New Gershad App Protects Iranian Citizens From Morality Police

By Paris Finnie 

A new app has hit the the streets of Iran. The app aims to protect women and men from the frequent harassment of the Morality Police. The app, Gershad, uses mapping and alerts in its interface to place markers of the locations of the police,  allowing citizens foresight into where to meander when traveling. The application within 24 hours of release was a sensation, downloaded by nearly every Android user in the country. The Iranian Government was swift in blocking the citizens from app access.

Blocking the app was the first step in ensuring the citizens, especially the woman, of Iran are to follow moral and public law. Public law in Iran in one example, means women are to observe strict hijab ( wearing female head covering and dress). Dissenters from this expectation are often subject to the ramifications given to them by the Morality Police. In 2014 persian police obtained over 200,000 pledges from non conforming Iranians to observe strict hijab, over 15,000 cases to the judiciary, and over 2.5 million warnings to non observers ( people who do not wear head coverings and dress properly).

The application is a tangible response to the growing opposition to suppressive laws in Iran. After four decades of religious and social dictates, the younger generation are seeking a change in their lifestyle. A means to express themselves without getting punished for that expression. The company commits to maintaining its operation and working on other means to unblock the app for the citizens to use.

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Riots in Hong Kong Leave 60 Arrested and 90 Police Injured

By Paris Finnie 

Terror breaks out as hundreds fight during Chinese New Year celebration. Hong Kong, the epicenter of the violence, has not seen such escalation of chaos since 2014. In that year many protesters took to the streets to fight for democracy. This year however,  the catalyst appears to be from illegal food depots in Mong Kok being forcibly shut down.

The area of Mong Kok home to where a rugged commercial district resides, is also less than two miles from a primary viewing location for the firework display. Police were in full force stationed to protect the crowds of over 200,000 people gathering to celebrate the year of the monkey, but were not expecting to send dozens of officers to the commercial district.

Police were forced to Fire warning shots to try to gain control of the riot. Dissenters with self made weapons, bricks, and bottles. Set fire to the streets making it difficult for law enforcement to restore order in the district. Officials claim the few violent radicals incited the rage brought forth that night and reports also lead to an observation of weapon shipments brought to Mong Kok to use in the riots. Officials are still uncertain of who provided those shipments.

Speculations of who to accuse grow amongst the cities leaders.  Groups under investigation are members of Hong Kong’s Indigenous Group and supporters of Edward Leung Tin-Kei, who is legislative council candidate up for election. The Indigenous group was said to have ran to the aid of shop keepers, but were not responsible for the riots. Supporters of Edward were said to have posted an invitation to march in the streets of Mong Kok on Facebook, entailing attendees to bring water, masks, and protective gear. As suspicious it may seem,  there is still lack of evidence to suffice responsibility.

Order has thus been restored to the streets of Hong Kong.

Source: Bloomberg 

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Leaked Police Files Contain Guarantees Disciplinary Records Will Be Kept Secret

Compliments of The Guardian 

Contracts between police and city authorities, leaked after hackers breached the website of the country’s biggest law enforcement union, contain guarantees that disciplinary records and complaints made against officers are kept secret or even destroyed.

A Guardian analysis of dozens of contracts obtained from the servers of the Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) found that more than a third featured clauses allowing – and often mandating – the destruction of records of civilian complaints, departmental investigations, or disciplinary actions after a negotiated period of time.

The review also found that 30% of the 67 leaked police contracts, which were struck between cities and police unions, included provisions barring public access to records of past civilian complaints, departmental investigations, and disciplinary actions.

Samuel Walker, a professor in criminology at the University of Nebraska, Omaha, said there was “no justification” for the cleansing of officers’ records, which could contain details of their use of force against civilians.

“The public has a right to know,” Walker said. “If there was a controversial beating, we ought to know what action was actually taken. Was it a reprimand? A suspension?”

Walker said that while an officer’s whole personnel file should not be readily available to the public outside of court proceedings, records of disciplinary action should be.

The leaked contracts became publicly accessible last week, when hackers breached the Fraternal Order of Police’s website and put around 2.5GB worth of its files online. These provide a glimpse into the influence of police unions, which Black Lives Matter activists have accused of impeding misconduct investigations, particularly after the death of 25-year-old Freddie Gray in Baltimore, Maryland in April.

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Elephants for Rhinos?

Compliments of Digital Journal

Swaziland is planning to transfer 18 wild elephants in a Boeing 747 plane to United States in order to relocate them to three American zoos. In exchange, the zoos will be contributing $450,000 to a wildlife conservation trust in Swaziland for rhinos.

The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service has approved an application from zoos in Dallas, Wichita and Omaha to import 18 wild elephants from Swaziland.The transfer involves 15 female and three male elephants estimated to range from six to 25 years old.

The permit allows a partnership formed by the zoos to import the elephants from Big Game Parks, an independent nonprofit that manages several wildlife parks in the Southern African Nation. Swaziland, which is facing its worst drought in decades, was planning to kill the animals as a population control measure because the growing elephant herd was endangering other animals such as rhinos.

Room for Rhinos, a partnership between the zoos and Swaziland officials, is overseeing the project. Melissa Graham, a spokeswoman of Kansas Zoo said:

The plan to move them to the United States is a pragmatic and humane solution to help balance this environment and provide a home to elephants that need one, while at the same time expands a critically needed rhino conservation program. Zoo partnership had not paid for the animals but it was contributing $450,000 over five years to a wildlife conservation trust in Swaziland for rhinos.

Dennis Pate, President/CEO of Omaha’s Henry Doorly Zoo said:

We will be flying them here on a 747 plane that’s a freighter.The maximum number it can take is 18 animals.

However, many conservationists and scientists have voiced their opposition to the plan. A statement signed by over 70 ecologists, elephant and animal welfare experts’ highlighted concerns over the elephants’ welfare. The statement read:

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Warning Shots Fired Towards North Korea

By Paris Finnie

The United Nations has met and spoken over the  recent conduct of North Korea. In simpler terms the northern  region of Korea does not want to play ball with the rest of the world. Recently South Korea fired warning shots at a North Korean boat that crossed its boarders. The tactical response stirred international waters, as this has not been the first suspicious act committed by the North Korean Country. The United Nations believes it is time to address North Korea with a little more force in order to protect global peace.

Source: Washington Post 

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JOHNSON & JOHNSON, VIACYTE TESTING POSSIBLE DIABETES CURE

Compliments of AP 

Johnson & Johnson, continuing its long quest for a Type 1 diabetes cure, is joining forces with biotech company ViaCyte to speed development of the first stem cell treatment that could fix the life-threatening hormonal disorder.

They’ve already begun testing it in a small number of diabetic patients. If it works as well in patients as it has in animals, it would amount to a cure, ending the need for frequent insulin injections and blood sugar testing.

ViaCyte and Johnson & Johnson’s Janssen BetaLogics group said Thursday they’ve agreed to combine their knowledge and hundreds of patents on their research under ViaCyte, a longtime J&J partner focused on regenerative medicine.

The therapy involves inducing embryonic stem cells in a lab dish to turn into insulin-producing cells, then putting them inside a small capsule that is implanted under the skin. The capsule protects the cells from the immune system, which otherwise would attack them as invaders – a roadblock that has stymied other research projects.

Researchers at universities and other drug companies also are working toward a diabetes cure, using various strategies. But according to ViaCyte and others, this treatment is the first tested in patients.

If the project succeeds, the product could be available in several years for Type 1 diabetes patients and down the road could also treat insulin-using Type 2 diabetics.

“This one is potentially the real deal,” said Dr. Tom Donner, director of the diabetes center at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “It’s like making a new pancreas that makes all the hormones” needed to control blood sugar.

Donner, who is not involved in the research, said if the device gives patients normal insulin levels, “it’s going to prevent millions of diabetics from getting dangerous complications.”

People with Type 1 diabetes no longer produce insulin, the hormone that converts sugar in the blood into energy, because their immune system has killed off the beta cells in the pancreas. Those cells make insulin in response to rising blood sugar levels after a meal.

Over years, excess sugar in the bloodstream damages blood vessels and organs. Without effective treatment, diabetics suffer severe complications: blindness, kidney failure, heart disease, amputations, even premature death. On the other hand, too much insulin can cause very low blood sugar, which can kill patients, particularly young children.

According to the American Diabetes Association, about 29.1 million Americans have diabetes, including 1.25 million with type 1 diabetes. The number with Type 1, or insulin-dependent, diabetes is growing steadily. Meanwhile, the number with Type 2 diabetes, whose bodies make some insulin but don’t use it efficiently, is increasing exponentially due to the global epidemic of obesity and sedentary lifestyles.

Many patients can’t control it well because treatment is exhausting, requiring a strict diet, frequent exercise, multiple daily insulin injections or other medicines and several finger pricks a day to test blood sugar. Also, some patients can’t afford the expensive medicines.

ViaCyte Inc., based in San Diego, has been researching its treatment for a decade, partly with funding from the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund and the California Institute for Regenerative Medicine.

Johnson & Johnson, based in New Brunswick, New Jersey, is a major ViaCyte investor and has been conducting parallel research for about 13 years, said Diego Miralles, J&J’s head of global innovation.

“We wanted to hedge our bets to make sure we would win in this space … that is so transformational,” Miralles said.

He wouldn’t disclose financial terms of the deal with ViaCyte.

The privately held company began the first round of patient testing a year ago, implanting its product, dubbed VC-01, in a dozen people with Type 1 diabetes, said Paul Laikind, ViaCyte’s CEO and president. They received a small dose of insulin-producing cells inside their devices and are being closely monitored for two years to see insulin production and other effects.

After 12 weeks, the device had properly attached to nearby blood vessels, their new insulin-producing cells were still multiplying and no side effects were seen. Another dozen planned patients will soon get the same cell dose in capsules to be implanted in them.

If that goes well, in the next round of testing a few dozen patients will get devices holding a full dose of the cells implanted, likely in the second half of this year. Further testing may be needed before the product can be approved by regulators.

“We do believe that it will need to be replaced periodically,” Laikind said.

Earlier testing in thousands of mice over years showed the lab-created insulin-producing cells matured and produced the needed hormone inside the mice for as long as they lived, about a year, noted Laikind.

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Swiss bank cooperates with US as 2 ex-bankers plead guilty

Compliments of Associated Press 

Swiss bank Julius Baer, facing a criminal charge, has agreed to pay $547 million and cooperate for three years with American authorities to shut down accounts that enabled wealthy Americans to evade taxes, authorities announced Thursday.

Before lawyers for the bank appeared in Manhattan federal court to confirm a non-prosecution deal, two of its former bankers pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge and agreed to cooperate. Cooperation for the bankers was expected to bring leniency at sentencing on a charge that carries a potential penalty of five years in prison.

The bank’s agreement calls for it to share documents and provide witnesses at any U.S. court proceedings until February 2019. The bank will forfeit $547 million in penalties and restitution within a week and close any U.S. accounts established to evade taxes. In return, U.S. authorities will defer a conspiracy charge against the bank with the expectation that it will be dropped after three years. A bank lawyer pleaded not guilty to the charge.

“Bank Julius Baer not only turned a blind eye to tax avoiders but actually conspired with them to break the law,” U.S. Attorney Preet Bharara said in a news release.

Internal Revenue Service chief Richard Weber said the court appearances send “a strong message to the international banking community as well as U.S. taxpayers who think they can outsmart the system by hiding their money in these international banks.”

Prosecutors said the bank from at least the 1990s through 2009 helped many of its U.S. taxpayer clients evade taxes by filing false federal tax returns with the IRS and otherwise hide accounts at the bank from the agency.

The court appearances came more than four years after ex-bankers Daniela Casadei and Fabio Frazzetto were charged with conspiring to help American clients hide more than $600 million in offshore accounts and avoid paying taxes on the money. They had not appeared in court until Tuesday, when they entered not guilty pleas to charges.

As part of their guilty pleas Thursday, they agreed to cooperate after admitting they knew they were helping Americans evade U.S. taxes. They also said they believed their work was consistent with the bank’s practices.

Prosecutors said Casadei and Frazzetto opened and managed accounts for U.S. taxpayers, sometimes linking them to fictional names, to relatives living abroad or to sham companies created to hide the true owners.

The IRS has stepped up efforts to collect taxes on Americans’ income stored overseas since 2009, when Swiss banking giant UBS AG agreed to pay a $780 million fine and turn over details on thousands of accounts suspected of holding undeclared assets.

The agency has said it has collected billions of dollars in taxes as tens of thousands of Americans have come clean under programs that offered reduced penalties and no jail time to people who voluntarily disclosed assets.

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France To Set The Trend For Processing Unsold Food In Markets?

By Paris Finnie 

As of recent a new law has passed, banning all supermarkets in the country from trashing unsold food. Instead they will be required to donate the food to charities and food banks.

The law unanimously passed by French senate on Wednesday 02/03/16 will allow food shelters to donate millions more food to those in need from the support of the the French supermarkets. A resolution sought after  by the championing  grassroots shoppers and anti-poverty campaigners. The movement started as a campaign, but grew to a petition lead by the councillor Arash Derambarsh. From the councillors hands the movement grew into a bill brought into the national senate by former food industry minister Guillaume Garot. The pressure is on France and their campaigners to persuade the rest of the EU to adopt the practice. If they manage to influence the other countries, perhaps France can be the ripple effect to push this legislative measure across the world. Before they do however, there must be some kinks worked out in the shifts to the new practice.

Supermarkets in the past have been found guilty of deliberately spoiling food in efforts to detour people from rummaging through the store’s waste bins. Some of those markets were guilty of dousing their waste bins in bleach allegedly to prevent food poisoning, while others put their waste bins in locked warehouses only to be opened by refuse trucks. With the passage of the law to no surprise many supermarket managers have divided opinions. Especially with the potential of fines reaching $75,000 or two year imprisonment if they do not sign donation contracts with charities. Although many are frustrated on the other side of the coin there are many with high hopes for French future.

The signed contracts will allow for higher quality food access to all french citizens. Increased donations from the supermarkets will allow up 10 million more meals to reach the citizens in need. Food banks will be forced to renovate their storage spaces to guarantee safe donations. France intends for the new laws to push the citizens forward adding another level to their resilience  as a nation.

Source: The Guardian

 

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Guinea Worm Just Short of Extinction

By Paris Finnie 

The invasive and painful Dracunculus Medinensis (Guinea Worm) has reached the coda of its lifespan. The Guinea Worm is a parasite that is contracted by drinking water containing water fleas. Those fleas contain worm larva that make their ways through the digestive track to the hosts lower limbs. The larva then resides dormant for about a year until it breaches the the outer layer of skin.  During the course of a couple weeks the adult worm exits its host through a blister commonly found on legs or feet. Symptoms include an exuberant amount pain and burning sensation and those infected whether it be domesticated dogs or humans find relief by submerging the open sore under water, commencing the vicious cycle anew.

The worm has a despicable track record of 3.5 million victims in over 20 countries throughout Asia and Africa, but thanks to the efforts of former president Carter, the number of current infected has dwindled to 22 people. 30 years of effort and one life pledge later Carter has mobilized thousands of volunteers to educate citizens in effected countries on ways to prevent the dissipation of the parasite. Donations of water filtration resources and filtered straws have had tremendous impacts of prevention. However, these victories did come before comprehensive research for president Carter was wise in choosing this formidable enemy.

Unlike swine flu or avian flu, The Guinea Worm attaches to,  as previously understood, to two hosts: humans and domesticated dogs. Studying those targets sets made it much easier for contingency. As of recently however, it was discovered that the remaining 22 people plagued by the parasite contracted the worm from eating raw fish. Throwing a wrench into machine of extinction. The worms of these last hosts have since died and Africans have been educated to properly dispose of fish entrails and cook any fish they plan to ingest. To guarantee the title of extinction there must not be any new reports of outbreaks for three years. If his efforts present themselves successful Carter, now 91 years young, will hopefully be meeting his goal of outliving this vicious parasite.

Source: The Economist 

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Heroine Overdose Antidote To Be Administered Over The Counter

By Paris Finnie 

A report shows that citizens in Ohio are more likely to die from a Heroin overdose than a vehicular accident. ” If we lose them to an overdose, we have lost a chance of a productive life in the future.” Says Peggy Anderson COO of the Aids Resource Center in Ohio . As many as seven to ten times instances a day EMS workers are called to save the lives of these opiate victims, but even those who make it are the select few lucky enough to be in the right place at the right time.

 

The frightening statistics of life lost to overdoses has pushed the state of Ohio to allow the drug Naloxone (Narcan) to be sold over the counter in participating pharmacies one of them being  CVS. Naloxone works by reversing the depression of the central nervous system and respiratory system caused by opioids. In some instances multiple administrations of Narcan may be needed to save an individual but a second chance at life is becoming readily available to the citizens of Ohio.

Source: Wlox 

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