Personal attack and Politics


During the past few weeks we have seen in British Politics where a number of persons are vying to become Prime Minister.
In doing so I cannot say that there is any concrete evidence of interest untoward the majority of the public.
One thing for sure that I can see is that they are very good at attacking each other personally, but my question is what does one personal affairs got to do with dealing with the Economy of the Country.
Anyway if you are going to give a man’s job to a boy, then whenever the boy fails to produce he will always use dirty tricks against his opponent.
Politics just got stinks.

Concern over palliative care levels


http://www.runcornandwidnesworld.co.uk/resources/images/3662408.jpg?htype=0&display=1&type=mc2

Black, Asian and minority ethnic groups, those aged over 85 and people living in poorer areas are being failed in the quality of palliative care they receive, according to a report.

In all, thousands of patients are not being given sufficient pain relief and respite, the London School of Economics and Political Science (LSE) said.

Terminally ill patients with illnesses other than cancer are also failing to receive help from specially-trained palliative care staff and less end-of-life care from GPs and district nurses.

Despite more than 70% of deaths being due to other causes than cancer such as respiratory illness, circulatory conditions and dementia, people with non-cancer diagnoses still account for only 20% of all new referrals to specialist palliative care services.

It added that providing palliative care to those that need it could potentially generate net savings of more than £30 million in England, at least £2 million in Wales, more than £1 million in Northern Ireland and £4 million in Scotland due to the reduced need for acute care and fewer hospital deaths.
The report, commissioned by the charity Marie Curie, said some people who would benefit from palliative care do not receive any at all.

It said an estimated 92,000 people in England, 6,100 people in Wales, 3,000 in Northern Ireland and 10,600 people in Scotland who would benefit from palliative care every year but are not currently receiving it.

While those from black, Asian and minority ethnic groups were actually more likely than those of white ethnicity to receive support, they were less likely to consider overall care in the last three months of life to be ” outstanding” or “excellent”. This was the same for people in less deprived areas.

It also pointed to evidence that pain and other distressing symptoms are under-reported by older people and/or under-identified by healthcare professionals, and there is confusion about the role of geriatricians in providing palliative care.

With the number of people aged over 85 expected to more than double over the next 20 years, Marie Curie said the report was deeply concerning and exposes gaps in services along with poor communication and unclear roles and responsibilities.

Josie Dixon research fellow at LSE’s Personal Social Services Research Unit (PSSRU) and lead author, said: “Part of the problem is that palliative care has traditionally been for people with cancer and there is currently a lack of suitable models of palliative care for people with non-cancer and increasingly complex conditions.

“Palliative care can reduce symptoms and pain and help people die where they want to. It can also save money by preventing unwanted and distressing hospitalisations.

“These statistics show that care homes have a growing role in caring for people who are dying, but they need more support from GPs and specialists than currently exists.”

Marie Curie chief executive Dr Jane Collins said: “Everyone affected by terminal illness should have access to all the care and support they need, regardless of their personal circumstances. This report shows that this is not the case and some groups are getting a worse deal than others. We don’t think this is good enough.

“We hope that this compelling evidence is a catalyst for change and used by policy makers and care providers to improve how all people with a terminal illness are cared for in the UK. It has the potential to improve the lives of millions of people, as dying is the one issue that affects us all.”

NASA predicts alien life could be found by 2025


Mars is a lot more barren these days (Picture: Giphy)Bolstered by a flurry of recent discoveries, NASA scientists believe they could find evidence of alien life in the universe as early 2025.

Much of the excitement has been around the discovery of water in so many unexpected places. Several planets including Mars, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus and Neptune (and their moons) are believed to possess water in their atmosphere and interiors and the five icy moons of Jupiter and Saturn have shown strong evidence of oceans beneath their surfaces.

“I’m going to say we are going to have strong indications of life beyond earth within a decade and I think we are going to have definitive evidence within 20 to 30 years,” Ellen Stofan, NASA’s chief scientist, said at a lecture Tuesday.

“We know where to look. We know how to look,” she said. “In most cases, we have the technology and we are on the path to implementing it. So, I think we are on the road.”

Jeff Newmark, NASA’s interim director of heliophysics, predicted it was a matter of “when, not if” for the discovery of life beyond Earth.

“The pace of our discovery is amazing,” he said. “We will be visiting Pluto, the last of the planets that we haven’t seen. With Solar Probe Plus, we will be visiting our nearest star in a few years. We’re just continuing to discover what is out there.”

The optimism is also driven by what scientists are finding in distant galaxies.

Thanks to the planet-hunting Kepler telescope, launched in 2009, scientists have discovered more than 1,000 exoplanets. Among those were eight new planets announced in January, including two that scientists believe are similar to Earth.

Those two planets, dubbed Kepler-438b and Kepler-442b, are likely to be rocky, an important clue to their potential similarity to Earth. They are also of a comparable size – just 12 percent and 30 percent larger than Earth, respectively – and they orbit red dwarf stars that are “sun-like,” though smaller and cooler.

And in another positive development, scientists on Wednesday announced they had for the first time found the presence of complex organic molecules, the building blocks of life, in a protoplanetary disc – a rotating circumstellar disk of dense gas – surrounding a young star.

The study described in Nature would hint that the conditions that helped spawn the sun and Earth are not unique to our universe.

Using the Atacama Large Millimeter/submillimeter Array telescope, the researchers found the protoplanetary disc around star MWC 480 contains large amounts of methyl cyanide, a complex carbon-based molecule, as well as hydrogen cyanide. The scientists used what is called rotational spectroscopy, a process that identifies the molecules based on the light patterns they emit.

Cyanides, and most especially methyl cyanide, are important because they contain carbon-nitrogen bonds, which are essential for the formation of amino acids, the foundation of proteins and the building blocks of life. There is enough methyl cyanide around MWC 480 to fill all of Earth’s oceans.

The molecules were found in the cold outer reaches of the star’s newly formed disc, in a region that astronomers believe is similar to the Kuiper Belt, a vast population of small bodies orbiting the sun beyond Neptune.

“Studies of comets and asteroids show that the solar nebula that spawned the sun and planets was rich in water and complex organic compounds,” said Karin Öberg, an astronomer with the Harvard-Smithsonian Center for Astrophysics and lead author of the new paper.

“We now have even better evidence that this same chemistry exists elsewhere in the Universe, in regions that could form solar systems not unlike our own.”

Öberg said the find suggests that a comet forming around this star would be similar to one that formed in our solar system and, along with asteroids, bombarded a young Earth with volatile organic compounds.

“If we find a planet in a habitable zone that looks like Earth, this study shows there is a likelihood that it’s chemistry would look much like a young Earth,” she said, adding they will now search for other molecules in this newly formed discs to better understand its chemistry and what could be up to 100 other protoplanetary discs in our galaxy “sitting around a star similar to our sun.”

MWC 480 is about twice the mass of the sun and is located 455 light-years away in the Taurus star-forming region. The star is believed to be in the early stages of formation and researchers have not thus far detected any obvious signs of planet formation it.

Astronomers have known for some time that cold, dark interstellar clouds are very efficient factories for complex organic molecules, including a group of molecules known as cyanides. Until now, it has remained unclear, however, if these same complex organic molecules commonly form and survive in a newly forming solar system, where shocks and radiation can easily break chemical bonds.

California Institute of Technology’s Geoffrey Black and University of Michigan’s Edwin Bergin, writing a piece accompanying the study, said the discovery “hints at a vast reservoir of ice and volatile species that can seed the surfaces of young rocky planets or moons.”

“This work along with recent studies, demonstrates that protoplanetary discs are active engines of chemical synthesis and that such environments are vital for building chemical complexity long before a planetary surface is created,” Black and Bergin wrote. “The potentially prebiotic chemistry traced by asteroids and comets n the solar system is therefore replicated, at least in part, in other young planetary systems – suggesting that planets are supplied with these life-bearing elements as they are born.”

Eleven-month-old shot dead


An 11-month-old infant was shot and killed on Easter Monday after a gunman invaded the yard where he had been having a bath.

Dead is Omar Lindo, whose birthday was nearing. The incident reportedly happened about 12:50 p.m. on Charles Street, in the vicinity of Chancery Lane, Central Kingston.

According to the child’s grandmother, the mother of the infant was giving him a bath outside when a man was chased into the yard by another man armed with a gun.

“A man run into the yard and another man open the gate and come in and just started shooting up the place,” the grandmother said.

She further added that during the incident, another child was shot in the leg. He was rushed to hospital. His condition could not be immediately ascertained.

Meanwhile, the police have commenced an investigation into the incident.

It is believed that the incident was gang-related, as feuds have been reported in the area.

Indian city tense after ‘barbaric’ lynching of rape suspect


NEW DELHI, India – Riot police Saturday patrolled a northeastern Indian city after the public lynching of a rape suspect, enforcing a round-the-clock curfew for a second day as the killing was condemned as “barbaric and inhuman”.

The 35-year-old suspect, accused of raping a woman multiple times and arrested in late February, was dragged out of prison in Nagaland state by a mob before being beaten to death and strung up to a clock tower on Thursday.

Hundreds of riot police patrolled the streets of Dimapur district after authorities imposed a curfew, with Nagaland Chief Minister T.R. Zeliang telling AFP that “the situation remained tense but… under control”.

Tensions had been rising in the district since February 24 when police arrested the alleged rapist, Syed Farid Khan, over the assault of a 19-year-old tribal woman.

Thousands of irate tribals on Thursday broke into a high security jail before dragging out the Bengali-speaking man, who was stripped and paraded for several miles, while men armed with sticks thrashed him to death.

Another man was shot dead by police after the mob refused to hand over his body, while 60 people were injured in the clashes, which saw attacks on properties belonging to Bengali-speaking residents.

“The act is barbaric, heinous and inhuman,” Tarun Gogoi, the chief minister of Khan’s home state of Assam, said of the lynching.

The mob as well as Nagaland’s government earlier called him a Bangladeshi migrant.

“The manner in which the youth was dragged out of police custody and killed brutally by a mob on the streets is highly condemnable,” Gogoi said in a statement.

Rights group Amnesty International also condemned the killing as a “serious lapse in the criminal justice system”.

“The Nagaland government must ensure that every person who was part of the mob is brought to justice,” said Shemeer Babu, Amnesty India’s programmes director.

Nagaland’s indigenous tribal groups, especially the largest Naga tribe, have for years accused the growing population of Bengali-speaking Muslims from nearby Assam state and Bangladesh of illegally settling on their land and usurping resources.

Nagas have previously campaigned to evict Bengali-speaking immigrants from their territory, who they claim entice local girls into marriage for getting tribal status.

Most of the India’s north eastern states are mired in decades’ old ethenic and linguistic violent conflicts between different tribes as well as non-tribals.

Scores of Bengali-speaking tea workers were killed in Assam in December by armed militants belonging to Bodo tribe, an indigenous community in northeastern India, which demands exclusive rights over local resources.

Policeman punches 10-Y-O at school


Courtesy: KSLA St Thomas policeman is now at the centre of an investigation being conducted by INDECOM after he allegedly punched a 10-year-old boy repeatedly. Information reaching THE STAR is that the incident, which occurred on February 13, has not gone down well with the child’s mother and other members of their community.

As such, the matter was reported to the Morant Bay Police station, where the officer works, and furthered to INDECOM.

The mother of the child spoke to our news team yesterday, saying, “My son was involved in a fight at school with his classmate over PATH lunch. When school was over, he and his younger sister were on their way to the taxi stand. They were approached by the other child involved in the fight and the policeman who told them to accompany him back over the school.”

Punched twice

THE STAR was told that the policeman took the child into the vice-principal’s office; however, the vice principal was on her way out to deal with another matter.

Our news team understands that while they stood in the office waiting, the officer took the child into an adjoining room, where he was allegedly punched twice in his belly.

“His class teacher was there also, but she said she was going to contact the principal, so she left the room. my son said he punched him two times and ask him if he is a bad man. When him done punch him, he tell him fi go tell his mother cause him nuh fraid a nuh body,” said the child’s grieving mother.

THE STAR was told the child could not eat when he arrived home from school as he was still reeling from the pain.

The mother told our news team that she went to the station, where she saw the policeman.

She said, “When him see me and my son coming, you could see the guilt on his face. so I said to him, ‘why did you punch my son?’ he said to me, ‘Good evening.’ I say, ‘I nah tell yuh no good evening because mi want know why him do that’.”

THE STAR was told that a brief meeting was held at the station with the officer, his superior and the child, following which an official report was made.

Our news team gathered that the cop confessed to punching the child in the presence of his superior, who in turn chastised him for his behaviour.

“Somebody weh fi a protect my son a do my son that?” questioned the child’s mother.

Both INDECOM and the Morant Bay police confirmed the incident and subsequent reports on an investigation.

Sudden cardiac death… Are you at risk?



SUDDEN cardiac death is defined as unexpected mortality from diseases of the heart that occurs shortly after symptoms are experienced (usually within 60 minutes).

This can occur in patients without heart disease and is often devastating due to its sudden and unexpected nature, especially in the young, fit and seemingly healthy individual. However, sudden cardiac death is commonly seen in people with narrowing of the blood vessels that supply the heart by atherosclerotic (fatty) plaques, a condition termed coronary artery disease.

Approximately eight million people worldwide die from sudden cardiac death annually.

DON’T IGNORE WARNING SIGNS

Certain factors are warning signs that may be ignored by the individual or ascribed to less important conditions. These include the heart beating fast (palpitations), chest pain, shortness of breath, fainting, excessive tiredness, and dizziness at rest or with exertion.

While healthy individuals with no prior warning signs can suffer from sudden cardiac death, risk factors include chronic illnesses such as diabetes mellitus also called “sugar”, high blood pressure, smoking, family history of early coronary artery disease, obesity, high cholesterol, excessive alcohol intake, and lack of physical activity. These factors are related to the narrowing of the blood vessels supplying the heart, resulting in heart attacks and heart disease from reduced blood flow (ischemic heart disease).

Other risk factors are patients with enlarged heart, diseases of the valves, abnormal structures, previous heart attacks and abnormal rhythms.

PHYSICAL ACTIVITY AND SUDDEN

CARDIAC ARREST

Physical activity that causes increase in heart rate and blood pressure such as running, climbing, swimming, and cycling may uncover and precipitate conditions that result in sudden cardiac death.

DIAGNOSING CONDITION

Diagnosing and predicting sudden cardiac death can be difficult. Abnormally elevated heart enzymes, thyroid hormones and electrolytes, use of certain prescription drugs and substances such as cocaine, may be predictive. Studies that may predict the risk of sudden cardiac death include chest X-ray, electrocardiogram (ECG), electrophysiologic testing (testing the electrical activity of the heart), echocardiogram, and coronary angiogram outlining the blood vessels of the heart.

Sudden cardiac death events may present with cardiac arrest where the individual is unresponsive, not breathing and has no pulse. Cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR) is then indicated and can even be performed by lay persons with minimal training. An automated external defibrillator increases the chance of survival. After resuscitation care using drugs, reversing causes, and sometimes surgery, implanting pacemakers and ablating abnormal pathways in the heart are also important as repeat arrest may occur soon after the initial event.

PREVENTION

Preventing sudden cardiac death can sometimes be difficult and may still occur after consulting the physician and getting a clean bill of health. However, regular routine check-ups, eating a balanced diet, avoiding smoking, illicit drugs and excessive alcohol while controlling weight, blood pressure, cholesterol, and blood sugar are some measures that can reduce the risk.

Ex-cop jailed for buggery


Chief-Ross-600x338A former member of the defunct Island Special Constabulary Force was remanded in custody on Thursday after he was found guilty of two counts of buggery in the St Catherine Circuit Court.

The mixed jury retired for 58 minutes and returned a five-to-two verdict on both counts.

He was, however, found not guilty of rape.

High Court Judge Vivene Harris then ordered the former Special Sergeant remanded until March 13, when he is to be sentenced.

A Social Enquiry report is to be done by the Probation Department before sentencing is done.

The court heard that in 2012, the accused met the complainant at a party in the Corporate Area.

He offered her a ride, and during the journey, he reportedly made sexual advances which were spurned.

The accused allegedly held her and sexually assaulted her.

A report was made to the police, and following an investigation, he was arrested and charged with buggery and rape.

He was on bail prior to the guilty verdict.

Slice music to ‘an hour a day’


Persons ought to hear to songs for no much more than a person hour a working day to protect their listening to, the Globe Wellbeing Organization suggests.
It suggests 1.1 billion young adults and younger grown ups are at danger of permanently detrimental their hearing by listening to “too significantly, far too loudly”.

It reported audio players, concert events and bars ended up posing a “serious risk”.

WHO figures present forty three million people aged 12-35 have listening to reduction and the prevalence is increasing.

In that age team, the WHO mentioned, fifty percent of people in abundant and center-revenue nations ended up exposed to unsafe seem concentrations from personalized audio devices.

Meanwhile 40% have been uncovered to harmful stages of sound from golf equipment and bars
The proportion of US youngsters with hearing loss went from three.5% in 1994 to 5.3% in 2006.

WHO v The Who
Dr Etienne Krug, the WHO’s director for damage avoidance, instructed the BBC: “What we’re trying to do is raise consciousness of an issue that is not talked about more than enough, but has the probable to do a ton of damage that can be very easily prevented.”

The total report argued: “While it is crucial to hold the volume down, restricting the use of private audio equipment to a lot less than a person hour a working day would do substantially to minimize noise publicity.”

Dr Krug said that a superior ambition intention: “That’s a rough recommendation, it is not by the minute, to give an thought to those people spending ten hours a working day listening to an mp3-participant.

“But even an hour can be much too considerably if the volume is way too loud.”
Protected listening levels Vuvuzela Retain that vuvuzela absent from me
The louder the sound (calculated in decibels), the more rapidly it damages the ear.

The WHO’s secure listening situations are:

eighty five dB – the stage of sounds inside of a vehicle – eight hrs
90 dB – garden mower – two several hours 30 minutes
95 dB – an ordinary bike – forty seven minutes
100 dB – auto horn or underground train – 15 minutes
a hundred and five dB – mp3 player at maximum volume – 4 minutes
one hundred fifteen dB – loud rock concert – 28 seconds
120 dB – vuvuzela or sirens – nine seconds
line
The Planet Wellness Firm recommends trying to keep the quantity to 60% of the utmost as a fantastic rule of thumb.

For people seeking to drown out the sound of flying or train journeys, it claims noise-cancelling headphones make it possible for audio to be read obviously at a reduce volume.

And the WHO provides that ear plugs should be worn at noisy venues and advises using “listening breaks” and standing much away from speakers at gigs.

But what is the level of a live performance if you are going to stay clear of the tunes?

“We do realise this is a little bit of a struggle, like alcohol intake, so lots of danger factors joined to pleasure are not effortless to alter, but we have to make folks informed,” Dr Krug reported.

But as effectively as contacting for personal duty, the WHO claims governments and companies have a responsibility.

It suggests clubs need to deliver chill-out rooms and give out free ear plugs, headphone producers must set boundaries on the quantity, and governments have to have to undertake stricter regulations.

Paul Breckell, the chief government of the charity Motion on Hearing Reduction, mentioned: ‘When listening to loud new music, for every single three decibel improve in stage, to remain safe and sound you need to halve your listening time.

“For case in point, at 88 dB, safe allowable exposure is lower to four several hours, at ninety one dB, two hours and so on.

“I urge songs fans to take into consideration the lengthy expression hazards of listening to loud audio from their particular new music gamers in excess of the 85dB safe stage, as above exposure can cause tinnitus, and recall that a superior pair of noise cancelling headphones can make all the change.”

Bangladeshis protest after blogger is hacked to death in the street


Students and teachers protested in central Dhaka yesterday, demanding swift action by police after the author and blogger Avijit Roy, an outspoken secularist who frequently criticised Islamist tendencies in his native land, was hacked to death on a city street.

Dr Roy, of Bangladeshi origin but a US citizen, and his wife, Rafida Ahmed Banna, were walking home from a book festival at 8.45pm on Thursday when a mob armed with machetes ambushed them. Photographs posted online showed three youths, who had made no attempt to disguise their appearance, attempting to hack Dr Roy’s head from his body. Others showed him lying lifelessly, his face in a pool of blood, while his wife – her face and clothes streaked with blood – appealed for help. Bystanders stared impassively at the writer’s body.

His wife, Rafida Bhanna, who suffered head injuries and reportedly lost a finger in the attack, remains in hospital in a serious condition.
Bangladeshi Islamists quickly tweeted their jubilation at the fate of a man who had defied their death threats for several years. “Target is Down,” one wrote. Another tweeted: “Lol!! They have switched off the target’s blogsite… No prob. Target is Down & wait for the next… InshaAllah.”
According to The Daily Star, witnesses said there were police in the vicinity, but “no one came forward to resist or catch the attackers even as Banna screamed for help”.

Dr Roy had returned to his native city a week ago to attend the literary festival and was due to go back to the US.

In December, Bangladeshi media reported that Farabi Shafiur Rahman, an outspoken Islamist, had written on Facebook: “Avijit Roy lives in America and so it is not possible to kill him right now. He will be murdered when he comes back.” Subsequently Rahman and other Islamists who had made similar threats were arrested. It was not clear whether they were free at the time of Dr Roy’s murder.

Krishna Pada Roy, the deputy commissioner of detectives with the Dhaka Metropolitan Police, said police were investigating several possible motives for the killing, including extremism. The climate of intolerance against secularists has worsened dramatically in recent years in Bangladesh, a nation that is more than 90 per cent Muslim but founded on the “Four Principles” of nationalism, democracy, secularism and socialism. Exactly two years ago a new group calling itself Ansar-al-Islam (Defenders of Islam) claimed responsibility for the fatal stabbing of a sociology professor, Shafiul Islam, who was one of three Bangladeshi bloggers killed within the space of a few weeks.

Yesterday a group calling itself Ansar Bangla-7 claimed responsibility for Dr Roy’s death. It is not known if it is linked with the earlier group.

Dr Roy was the author of several books in the Bengali language, many of them dealing positively with subjects that are anathema to Islamic fundamentalists including atheism, the theory of evolution, scepticism and rationalism. His two most recent books were Obisshahser Dorhson (“The Philosophy of Disbelief”) and Biswasher Virus (“The Virus of Faith”).

Taslima Nasreen, a Bangladeshi poet and novelist who fled her homeland in the mid-1990s after threats to her life, tweeted from Delhi: “We’re living in Dark Ages.” On her website she wrote that Dr Roy “dedicated his life to enlightening people who live in the darkness of ignorance”, adding: “Bangladesh has become a secret Isis land. Islamic terrorists can do whatever they like. They can kill people with no qualms whatsoever.”

The killing occurred against a background of high political tensions in the country, with strikes and protests by the Bangladesh National Party and allies, including the fundamentalist Jamaat-e-Islami party, against the government of Sheikh Hasina

German nurse admittedly overdosed 90 patients, killed 30


A court in Germany has sentenced a male nurse to life in prison for killing patients with overdoses of heart medication.

News agency dpa reported that the Oldenburg regional court found the 38-year-old guilty of charges including two counts of murder, and two counts of attempted murder.

Prosecutors had accused the man, identified only as Niels H in line with German privacy rules, of three murders and two attempted murders during his time working at a clinic in the town of Delmenhorst.

But H said during the trial that he intentionally brought about cardiac crises in some 90 patients because he enjoyed the feeling of being able to resuscitate them. He said 30 patients died.

He was previously sentenced to 7½ years in prison for attempted murder in 2008.

Husband of murdered T&T TV host released from hospital, declines to give police statement


Sheldon Henville, a person of interest in the murder of his wife Marcia Henville, declined last night to be interviewed by police investigators, according to his attorney.

Henville was released from hospital on Tuesday where he was treated for burns suffered the night of his wife’s death on January 23.

Henville’s attorney, Fareed Ali, said that Henville has been left in “solitary confinement” in the Maloney Police Station.

Ali said that Henville was not given a sheet or a towel, neither a toothbrush or soap to have a bath.

Ali said the cell was “dirty and the cold concrete he has been made to sleep on without the benefit of a bed was aggravating his injuries”.

Henville is also being monitored at half hour intervals.

Marcia Henville, 51, the host of TV6’s Point Blank talk/reality show was beaten, stabbed, and her throat cut, at her home at Fidelis Heights, St Augustine.

Her body was also set on fire.

Sheldon Henville was also injured in the fire, but the couple’s two children escaped without injury.

A senior investigator of the Homicide Division in Arouca has refuted the attorney’s claims.

The investigator said “Henville is being afforded all the rights and privileges of an arrested person. That includes being allowed to take a bath and brush his teeth. We are interested in human dignity, worth and pride. And we seek to maintain that.”

The senior officer said that the Maloney Police Station where Henville is being kept “is a new station, less than a year old”, and the cells are fitted with bathrooms and toilets can be used without police interference.

Young Canadians head to Syria to join IS


At least six young Canadian men and women from Montreal and its suburbs travelled overseas last month to join the Islamic State group, local media reported Thursday.

Some of them, including two young women, were students at Montreal CEGEP College de Maisonneuve.

They flew to Turkey on January 16 with the aim of crossing its border into Syria, the Montreal daily La Presse said.

It is unclear if they reached their final destination.

The father of one of the young men, fearing his son’s downward spiral since taking up religious and Arabic studies, seized his passport. But his son reported it lost and obtained a replacement from authorities.

The six are aged 18 to 19 and of Mideast and North African descent.

A spokeswoman for Montreal CEGEP College de Maisonneuve confirmed that three of them had attended the high school last semester, but did not know if they knew each other.

Their departure follows the alleged radicalization of a 23-year-old Alberta woman who left her family mid-2014 to join the Islamic State group in Syria.

Western governments are increasingly concerned about a rising number of foreign fighters travelling to Syria through Turkey to join extremist groups.

US intelligence officials warned earlier this month that more than 20,000 volunteers from around the world had gone to Syria to link up with extremists.

Passage of Ganja Bill doesn’t mean free-for-all


MINISTER of National Security Peter Bunting has warned that amendments to the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act, decriminalising the use of ganja, does not create a free-for-all in growing, transporting, dealing in, or exporting the drug.

“The security forces will continue to rigorously enforce Jamaican laws, consistent with our international treaty obligations,” Bunting told the House as it debated the Bill, Tuesday.

He said that the Bill has been drafted to ensure compliance with Jamaica’s international treaty obligations, and signals its strengthened resolve to combat organised crime by increasing the cost for offences involving transnational illegal trafficking in all forms of prohibited drugs.

He said that Jamaican law enforcement agencies have worked hard with its international partners to make significant inroads against narcotics trafficking and transnational crime organisations over the last 15 years, and there will be no relaxation in that regard.

He added that Jamaica recognises that monitoring, reporting and enforcement mechanisms must be implemented to safeguard against the licensed activity being used as pretext for illicit drug trade or to contribute to financing criminal enterprises.

He said that these reforms would be supported by a regulatory framework to be developed and included in the Bill’s regulations.

Responding, Opposition spokesman on health, Dr Kenneth Baugh, said that the Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) is on record supporting the decriminalisation of small amounts of ganja and the removal of custodial sentences and records of a crime committed by using the drug.

He said that the JLP agreed and accepted that there is a potential industry in medicinal marijuana. However, he said that legalisation have raised unresolved issues in the party, including geo-politics, as international agreements and obligations have not changed.

“More public education is needed on the benefits and adverse effects of the recreational use of marijuana. There must be a legal framework for the expanded legal use of marijuana,” Dr Baugh suggested.

Opposition Member of Parliament (MP) Delroy Chuck recalled that in 2011 the JLP did propose that there should be a scheduling of the amount of ganja for which persons could be charged and prosecuted in the Resident Magistrate’s Court.

“We did this because we recognised that there was a high level of injustice imposed on so many of our young poor, inner-city young men,” Chuck said.

However, he noted that, after the JLP Administration had done so, a number of foreign diplomats contacted him to express their concern.

“It took a great amount of explanation to say that we were not legalising, we were just ensuring that where a small amount is used, they don’t have to go to court, as they can just pay the fine like a road traffic offence,” he explained.

Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce Anthony Hylton said that while, the cannabis industry has been developing organically, every effort must now be made for it to achieve its full potential.

“This means adopting a strong commercial approach which, based on entrepreneurial practices that are market-driven, is broad-based and results in value-added products for both goods and service,” he explained.

But, Opposition MP Pearnel Charles felt that it was a “sad day” for Jamaicans to have the Bill passed in its current form.

“It is classified as a dangerous drug, and I believe it should not be (passed) after a few hours of discussion one evening in this Parliament,” he reasoned.

Charles suggested that the Bill should have been sent to a joint select committee, which would allow for public scrutiny of the provisions.

Government member from St Elizabeth North Eastern, Raymond Pryce, said that he did not agree with the need for Rastafarians to satisfy the minister of justice that they were members of that faith in order to get exemptions to use the drug as a sacrament, when other religions do not have to.

Pryce said that he is hoping that the stipulation be removed as soon as possible.

Another Government MP, Dr Dayton Campbell, questioned how would the medical and security experts determine what is a safe level for smoking ganja.

Campbell also suggested that some people were mistaking medical use for personal use.

“It must be crystal clear that we are not encouraging persons to just get up and go and smoke marijuana…but how do we work with them to ensure that we prevent them from going down that road?” he asked.

The Bill was passed without any amendment in the House of Representatives. However, there were five minor amendments when it was passed in the Senate on February 6.

T&T police rap media on reports of Dana Seetahal murder investigation


The Trinidad and Tobago Police Service (TTPS) Monday distanced itself from media reports over the weekend that at least six people would be charged in connection with the murder of prominent attorney Dana Seetahal last year.

The Trinidad Express newspaper reported Sunday that a man in prison custody was now assisting police with details into the murder of Seetahal, who was gunned down on May 4 as she made her way home from a casino.

She was shot at least five times by gunmen as she drove on the outskirts of the capital towards her home.

Despite rewards totalling millions of dollars, no one has been detained or charged with the murder of the former magistrate and president of the Law Association of Trinidad and Tobago. Her family has publicly urged the police to ensure that the perpetrators of the crime are brought to justice.

In a statement, the TTPS said that the reports in the media ‘are inconsistent with the progress of the investigation thus far and manifest obvious distortions with material facts of the case”.

The TTPS said it “considers it extremely irresponsible the naming of any officer/individual from any agency or organisation who may or may not be assisting with the investigation”.

The statement quoted Acting Commissioner of Police, Stephen Williams, of being “mindful”l of the legitimate public interest attending the investigation; and in this regard, urges restraint in any form of media reporting or commentary and calls for an absence of speculation which could possibly hamper the investigation.

“Commissioner Williams wishes to assure members of the public that the investigation into the murder of Ms Seetahal continues to be treated with the ‘highest priority’ by lead investigator, acting Deputy Commissioner of Police, Crime and Support, Glen Hackett.”

The statement quoted him as saying that “upon completion of the investigation the case file will be submitted to the Director of Public Prosecutions for review and direction following which a public statement will be made”.

The Express newspaper said that the prison informant had also “assisted police with information on the contract killer regarding his other professions and items which would be prominent to the ongoing enquiry”.

House sits today, ganja law on agenda


KINGSTON, Jamaica — The House of Representatives resumes this afternoon with the ganja law, and proposals from its Standing Orders to revise the format of debates and other exchanges between Government and Opposition, high on the agenda.

Debate on the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act, often referred as the ganja law, is to be piloted in the House starting today, by Minister of National Security, Peter Bunting.

The Bill was passed in the Senate on February sixth, piloted by Minister of Justice, Senator Mark Golding, under intense scrutiny from the Opposition, during a seven-hour debate. It was eventually passed with five amendments, and was tabled in the House of Representatives on February 10.

It seeks to amend the Dangerous Drugs Act to modify penalties for possession of ganja in specified quantities and the smoking of ganja in specific quantities and circumstances, as well as a scheme of licences, permits and other authorisations for medical, therapeutic and scientific purposes.

The House will also debate the report of its Standing Orders Committee on proposed changing to the standing orders; changes to the budget and sectoral debates; and introduction of a new debate in mid-session on constituency issues.

Minister of Finance and Planning Dr Peter Phillips will also seek approval to withdraw additional funds from the Capital Development Fund (CDF), which is financed by the bauxite levy; and Minister of Education, Ronald Thwaites, will make a statement on an education issue.

Admiral Bailey on fraud charges


JAMAICAN deejay Admiral Bailey is scheduled to appear in the Corporate Area Criminal Court on Thursday, March 5 after he was arrested yesterday on fraud-related charges.

According to the police, the deejay, whose real name is Glendon Bailey, went to the Passport Immigration and Citizenship Agency (PICA) about 10:30 am yesterday and attempted to renew a passport in the name Micheal George Sullivan.

“During the renewal process, his true identity was revealed. Subsequently, investigators from PICA detained him,” the police communications unit said in a news release.

The police said he was charged with:

* two counts of uttering forged documents;

* two counts of obtaining passport by false pretence;

* two counts of possession of forged documents;

* one count of attempting to obtain a passport by false pretence; and

* one count of conspiracy to defraud.

NHS in crisis: Urgent action needed to rescue struggling health service from brink of disaster, warns top doctor


THE NHS in Scotland is on its knees, according to one of the country’s top doctors.

Martin McKechnie warned that there there are serious concerns across the board.

He said a major shake-up of services both in and out of hospitals is needed.

McKechnie, who is vice president (Scotland) of the Royal College of Emergency Medicine, pinpointed a wide range of problems which have to be addressed. They include:

● A shortage of space which means staff have to carry out consultations with patients in cupboards.

● Traditional winter pressures are now affecting A&E all year round.

● A “brain drain” of disaffected highly-trained staff to other countries means shortages in Scotland.

McKechnie praised hard-pressed staff for performing “heroics every day”. But he said more action is needed to prevent the NHS facing breaking point for a decade to come.

He said: “We are doing the damn best we can. But it is awful for patients and families and awful for staff.”

McKechnie said a lot of attention has been given to problems in A&E units because that’s the first port of call for many people coming to hospital.

He claimed patients get stacked up in casualty units because of shortages elsewhere.

McKechnie said: “It is a hospital and medical service crisis.

“A&E is at the sharp end because everyone is coming to this area.

“Because of a mismatch between demand and capacity, it backs up into our department because we can’t stop people coming.”

McKechnie added: “There is no big magic wand to wave imminently.

“But four things need to be addressed – a better integration of services, safe and sustainable staffing of emergency departments, a better working environment and a better use of the money that already exists in the health service.

“What some of our patients need is improved access to GP and medical, dental or social care.

“But these services are in not-as-easily-accessible supply as they could be, so they come to A & E.

“We reckon between six and 15 per cent of patients coming to emergency departments could be seen by another health care provider like nurse practitioner services and minor injury-type units.

“We need to provide a better core (GP) element. If that’s not available outwith 8-6 Monday to Friday, patients tend to come to emergency for care.

“There needs to be a bit of a debate and discussion between Government and GPs and hospitals and social care.

“Getting rapid change in how these services are provided needs resources.”

Do you think more action is required to save the NHS from the brink of disaster?

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McKechnie said the simple explanation for failing waiting times in hospitals is “exit block” – the inability to move patients on.

He added: “Older people come into hospital and may need ongoing care while they are waiting to go into a ward.

“The flow into a ward and out is what we are aiming for, but that is delayed because of delayed discharge into social care.

“A lot of people are living a lot longer, which is great, but older people tend to have morbidity problems – perhaps heart, kidneys and diabetes. So when they get ill, they get really unwell.

“We have patients backing up and on trolleys along corridors because an old person, who needs ongoing care while we wait for a bed in a ward, is in a cubicle for hours.

“The minor injury stuff, the
walking wounded, we can see quickly if there is a place to see them. I could see 10 patients in an hour in a cubicle, but I can’t because there is a patient waiting in there for a bed.

“We are seeing patients in cupboards and offices. It is appalling.

“The fact we are reaching 89 per cent (of target times) is still pretty amazing in these circumstances. But one per cent of one million is still a lot of patients not receiving care in this time. We could and should be able to deal with these people in good time.”

McKechnie added: “People don’t stop coming. It used to be a winter phenomenon but now it’s all year round. They see a light is on and they need to be seen.”

A problem with brain drain means there is a lack of specialists in emergency medicine.

McKechnie said: “It is difficult to retain people because it is hard work and people do not think it is a sustainable career.

“We need to keep these people but we need to improve the working conditions – and by that I mean the working environment.

“Quite a lot of doctors who are trained by the UK taxpayer after a while go abroad – a lot of them to Australia – and then come back after a few years. But increasing numbers are not coming back.

“We know there are 450 UK and Ireland graduate emergency registrars in the Australian state of Victoria alone. If they were back here working, a lot of our difficulties would lessen.”

McKechnie said conditions have improved – but not enough.

He added: “We were pretty much at death’s door three years ago. But what the SNP Government have done, to their credit, is help us with the number of consultants, which has gone from 120 to 190.

“Our aim is to get 230 so every department in Scotland provides a 24-hour, 365-days-a- year service. People don’t just get ill depending on the time of day.

“That is what we think would be a safe and sizeable resource for the current health care demands.

“Because of the problem in retaining registrar middle-ground doctors, consultants not only do a consultant’s job but a middle-ground job as well.

“But it will take 10-12 years to reinvigorate the levels. We will have to go through two cycles of recruitment to bolster that because it takes six years to train a doctor.”

McKechnie said a set-up where other health workers are based alongside casualty staff would improve working conditions in A&E.

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He added: “Some people come to hospital emergency departments thinking a child has meningitis, but it is actually an ear infection.

“Instead of coming to A&E, they would see a triage nurse and if there is a GP co-location right next door, you could go through a door and be sent one way or another so you would be seen by the right type of doctor or nurse for your condition.

“The Royal College of Emergency Medicine would never blame a patient for coming to A&E when a GP would suffice because they don’t know what is wrong with them. That’s why they come to see us.”

McKechnie said NHS cash should be used more efficiently.

He said: “There is a lot of money in the health service but it just needs to be used a bit better. We don’t have enough substitute training posts but we are spending £80million a year on locums.

“Staffing hasn’t ever in my lifetime been up to what is required.

“But staff need to have acknowledged that they are doing pretty heroic stuff every day.

“I personally believe A&E should have fish tanks and reclining chairs and waiter service.

“Ideally, people will get straight to a ward quickly. But if they have to wait, they shouldn’t have to wait in squalor.

“Everyone I know is working their damnedest. Nurses need support because they are trying their best.

“Yes, sometimes we get it wrong. But given the conditions, it is incredible how often we get it right.”

Investigation renewed in case against Argentina president accused of helping Iran cover up alleged role in terrorist attack


The prosecutor who inherited a high-profile case against Argentine President Cristina Fernandez on Friday reaffirmed the accusations, formally renewing the investigation into whether the president helped Iranian officials cover up their alleged role in the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community centre.

Argentine ‘spy novel’ deepens: Officials hunt for agent who helped dead prosecutor investigate president

A prosecutor whose mysterious death has rocked Argentina’s government confided to an opposition congresswoman he believed his case against President Cristina Kirchner was going to cost him his position, the lawmaker said Friday.

Alberto Nisman was found shot dead in his bathroom on Jan. 18. The discovery came the day before he was to appear in Congress to detail his allegations Ms. Kirchner helped Iran cover up the 1994 bombing of a Jewish community centre, in which 85 people were killed. No one has ever been charged in the 20-year-old incident.

The president and Iran deny the accusations.
Prosecutor Gerardo Pollicita’s decision to go forward with the case was significant because it sets the stage for a close examination of the investigation that prosecutor Alberto Nisman was building before he was found dead Jan. 18. The next day, Nisman was scheduled to elaborate his accusations to Congress.

Nisman accused Fernandez, Foreign Minister Hector Timerman and others in her administration of brokering the coverup in exchange for favourable deals on oil and other goods from Iran. Fernandez and Timerman have strongly denied the accusations, and Iran has repeatedly denied involvement in the bombing, which killed 85 people.

In his statement released Friday afternoon, Pollicita recounted Nisman’s accusations without providing analysis of them. He concluded that an investigation is necessary to “achieve a degree of understanding to prove or disprove the factual and dogmatic extremes expressed in the preceding paragraphs.”

Pollicita will present his findings to judge Daniel Rafecas, the federal magistrate assigned to the case who will ultimately decide whether to dismiss it or send it on to trial.

Even before Pollicita’s decision, amid rumours that it was coming, the administration was moving to both reject and minimize it.
Cabinet chief Jorge Capitanich called the move a “judicial coup” during his daily press briefing.

“The Argentine people should know that we’re talking about a vulgar lie, of an enormous media operation, of a strategy of political destabilization and the biggest judicial coup d’etat in the history of Argentina to cover the real perpetrators of the crime,” he said.

Similarly, Presidential spokesman Anibal Fernandez said moving the case forward was a “clear manoeuvre to destabilize democracy” but that ultimately “it has no legal value. It does not matter.”
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The strength of Nisman’s 289-page investigation, presented to a judge a few days after his death, has been hot topic of debate within the legal community.

The basis of his case are wiretaps of administration officials allegedly talking about a secret deal around the time of a 2013 “Memorandum of Understanding” that Argentina reached with Iran. The agreement, which is being challenged in Argentine courts, on its face sets the conditions for the two countries to investigate the bombing.

Juan Jose Avila, a criminal lawyer, said arguing that Nisman’s case wasn’t strong enough misses the point because at this stage, no investigation is ready to be tried in court.

“No accusation, when it’s first made, is proven,” he said.

St Thomas man missing


Forty-year-old Otis Bonner, otherwise called ‘Ducks’, of Prospect district in St Thomas, has been missing since Sunday, February 1.

He is of dark complexion, stout build and is about 183 centimetres (6 feet) tall.

Reports from the Morant Bay police are that about 12:30 p.m. Bonner was last seen leaving for Yallahs in the parish wearing a red merino, red shorts and black slippers. He has not been heard from since.

Anyone knowing the whereabouts of Otis Bonner is being asked to contact the Morant Bay police at 982-2233, police 119 emergency number or the nearest police station.

Thirty-two arrested in multistate cash-for-gold scheme


Courtesy: KSLThirty-two people from the United States and Mexico are accused of running a multistate gold-for-cash scheme that laundered more than $100 million in US profits for Mexico’s powerful Sinaloa drug cartel, a complaint unsealed this week in federal court in Chicago said.

The cartel associates used cash from narcotics sales to purchase scrap and fine gold – including from Chicago-area jewellers – then send it to metal refineries in Florida and California; plants sometimes transfer payments for the gold directly to Mexico, the complaint said.

The 311-page complaint describes intense pressure lower-level schemers felt from higher-up cartel figures. One defendant, Carlos Parra-Pedroza, was allegedly captured on wiretap recordings telling an informant that cartel brass are uneducated but ruthless, as well as sticklers for precision.

“If I tell them we always pay them on Tuesday (but that this time) it’s not going to be until Wednesday, they’ll kill me,” Parra-Pedroza says, according to the complaint. “These guys (who) don’t even know the word ‘school,’ only know how to shoot.” He also warns enforcers cut off the fingers of those who betray the cartel.

The US Attorney’s office in Chicago has had success convicting high-level Sinaloa traffickers in recent years. Agency heads have also spoken about the need to disrupt channels through which Mexican syndicates repatriate their ill-gotten gains.

In some excerpts from wiretaps cited in the new complaint, money launderers complain about increasingly tough laundering laws adopted in Mexico, saying the legislation forced cartels to be more sophisticated about washing dirty money.

US, Cuba to have big cultural exchange


Featured Image -- 9864The Minnesota Orchestra announced yesterday that it will play two concerts in Cuba in May, in what is believed to be the first major cultural exchange between the two countries since their leaders announced a move toward warmer relations.

Orchestra CEO Kevin Smith said the Cuban ministry of culture invited it to play at Havana’s International Cubadisco Festival on May 15 and 16.

It will be the first visit by a major US orchestra to Cuba since the Milwaukee Symphony Orchestra played in Cuba in December 1999.

“This initiative will demonstrate the power of music to offer extraordinary opportunities for cultural exchange,” said Marilyn Nelson, a life director on the orchestra board, who is helping finance the trip. “We are thrilled that our orchestra will have the opportunity to make this connection in Cuba.”

There was no immediate response to the announcement from the Cuban government. The opportunity is partly a result of the moves toward normalised relations announced on December 17, last year, by US President Barack Obama and Cuban President, Raul Castro.

The Minnesota Orchestra last played in Havana in 1929 and 1930.

“Eighty-five years ago, the Minnesota Orchestra, then called the Minneapolis Symphony, performed Beethoven’s music for Cuban audiences, said the group’s Finnish music director Osmo Vanska. “It is a thrill and privilege for us to do the same so many decades later.

The last major US orchestra performance in Cuba, by the Milwaukee ensemble 16 years ago, came out of moves by President Bill Clinton’s administration to increase people-to-people exchanges aimed at strengthening civil society in Cuba.

Efforts for such better US-Cuba relations were abandoned under President George W Bush, but were revived by Obama.

Even so, plans for two concerts by the New York Philharmonic in October 2009 were dropped because the US government barred a group of patrons from going along. Without their contributions, the philharmonic said the trip was unaffordable.

In this December 19, 2014, file photo, Cuba’s President Raul Castro smiles during a twice-annual legislative session at the National Assembly in Havana, Cuba, days after Barack Obama announced a thaw in US-Cuba relations.

Coastal communities dumping 8m tonnes of plastic in oceans every year


Coastal populations put about 8m tonnes of plastic rubbish into the oceans in 2010, an annual figure that could double over the next decade without major improvements in waste management efforts, scientists warn.

The mountain of plastic litter, including bags, food packaging and toys, was equivalent to five full shopping bags of debris for every foot of coastline bordering nearly 200 countries the team studied.

Though researchers have known about plastic waste in the oceans for 40 years, the latest report, published in the journal Science, is the first to attempt a detailed estimate of how much plastic made on the planet finds its way into the oceans.

The figures suggest that about 10 to 30 times more plastic debris ends up in the oceans than surveys have found floating about on the surface. In one recent survey, an international team reported more than 5 trillion pieces of plastic are floating in the world’s oceans, collectively weighing nearly 269,000 tonnes.

In the latest study, researchers at the University of Georgia and the Sea Education Association in Massachusetts calculated the amount of waste plastic generated in 192 countries with coastlines on the Atlantic, Pacific and Indian Oceans, and the Mediterranean and Black seas. From data on regional manufacturing and waste management practices, they worked out that 4.8m to 12.7m tonnes of plastic rubbish wound up as ocean debris in 2010.

“This input of plastic waste to the oceans is several orders of magnitude more than we can see, which means there’s a lot of plastic out there that we are not finding,” said Jenna Jambeck, the first author of the study at the University of Georgia.

Some countries still dump plastic litter into watercourses that carry the material out to sea. But much of the plastic made on land becomes marine debris because it is not properly disposed of in landfills or at recycling plants. Left in piles in coastal areas, the waste can easily blow into waterways or be carried out to sea by flood water.

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Once plastic reaches the oceans it forms floating waste, washes up on coastlines, and accumulates on sea floors. Larger items like bags, wrapping and fishing gear can entangle dolphins, turtles and even whales. Small pieces are eaten by fish, turtles and seabirds. Over time, the material weathers down into tiny particles that can be ingested even by small marine animals. The pollution is extremely difficult to remove from the environment or trace back to its source.

In the study, Jambeck and her colleagues ranked the 20 countries responsible for the most waste plastic ending up in the oceans. The greatest sources were not only the major plastic producers, but generally those nations with the worst waste management practices.

China topped the table with 1.32 to 3.53m tonnes of plastic reaching the oceans in 2010. Indonesia followed, where 83% of waste was mismanaged, added 0.48 to 1.29m tonnes of marine plastic to the seas that year. The US ranked 20th, where only 2% of waste was badly handled, and 0.04 to 0.11m tonnes of plastic found its way to the ocean. Sixteen of the top 20 polluters are middle income countries where fast economic growth is not accompanied by major improvements in waste handling.

A man walks beside the scattered plastic trash brought in by strong waves at Kuta Beach on January 17, 2014 in Kuta, Indonesia. The sight of trash washed up on Kuta beach has become an annual phenomenon as piles of debris are carried to the beach by strong currents during the winter months. Kuta Beach is one of Bali’s top tourist destinations, however during the winter months waste materials are swept up onto the beaches in Java, Bali, and Nusa Tenggara. Facebook Twitter Pinterest
Kuta beach, Indonesia, strewn with plastic litter. Up to 83% of waste is mismanaged in the country. Photograph: Agung Parameswara/Getty Images
According to the report, the cumulative amount of plastic in the seas will soar tenfold by 2025 if nothing is done to slash waste generation or manage it more effectively. The current annual rate of 8m tonnes put into the oceans could also double by 2025 without action.

If changes are made, they could have a huge impact, the scientists claim. Reducing mismanaged plastic waste by 50% in the top 20 ranked countries would cut the pile of plastic likely to end up in the oceans by 41% in 2025. More stringent caps on plastic in waste streams, and better disposal in the top ten-ranked countries could reduce the amount of new marine plastic to 2.4 to 6.4m tonnes annually by 2025.

Though the greatest gains would come from better waste processing in regions where waste management is the poorest, Jambeck stressed that substantial improvements were possible even in countries with effective waste disposal. “It’s not just about improving the infrastructure in other countries.” she said. “There are things we can do in our daily lives to reduce the amount of waste plastic we all produce.”

In December, a team led by Lucy Woodall at the Natural History Museum in London, found “microplastic” debris had accumulated in deep sea sediments, with some as deep as 3000m.

“Marine litter appears to be a much more serious phenomenon than previously thought with studies from the last six months suggesting this pollutant is all pervasive in our oceans and is present in much larger quantities than previously thought,” Woodall said.

Microplastic deposits found deep in world’s oceans and seas
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“The world’s oceans cover such a large surface area and by nature are remote from much of human habitation, therefore it is unsurprising that every new study adds to our understanding how serious this issue is. This environmental challenge is one entirely of human making, but we can all help by starting to value, reduce, recycle and reuse plastic products.”

Miliband claims victory after Fink drops threat to sue over tax avoidance claim


Ed Miliband claimed a partial victory in the battle over Britain’s wealthy tax avoiders after former Conservative party treasurer Lord Fink abandoned his threat to sue if Miliband repeated a claim that he avoided tax.

Lord Fink, who had demanded an apology on Wednesday when Miliband first made the allegation in the Commons, admitted yesterday he had been involved in “vanilla” tax avoidance measures including transferring shares he held into family trusts in Switzerland.

Fink added “everybody does tax avoidance”, telling the Evening Standard: “The expression tax avoidance is so wide that everyone does tax avoidance at some level. I didn’t object to his use of the word ‘tax avoidance’. Because you are right: tax avoidance, everyone does it.”

Fink added that he rejected expert advice that he could save a fortune in tax by adopting more “aggressive” measures. “What I did was at the vanilla, bland, end of the spectrum.”

He said he “used the opportunity … to set up some simple family trusts” while on a four-year posting to Switzerland and had transferred some shares to his children and his wife. “My family and I paid tax on all the dividends, both in Switzerland and the UK. They were done because my children were under 18 and I wanted them to have something to help them make their way in the wider world.”

Fink’s morning retreat allowed an emboldened Miliband, speaking about education at Haverstock School in north London on Thursday, to say: “Yesterday a Conservative donor challenged me to stand by what I said in the House of Commons. I do.”

Miliband said: “I think that this is a defining moment in David Cameron’s leadership of the Conservatives because it is now revealed that he appointed a treasurer for his party that boasts about engaging in tax avoidance and thinks it is something that everyone does.

“I don’t think that is the view of most people, and of the country. I think it does say something about the Conservative party so the question for today is does David Cameron agree with Lord Fink and does he sanction his attitude?”

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After Miliband spoke, and in a sign that the Tories wanted to cool the controversy, Fink made no further threat to sue Miliband. Instead he said, in a statement released on his behalf by the Conservative party, that it had been the Labour leader who had backed down by denying he had ever intended to imply he was a dodgy donor, a phrase used by Miliband under privilege in the Commons.

In the statement, Fink said: “Yesterday I challenged Ed Miliband to repeat the accusations he made in the Commons that I used an HSBC bank account to avoid tax and that I was a ‘dodgy’ donor. He did not.

“This is a major climbdown by a man who is willing to smear without getting his facts straight.”

But in Fink’s original letter on Wednesday, in which he demanded an apology from Miliband, the peer made no objection to the phrase ‘dodgy donor’, providing some cover for claims made by Labour aides that he had not retreated.

Miliband said he had not been referring to Fink as a dodgy donor, adding: “The thing he, Fink, objected to – until his extraordinary U-turn 24 hours later – was me saying that he was engaged in tax-avoiding activities.”

He said that he had made “a general comment about dodgy donors in the Conservative party and I totally stand by that comment”.

The Labour leader was also forced to defend his own tax arrangements after it emerged he had used a deed of variation, a tax efficient arrangement that allowed him and his brother, David, to take a share of their family home in Primrose Hill, north London after his father’s death in 1994.

He said: “This is something my mother did 20 years ago – a decision she made. I paid tax as a result on that transaction and I have avoided no tax. No doubt the Conservative party wants to smear mud but frankly it is not going to work. The story has been written before and I paid tax on that money.”

On a day that probably went better for Miliband than had at first seemed likely, the Conservatives tried to hit back by claiming a Labour aide had likened the battle over HSBC to the “Milly Dowler moment,” a phrase first mentioned by BBC political editor Nick Robinson in a blog.

However, later Robinson said that had been his phrase, not that of a Labour aide. A Labour official said the aide had argued that phone hacking and the treatment of Milly Dowler had been a moment that had crystallised people’s attitude to some newspaper reporting, and the HSBC scandal was having the same effect on tax avoidance.

Evan Harris, associate editor of Hacked Off, said: “There is nothing to criticise about politicians, their aides or journalists comparing a scandal of endemic tax avoidance – that they and the country feel strongly about – with the historic break that all party leaders claimed to have made from inappropriate and corrupting relationships with powerful newspaper editors and owners after the Milly Dowler hacking came to light.”

Cameron’s hope that the wider HSBC scandal will dissipate were also dealt another blow when the Treasury select committee said they would be calling both HMRC and HSBC officials to give evidence.

The next Greek tragedy


GREECE’S unsustainable debt of over 171 per cent of GDP is a self-inflicted crisis caused by the absence of fiscal probity and fiscal management.

The debt situation was contributed to by careless risk lending and investing. aggravated by the fallout from the global financial crisis and further compounded by the austerity policies which were used to bring the debt and fiscal deficit under control.

None of this was helped by the attitude of the political leadership in Greece which was unwilling to meet the conditions of repayment agreed to, albeit under duress.

By early 2010 managing the sovereign debt crisis of Greece was an urgent item of interest for the European Union because a default by Greece could trigger a financial crisis that would seriously impair the banking system throughout Europe, leading to the collapse of the euro.

This prompted the European Central Bank, with the support of the International Monetary Fund and solvent European countries, to collaborate in designing and financing a rescue package. In May 2010, this troika launched a ¤110-billion loan to bail out Greece from impending default on sovereign debt and assist in meeting its anticipated financial needs until June 2013.

The accompanying austerity measures caused social unrest and political upheaval, leading to the demise of a government that was doing its best to honour the conditions imposed by its creditors.

An unsustainable debt situation inevitably means that borrowing is no longer possible and substantial fiscal cutbacks including reduction in government social services, increased taxation, termination of subsidies, sale of government assets and privatisation have to be implemented. The result is sudden and sharp deflation of the economy.

The ultimate solution to debt and deflation is economic growth, but the fundamental dilemma is that austerity cannot produce economic growth, so the pain and social sacrifice are in vain. If this goes on long enough it mutates to social and political turmoil.

There has never been political revolution in which the economic hardship of the masses was not a decisive factor; therefore, the inevitable austerity must be well-timed and socially feasible. If not it leads to political chaos and then political extremism.

In his The Economic Consequences of The Peace published in 1919, Maynard Keynes predicted that the excessive debt payments imposed on Germany by the victors in World War I would lead to austerity and depression, not economic recovery. The economic hardships caused by the reparations was instrumental in causing what the Reich called the “the mass psychology of fascism” which was receptive to the emergence of Hitler and Nazism in Germany.

It is amazing that Germany, after such a bitter experience, should now be insisting on austerity measures in Greece, rather than supporting a restructured package to alleviate the stifling debt.

The victors in World War II did not repeat their mistake of World War I. Germany never had to pay even a small part of the imposed war reparations. These debts were cancelled and instead the United States mounted the Marshall Plan to ensure its economic recovery.

The US did it for self-interest to prevent the takeover of Western Europe by communism. Germany needs to realise that it is in its self-interest to support, by financial means if necessary, the economic recovery of Greece.

Putin’s ‘little green men’ aiding Ukrainian separatists, says Biden


Russia is using “little green men without patches” to help separatists destabilize Ukraine and President Vladimir Putin redraw the map of eastern Europe, Vice President Joe Biden said Friday, as the leaders of France and Germany headed to Moscow to make a last-ditch bid for peace in the troubled region.

Biden spoke in Brussels, where he met with European Union officials as part of a flurry of diplomatic efforts to stem Russia’s incursion into Ukraine. Some 5,300 people have been killed in fighting that began in April, mostly in the eastern portion of the country that borders Russia. Although Putin has insisted he has not sent troops to help pro-Russian separatists fight Kiev’s forces, Biden said the Russian leader has been aiding the independence movement since annexing Crimea in March, 2014.

“Ukraine is fighting for their very survival right now,” Biden said. “Russia continues to escalate the conflict by sending mercenaries and tanks we euphemistically [call] “little green men without patches,” in who are very sophisticated special operations soldiers,” Biden said.

Russian forces are suspected by the west of helping separatists down a Malaysian Airlines commercial plane carrying 298 people over Ukraine near the Russian border last July in what may have been a mistake. Kiev released intercepted phone conversations, purportedly between separatists and Russian military officials, and the missile that downed the plane was Russian-made. Ukraine has alleged that Russian troops became emboldened following the incident, sending non-uniformed troops across the border to aid in fighting in rebel strongholds such as Donetsk.

Although German Chancelor Angela Merkel and French President Francois Hollande were to meet with Putin in Moscow to press him for peace, suspicions were growing in Europe that the powerful Russian leader has designs on more than just Ukraine.

Anders Fogh Rasmussen told Britain’s Daily Telegraph Thursday that Putin’s goal was to reassert Russian dominance of Eastern Europe by testing, and ultimately fracturing the West’s bedrock Cold War alliance.

“There is a high probability that he will intervene in the Baltics to test NATO’s Article 5,” Rasmussen said, referring to the section of NATO’s charter mandating that other member states come to the defense of a fellow member under armed attack. “Putin knows that if he crosses the red line and attacks a NATO ally, he will be defeated. Let us be quite clear about that. But he is a specialist in hybrid warfare.”

All three of the so-called Baltic republics — Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania — were part of the Soviet Union until its dissolution in 1991. All three joined NATO in 2004. All three also have sizable minority populations of ethnic Russians, as does eastern Ukraine, where Putin is accused of whipping up secession sentiment. Rasmussen says his fear is that Moscow will generate a conflict that gives him a pretext to destabilize those nations. It is not clear what would happen if a NATO member claimed Article 5 protection, but was turned down by the NATO council.

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Biden offered little hope that Putin could be taken at his word, and said the U.S. and Europe must stand together to support cash-strapped Ukraine.

“President Putin continues to call for new peace plans as his troops roll through the Ukrainian countryside and he absolutely ignores every agreement that his country has signed in the past and he has signed recently,” Biden said. “We, the United States, and Europe as a whole, have to stand with Ukraine at this moment. Ukraine needs our financial assistance and support as it pursues reforms and even in the face, in the face of this military onslaught.”

Meanwhile, in eastern Ukraine, the rebels reached an agreement Friday with government forces on a humanitarian corridor to evacuate civilians from the epicenter of fighting on Friday. Rebel leaders said the agreement would allow the evacuation of civilians from Debaltseve, a key railway hub that has become the focus of fighting in recent weeks because of its strategic location. It wasn’t immediately clear where the evacuees would go.

The cease-fire around Debaltseve held Friday as a convoy of several dozen buses drove from nearby Vuhelhirsk toward Debaltsevo, where a shrinking population has been trapped in cross-fire and left without power, heating and running water for almost two weeks. Halfway to Debaltsevo, the convoy’s movement was stopped by concrete blocks, apparently intended to block military vehicles from using the road.

Merkel and Hollande are set to hold talks with Putin in the Kremlin a day after discussing their proposals with Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko. In a sign of the importance of the initiative, this will be Merkel’s first trip to Moscow since Ukraine’s conflict broke out last year.

The fighting in eastern Ukraine between Russia-backed separatist rebels and Ukrainian forces has intensified sharply over the past two weeks. Russia vehemently denies that it is backing the insurgency with troops and weapons, but U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry rejected that denial on Thursday’s visit to Kiev.

British tribunal rules intelligence-sharing with US was unlawful


The regime that governs the sharing between Britain and the US of electronic communications intercepted in bulk was unlawful until last year, a secretive UK tribunal has ruled.
Aspects of intelligence-sharing between security agencies in Britain and the United States were unlawful until December 2014, a secretive UK tribunal ruled today.
The Investigatory Powers Tribunal (IPT) declared regulations covering access by Britain’s GCHQ to emails and phone records intercepted by the US National Security Agency (NSA) breached human rights law.

Advocacy groups said the decision raised questions about the legality of intelligence-sharing operations between the UK and the US. The ruling appears to suggest that aspects of the operations were illegal for at least seven years – between 2007, when the Prism intercept programme was introduced, and 2014.
The critical judgment marks the first time since the IPT was established in 2000 that it has upheld a complaint relating to any of the UK’s intelligence agencies. It said that the government’s regulations were illegal because the public were unaware of safeguards that were in place. Details of those safeguards were only revealed during the legal challenge at the IPT.
An “order” posted on the IPT’s website early on Friday declared: “The regime governing the soliciting, receiving, storing and transmitting by UK authorities of private communications of individuals located in the UK, which have been obtained by US authorities … contravened Articles 8 or 10” of the European convention on human rights.
Article 8 relates to the right to private and family life; article 10 refers to freedom of expression.
The decision, in effect, refines an earlier judgment issued by the tribunal in December, when it ruled that Britain’s current legal regime governing data collection through the internet by intelligence agencies – which has been recently updated to ensure compliance – did not violate the human rights of people in the UK.

The challenges were brought by Liberty, Privacy International and other civil liberties groups who claimed that GCHQ’s receipt of private communications intercepted by the NSA through its “mass surveillance” programmes Prism and Upstream was illegal.
The existence of Prism and Upstream was revealed by the Guardian from documents provided by the NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden. The case brought by Liberty and Privacy International was the first in the UK to challenge GCHQ’s participation in these programmes. Lawyers argued that receiving information about people in Britain from the NSA sidestepped protections provided by the UK legal system.
Eric King, deputy director of Privacy International, said: “For far too long, intelligence agencies like GCHQ and NSA have acted like they are above the law. Today’s decision confirms to the public what many have said all along – over the past decade, GCHQ and the NSA have been engaged in an illegal mass surveillance sharing programme that has affected millions of people around the world.
“We must not allow agencies to continue justifying mass surveillance programmes using secret interpretations of secret laws. The world owes Edward Snowden a great debt for blowing the whistle, and today’s decision is a vindication of his actions.
“But more work needs to be done. The only reason why the NSA-GCHQ sharing relationship is still legal today is because of a last-minute clean-up effort by the government to release previously secret ‘arrangements’.
“That is plainly not enough to fix what remains a massive loophole in the law, and we hope that the European court decides to rule in favour of privacy rather than unchecked state power.”
James Welch, legal director for Liberty, said: “We now know that, by keeping the public in the dark about their secret dealings with the NSA, GCHQ acted unlawfully and violated our rights. That their activities are now deemed lawful is thanks only to the degree of disclosure Liberty and the other claimants were able to force from our secrecy-obsessed government.
“But the intelligence services retain a largely unfettered power to rifle through millions of people’s private communications – and the tribunal believes the limited safeguards revealed during last year’s legal proceedings are an adequate protection of our privacy. We disagree, and will be taking our fight to the European court of human rights.”
However, a GCHQ spokesperson contested the significance of the latest ruling, saying: “We are pleased that the court has once again ruled that the UK’s bulk interception regime is fully lawful. It follows the court’s clear rejection of accusations of ‘mass surveillance’ in their December judgment.”
The agencies make a distinction between intrusive “mass surveillance”, which they insist they do not undertake, and “bulk interception” of electronic communications, which they say is necessary in order to carry out targeted searches of data in pursuit of terrorist or criminal activity.
The GCHQ statement continued: “Today’s IPT ruling reaffirms that the processes and safeguards within the intelligence-sharing regime were fully adequate at all times – it is simply about the amount of detail about those processes and safeguards that needed to be in the public domain. We welcome the important role the IPT has played in ensuring that the public regime is sufficiently detailed.
GCHQ’s work must remain secret
“By its nature, much of GCHQ’s work must remain secret. But we are working with the rest of government to improve public understanding about what we do and the strong legal and policy framework that underpins all our work. We continue to do what we can to place information safely into the public domain that can help to achieve this.”
The UK government issued a robust defence of GCHQ on Friday and said the judgment would not alter in any way the work of the monitoring agency. The prime minister’s spokeswoman said: “Overall, the judgment this morning is that the UK’s interception regime is fully lawful. That follows on from the courts clear rejection of accusations of mass surveillance in their December judgment and we welcome that.
“Because of the nature of their work, we are unable to express gratitude to them [the security services] and we should make sure they continue to have the powers they need to keep us safe.
“What they [the tribunal] said was that there should be more about the rules [governing surveillance] that should be disclosed publicly … They are not questioning in this judgment that the safeguarding of privacy was in any way jeopardised and the judgment will not require GCHQ to change in anyway what it does,” she said.
During hearings at the IPT last year, Matthew Ryder QC, for Liberty, had alleged that the intelligence services were constructing vast databases out of accumulated interceptions of emails.
Ben Jaffey, for Privacy International, had claimed that the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act (Ripa) was no longer providing the significant safeguards it once guaranteed against interception of communications without an individual warrant.
The legal challenge was the first of dozens of GCHQ-related claims to be examined in detail by the IPT, which hears complaints against British intelligence agencies and government bodies that carry out surveillance under Ripa. Some of the most sensitive evidence about interceptions was heard in private sessions from which the rights groups were excluded.
In defence documents that were released, the government’s most senior security official, Charles Farr, explained how searches on Google, Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, as well as emails to or from non-British citizens abroad, could be monitored legally by the security services without obtaining an individual warrant because they were deemed to be external communications.
Farr said he could neither confirm nor deny the existence of Tempora, another interception programme revealed by the Guardian from the Snowden documents, although he did acknowledge that Prism exists “because it has been expressly avowed by the executive branch of the US government”.
Much of the tribunal’s deliberations therefore proceeded on the basis of agreed hypothetical facts, such as the assumption that Tempora exists. Lawyers for the government refused again, during a short hearing after the judgment, to say whether Tempora exists.

Hunt for Russian sub may have caused spate of whale and dolphin deaths


The secretive hunt for a suspected Russian submarine of the Scottish coast may have led to a spate of whale and dolphin deaths, conservationists have alleged.
Dozens of whales and dolphins have been washed up dead on the coasts of Scotland and Ireland in the past two months, and their deaths may be linked to military sonar used in the search, a protection group has said.
Warships, patrol planes and submarines are all believed to have joined the search, which continued into January.
Fifteen Cuvier’s beaked whales, which dive deeply and are known to be affected by sonar, are among the mammals washed up over the same period. Common dolphins, a minke whale, a sperm whale, pilot whales, a fin whale, and harbour porpoises have also washed up.
Whale and Dolphin Conservation (WDC), said the mass stranding “could be linked to a reported search by British navy warships for a suspected Russian submarine.”
It said: “Investigations following Britain’s largest mass dolphin stranding in 2008 concluded that the only realistic cause was military exercises taking place in the area at the time.”
However one Naval source said the link was “pretty tenuous” because the search had not involved active sonar.
He said: “We have not been pumping sound out into the ocean. This was a much broader game of cat and mouse using sonars that just listen.”

Two Royal Navy warships towing sonar sensors were joined by four maritime patrol planes from America, France and Canada.
Dr Andrew Brownlow, head of the Scottish Marine Animal Stranding Scheme, said WDC had asked the MoD for details of it operations to try to work out if there is a link.
He said: “They want to know what military activity was taking place in the area at the time. It is possible that these standings are linked to certain military activity. It is something we are looking at. But the animals were so badly decomposed we shall probably never know the answer,” he said.

Peter Evans, a whale expert at from the SeaWatch Foundation, said active sonar had been shown to affect whales and change their diving patterns, but it was very difficult to get evidence for individual cases.
He said: “Although people do tend to point the finger at sonar, and sometimes they might be right, you can’t be certain of what it is.”
Cuvier’s beaked whales have been found down the west coast between Scotland and Ireland including two on Mull, South Uist, Benbecula, Tiree and Kintyre.
Conor Ryan, of the Hebridean Whale and Dolphin Trust said in a typical year the trust would expect to see one or two of the whales stranded.
He said the numbers this year were “very unusual”, but there was no evidence the Navy was involved. The carcasses had been too badly decomposed for tests to be carried out.
A Royal Navy spokesman said: “The Royal Navy works very closely with organisations such as the Cetacean Stranding Information Programme on all matters of this nature.
“We have not been approached on this particular circumstance but we are ready to contribute fully to any investigation if required.”

In The Dock: 11 people who have appeared in court from Brighton


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Maya Magallon, 22, of Compton Road, Brighton, pleaded guilty to stealing an acoustic guitar, Apple Mac computer, two Apple laptops, two guitar effects pedals and amp, guitar case and Microsoft Xbox 360, worth about £6,000 in total, from a house in Baker Street, Brighton on November 3. Ordered to have drug dependency treatment for six months and pay £60 compensation.

Charlie Raymond Finch, 19, of North Road, Brighton, pleaded guilty to possessing cannabis in Brighton on September 12. Fined £50 and ordered to pay a £20 victim surcharge and £50 costs.
Charlotte Madeleine Jordan, 20, of Preston Road, Brighton, pleaded guilty to drink-driving. Fined £160 plus a £20 victim surcharge and £85 costs. Banned from driving for 18 months, to be reduced by 18 weeks if she completes an approved driving course.

Keiran Anthony Warren-Fitzgerald, 33, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to failing to comply with an order from a community support officer not to consume a can of Scrumpy Jack in Upper North Street, Brighton; and failing to answer bail. Fined £90 plus a £20 victim surcharge.

Jason Ronaldson, 39, of Grand Parade, Brighton, pleaded guilty to stealing seven Herbafarmacy face creams to the value of £121.23 from Infinity Foods in North Road, Brighton, on November 16. He has to comply with a 12-month supervision order and was ordered to pay a £60 victim surcharge.
Riley Waller, 26, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to nine counts of stealing meat from Co-op in Brighton, worth £143, £40.91, £46, £27 and value unknown; three counts of stealing meat from Sainsbury’s in Brighton, worth £43, £50.98 and value unknown; stealing perfume worth £65 from Superdrug; failing to answer bail. Jailed for 12 weeks suspended for 18 months; ordered to pay £80 compensation.

William Robertson Morrow, 42, of Grand Parade, Brighton, pleaded guilty to stealing cheese worth £68 from Sainsbury’s. Jailed for six weeks. Magistrates said he had numerous previous convictions and had only recently been released from custody having served a sentence for a similar kind of offence.

Ibrahim Ahmadi, 21, of Terminus Road, Brighton, was convicted in his absence of driving a Honda Civic without due care and attention on Edward Street, Brighton on April 21. Fined £400 and ordered to pay a £40 victim surcharge and £160 costs.

Maceij Angrys, 23, of no fixed address, pleaded guilty to stealing a tube of Pringles, a packet of M&Ms, a torch and two pairs of socks on November 15, to the value of £7.46 from the Brighton branch of Poundstretcher. He was fined £28, ordered to pay a victim surcharge of £20 and costs of £85.

Roger Samuel Cooper, 38, of Ditchling Road, Brighton, pleaded guilty to stealing 16 DVDs, worth £170.84, from Superdrug in London Road, Brighton. Fined £73 plus a victim surcharge of £20 and £85 costs.

Simon Michael Markworth, 42, of Highway Close, Brighton, pleaded guilty to drink-driving. Fined £110 plus a £20 victim surcharge and £85 costs. Banned from driving for 12 months, reduced by three months if he completes an approved driving course.

Doctor charged with sexually assaulting 16-year-old patient


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A doctor will appear before the court charged with sexually assaulting a 16-year-old patient.

Jayaram Pai, 45, of The Spinney, Battle, a doctor at Conquest Hospital, Hastings, has been charged with three offences of sexual assault on Febuary 28 2013 on a girl then aged 16 who was an out-patient at the hospital.

Dr Pai is a consultant paediatrician employed by the East Sussex Healthcare NHS Trust.

He is due to appear on bail at Hastings Magistrates Court on Wednesday 11 February.

The charges, authorised in January 2015 by the Crown Prosecution Service, follow an investigation by East Sussex child protection detectives.

Asteroid 2004 BL86 zips past Earth today


An asteroid bigger than the world’s most massive cruise ships will fly past the Earth today, and will be visible from Canada with strong binoculars or a small telescope.
Based on its brightness, asteroid 2004 BL86 is estimated to be about 500 metres across. If it were sitting on the Earth, it would be as tall as Toronto’s CN Tower.

At its closest approach at 11:19 ET, the huge space rock will be about 1.2 million kilometres (745,000 miles) from the Earth or about three times further away than the moon.
That’s a safe distance, but closer than any other asteroid this big will come until 2027 – the year when we can expect a visit from another chunky rock called 1999 AN 10.

Slooh, a U.S.-based organization that streams celestial events online, will provide live images of the asteroid from telescopes in Australia starting 11 a.m. ET. It will also provide expert commentary from astronomers, including Paul Chodas, manager of the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory’s Near-Earth Object Program Office, and invites questions via the Twitter hashtag #SloohBL86.
You may be able to see the asteroid this evening using strong binoculars or a small telescope, NASA says.

It will probably be easiest to find around 11 p.m. ET when it will be to the right of the planet Jupiter, between the constellations Leo and Gemini.

It will look like a slow moving star, said Randy Attwood, executive director of the Royal Astronomical Society of Canada, in an email.

NASA will also be watching the asteroid, capturing images and data, using its Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, Calif. And the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico will also be following the close approach.

“At present, we know almost nothing about the asteroid, so there are bound to be surprises,” said Lance Benner, principal investigator for Goldstone Solar System Radar, in a statemen

Several cops arrested


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SERVER ONLINE understands that a number of cops have been arrested by Major Organised Crime and Anti-Corruption Task Force (MOCA) during operations in Police Area One (Westmoreland, Hanover, St James, and Trelawny) on Friday.

Some of those arrested are said to be stationed in the St James Police Division and the others are assigned to the Westmoreland Police Division.

The arrested cops were whisked away to the Falmouth Police Station to be questioned by their colleagues, OBSERVER ONLINE was told by a reliable source.

Cannabis licensing authority to be established in Ja


Featured Image -- 9039A cannabis licensing authority is to be established to regulate the proposed hemp and medicinal ganja industry in Jamaica.

This is one of the provisions of the Dangerous Drugs (Amendment) Act, 2015, which is expected to be tabled in the Senate today.

The bill seeks to decriminalise ganja for medicinal, religious, and private/personal use.

Making the disclosure while addressing a Jamaica House media briefing on Wednesday, Minister of Justice Senator Mark Golding said the Authority will be responsible for establishing a lawful, regulated hemp and medicinal ganja industry.

“The cannabis licensing authority will, with the approval of the justice minister, make regulations treating with procedures and criteria for applying for and retention of licences, permits and other authorisations for cultivation, processing, distribution, sale and other handling of ganja for medicinal, scientific and therapeutic purposes,” he said.

The proposed changes to the act will facilitate ganja being used for therapeutic purposes, as prescribed by a registered practitioner, or for scientific research conducted by an accredited tertiary institution – or otherwise approved by the Scientific Research Council.

The changes will also enable the use of ganja in religious engagements by stakeholders such as Rastafarians.

Additionally, the amendments will make the possession of small quantities of ganja, amounting to two ounces or less, a non-arrestable but ticketable infraction, attracting a fine payable outside of the court, but not resulting in the possessor attaining a criminal record.

J’CANS FLOCK SEX PARTIES


Picture: mallorcadiarioAlthough the idea of having sex with multiple partners in the presence of one’s spouse is taboo in Jamaica, swinger parties appear to be on the rise, with many willing to spend big bucks to participate.

THE WEEKEND STAR recently spoke with the promoter/host of a swinger party and he shared that it can cost anywhere from US$50 to US$70 (J$5,776 to J$8,086) to participate in his sex party.

However, the party is only open to a select few as the man told THE WEEKEND STAR he utilises several methods to vet potential candidates.

“Not just anyone can join in this; for instance, I placed an ad in the paper. There is a reason I placed a Lime number in the ad; because you have people who will call complaining about credit running out and if you can’t afford credit, then you can’t afford to be in this,” he quipped.

Sex shops

He also revealed that he gets participants for his party by advertising in sex shops, the papers and US-based advertising website, Craigslist.

He told THE WEEKEND STAR that after dialogue whether over the phone or online, he schedules a brunch with potential participants at a popular hotel in Kingston and discuss the activities and payment.

The ‘activities’ include sexual acts with up to 30 different people in a room he rents from a popular hotel.

When asked about the age group of participants, he said they range from teens to the elderly, he also revealed that he is seeking some ‘variety’ and is turning his sight to a popular university where he is looking for some ‘international students.’

Next event

“The age group of the women at the party varies from age 19-50 and the men tend to be in their 20s and up, but for this next event I’ll be keeping, I want it to be a mix of local and international students, so I’m trying to figure out a way to go on hall at (popular university).”

THE WEEKEND STAR also asked the man how he was able to host such an event without the knowledge of the hotel owners and ensure that the privacy of participants is preserved.

“There is a dress code, he revealed, and it is to dress modest, fully covered so as not to appear suspicious; I rent a very large room and there is no issue with security. I do not allow cameras or cellular phones, I keep all of them until the party ends which is usually at about 1 in the morning.”

Lindsay Lohan released from King Edward VII’s Hospital


Lindsay Lohan was rushed to hospital this week with a rare and incurable virus which left her unable to walk. The actress picked up the illness while on holiday in Bora Bora, according to TMZ, which is really not ideal for a fun vaycay.

The Mean Girls star was admitted to a medical facility in the capital, reportedly to treat symptoms of the mosquito-borne chikungunya virus which she picked up during a break in French Polynesia over the holidays.

Lohan was discharged after a brief visit with doctors, and she threw herself back into charity work on Wednesday by visiting volunteer group CSV Positive Futures in east London.

She spent her time helping to design a new website for the organisation, and she asked fans for their input via a message posted on Twitter.com, writing, “With @DrewWatsonAbell @csvpositivefutures designing website! What do you think http://www.csvpositivefutures.co.uk needs or should do differently??”

Near-Earth asteroid will race across winter’s constellations on night of January 26


On the night of January 26-27, all astronomers will be keeping a close watch for asteroid 2004 BL86 as it is due to make a fast flyby of the Earth-moon system.
Asteroid 2004 BL86 is half-kilometer-wide asteroid that will sail past safely as it will be well beyond the orbit of our moon. It won’t come any closer than 3 Earth-moon distances, which is roughly 1.2 million kilometers from our planet’s surface.

This distance is enough to keep the earth safe but at the same time it will also be close enough for us to zoom-in on the object so as to take precise measurements of the asteroids trajectory and composition.

For this event, NASA is planning for a microwave observation campaign using the Deep Space Network antenna at Goldstone, California and also at the Arecibo Observatory in Puerto Rico. If all goes well, radar images of 2004 BL86? s surface will be acquired.

Don Yeomans, outgoing manager of NASA’s Near Earth Object Program Office at the Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, Califia, said, “Asteroids are something special. Not only did asteroids provide Earth with the building blocks of life and much of its water, but in the future, they will become valuable resources for mineral ores and other vital natural resources”.

End of Humanity? ‘Doomsday Clock’ Moves One Minute Closer to Midnight


The closer the clock’s hands are to midnight, humanity is closer to an imminent disaster that can end civilization as we know it.

The last time the hand was adjusted was in January 2012 when it was moved forward one minute and stayed there for three years at 11:56 p.m. The looming concern about a nuclear meltdown at Japan’s Fukushima’s power plants led to this one minute advance in 2012 along with the new strain of the airborne H5N1 flu virus.

The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists (BAS), the clock’s keepers, said the clock will be adjusted once more and the hand will inch closer to midnight by one minute which. The clock will read 11:57 p.m.

This official and final announcement will be presented at an international news conference on Thursday at Washington D.C.

The role of the BAS is to observe possible threats to humanity such as nuclear fallouts and danger from omnipresent climate change. Other than these major factors, the BAS will also assess terrorism and nuclear modernization and technology.

This is also a pivotal announcement as the BAS hinted it will release an official statement about 2015. This could be the decision to move the hand of the clock forward by a minute due to current global threats and trends.

For this year though, trends pointing towards humanity’s destruction include bioweapons that might lead to another world war and an asteroid collision.

Bioweapons can now be produced from artificial viruses developed for medical purpose. These can be used also as weapons of mass destruction. NASA also says an asteroid impact in 2015 can lead to this doomsday time adjustment.

World War III is also a cause for concern as financial experts believe another global war is right around the corner due to Vladimir Putin’s actions in Ukraine and his claim to own the Arctic’s oil reserves. Global oil reserves will run out by 2060.

Hubble captures most detailed image ever seen of Andromeda galaxy


One of the largest and most detailed images of the Andromeda galaxy ever created has been released by a team of researchers led by University of Washington professor Julianne Dalcanton.

The enormity of space is near-impossible to comprehend. This image, despite showing only a small portion of a single galaxy, shows more than 100 million stars – and there are more than 100 billion galaxies in the known universe.

What am I looking at?

This is the largest and sharpest image ever compiled of the Andromeda galaxy, the closest spiral galaxy to our own galaxy, the Milky Way.

This is a tiny portion of a very large sky. The image below shows the portion of the galaxy captured in the interactive panoramic image.

The image below shows the portion of the sky captured in the panorama with the moon as a reference to size if viewed from earth. If it were possible to view Andromeda this clearly from earth, the centre part of the galaxy would look approximately the same size as the moon.

This enormous image was created by the Panchromatic Hubble Andromeda Treasury (PHAT), a group of researchers working to map approximately one third of the Andromeda galaxy’s star forming region.

Because Andromeda is “only 2.5 million light-years from Earth”, it is possible to capture much more detailed images of our nearest spiral-galaxy neighbour than of other galaxies routinely photographed by the Hubble Space Telescope.

This is the first time astronomers have been able to see individual stars from a spiral galaxy in such a broad context.

What can you spot?

The biggest and brightest stars in the image are likely to be stars from our own galaxy, the Milky Way. Individual stars in the Andromeda galaxy only become distinguishable at higher zoom levels.

Viewing the full resolution image at the highest zoom possible (see below) makes it clear just how many individual stars are visible in the image.

With keen eyes it’s possible to spot a variety of features including background galaxies, stelar clusters and dust lanes.

How was the image created?

The survey includes 7,398 individual exposures which are “stitched” together to create highly detailed composite images like this one.

It took more than three years to capture all the images used in the panorama which shows the galaxy in natural visible-light colours. Total exposure time for all the images put together was 394 hours.

The full resolution composite image is 69,536 x 22,230 pixels, a total of 1,545.8 mega-pixels. To put that into perspective, viewing this image at its full resolution you would need the equvalent of nearly 750 high-definition TV screens (1080p).

Death By Boiling Air


A new research carried out by a team of researchers over at University of Exeter, University of Edinburgh and Imperial College London has questioned the theory of dino-killing asteroid and its potential of creating a firestorm that is believed to have wiped out dinosaurs as well as other fauna and flora at the time.

One of the primary contenders of mass extinction of dinosaurs some 65-million years ago is the asteroid theory that led to increase in temperatures on our planet leading to a firestorm across the globe burning vegetation. However, a new research has raised questions on the plausibility of this theory.

To test the theory researchers recreated the immense energy that could have been released because of the impact of extra-terrestrial object with Earth that occurred around the time that dinosaurs became extinct. Researchers found that the head generated was intense but short-lived and this couldn’t have ignited live plants.

The research claims that the heat pulse would have lasted for less than a minute and this duration is too short to ignite live plant material. The researchers do not deny the propagation strength of the heat pulse and say that the impact would have been felt as far away as New Zealand where the temperatures would have been lesser but the duration would have been longer – long enough to ignite live plant matter.

Researchers, in lab conditions, found that the heat generated could have ignited dry plant matter, but live plant matter remained unaffected.

Dr Claire Belcher from the Earth System Science group in Geography at the University of Exeter explained the process they followed for the experiment. “By combining computer simulations of the impact with methods from engineering we have been able to recreate the enormous heat of the impact in the laboratory.”

“This has shown us that the heat was more likely to severely affect ecosystems a long distance away, such that forests in New Zealand would have had more chance of suffering major wildfires than forests in North America that were close to the impact. This flips our understanding of the effects of the impact on its head and means that palaeontologists may need to look for new clues from fossils found a long way from the impact to better understand the mass extinction event.”

The research argues that plants and animals are generally resistant to localised fire events as animals can hide or hibernate and plants can re-colonise from other areas. This implies that wildfires are unlikely to be directly capable of leading to the extinctions.

However in cases where the animals are larger in size – as in case of dinosaurs – they might not have been able to hide from the heat because of which they may have suffered serious losses. But it is unclear whether these would have been sufficient to lead to the extinction of species.

Louise Mensch Just Told David Cameron And The Queen To ‘F**k Off’ Over Saudi King Abdullah


Former Conservative MP Louise Mensch has unleashed an extraordinary tirade on Twitter, instructing both David Cameron and the Queen to “fuck off”.

Mensch became enraged after the British Government declared all UK flags be flown at half mast to mourn the death of King Abdullah on Thursday.

She began by criticising US President Barack Obama for paying tribute to the Royal, whom Mensch said “whipped women for driving & is currently starving his daughters.”

Variously describing herself as “INCANDESCENT WITH RAGE” and “galactically pissed off”, The Sun columnist delivered an ominous warning to “anybody from the Conservatives” against paying tribute to the Middle Eastern royal, otherwise she would “blast them from the highest heavens in the Sun as the biggest hypocrites ever to walk the earth.”

She was rapidly disappointed: “Jesus Christ. Disgusted by David Cameron and Philip Hammond who have utterly failed women today. I hope every Conservative woman MP tells them so.” [At this point Mensch accidentally tweeted her screed at a Paul Hammond, who replied: “I think you mean Philip Hammond MP. I don’t think I’ve failed any women today… ]

When the British embassy in Riyadh tweeted Cameron’s condolences, Mensch replied with: “FUCK YOU #FREETHE4”

Upon being informed by Paul Twinn that the half mast order was made by Buckingham Palace, “So the Queen then”, Mensch retorted: “FUCK HER.”

She later tweeted: “Tbf, somebody pointed out it was the Queen on the advice of the government, so I redouble it to Cam, withdraw to HM.”

She added: “It is so unacceptable to offer deep condolences for a man who flogged women, didn’t let them drive, saw guardian laws passed & STARVES THEM.”

Saudi Arabia imposes a strict interpretation of Islamic law, forbidding women to work or travel without the authorisation of their male guardians.

It is also the only country in the world that bans women from driving, and a woman cannot obtain an identification card without the consent of her guardian.

Mensch’s hashtage #FreeThe4 refers to the four daughters the late king’s former wife Princess Alanoud Al Fayez claims have been imprisoned in a royal compound for the last 14 years.

It is unclear at present exactly where the decision to fly the flag at half mast originated.

The Department of Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) told Huffington Post UK the order had come from Buckingham Palace. Buckingham Palace said that it had come from DCMS.

“Buckingham Palace is flying the Union Flag at half-mast in accordance with the guidance issued by DCMS,” a spokesman told HuffPost.

Mensch had praise for “One UK leader, just one”, in the form of Ruth Davidson of the Scottish Conservatives, who tweeted: “Flying flags at half mast on gov buildings for the death of Saudi king is a steaming pile of nonsense. That is all.”

Mensch has form for online outbursts. In October she suggested voters would “not risk” the Labour Party should there be a “serious outbreak” of Ebola in the UK.

Portuguese parliament votes against gay couples adopting


Portugal’s parliament on Thursday rejected draft laws to allow gay couples to adopt children, despite a strong vote in favour by the left-wing Socialists which left the margin smaller than ever.

The draft laws, presented by the opposition Socialist, Left Bloc and Green parties were all defeated by some 30 votes by the chamber in which 220 deputies were present.

The majority ruling right, led by the Social Democrats, had already refused to back similar propositions in 2012 and 2013.

Thursday’s vote was nevertheless passed by the smallest margin yet as the 16 Communist Party deputies for the first time backed the move to allow gay couples to adopt.

In Portugal any individuals, including homosexuals, may apply to adopt but when the parliament authorised gay marriages in 2010 it expressly excluded the right for such couples to adopt.

The ruling Social Democrats on Thursday allowed their deputies a free vote on the issue, while criticising the opposition for once more raising it.

The Socialist Party, seen as favourite to win elections in the autumn, has chosen Lisbon mayor Antonio Costa, an advocate of the right for homosexual couples to adopt, as its secretary general.

RGD mobile unit to access underserved communities


ST THOMAS, Jamaica – Minister of Health Dr Fenton Ferguson on Thursday appealed to residents in St Thomas and other rural areas to make use of the services of the Registrar General’s Department’s mobile unit.

Dr Ferguson was speaking today at the official launch of the mobile unit, which was held in Port Morant, here.

A news release from the Monistry of Health said the mobile unit was obtained in partnership with the United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) as part of efforts to meet the regional goal of registering all children under five years old.

“I am glad that the mobile unit is going to benefit several underserved areas. Having a birth certificate allows every citizen a legal status. Not having one prevents them from exercising their basic rights as citizen and affects access to services such as education, employment and the justice system,” Dr Ferguson said.

The health minister added that there will have to be added focus on the public education aspect of the RGD’s work.

“We have to continue the public education aspect and stress the importance of having a birth certificate and the contribution registration makes to historical data,” Ferguson said. “We are working with the RGD to ensure that they improve technology and storage. I want to recognize the Advisory Body which has also been working with the agency.”

The RGD’s main purpose is to support national planning through the production of statistical data and trends analysis relative to vital events.

‘Don’t hurt my child’ mother says in graphic new video of fatal police shooting


Originally posted on Fusion:

Newly released video of a fatal police shooting Miami Garden shows the victim’s mother pleading with officers before they kill her mentally ill son.

“Don’t hurt my child,” the mother is heard saying. A lawyer for the family said the officers can be heard mocking her in the video as well.

Video reviewed by Fusion shows no struggle between officers and Lavall Hall, 25, as shots were fired. One officer yelled “get on the fucking ground or you’re dead” before firing five shots at Hall.

It is the second graphic video of a police shooting in two days, coming after footage was released of a North Charleston, South Carolina officer shooting a black man in the back was on Tuesday.

Nineteen minutes of video depicting Hall’s shooting was made public today by the family, after a months-long fight to release the dashcam video from a police cruiser.

Hall’s mother had

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