Is ISIS on the U.S.-Mexican Border? snopes.com says “FALSE”


Photo from a world-class source of idjit fodder

…Rumors of ISIS members slipping through southern borders escalated significantly on 7 October 2014 when U.S. Rep. Duncan Hunter of California told Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren that as many as ten ISIS militants had been apprehended at southern crossings…”I know that at least ten ISIS fighters have been caught coming across the Mexican border in Texas”…

Hunter’s claims seemed to fall directly in line with several made by the disreputable Judicial Watch site, a muckraking organization run by “political activist” Larry Klayman (who issued a press release in October 2014 announcing he was petitioning several federal agencies to deport President Obama, and who has been barred for life by multiple judges for his repetitive misuse of the court system). Since August 2014, Judicial Watch has been claiming that the U.S.-Mexico border is vulnerable to ISIS, stating in a “bulletin” on 10 October 2014 that: There are times when all of us hate to say, “I told you so.” And the latest news from Judicial Watch on the apprehension of ISIS terrorists on the U.S.-Mexico border is certainly one of them…

The claims by Judicial Watch of an “imminent” attack “coming very soon” were made on 31 August 2014, and Hunter’s statements came more than a month later. No such attack or confirmed attempt to cross the border by members of ISIS occurred in the intervening weeks between the “bulletin” and Hunter’s appearance on Fox News to substantiate beliefs that ISIS either had crossed or had intended to cross the U.S.-Mexico border.

The inclusion in the rumor of an “in the last 36 hours” modifier created an impression of urgency without specifying when the event itself occurred (and enabled the rumor to spread ad infinitum.) On 8 October 2014, a senior spokeswoman for the Department of Homeland Security responded to Hunter’s claim about ISIS fighters captured by Border Patrol: “The suggestion that individuals who have ties to ISIL have been apprehended at the Southwest border is categorically false, and not supported by any credible intelligence or the facts on the ground. DHS continues to have no credible intelligence to suggest terrorist organizations are actively plotting to cross the southwest border”.

RTfA for a compilation of several more governmental sources, political and civic sources, saying the same. Of course, if you’re a stone nutball who believes all governments are part of every fear-driven conspiracy in your demented little gray cells, this means nothing to your catechism.

I love snopes.com. One of the first places I check when someone forwards an email claiming the next hard-to-believe conspiracy has come true.

Celebrating Hubble’s 25th Anniversary

This visualization provides a three-dimensional perspective on Hubble’s 25th anniversary image of the nebula Gum 29 with the star cluster Westerlund 2 at its core. The flight traverses the foreground stars and approaches the lower left rim of the nebula Gum 29. Passing through the wispy darker clouds on the near side, the journey reveals bright gas illuminated by the intense radiation of the newly formed stars of cluster Westerlund 2. Within the nebula, several pillars of dark, dense gas are being shaped by the energetic light and strong stellar winds from the brilliant cluster of thousands of stars.

Happy anniversary, Hub. Waiting patiently for Webb to take over.

Senate finally confirms Loretta Lynch as attorney general


This has nothing to do with being a woman of color. Really?

Loretta Lynch won Senate approval as U.S. attorney general on Thursday, becoming the first black woman to occupy the post at a time when deadly altercations between white police and unarmed black men are making headlines.

The Senate confirmed Lynch by a vote of 56-43 to end a five-month partisan deadlock over her nomination by President Barack Obama. She had waited for a vote longer than the last seven attorneys general combined…

Taking over the Justice Department from Attorney General Eric Holder, Lynch also will face early tests on financial cases alleging some of the world’s largest banks helped clients evade U.S. taxes and manipulated currency markets.

She is expected to start work on Monday.

Ten Republicans voted for Lynch, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The tally in Lynch’s favor was larger than expected, perhaps reflecting political concerns. Of the Republicans who backed her, four are up for reelection next year, three of them from states with big cities that have large African-American populations…

Commentary like this reminds me I’m an old cranky geek. I actually remember when a few Republicans could be counted on for votes like this – because they supported civil rights, opposed racist practices and policies.

Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid berated Republicans for delaying the confirmation and said Lynch was “as qualified a candidate” as he had seen in almost 30 years in the Senate…

An accomplished career prosecutor, Lynch has twice served as U.S. attorney in Brooklyn, most recently since 2010. Her office there handled more terrorism prosecutions than most other offices in the United States. For two years, she also led a committee that advised the attorney general on policy.

At a Senate confirmation hearing on Jan. 28, Lynch said her top priorities would include fighting terrorist threats and cyber crime, and improving relations between law enforcement and minority communities.

Most of which is beyond the ken of Congressional Republicans, Blue Dog Democrats and assorted opportunist politicians committed to doing as little as possible to rock the boats of their favorite corporate lobbyists..

Once again Obama avoids calling 1915 Armenian killings “genocide”

President Barack Obama will once again stop short of calling the 1915 massacre of Armenians a genocide, prompting anger and disappointment from those who have been pushing him to fulfill a campaign promise and use the politically fraught term on the 100th anniversary of the killings this week. Officials decided against it after opposition from some at the State Department and the Pentagon…

As a senator and presidential candidate, Obama did describe the killings of Armenians as “genocide” and said the U.S. government had a responsibility to recognize them as such. As a candidate in January 2008, Obama pledged to recognize the genocide and at least one of his campaign surrogates — the current U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Samantha Power — recorded a nearly five-minute video at the time imploring Armenian-Americans to vote for Obama precisely because he would keep his word on the issue.

But Obama has never used that description since taking office, mainly out of deference to Turkey, a key U.S. partner and NATO ally, which is fiercely opposed to the “genocide” label.

Meanwhile, our stalwart ally continues to be governed by an opportunist hypocrite – doing his best to undermine Turkey’s secular constitution while he courts fundamentalist Islamist voters and activists to stay in power.

Tuesday’s announcement, accompanied by word that Treasury Secretary Jacob Lew will attend a ceremony in Armenia on Friday to mark the anniversary, was made shortly after Secretary of State John Kerry met with Turkey’s Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu in Washington.

In brief comments to reporters at the State Department, neither Kerry nor Cavusoglu mentioned Armenia or the upcoming April 24 anniversary…

Historians estimate up to 1.5 million Armenians were killed by Ottoman Turks, an event widely viewed by scholars as genocide. Turkey, however, denies the deaths constituted genocide and says the death toll has been inflated.

Too bad Armenia isn’t as important an imperial ally as Israel. Such denial wouldn’t be tolerated.

Native American actors walk off Sandler film — upset over racist jokes


Saginaw Grant and Loren Anthony on the setinstagram.com/lorenanthony

About a dozen Native American actors and actresses walked off the set of Sandler’s “The Ridiculous Six,” according to the Indian Country Today Media Network. Per reports, the actors took offense to racially charged jokes and inaccuracies during the filming of the movie, which Sandler is developing for Netflix…

According to ICTMN, some female Native American characters were given names Beaver’s Breath and No Bra.

“They just treated us as if we should just be on the side,” Loren Anthony, one of the actors who walked off the set, told ICTMN. “When we did speak with the main director, he was trying to say the disrespect was not intentional and this was a comedy…”

Allison Young, a former film student from Dartmouth, also walked off the set and told ICTMN that producers weren’t receptive to the actors’ concerns.

“We talked to the producers about our concerns. They just told us, ‘If you guys are so sensitive, you should leave…’

The film is expected to hit Netflix next year.

No – I won’t be watching.

The age of Hollywood making profitable films about racial and ethnic groups is supposed to be over. Really? Employing the same stereotypes as “jokes” and calling them satire is what you get from self-assigned liberated artists who think they’re above bigotry because they joke about it. What they really try to do is profit from both sides of the street – the folks who think they’re over bigotry and the scumbags who think bigotry is still funny.

Don’t kid yourself. Movie producers know exactly how that works, how it happens and make a conscious decision to take advantage of the contradictions.

Can films satirize our history of bigotry? You betcha. If you have sufficient talent and taste.

Solar Impulse lands in Nanjing

solar impulse

The Solar Impulse 2, the world’s largest solar-powered aircraft attempting to fly around the world, has just made its sixth stop in the Chinese city of Nanjing.

It arrived in Nanjing on Tuesday night after a 17-hour flight. Previously, it had been stranded in China’s Chongqing Municipality for 21 days due to bad weather.

The Solar Impulse 2 will stay in Nanjing for another two weeks, after which it will begin its 5-day non-stop flight across the Pacific Ocean to Hawaii.

Kicking off its journey on March 8th in Abu Dhabi, the plane stopped at Muscat, Ahmedabad, Varanasi, Mandalay and Chongqing, and has been flying a total distance of 6,000 km for 75 hours. It will then fly across the U.S. and the Atlantic Ocean, pass Southern Europe and North Africa, and then head back to Abu Dhabi, finishing its round-the-world journey.

Just keeping up with one of the more inspiring flights in recent decades.

Unheard of microbial diversity found in remote Amazon tribe

Yanomami boy, early morning light
Click through to photographer’s site

A multicenter team of U.S. and Venezuelan scientists, led by researchers from NYU Langone Medical Center, have discovered the most diverse collection of bodily bacteria yet in humans among an isolated tribe of Yanomami Indians in the remote Amazonian jungles of southern Venezuela…

By comparison, the microbiome of people living in industrialized countries is about 40 percent less diverse, the scientists estimate…

The results, the researchers say, suggest a link between modern antibiotics and industrialized diets, and greatly reduced diversity of the human microbiome–the trillions of bacteria that live in and on the body and are increasingly seen as vital to our health.

The Yanomami villagers of this study, who have subsisted by hunting and gathering for hundreds of generations, are believed to have lived in total seclusion from the outside world until 2009 when they were first contacted by a medical expedition. Among a rare population of people unexposed to modern antibiotics, the villagers offer a unique window onto the human microbiome.

…Maria Dominguez-Bello…senior author of the study…says, “Our results bolster a growing body of data suggesting a link between, on the one hand, decreased bacterial diversity, industrialized diets, and modern antibiotics, and on the other, immunological and metabolic diseases–such as obesity, asthma, allergies, and diabetes, which have dramatically increased since the 1970s,” notes Dr. Dominguez-Bello. “We believe there is something environmental occurring in the past 30 years that is driving these diseases. We think the microbiome could be involved…”

A genetic analysis of gut and oral bacteria…revealed that the Yanomami villagers had bacteria containing genes coding for antibiotic resistance. The bacterial genes conferred resistance not only to natural antibiotics found in the soil but, surprisingly, to synthetic antibiotics as well…

The resistant genes, however, seem to be silenced because cultured strains of the bacteria were sensitive to antibiotics. “The silenced antibiotic-resistant genes show that you don’t need exposure to antibiotics to possess antibiotic-resistant genes,” adds Dr. Dominquez Bello.

The presence of resistance genes in microbiota unexposed to antibiotics may help explain the rapid rate at which bacteria develop resistance to new classes of antibiotics, notes Dr Gautam Dantas.

Grandma may be right, once again. Let your kids eat dirt.

OTOH, some of this work reinforces the [new] minority opinion that antibiotic resistance isn’t acquired exclusively from overuse, over-prescription.

Common pesticide harms wild bees

A common type of pesticide is dramatically harming wild bees, according to a new in-the-field study that outside experts say may help shift the way the U.S. government looks at a controversial class of chemicals.

But in the study published by the journal Nature on Wednesday, honeybees — which get trucked from place to place to pollinate major crops like almonds— didn’t show the significant ill effects that wild cousins like bumblebees did. This is a finding some experts found surprising. A second study published in the same journal showed that in lab tests bees are not repelled by the pesticides and in fact may even prefer pesticide coated crops, making the problem worse…

Exposure to neonicotinoid insecticides reduced the density of wild bees, resulted in less reproduction, and colonies that didn’t grow when compared to bees not exposed to the pesticide, the study found.

Scientists in Sweden were able to conduct a study that was in the wild, but still had the in-the-lab qualities of having control groups that researchers covet. They used 16 patches of landscape, eight where canola seeds were coated with the pesticide and eight where they weren’t, and compared the two areas.

When the first results came in, “I was quite, ‘Oh my God,'” said study lead author Maj Rundlof of Lund University. She said the reduction in bee health was “much more dramatic than I ever expected.”

In areas treated with the pesticide, there were half as many wild bees per square meter than there were in areas not treated, Rundlof said. In the pesticide patches, bumblebee colonies had “almost no weight gain” compared to the normal colonies that gained about a pound, she said…

The European Union has a moratorium on the use of neonicotinoids and some environmentalists are pushing for the same in the United States. Rundlof conducted her study just before the European ban went into effect in 2013…

While many large farms rely on honeybee colonies, a 2013 study found that wild bees and other insects were more important in pollination than previously thought and far more efficient at pollination than honeybees. Plus, the wild flowers around the world are mostly pollinated by wild bees, said Rundolf’s co-author, Henrik Smith of Lund University.

The irony was a spokesperson for Bayer Chemicals complaining that the researchers in Sweden used too much of their neonicotinoid pesticide. What they used was – Bayer’s recommended dose.

Earth Day

Earth-Quotes-6

Each year, Earth Day — April 22 — marks the anniversary of what many consider the birth of the modern environmental movement in 1970.

The height of hippie and flower-child culture in the United States, 1970 brought the death of Jimi Hendrix, the last Beatles album, and Simon & Garfunkel’s “Bridge Over Troubled Water”. Protest was the order of the day, but saving the planet was not the cause. War raged in Vietnam, and students nationwide increasingly opposed it.

At the time, Americans were slurping leaded gas through massive V8 sedans. Industry belched out smoke and sludge with little fear of legal consequences or bad press. Air pollution was commonly accepted as the smell of prosperity. “Environment” was a word that appeared more often in spelling bees than on the evening news. Although mainstream America remained oblivious to environmental concerns, the stage had been set for change by the publication of Rachel Carson’s New York Times bestseller Silent Spring in 1962. The book represented a watershed moment for the modern environmental movement, selling more than 500,000 copies in 24 countries and, up until that moment, more than any other person, Ms. Carson raised public awareness and concern for living organisms, the environment and public health.

Earth Day 1970 capitalized on the emerging consciousness, channeling the energy of the anti-war protest movement and putting environmental concerns front and center.

Thanks, Ursarodinia