Virus found to adapt through newly discovered path of evolution

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Perhaps altering a central tenet of biology, researchers have discovered evidence for a new path of evolution, and with it a deeper understanding of how quickly organisms such as viruses can adapt to their environment. Biologists conducted a series of experiments with a bacterial virus and found that it could infect “normal” hosts, as expected, but also — through a process previously unseen in evolution — acquire an ability to infect new host targets. The researchers say their findings, which address longstanding mysteries of how genes acquire new functions and how mutations arise to ease transmission from one host to another, could be applied to investigations of viral diseases such as Zika, Ebola and bird flu. The researchers are now looking for further examples of their newly discovered evolutionary phenomenon and seeking evidence for how common it is. They are also moving down in scale to probe the details of the new pathway to focus on the processes of individual molecules.

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Humans thrived through Toba super-volcanic eruption

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Imagine a year in Africa when summer never arrives. The sky takes on a gray hue during the day and glows red at night. Flowers do not bloom. Trees die in the winter. Large mammals like antelope become thin, starve and provide little fat to the predators (carnivores and human hunters) that depend on them. Then, this same disheartening cycle repeats itself, year after year. This is a picture of life on Earth after the eruption of super-volcano Mount Toba in Indonesia about 74,000 years ago. In a paper published this week, scientists show that early modern humans on the coast of South Africa thrived through this event. The effect of the Toba eruption would have certainly impacted some ecosystems more than others, possibly creating areas, or refugia, in which some human groups did better than others throughout the event. Whether or not your group lived in such a refuge would have largely depended on the type of resources available.

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Sort through the Chilling Text messages of German soldiers Encountering the Hostage-taking of a new Jewish Girlfriend

This story was originally published by ProPublica.

Late last month, ProPublica reported that the California man accused of killing a gay and Jewish University of Pennsylvania student was an avowed neo-Nazi and a member of Atomwaffen Division, one of the country’s most notorious extremist groups.

The news about the murder suspect, Samuel Woodward, spread quickly throughout the U.S., and abroad. Woodward was accused of fatally stabbing 19-year-old Blaze Bernstein and burying his body in an Orange County park.

The report, it turns out, was also taken up in the secretive online chats conducted by members of Atomwaffen Division, a white supremacist group that celebrates both Hitler and Charles Manson.

“I love this,” one member wrote of the killing, according to copies of the online chats obtained by ProPublica. Another called Woodward a “one man gay Jew wrecking crew.”

More soon joined in.

“What I really want to know is who leaked that shit about Sam to the media,” a third member wrote.

At least one member wanted to punish the person who had revealed Woodward’s affiliation with Atomwaffen.

“Rats and traitors get the rope first.”

Encrypted chat logs obtained by ProPublica—some 250,000 messages spanning more than six months—offer a rare window into Atomwaffen Division that goes well beyond what has surfaced elsewhere about a group whose members have been implicated in a string of violent crimes. Like many white supremacist organizations, Atomwaffen Division uses Discord, an online chat service designed for video gamers, to engage in its confidential online discussions. 

In a matter of months, people associated with the group, including Woodward, have been charged in five murders; another group member pleaded guilty to possession of explosives after authorities uncovered a possible plot to blow up a nuclear facility near Miami.

Video Lucas Waldron/ProPublica

The group’s propaganda makes clear that Atomwaffen—the word means “nuclear weapons” in German—embraces Third Reich ideology and preaches hatred of minorities, gays and Jews. Atomwaffen produces YouTube videos showing members firing weapons and has filmed members burning the U.S. Constitution and setting fire to the American flag. But the organization, by and large, cloaks its operations in secrecy and bars members from speaking to the media.

The chat logs and other material obtained by ProPublica provide unusually extensive information about the group’s leaders, wider makeup, and potential targets, indicating:

The group may have as many as 20 cells around the country, small groups of indeterminate size in Texas, Virginia, Washington, Nevada and elsewhere. Members armed with assault rifles and other guns have taken part in weapons training in various locations over the last two years, including last month in the Nevada desert near Death Valley.

Members have discussed using explosives to cripple public water systems and destroy parts of the electrical power grid. One member even claimed to have obtained classified maps of the power grid in California. Throughout the chats, Atomwaffen members laud Timothy McVeigh, the former soldier who bombed the Alfred P. Murrah federal building in Oklahoma City in 1995, killing 168, including numerous children. Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof and Anders Breivik, the Norwegian extremist who massacred 77 people, also come in for praise.

Woodward posted several messages in the days after Bernstein’s murder, but before he was arrested and charged. In one thread, he told his fellow Atomwaffen members that he was thinking about the “passing of life” and was “truly grateful for our time together.”

Woodward, 20, has pleaded not guilty in the Bernstein case. Prosecutors have said they are exploring whether the murder constituted a hate crime and detectives are now investigating what role, if any, Atomwaffen might have played in the homicide. Woodward and Bernstein had known each other in high school in California, and appear to have reconnected somehow shortly before the killing.

Law enforcement, both federal and state, have said little about what they make of Atomwaffen. But organizations dedicated to tracking and studying hate groups have been calling attention to what they regard as the group’s considerable threat.

“We haven’t seen anything like Atomwaffen in quite a while,” said Keegan Hankes, a researcher who tracks the group for the Southern Poverty Law Center. “They should be taken seriously because they’re so extreme.”

Jeffrey Kaplan, a historian, has studied racial extremists for decades and edited the Encyclopedia of White Power. In an interview, he suggested that Atomwaffen is dangerous, but that talk in their propaganda and private conversations of aims such as toppling the U.S. government amounted to what he called a kind of “magical thinking.” Kaplan said such groups often contain a handful of diehards who are willing to commit crimes and many more wannabes who are unwilling to do much more than read fascist literature.

“It’s very hard to go from talking about violence to looking a guy in the eyes and killing him,” said Kaplan, a professor of national security studies at King Fahd Defense College in Saudi Arabia.

“Politics are useless. Revolution is necessary.”

ProPublica has identified five key Atomwaffen members through information provided by law enforcement investigators, internal Atomwaffen records, outside experts and a former group member.

Those records and interviews make clear that John Cameron Denton is the leader of Atomwaffen. Denton, 24, grew up in Montgomery, Texas, a small town about 30 miles north of Houston. Public records show Denton currently lives in the nearby town of Conroe, a few miles to the south of Montgomery.

ProPublica has obtained several photos of Denton. In one, Denton, who is short and wiry, has a bulky combat shotgun slung over his shoulder. He seems to favor camouflage pants and black T-shirts emblazoned with the logos of National Socialist Black Metal bands, a fringe subgenre of heavy metal music that mixes Satanic and Nazi themes.

“Politics are useless. Revolution is necessary,” Denton said in a chat post expressing the Atomwaffen worldview.

Records and interviews show Denton goes by the name Rape in the online conversations, and he appears to be involved in nearly every aspect of the organization. He shapes Atomwaffen’s ideology, chooses designs for its distinctive black-and-white posters and online propaganda, and selects the books that new recruits must study as part of their initiation, said a former Atomwaffen member interviewed by ProPublica. Denton’s younger brother, Grayson Patrick Denton, 19, is also a member, according to the chat logs and interviews; within the group, he goes by Leon, an homage to a Belgian fascist who fought with the SS.

The leader’s identity was first revealed last month in a report by the Anti-Defamation League. Afterward, Denton was seething. “They think they can stop RAPE!? THEY THINK THEY CAN STOP ME!?!,” Denton wrote in one chat message.

Neither Denton brother responded to messages seeking comment.

Just how many people belong to Atomwaffen is unknown. The ex-member told ProPublica that the group has enlisted about 80 members across the country, many of whom joined after the deadly events in Charlottesville last summer.

An internal Atomwaffen document obtained by ProPublica shows members scattered across 23 states and Canada. The group’s largest chapters are based in Virginia, Texas and Washington, according to a message posted in the chats by an Atomwaffen recruiter last summer.

“Each chapter operates independently,” wrote the recruiter. “We want men who are willing to be the boots on the ground. Joining us means serious dedication not only to the Atomwaffen Division and its members, but to the goal of Total Aryan Victory.”

A review of the chat logs shows messages posted by people using more than 100 different user names. Access to the discussions is tightly controlled, and it is unclear if some members post under multiple usernames.

Denton has helped build the organization around the ideas expressed in an obscure, hyper-violent book: “Siege.” The 563-page book collects and organizes the monthly newsletters produced during the 1980s by an old-line neo-Nazi activist named James Mason. It is required reading for all Atomwaffen members and serves as the backbone for the organization’s ideology, worldview and training program.

When Mason began publishing his newsletter in 1980, he was bitter and deeply dismayed. He had devoted his life to the fascist cause, joining the American Nazi Party in the mid-1960s, at the age of 14. But the movement had completely failed.

For Mason, the way forward was obvious: He no longer wanted to convince the masses of the rightness of Nazism. They would never get it. Now was the time for true believers to go underground and launch a clandestine guerrilla war aimed at bringing down “The System.”

“Siege” is essentially a long string of essays celebrating murder and chaos in the name of white supremacy. In Mason’s view, Dan White, the local politician who assassinated San Francisco Mayor George Moscone and gay civil rights leader Harvey Milk, was a hero.

Mason proposed the creation of a White Liberation Front composed of small armed squads that would “hide in wilderness areas,” moving frequently from location to location while striking out in a string of “hit-and-run engagements.” Mason based this proposed organization on the short-lived National Socialist Liberation Front, a small splinter group of the American Nazi Party that formed in 1969 and espoused the strategic use of political terrorism.

The chat logs show that Denton and other Atomwaffen figures are in contact with Mason, who is 65 and is said to be living in Denver, Colorado; in one online conversation, Samuel Woodward wrote about meeting with Mason face to face along with other Atomwaffen members. In chats, members frequently post pictures of Mason and revere him as a brilliant, under-appreciated thinker.

ProPublica was unable to contact Mason.

Jeffrey Kaplan, the academic at King Fahd Defense College in Riyadh, interviewed Mason in the 1990s and spoke to ProPublica about Mason’s outlook and the groups he inspires, such as Atomwaffen.

He describes Mason as “a true believer.”

“Now he’s got a following, which he didn’t have for the last 30 years,” Kaplan said. “He’s got some kids who’ve rediscovered him. He must be in heaven.”

As Kaplan sees it, groups such as Atomwaffen—would-be Nazi guerrillas devoted to white revolution in the U.S.—are “akin to cults,” and are propelled by a quasi-religious faith that they will ultimately prevail. He continued, “What else would sustain you when everyone hates you?”

John Cameron Denton, based on interviews and the material obtained by ProPublica, comes across as something of a cult leader. Lately he has been pushing for Atomwaffen members to pool money and purchase land in rural areas so they can “get the fuck off the grid,” and begin implementing their revolutionary agenda. The former member said Denton envisions using this network of Atomwaffen compounds to launch attacks against targets in the U.S.

The leader is already girding for a confrontation with law enforcement. “I do expect that one day I’ll get raided,” wrote Denton in one chat message. “I’m not gonna have a shoot out or anything stupid like that, but I just dont rule out possibilities because I know the govt doesnt play by the rules.”

“You would want to target things like substations, water filtration plants, etc.”

Late last month, Atomwaffen held a three-day training session—or “Hate Camp” in the group’s parlance—deep in the Nevada desert. The event was organized by an Atomwaffen leader, Michael Lloyd Hubsky, who calls himself Komissar, according to the chat logs.

A 29-year-old resident of Las Vegas, Hubsky holds both a concealed weapons permit and a security guard license, and is a big fan of high-powered military-style firearms. In one post he discussed a favorite weapon: a Czech-made rifle called a CZ Scorpion that, Hubsky said, he’d converted to fully automatic and equipped with a flash suppressor.

In another message, Hubsky wrote that he was planning on getting an “FFL”—federal firearms license—so he could “manufacture” guns.

“I can literally become our armory in the event we need it,” Hubsky bragged.

The former member said Atomwaffen has a rule: Don’t talk about the group’s terrorist ambitions in online chats or on social media. Those sorts of conversations are only supposed to happen in person. But Hubsky, at times, has been less than discreet outside the group’s confidential chats.

“So in any war, you need to cut off your enemy’s ability to shoot, move and communicate,” Hubsky wrote in a September 2017 message posted in a discussion on white nationalism that occurred in a non-Atomwaffen chat room. “You would want to target things like: Substations, water filtration plants, etc.” ProPublica has obtained Hubsky’s statements from that online conversation.

Hubsky wrote that he had “a map of the US power grid.”

“West-coast only,” he added in the message. “Classified map. Had someone with special permissions get it.”

Hubsky also discussed blowing up natural gas lines.

“You put a home-made thermite grenade on those,” he wrote. While other types of infrastructure—like water lines – figured in Hubsky’s discussions, hitting the power grid was, in his view, the most devastating and effective attack possible. Destroying electricity infrastructure, Hubsky wrote, “would by default take out the internet because it relies on power to operate.”

In a telephone conversation and subsequent series of text messages with ProPublica, Hubsky at first denied being a member of Atomwaffen. But he later offered to discuss the group at length if his name was not made public, an arrangement ProPublica declined. Hubsky acknowledged that he owns a CZ Scorpion assault rifle—even sharing a picture of the weapon—but said it was not fully automatic. He concluded the exchange by saying he had retained a lawyer.

Hubsky’s organization of the three-day Hate Camp in Nevada began with a proposal to the group late last year. He offered to arrange it so the group could hone its combat skills. There would be shooting and hand-to-hand sparring at a secret location on the edge of Death Valley.

Atomwaffen had already held a Hate Camp in the Shawnee National Forest in southern Illinois during the fall of 2017. At least 10 members from different states attended, with some driving in from as far away as Texas, Kansas, Oklahoma and New Jersey. In the Pacific Northwest, cell members had converged on an abandoned cement factory, known as “Devil’s Tower” near the small town of Concrete, Washington, where they had screamed “gas the kikes, race war now!” while firing off round after round from any array of weapons, including an AR-15 assault rifle with a high capacity drum magazine.

The training sessions were documented in Atomwaffen propaganda videos.

Members had also organized smaller training sessions, such as the one last year in Texas that had drawn Blaze Bernstein’s alleged murderer, Samuel Woodward. The Texas training attended by Woodward took place in the countryside outside San Antonio and involved 10 members of the Texas cell who took part in firearms, survival and weapons instruction.

Hubsky scheduled his training camp during the last weekend in January. Atomwaffen’s Washington chapter leader Kaleb J. Cole, who uses the alias Khimaere, agreed to help organize the desert training session in Nevada, which the group started calling the Death Valley Hate Camp.

“Bring your uniform, rifle/sidearm, and whatever camping gear you need,” he wrote. Cole, who is 22 and lives close to the Canadian border in the town of Blaine, is a National Socialist Black Metal enthusiast who holds a concealed firearms permit and owns an AK-47. In 2015, while Cole was living in Bellingham, police responded to a report that he had “Nazi memorabilia” in his residence, according to Lt. Danette Beckley of the Bellingham Police Department; he was also reported to police in the island town of Anacortes for allegedly harassing a Jewish grocery store owner by a waving a Nazi flag in front of the business, according to two law enforcement sources.

The former Atomwaffen member told ProPublica that Cole wields a significant degree of influence over the organization’s propaganda, recruitment and organization. ProPublica could not reach Cole for comment.

When the group got out to the desert, Hubsky made sure they shot photos and videos to be used in Atomwaffen recruiting clips. In one picture obtained by ProPublica, an Atomwaffen member is standing at the base of a sand dune showing off a military-grade weapon—an MCX Virtus rifle made by Sig Sauer—while holding a flag bearing the Atomwaffen insignia, a black shield bearing the symbol for radioactivity. Another member, clutching an assault rifle, is also in the photo.

Hubsky returned from Death Valley enthused and eager to do more training. He uploaded a memo to the Atomwaffen chat. Members would now be required to join Front Sight, a “private combat training facility” outside of Las Vegas in the small desert town of Pahrump. Front Sight, the memo said, could provide classes in “Uzi and full auto M16 combat, as well as knife fighting, hand to hand combat,” and instruction in climbing and rappelling.

“I don’t know anything about this group,” Bill Cookston, Front Sight’s director of operations, said this week. “If anyone were to be doing something against the law or in a radical manner, we would look into that.”

Shortly afterward, Michael Meacher, Front Sight’s CEO, said the training center had sent Hubsky a letter refunding his membership fees and informing the Las Vegas resident that he was banned from the facility for life. 

“Not that the faggot kike didn’t deserve to die.”

Before Samuel Woodward was jailed on charges of murdering Blaze Bernstein, he frequently participated in the Atomwaffen chats. First he used the handle Saboteur. Later he posted under the name Arn.

Often, Woodward sounded like a typical 20-year-old. He enthused about video games (BioShock, Skyrim) and TV shows (he liked the early seasons of “Trailer Park Boys,” a Canadian comedy series). He complained about not having a girlfriend.

But Woodward also railed at “mongrels and jews” and gays.

He praised Mein Kampf and seemed to regard “Siege” as something akin to divine revelation; from his perspective, violence and society-shaking mayhem were the only options for a true Nazi.

That orientation attracted him to outlaw groups like the National Socialist Underground, a German organization that carried out a massive terror spree between 2001 and 2011, robbing 14 banks, planting bombs and murdering 10 people, most of them immigrants. “The NSU was pretty cool,” Woodward wrote.

In one conversation, Woodward discussed the Bosnian Civil War of the 1990s, during which Serbian soldiers and paramilitary fighters raped thousands of Bosnian Muslim women as part of an infamous campaign of ethnic cleansing. “The only acceptable case of miscegenation is what the serbs did to captured bosniak women,” he wrote in November 2017.

Woodward liked the idea of using rape to terrorize women of color, whom he saw as his foes. “Force them to carry around the spawn of their master and enemy,” he wrote.

ProPublica sought comment on the chats from Woodward’s lawyer, Edward Munoz, but did not get a response.

On Jan. 26, ProPublica published a story revealing Woodward’s belief in Nazism and exposing his involvement with Atomwaffen.

While the article attracted the attention of Atomwaffen members, who promptly posted it to their online chats, no one in the group expressed any sympathy for Bernstein, the young man Woodward allegedly murdered. They made jokes about his slaying and used slurs to describe him. If there was worry, it was about Woodward possibly having to do time behind bars for the murder.

“Sam did something stupid,” wrote one member. “Not that the faggot kike didn’t deserve to die. Just simply not worth a life in prison for.”

Sean Michael Fernandez, an Atomwaffen leader in Texas, even saw an upside for the group. Fernandez, who used the alias Wehrwolf, believed that Atomwaffen actually stood to benefit from the increased notoriety stemming from Woodward’s affiliation with the neo-Nazi group and the Bernstein murder.

“We’re only going to inspire more ‘copycat crimes’ in the name of AWD. All we have to do is spread our image and our propaganda,” Fernandez wrote on Jan. 30.

He continued: “The growing fear is what we set out to do and it’s working EXACTLY how I wanted it to since we took over ‘leadership.’ I couldn’t have planned this better, seriously.”

For his part, Denton, the national Atomwaffen leader, felt betrayed. ProPublica had interviewed a former member for the story; still, Denton believed that someone currently within the ranks was sharing information with the media. “Looks like AWD needs another purging,” he wrote.

Members began speculating about who was talking to outsiders. Was it a current member? Was it someone they’d kicked out recently?

Members also directed their rage toward the media. As they saw it, Woodward was the one being victimized. Now that his involvement with Atomwaffen had spilled out into the public sphere, Orange County prosecutors might hit him with hate crimes charges—charges that could potentially add years to a prison sentence.

“We really owe those jews at ProPublica,” wrote one member.

Woodward posted many hundreds of messages to the Atomwaffen chats. But on Jan. 5, he typed out a few lines that are quite distinct from all the rest. In them, the raging young man suddenly became highly sentimental. Two days earlier, according to prosecutors, he had buried Bernstein’s lifeless body in a park in Lake Forest, California.

Now Woodward explained that he was reflecting on mortality.

“hey everyone,” he wrote. “i just wanted to let you all know i love you so much.”

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Crime and Justice – Mother Jones

Buddy Pelosi as well as having the Other party have Borscht Through out Their personal Encounters!!

On Friday, 02 February 2018, the much hyped Nunes Memo was finally released (Ward & Aleem, 2018). Partisan politics took centre stage as the Democrats and Republicans marched out some of their respective party’s best deceivers to make their case to the American people. Watching it was akin to watching some weird, perverse Kabuki performance. In typical kabuki-style play acting, minority leader Nancy Pelosi was singing and dancing that the release of the memo would lead to a “constitutional crisis” (Carruthers, 2018). While on the other side of the aisle, President Trump and the Republicans were claiming total vindication of any wrongdoing (Stewart, 2018).

Informed Americans were concerned about the contents of the Nunes memo. They were even more concerned about the bizarre way the political elites were acting prior to the memos release. Obviously, there was something else going on behind the scenes. Something was dramatically wrong in Washington! With the disclosure of hundreds of text messages between FBI agent Peter Strzok and bureau attorney Liza Page, people were wondering; who in the hell was running the country? It certainly wasn’t the president or the congress! More and more it looked like the bureaucrats were in charge with no oversight by the Congress. Congress and the President were merely passengers along for the ride!

The American two-party system is destroying the country. The Republicans and Democrats are organized and operate in a manner similar to a criminal syndicate. The Democrats are comparable to a drug cartel which ideologically believes all actions are legitimate; the end justify the means. Whatever goals the senior leadership set, the rank and file blindly accept and work to achieve. Pelosi and the Democrats have set the goal of delegitimizing President Trump no matter what the ultimate cost is to America. The narrative Pelosi has given to the Democrats: the election was stolen from Clinton and the Democrats with the help of the Russians. That’s their story and they’re sticking to it even if that means manufacturing information to support it.

The Republicans on the other hand are akin to the traditional Italian mafia portrayed in Hollywood gangster movies. They follow a more rules-based conduct, grounded in some imaginary moral code. Like the Democrats, they also believe the end justifies the means. Unlike the Democrats, the Republicans don’t necessarily wish for Trump to be impeached. That doesn’t mean they support the President, in fact they appear to be divided in their support for, and defence of Trump (Pew Research Center, 2017). Given President Trumps background and inexperience in politics, he is viewed by the Republicans as an anomaly in Washington, an interloper who must be endured. As with the Democrats, the Republican’s ideology is winning at all costs. Consequently, they will come to Trumps defence in small numbers in order to protect the party. But when/if it becomes politically viable, the Republicans undoubtedly will throw President Trump under the bus the Democrats are driving. It’s all about the “party” and it’s all about winning.

The days when either party stood on principle are gone. Neither party stands for anything anymore, the focus is solely on winning at all costs. The result? The American people have become an inconvenience which both parties must deal with to win and remain in power. This attack on Trump concerning Russian collusion is something different. The Republicans and Democrats have dug their heels in and escalated their attacks on each other. It’s different from the typical knife fight. It’s a fight to the death. What’s the cause of this mentality? What’s really going on in Washington? Why continue with this insane narrative that Trump is a Russian stooge who colluded to hack the election?

Did Trump help the Russians hack the election? Much to Pelosi and the Democrats dismay, NO (Strohm, 2018)! A federal grand jury working as part of the Mueller probe, recently indicted 13 Russian nationals who were part of a vast scheme to interfere in the 2016 election and allegedly help Trump win (Strohm, 2018). Why allegedly? Their intent appears more and more as though it was to create discord, disruption and chaos within the political institutions in America (Datoc, 2018). As if the American political system needed help from the Russians to become dysfunctional! If that was their intent, then it was a very successful operation on their part!

The indictment alleges these Russians were accused of travelling to the United States to conduct research and then employ specialists to fine-tune disparaging social media posts about Hillary Clinton (Mangan & Calia, 2018). They were also accused of making denigrating comments against Republican primary opponents Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio to ensure Trump secured the nomination (Mangan & Calia, 2018). The FBI and DOJ’s findings affirm that Trump and his campaign were not involved. (Mangan & Calia, 2018). Following Trump’s election, the same group of Russians were accused of organizing rallies protesting the result (Mangan & Calia, 2018). Mueller found no evidence that any Americans were involved with this scheme nor that the actions of the Russians influenced the outcome of the election in any way (Mangan & Calia, 2018). [READ MORE]

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Harvesting law firms are offended through a new Congolese cropping legal

ROBERT Friedland, the boss of Ivanhoe Mines, a large Canadian firm that digs out copper and zinc in Africa, is not one for pessimism. In his speech to an annual mining industry jamboree, Mining Indaba, in Cape Town, his promises about the potential of the business were as copious as the ore bodies his firm mines. But amid the hyperbole about electric cars, Chinese consumers and the “most disruptive copper discovery in the world” there was a note of panic. Money, he warned, is “a coward”, and may be about to flee.

The cause of fear is a new mining code that was passed by parliament in the Democratic Republic of Congo on January 24th. Congo is Africa’s biggest copper producer; its reserves, mostly in the southern copper belt, are among the world’s richest. As important, it has emerged recently as the world’s leading producer of cobalt, a by-product of copper smelting that is used in batteries for electric cars. It also produces gold, zinc, tin and diamonds.

The new law, which has yet to be signed by Joseph Kabila, the…Continue reading

Business and finance

'Three Billboards' wins big as Golden Globes power through sex scandal

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) – Dark drama “Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri” was the big winner with four Golden Globes awards on Sunday on a night marked by scathing jokes about sexual harassment and passionate odes to those breaking their silence.

Mother-daughter comedy “Lady Bird” was named best comedy film and the indie A24 movie’s star Saoirse Ronan won for comedy actress.

Gary Oldman was named best drama movie actor for his role as British wartime leader Winston Churchill in Focus Features’ “Darkest Hour” and Frances McDormand took home the award for drama actress for her role as an angry mother seeking vengeance in Fox Searchlight’s “Three Billboards.”

James Franco won the comedy actor award for his cult movie homage “The Disaster Artist,” also from A24. Mexican director Guillermo del Toro won best director for magical fantasy “The Shape of Water.”

However, the night was dominated not by who took home prizes but by jokes and speeches about the sexual misconduct scandal that has rocked Hollywood.

“Happy New Year Hollywood! It’s 2018. Marijuana is finally allowed and sexual harassment finally isn‘t,” quipped Globes host Seth Meyers in his opening remarks, bringing wild applause from the A-list audience in Beverly Hills.

Multiple allegations against actors, filmmakers and Hollywood agents since October 2017 have led to many of the accused being fired, forced to step down, or dropped from creative projects.

Referring to the male nominees gathered in Beverly Hills for the top television and movie awards, Meyers said: “This is the first time in three months it won’t be terrifying to hear your name read out loud.”

The evening began with the normally colorful red carpet transformed into a sea of black gowns as every actress showed solidarity with victims of sexual harassment inside and outside the entertainment industry. Many have given their own harrowing accounts. [L1N1P300D]

Greta Gerwig director of Lady Bird accepts the award for Best Motion Picture Comedy or Musical at the 75th Golden Globe Awards in Beverly Hills, California, U.S. January 7, 2018. Paul Drinkwater/Courtesy of NBC/Handout via REUTERS

Women kept up the theme inside the Beverly Hilton ballroom.

“This year, we became the story,” Oprah Winfrey said in a rousing speech while accepting the annual lifetime achievement award.

McDormand said she was proud to be a woman in the industry. “It’s great to be here and be part of the tectonic shift in our industry’s power structure,” she said.

Slideshow (26 Images)

Laura Dern, a supporting actress winner for “Big Little Lies,” said: “May we teach our children that speaking out without retribution is our culture’s new north star.”

The HBO TV series was one of several female-driven winners on Sunday.

The Golden Globes ceremony, the first of the major awards shows in the run-up to the Oscars in March, marked the first big test for how Hollywood would handle the scandal.

Meyers joked that, as the first of the hosts, he felt like “the first dog they shot into outer space.”

He appeared to have found the right balance, getting cheers in the room and warm early reviews. Industry website said Meyers “deftly executed a seemingly impossible task,” while E! News said he “made lemonade out of lemons.”

Dystopian tale “The Handmaid’s Tale” won best TV drama series and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” Amazon’s new series about a 1950s housewife who become a stand-up comedian, took best TV comedy or musical series. [L1N1P3046]

Fox Searchlight and parent company Twentieth Century Fox were the big winners in terms of studios, with their films winning seven awards. Indie movie studio A24 had three.

Additional reporting by Piya Sinha-Roy and Nichola Groom; Editing by Sandra Maler and Paul Tait

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Alien space ship had probably passed through UK car-wash say scientists|Humor

Scientists from UCL’s Mullard Space Science Laboratory in Dorking – currently tracking a mysterious cigar shaped vessel as it journeys through our Solar System – now think the distressed looking object may have passed through a car-wash.

Scientists had originally thought the object was just an unusual shaped asteroid passing close to earth but now think it may have been an alien space craft looking for a quick wax and shine.  For several days the battered, elongated pock marked object had baffled scientists at the UCL Laboratory who could not understand why an alien spaceship with super advanced technology could be in such a dilapidated condition.

It was not until project researcher Jason Beesley’s Renault Clio emerged from a wax and shine at his local carwash in Luton that the answer became apparent.  Jason said the Clio needed a rinse to wash the gritting salt off the paintwork: ‘ And when it emerged it looked exactly like that asteroid thing’.

Operatives at the Luton based car wash say they did vaguely remember a customer who drove a vehicle make they did not recognise.  ‘Come to think of it, the guy did have green scaly skin, four bulbous eyes and gave off a putrid smelling slime’ said operative Jake Wills. ‘But it’s Luton and we thought nothing else of it.  We just assumed he was one of the locals’.

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Strangers could be speaking to your child through smart toys, watchdog warns

Strangers could be communicating with children through smart toys by hacking Bluetooth connections, consumer group Which? has warned. It says an investigation found no password and little technical knowledge was needed to hijack loudspeakers built into the toys.

Popular Christmas gifts including the I-Que Intelligent Robot, Furby Connect, Toy-fi Teddy and CloudPets cuddly toy had “worrying security failures” when investigated. Which? has now called on retailers to stop selling the toys with “proven issues.”

Which? found there was no authentication required between the toys and the devices they could link with via Bluetooth and Wi-Fi. The lack of authentication means that, in theory, any device within physical range could link to the toy and take control or send messages, the watchdog said.

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“In each of the toys, the Bluetooth connection had not been secured, meaning during the tests the hacker didn’t need a password, PIN code or any other authentication to get access,” the report read. “In addition, very little technical know-how was needed to gain access to the toys to start sharing messages with a child.”

In collaboration with German consumer group Stiftung Warentet, Which? tested connected toys on sale at major retailers. The investigation found that people could use a toy to communicate with a child in four out of the seven devices tested.

Furby Connect, sold by Argos, Amazon, Smyths and Toys ‘R’ Us, was found to be connectable by anyone within a 10-30 meter (33-98ft) Bluetooth range when it’s switched on, with no physical interaction required. It does not use any security features when pairing. The connection can be made through a laptop, opening up more opportunities to control the toy. “Our security experts were able to upload and play a custom audio file on the Furby,” the report said.

The I-Que Intelligent Robot, which has featured on the Hamleys top toys Christmas list, uses Bluetooth to pair with a phone or tablet through an app, with an unsecured connection. Anyone can download the app, find one of the talking robots within Bluetooth range, and start chatting using the robot’s voice by typing into a text field, the Which? investigation found.

READ MORE: Buyer beware! Internet-connected toys ‘expose children to online predators’

CloudPets is a stuffed animal and enables friends to send messages to a child, which are played back on a built-in speaker. Which? found someone could hack the toy via its unsecured Bluetooth connection and make it play their own voice messages.

Toy-fi Teddy allows a child to send and receive personal recorded messages over Bluetooth via a smartphone or tablet app. The Bluetooth feature lacks any authentication protection, however, meaning hackers can send voice messages to a child and receive answers back.

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A third of animals are vanishing as roads spread through forests

Aerial view of a road cutting through a forest

Making more edge cases

Per-Anders Pettersson/Getty

Imagine you could teleport to any forest on Earth. When you land, you have a 50 per cent chance of being within half a kilometre of the forest’s edge. That is how badly our planet’s forests have been sliced and diced.

A new study shows that 85 per cent of animals are being affected by living in these dismembered forests. The findings will help conservationists figure out how best to protect these species.

While the fragmentation of forests is known to affect biodiversity and ecosystems, the effects studied so far are local and specific to particular species, making for a chaotic picture. Marion Pfeifer of Newcastle University in the UK and her colleagues came up with a new method to make sense of the data.


Instead of simply separating regions into forest and non-forest, they also took into account changes to the land that surrounds the forests. Using existing population data, they mapped the abundances of 1673 vertebrate species – including amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals – in 22 tropical regions in the Americas, Asia and Africa. These included many threatened species such as the Sunda pangolin and Baird’s tapir.

Of the species whose abundance changed near forest edges, 46 per cent have become more abundant over the last few decades, compared with 39 per cent that became less abundant. This may be good news for some species, although life on the forest edge may well change their behaviours.

However, others that prefer to live deep in the forest only reached their peak abundances more than 200 to 400 metres from the forest edges. These species seem to be dependent on large, continuous forests. If forests continue to be fragmented, these species may be driven out.

Roads everywhere

“It’s a tremendously important study, because it integrates such a large amount of data for nearly 2000 vertebrate species,” says William Laurance of James Cook University in Queensland, Australia. “In some ways, it confirms our worst fears.”

Laurance emphasises that forests in tropical developing nations will be particularly affected by the fast pace of road-building there. In a paper published last week, he and his colleagues estimated that, of the projected 25 million kilometres of paved roads that will be built by 2050, about 90 per cent will be in these regions (Current Biology,

“Roads typically open up a Pandora’s box of environmental problems for forest species,” says Laurance. The problems include fragmentation, hunting, logging, deforestation and illegal mining. In the Amazon, 95 per cent of all deforestation occurs within 5.5 kilometres of a legal or illegal road.

Many of these roads will be poorly built, so they will be washed away in heavy rainfall, or become riddled with holes. Rather than having a positive impact on development, maintaining them may be a financial drain on these nations.

Roads, and forest fragmentation in general, may also affect us – in a dramatic way. “Tropical forest edges are much more susceptible to wildfires,” says Jos Barlow of Lancaster University, UK. A 2015 study found that fires occur more often at forest edges, such as beside roads or clearings, striking there every 11 years compared with every 82 years in dense jungles. According to Barlow, preventing the fragmentation of forests may be a vital step in reducing the incidence of wildfires.

Journal reference: Nature, DOI: 10.1038/nature24457

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New Scientist – Earth