dude goes out on limb for old lady

Jul. 22nd, 2017 12:07 am
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Posted by blackjedii

Local tree company helps elderly lady, free of charge

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) – Today’s severe weather took down a tree and some overhead lines at the home of an 83-year-old Dayton woman, prompting a local tree cutting company to spring into action and help the elderly lady, free of charge.

Elbert Pennington of Elbert Pennington Lawn & Tree Service said the it was his third job of the day.

“That’s just me. I try to help people when I can,” Pennington said.

“I think if I help people and then sooner or later they’ll end up helping someone, themselves.”

The homeowner’s daughter Sherrie York said her 83-year-old mother is in the intensive care unit at a local hospital.

“I really appreciate this man coming by and cutting up this tree for us,” York said.

“It was pretty bad when I pulled up. I was like, oh my God.”

She said the massive tree is just another added stress on the family – both emotionally and financially.

“It’s been very overwhelming… Trying to deal with the hospital, trying to deal with where she was in the New Lebanon nursing home – and now I got to deal with this,” York said.

“Anybody watching this, I need your prayers”

Friday morning’s heavy winds sent the tree sprawling across the yard – blocking the driveway.

It also took down overhead lines.

“I live up the road from here,” Pennington said.

“When I came by she was telling the fire department she didn’t have no way to get it cleaned up. I told her I would come by and clean it up for free.”

His son Ronnie Pennington was assisting him.

“Not many people would help older people when they need help,” Ronnie Pennington said.

“And they can’t do it themselves so there’s nothing wrong with helping them. It ain’t always about collecting money.”


News Post: Dumber Camp, Part Two

Jul. 21st, 2017 07:45 pm
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Tycho: I have every faith that I’ve said something very much like if not identical to the last line in the strip.  I could apologize, I guess, but I’m not 100% sure it isn’t true. There is a more detailed version of this tale presented in an old post, maybe, what…  fourteen years old at this point?  I have a condition where when I remember things I also feel all the feelings in the memory.  It makes forgiving people very challenging because even if I’ve developed an antibody to, say, a Betrayal, I always feel that first when I go back. When I think…
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Posted by hobbits_friend

Turkey holds six rights activists on charges of aiding terror group

Amnesty International urged the British government to end its silence over Turkey’s slide into authoritarian rule on Tuesday after its local director and five other activists were remanded in custody on accusations of belonging to a terrorist organisation. It is possible the six will now be held in jail for as long as two years before their full trial comes to court.

Idil Eser, local director of the London-based organisation, was one of a group of activists including a German and a Swedish national detained on 5 July while attending a routine workshop on digital security and information management near Istanbul.

Turkey’s state prosecutor had asked the court on Monday to remand all 10 in custody pending trial on charges of membership of a terrorist organisation. Six were retained in jail to give the prosecution time to assemble full charges. Four others were released.

John Dalhuisen, Amnesty International director of Europe and central Asia, said: “Too many western governments have been locked in a fatal embrace with the Turkish government at the moment it slides into an authoritarian direction. Everyone knows this is happening in Turkey, and it needs to be said. These arrests represent a red line, and must be the moment when the terms of engagement with Turkey are reset.”

Kate Allen, the director of Amnesty UK, said: “We are grateful for the work the British government have done behind the scenes. But a moment of truth has arrived. It should stand up in public to say this is an abuse that will not be tolerated.”

Dalhuisen said the charges, including membership of a terrorist organisation, were absurd since the director was being accused of being a member of three diametrically opposed terrorist organisations. He said the meeting at which the group had been initially arrested concerned the most mundane issues of digital security training and working in an hostile environment. The first day’s course included a yoga session, he said.

Dalhuisen said: “This case is taking place in front of a hounding by the media and an entirely compliant prosecutor and judicial system. These arrests are an attack on Turkish civil society and this is now obvious to all of Turkey’s international partners.”

Privately, Theresa May, leading a country that has strived to remain close to the Turkish regime after the failed coup last year, raised the arrests at a recent meeting with the Turkish president, Recep Tayyip Erdoğan at the G20 meeting in Hamburg a fortnight ago.

The British Foreign Office minister Alan Duncan said he was very concerned by the arrests. “We continue to urge the Turkish authorities to uphold international standards with regard to the rule of law, including the presumption of innocence, and to protect fundamental rights including freedom of expression and assembly,” he said.

But many western countries are heavily dependent on Turkish security cooperation over the return of jihadist foreign fighters from Syria, and do not want to risk jeopardising this priority. The west also recognises the slowdown in mainly Syrian refugees into Europe is dependent on a deal struck with Erdoğan two years ago.

Amnesty indicated that it may now take four to six months for the next phase of the judicial hearing to occur, with a further six to 12 months for the trial itself to be brought to court. The remand can also be challenged once a month, but the charges are so vague, and wide-ranging that it is more likely international political pressure will lead to their release, as opposed to evidence in a court of law.

The detention of 10 activists is part of a wider crackdown following last July’s failed coup attempt. As many as 200,000 public servants have lost their jobs, creating a climate of fear. Erdoğan also retains strong popular support bolstered by an enthusiastic media.

The six human rights defenders remanded in custody detained are İdil Eser (Amnesty International), Günal Kurşun (Human Rights Agenda Association), Özlem Dalkıran (Citizens’ Assembly), Veli Acu (Human Rights Agenda Association), Ali Gharavi (a Swedish IT strategy consultant) and Peter Steudtner (non-violence and wellbeing trainer). Steudtner is a German citizen, and his partner Magdalena Freudenschuss said on Monday: “These charges are totally absurd. They are almost the opposite of what Peter and Ali and the other human rights defenders stand for with their work: for non-violence, for human rights.”

Martin Schulz, the SDP candidate for the chancellorship, said: “The limit of what one could tolerate has been exceeded. You cannot be silent. Even the government of our country is not. What is going on in Turkey is unbearable and crosses all borders. Mr Erdoğan is about to dismantle the rule of law.”

The leader of the German Greens, Cem Özdemir, said Turkey’s arrests were likely to damage its economy. “You have to make it clear to Ankara that they endanger the branch they are sitting on,” he said, pointing out Turkey is dependent on good economic relations with the EU. “I do not see how you can invest safely in this country. There is no legal certainty in Turkey for anyone.”

A total of 22 Germans, including prominent journalists, have been arrested since the coup, possibly reflecting regime anger at the way in which Turkish ministers were not allowed to speak in Germany during the referendum campaign to give Erdoğan new powers.

Deniz Yücel, a dual German-Turkish citizen and journalist for Die Welt, was arrested on 27 February on charges of propaganda in support of a terrorist organisation and inciting public violence, after first being detained on 14 February. He faces up to 10.5 years in jail if convicted.


Berlin to change policy towards Turkey as German citizen is held

Germany’s foreign minister has announced a significant “reorientation” of its policy towards Turkey after a human rights activist became the latest German citizen to be detained for alleged terrorist activity.

“We need our policies towards Turkey to go in a new direction ... we can’t continue as we have done until now,” Sigmar Gabriel told reporters at a press conference in Berlin on Thursday. “We need to be clearer than we have been until now so those responsible in Ankara understand that such policies are not without consequences.”

Berlin has issued new travel warnings of risks in Turkey for German tourists, and Gabriel said his government could no longer guarantee German corporate investment in Turkey after President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s government accused several companies including Daimler and BASF of ties to the movement of his political enemy Fethullah Gülen.

Gabriel also said he could not envisage talks on expanding the customs union to Turkey and would talk to other EU leaders about reviewing pre-accession funds being offered to Turkey.

The announcement marks a further deterioration of increasingly strained relations between the two countries.

German human rights consultant Peter Steudtner was detained at a human rights workshop on Monday with five others including Amnesty International’s country director, Idil Eser, for allegedly aiding a terror group.

The Turkey correspondent of the German broadsheet Die Welt, Deniz Yücel, has been detained on charges of propaganda in support of a terrorist organisation since February. Pre-trial detention in Turkey can last for up to five years.

The German chancellor, Angela Merkel, views the series of measures announced by Gabriel as “necessary and unavoidable”, her spokesman said in a tweet.

Reacting to the measures, Erdoğan’s spokesman said the two countries had “good relations”.

“It is not possible for us to accept statements aiming to blur the economic environment based on political motivation, we hope they turn back from this,” Ibrahim Kalin told a news conference in Ankara.

Some leading political figures in Germany accuse Erdoğan of gathering “political hostages” in an attempt to force Germany to hand over two high-ranking Turkish generals involved in last year’s failed coup who have applied for asylum in Frankfurt.

“Deniz Yücel and Peter Steudtner are being traded as political hostages,” said German Green party co-chair Cem Özdemir. “The government must no longer be ordered around.” A spokesperson at the German foreign office on Wednesday ruled out the possibility of a swap deal.

The foreign office’s travel warning states that Turkey had breached its international commitments by denying consular access to German citizens on pre-trial arrest. Even people travelling to Turkey for short trips are therefore advised to register themselves with the consulate or embassy ahead of their trip.

Turkey has described Germany’s demand for the release of human rights activist Steudtner as unacceptable and an attempt to interfere with the Turkish judiciary.

In a statement published on Thursday, Turkey’s foreign ministry said it has kept Germany’s chargé d’affaires in Ankara informed of Steudtner’s case, adding, “the independent Turkish judiciary must be trusted”.

The ministry said statements by the spokesmen for the German chancellor and foreign ministry constituted “diplomatic rudeness” and said the judiciary cannot be instructed or counselled by anyone.

The foreign ministry accused Germany of a “double standard”, saying it harbours members of terror groups and prevents their trial.


Also this opinion piece: Turkey’s democracy is dying – but this brutal crackdown can’t last

The Case of the Missing Apostrophe

Jul. 21st, 2017 08:53 am
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Posted by germankitty


"I(he/they) would have (insert past participle of choice)" can be, and often is, shortened into "I'd've (...)".

This author clearly knows where the contraction comes from, and frequently uses it in their writing, which is perfectly fine. However, the contraction is of two auxiliary verbs, not just one, and therefore also needs two apostrophes. "I'dve (...)" (and its permutations through genders/number of persons/objects/actions) is, at best, only a marginal improvement of the (unfortunately) ubiquitous and quite wrong "I'd of (...)" *shudders*.

Your favorite rants wanted

Jul. 21st, 2017 03:27 am
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Posted by dreamflower02

I hope this is all right to request here. In September, I will be holding a fanfiction workshop at a local mini-con, a sort of "Fanfiction 101" thing. One of the things I would like to do is to warn potential writers of pitfalls they want to steer clear of. I'd like to be able to give them a list of things writers do that cause readers to write rants about them. I'm planning to call the list "Avoid Being Ranted About" (or something similar).

This particular workshop is free and is being held at a public library, so any rants will need to be adjusted to the probablility that many (if not most) attendees are going to be underage, so keep that in mind when listing your peeves.
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Posted by hobbits_friend

WARSAW — Step by step, the Polish government has moved against democratic norms: It increased government control over the news media, cracked down on public gatherings and restricted the activities of nongovernmental organizations.

Now the party in power is moving aggressively to take control of the last major independent government institution, the courts, drawing crowds into the streets and possible condemnation by the European Union.

The party is pushing to jam several bills into law; one would force all the nation’s top judges to resign, except those it appointed. Another bill, already approved by Parliament, would ultimately give the government control over who can even be considered for a judgeship.

In Brussels on Wednesday, a top European Union official said that if the changes were made, Poland might slip outside the bloc’s definition of a democracy.

“Each individual law, if adopted, would seriously erode the independence of the Polish judiciary,” said Frans Timmermans, first vice president of the European Commission. “Collectively, they would abolish any remaining judicial independence and put the judiciary under full political control of the government.”

The drive to control the courts comes barely two weeks after President Trump paid a triumphant visit to Warsaw and praised the populist and nationalist Law and Justice Party, which controls the government. Now, if the party prevails, its success could be the final chapter in Poland’s long progression from a model Eastern European nation — and one of the first former Communist nations to join the union — to what its opponents are calling an illiberal democracy.

Three former Polish presidents, including Lech Walesa, have released a manifesto against the proposed changes, saying “we do not consent to taking away our basic civic freedoms.” And a coalition of more than 175 artists and scientists signed an open letter on Wednesday calling the government’s move a “coup d’état.”

With the legacy of the Solidarity movement, Poland entered the post-Soviet era with a head start on other post-Soviet nations politically, and its strong agricultural sector allowed it to quickly emerge as an economic success.

But its status as a regional star has been endangered by the rise of the Law and Justice Party. Since assuming power in late 2015, the party has moved to co-opt or weaken potential rivals, beginning with the Constitutional Tribunal, which could have declared its moves unconstitutional. Now dominated by government supporters, the tribunal provides a reliable rubber stamp for government initiatives.

Law and Justice supporters have been put in charge of public television and radio, which now adhere to a firmly pro-government line. Independent oversight was removed from the secret services. The justice minister was named chief prosecutor, formerly a separate and more independent post. New regulations were imposed on public assemblies.

Still, at least one previous step to pull Poland to the right, a nearly total ban on abortions proposed last fall, was defeated after mass protests.

“This is a call for a right-wing revolution,” said Jerzy Stepien, the director of the Institute of Civic Space and Public Policy at Lazarski University, and a former president of the Constitutional Tribunal. “If we have people in power who feel themselves above the law, we are in a revolutionary situation.”

In the lower house of Parliament this week, as opposition leaders struggled to beat back the governing party’s push to pass its legislation, people on both sides delivered emotional speeches frequently interrupted by chants.

“You could have been reformers of the Polish judiciary,” an enraged Wladyslaw Kosiniak-Kamysz, from the opposition Peasants Party, said to stone-faced lawmakers from the Law and Justice Party. “But you have become its executioners wearing a mask of justice.”

Things turned especially ugly during a debate at midnight on Tuesday in Parliament when an opposition politician, Borys Budka, presumed to speak for the former Polish president from Law and Justice, who was killed in a 2010 plane crash. “If Lech Kaczynski were alive, he wouldn’t allow this,” Mr. Budka declared.

An enraged Jaroslaw Kaczynski — the former president’s twin brother and, as leader of Law and Justice, the most powerful political figure in Poland — seized the lectern and fired back: “Do not wipe your traitorous mugs with the name of my late brother. You are scoundrels.”

Law and Justice has long maintained that the 2010 crash was an assassination, perhaps involving Russia and members of the political opposition.

“You murdered him,” Mr. Kaczynski shouted.

Ewa Kopacz, the prime minister under the previous center-right government, declared herself flabbergasted. “This man is crazy with hate,” she said of Mr. Kaczynski. “He cannot control his emotions.”

The conflict over the judiciary has been simmering for some time. One proposed law, already approved by Parliament and awaiting President Andrzej Duda’s signature, would reconfigure the National Council of the Judiciary, which chooses those eligible to become judges, so that government-appointed members would essentially have veto power.

A second bill, introduced late last week, would force all current members of the Supreme Court to resign, including several who have been feuding with the government, and replace them with judges selected by the governing party’s minister of justice.

“Their goal is to create political control over the judiciary,” said Adam Bodnar, Poland’s official ombudsman, who has come out against the bills. “I don’t have doubts about it.”

Mr. Kaczynski and other Law and Justice officials contend that opponents are overreacting to an honest attempt by the government to reform a dysfunctional and highly unpopular court system and to root out corrupt judges and liberal ideologues who want to thwart the will of the people.

Law and Justice, Prime Minister Beata Szydlo said, has “stood on the side of the people, and nobody will make us turn back from this way — not even by shouting here and stamping your feet!”

To become law, a bill must have three readings in the Sejm, the lower house of Parliament, then be passed by the Senate and signed by the president. The government’s decision to use procedural maneuvers to fast-track the Supreme Court bill appears to have caught opponents off guard.

“There were no public consultations, no public hearings,” said Kamila Gasiuk-Pihowicz of the opposition party Modern. “There should have been experts’ opinions, but there’s no time for that.”

President Duda tried to suggest a compromise in a nationwide address. He said he would sign the bill on his desk involving the appointment of judges only if an amendment were added so that new judges must get 60 percent of the vote in Parliament rather than a simple majority. Since Law and Justice has only a slim majority in the Sejm, this would force the governing party to find at least one other party to vote with it. If that amendment is not added, Mr. Duda said, he will refuse to sign the Supreme Court law.

It was a rare disagreement between Mr. Duda, a former Law and Justice member who became independent when he was elected president, and Mr. Kaczynski. Opponents were not sure whether this signaled a true split between the two leaders or was some sort of a trick.

“We don’t know if the president is acting really with some sort of noble intentions or whether he’s just playing a game,” said Mr. Stepien, the former president of the Constitutional Tribunal.

As opponents sought to slow the bill’s passage, opposition leaders asked Poles to continue to take to the streets. Some protesters have set up a tent camp outside Parliament, vowing to keep a round-the-clock vigil. “I had to be here,” said Lidia Leipert, a lawyer who joined the throng after work.

Agnieszka Wierzbicka, a nutritionist, said she was already resigned to losing this round.

“I think our protest is nothing but symbolic now,” she said. “Will it change anything? I highly doubt it. But that doesn’t make it invalid. It is important for history.”


Poland may be stripped of EU voting rights over judicial independence

The EU is on the brink of taking the nuclear option of stripping Poland of its voting rights in Brussels in response to plans by its rightwing government to “abolish” the independence of the country’s judiciary.

Frans Timmermans, the first vice-president of the European commission, accused Warsaw of seeking to put judges under full political control as he warned that the EU was “very close” to triggering article 7, a never-before-used sanction in the treaties that allows a member state’s voting rights in the council of ministers to be suspended.

Poland’s ruling rightwing Law and Justice party (PiS) has been in almost constant conflict with the European commission since it was elected. In recent weeks the Polish government has proposed a series of reforms that would give ministers power over the appointment of judges and members of the country’s supreme court.

The first step in the EU triggering article 7 is an assessment of whether there has been a breach of fundamental rights, which could be launched as early as next week on the recommendation of the commission. “What we decide next week depends on developments also this week,” Timmermans said, as he called for fresh dialogue with Warsaw.

Should a breach of fundamental rights be found, a motion to suspend Poland’s voting rights would then need to win the support of member states under the EU’s system of qualified majority voting. Two-thirds of the European parliament would also need to give its consent.

Timmermans told reporters in Brussels that the recent proposal from the Polish government to increase political control of the judiciary was a grave threat to the fundamental values of the EU.

“These laws considerably increase the systemic threat to the rule of law in Poland. Each individual law, if adopted, would seriously erode the independence of the Polish judiciary. Collectively they would abolish any remaining judicial independence and put the judiciary under full political control of the government.

“Under these reforms judges will serve at the pleasure of political leaders, and be dependent upon them, from their appointment to their pension.”

The commissioner added: “I think every citizen wants to have, if they need to, a day in court without having to say, ‘Hmm, is this judge going to get a call from a minister telling him what to do?’.”

Timmermans said he was confident he would have the support of member states should he recommend the triggering of article 7.

In Warsaw, Rafał Trzaskowski, an MP with the opposition Civic Platform party and a former Europe minister, said Poland was being pushed to the margins of the EU by its authoritarian government.

He said: “It’s absolutely clear that patience is running out, not only in the European commission, but also in many European capitals.

“The initiation of article 7 would be unprecedented, and it would show quite clearly how marginalised the current government is in the European Union.”

Timmermans, a former Dutch minister who has been the subject of personal attacks by Polish ministers over his tough stance with Poland in recent months, said he had written earlier this month to Warsaw about his concerns, but appeals for the proposed laws not to be pursued had been ignored. Two of the four pieces of legislation in question have since been adopted by parliament.

Timmermans said any concerns that triggering article 7 would push Poland to follow the UK out of the union would not be an obstacle to the EU taking action. He insisted there was “no way” the Polish people would ever choose to leave the union.

The commissioner also called on the Polish government to respect the right of journalists to do their job, after a Brussels-based TV journalist was accused by state-controlled Polish TV of asking politically motivated questions with intent “to harm Poland” after she sought information from the European commission about its intentions with regard to protecting the rule of law.

“There are lot of emotions around this,” he said. “A lot of personal attacks, people’s personal credibility or integrity has been put to discussion, mine, other people’s. I can take it. They should take their best shot. But what should not be happening is that journalists should be intimidated.”

Andrzej Duda, Poland’s PiS-aligned president, had sought to calm the situation on Tuesday evening, as crowds gathered outside the presidential palace for a candlelit vigil to demand he veto the supreme court legislation.

In a televised address, he said he would only sign the supreme court bill if legislation passed last week giving parliament control of the National Council of the Judiciary (KRS), a hitherto independent body responsible for appointing Polish judges, were amended.

Under Duda’s proposal, appointments to the KRS would require a three-fifths majority in parliament, rather than a simple majority as contained in the present legislation, meaning that as parliament is presently constituted, Law and Justice would not be able to appoint judges by itself.

“The judiciary is a very serious issue. It needs to be reformed – but wisely,” he said, arguing that his aim was “to avoid accusations that the KRS … is working under a political dictate.”

However, Timmermans suggested that the president had not gone far enough. Under Duda’s proposal a coalition of Law and Justice and affiliated rightwing parties would still be able to push through appointments to the body. The supreme court legislation before parliament envisages “silent consent” for judicial appointments should the KRS not express a view within 14 days, meaning that a paralysed council would still give the justice minister the power of appointment over the supreme court.

“Duda’s proposal does not change the essential mechanisms of the three combined legal acts, which grant the government political control over the judiciary,” said Mikołaj Pietrzak, chair of the Warsaw Bar Association. “It’s not constitutional, and it’s not satisfactory. It’s just smoke and mirrors.”

The European commission is also preparing infringement proceedings against Poland for breaches in EU law. Asked whether Hungary – whose rightwing prime minister, Viktor Orbán, has also repeatedly clashed with the commission – could also be in line for the ultimate sanction, Timmermans said the nature of Poland’s breaches was of a far more serious nature.


Also: The Guardian view on Poland and Hungary: heading the wrong way -

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Tycho: We always offer a space for especially for indies with the PAX 10 - our cadre of experts selects their favorites from the submitted titles, and the chosen games get free booth space at the show.  We’re proud to announce the list!  Here is the link to the official page, but they are also right here!  Use whichever links you want.  They all go to the same places! Antihero by Tim Conkling Celeste by Matt Makes Games Inc. Cosmo’s Quickstop by Big Sir Games Keyboard Sports by Triband No Heroes Here by Mad Mimic Interactive Ship It by Think On Labs (First VR Game…

i can't make jokes on this sorry

Jul. 20th, 2017 12:24 am
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Posted by blackjedii

John McCain diagnosed with brain cancer

Arizona Senator John McCain has been diagnosed with brain cancer, CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta reported on Wednesday.

McCain returned to Arizona last week after becoming ill, which prompted Majority Leader Mitch McConnell to delay a potential vote on health care.

According to Gupta, McCain had surgery to address the tumor, and has since returned to his home. Gupta said McCain will need a combination of chemotherapy and radiation to continue recovering, Gupta reported.

"On Friday, July 14, Sen. John McCain underwent a procedure to remove a blood clot from above his left eye at Mayo Clinic Hospital in Phoenix," a statement from the Mayo Clinic read. "Subsequent tissue pathology revealed that a primary brain tumor known as a glioblastoma was associated with the blood clot."

The Mayo Clinic confirmed Gupta's reporting on McCain's treatment options.

"Treatment options may include a combination of chemotherapy and radiation," the statement added. "The Senator's doctors say he is recovering from his surgery 'amazingly well' and his underlying health is excellent."

McCain's office has confirmed his condition in a statement Wednesday evening.

"Senator McCain appreciates the outpouring of support he has received over the last few days," a statement read. "He is in good spirits as he continues to recover at home with his family in Arizona."

McCain was first elected to the Senate in 1986. He then had a pair of unsuccessful presidential campaigns in 2000 and 2008.


News Post: Dumber Camp, Part One

Jul. 19th, 2017 07:23 pm
[syndicated profile] pennyarcade_feed
Tycho: I have been left completely and entirely alone, abandoned by my Mork, such that he left me with four or so .jpegs and flew away.  Mechanically assisted, obviously.  He didn’t just “throw himself at the ground and miss.” He was telling me about an Adult Summer Camp, of which there are apparently several, and like so much else that a normal person would do it turns out I don’t have the receptors for it.  So many bedrock concepts that get absorbed in an ambient want by other people, simply… inhaled somehow just accrue on the skin.  Accrue, and…
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Posted by soleiltropiques

There are diseases hidden in ice, and they are waking up

Long-dormant bacteria and viruses, trapped in ice and permafrost for centuries, are reviving as Earth's climate warms

Throughout history, humans have existed side-by-side with bacteria and viruses. From the bubonic plague to smallpox, we have evolved to resist them, and in response they have developed new ways of infecting us.
We have had antibiotics for almost a century, ever since Alexander Fleming discovered penicillin. In response, bacteria have responded by evolving antibiotic resistance. The battle is endless: because we spend so much time with pathogens, we sometimes develop a kind of natural stalemate.

However, what would happen if we were suddenly exposed to deadly bacteria and viruses that have been absent for thousands of years, or that we have never met before?

We may be about to find out. Climate change is melting permafrost soils that have been frozen for thousands of years, and as the soils melt they are releasing ancient viruses and bacteria that, having lain dormant, are springing back to life.

Reindeer (Rangifer tarandus) migrating (Credit: Eric Baccega/naturepl.com)

In August 2016, in a remote corner of Siberian tundra called the Yamal Peninsula in the Arctic Circle, a 12-year-old boy died and at least twenty people were hospitalised after being infected by anthrax.

The theory is that, over 75 years ago, a reindeer infected with anthrax died and its frozen carcass became trapped under a layer of frozen soil, known as permafrost. There it stayed until a heatwave in the summer of 2016, when the permafrost thawed.

This exposed the reindeer corpse and released infectious anthrax into nearby water and soil, and then into the food supply. More than 2,000 reindeer grazing nearby became infected, which then led to the small number of human cases.
The fear is that this will not be an isolated case.

Permafrost in Svalbard (Credit: Wild Wonders of Europe/de la L/naturepl.com)
As the Earth warms, more permafrost will melt. Under normal circumstances, superficial permafrost layers about 50cm deep melt every summer. But now global warming is gradually exposing older permafrost layers.

Frozen permafrost soil is the perfect place for bacteria to remain alive for very long periods of time, perhaps as long as a million years. That means melting ice could potentially open a Pandora's box of diseases.

The temperature in the Arctic Circle is rising quickly, about three times faster than in the rest of the world. As the ice and permafrost melt, other infectious agents may be released.

"Permafrost is a very good preserver of microbes and viruses, because it is cold, there is no oxygen, and it is dark," says evolutionary biologist Jean-Michel Claverie at Aix-Marseille University in France. "Pathogenic viruses that can infect humans or animals might be preserved in old permafrost layers, including some that have caused global epidemics in the past."

In the early 20th Century alone, more than a million reindeer died from anthrax. It is not easy to dig deep graves, so most of these carcasses are buried close to the surface, scattered among 7,000 burial grounds in northern Russia.
However, the big fear is what else is lurking beneath the frozen soil.

Anthrax spores can survive for decades (Credit: Cultura RM/Alamy)

People and animals have been buried in permafrost for centuries, so it is conceivable that other infectious agents could be unleashed. For instance, scientists have discoveredfragments of RNA from the 1918 Spanish flu virus in corpses buried in mass graves in Alaska's tundra. Smallpox and the bubonic plague are also likely buried in Siberia.

In a 2011 study, Boris Revich and Marina Podolnaya wrote: "As a consequence of permafrost melting, the vectors of deadly infections of the 18th and 19th Centuries may come back, especially near the cemeteries where the victims of these infections were buried."

For instance, in the 1890s there was a major epidemic of smallpox in Siberia. One town lost up to 40% of its population. Their bodies were buried under the upper layer of permafrost on the banks of the Kolyma River. 120 years later, Kolyma's floodwaters have started eroding the banks, and the melting of the permafrost has speeded up this erosion process.

“NASA scientists successfully revived bacteria that had been encased in a frozen pond in Alaska for 32,000 years”

In a project that began in the 1990s, scientists from the State Research Center of Virology and Biotechnology in Novosibirsk have tested the remains of Stone Age people that had been found in southern Siberia, in the region of Gorny Altai. They have also tested samples from the corpses of men who had died during viral epidemics in the 19th Century and were buried in the Russian permafrost.

The researchers say they have found bodies with sores characteristic of the marks left by smallpox. While they did not find the smallpox virus itself, they have detected fragments of its DNA.

Certainly it is not the first time that bacteria frozen in ice have come back to life.

Bacteria have been found dormant in Antarctic ice (Credit: Colin Harris/Era Images/Alamy)

In a 2005 study, NASA scientists successfully revived bacteria that had been encased in a frozen pond in Alaska for 32,000 years. The microbes, called Carnobacterium pleistocenium, had been frozen since the Pleistocene period, when woolly mammoths still roamed the Earth. Once the ice melted, they began swimming around, seemingly unaffected.

“Once they were revived, the viruses quickly became infectious”

Two years later, scientists managed to revive an 8-million-year-old bacterium that had been lying dormant in ice, beneath the surface of a glacier in the Beacon and Mullins valleys of Antarctica. In the same study, bacteria were also revived from ice that was over 100,000 years old.

However, not all bacteria can come back to life after being frozen in permafrost. Anthrax bacteria can do so because they form spores, which are extremely hardy and can survive frozen for longer than a century.

Other bacteria that can form spores, and so could survive in permafrost, include tetanus and Clostridium botulinum, the pathogen responsible for botulism: a rare illness that can cause paralysis and even prove fatal. Some fungi can also survive in permafrost for a long time.

Some viruses can also survive for lengthy periods.

Mimivirus, an example of a giant virus (Credit: Science Photo Library/Alamy)

In a 2014 study, a team led by Claverie revived two viruses that had been trapped in Siberian permafrost for 30,000 years. Known as Pithovirus sibericum and Mollivirus sibericum, they are both "giant viruses", because unlike most viruses they are so big they can be seen under a regular microscope. They were discovered 100ft underground in coastal tundra.

Once they were revived, the viruses quickly became infectious. Fortunately for us, these particular viruses only infect single-celled amoebas. Still, the study suggests that other viruses, which really could infect humans, might be revived in the same way.

“The giant viruses tend to be very tough and almost impossible to break open”

What's more, global warming does not have to directly melt permafrost to pose a threat. Because the Arctic sea ice is melting, the north shore of Siberia has become more easily accessible by sea. As a result, industrial exploitation, including mining for gold and minerals, and drilling for oil and natural gas, is now becoming profitable.

"At the moment, these regions are deserted and the deep permafrost layers are left alone," says Claverie. "However, these ancient layers could be exposed by the digging involved in mining and drilling operations. If viable virions are still there, this could spell disaster."

Giant viruses may be the most likely culprits for any such viral outbreak.

"Most viruses are rapidly inactivated outside host cells, due to light, desiccation, or spontaneous biochemical degradation," says Claverie. "For instance, if their DNA is damaged beyond possible repair, the virions will no longer be infectious. However, among known viruses, the giant viruses tend to be very tough and almost impossible to break open."

Neanderthals once lived in Siberia (Credit: The Natural History Museum/Alamy)

Claverie says viruses from the very first humans to populate the Arctic could emerge. We could even see viruses from long-extinct hominin species like Neanderthals and Denisovans, both of which settled in Siberia and were riddled with various viral diseases. Remains of Neanderthals from 30-40,000 years ago have been spotted in Russia. Human populations have lived there, sickened and died for thousands of years.

"The possibility that we could catch a virus from a long-extinct Neanderthal suggests that the idea that a virus could be 'eradicated' from the planet is wrong, and gives us a false sense of security," says Claverie. "This is why stocks of vaccine should be kept, just in case."

Since 2014, Claverie has been analysing the DNA content of permafrost layers, searching for the genetic signature of viruses and bacteria that could infect humans. He has found evidence of many bacteria that are probably dangerous to humans. The bacteria have DNA that encodes virulence factors: molecules that pathogenic bacteria and viruses produce, which increase their ability to infect a host.

Claverie's team has also found a few DNA sequences that seem to come from viruses, including herpes. However, they have not as yet found any trace of smallpox. For obvious reasons, they have not attempted to revive any of the pathogens.

It now seems that pathogens cut off from humans will emerge from other places too, not just ice or permafrost.

“NASA scientists found 10-50,000-year-old microbes inside crystals in a Mexican mine”

The crystals in the Naica cave (Credit: SOTK2011/Alamy)

In February 2017, NASA scientists announced that they had found 10-50,000-year-old microbes inside crystals in a Mexican mine.

The bacteria were located in the Cave of the Crystals, part of a mine in Naica in northern Mexico. The cave contains many milky-white crystals of the mineral selenite, which formed over hundreds of thousands of years.

The bacteria were trapped inside small, fluid pockets of the crystals, but once they were removed they revived and began multiplying. The microbes are genetically unique and may well be new species, but the researchers are yet to publish their work.

Even older bacteria have been found in the Lechuguilla Cave in New Mexico, 1,000ft underground. These microbes have not seen the surface for over 4 million years.

“The bacteria have somehow become resistant to 18 types of antibiotics”

Selenite formations in Lechuguilla Cave (Credit: Paul D. Stewart/naturepl.com)

The cave never sees sunlight, and it is so isolated that it takes about 10,000 years for water from the surface to get into the cave.

Despite this, the bacteria have somehow become resistant to 18 types of antibiotics, including drugs considered to be a "last resort" for fighting infections. In a study published in December 2016, researchers found that the bacteria, known as Paenibacillus sp. LC231, was resistant to 70% of antibiotics and was able to totally inactivate many of them.

As the bacteria have remained completely isolated in the cave for four million years, they have not come into contact with people or the antibiotic drugs used to treat human infections. That means its antibiotic resistance must have arisen in some other way.

The scientists involved believe that the bacteria, which does not harm humans, is one of many that have naturally evolved resistance to antibiotics. This suggests that antibiotic resistance has been around for millions or even billions of years.

“Antibiotic resistance has been around for millions or even billions of years”

Permafrost on the Tibetan plateau (Credit: Gertrud & Helmut Denzau/naturepl.com)

Obviously, such ancient antibiotic resistance cannot have evolved in the clinic as a result of antibiotic use.

The reason for this is that many types of fungi, and even other bacteria, naturally produce antibiotics to gain a competitive advantage over other microbes. That is how Fleming first discovered penicillin: bacteria in a petri dish died after one became contaminated with an antibiotic-excreting mould.

In caves, where there is little food, organisms must be ruthless if they are to survive. Bacteria like Paenibacillus may have had to evolve antibiotic resistance in order to avoid being killed by rival organisms.

This would explain why the bacteria are only resistant to natural antibiotics, which come from bacteria and fungi, and make up about 99.9% of all the antibiotics we use. The bacteria have never come across man-made antibiotics, so do not have a resistance to them.

"Our work, and the work of others, suggests that antibiotic resistance is not a novel concept," says microbiologist Hazel Barton of the University of Akron, Ohio, who led the study. "Our organisms have been isolated from surface species from 4-7 million years, yet the resistance that they have is genetically identical to that found in surface species. This means that these genes are at least that old, and didn't emerge from the human use of antibiotics for treatment."
Although Paenibacillus itself is not harmful to humans, it could in theory pass on its antibiotic resistance to other pathogens. However, as it is isolated beneath 400m of rock, this seems unlikely.

Nevertheless, natural antibiotic resistance is probably so prevalent that many of the bacteria emerging from melting permafrost may already have it. In line with that, in a 2011 study scientists extracted DNA from bacteria found in 30,000-year-old permafrost in the Beringian region between Russia and Canada. They found genes encoding resistance to beta-lactam, tetracycline and glycopeptide antibiotics.

“As Earth warms northern countries will become more susceptible to outbreaks of "southern" diseases like malaria”

Permafrost tundra in Siberia (Credit: Staffan Widstrand/naturepl.com)

How much should we be concerned about all this?

One argument is that the risk from permafrost pathogens is inherently unknowable, so they should not overtly concern us. Instead, we should focus on more established threats from climate change. For instance, as Earth warms northern countries will become more susceptible to outbreaks of "southern" diseases like malaria, cholera and dengue fever, as these pathogens thrive at warmer temperatures.

The alternative perspective is that we should not ignore risks just because we cannot quantify them.

"Following our work and that of others, there is now a non-zero probability that pathogenic microbes could be revived, and infect us," says Claverie. "How likely that is is not known, but it's a possibility. It could be bacteria that are curable with antibiotics, or resistant bacteria, or a virus. If the pathogen hasn't been in contact with humans for a long time, then our immune system would not be prepared. So yes, that could be dangerous."


More on this is here:
-Climate change is thawing deadly diseases. Maybe now we'll address it? (at The Guardian)
-Microorganisms associated with glaciers. (Miteva V. (2011) Microorganisms associated with glaciers. In: V. P. Singh, U. K. Haritashya and P. Singh (eds) Encyclopedia of Snow, Ice and Glaciers. Springer, pp 741-744.) (Full text should be available at Researchgate)
-Melting Glaciers Liberate Ancient Microbes. The release of life-forms in cold storage for eons raises new concerns about the impacts of climate change. (at Scientific American)

today in daze of our lives

Jul. 19th, 2017 05:42 am
[syndicated profile] ontd_political_feed

Posted by blackjedii

New GOP plan to repeal Obamacare meets fatal opposition

Senate Republicans' Plan B to gut Obamacare is poised for failure, as three GOP senators said Tuesday they will vote against a procedural motion to advance repeal of the health law without a replacement — effectively dooming Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell’s latest effort.

The opposition from GOP Sens. Shelley Moore Capito, Lisa Murkowski and Susan Collins came a day after Senate Republicans’ bill to replace Obamacare collapsed, and further imperiled President Donald Trump's vow to dismantle the health law.

McConnell said Tuesday that he would still move to hold a vote soon, which would put senators on the record even if the vote's outcome was preordained.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, who leads a committee that oversees health care, said he would schedule hearings on repairs to the health care system as soon as the vote is held. And senators who are former governors are again preparing bipartisan talks on health care.

McConnell's earlier promise to bring up a 2015 bill taking down major parts of Obamacare flipped at least two “no” votes: Sens. Jerry Moran (R-Kan.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), whose opposition torpedoed the GOP’s health bill on Monday night.

But while Trump and conservatives clamored to resurrect the bill that was vetoed by President Barack Obama, other Republicans hailing from states that benefited from the 2010 health law quickly threw up opposition to repealing it without a replacement.

"As I have said before, I did not come to Washington to hurt people," Capito of West Virginia said. "I cannot vote to repeal Obamacare without a replacement plan that addresses my concerns and the needs of West Virginians.”

"I said back in January that if we are going to repeal we have to do a replacement," said Murkowski of Alaska. Collins of Maine, the only Republican senator still in office who voted against the 2015 plan, also confirmed that she would still oppose proceeding to the bill.

With those votes against the motion, McConnell would not have the 50 votes he needs to begin debate.

Trump appeared resigned to defeat Tuesday and sought to blame Democrats for any future problems with the health system, perhaps in hopes of bringing them to the negotiating table.

“Let Obamacare fail," he told reporters. "It’ll be a lot easier, and I think we’re probably in that position where we’ll just let Obamacare fail. We’re not going to own it. I’m not going to own it. I can tell you the Republicans are not going to own it.”

If the bill fails, the Senate HELP Committee will hold hearings before the August recess on potential bipartisan solutions for people who could have no insurance options next year, Alexander told reporters. He said he wants the Senate to vote "promptly" on the Obamacare repeal bill.

"However the vote comes out, my main concern is the 350,000 Tennesseans and 18 million Americans who might have zero options for health insurance in 2018 and '19," he said.

Elsewhere in the Senate, lawmakers were beginning to ramp up bipartisan efforts on health care. Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) were rounding up senators who are former governors for a meeting as early as Tuesday evening.

"We're going to be talking about what we can do," Rounds told reporters. "I think we look at it pretty pragmatically."

Several senators who have been on the fence on the repeal effort, such as Sens. Rob Portman (R-Ohio) and Dean Heller (R-Nev.), also declined to say how they would vote on motion to proceed, but few predicted success earlier Tuesday.

“We have about five, six people at least that have indicated they’re going to vote no on that,” said Sen. Pat Roberts (R-Kan.).

Portman, who like Capito is worried about massive Medicaid cuts and voted for the 2015 measure, aired concerns about doing a repeal-only bill.

“We have to look and see what the so-called repeal bill entails,” Portman said on MSNBC. “But if it is a bill that simply repeals, I believe that will add to more uncertainty and the potential for Ohioans to pay even higher premiums, higher deductibles, and so we'll have to see.”

Other Republican senators said they were undecided on whether to proceed to the health care measure. The bill that was passed by the Senate in 2015 would get rid of Obamacare’s medical device and Cadillac taxes, as well as the Medicaid expansion and subsidies that help consumers buy insurance. The bill would delay repeal for two years, in order to give lawmakers more time to come up with a replacement.

The bill would also effectively cancel the individual and employer mandates by making the associated fines $0, while defunding Planned Parenthood for one year.

“We will find out” whether Republicans have the votes on the 2015 bill, said Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn of Texas. “We passed it once and President Obama [vetoed] it, but I think that’s one of the purposes of having the vote soon, is to find out where the votes are and where we go from here.”

Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) also took a shot at some of his colleagues in an interview with conservative radio host Hugh Hewitt Tuesday, saying, "I don’t see how any Republican senator who voted just 18 months ago for this very piece of legislation could now flip-flop."

First, 50 GOP senators must decide to vote to open debate on the House-passed health bill before senators can consider the 2015 repeal effort as an amendment. Lee and Moran were among four GOP senators, including Collins and Rand Paul of Kentucky, opposed even opening debate on McConnell's bill.

An aide to Paul said he was “encouraged by the decision to move to a clean repeal bill.”

But Lee is seeking assurances that the Obamacare repeal version that passed in 2015 would be the final product now, a spokesman said. Moran, while saying he would vote to advance the new health care effort, added that he hopes “that then lends itself to full legislative consideration, hearings and committee action.”

McConnell has not said yet said publicly when the health care votes would begin. He initially delayed votes following the absence of Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), who is recovering at home after surgery to remove a blood clot. But leadership aides say the chamber could hold a vote before McCain returns to Washington, and Cornyn also said votes this week on health care are possible.

“It’s a much tougher process than people thought it was,” Senate Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) said of the GOP’s struggles. “We do have people with different points of view even though the vast majority of Republicans would like to get rid of Obamacare.”


Why would you do this?

Jul. 19th, 2017 04:23 am
[syndicated profile] fanficrants_feed

Posted by honorh

When you tag your fic "author doesn't know shit abt [book series]" when posting a fic for THAT VERY book series, it frankly makes me want to run far and fast.
[syndicated profile] ontd_political_feed

Posted by moonbladem

It's what you get when you sneakily form a super-secretive Senate group to work on healthcare in the dark, with 13 men and zero women. Turns out, it was women who decided the fate of their bill anyway. Oh, the irony!

Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) and Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) in 2010.

Susan Collins, Lisa Murkowski and Shelley Moore Capito have a few things in common. They are all senators. They are all Republicans. They are all women. And they all near-immediately opposed Mitch McConnell’s plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act with a delayed replacement.

After the GOP Senate health care bill was effectively killed from within on Monday night ― Sens. Jerry Moran and Mike Lee from the conservative wing of the Republican Party dealt the bill its final blow ― McConnell, the Senate majority leader, announced he would move forward with legislation that would effectively repeal the Affordable Care Act without replacing it. The repeal of key parts of the ACA would be delayed until two years after the vote, which McConnell told reporters he wanted to hold in the “very near future.” (The same legislation was vetoed by former President Barack Obama in 2015.)

By Tuesday afternoon, three Republican senators ― Collins, Capito and Murkowski ― became the first to announce that they would oppose a motion to proceed on a repeal of the ACA without a replacement.

Capito released a statement Tuesday morning emphasizing that she “did not come to Washington to hurt people,” pointing to 173,000 people in her state of West Virginia who gained health coverage due to Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act.

“My position on this issue is driven by its impact on West Virginians,” she continued. “With that in mind, I cannot vote to repeal Obamacare without a replacement plan that addresses my concerns and the needs of West Virginians.”

Soon after, Collins, who had publicly opposed the GOP Senate health care bill, and voted against the same repeal legislation in 2015, tweeted that she too would vote no on the motion to proceed.

“I do not think that it’s constructive to repeal a law that is so interwoven within our health care system without having a replacement plan in place,” the Maine senator said, recommending that the Senate Health Committee hold hearings to look at ways to fix the ACA.

Following Collins, Murkowski, a senator from Alaska, announced that she would not vote to proceed to repeal the ACA, encouraging the Senate to “take a step back and engage in a bipartisan process to address the failures of the ACA and stabilize the individual markets.”

As many pointed out on Twitter, these three senators are all women.

This is notable for two reasons: First, because research has shown that GOP women in Congress are actually the most likely to work across the aisle ― especially when it comes to legislation that impacts health, education and social welfare.

Second, although the initial Senate working group on health care was made up of 13 men and no women ― after major criticism, Capito was invited to join a meeting ― three women ultimately decided the fate of the GOP’s push to overturn the ACA.

Sometimes, irony is sweet.

By Emma Gray. 07/18/2017 04:37 pm ET.



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