Tips to help you before, during and after a hurricane

Seven years ago this week, Hurricane Katrina made landfall in New Orleans, killing almost 1,800 people and causing billions of dollars in damage. This week, Hurricane Isaac — now downgraded to a tropical storm — hit Louisiana and other Gulf states, causing flooding and widespread power outages.

Hurricane Irene from space. Image courtesy

The storms serve as a reminder of the importance of getting ready for a hurricane and staying safe during and after the storm. Hurricane season runs through November, so there may be more U.S. storms still to come this year. Use our tips to get ready:

How to prepare for a hurricane
  1. Build an emergency kit. Start early so that you can avoid the crowds and make sure you have everything you need. The Get Ready campaign can help you put together an emergency kit.
  2. Have an emergency stockpile of food and water. The Federal Emergency Management Agency recommends that you have at least three days of supplies ready in case of an emergency. Have at least one gallon of water for each member of your family for each day.
  3. Make a plan. Do you live in an area at risk for flooding? Where are your local evacuation routes? Where will you meet up with your family if you are separated during the storm?Make a plan and be prepared.
What to do during a hurricane
  1. Listen to the weather forecast. (A battery-operated weather radio will help you stay informed if the power goes out!) If you are told to evacuate, do so as soon as possible.
  2. If you are not told to evacuate or are unable to do so, stay inside. Stay away from windows and glass doors, and if possible stay in an inside room that is on the lowest level of your house.
  3. If phone lines are busy during the storm, check in with friends and family via text messages or social networks.
Stay safe after the storm passes
  1. If you were evacuated from your home, don’t go back until officials tell you that it is safe to do so.
  2. Do not walk, swim or try to drive in floodwaters. As little as six inches of moving water can knock an adult down or cause your car to stall. Check out our fact sheet about driving and disasters for more information about staying safe.
  3. If you are walking around outside, watch out for downed power lines.
  4. Manage power outages safely. Do not run power generators inside — they produce a clear, odorless gas called carbon monoxide that can be deadly. Do not light matches or use candles in your home in case there is a gas leak. And make sure your food is safe by following these tips.
  5. Remember take photos of the damage to your home and property.
  6. Protect yourself when cleaning up after the storm, especially if your home has been flooded. Be sure to wear gloves, wash your hands often and look out for any mold that may grow after the flood. Get more tips about cleaning up after a hurricane with our flood fact sheet.

We hope everyone is staying safe during Hurricane Isaac. Did your area get hit this time? Please share your experience with us in the comments below.

3D Printers Simply Amazing

For some weeks now I have been promising myself to see just what 3D printers are all about, because in all truth I didn't know the first thing about them.

And having spent the better part of yesterday afternoon glued to YouTube, I can say, now I know a little something of them, emphasis on the little.

But, as we say oop North, eeh bah gum! what a piece of kit!

Whether it's because I am a Toolmaker/Tooling Engineer myself that leaves me particularly impressed with this remarkable bit of innovation and technology, I don't really know. In a way I suppose it must, but do you have to be an engineer to appreciate this applied technology can make objects that otherwise would be impossible to manufacture, and I do mean impossible?

But it is the engineer in me that truly appreciates the 'one off' capabilities of such printers, being as they are, capable of producing prototypes or master models for a few hundred dollars, instead of  tens of thousands of dollars, if not more in certain cases.

I don't exaggerate when I quote such big numbers. 'One offs' are expensive, one offs of such complexity and tolerances as depicted in the clips below, would be prohibitively expensive. So expensive in actual fact, that many projects simply wouldn't get off the drawing board.

What I do need to do now however, is to go through the clips again in order that I might note and bring certain things to your attention. Not only that, the clips are all over the place at the moment, so they need to be sorted. Consider then for the moment, that I am still at the editing stage with this post, pop back later.

Editing complete, drive on!

What is 3D printing?
By Sebastian Anthony
January 25, 2012

3D printing is a method of manufacturing everything from shoes to jewelery, to guns and aerospace parts, using a computer-controlled printer. The fundamental rule of 3D printing is that it’s an additive manufacturing technique, unlike machining, turning, milling, and sawing which are subtractive.

While there are different kinds of 3D printing, all 3D objects are generally built out of layers. A 3D printer starts with the bottom layer, waits for it to dry or solidify, and then works its way up. This layering process differs depending on the printer and the material it works with — metal, plaster, polymer, resin — but it also depends on whether it’s an industrial or commercial 3D printer.

Industrial vs. commercial

While consumer- and small business-oriented 3D printing is only just taking off, mostly thanks to the MakerBot and RepRaps, 3D printing has been used in an industrial setting for 30 years. Industrial 3D printers tend to be very large and very expensive, but at the same time they are a lot faster than commercial printers. Some industrial printers can print with multiple nozzles at the same time, or even use metal (more on that later). For the most part, industrial printers are nearly always used for rapid prototyping (usually by architects, automakers), but sometimes 3D printed objects — especially in the case of metal objects — are used in final products.

Consumer-oriented 3D printers are cheaper, smaller, slower, and are usually lower resolution than their industrial counterparts. Consumer printers are still used for rapid prototyping, but they’re also used by people who just like the idea of printing stuff out. Generally, consumer printers use thermoplastic extrusion — i.e. it dribbles out tiny dots of melted plastic.

Different printing techniques

3D printing -- the original is on the left hand sideDepending on the material used, how many colors you want, the resolution you require, and how much money you’re willing to fork out, there are at least five popular 3D printing methods to choose from. Some are very similar, but some are really rather crazy (or brilliant).

Fused deposition modeling – The most common 3D printing method is fused deposition modeling (FDM). The raw material with this process is a spool of plastic or metal wire, which is melted and placed by the printer’s nozzle. It quickly hardens, and then the next layer can be added. As far as commercial printers are concerned (like the MakerBot), FDM always uses plastic wire (filament) and is usually called “thermoplastic deposition” in layman’s terms

Inkjet printing — Using special inks (resins and binders) it’s possible to build up a 3D model using a device that’s very similar to a home or office inkjet printer. Layer upon layer of resin and binder are added until an object is created. This is the only 3D printing process that allows for custom colors.

Selective laser sintering – Sintering is the process of creating solid objects from powders, and in the case of selective laser sintering (SLS) the powder can be metal, plastic, ceramic, or glass. Basically, SLS uses a pulsed laser to “draw” the desired cross-section. The powder fuses, and then then the laser forms the next layer on top. This is very much an industrial method, as it requires a rather strong laser.

Digital light processing – With DLP (yes, the same technology behind DLP projectors), a vat of liquid polymer is turned into a very strong solid by exposing it to light. Very high accuracy/resolution can be achieved with this technique — and again, this is an industrial method. Stereolithography is similar to DLP manufacturing, but a lot more expensive.

The others – Finally, there are a few 3D printing techniques that aren’t used extensively, but could be in the future. Resin can be cured using LEDs (similar to the DLP approach); 2-photon photopolymerization can be used to create ultra-small 3D-printed features; laminated object manufacturing uses bits of paper or card stuck together that are then cut out using a laser.

The future of 3D printing More

Below: Starting at the one minute mark, yer man picks up a manufactured sample that just about says all that needs saying. One doesn't need to be any kind of engineer to appreciate the sheer impossibility of manufacturing the product by any other means.

3D printing is a form of additive manufacturing technology where a three dimensional object is created by laying down successive layers of material. 3D printers are generally faster, more affordable and easier to use than other additive manufacturing technologies. 3D printers offer product developers the ability to print parts and assemblies made of several materials with different
mechanical and physical properties in a single build process. Advanced 3D printing technologies yield models that can serve as product prototypes.

Below: This HP sponsored clip highlights the (impossible) complexity of just what can be designed and printed.

The HP Designjet Color 3D printer sets the standard for office-ready, anyone-can-use 3D printing. In this video, Matias del Campo shows off his models and describes how he has been using the machine to save time and create difficult structures that would normally be unthinkable to a model maker in the same circumstances.

The thing really starts to come into its own when metallics are employed in the process.

How It's Made: 3D Metal Printing (Courtesy of Ex One)

Below: Advertising blurb from Zee Printers.

A bit from the UK.

Printing a bicycle with a 3D printer

The future?

3D printing will soon allow digital object storage and transportation, as well as personal manufacturing and very high levels of product customization. This video by Christopher Barnatt of illustrates 3D printing today and in the future.
Update: The Next Battle for Internet Freedom Could Be Over 3D Printing

Update: Short article here with link to a longer piece on printing pharmaceuticals.

The Bizarre Christian "Quiverfill" Movement

I despair, I really do, these people are beyond the pale. And I have marked the quote with an asterisk that really goes beyond the pale to border on the insane.

"What a cute arrow-maker, can I go down on it?"

"No, arrows aren't made that way!"

And yer man! he just had to be called Jim Bob didn't he, or some such.

The Bizarre Christian "Quiverfill" Movement Pushing Women to Procreate for "God's Army"

Leaders of the Quiverfull movement encourage women to have as many as 20 children, regardless of the effects on their health.
By Vyckie Garrison
August 29, 2012

During a recent interview on the Today Show, Jim Bob Duggar blurted out, "It's fun trying!" when asked if he and Michelle were actively seeking to have another baby. Today's host, Savannah Guthrie responded to the mega-dad's salacious remark with, "Jim Bob - you sly dog!"

Viewers may have come away with the impression that TLC's "19 & Counting" celebrity parents, Jim Bob & Michelle Duggar hold very casual, perhaps even avant-garde attitudes regarding sex and sexuality.

But a quick look beneath the surface reveals that America's most celebrated Quiverfull couple believe and espouse decidedly unhealthy ideas when it comes to sex and babymaking.

Although Jim Bob makes frequent displays of romantic affection toward his prolific wife, Michelle, which would suggest that the couple might enjoy sex for non-procreative purposes, the "biblical family values" advocates-- whose "literal" interpretations of scripture inspire the Duggars to receive each and every pregnancy as an unmitigated blessing from God--also teach that the primary purpose of woman is to conceive and bear sons, i.e., "arrows" for God's army.

Consider Romans 1:27: "And likewise also the men, leaving the natural use of the woman, burned in their lust one toward another; men with men working that which is unseemly, and receiving in themselves that recompence of their error which was meet."

Quiverfull movement leader, Mary Pride, in her seminal book, The Way Home: Beyond Feminism and Back to Reality, offers the following interpretation of "the natural use of the woman" ...

*Since the word used for female is connected so strongly with the idea of nursing babies, whereas it has no connection at all with the idea of sexual activity, I believe that God is saying here that when women exchange their natural function of childbearing and motherliness for that which is "against nature" (that is, trying to behave sexually like a man), the men tend to abandon the natural sexual use of the women and turn to homosexuality. (pp. 27-28)

Nancy Campbell, "editress" of Above Rubies--an international Christian women's magazine-- encourages "women in their high calling as wives, mothers, and homemakers" by explaining in her book, Be Fruitful & Multiply: What the Bible Says About Having Children, that the word "woman" is a combination of the words "womb" and "man." Woman means "womb man" or "man with a womb."

With regard to the Romans 1:27 "natural use of the woman" passage, Campbell says, "Women were created by God's design to function as nourishers by nourishing life in their womb and a babe at their breast. When women deliberately turn away from their natural functions, they do it to their own detriment." (pp. 105-107)

Sure "family values" champion, Jim Bob Duggar puts on a nice show of desiring his godly wife for more than just her ability to produce yet another arrow for his already overflowing quiver ... but Jim Bob's hermeneutics as well as his politics belie enigmatic presuppositions about the purpose of marriage, sex, and Christian wives.

Speaking in regard to Todd Akin's recent "legitimate rape" and Paul Ryan's rape as a "method of conception" remarks, Amanda Marcotte explains the fundamentalist mentality that, "the fact that someone can make a baby means that making babies is what she is for. ... Women are among an array of objects to be used. The refrigerator is for storing food. The bookshelf is for holding books. The woman is for making babies. You no more give her a choice in the matter than you would give your refrigerator veto power over what food it holds because it didn’t like your method of shopping."

Could another pregnancy be life-threatening for Michelle Duggar? Might it be risky for baby #20? Could another pregnancy leave their 19 already-born children motherless? Yes - of course! Is Jim Bob Duggar having fun trying to get his wife pregnant nevertheless? If making babies is Michelle's divine purpose - if that is why God made her ... why shouldn't her husband enjoy knocking her up one more time? It's only natural.

Jim Bob - you sly dog!

Vyckie Garrison, single mom of 7 kids, is a former adherent of the Quiverfull movement – a growing segment of Christian fundamentalist who advocate biblical patriarchy, prolific motherhood, homeschooling, courtship & betrothal, and other crazy shit like that. Garrison tells the story of how she came to embrace the extreme lifestyle and why she left at her “No Longer Quivering” blog and has created The Spiritual Abuse Survivior Blog Network. - AlterNet

Does Calorie Restriction Extend Lifespan in Mammals?

Until about two years ago, the story went something like this: calorie restriction extends lifespan in yeast, worms, flies, and rodents.  Lifespan extension by calorie restriction appears to be biologically universal, therefore it's probably only a matter of time until it's demonstrated in humans as well.  More than 20 years ago, independent teams of researchers set out to demonstrate the phenomenon in macaque monkeys, a primate model closer to humans than any lifespan model previously tested.

Recent findings have caused me to seriously question this narrative.  One of the first challenges was the finding that genetically wild mice (as opposed to inbred laboratory strains) do not live longer when their calorie intake is restricted, despite showing hormonal changes associated with longevity in other strains, although the restricted animals do develop less cancer (1).  One of the biggest blows came in 2009, when researchers published the results of a study that analyzed the effect of calorie restriction on lifespan in 41 different strains of mice, both male and female (2).  They found that calorie restriction extends lifespan in a subset of strains, but actually shortens lifespan in an even larger subset.  Below is a graph of the effect of calorie restriction on lifespan in the 41 strains.  Positive numbers indicate that calorie restriction extended life, while negative numbers indicate that it shortened life:

Read more »


This is especially for those of you still out there. (Distant chorus: "No we're not!) A good workman never blames his tools, as they say, but I do find the new way of having to do things on Blogger a real nuisance. It was all so simple and straightforward in the olden days. Anyway:

London never ceases to amaze me. I found myself yesterday in Wilton Row, which is basically the mews for Wilton Crescent in Belgravia. And found this, The Grenadier pub, complete with what looks like a genuine sentry box outside. Very useful for propping-up over subscribers I should think. By my reckoning this must be the nearest pub to Hyde Park Corner, but the usual London hub-hub seemed very distant. All was quiet, literally just the sound of my pint of London Pride being pulled. (Four quid- of course.) I could have stayed some considerable time had my business in an adjacent mews house not beckoned me. But it will still be here, as it has been since 1720 when it was built as the Officers Mess for the First Royal Regiment of Footguards. It became a pub proper in 1818, named The Guardsman. The roping off, reminiscent of the barriers at film premieres, is to corral customers onto the pub pavement, presumably to stop them straying into the very exclusive hinterland. And yes, it's every bit as good inside. 

Top Tips for Healthy Eyes

Taking care of our eyes is just as important as the rest of our bodies. Follow these top tips from Vision Matters on how to ensure your eyes are kept healthy, sparkling and bright

Regular check ups

Get your eyes tested every two years even if you think your vision is fine. Some eye conditions, for example open angle glaucoma, may not show symptoms and so regular check-ups are vital.

Quit the habit
If you smoke, you have another good reason to kick the habit. Smoking is directly linked to blindness. Current smokers are four times more likely to develop macular degeneration compared to past smokers or non-smokers.

It’s all relative
Talk to your relatives about your family eye health history as some eye conditions have genetic links such as glaucoma or squint. It is important that you share this information with your optometrist or eye health professional.

Contact care
If you wear contact lenses make sure you look after them properly. Thoroughly wash your hands before touching your contact lenses or your eyes and only ever clean your contacts using the contact lens solution recommended by your optometrist. Never shower, sleep or swim with your contacts lenses in because this can put you at risk of developing a serious eye infection which could lead to blindness. Also, don't wear them for longer periods than those recommended by your optometrist.

Be cool in the sun
Protect your eyes when it is sunny or when you’re in high glare areas such as near snow or water. Cumulative UV exposure can increase your risk of developing cataracts or macular degeneration. When choosing sunglasses make sure that they are safe as well as stylish!  Look out for the CE or BS EN 1836:2005 marks – this ensures that they provide a safe level of protection from the sun’s damaging UVA and UVB rays.

Protect your eyes
If you work with hazardous or airborne materials at work or home wear safety glasses or protective goggles to protect your eyes from injury.

Keep fit and healthy
Regular exercise is essential to stay fit and healthy but it is also important that when playing sports such as squash that you wear protective eye wear such as helmets or sports goggles to protect your eyes from a flying ball.

Eat well
Protecting your eyes starts with the food you eat. Studies have shown that nutrients in omega-3 fatty acids, zinc and vitamins C and E may help to prevent age-related vision problems such as macular degeneration and cataracts. Recommended foods include green leafy vegetables and oily fish such as salmon and citrus fruits.

Tickborne diseases

Anaplasmosis, a bacterial infection carried by deer ticks, is an emerging infection in Maine. As of Aug. 8, 38 cases have been reported to Maine CDC from 8 counties (Androscoggin, Cumberland, Hancock, Kennebec, Knox, Lincoln, Somerset and York). During 2011, a total of 26 cases were reported. Most infections occur during the summer and fall months, so the number of cases is expected to rise. For more information about anaplasmosis, see the health alert issued Aug. 9.
Other diseases that are carried by ticks in Maine include babesiosis and Lyme disease. In 2011, providers reported 9 cases of babesiosis; 3 cases have been reported to date in 2012. In 2011, providers reported 1,006 cases of Lyme disease; 483 cases have been reported to date in 2012.

Lyme disease is the most common vectorborne disease in Maine. Ticks are out and we expect the number of Lyme disease cases to increase in the warm weather.

For general information about Lyme disease see the May 1 health alert issued by Maine CDC.

John Pilger: "The Guardian Like a Spurned Lover" and Home Truths All Round

I do so admire this man, the world would be a lesser place were it not for John Pilger telling it like it is. More Pilger in the sidebar

Update below:
John Pilger speaks at Socialism 2009

The Pursuit of Julian Assange Is an Assault on Freedom and a Mockery of Journalism

by John Pilger
August 24, 2012

The British government’s threat to invade the Ecuadorean embassy in London and seize Julian Assange is of historic significance. David Cameron, the former PR man to a television industry huckster and arms salesman to sheikdoms, is well placed to dishonor international conventions that have protected Britons in places of upheaval. Just as Tony Blair’s invasion of Iraq led directly to the acts of terrorism in London on July 7, 2005, so Cameron and Foreign Secretary William Hague have compromised the safety of British representatives across the world.

Threatening to abuse a law designed to expel murderers from foreign embassies, while defaming an innocent man as an “alleged criminal,” Hague has made a laughing stock of Britain across the world, though this view is mostly suppressed in Britain. The same brave newspapers and broadcasters that have supported Britain’s part in epic bloody crimes, from the genocide in Indonesia to the invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, now attack the “human rights record” of Ecuador, whose real crime is to stand up to the bullies in London and Washington.

It is as if the Olympics happy-clappery has been subverted overnight by a revealing display of colonial thuggery. Witness the British army officer-cum-BBC reporter Mark Urban “interviewing” a braying Sir Christopher Meyer, Blair’s former apologist in Washington, outside the Ecuadorean embassy, the pair of them erupting with Blimpish indignation that the unclubbable Assange and the uncowed Rafael Correa should expose the western system of rapacious power. Similar affront is vivid in the pages of the Guardian, which has counseled Hague to be “patient” and that storming the embassy would be “more trouble than it is worth.” Assange was not a political refugee, the Guardian declared, because “neither Sweden nor the U.K. would in any case deport someone who might face torture or the death penalty.”

The irresponsibility of this statement matches the Guardian’s perfidious role in the whole Assange affair. The paper knows full well that documents released by WikiLeaks indicate that Sweden has consistently submitted to pressure from the United States in matters of civil rights. In December 2001, the Swedish government abruptly revoked the political refugee status of two Egyptians, Ahmed Agiza and Mohammed el-Zari, who were handed to a CIA kidnap squad at Stockholm airport and “rendered” to Egypt, where they were tortured. An investigation by the Swedish ombudsman for justice found that the government had “seriously violated” the two men’s human rights. In a 2009 U.S. embassy cable obtained by WikiLeaks, entitled “WikiLeaks puts neutrality in the Dustbin of History,” the Swedish elite’s vaunted reputation for neutrality is exposed as a sham. Another U.S. cable reveals that “the extent of [Sweden's military and intelligence] cooperation [with NATO] is not widely known” and unless kept secret “would open the government to domestic criticism.”

The Swedish foreign minister, Carl Bildt, played a notorious leading role in George W. Bush’s Committee for the Liberation of Iraq and retains close ties to the Republican Party’s extreme right. According to the former Swedish director of public prosecutions Sven-Erik Alhem, Sweden’s decision to seek the extradition of Assange on allegations of sexual misconduct is “unreasonable and unprofessional, as well as unfair and disproportionate.” Having offered himself for questioning, Assange was given permission to leave Sweden for London where, again, he offered to be questioned. In May, in a final appeal judgment on the extradition, Britain’s Supreme Court introduced more farce by referring to nonexistent “charges.”

Accompanying this has been a vituperative personal campaign against Assange. Much of it has emanated from the Guardian, which, like a spurned lover,has turned on its besieged former source, having hugely profited from WikiLeaks disclosures. With not a penny going to Assange or WikiLeaks, a Guardian book has led to a lucrative Hollywood movie deal.The authors, David Leigh and Luke Harding, gratuitously abuse Assange as a “damaged personality” and “callous.” They also reveal the secret password he had given the paper in confidence, which was designed to protect a digital file containing the U.S. embassy cables. On Aug. 20, Harding was outside the Ecuadorean embassy, gloating on his blog that “Scotland Yard may get the last laugh.” It is ironic, if entirely appropriate, that a Guardian editorial putting the paper’s latest boot into Assange bears an uncanny likeness to the Murdoch press’s predictable augmented bigotry on the same subject. How the glory of Leveson, Hackgate, and honorable, independent journalism doth fade.

His tormentors make the point of Assange’s persecution. Charged with no crime, he is not a fugitive from justice. Swedish case documents, including the text messages of the women involved, demonstrate to any fair-minded person the absurdity of the sex allegations — allegations almost entirely promptly dismissed by the senior prosecutor in Stockholm, Eva Finne, before the intervention of a politician, Claes Borgstr?At the pre-trial of Bradley Manning, a U.S. army investigator confirmed that the FBI was secretly targeting the “founders, owners, or managers of WikiLeaks” for espionage.

Four years ago, a barely noticed Pentagon document, leaked by WikiLeaks, described how WikiLeaks and Assange would be destroyed with a smear campaign leading to “criminal prosecution.” On Aug. 18, the Sydney Morning Herald disclosed, in a Freedom of Information release of official files, that the Australian government had repeatedly received confirmation that the U.S. was conducting an “unprecedented” pursuit of Assange and had raised no objections. Among Ecuador’s reasons for granting asylum is Assange’s abandonment “by the state of which he is a citizen.” In 2010, an investigation by the Australian Federal Police found that Assange and WikiLeaks had committed no crime. His persecution is an assault on us all and on freedom.

John Pilger speaks at Socialism 2009 "The Invisible Government"

Or you may wish to try John Pilger "The Invisible Government" Part 1/4 a different and more comprehensive speech on the same subject. And as you might expect by now from Pilger, no prisoners taken. Good stuff and recommended more than the above.

Part two.

Part three.


Afghanistan One Of The Worst Places On Earth To Be a Woman

Seventeen party-goers "found beheaded" in southern Afghan village

By Ahmad Nadeem
KANDAHAR, Afghanistan Aug 27, 2012

The Taliban beheaded seventeen party-goers, including two women dancers, in Afghanistan's volatile Helmand province as punishment, recalling the darkest days of rule by the ultra-conservative Islamist insurgents before their ouster in 2001.

The bodies were found on Monday in a house near the Musa Qala district where a party was held on Sunday night with music and mixed-sex dancing, said district governor Nimatullah. Men and women do not usually mingle in Afghanistan unless they are related, and parties involving both genders are rare and kept secret.

The killings, about 75 km (46 miles) north of the provincial capital Lashkar Gah, came at the beginning of a violent 24 hours for NATO and Afghan authorities in which 10 Afghan soldiers were killed in a mass insurgent attack, also in Helmand, while two U.S. soldiers were slain by a rogue Afghan soldier.

"The victims threw a late-night dance and music party when the Taliban attacked" on Sunday night, Nimatullah, who only has one name, told Reuters.

There were no immediate claims of responsibility.

During their five-year reign, which was toppled by U.S.-backed Afghan forces, sparking the present NATO-led war, the Taliban banned women from voting, most work and leaving their homes unaccompanied by their husband or a male relative.

Though those rights have been painstakingly regained, Afghanistan remains one of the worst places on Earth to be a woman.

Some democratic freedoms have also been wound back in what rights groups fear is an effort to reach a political reconciliation and possible power-sharing with the Taliban.

The Taliban gunmen stormed a lakeside hotel near Kabul in June demanding to know where the "prostitutes and pimps" were, witnesses said. Twenty people were killed.

The Taliban said they launched the attack on Qarga Lake because the hotel was used for "wild parties".

Helmand governor spokesman Daud Ahmadi said a team had been sent to the site of beheadings to investigate.

In another setback for NATO, an Afghan soldier shot dead two U.S. troops in east Afghanistan on Monday, the latest in a series of insider killings that have strained trust between the allies ahead of a 2014 handover to Afghan security forces.

The deaths in Laghman province brought to 12 the number of foreign soldiers killed this month, prompting NATO to increase security against insider attacks, including requiring soldiers to carry loaded weapons at all times on base.

U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Martin Dempsey visited Kabul last week to talk about rogue shootings and urge Afghan officials to take tougher preventative action.

"ISAF troops returned fire, killing the ANA (Afghan National Army) soldier who committed the attack," the NATO-led International Security Assistance Force said in a statement.

There have been 33 insider attacks so far this year that have led to 42 coalition deaths. That is a sharp increase from 2011, when, during the whole year, 35 coalition troops were killed in such attacks, 24 of whom were American.

The chief coalition spokesman, German Brigadier-General Gunter Katz, told reporters the shootings would not prompt a winding back of vital cooperation or training with Afghan police and soldiers to curtail more shootings.

"We are not going to reduce the close relationship with our Afghan partners," Katz said.

Afghanistan's government said on Wednesday it would re-examine the files of 350,000 soldiers and police to help curb rogue shootings of NATO personnel, but accused "foreign spies" of instigating the attacks.

NATO commanders have played down the threat of infiltration, blaming most of the shootings on stress or personal differences between Afghans and their Western advisers that ended at the point of a gun, a frequent occurrence in Afghanistan.

But Katz said commanders now believed 10 percent of attacks had a direct Taliban infiltration link, while another 15 percent were suspected of having insurgent involvement. Reuters

Flu update

The Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices (ACIP) recommendations for the 2012-2013 flu season are now available. The Vaccine Information Statements (VIS) for influenza for the 2012-2013 season are also online

Influenza A H3N2v is a variant virus recently detected in the United States. The first case of H3N2v was detected in summer of 2011, with 12 total cases being detected in all of 2011. The virus has already been found in over 200 individuals to date in 2012. Maine has not identified any cases in 2012. Influenza A H3N2v is associated with exposures to pigs, and most cases had either direct contact with pigs, or indirect contact such as visiting a fair.

Maine identified 2 cases of influenza A H3N2v in the fall of 2011. Both of Maine’s cases had fair exposures, and one had direct pig contact.

Symptoms of influenza A H3N2v are similar to regular influenza including fever, cough, sore throat, and body aches. This virus can spread between humans and pigs, so sick humans should avoid animal contact, and the general public should avoid contact with ill animals.

Maine CDC and the Maine Department of Agriculture remind everyone to exercise good judgment while attending agricultural fairs. For recommendations and more information, see the health alert Maine CDC issued on Aug. 7.

Get Ready has new fact sheets for people living with disabilities

Have you ever used our cool, super helpful and totally free Get Ready fact sheets?

We’re excited to tell you that we just added five new fact sheets to our huge list of topics. These new fact sheets focus on helping people living with disabilities think about and prepare for disasters. You can check them out on our disability preparedness page.

We have a general fact sheet with preparedness tips for people with disabilities, as well as fact sheets for people with hearing, mobility, vision and cognitive disabilities. These fact sheets are available in English and in Spanish on our disabilities page. You can add your own logo with our easy-to-use instructions.

Plus, to make the fact sheets accessible to anyone who needs them, we’ve made audio and American Sign Language video recordings of the fact sheets. Once you’ve accessed the fact sheets, check out the podcasts we created on disabilities and preparedness as well.

We hope these new fact sheets help you and the people you care about get ready for any emergency. Let us know what you think in the comments!

Know how to protect yourself from West Nile and EEE

Arboviral diseases, including Eastern equine encephalitis (EEE) and West Nile virus (WNV), are very serious infections that are transmitted by the bite of an infected mosquito. Although rare, these diseases have the potential to be severe and even fatal.

On Aug. 17, a mosquito pool (a collection which contains between 1-50 mosquitoes) tested positive for WNV at Maine’s Health and Environmental Testing Laboratory. The pool of mosquitoes was collected Aug. 1 in the town of Lebanon, as described in this health alert. Since then, a second mosquito pool from Cumberland County tested positive.

This is the earliest WNV has been identified in mosquitoes in Maine. The last time WNV was identified in Maine was from a mosquito pool in 2010. There has been a significant increase in arboviral activity in the last month.

Maine CDC recommends the following preventative measures to protect against mosquitoborne illnesses:

Control what you can. Improve your odds of avoiding mosquito spread viruses by using a repellent on exposed skin and clothes while outdoors. Wear protective clothing when outdoors, including long-sleeved shirts, pants, and socks. Use screens on your windows and doors to keep mosquitoes out of your home, and remove standing water from artificial water-holding containers in and around the house.

Insect Repellent: It keeps you from being what’s for dinner.

There are always excuses for not using repellent— forgot it, didn't want to go back and get it, it doesn't smell good, it's not in the budget, or "mosquitoes don't bite me"…

Think of repellent as you would an important article of clothing, and increase your chances of avoiding weeks (or even months) of aches and fatigue that come with West Nile fever, dengue fever, or any number of other mosquito borne diseases. More severe problems are possible. Being hospitalized with swelling of the brain, or even worse, are possibilities from many of these diseases.

What repellent should I use?

US CDC recommends a variety of effective repellents. The most important step is to pick one and use it. There are those that can protect you for a short while in the backyard or a long while in the woods. DEET, picaridin, IR3535 and the plant-based oil of lemon eucalyptus are all repellents recommended by US CDC. All contain an EPA-registered active ingredient and have been studied to make sure they are effective and safe. EPA has a long listing of repellent brands in the United States. Check out US CDC’s traveler’s health page on repellents here.

When should you wear repellent?

Mosquitoes can bite anytime. Most of the mosquitoes that carry West Nile virus bite from around sundown to around sun-up (throughout the night). Put a few bottles or packets of repellent around—in the car, by the door, in a purse or backpack.

AHS11 Talk Posted

After a one-year delay, my talk from the 2011 Ancestral Health Symposium is online with slides synched.  The talk is titled "Obesity: Old Solutions for a New Problem", and it's an overview of some of the research linking food reward to food intake and body fatness.  This is the talk that introduced a fundamentally new idea to the ancestral community: not only does the chemical composition of food matter, but also its sensory qualities-- in fact, the sensory qualities of food are among the primary determinants of food intake.  I didn't come up with the idea of course, I simply translated the research for a more general audience and put my own evolutionary spin on it.

The talk would be a bit different if I were to give it today, as my understanding of the subject has expanded, and my speaking skills have improved.  However, the central message remains as true today as it was a year ago.  You can find the talk here.

The slide synching was done by an extremely generous man named Ben Fury.  As you can see in the video, he did an excellent job.  Without Ben, this video would have remained in internet limbo forever.

Below, I've published a message from Ben explaining the interesting work that he does.  Please contact him if you think it's interesting.

A Message from Ben Fury

I was writing a book on health, fitness and diet in 2009 when my house burned down in the Station Fire, along with 165,000 acres of my beloved Angeles National Forest. Since then, I've had a series of people needing help come through my life, that have upgraded and morphed my talents...

Seniors with chronic pain, falls, brittle bones, and stiff shrunken muscles.
Diabetics with out of control blood sugars, going blind, and having limbs lopped off.
Neurologically challenged people with spastic limbs and foggy brains.
Fat, listless, unhappy people with no idea how they got that way, seeing no way out of the darkness.
Each of them needing help in different ways, but all with an underlying theme of what works to help heal our conditions:
  •     Remove flour, sugar, beans, and heavily processed oils from our diet. Eat real food.
  •     Get strong.
  •     Get flexible.
  •     Stop ceding health responsibility to outside forces, and take charge of our own wellness.
  •     Only use truly evidence based medicine. Don't just pop the latest pill or get the latest surgery all the other people are doing. Be wary of the disease mongers in both the conventional and alternative camps.
  •     Find our "happy thoughts." Use the simple restoratives of sleep, play, and reflection, to let go of pain, find inner peace, and let in joy and purposeful outer direction.
The methods to accomplish these goals are varied, and I have both non-profit and for-profit ventures to share them.
Their websites are currently in development.
The for-profit is
The non-profit is , whose mission statement is:

To move beyond pain management...
and learn to live pain free.

Feel free to write to me  at:
 ben [at] benfury dot com


Clinicians might want to offer radiation therapy to some older women (70 to 79 years of age) with early breast cancer because it lowers the risk for recurrence and subsequent mastectomy, according to a new American observational study.
The study of women in a "real-world" setting shows a benefit for radiation therapy after lumpectomy in this older patient population. This finding is in contrast to findings from a previous clinical trial, which prompted clinical guidelines to no longer recommend radiation therapy in this group.
The study, published online August 13 in Cancer, showed that at 10 years, radiation therapy was associated with a lower absolute risk for mastectomy in the same breast, compared with no radiation therapy (3.2% vs 6.3%).
This translates into a statistically significant relative reduction of two thirds in the risk for subsequent mastectomy (hazard ratio, 0.33; P < .001).
Most of the women (87.6%) in the 7403-patient cohort, derived from the Surveillance, Epidemiology, and End Results (SEER)–Medicare database, were treated with radiation therapy. A small percentage of the total population had a recurrence; only 174 patients (2.4%) underwent mastectomy in the same breast after initial surgery during the study period (1992 to 2002), which had a median follow-up of 7.2 years.
These findings led the study authors to conclude that radiation therapy is "associated with a greater likelihood of ultimate breast preservation for most older women with early breast cancer."
The study did not assess overall survival. Instead, it was designed to determine whether adjuvant radiation therapy reduced the risk for mastectomy in women with stage I estrogen-receptor (ER)-positive breast cancer.
In effect, the study is an analysis of radiation therapy in routine practice. The use of radiation therapy in older women with early breast cancer was also studied in the major clinical Cancer and Leukemia Group (CALGB) 9343 trial.
In that randomized trial, radiation therapy resulted in a statistically nonsignificant 50% relative reduction in the risk for subsequent mastectomy. The absolute risk at 10 years was 4% for those who did not receive radiation therapy, compared with 2% for patients who did receive radiation therapy. There was no significant difference in survival between the 2 groups.
On the basis of the CALGB findings, the influential National Comprehensive Cancer Network (NCCN) adjusted its treatment guidelines, and now no longer recommends radiation therapy after lumpectomy in older women with ER-positive early breast cancer who are receiving endocrine therapy.
However, Benjamin Smith, MD, from the University of Texas M.D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston, lead author of the current study, stopped short of saying the NCCN guidelines need to be reversed.
"I think the national guidelines, while well intended and important, may gloss over the certain nuances needed for making critical decisions with patients," he said in a press statement. "Our study may shed additional light on some of those nuances, and provides data that physicians can use when talking to their patients about whether to go forward with radiation."
Dr. Smith and his coauthors also acknowledge that randomized trials such as CALGB 9343 are "the gold standard of clinical evidence." But they point out that such trials "often do not have sufficient power to permit meaningful subgroup analyses, making it difficult to determine which subgroups of patients are more or less likely to benefit from the therapy under consideration."
The study authors suspect that there are differences between a "motivated clinical trial population" and the "general population" of women with ER-positive early breast cancer. For example, poor compliance with endocrine therapy is "common" in the general population, the authors report. Thus, they hypothesized (correctly) that radiation therapy would be even more beneficial in routine practice than it was in the CALGB trial.
Selecting Patients
The findings from the current study, with its subset analyses of clinicopathologic features, can help clinicians identify which patients are more or less likely to benefit from radiation therapy, suggest the authors.
For instance, in subset analyses, the study authors found that radiation therapy provided no benefit for patients 75 to 79 years of age without high-grade tumors who had a pathologic lymph node assessment (P = .80); however, for all other subgroups, radiation therapy was associated with an absolute reduction in risk for mastectomy that ranged from 4.3% to 9.8% at 10 years.
Which patient groups are more likely to benefit?
The study authors highlighted several groups, including patients with high-grade early breast cancers, who had a 6.7% absolute reduction in the 10-year risk for mastectomy; patients who undergo the less sophisticated clinical lymph node assessment (4.9% absolute reduction); and any patient 70 to 74 years of age (3.8% absolute reduction). These types of patients had some of the most pronounced benefits from radiation therapy, followed by most patients with other clinicopathologic features.
This study is not the only recent effort on radiation therapy in older women with early breast cancer by the study authors.
They recently published a paper on a nomogram that converts clinical data into estimates of mastectomy-free survival, as reported by Medscape Medical News (J Clin Oncol. 2012;30: 2837-2843). The tool aims to help clinicians refine their advice about radiation therapy to older women with early breast cancer.
In an editorial that accompanied the nomogram paper (J Clin Oncol. 2012;30:2809-2811), an expert suggested that nomograms might be a step forward in the ongoing effort to refine decision making about radiation therapy in this setting.
However, the nomogram needs validation, said David Wazer, MD, from the Tufts University School of Medicine in Boston, Massachusetts, and the Alpert Medical School of Brown University in Providence, Rhode Island.
In the meantime, Dr. Wazer advised clinicians to check out the modeling tool on the IBTR! Web site, which predicts 10-year risk for in-breast recurrence both with and without radiation therapy. The modeling tool, which uses clinical trial (randomized and not) data but not observational study data, is the "most reliable" of the available risk-assessment tools, he said.
A portion of this study was funded by a research grant from Varian Medical Systems. The study was also supported by the Department of Health and Human Services and the National Cancer Institute. The authors have disclosed no relevant financial relationships. Dr. Wazer reports being a consultant to Advanced Radiation Therapy.

Sex, Lies and Julian Assange Updated

If anyone has doubts or misconceptions about the politicking surrounding Julian Assange, this is the post for you.

Updated with new Video Documentary and below with partial transcript.

Sex, Lies and Julian Assange

By Andrew Fowler and Wayne Harley

Video Documentary Four Corners - ABC Australia

Four Corners reporter Andrew Fowler examines in detail what happened in those crucial weeks while Julian Assange was in Sweden. What was the nature of his relationship with the two women who claim he assaulted them? And what did they tell police that led the authorities to seek his arrest? ICH
Updated full episode of ABC Four Corners "Sex, Lies and Julian Assange".

ANDREW FOWLER: At the heart of the matter is whether the Swedish judicial authorities will treat him fairly. Certainly, events so far provide a disturbing picture of Swedish justice. Using facts agreed between the defence and prosecution and other verified information, we have pieced together what happened during those crucial three weeks in August.

On August 11th, 2010, Assange arrived in Sweden to attend a conference organised by the Swedish Brotherhood – a branch of the Social Democratic Party. He was offered Anna Ardin’s apartment while she was away, but Ardin returned home a day early on Friday the 13th. She invited Assange to stay the night, and they had sex. She would later tell police Assange had violently pinned her down and ignored her requests to use a condom. Assange denies this.

The following day, Assange addressed the conference with Ardin at his side. Later that afternoon Ardin organised the Swedish equivalent of a top-notch barbeque – a Crayfish Party. She posted a Twitter message. “Julian wants to go to a crayfish party. Anyone have a couple of available seats tonight or tomorrow?”

The crayfish party was held that night in a court yard off her apartment. It went on until the early hours of the morning. Ardin tweeted at 2am: “Sitting outdoors at 02:00 and hardly freezing with the world’s coolest, smartest people! It’s amazing!”

A guest at the party would later tell Swedish Police the event was a very hearty evening. When he offered to put Assange up at his apartment, Ardin replied, “He can stay with me.”

In the past 24 hours, Ardin had worked closely with Assange, had sex with him, organised a crayfish party on his behalf – and, according to one witness, turned down alternate accommodation for him. It is during this same period that police will later investigate whether Assange coerced and sexually molested Anna Ardin.

PER E. SAMUELSON: Well, if you send text messages like that, “I’ve just spent some time with the coolest people in the world”, the night after you then say you were raped – I mean you shouldn’t write such text messages if you had been raped by that person the night before.

ANDREW FOWLER: Your client described Julian Assange as a “cool man”. I think, one of the “coolest men in the world” that she’d had in her bed.

CLAES BORGSTROM: I will argue in court....... Read the full thing with opinion at

Louisiana Louisiana I Despair

And I bet I'm not the only one.

I ran this story a couple of months ago, albeit in a slightly different format, but what harm running it again?

But what I didn't realise until I did a 'Louisiana' search in the search function, was just how much I had featured Louisiana in the past. I shall leave links at the bottom of the page. (Update: now tagged)

14 Wacky "Facts" Kids Will Learn in Louisiana's Voucher Schools
By Deanna Pan
Aug. 7, 2012

Thanks to a new law privatizing public education in Louisiana, Bible-based curriculum can now indoctrinate young, pliant minds with the good news of the Lord—all on the state taxpayers' dime.

Under Gov. Bobby Jindal's voucher program, considered the most sweeping in the country, Louisiana is poised to spend tens of millions of dollars to help poor and middle-class students from the state's notoriously terrible public schools receive a private education. While the governor's plan sounds great in the glittery parlance of the state's PR machine, the program is rife with accountability problems that actually haven't been solved by the new standards the Louisiana Department of Education adopted two weeks ago. Blah blah

1. Dinosaurs and humans probably hung out: "Bible-believing Christians cannot accept any evolutionary interpretation. Dinosaurs and humans were definitely on the earth at the same time and may have even lived side by side within the past few thousand years."Life Science, 3rd ed., Bob Jones University Press, 2007

2. Dragons were totally real: "[Is] it possible that a fire-breathing animal really existed? Today some scientists are saying yes. They have found large chambers in certain dinosaur skulls…The large skull chambers could have contained special chemical-producing glands. When the animal forced the chemicals out of its mouth or nose, these substances may have combined and produced fire and smoke."Life Science, 3rd ed., Bob Jones University Press, 2007
3. "God used the Trail of Tears to bring many Indians to Christ."—America: Land That I Love, Teacher ed., A Beka Book, 1994
4. Africa needs religion: "Africa is a continent with many needs. It is still in need of the gospel…Only about ten percent of Africans can read and write. In some areas the mission schools have been shut down by Communists who have taken over the government."—Old World History and Geography in Christian Perspective, 3rd ed., A Beka Book, 2004 Read on

And as always, with posts of this nature, you may wish to strap in prior to proceeding.

Louisiana Vying For Title America's Most Stupid State?

More Louisiana Lunacy: A Special Report From Loch Ness

Louisiana's Fucked Up (The Arse) Laws

Justice Thomas He's a Louisiana Man

I Don't Know What Justice Looks Like But I'm Sure It Doesn't Look Like This: Waterproof Louisiana

God Bless The Louisiana Department of Corrections

Louisiana Tops Again: Shut Your Mouth Or I'll Smash Your Face In

Modern-Day Court Lynching; Jena Louisiana

Diaper Dave And The Louisiana Loonies

The Fourth Amendment in Fascist America

And if you think my use of the term fascist is a bit strong; read on.

How a mere "procedural" decision blatantly shortchanges justice
Herman Schwartz
August 20, 2012

This past April, the five conservative Supreme Court Justices gave jail officials the right to strip and search every person arrested and jailed, even if the alleged offense is trivial and there is no reason to suspect danger of any kind. The ruling, in Florence v. Board of Chosen Freeholders of County of Burlington, compounds the assault on human dignity committed by the Court in another 5-4 decision eleven years ago, in Atwater v. City of Lago Vista, when it authorized a full custodial arrest for even trivial “fine-only” offenses like a temporarily unbuckled seat belt. Our right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures has once again been undermined by a narrow conservative majority concerned more with protecting public officials than with the rights of ordinary Americans.

Florence grew out of a mistake. On March 3, 2005, Albert Florence, an African-American businessman, his pregnant wife and their 4-year-old son, were in the family BMW, when a New Jersey state trooper pulled them over. Florence’s wife was driving; no reason for the stop appears in the record and no citation was ever issued. The trooper ordered Florence, the owner, out of the car. A computer check disclosed that an arrest warrant for civil contempt had once been issued against him for nonpayment of a fine but failed to note that the fine had been paid and the warrant withdrawn.

Florence had been stopped several times before, which he attributed to his being an African-American driving an expensive car. He therefore carried a certificate attesting to the cancellation of the warrant, which he showed to the trooper. Nevertheless, he was handcuffed, arrested and taken to the Burlington County jail. The jail authorities conceded that they had no suspicion of any wrongdoing by Florence apart from the fine. Yet he was still forced to strip, shower with a delousing agent, open his mouth for inspection, hold out his arms and lift his genitals, and turn around so the officer could examine his buttocks.

After six days without appearing before a magistrate as required by law, Florence was transferred to the Essex County jail. There he was again strip-searched, again without any indication that he had done anything wrong, only this time he was required to squat and cough, and to undergo close examination of his ears, nose, mouth, scalp, armpits, inner thighs and other parts of his body. The next day Florence was brought before a judge who, “appalled” at his treatment, ordered his immediate release. Florence sued the two counties and was joined in a class-action by others subjected to the same treatment.

What happened to him could happen to anyone. Had the mother of three at the center of Atwater—who was handcuffed and jailed after she and her children were found to have unbuckled their seatbelts temporarily—been arrested today, she could have also been subjected to a strip search. This is because state penal and traffic codes are stuffed with a vast array of such minor and often trivial offenses for which an arrest can be made wholly at the discretion of police. Among those who joined the class-action lawsuit filed by Florence were people who had been charged with having a noisy muffler, an inoperable headlight, a bald tire, high beams on and a faulty windshield wiper. Others were charged with ignoring a stop sign, improperly backing up, crossing a double line, and parking in a no-parking zone, and two were charged with improperly riding a bicycle and riding without an audible bell. All were stripped and searched.

In DC, the lawsuit notes, a 12-year-old girl was arrested for eating a French fry in Metro station and a driver was arrested for “false pretenses” after backing out of a parking garage. In Kentucky, a woman was charged for failing to appear in traffic court when the judge provided her with the wrong appearance date.

People of color, like Florence, are especially vulnerable to such police tactics, for in many cases, the arrests and subsequent searches are really for the “offenses” of Driving While Black, being in the wrong neighborhood, or talking back to the police. Political protesters like the civil rights workers who marched in the South and the Occupy Wall Street demonstrators, especially protesters and demonstrators in hostile settings, are also vulnerable to the abuses made possible by the Florence and Atwater decisions.

The Supreme Court justified both the Atwater and Florence decisions with the argument that police and jail officials need a “bright-line” rule so as not to be subject to personal liability for making an unnecessary arrest or search and not to be discouraged from taking such action when they should. But a bright-line rule for both such situations is readily available: Police should not be authorized to arrest or search someone for a minor fine-only violation except in extraordinary circumstances. The police are in no danger of personal liability if they make a good-faith mistake, because they are entitled to immunity for such mistakes.

No one can dispute a federal appellate court’s characterization of a strip search as “demeaning, dehumanizing, undignified, humiliating, terrifying, unpleasant, embarrassing, [and] repulsive, signifying degradation and submission.” Even the Supreme Court has said that a search that intrusive “demand[s] its own specific suspicions.” The shock and humiliation suffered by persons subjected to such arrests and searches is aggravated by the fact that they are almost always ordinary citizens who have never been in jail before. In one case a Chicago woman doctor who had been strip-searched afterward suffered paranoia, suicidal feelings and depression and would not undress anywhere but in a closet

The conservative majority in Florence stressed that jails are dangerous places, and therefore the actions of jail officials are entitled to judicial deference. Jails are dangerous—and drug smuggling is indeed a problem. But people like Florence don’t pose a threat, which is why the Federal Bureau of Prisons, the US Marshals Service and the Bureau of Indian Affairs all forbid strip searches of minor offenders except upon reasonable suspicion. Similarly, standards defined by the American Correctional Association—the accrediting body for adult correctional facilities—require a reasonable belief or suspicion of contraband for a strip search.

The Fourth Amendment was designed to stand between us and arbitrary governmental authority. For all practical purposes, that shield has been shattered, leaving our liberty and personal integrity subject to the whim of every cop on the beat, trooper on the highway and jail official. The framers would be appalled. The Nation

Shocking Plight of Women in North Korea's Concentration Camp Gulag

I'm not totally unaware as to what goes on in North Korea, writing these few words back in 2007, but nothing prepared me for this report from Women Under Siege.

2007: These camps are massive, holding hundreds of thousands in each and where for such a simple thing as complaining about the food ration (in civilian life) whole extended families are rounded up and incarcerated for life.
Given this fear combined with the harsh realities of life, millions malnourished and dying of starvation (three million died in the last recent famine) and juxtapose this with the Dear Leader's god-like status and a whole nation that can only be described as the greatest cult the world has ever seen, or likely to see, I just find the whole thing so mind blowingly bizarre.
The narrator asked the question, 'how much is fear and how much is conditioning?' irrespective of either there appear to be masses that are genuinely on the full kool aid diet. This man is as near to being a god as it gets.

I grant there will be many very quiet dissidents but the reality of North Korea makes Orwell's 1984 read like a fairy story. more

The fine line between ‘obedience’ and rape in North Korea

By Michele Lent Hirsch
May 17, 2012

When Shin Dong-hyuk was 10 years old, he watched his mother be raped by her boss.

In an attempt to fetch her for dinner, Shin approached the office where he had been told she would be. The door was locked. Through a window he saw her kneeling as she washed the floor, then saw her boss approach and grope her. Shin’s mother and the man took off their clothes, and the boy watched the rest unfold.

But this was no ordinary case of sexualized violence in the workplace. Shin was born into a North Korean concentration camp, where he lived by the whims of guards and could be killed in an instant for any small behavior deemed wrong. His mother worked in a rice field within the camp, and her boss, one of the prison guards, did whatever he wished to as many women as he wanted. Shin’s mother “complied”—though by international standards, the term “rape” would apply—because she knew the alternative was death.

The Committee for Human Rights in North Korea estimates that up to 200,000 North Koreans are imprisoned in concentration camps—camps that are meant to stamp out every trace of individuality and destroy three generations of “impure” citizens. Citizens are first captured by veritable “thought police” and hauled off for any number of alleged crimes. Captives are “re-educated,” tortured, starved, beaten, and murdered.

Though there is no way of knowing how many prisoners are raped each year (just as there is no way of knowing how many prisoners are hung above a fire and burned, as Shin reportedly was), escapees report that guards attack women and girls frequently.

These attacks take place in a very casual, routine manner, says Blaine Harden, author of Escape From Camp 14, the recent bestseller that chronicled Shin’s life. Once girls reach their mid-teens, Harden told me, patrolmen begin to rape them. As in the Holocaust and in refugee camps around the world, North Korean inmates are often coerced into sexualized violence in exchange for food rations and other meager aid. During their days or weeks as a guard’s target of rape, Harden says, their abuse brings trauma, but also vital nutrients.

As if enduring repeated sexualized violence were not enough, Harden continues, teen girls and women are “disappeared” or murdered the minute they are discovered pregnant.

“It’s an awful game that they are forced to play,” says Harden. No matter how “obedient” a girl has been, no matter how many days or weeks she quietly suffers sexualized abuse in an attempt to survive and please the guards—it is the rape survivor who is punished.

“The theory behind the camps was to cleanse unto three generations the families of incorrect thinkers,” a former guard interviewed in Harden’s book recalls. “So it was inconsistent,” he explains drily, “to allow another generation to be born.”

In other words, because a prisoner is deemed to be of “impure” stock, she and her fetus are destroyed. This is consistent with what Women Under Siege has found in conflicts that utilize sexualized violence as a means of ethnic cleansing, from the Holocaust to Darfur—that women’s bodies are controlled to temper the threat their ability to reproduce poses.

All of this happens with a backdrop of physical austerity for prisoners. Harden writes that individuals held in camps may not so much as hold hands without threat of death. “Should sexual physical contact occur without prior approval,” goes one of the rules Shin had to memorize growing up, “the perpetrators will be shot immediately.” Even “conversing between the sexes without prior approval” is forbidden. As such, only those prisoners “rewarded” with arranged marriages can sleep together a few times a year. Children produced through these marriages are approved. All other births are not.

In a perverse twist, says Harden, a woman’s poor health can become an advantage. If she is malnourished enough to be rendered infertile, and can endure rape without pregnancy, her life is usually spared.

Many raped women, however, do not have such “luck.” Women Under Siege.

For more information on North Korea’s concentration camps, see the Committee for Human Rights in North Korea’s recently updated report.

Watch Julian Assange Ecuador Balcony Speech

From Russia Today

Julian Assange made his first public appearance in two months, ever since he took refuge in the Ecuadorian embassy in London.

Addressing the hundreds of people gathered outside the embassy, Assange thanked them for their support, claiming it was their resolve and presence that stopped British police storming the building.

"On Wednesday night, after a threat was sent to this embassy and police desceneded on this building, you came out in the middle of the night to watch over it, and you brought the worlds eyes with you. Inside this embassy after dark I could hear teams of police swarming up into the building through the internal fire escape," Assange said.

"But I knew thered be witnesses. And that was because of you."

The WikiLieaks founder thanked President Correa "for the courage he has shown" in granting him asylum, and to all the nations and individuals who have shown him support.

Assange also addressed the US government and President Obama, calling for the persecution of WikiLeaks supporters to end.

"The United States must pledge before the world will not pursue journalists for shining light on the secret crimes of the powerful. The US administration’s war against whistleblowers must end."

The WikiLeaks founder was granted political asylum on Thursday – a decision that ignited a wave of international responses, with the UK and Sweden opposing the verdict and Latin American countries strongly supporting Ecuador’s move. RT

Fred Reed: The Surveillance Society

The other style , not the other side of Fred Reed, for no matter the style, serious or humorous, the message is pretty much the same. We're all fucked.

That's not to say he doesn't slide a bit in here and there:

We have now had two consecutive presidents with less than normal respect for the constitution, one a brown Plantagenet but with little grounding in European civilization, the other a privileged rich brat of limited intellect and schooling.

The Eye of Sauron

Something New Under the Sun

August 18, 2012

The pieces come together. Within the last week I have read:

1) New software, associated with Google, will recognize customers in stores so as to offer them discounts; having your photos uploaded to allow this service will (for now) be voluntary.

2) A new surveillance system in New York will store footage from cameras in, for example, the subway, so that when an unattended package is discovered, the police can look back in time to see who left it.

3) TSA is perfecting a laser that will allow detection on travelers of trace amounts of drugs, explosives, and doubtless a wide variety of other things.

4) The government is moving toward mandating black boxes on cars to record information thought to be useful in ascribing blame in crashes.

5) Various police departments are beginning to use “drone” aircraft to monitor the population.

These are recent pieces of the coming world. They have not yet all been completely deployed and linked. Some are voluntary, for the moment. Others are in development. All are coming.

Add the now-routine tracking of passports, cameras that read every passing license plate and record the time, NSA’s automated monitoring of email, Google’s and therefore the government’s knowledge of your searches, GPS tracking of cell phones, detailed records of bank transactions, and so on. Not all of these are instantly accessible by the police. They can easily be made accessible, and they move in that direction.

In short, the technology exists for a detailed, unblinking, unforgetting watchfulness of the entire population beyond anything imagined, or perhaps imaginable, a few decades ago. This is not Fred-drank-too-much-coffee. It is happening.

The capacity of hard drives is now essentially without limit, the power of computers to sort and search infinite, and the speed of the internet no longer a bound. Almost microscopic cameras, wireless concealable microphones, face recognition, voice recognition, recording GPS: You can buy all of this in consumer stores. The government has far better.

People speak of the onrush of the police state. I think that many do not understand how fast it comes, or how thorough it will be.

The political framework falls rapidly into place. Few or no safeguards exist, and probably few are possible. A growing authoritarianism rapidly erodes what protections we had. The courts allow random searches of passengers of trains and subways without probable cause. Warrantless tapping of personal communications is rampant, or done with secret warrants from a secret federal judge. TSA has Viper squads that stop cars at random for searches. In many places it is against the law to video the police, who everywhere become more militarized and less accountable. For practical purposes, citizens have no recourse.

At a higher level of generality, America is no longer a democracy. If you think this a rash assertion, ask yourself whether you have the slightest influence over policies that matter to you. Suppose that you want to end the wars, shrink the military, end affirmative action, genuinely change education, or reform a hostile and unworkable bureaucracy. Who do you vote for? Important policies are made in faceless bureaucracies immune to public influence. National politics employs a sort of political price-fixing, in which you are permitted to choose among a number on indistinguishable candidates and told that you are having an election.

None of this is going to stop.

Why is it happening? Some suspect a vast conspiracy to Sovietize the country. I doubt it. Don’t look for a conspiracy when human nature is an adequate explanation. Presidents never want to suffer the restraints on constitutionality, the agonizing slowness of a congress that often has little understanding of the issues; if presidents can do things by fiat, or secretly, they will.

We have now had two consecutive presidents with less than normal respect for the constitution, one a brown Plantagenet but with little grounding in European civilization, the other a privileged rich brat of limited intellect and schooling. Such as they will take any shortcut they can get away with, and there is no longer anyone to tell them no.

Men grab power when they can. Once grabbed, it stays grabbed. A police operation like DHS will always try to grow. People in power always think they know best. When a federal department has money, industry rushes to sell it things. In the case of TSA, this means new and more advanced scanners, then upgrades, and maintenance contracts, training contracts, and then a new kind of scanner, and the process repeats.

The people doing all of this are not thinking of installing totalitarianism. They are thinking dollars, promotions, power, ego, and perks.

The FBI? NSA? Federal officials in general? They know best. They are, they think, just fighting crime, terrorism, maintaining national security, what have you, and the more power they have, they better they can do this. Further, intimidating people is pleasurable. If citizens have nothing to hide, say all these cops, they have nothing to fear. If you torture terrorists, or those you think may be terrorists, well, the real world is like that. Do you want more terrorism?

A conspiracy would be preferable. You can crush a conspiracy. Human nature, which inherently drifts toward corruption, is a far tougher nut.

What difference will it make to live in a country in which the government knows everything whatever about everybody, and few safeguards against abuse exist? For most people, at first, probably not much. At first. But for people the government doesn’t like, a lot. Reporters, writers, whistle-blowers, activists, dissidents.

And we are all vulnerable. Knowledge, as someone said, is power. Few of us have spotless lives, or want them. Did you once check into a cheap motel with someone else’s spouse or a lady of the night? What do the porn sites you visit say about you? If you are, say, a politician, do you want these things to come out? Have you written compromising emails about shady deductions on your taxes, or about your boss (“a weasely dickhead and probably a latent girly-boy”)? You have bar bills or liquor purchases of $300 a week? What if you show positive on a marijuana scan at the airport, which becomes justification for a full search of your house, or dismissal from work?

Things have already reached the point at which writers of my acquaintance, who do not have the power of the Washington Post behind them, have stopped criticizing the government. Whether they are in fact in any danger of persecution—I don’t think they much are yet—almost doesn’t matter. The mere knowledge that your email can be read is intimidating, like being closely followed by a police car even when you are doing nothing wrong. We are daily being followed by more police cars, both literal and figurative. Fred Reed