Signs of the Times
United States Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter has arrived to Afghanistan, where he is going to meet with President Ashraf Ghani and visit US military bases located there.
Pentagon spokesman Peter Cook said that Ashton Carter and Ashraf Ghani discussed such issues as air operations, including the US ones, and "increased capacity of the Afghan security forces".
Most likely, this sudden visit connected with the results of the conference of Afghanistan's neighboring countries. According to them Russia was appointed the country responsible for the resolution of problems associated with drug-related crimes, in turn being a strategically important element of the network war, aimed at establishing the supremacy under the Middle East and the Pacific for the United States.
Leading Senate Republicans are preparing to launch a coordinated and wide-ranging probe into Russia's alleged meddling in the U.S. elections and its potential cyberthreats to the military, digging deep into what they view as corrosive interference in the nation's institutions.
Such an aggressive approach puts them on a direct collision course with President-elect Donald Trump, who downplays the possibility Russia had any role in the November elections — arguing that a hack of the Democratic National Committee emails may have been perpetrated by "some guy in his home in New Jersey." The fracture could become more prominent after Trump is inaugurated and begins setting foreign policy. He has already indicated that the country should "get along" with Russia since the two nations have many common strategic goals.
But some of Trump's would-be Republican allies on Capitol Hill disagree. Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman John McCain (Ariz.) is readying a probe of possible Russian cyber-incursions into U.S. weapons systems, and he said he has been discussing the issue with Senate Select Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr (N.C.), with whom he will be "working closely" to investigate Russia's suspected interference in the U.S. elections and cyberthreats to the military and other institutions. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has been apprised of the discussions. Burr did not respond to requests for comment.
The world will look to Germany and Canada for leadership as the political status-quo is upended across the West, U.S. Vice-President Joe Biden said ahead of Donald Trump's inauguration.
Visiting Ottawa before he leaves office, the vice-president called on Prime Minister Justin Trudeau - who is beginning his second year in power - to set an example on the international stage. His message comes as populist movements and anti-trade sentiment stir political upheaval, particular in the European Union.
"I've never seen Europe engaged in as much self-doubt," Biden said Thursday evening at a dinner hosted by Trudeau. "The world's going to spend a lot of time looking to you, prime minister, as we see more and more challenges to the liberal international order since the end of World War II .- you and Angela Merkel."
The doping test samples of 12 Russian medalists from the Sochi Olympics in 2014 were tampered with, according to claims made in the second part of a WADA-commissioned report, authored by Canadian lawyer Richard McLaren.
Comment: Claims are useless without evidence to back them up. The Western media may be more than happy to repeat the claims of McLaren, but anyone who maintains any semblance of objectivity in journalism will demand proof before peddling lies meant to demonize Russia.
The report, without providing any names, claims that over 1,000 athletes - in summer, winter and Paralympic competitions - benefited from the alleged plot to conceal positive doping tests.
"We are now able to confirm a cover-up that dates back until at least 2011 and continued after the Sochi Olympic Games. It was a cover-up that evolved from uncontrolled chaos to an institutionalized and disciplined medal-winning conspiracy," McLaren said at a news conference, as cited by Reuters.
Comment: Where is the evidence?
The sports events where the doping was allegedly used by Russian athletes included the 2012 London Olympics, the 2014 Sochi Olympics, the 2013 World Student Games, and the 2013 World Championship in Athletics, according to the report.
It's like clockwork. Every year, right in the middle of October, I find myself stricken with panic and exhaustion that has nothing to do with my job or my personal life and everything to do with one simple environmental factor. The sun is going down, and all it takes to make my stomach drop is one glance out the window to see the sky growing dark by 6:30 p.m. The feeling is primal and consuming, and it's at the root of my seasonal affective disorder (SAD).
Once classified as its own diagnosis, SAD is now categorized as a variety of major depression that manifests in a seasonal pattern. For most, SAD occurs in the winter months, as the weather becomes colder and the days grow shorter, but some experience seasonal depression during spring and summer. The symptoms of SAD often mimic major depression, including feelings of sadness and hopelessness, increased anxiety, disrupted sleep patterns, loss of energy and motivation, changes in eating habits, and even thoughts of death.
President Obama has ordered US spy agencies to prepare "a full review" of election-linked cyberattacks, but the public may never see it. The report should be ready before Obama vacates office and it is likely to be disclosed only to "a range of stakeholders."
"The president has directed the intelligence community to conduct a full review of what happened during the 2016 election process," presidential aide Lisa Monaco told reporters at a breakfast hosted by The Christian Science Monitor. She said the review's aim is "to capture lessons learned from that."
"That's going to be first and foremost a determination that's made by the intelligence community," she said.
Despite the headline-capturing hacking, which the US intelligence authorities blamed on Russia, the public may never have a chance to review the findings.
Cuban Vice President Ricardo Cabrisas and Russian deputy PM Dmitry Rogozin have signed a new defense cooperation program which will last until 2020, along with six other treaties covering technology, aviation, medicine and railroad transport.
The defense agreement would largely be of a technical and advisory nature, rather than one which includes military supplies or boots-on-the-ground, the Russian deputy prime minister said.
"Since Russia long ago arrived at the program-target method in defense issues, we have our own methodology, experts knowing how to ensure short-term and near-term planning. This kind of assistance will be provided. So, this is more of a methodological assistance, which will help shape the long-term capacity planning program aimed at the modernization of the armed forces," Rogozin told Sputnik.
"It will not be supplies, but ... [rather] this kind of methodological assistance," he emphasized.
One sample of strawberries contained residues of 20 pesticides
New government data offers a potentially unappetizing assessment of the U.S. food supply: Residues of many types of bug-killing pesticides, fungicides and weed-killing chemicals have been found in roughly 85 percent of thousands of foods tested.
Data recently released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture shows varying levels of pesticide residues in everything from mushrooms to potatoes and grapes to green beans. One sample of strawberries contained residues of 20 pesticides, according to the Pesticide Data Program report issued this month by the USDA's Agricultural Marketing Service. The report is the 25th annual such compilation of residue data for the agency, and covered sampling the USDA did in 2015.
Radio Free Europe informs us the number of Russian applications for US asylum has surged again in 2016:
Russian citizens filed 1,912 new U.S. asylum application in the fiscal year ending September 30, up 31 percent compared to 2015 and 164 percent since 2012, when Putin was again elected president following a four-year stint as prime minister, new official statistics show.
RFE/RL obtained the U.S. Department of Homeland Security data after filing a request under the Freedom Of Information Act.
RFE also has an explanation albeit one it admits is pure conjecture based on "anecdotal evidence":
While the data does not indicate the basis for applicants' persecution claims, immigration attorneys link this multiyear surge to policies in Russia seen as discriminatory toward sexual minorities, a squeezing of dissent during Putin's third term, and widespread corruption.
Anecdotal evidence and internal accounting from lawyers working with sexual minorities suggest a sharp rise in the number of lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender (LGBT) individuals from Russia seeking U.S. asylum since Putin signed a 2013 law banning "propaganda of nontraditional sexual relations" to minors.
A Tory by-election win that saw Labour's share of the vote slashed has raised concern about the future of the party, with a senior Labour MP labeling the result an "electoral disaster."
Conservative candidate Caroline Johnson easily retained the seat of Sleaford and North Hykeham in Lincolnshire with a 13,144 majority. The by-election was triggered after Tory MP Stephen Phillips resigned over "irreconcilable policy differences" with the government.
Interview with Dr. Jordan Peterson by Jason Tucker and Jason VandenBeukel
Can you give us a brief background of your academic career and your interests?
For the first two years of my undergraduate degree I studied Political Science and English Literature. I was very interested in politics, but what I was learning in economics and political science was just not correct. There was too much emphasis placed on the idea that economic interests were the prime motivators for human beings, and that was not obvious to me at all. I was spending a lot of time thinking about the Cold War, and the Cold War was not primarily an economic issue. So I started taking psychology, and I was interested in clinical psychology. I did my PhD under Dr. Robert Pihl, and I worked on drug abuse, alcoholism, and aggression - there was a heavy biological emphasis. I did my post-doc with Dr. Pihl, and Maurice Dongier. Then I taught at Harvard for six years, and I've been at the University of Toronto ever since then.
My primary interest has always been the psychology of belief. Partly religious belief, and ideology as a sub-category of religious belief. One of Jung's propositions was that whatever a person values most highly is their god. If people think they are atheistic, it means is they are unconscious of their gods. In a sophisticated religious system, there is a positive and negative polarity. Ideologies simplify that polarity and, in doing so, demonize and oversimplify. I got interested in ideology, in a large part, because I got interested in what happened in Nazi Germany, the Soviet Union, the Cultural Revolution in China, and equivalent occurrences in other places in the world. Mostly I concentrated on Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union. I was particularly interested in what led people to commit atrocities in service of their belief. The motto of the Holocaust Museum in Washington is "we must never forget." I've learned that you cannot remember what you don't understand. People don't understand the Holocaust, and they don't understand what happened in Russia. I have this course called "Maps of Meaning," which is based on a book I wrote by the same name, and it outlines these ideas. One of the things that I'm trying to convince my students of is that if they had been in Germany in the 1930s, they would have been Nazis. Everyone thinks "Not me," and that's not right. It was mostly ordinary people who committed the atrocities that characterized Nazi Germany and the Soviet Union.
Part of the reason I got embroiled in this [gender identity] controversy was because of what I know about how things went wrong in the Soviet Union. Many of the doctrines that underlie the legislation that I've been objecting to share structural similarities with the Marxist ideas that drove Soviet Communism. The thing I object to the most was the insistence that people use these made up words like 'xe' and 'xer' that are the construction of authoritarians. There isn't a hope in hell that I'm going to use their language, because I know where that leads.
I didn't really know how I felt about the US presidential election until the day before, when I thought Hillary might actually win. It was a heavy and distressed feeling. It isn't easy to explain everything which informed that feeling, and I doubt even a long answer would be enough to convince an ardent 'progressive'. The issues in which Clinton has played a heavy part involve heavy programming and mountains of lies from the media, State Department, and those who mindlessly repeat their talking points.
Many progressives have expressed (and kept on expressing) their shock at how Trump could have won. To them, Trump represents all that is wrong with our world. In their eyes he's a racist, xenophobic, sexist homophobe who brings out the worst in people. But the world is not as black and white as it is often presented. It takes a sincere desire to uncover the truth, and that includes taking a look at our long-held beliefs, which takes time and requires a sincere effort to understand the world. It requires seriously considering the possibility that we're wrong, that we don't have the entire picture, and that perhaps our strongly held opinions are not as justified as we think. That's hard.
The ways in which Hillary Clinton would have been much more destructive than Trump are legion. She's been involved in more scandals during her public life than (almost) any other US politician (and that says a lot!). There was Whitewater, Travelgate, Filegate, Chinagate, Vince Foster's mysterious death, her assistant Huma Abedin's family ties to the Muslim Brotherhood, and Benghazi. Then there were the emails that led to dozens more scandals involving the sending of classified material over unsecured servers, DNC voter fraud, getting presidential debate questions from CNN, Clinton Foundation donors getting special access to the State Department, and the millions upon millions donated from terrorist-sponsors like Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates. Oh, and in case you were lucky enough to forget, there was that super creepy 'spirit-cooking' thing involving the Podestas. The list goes on and on, but even these signs of deep corruption don't describe the worst of Hillary Clinton.
An Alabama inmate coughed and heaved for 13 minutes during his execution. Prior to his execution he repeatedly challenged the type of drugs which were set to be used, saying they didn't provide enough sedation.
During the 13 minutes of the execution Smith appeared to be struggling for breath. He heaved and coughed and clenched his left fist, and raised his head, after apparently being administered the first drug, midazolam (a sedative), in the three-drug combination, according to AL.com.
A Department of Corrections captain performed two consciousness checks before administering the next two drugs to stop his breathing and heart. The tests involved calling out Smith's name, brushing his eyebrows back and pinching him under his left arm.
"We do know we followed our protocol. We are absolutely convinced of that," Alabama Corrections Commissioner Jeff Dunn told AP.
Death row inmate Ronald Bert Smith, 45 was executed Thursday night by lethal injection for the 1994 murder of Huntsville convenience store clerk Casey Wilson. Wilson was pistol-whipped and then shot in the head by Smith during a robbery, court documents show.
The drama surrounding allegations that the internet is awash with "fake news" is being promoted by the so-called mainstream media which certainly has a lot to answer for when it comes to producing material that does not pass the smell test. Does the name Judith Miller ring any bells? And the squeaks of rage coming from the U.S. Congress over being lied to is also something to behold as the federal government has been acting in collusion with the media to dish up falsehoods designed to start wars since the time of the Spanish-American conflict in 1898, if not before.
The fake news saga is intended to discredit Donald Trump, whom the media hates mostly because they failed to understand either him or the Americans who voted for him in the recent election. You have to blame somebody when you are wrong so you invent "fake news" as the game changer that explains your failure to comprehend simple truths. To accomplish that, the clearly observable evidence that the media was piling on Donald Trump at every opportunity has somehow been deliberately morphed into a narrative that it is Trump who was attacking the media, suggesting that it was all self-defense on the part of the Rachel Maddows of this world, but anyone who viewed even a small portion of the farrago surely will have noted that it was the Republican candidate who was continuously coming under attack from both the right and left of the political-media spectrum.
"Anti-Semitism is a certain perception of Jews, which may be expressed as hatred toward Jews. Rhetorical and physical manifestations of anti-Semitism are directed toward Jewish or non-Jewish individuals and/or their property, toward Jewish community institutions and religious facilities." --Working Definition of Anti-Semitism by the European Monitoring Center on Racism and Xenophobia
Contemporary Examples of Anti-SemitismCalling for, aiding, or justifying the killing or harming of Jews (often in the name of a radical ideology or an extremist view of religion).Making mendacious, dehumanizing, demonizing, or stereotypical allegations about Jews as such or the power of Jews as a collective—especially but not exclusively, the myth about a world Jewish conspiracy or of Jews controlling the media, economy, government or other societal institutions.
Comment: Hmm... Manny Friedman: "Jews DO Control the Media". Joel Stein: "Who runs Hollywood? C'mon". Rob Eshman: "We are blessed to be living at a time of unparalleled Jewish power and wealth."
Accusing Jews as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoing committed by a single Jewish person or group, the state of Israel, or even for acts committed by non-Jews.
Comment: But it's okay to blame Muslims as a people of being responsible for real or imagined wrongdoings committed by a single Muslim or group of Muslims... Or at least, it's not as bad?
Accusing the Jews as a people, or Israel as a state, of inventing or exaggerating the Holocaust.Accusing Jewish citizens of being more loyal to Israel, or to the alleged priorities of Jews worldwide, than to the interest of their own nations.
Comment: Like this, from the Jewish Forward or this from True Torah Jews?
South Korea will soon put to use a powerful weapon in the fight against North Korean drones - the electromagnetic pulse (EMP), its military reported.
The directional, high-powered EMP generator has already been developed, according to Yonhap news agency.
It was presented last week at a conference hosted by the Korea Institute of Military Science and Technology, and developed by the Agency for Defense Development (ADD). It is now up to Seoul to figure out how to adjust it for use against Pyongyang's UAVs.
An electromagnetic pulse sends out a wave that disables all electrical equipment it targets.
'Stop Resisting' are the infamous words of police in America. While many times these words are warranted, all too often we hear them being repeated over and over as restrained and even unconscious victims are beaten to a pulp. Eastpointe's Frankie Taylor is an example of one these cases.
On August 10, 2015, Taylor was picked up for a routine DUI arrest and brought to the Eastpointe police department for booking. When Taylor asked the officers what he was being booked for, they became enraged.
"If you keep acting like a child, you're going to get strapped in that chair and you're going to stay there," an officer can be heard saying on the video.
When Taylor asks to use the phone, he is swarmed by police and forced into a restraint chair as police threaten to taser him. Once Taylor is in the chair, a sadistic officer is seen putting on his blue gloves before pummelling Taylor's face — over and over again.
Congress has authorized $618.7 billion for the 2017 military budget. The bill ups aid to Ukraine by $50 million and allows the transfer of missiles to Syrian rebels. However, it omits controversial provisions about drafting women or religious exemptions for contractors.
The 2017 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) passed in the Senate on Thursday with 92 votes in favor and seven opposing. It already cleared the House last Friday in a 375-34 vote. With the annexes, appendices and the conference report harmonizing the two chambers' versions, the final document is 3,076 pages long.
Absent from the NDAA is the proposal to allow female Americans to register for the Selective Service system, which replaced the Vietnam War-era draft but currently only applies to men aged 18-25. That proposal was sent to the Government Accountability Office for further study.
Ready, steady, bundle up! Jack Frost is about to dance across the Northeast with a freezing polar vortex making a dramatic return to the US. Chills, snow and rain are expected to make a landfall over the weekend, likely bringing old classics like slippery roads and flight delays.
Meteorologists predict that the freezing blast will cover midwestern and northeastern states for at least five to seven days. So, getting out extra scarves and gloves might be a good idea.
This year's polar vortex, or a shift in a stratospheric weather system, is already been predicted to be just as bad as the one that developed in January 2014, when record freezing temperatures gripped the US.
"Upper-level atmosphere configuration very similar in scale & magnitude as infamous Jan 2014 #PolarVortex popularized by me and @afreedma,"meteorologist Ryan Maue said on Twitter on Tuesday alongside maps comparing the two weather systems.
More than 200 million Americans are expected to be affected by freezing temperatures, snow and rain, or a mix of both.
Forget the Terminator. The next robot on the horizon may be wearing a lab coat.
Artificial intelligence (AI) is already helping scientists form testable hypotheses that enable experts to run real experiments, and the technology may soon be poised to help businesses make decisions, one scientist says.
However, that doesn't mean the machines will be taking over from humans entirely. Instead, humans and machines have complementary skillsets, so AI could help researchers with the work they already do, Laura Haas, a computer scientist and director of the IBM Research Accelerated Discovery Lab in San Jose, California, said here Wednesday (Dec. 7) at the Future Technologies Conference. [Super-intelligent Machines: 7 Robotic Futures]
"The machine will come to be a strong partner to humans," akin to the android Data on the TV series Star Trek: The Next Generation, Haas said.