would be required to get court approval for imagery of Americans collected through its surveillance programs, just as it must to read their emails or eavesdrop on their phone conversations, according to an N.S.A. spokeswoman. Cross-border communications in which an American might be emailing or texting an image to someone targeted by the agency overseas could be excepted.

Civil-liberties advocates and other critics are concerned that the power of the improving technology, used by government and industry, could erode privacy. “Facial recognition can be very invasive,” said Alessandro Acquisti, a researcher on facial recognition technology at Carnegie Mellon University. “There are still technical limitations on it, but the computational power keeps growing, and the databases keep growing, and the algorithms keep improving.”

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Koch Bros Accused Of Hiring Former NYPD Chief To Dig Up Dirt On Journalist

Compliments of Fast Company 

The Koch brothers, who control the second-largest privately held company in the United States, hired former NYPD commissioner Howard Safir to dig up dirt on journalist Jane Mayer, she claims in a new book.

Mayer, a staff writer for the New Yorker, says that soon after she revealed how David and Charles Koch were using their fortune to exert an outsize influence over American politics in a lengthy magazine expose titled “Covert Operations,” she found out that the brothers had assembled a team of operatives and private investigators to discredit her. One of them was Safir, who served as police commissioner under former New York City mayor Rudy Giuliani, she writes in her new book, Dark Money: The Hidden History of the Billionaires Behind The Rise of the Radical Right. Along with his son Adam Safir, Howard Safir currently runs Vigilant Resources International, a private investigative firm. Safir’s firm touts itself as adhering to the “highest standards of confidentiality and discretion.”

When Mayer—who profiles the Koch brothers and their “rebranding” again in this week’s New Yorker—confronted both Safirs, they each declined comment. Howard said, “I don’t confirm or deny it,” Mayer told Fast Company. A spokesman for Koch Industries also declined comment when asked by Mayer about both hiring Safir’s firm and launching an investigation into her.

Some of Mayer’s revelations about the Kochs from Dark Money have made headlines, including the assertion that the family patriarch helped build a major oil refinery in Nazi Germany that was personally approved by Adolf Hitler. The Kochs have insisted that the refinery was built years before Germany invaded Poland and that the elder Koch stopped doing business in the country “when it became clear that Hitler’s government was a tyrannical regime.”

Other operatives reportedly tapped by Koch Industries to discredit Mayer and take on critics of the brothers were Michael Goldfarb (who worked for Sarah Palin’s vice-presidential campaign and later founded conservative publication The Washington Free Beacon) and Philip Ellender, who ran the company’s lobbying and public relations operations in Washington, D.C., reports Mayer.

Three blocks from the White House, about half a dozen operatives worked in office space in the back of former congressman J.C. Watts’s lobbying firm, Mayer says. “Their aim, according to a well-informed source, was to counteract The New Yorker’s story on the Koch brothers by undermining me. ‘Dirt, dirt, dirt’ is what the source later told me they were digging for in my life. ‘If they couldn’t find it, they’d create it.’” She learned from her own sources that “their search for dirt had started with my personal life, I was told, but when that turned up nothing truly incriminating, they moved on to plagiarism.”

Soon, Mayer and New Yorker editor David Remnick were contacted by a reporter for a conservative news site The Daily Caller, who accused her of plagiarism, a journalistic sin that can destroy a career. But the four examples didn’t hold up, especially since Mayer explicitly cited the authors whose work she was accused of ripping off in two cases, and three of the authors issued statements supporting Mayer.

It was just the most personal of multiple instances Mayer discovered of the Kochs taking revenge on perceived enemies by pursuing them through private investigators. When the brothers were involved in a lawsuit with their estranged brother, Bill, they hired a detective firm to set up “D lines”—slang for going through a target’s garbage to look for incriminating or embarrassing evidence. The investigators also got their hands on private telephone records of several targets, including an advertising executive whose firm had produced an anti-Koch TV ad, reports Mayer.

Even that doesn’t compare to the tale of Richard “Jim” Elroy, an FBI agent detailed to a Senate investigation into allegations that the Kochs had stolen millions of dollars worth of oil from wells on tribal lands owned by Native Americans. One day, Elroy sensed that he was being followed. He quickly stopped his car and confronted the driver tailing him, who told him he was a private investigator hired by Koch Industries. Another Senate investigator “discovered that a Koch employee tried to get dirt on him from his former wife,” writes Mayer. Other staff members on the Senate committee investigating the Kochs and a witness who testified against the brothers all suspected that their garbage was being searched by operatives working for the Kochs, she adds.

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Inconsistent Radar Testing Casts Doubt on Validity of Millions of Speeding Tickets

Compliments of CBC 

Canadian speeders might be getting measured differently, depending on where they’re caught, CBC News has found.

Police forces using the same radar equipment have different testing routines.

The finding throws into question the validity of millions of fines, demerit points and higher insurance premiums that result from speeding tickets.

Radar equipment is commonly tested for  accuracy using tuning forks — two-pronged metal devices which vibrate when tapped, creating a frequency that mimics a set speed. That speed should be reflected in the radar unit’s reading to make sure it’s working properly. If not, it’s recommended the radar unit be taken out of service and not used for speed enforcement.

While the majority of jurisdictions insist police use tuning forks to ensure radar devices are properly calibrated, CBC News has learned that the Ontario Provincial Police dropped the test more than a decade ago, in part over doubts about its necessity.

In Saskatchewan, the Regina Police Service stopped using tuning forks in 2009, while RCMP operating in other parts of the province still require the test at the start of each officer’s shift.

RCMP throughout the rest of Canada also require tuning-fork use, as do the Sûreté du Quebec.

Police radar

Canadians speeders might be getting measured differently, depending on where they’re caught, CBC News has found, as police routinely test radar equipment differently.

An inconsistent mix of court rulings, manufacturer instructions and police standards appears to dictate whether the test is required.

In Saskatchewan and the Northwest Territories, some speeding tickets have been challenged in court anddismissed based on problems with tuning-fork evidence.

“I honestly believe that this is a huge fraud,” said Toronto lawyer Dannial Baker, referring to police-issued traffic tickets based on devices not tested with a tuning fork.

“I think a lot of people got convicted when they shouldn’t have been convicted.”

Baker wants the tuning-fork test reinstated in Ontario and is calling for an investigation into why it was dropped by the OPP.

While Ontario’s Ministry of the Attorney General could not provide a breakdown of the types of speed-tracking devices used by police, more than six million speeding fines were issued under the province’s Highway Traffic Act over the past decade.

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Stockholm First City to Fet mobile 5G network in 2018

Compliments of The Local 

Johan Dennelind, CEO of TeliaSonera, said in a statement, “Stockholm and Tallinn are two of the most connected cities in the world and now we’ll take them to the next level. 5G will create completely new innovations, ecosystems and great services to our customers. 5G will also take the Internet of Things (IoT) to a new level.”

Hans Vestberg, CEO of Ericsson, added: “More and more industries tap into the value of digitalisation and connectivity. 5G will amplify that as it is designed to be the industrial internet. It will not only be built for consumers, but also for digitalisation of industries and the IoT.”

“Together with TeliaSonera we launched the first commercial 4G network in 2009, and we will be in the forefront of 5G as well.”

Mats Svärdh, TeliaSonera’s vice president of network and IT infrastructure, told Swedish public broadcaster, Swedish Radio, that the launch of 5G in 2018 will mostly benefit the high-tech industry at first, but adds that customers will probably see many new services and applications as a result.

“This could be things like self-driving cars or robots working in mines. These things require a very low latency, which the current infrastructure cannot deliver,” says Svärdh.

The new technology will also mean much higher bandwidth for people who live in the countryside, according to Svärdh, adding that it may take a while until everything is in place for a nationwide launch.

Story continues below…

“Our best guess is that we will have everything ready by 2020. In two years we will see a set of services that are not possible today, but we will probably not be able to offer everything that 5G can offer by then,” Svärdh said.

Sweden has long been a pioneer high technology nation and, among EU member states, it’s the leading country for innovation. Sweden is also one of Europe’s top three spenders on research and development.

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Saudi Arabia Presents Plan to Move Beyond Oil

Compliments of Reuters 

Saudi Arabia outlined ambitious plans on Monday to move into industries ranging from information technology to health care and tourism, as it sought to convince international investors it can cope with an era of cheap oil.

A meeting and presentation at a luxury Riyadh hotel was held against a backdrop of low oil prices pressuring the kingdom’s currency and saddling it with an annual state budget deficit of almost $100 billion – the biggest economic challenge for Riyadh in well over a decade.

Top Saudi officials said they would reduce the kingdom’s dependence on oil and public sector employment. Growth and job creation would shift to the private sector, with state spending helping to jump-start industries in the initial stage.

“It’s going to switch from simple quantitative growth based on commodity exports to qualitative growth that is evenly distributed” across the economy, said Khalid al-Falih, chairman of national oil giant Saudi Aramco.

Over 2,400 people, including local and foreign officials, business, consultants and academics, registered for the event, staged by the government’s investment promotion agency.

Commerce and industry minister Tawfiq al-Rabiah said Saudi Arabia had been a victim of the “Dutch disease” – a condition in which the oil sector had crowded out other parts of the economy – but was now working to correct that.

Under the reforms, parts of the national health care system would be converted into independent commercial companies, officials said.

Participants in the conference, including the chief executives of U.S. aerospace firm Lockheed Martin and Pepsico, discussed subjects ranging from how to foster entrepreneurs to ways of developing dynamic cities and increasing the role of Saudi women in the business world.

OBSTACLES

The heavy presence of foreign business representatives suggested many saw opportunities in the Saudi strategy. Although Riyadh is burning through its foreign assets to cover the budget gap, it still had $628 billion in November, enough to finance years of new projects.

Some participants expressed doubt about the scale of the planned change in a country where about two-thirds of local workers are in the public sector, preferring it to more rigorous private employment.

There is little tradition of entrepreneurship in the world’s biggest oil exporter, and financial and legal systems have not been set up to encourage it.

“The transition away from being a rentier state is not a comfortable one,” said David Chaudron, managing partner of the California-based Organized Change Consultancy, which works with Saudi companies.

“They’re trying. But the fundamental question is: will their trying bear enough fruit before the downside of the current system hits? Or is it a day late and a dollar short? Will the forces of change ultimately be enough to overcome the inertia of the current system? I don’t know.”

The U.S. ambassador to Saudi Arabia, Joseph Westphal, pointed to risks in administering the plans.

“Saudi Arabia has to have a government system that is adaptable,” he said, adding that top officials would need to delegate decisions and authorities would have to be willing to take risks in the recognition that there would be some failures.

Nevertheless, many participants at the conference recognized that strong political momentum had now built up behind the reform plans, many of which had previously been discussed for years without result.

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Pegida Meets With European Allies in The Czech Republic

Compliments of DW 

Germany’s anti-immigration movement Pegida has signed a declaration with like-minded groups from 14 European countries, agreeing on joint protests in February. The associations warn of “Islam conquering Europe.”

The leading Pegida activist Tatjana Festerling criticized Berlin’s policies while meeting representatives of several European anti-Islamic movements on Saturday.

Germany was a cautionary tale for the EU, showing to other states what could go wrong when a country open its doors to migrants, Festerling said at the conference in Roztoky, near Prague.

“(German Chancellor Angela) Merkel is growing a massive surplus of men in Germany,” Festerling added, referring to the fact that most of the 1.1 million migrants arriving to Germany last year were male.

The Roztoky meeting was hosted by the Czech Usvit (Dawn) party and university lecturer Martin Konvicka, head of the local far-right group Bloc Against Islam.

The anti-immigration groups from different EU states have agreed on international protests on February 6, dubbed the “Day of the European Patriots.” The protests are to be held in Pegida’s stronghold of Dresden as well as in Prague, Warsaw and other European cities.

“Our basic message will be: Europeans won’t give up Europe,” Konvicka said in reference to the protests.

The leader of Bloc Against Islam also accused political elites of “suicidal and stupid politics.”

End of history

The representatives of the far-right movements signed a joint “Prague declaration,” warning that the “history of Western civilization could soon come to an end through Islam conquering Europe.”

The English-language document also states that its creators “refuse to submit to the Central European Government” and consider it their duty to stand up against “political Islam, extreme Islamic regimes and their European collaborators.”

Attack on ‘blonde, white women’

The German Pegida movement gained popularity at the outset of the refugee crisis in 2014. The New Year’s attacks in Cologne boosted anti-foreigner sentiment in Germany, with many right-wingers announcing their fears were vindicated by the sexual violence.

At a recent Leipzig rally, Festerling decried the “sex jihad against women” and the “Asylum-Mummy Merkel.”

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