Sunday, 16 December 2012
Monday, 10 December 2012
Emotional eating is when people use food as a way to deal with feelings instead of to satisfy hunger. We've all been there, finishing a whole bag of chips out of boredom or downing cookie after cookie while cramming for a big test. But when done a lot — especially without realizing it — emotional eating can affect weight, health, and overall well-being.
Not many of us make the connection between eating and our feelings. But understanding what drives emotional eating can help people take steps to change it.
One of the biggest myths about emotional eating is that it's prompted by negative feelings. Yes, people often turn to food when they're stressed out, lonely, sad, anxious, or bored. But emotional eating can be linked to positive feelings too, like the romance of sharing dessert on Valentine's Day or the celebration of a holiday feast.
Sometimes emotional eating is tied to major life events, like a death or a divorce. More often, though, it's the countless little daily stresses that cause someone to seek comfort or distraction in food.
Emotional eating patterns can be learned: A child who is given candy after a big achievement may grow up using candy as a reward for a job well done. A kid who is given cookies as a way to stop crying may learn to link cookies with comfort.
It's not easy to "unlearn" patterns of emotional eating. But it is possible. And it starts with an awareness of what's going on.
Tuesday, 4 December 2012
You may be lost in the addiction to busyness if…
- Your usual response to “how are you?” is “so busy”, “crazy busy” or “busy but good”
- You spend time worrying about how busy you are going to be tomorrow
- You get angry when your spouse or friends aren’t as busy as you
- Your busy life keeps you up at night thinking about everything you didn’t get done
- You make a point of letting people know that you stay at the office after hours
- You check email several times a day
- You zone out during conversations thinking about everything you have to do
- You volunteer for things you don’t care about
- You spend time complaining about how busy you are
- You make list after list to make sure you don’t forget anything during your busy day
- You allocate time each day to clean your desk or organize your stuff
- You regularly eat in your car
- You use a phone in the car because “it’s the only time you have to talk”
Saturday, 25 August 2012
During experiments on the axons of the Woods Hole squid (loligo pealei), we tested our cockroach leg stimulus protocol on the squid's chromatophores.
The results were both interesting and beautiful. The video is a view through an 8x microscope zoomed in on the dorsal side of the caudal fin of the squid. We used a suction electrode to stimulate the fin nerve. Chromatophores are pigmeted cells that come in 3 colors: Brown, Red, and Yellow. Each chromatophore is lined with up to 16 muscles that contract to reveal their color.
Paloma T. Gonzalez-Bellido of Roger Hanlon's Lab in the Marine Resource Center of the Marine Biological Labs helped us with the preparation. You can read their latest paper at:http://rspb.royalsocietypublishing.org/content/early/2012/08/13/rspb.2012.1374
Wednesday, 27 June 2012
Euro 2012 recently began and, for those of you who don’t know, it’s the European football championship. European football is what we Americans call soccer, and it has slowly gained steam over the years, although still not as popular as American football… Whether you’re into the championship or not (or even sports in general), you’ll probably love these simple, modern posters David Watson ofTrebleseven designed for it.
Each poster represents a particular country that’s playing, and the colors of their flag are incorporated into one of the various circular designs. I love the typographic twist these posters have and how they don’t have blatant sports references in them.
'AWARE2' gigapixel camera by duke university
above: 3 increasing zoom levels of footage taken by the camera
engineers at duke university have developed a camera able to take photos with up to one billion pixels of resolution.
the 'AWARE2' gigapixel camera uses 98 sensors each at 14 megapixels, capable of detecting detail from as far as 1 kilometer away.
the current model weighs in at approximately 100 pounds, and only shoots in black and white.
explore more of the super high-resolution photos on duke's site with these zoomable examples of a lake scene, building atrium and riverside town.
Tuesday, 19 June 2012
On Tuesday night WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange applied for political asylum at the Ecuadorian Embassy in London after failing in his bid to avoid extradition to Sweden to face sex crime allegations. The 40-year-old Australian is currently inside the building in Knightsbridge, having gone there on Tuesday afternoon to request asylum under the United Nations Human Rights Declaration. The country's foreign minister Ricardo Patino told a press conference in the South American country that it was considering his request. In a short statement last night, Mr Assange said: "I can confirm that today I arrived at the Ecuadorian Embassy and sought diplomatic sanctuary and political asylum. This application has been passed to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in the capital Quito. I am grateful to the Ecuadorian ambassador and the government of Ecuador for considering my application." The computer expert, who was on £200,000 bail after failing in several attempts to halt extradition, attracted several high-profile supporters including Ken Loach and socialite and charity fundraiser Jemima Khan, who each offered £20,000 as surety. Other supporters included Bianca Jagger and veteran left-winger Tony Benn. The Swedish authorities want him to answer accusations of raping a woman and sexually molesting and coercing another in Stockholm in August 2010 while on a visit to give a lecture. Assange, whose WikiLeaks website has published a mass of leaked diplomatic cables that embarrassed several governments and international businesses, says the sex was consensual and the allegations against him are politically motivated. The Supreme Court last month ruled in favour of a High Court ruling that his extradition was legal. Last week the Supreme Court refused an attempt by him to reopen his appeal against extradition, saying it was "without merit". He had until June 28 to ask European judges in Strasbourg to consider his case and postpone extradition on the basis that he has not had a fair hearing from the UK courts. A statement issued on behalf of the Ecuadorian Embassy said Mr Assange would remain at the embassy while his request was considered.
Monday, 4 June 2012
A crime linked to Facebook is reported to police every 40 minutes. Last year, officers logged 12,300 alleged offences involving the vastly popular social networking site. Facebook was referenced in investigations of murder, rape, child sex offences, assault, kidnap, death threats, witness intimidation and fraud.
Tuesday, 22 May 2012
Scotland Yard is investigating allegations that detectives working for its anti-corruption unit have been paid thousands of pounds by a firm of private investigators. A parliamentary inquiry was told today that invoices, also seen by the Guardian, purport to show how a firm of private investigators made payments in return for information about the Metropolitan police investigation into James Ibori, a notorious Nigerian fraudster. On Tuesday, the Commons home affairs select committee was told by a lawyer involved in the case that invoices showed about £20,000 of potential payments to police officers in what amounted to an undetected case of "apparent corruption right at the heart of Scotland Yard". In recent weeks, as the Guardian investigated the allegations, the Met has sought to discourage the paper from publishing details about the case. But , after MPs heard the evidence, the Met dropped its previous insistence that there was "evidence that casts doubt on the credibility" of the allegations. A police source with knowledge of the investigation, which has been ongoing since October, said developments over the last 24 hours had now led police to take the allegations more seriously. The case revolves around a private investigation firm called RISC Management. Five years ago the firm was hired to work for Ibori, a former Nigerian state governor, after he discovered he was being investigated by the Met for serious fraud. Ibori recently pleaded guilty to money laundering and was jailed in the UK, after the conclusion of a major investigation into his financial affairs. The allegation now being investigated by police is that some detectives on the Met's Proceeds of Corruption Unit, which investigated Ibori, were receiving payments in exchange for information about the ongoing investigation. Invoices and other documents appearing to support the allegations have been anonymously posted to the Met and Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). The documents have also been seen by the Guardian and separately sent to the home affairs committee, which is conducting an inquiry in whether private investigators should be subject to statutory regulation. Keith Vaz, the chair of the committee, has said there is growing concern in the wake of the phone-hacking scandal that some private investigators are operating in "the shadows" of the law. The Commons inquiry has been scrutinising the nexus between private investigators - many of whom are retired police officers - and their former colleagues who are still serving. On Tuesday morning, Mike Schwarz, a lawyer who represents one of Ibori's co-accused, told the inquiry about what he understood to be the significance of the material. He said it indicated possible corruption at the heart of the police investigation into the Nigerian politician's money laundering activities. The invoices are alleged to be from RISC Management to Speechly Bircham, a top firm of lawyers hired by Ibori to prepare his defence. Schwarz told MPs the invoices "perhaps" documented "payments made by RISC Management to sources, presumably police officers or those close to the investigation". He added: "The records, which I think the committee have, show about half-a-dozen payments totalling about £20,000 over a period of eight or nine months [...] it appears to be inappropriate if not corrupt." Schwarz told the committee that he believed RISC Management had been hired to "extract" information from the police investigation into Ibori. He said he had also seen emails - which he believed had also been forwarded to the committee - which confirmed "contact" between detectives investigating Ibori and the private investigators. Schwarz, from Bindmans solicitors, represents Bhadresh Gohil, a London-based solicitor jailed along with Ibori for orchestrating his money laundering scam. Gohil is now considering an appeal. Gohil is understood to have been sent the invoices, anonymously, while in Wandsworth Prison last summer. In a statement, the Met said: "The [force] is investigating an allegation that illegal payments were made to police officers for information by a private investigation agency. The Directorate of Professional Standards (DPS) referred the matter to the Independent Police Complaints Commission in October 2011 which agreed to supervise a DPS investigation into the allegations." Following Schwarz's evidence to parliament, the Met said it had dropped its previous claim to have recently "uncovered evidence" casting doubt on the allegations. Previously, the force had suggested an active line of inquiry was the theory that Gohil or his associates had fabricated the allegations to undermine the prosecution. In a previous statement, provided on Friday, the force said: "As a result of inquiries police have uncovered evidence that casts doubt on the credibility of these allegations. Warrants have been executed at two addresses in London and a quantity of paperwork and computer equipment recovered." Two weeks ago, following raids on properties, one of which was the Gohil's family home in Kent, the force said: "Officers believe that they have identified the originator of the information and a line of enquiry suggests that there may have been an attempt to pervert the course of justice." However, sources at the Yard said previous statements no longer fully represented their position. A source with knowledge of the Met inquiry said the change of stance was unrelated to Schwarz's parliamentary evidence. The source said that, instead, there had been developments in the investigation over the last 24 hours. Schwarz named three serving Met police officers in his testimony to parliament as being potential "culprits": detective inspector Gary Walters, detective constables named as John MacDonald and "Clark". All three officers declined an opportunity to respond to the allegations when contacted by the Guardian last week. However, RISC Management indicated Walters would deny "any and all allegations". RISC Management denied all the allegations about the company, saying it was not aware of the Scotland Yard investigation and had no knowledge of the alleged financial records. The firm confirmed it had been hired by Ibori's lawyers but denied making corrupt payments, saying it "has never paid a serving police officer for information and would never approve such payments". Keith Hunter, chief executive of the company, said: "RISC management does not need to pay serving police officers for confidential information as we pride ourselves on our ability to provide positive solutions and accurate information legitimately. RISC Management has a highly respected reputation for conducting professional investigations". He added that his company was "proud to have a network of highly professional consultants, contacts and resources. These individuals are hired precisely because of their unique skill set and expertise". He accused Schwarz of "grandstanding" in front of the Commons committee, instead of taking the "correct course of reporting the matter to the police". He said Schwarz had not produced any evidence to support his claims and acted for a convicted solicitor, Gohil, who was jailed for seven years for money laundering. Speechly Bircham denied any knowledge of wrongdoing and said it would be willing to assist with any police inquiries. The law firm stressed Schwarz did not suggest in his evidence to parliament that Speechly Bircham was "party to illegal or corrupt payments" and said any such allegation would be false and defamatory. Ian Timlin, the former Speechly Bircham lawyer who was at the time representing Ibori, said neither he nor the firm had "any knowledge of any payments to police officers for information." He added: "At no time, did RISC ever inform me who or what was the source/s they were paying."
Thursday, 17 May 2012
Spain’s banking crisis reached Britain’s high streets last night when the credit rating of Santander UK was cut.
In a sweeping reassessment, ratings agency Moody’s announced in Madrid that it is downgrading 16 Spanish banks because it could not be sure of the ability of the country’s government to provide the necessary support.
Santander UK was among the banks highlighted after the ratings agency took aim at its parent Banco Santander, based in Spain.
The Spanish banking crisis has hit the British high street, with the news that Santander has had its credit rating cut
Santander is one of the biggest players in UK retail banking, having taken over the former Abbey National, Alliance & Leicester, Bradford & Bingley and most recently the English branches of the Royal Bank of Scotland.
The new lower A2 credit rating is certain to be a cause of anxiety to Santander UK’s millions of British customers.
Nevertheless, they can be confident that their deposits up to £85,000 are guaranteed by the British government should there be a loss of confidence.
The 63-year-old singer, who had hits including Hot Stuff, Love to Love You, Baby and I Feel Love, died in Florida on Thursday morning. She had largely kept her battle with lung cancer out of the public eye. But the website TMZ reported that the singer had told friends she believed her illness was the result of inhaling toxic dust from the collapsed Twin Towers. On Thursday night tributes were paid to the singer, considered by many to be the voice of the 1970s. A statement released on behalf of her family — husband Bruce Sudano, their daughters Brooklyn and Amanda, her daughter, Mimi from a previous marriage and four grandchildren — read: “Early this morning, surrounded by family, we lost Donna Summer Sudano, a woman of many gifts, the greatest being her faith. "While we grieve her passing, we are at peace celebrating her extraordinary life and her continued legacy.
Investigators are questioning Mexico's former deputy defence minister and a top army general for suspected links to organised crime
Investigators are questioning Mexico's former deputy defence minister and a top army general for suspected links to organised crime, in the highest level scandal to hit the military in the five-year-old drug war.
Mexican soldiers on Tuesday detained retired general Tomás Angeles Dauahare and general Roberto Dawe González and turned them over to the country's organised crime unit, military and government officials said.
Angeles Dauahare was number 2 in the armed forces under President Felipe Calderón and helped lead the government's crackdown on drug cartels after soldiers were deployed to the streets in late 2006. He retired in 2008.
Dawe González, still an active duty general, led an elite army unit in the western state of Colima and local media said he previously held posts in the violent states of Sinaloa and Chihuahua.
An official at the attorney general's office said they would be held for several days to give testimony and then could be called in front of a judge.
"The generals are answering questions because they are allegedly tied to organised crime," the official said.
Angeles Dauahare said through a lawyer that his detention was unjustified, daily Reforma newspaper reported.
If the generals were convicted of drug trafficking, it would mark the most serious case of military corruption during Calderón's administration.
"Traditionally the armed forces had a side role in the anti-drug fight, eradicating drug crops or stopping drug shipments," said Alejandro Hope, a security analyst who formerly worked in the government intelligence agency.
"After 2006, they were more directly involved in public security, putting them at a higher risk of contact [with drug gangs]," he said.
About 55,000 people have been killed in drug violence over the past five years as rival cartels fight each other and government forces.
Worsening drug-related attacks in major cities are eroding support for Calderón's conservative National Action Party, or PAN, ahead of a 1 July presidential vote.
Over the weekend, police found 49 headless bodies on a highway in northern Mexico, the latest in a recent series of brutal massacres where mutilated corpses have been hung from bridges or shoved in iceboxes.
Opinion polls show Calderón's party is trailing by double digits behind opposition candidate Enrique Peña Nieto from the Institutional Revolutionary Party, or PRI, which says the government's drug strategy is failing.
Traditionally, the military has been seen as less susceptible to cartel bribes and intimidation than badly paid local and state police forces, who are often easily swayed by drug gang pay offs.
But there have been cases of military corruption in the past. Angeles Dauahare himself oversaw the landmark trial of two generals convicted of working with drug gangs in 2002.
Those two generals were convicted of links to the Juárez cartel once headed by the late Amado Carrillo Fuentes, who was known as the Lord of the Skies for flying plane load of cocaine into the United States.
Since then, the Sinaloa cartel - headed by Mexico's most wanted man Joaquín "Shorty" Guzmán - has expanded its power and is locked in a bloody battle over smuggling routes with the Zetas gang, founded by deserters from the Mexican army.
Wednesday, 16 May 2012
The trading losses suffered by JPMorgan Chase have surged in recent days, surpassing the bank’s initial $2 billion estimate by at least $1 billion, according to people with knowledge of the losses. When Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan’s chief executive, announced the losses last Thursday, he indicated they could double within the next few quarters. But that process has been compressed into four trading days as hedge funds and other investors take advantage of JPMorgan’s distress, fueling faster deterioration in the underlying credit market positions held by the bank. A spokeswoman for the bank declined to comment, although Mr. Dimon has said the total paper trading losses will be volatile depending on day-to-day market fluctuations. The Federal Reserve is examining the scope of the growing losses and the original bet, along with whether JPMorgan’s chief investment office took risks that were inappropriate for a federally insured depository institution, according to several people with knowledge of the examination. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because the investigation is still under way. The overall health of the bank remains strong, even with the additional losses, and JPMorgan has been able to increase its stock dividend faster than its rivals because of stronger earnings and a more solid capital buffer. Still, the huge trading losses rocked Wall Street and reignited the debate over how tightly giant financial institutions should be regulated. Bank analysts say that while the bank’s stability is not threatened, if the losses continue to mount, the outlook for the bank’s dividend will grow uncertain. The bank’s leadership has discussed the impact of the losses on future earnings, although a dividend cut remains highly unlikely for now. In March, the company raised the quarterly dividend by 5 cents, to 30 cents, which will cost the bank about $190 million more this quarter. A spokeswoman for the bank said a dividend cut has not been discussed internally. At the bank’s annual meeting in Tampa, Fla., on Tuesday, Mr. Dimon did not definitively rule out cutting the dividend, although he said that he “hoped” it would not be cut. John Lackey, a shareholder from Richmond, Va., who attended the meeting precisely to ask about the dividend, was not reassured. “That wasn’t a very clear answer,” he said of Mr. Dimon’s response. “I expect that shareholders are going to suffer because of this.” Analysts expect the bank to earn $4 billion in the second quarter, factoring in the original estimated loss of $2 billion. Even if the additional trading losses were to double, the bank could still earn a profit of $2 billion. And many analysts and investors remain optimistic about the bank’s long-term prospects. Glenn Schorr, a widely followed analyst with Nomura, reiterated on Wednesday his buy rating on JPMorgan shares, which are down more than 10 percent since the trading loss became public last week. What’s more, the chief investment office earned more than $5 billion in the last three years, which leaves it ahead over all, even given the added red ink. But the underlying problem is that while these sharp swings are expected at a big hedge fund, they should not be occurring at a bank whose deposits are government-backed and which has access to ultralow cost capital from the Federal Reserve, experts said. “JPMorgan Chase has a big hedge fund inside a commercial bank,” said Mark Williams, a professor of finance at Boston University, who also served as a Federal Reserve bank examiner. “They should be taking in deposits and making loans, not taking large speculative bets.” Not long after Mr. Dimon’s announcement of a dividend increase in March, the notorious bet by JPMorgan’s chief investment office began to fall apart. Traders at the unit’s London desk and elsewhere are now frantically trying to defuse the huge bet that was built up over years, but started generating erratic returns in late March. After a brief pause, the losses began to mount again in late April, prompting Mr. Dimon’s announcement on May 10. Beginning on Friday, the same trends that had been causing the losses for six weeks accelerated, since traders on the opposite side of the bet knew the bank was under pressure to unwind the losing trade and could not double down in any way. Another issue is that the trader who executed the complex wager, Bruno Iksil, is no longer on the trading desk. Nicknamed the London Whale, Mr. Iksil had a firm grasp on the trade — knowledge that is hard to replace, even though his anticipated departure is seen as sign of the bank’s taking responsibility for the debacle. “They were caught short,” said one experienced credit trader who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the situation is still fluid. The market player, who does not stand to gain from JPMorgan’s losses and is not involved in the trade, added, “this is a very hard trade to get out of because it’s so big.” He estimated that the initial loss of just over $2 billion was caused by a move of a quarter percentage point, or 25 basis points, on a portfolio with a notional value of $150 billion to $200 billion — in other words, the total value of the contracts traded, not JPMorgan’s exposure. In the four trading days since Mr. Dimon’s disclosure, the market has moved at least 15 to 20 basis points more against JPMorgan, he said. The overall losses are not directly proportional to the move in basis points because of the complexity of the trade. Many of the positions are highly illiquid, making them difficult to value for regulators and the bank itself. In its simplest form, traders said, the complex position assembled by the bank included a bullish bet on an index of investment-grade corporate debt, later paired with a bearish bet on high-yield securities, achieved by selling insurance contracts known as credit-default swaps. A big move in the interest rate spread between the investment grade securities and risk-free government bonds in recent months hurt the first part of the bet, and was not offset by equally large moves in the price of the insurance on the high yield bonds. As the credit yield curve steepened, the losses piled up on the corporate grade index, overwhelming gains elsewhere on the trades. Making matters worse, there was a mismatch between the expiration of different instruments within the trade, increasing losses. The additional losses represent a worsening of what is already the most embarrassing misstep for JPMorgan since Mr. Dimon became chief executive in 2005. No one has blamed Mr. Dimon for the trade, which was under the oversight of the head of the chief investment office, Ina Drew, but he has repeatedly apologized, calling it “stupid” and “sloppy.” Ms. Drew resigned Monday and more departures are anticipated.
Tuesday, 15 May 2012
Rebbeca Brooks learned this morning that she will be taken to court over accusations of perverting the course of justice in relation to the phone hacking scandal.
The former editor of the News of the World and the Sun is to be charged with five others, including her husband Charlie Brooks.
Alison Levitt QC, principal legal adviser to the Director of Public Prosecutions, announced the decision at 10am, days after Mrs Brooks appeared at the Leveson inquiry into press ethics.
Mr and Mrs Brooks said: "We deplore this weak and unjust decision. After the further unprecedented posturing of the CPS we will respond later today after our return from the police station."
Rebekah Brooks arriving at the Leveson Inquiry
Sunday, 6 May 2012
The Brink’s-Mat curse even touched on the Great Train Robbery gang of 1963. One of them, Charlie Wilson, found himself in trouble when £3 million of Brink’s-Mat investors’ money went missing in a drug deal. In April 1990, he paid the price when a young British hood knocked on the front door of his hacienda north of Marbella and shot Wilson and his pet husky dog before coolly riding off down the hill on a yellow bicycle.
Saturday, 5 May 2012
23 year old British tourist has fallen to her death from the third floor balcony of her hotel in Magalluf, Mallorca. Emergency sources said it happened at 4.25am Saturday morning at the Hotel Teix in Calle Pinada. Local police and emergency health services went to scene. After 20 minutes of an attempt to re-animate her heart, the woman was pronounced dead. Online descriptions for the Hotel say it is the best place to stay of you are looking for non-stop partying, adding it not suitable for families.
Friday, 4 May 2012
Four of the last reporters and photographers willing to cover crime stories have been slain in less than a week in violence-torn Veracruz state
Four of the last reporters and photographers willing to cover crime stories have been slain in less than a week in violence-torn Veracruz state, where two Mexican drug cartels are warring over control of smuggling routes and targeting sources of independent information. The brutal campaign is bleeding the media and threatening to turn Veracruz into the latest state in Mexico where fear snuffs out reporting on the drug war. Three photojournalists who worked the perilous crime beat in the port city of Veracruz were found dismembered and dumped in plastic bags in a canal Thursday, less than a week after a reporter for an investigative newsmagazine was beaten and strangled in her home in the state capital of Xalapa. Press freedom groups said all three photographers had temporarily fled the state after receiving threats last year. The organizations called for immediate government action to halt a wave of attacks that has killed at least seven current and former reporters and photographers in Veracruz over the last 18 months. Like most of those, the men found Thursday were among the few journalists left working on crime-related stories in the state. Threats and killings have spawned an atmosphere of terror and self-censorship, and most local media are too intimidated to report on drug-related violence. Social media and blogs are often the only outlets reporting on serious crime. Veracruz isn't the only battleground for Mexican media. In at least three northeastern states, journalists are under siege from assailants throwing grenades inside newsrooms and gunmen firing into newspaper and TV station buildings. In the state of Tamaulipas, on the border with Texas, local media stopped covering drug trafficking violence, mentioning drug cartels or reporting on organized crime shortly after two gangs began fighting for control of Nuevo Laredo in 2004. As part of that war, reporters were targeted to keep them silent or because they had links to gangs. Mexico has become one of the world's most dangerous countries for journalists in recent years, amid a government offensive against drug cartels and fighting among gangs that have brought tens of thousands of deaths, kidnappings and extortion cases. Prosecutions in journalist killings are almost nonxistent, although that is widely true of all homicides and other serious crimes in Mexico. The latest killings came in Boca del Rio, a town near the port city of Veracruz where police found the bodies. The victims bore signs of torture and had been dismembered, the state prosecutors' office said. One victim was identified as Guillermo Luna Varela, a crime-news photographer for the website http://www.veracruznews.com.mx who was last seen by local reporters covering a car accident Wednesday afternoon. According to a fellow journalist, who insisted on speaking anonymously out of fear, Luna was in his 20s and had begun his career working for the local newspaper Notiver. The journalist said Luna was the nephew of another of the men found dead, Gabriel Huge. Huge was in his early 30s and worked as a photojournalist for Notiver until last summer, when he fled the state soon after two of the paper's reporters were slain in still-unsolved killings. He had returned to the state to work as a reporter, but it was not immediately clear what kind of stories he was covering recently. State officials said the third victim was Esteban Rodriguez, who was a photographer for the local newspaper AZ until last summer, when he too quit and fled the state. He later came back, but took up work as a welder. The London-based press freedom group Article 19 said he, like the other two, had been a crime photographer. The fourth victim was Luna's girlfriend, Irasema Becerra, state prosecutors said. Article 19 said in a report last year that Luna, Varela and Rodriguez were among 13 Veracruz journalists who had fled their homes because of crime-related threats and official unwillingness to protect them or investigate the danger. The Committee to Protect Journalists said in 2008 that Huge had been detained and beaten by federal police as he tried to cover a fatal auto accident involving officers. Last June, Miguel Angel Lopez Velasco, a columnist and editorial director for Notiver, was shot to death in Veracruz along with his wife and one of his children. Authorities that month also found the body of journalist Noel Lopez buried in a clandestine grave in the town of Chinameca. Lopez, who disappeared three months earlier, had worked for the weeklies Horizonte and Noticias de Acayucan and for the daily newspaper La Verdad. The following month, Yolanda Ordaz de la Cruz, a police reporter for Notiver, was found with her throat cut in the state. Lopez was found after a suspect in another case confessed to killing him, but the other two murders have not been resolved. The cartel war in Veracruz reached a bloody peak in September when 35 bodies were dumped on a main highway in rush-hour traffic. Local law enforcement in the state was considered so corrupt and infiltrated by the Zetas and other gangs that Mexico's federal government fired 800 officers and 300 administrative personnel in the city of Veracruz-Boca del Rio in December and sent in about 800 marines to patrol. Mike O'Connor, the Committee to Protect Journalists' representative for Mexico, said journalists in Veracruz were exercising an unusual degree of self-censorship even before Ordaz and Lopez were killed. He said media avoided much coverage of crime and corruption. "Important news was not covered because it might upset the Zetas. Then these guys were killed and self-censorship cracked down even more," O'Connor said. "Almost all of the police beat reporters left town after those killings." Regina Martinez, a correspondent for the national magazine Proceso, continued to cover crime-related stories along with a handful of other journalists, however. On Saturday, authorities went to her home in Xalapa, the state capital, after a neighbor reported it to be suspiciously quiet. They found the reporter dead in her bathroom with signs she had been beaten and strangled. "Self-censorship was extraordinarily strong but whoever killed these journalists wanted more," O'Connor said. "It still wasn't enough to satisfy whoever killed these journalists." Mexico's human rights commission says 74 media workers were slain from 2000 to 2011. The Committee to Protect Journalists says 51 were killed in that time. It noted in a statement on the Mexico killings that Thursday was World Press Freedom Day.
Greek far-right parties could end up with as much as 20 percent of the vote in Sunday's elections. The neo-Nazi Golden Dawn party has intensified the xenophobic atmosphere in the country.
At night, the streets leading to Omonoia Square are empty. That wasn't always the case. The area was the premier multicultural neighborhood of Athens and one of the first quarters to be gentrified. Jazz bars and Indian restaurants lined the streets, separated by the occasional rooms-by-the-hour hotel. It was a quarter full of immigrants, drug addicts and African prostitutes, but also of journalists, ambitious young artists and teenagers from private schools. Today, the immigrants stay home once night falls. They are afraid of groups belonging to the "angry citizens," a kind of militia that beats up foreigners and claims to help the elderly withdraw money from cash machines without being robbed. Such groups are the product of an initiative started by the neo-Nazi Chrysi Avgi -- Golden Dawn -- the party which has perpetrated pogroms in Agios Panteleimon, another Athens neighborhood with a large immigrant population. There are now three outwardly xenophobic parties in Greece. According to recent surveys, together they could garner up to 20 percent of the vote in elections on Sunday: the anti-Semitic party LAOS stands to win 4 percent; the nationalist party Independent Greeks -- a splinter group of the conservative Nea Dimokratia party -- is forecast to win 11 percent; and the right extremists of Golden Dawn could end up with between 5 and 7 percent. My name is Xenia, the hospitable. Greece itself should really be called Xenia: Tourism, emigration and immigration are important elements of our history. But hospitality is no longer a priority in our country, a fact which the ugly presence of Golden Dawn makes clear. A Personal Attack Shaved heads, military uniforms, Nazi chants, Hitler greetings: How should a Greek journalist deal with such people? Should one just ignore them and leave them unmentioned? Should one denounce them and demand that they be banned? One shouldn't forget that they are violent and have perpetrated several attacks against foreigners and leftists. I thought long and hard about how to write about Golden Dawn so that my article was in no way beneficial to the party. On April 12, the daily Kathimerini ran my story under the headline "Banality of Evil." In the piece, I carefully explained why it was impossible to carry on a dialogue with such people and why I thought the neo-Nazi party should disappear from media coverage and be banned. Five days later, an anonymous reply to my article appeared on the Golden Dawn website. It was a 2,500-word-long personal attack in which the fascists recounted my entire career, mocked my alleged foreign roots (I was born in Hamburg) and even, for no apparent reason, mentioned my 13-year-old daughter. The unnamed authors indirectly threatened me as well: "To put it in the mother tongue of foreign Xenia: 'Kommt Zeit, kommt Rat, kommt Attentat!'" In other words, watch your back. Most Greeks believe that Golden Dawn has connections to both the police and to the country's secret service. Nevertheless, I went to the authorities to ask what I should do. I was told that I should be careful. They told me that party thugs could harass me, beat me or terrorize me over the phone. It would be better, they said, if I stopped writing about them. If I wished to react to the threats, they suggested I file a complaint against Golden Dawn's service provider. That, however, would be difficult given that the domain is based somewhere in the United States. Like Weimar Germany A friend told me that I should avoid wearing headphones on the street so that I can hear what is going on around me. My daughter now has nightmares about being confronted by members of Golden Dawn. Three of her classmates belong to the party. The three boys have posted pictures of party events on their Facebook pages. For their profile image, they have chosen the ancient Greek Meandros symbol, which, in the red-on-black manifestation used by Golden Dawn, resembles a swastika. The group's slogans include "Foreigners Out!" and "The Garbage Should Leave the Country!" The fact that immigration has become such an issue in the worst year of the ongoing economic crisis in the country can be blamed on the two parties in government. The Socialist PASOK and the conservative Nea Dimokratia (New Democracy, or ND) are running xenophobic campaigns. ND has said it intends to repeal a law which grants Greek citizenship to children born in Greece to immigrant parents. And cabinet member Michalis Chrysochoidis, of PASOK, has announced "clean up operations" whereby illegal immigrants are to be rounded up in encampments and then deported. When he recently took a stroll through the center of Athens to collect accolades for his commitment to the cause, some called out to him: "Golden Dawn has cleaned up Athens!" Yet, Chrysochoidis is the best loved PASOK politician in his Athens district, in part because of his xenophobic sentiments. His party comrade, Health Minister Andreas Loverdos, is just as popular. Loverdos has warned Greek men not to sleep with foreign prostitutes for fear of contracting HIV and thus endangering the Greek family. High unemployment of roughly 22 percent, a lack of hope, a tendency toward violence and the search for scapegoats: Analyses in the Greek press compare today's Greece with Germany at the end of the Weimar Republic. "We didn't know," said many Germans when confronted with the truth of the Holocaust after Nazi rule came to an end. After elections on May 6, no Greeks should be able to make the same claim.
Thursday, 3 May 2012
Reality TV is, at its core, about letting viewers revel in the bad decision-making of others: those who speak without thinking, who backstab, who have sex without condoms, who cheat. Frustratingly, though, reality shows—to which I am unapologetically addicted—tend to reward bad behavior, by giving its villains notoriety, spinoffs, opportunities to endorse weight-loss products, a nice sideline in paid interviews with supermarket tabloids, and other D-list rewards.
Locked Up Abroad is different. The National Geographic show, the sixth season of which premiered last week, gives its stars something they wouldn’t get on other reality shows: their comeuppance.
Having debuted in the U.K. (under the title Banged Up Abroad), Locked Up Abroad showcases one person (sometimes a couple) who ends up in prison overseas. Participants fit into one of two categories. The first group are the (largely) innocent: the married missionary couple who were kidnapped in the Philippines by the Islamist group Abu Sayyaf, for instance, or the seemingly goodhearted duo who wanted to help children in Chechnya, but ended up held hostage. These tales of the altruistic and naive can be difficult to watch.
But then there are those who rather deserve what happens to them. Typically these are drug smugglers, and their episodes follow a familiar arc. A young person—they’re almost always young—is bored or in need of cash (usually both). She is desperate or feels invincible (usually both). Someone approaches her and offers a seemingly great deal: an all-expenses-paid, luxurious overseas trip in exchange for a small favor. Sometimes the would-be employer is upfront and admits he needs a drug mule, but downplays the risk; other times, he hints at harmless-sounding illegalities, like bringing back legal goods to beat the export tax. In a few cases, the cover story is painfully thin: Come with me to check out this cool new nail polish technology only available in Thailand, for example. (That woman was in a vulnerable place: She had just been released on bail after killing her partner’s former husband—in self-defense, she claimed.)
The drug smugglers are caught, of course, usually at the airport, and brought to prison. And while a few episodes have taken place in developed countries—Spain, Japan, South Korea—the majority of our anti-heroes end up incarcerated in places with some of the dirtiest and most dangerous penitentiaries in the world.
Take last week’s episode, “From Hollywood to Hell.” (And pardon my spoilers, but this installment is too good not to describe in detail.) In 2001, actor Erik Aude was living the marginal Hollywood dream. An ür-bro, he had played bit parts in Dude, Where’s My Car?(credited as “Musclehead”) and 7th Heaven (“Boyfriend”) when a gym buddy asked him to go to Turkey to bring back “leather goods.” Aude makes the trip, and though a drug-sniffing dog alerts authorities at the Turkish airport, they find nothing—so Aude feels sure the whole thing is legit. He even recommends that one of his brothers start couriering for his friend. Then, when his brother backs out of a planned trip to Pakistan in 2002, Aude steps in, and shit gets real.
It is difficult to feel sorry for Aude. After his escort dumps him in an Islamabad hotel and warns him not to leave because the area is unsafe for Americans, he doesn’t head to the embassy or the airport. Instead, he goes jogging—and even tries to flirt with girls in headscarves on the street (with disastrous results). And when he is taken to the airport with just one suitcase, he is (he claims) not the least bit suspicious that he might be a drug mule. When a customs official asks him whether his trip was for business or pleasure, he cheeses, “Pleasure is my business.”
Aude’s episode is mind-bogglingly watchable, not least because he—of course!—plays himself in the re-enactment. In his telling, he was a virtual action star: On at least three occasions, he single-handedly fights back dozens of Pakistanis. After he takes out a prison bully, he is hailed a hero. He rejects a reduced sentence because it would require him to plead guilty—and his pride is more valuable than his freedom, he says.
Aside from those truly in the wrong place at the wrong time, the most sympathetic characters of Locked Up Abroad may be the embassy employees called in to assist the suspected smugglers. Inevitably, Locked Up Abroad participants are horrified that the embassies of their homelands—usually English-speaking countries like the U.S., the U.K., or Australia—can’t do more for them. I can just imagine U.S. Embassy workers calling “not it” every time they get word from local authorities about some young American knucklehead who thought he could sneak past security with a bag full of cocaine.
Tonight’s episode is called “The Juggler Smuggler,” and its “hero” is Mark Greening, a “party-loving” drug-runner who knows his latest trip is “doomed” when he doesn’t get his fortune told by “his favorite Gypsy woman.” I can’t wait.
Low fare carrier bmibaby is set to close later this year, threatening the loss of hundreds of jobs and the ending of its flights. The carrier transferred to International Airlines Group, the owners of British Airways, last month, but consultations have now started with unions about its closure in September. The GMB union said it was "devastating" news, especially for the East Midlands, where hundreds of jobs are now threatened with the axe. With bmi Regional, bmibaby transferred to International Airlines Group ownership on completion of the purchase from Lufthansa. IAG has consistently said that bmibaby and bmi Regional are not part of its long-term plans. A statement said: "Progress has been made with a potential buyer for bmi Regional, but so far this has not been possible for bmibaby, despite attempts over many months by both Lufthansa and IAG. Bmibaby has therefore started consultation to look at future options including, subject to that consultation, a proposal to close in September this year." Peter Simpson, bmi interim managing director, said: "We recognise that these are unsettling times for bmibaby employees, who have worked tirelessly during a long period of uncertainty. Bmibaby has delivered high levels of operational performance and customer service, but has continued to struggle financially, losing more than £100 million in the last four years. In the consultation process, we will need to be realistic about our options. "To help stem losses as quickly as possible and as a preliminary measure, we will be making reductions to bmibaby's flying programme from June. We sincerely apologise to all customers affected and will be providing full refunds and doing all we can with other airlines to mitigate the impact of these changes." Jim McAuslan, general secretary of the pilots' union Balpa, said: "This is bad news for jobs. Bmibaby pilots are disappointed and frustrated that, even though there appears to be potential buyers, we are prevented from speaking with them to explore how we can contribute to developing a successful business plan. "The frustration has now turned to anger following the news that Flybe (which is part owned by BA) has moved onto many of these bmibaby routes without any opportunity for staff to look at options and alternatives. Balpa's priority is to protect jobs; and we will use whatever means we can to do so." The changes mean that all bmibaby flights to and from Belfast will cease from June 11, although this will not affect bmi mainline's services to London Heathrow. Bmibaby services from East Midlands to Amsterdam, Paris, Geneva, Nice, Edinburgh, Glasgow and Newquay, and from Birmingham to Knock and Amsterdam, will end on the same date.
Wednesday, 2 May 2012
Former Sydney bikie boss Sam Ibrahim has been sent back to jail for allegedly breaching his parole. The 46-year-old was arrested yesterday at his home in Sydney's north-west at Bella Vista by a police strike force targeting the city's bikie gun war. The New South Wales Parole Authority revoked parole for the former Nomads boss after receiving a report from parole officers alleging he had been taking prohibited drugs and failing to obey directions. The arrest followed a police raid of his house last Friday, which was part of an operation targeting 18 homes and businesses linked to feuding Hells Angels and Nomads bikies. The house had been sprayed with bullets only a week earlier, in one of nine tit-for-tat shootings between the gangs in just over a week. Ibrahim is being held at Silverwater jail, ahead of a public hearing by the NSW Parole Board later this month. The board will decide whether to keep the former Nomads boss in prison until his sentence expires on October 7, or whether to extend his jail time. Ibrahim spent five months in jail as part of the 15-month sentence over the violent kidnapping of a 15-year-old boy in 2009. His arrest was part of a crackdown by the Gangs Squad's Strike Force Kinnara, which was set up to combat an escalation in bikie gun crime. The strike force also arrested convicted Sydney drug boss Bill Bayeh a fortnight ago for an alleged breach of parole.
Tuesday, 1 May 2012
Rupert Murdoch was branded “not a fit person” to run a major company in a bombshell report by MPs today. His son and business heir James was accused of “wilful ignorance” towards phone hacking, while Murdoch executives were accused of lying to cover it up. The verdicts leave the 81-year-old tycoon fighting to justify his leadership of a worldwide empire including the broadcaster BSkyB. He faces being dragged before Parliament to apologise. The force of the report was partly diminished by a row between members of the culture select committee. Four Conservatives voted against the final draft because they felt the attack on Rupert Murdoch’s fitness to run a company was over the top. However, the final 100-page report backed by the Labour and Lib-Dem MPs on the committee amounted to one of the most scathing parliamentary verdicts on an international business. The MPs said Rebekah Brooks, former News of the World editor and chief executive of News International, “should accept responsibility” for the culture that led to Milly Dowler’s phone being hacked, along with hundreds of others. The report also found editors, lawyers, the police and prosecutors guilty of a catalogue of failings. Several former Murdoch lieutenants were singled out for misleading Parliament, including former News International executive chairman Les Hinton, former News Group lawyer Tom Crone, and former News of the World editor Colin Myler. It criticised the Director of Public Prosecutions, Keir Starmer, and the former Metropolitan Police acting deputy commissioner John Yates, saying “they both bear culpability for failing to ensure that the evidence ... was properly investigated.” Rupert Murdoch was accused of “wilful blindness” about the mounting evidence of phone hacking. The verdict will add muscle to shareholders seeking to topple Mr Murdoch and to critics demanding that media regulator Ofcom strip him of his broadcasting licence. The report accused the Murdoch companies of trying to “buy the silence” of victims by awarding huge payouts to victims of hacking such as football players’ union boss Gordon Taylor. Verdicts on some figures who have been arrested by the police were held back in case they hampered fair trials. Among these was Andy Coulson, the former News of the World editor who was hired by David Cameron as his spin chief at No 10. The ferocious conclusion, which divided the committee in a series of votes on the final wording, was that Mr Murdoch was ultimately to blame and therefore not fit to hold his position. It said: “On the basis of the facts and evidence before the committee we conclude that, if at all relevant times Rupert Murdoch did not take steps to become fully informed about phone-hacking, he turned a blind eye and exhibited wilful blindness to what was going on in his companies and publications. “This culture, we consider, permeated from the top throughout the organisation and speaks volumes about the lack of effective corporate governance at News Corporation and News International. We conclude, therefore that Rupert Murdoch is not a fit person to exercise the stewardship of a major international company.” The committee branded it “simply astonishing” that Rupert and James said it was not until December 2010 that they realised that News International’s claim that hacking involved a single “rogue reporter” was untrue. It poured scorn on James Murdoch’s “lack of curiosity” that raised “questions of competence”. Mr Hinton was “complicit in the cover-up at News International” that included paying inflated compensation to victims. Mr Crone and Mr Myler misled the committee by answering questions “falsely”. The final devastating verdict on Mr Murdoch was a triumph for Labour MP Tom Watson who drafted the conclusions. But the 11-member committee divided along party lines, with the full denunciation being passed by the vote of a single Liberal Democrat member. Mr Watson said of Rupert Murdoch: “More than any individual alive, he is to blame. Morally, the deeds are his. He paid the piper and he called the tune.” Conservative MPs Louise Mensch and Philip Davies insisted the MPs had no right to make such a ruling and hit out at “partisan” voting by Labour members led by Mr Watson and Paul Farrelly. Mrs Mensch said Tory members could not back the declaration, describing it as “wildly outside the scope” of the committee and “improper attempt to influence” watchdog Ofcom.” Mr Davies said Mr Murdoch was “very clearly” a fit and proper person to run a major firm, pointing to the jobs he had created. He added: “Many people may conclude that some people’s conclusions were written before any of the evidence was heard, and that is very sad.” Mr Watson said he was disappointed there had been splits, but insisted Mr Murdoch must be held to account for crimes at News Corporation. Committee chair John Whittingdale said he did not vote on any of the amendments in the report, but hinted at his opinion on whether it should have branded Mr Murdoch unfit, saying: “I would merely observe that as well as being the chairman of the committee, I am a Conservative MP.” Lib-Dem member Adrian Sanders who was effectively left with the casting vote, sided with the Labour view. He said he would have faced accusations of party bias whichever way he had decided. After the report was published Mr Watson said he had “reason to believe” that even more the material in the form of hard drives was in the hands of the Serious Organised Crime Agency. He sought to extend the probe into new areas — including claims News Corp could be in contempt of Parliament over claims they sought to use private investigators to dig dirt on committee members. He also said politicians — including Tony Blair and Gordon Brown as well as David Cameron and George Osborne — should reveal their email and text message contacts with News Corp executives.
Saturday, 28 April 2012
Detectives hunting double murder suspect James Allen have urged Yorkshire residents to lock their doors and windows after reported sightings of him on the East Coast raised fears the killer could strike again. Allen, a 35-year-old drug user with previous convictions for violence, is believed to have killed his former next-door neighbour in Middlesbrough and murdered a Whitby housewife while on bail for other offences. Police called on him to hand himself in yesterday as they revealed sightings of the suspect had been reported in Whitby, Scarborough and Middlesbrough. More than 100 officers from the Cleveland and North Yorkshire forces are investigating the murders of Colin Dunford, 81, and Julie Davison, 50. Both victims suffered head injuries. The detective leading the inquiry, Temporary Detective Chief Superintendent Gordon Lang of Cleveland Police, said it was a “24/7 operation” that would not stop until Allen is found.
Friday, 27 April 2012
One of the country's busiest shopping streets has been closed as a man wearing gas canisters stormed into an office and threatened to blow himself up, it was reported. Tottenham Court Road in central London was closed after police received emergency calls at midday. Scotland Yard sent a hostage negotiator to the scene amid reports the man had held people hostage inside the building several floors up. Pictures emerged of computer and office equipment being thrown through one of the office windows. A police spokesman said it was "too early to say if the suspect was armed or indeed had taken any hostages" but businesses and nearby buildings were evacuated. Joaqam Ramus, who works at nearby Cafe Fresco, said before being evacuated: "There was talk of a bomb and somebody having a hostage in a building. "All Tottenham Court Road is closed and so are we - the police told us to shut. "We don't know what it is but it seems someone has a hostage."
Thursday, 26 April 2012
Three men have been arrested and 36 criminal websites selling credit card information and other personal data shut down as part of a two-year international anti-fraud operation, police have confirmed. The Serious Organised Crime Agency (SOCA), working with the FBI and US Department of Justice, as well as authorities in Germany; the Netherlands; Ukraine; Australia and Romania, swooped after identifying the sites as specialising in selling card and bank details in bulk. The move comes as a blow to what is a growing black market for stolen financial data. Detectives estimated that the card information seized could have been used to extract more than £500m in total by fraudsters. SOCA claimed it has recovered more than two and a half million items of compromised personal and financial information over the past two years. “The authorities have shut down 36 websites but it is difficult to know how many other people had access to that data. They could spring back up somewhere else if a gang is not eradicated completely,” said Graham Cluley of internet security firm Sophos. He added: “This is big business and, just as in any legitimate company there are people who specialise in different things, so there are those who actually get their hands on the personal data and those who sell it on; they are not often the same person.” An investigation by The Independent last summer found that scammers were making a “comfortable living” getting their hands on sensitive information and selling it online. Card details were being offered for sale for between 4p and £60 per card – depending on the quality – according to one source in the business. Some cards would be sold with incomplete or unreliable information; others ready to use. Some of the card details for sale on the websites shut down by SOCA were being sold for as little as £2 each. Investigators said that the alleged fraudsters were using Automated Vending Carts, which allowed them to sell large quantities of stolen data. They are said to be a driver of the growth in banking fraud over the last 18 months because of the speed with which stolen data can be sold. Lee Miles, Head of Cyber Operations for SOCA said: “This operation is an excellent example of the level of international cooperation being focused on tackling online fraud. Our activities have saved business, online retailers and financial institutions potential fraud losses estimated at more than half a billion pounds, and at the same time protected thousands of individuals from the distress caused by being a victim of fraud or identity crime.” An alleged operator in Macedonia was one of those arrested, while two British men accused of buying the information were also detained. Britain’s Dedicated Cheque & Plastic Crime Unit also seized computers suspected of being used to commit fraud.
Wednesday, 25 April 2012
Scotland Yard has urged Portuguese authorities to reopen the search for Madeleine McCann as detectives said there are 195 potential leads to finding her alive. The detective leading the Metropolitan Police review said the case can still be solved before officers released a picture of what she might now look like as a nine-year-old. Detective Chief Inspector Andy Redwood said he believes her disappearance was a stranger abduction, as he said there are 195 "investigative opportunities". Police refused to say what evidence they had uncovered to suggest Madeleine is alive. Mr Redwood confirmed that his team of more than 30 officers involved in the case had been out to Portugal seven times, including a visit to the family's holiday flat in Praia da Luz. It will be five years ago next week since the three-year-old went missing as her parents, Kate and Gerry McCann, dined with friends nearby. A spokesman for the McCanns said the family was pleased with the image. Mr Redwood said his 37 officers had dealt with 40,000 pieces of information but the "primacy still sits in Portugal" in the attempt to find her. Commander Simon Foy said: "Most significantly, the message we want to bring to you is that, on the evidence, there is a possibility that she is alive and we desperately need your help today to appeal directly to the public for information to support our investigation." Mr Redwood said "evidence that she is alive stems from the forensic view of the timeline" that there was the opportunity for her to be taken. Investigations show "there do appear to be gaps", he added. Detectives in Portugal are also understood to want the case reopened but must gain judicial approval via the courts.
Companies that do not do enough to keep their websites secure are to be named and shamed to help improve security. The list of good and bad sites will be published regularly by the non-profit Trustworthy Internet Movement (TIM). A survey carried out to launch the group found that more than 52% of sites tested were using versions of security protocols known to be compromised. The group will test websites to see how well they have implemented basic security software. Security fundamentals The group has been set up by security experts and entrepreneurs frustrated by the slow pace of improvements in online safety. "We want to stimulate some initiatives and get something done," said TIM's founder Philippe Courtot, serial entrepreneur and chief executive of security firm Qualys. He has bankrolled the group with his own money. TIM has initially focused on a widely used technology known as the Secure Sockets Layer (SSL). Experts recruited to help with the initiative include SSL's inventor Dr Taher Elgamal; "white hat" hacker Moxie Marlinspike who has written extensively about attacking the protocol; and Michael Barrett, chief security officer at Paypal. Continue reading the main story “ Start Quote Everyone is now going to be able to see who has a good grade and who has a bad grade” Philippe Courtot Many websites use SSL to encrypt communications between them and their users. It is used to protect credit card numbers and other valuable data as it travels across the web. "SSL is one of the fundamental parts of the internet," said Mr Courtot. "It's what makes it trustworthy and right now it's not as secure as you think." Compromised certificates TIM plans a two-pronged attack on SSL. The first part would be to run automated tools against websites to test how well they had implemented SSL, said Mr Courtot. "We'll be making it public," he added. "Everyone is now going to be able to see who has a good grade and who has a bad grade." Early tests suggest that about 52% of sites checked ran a version of SSL known to be compromised. Companies who have done a bad job will be encouraged to improve and upgrade their implementations so it gets safer to use those sites. The second part of the initiative concerns the running of the bodies, known as certificate authorities, which guarantee that a website is what it claims to be. TIM said it would work with governments, industry bodies and companies to check that CAs are well run and had not been compromised. "It's a much more complex problem," said Mr Courtot. In 2011, two certificate authorities, DigiNotar and GlobalSign were found to have been compromised. In some cases this meant attackers eavesdropped on what should have been a secure communications channel. Steve Durbin, global vice president of the Information Security Forum which represents security specialists working in large corporations, said many of its members took responsibility for making sure sites were secure. "You cannot just say 'buyer beware'," he said. "That's not good enough anymore. They have a real a duty of care." He said corporations were also increasingly conscious of their reputation for providing safe and secure services to customers. Data breaches, hack attacks and poor security were all likely to hit share prices and could mean they lose customers, he noted.
Commonly prescribed anti-depressants appear to be doing patients more harm than good, say researchers who have published a paper examining the impact of the medications on the entire body. See Also: Health & Medicine Pharmacology Birth Defects Mental Health Research Mind & Brain Depression Disorders and Syndromes Psychiatry Reference COX-2 inhibitor Psychoactive drug Seasonal affective disorder Anti-obesity drug "We need to be much more cautious about the widespread use of these drugs," says Paul Andrews, an evolutionary biologist at McMaster University and lead author of the article, published recently in the online journal Frontiers in Psychology. "It's important because millions of people are prescribed anti-depressants each year, and the conventional wisdom about these drugs is that they're safe and effective." Andrews and his colleagues examined previous patient studies into the effects of anti-depressants and determined that the benefits of most anti-depressants, even taken at their best, compare poorly to the risks, which include premature death in elderly patients. Anti-depressants are designed to relieve the symptoms of depression by increasing the levels of serotonin in the brain, where it regulates mood. The vast majority of serotonin that the body produces, though, is used for other purposes, including digestion, forming blood clots at wound sites, reproduction and development. What the researchers found is that anti-depressants have negative health effects on all processes normally regulated by serotonin. The findings include these elevated risks: developmental problems in infants problems with sexual stimulation and function and sperm development in adults digestive problems such as diarrhea, constipation, indigestion and bloating abnormal bleeding and stroke in the elderly The authors reviewed three recent studies showing that elderly anti-depressant users are more likely to die than non-users, even after taking other important variables into account. The higher death rates indicate that the overall effect of these drugs on the body is more harmful than beneficial. "Serotonin is an ancient chemical. It's intimately regulating many different processes, and when you interfere with these things you can expect, from an evolutionary perspective, that it's going to cause some harm," Andrews says. Millions of people are prescribed anti-depressants every year, and while the conclusions may seem surprising, Andrews says much of the evidence has long been apparent and available. "The thing that's been missing in the debates about anti-depressants is an overall assessment of all these negative effects relative to their potential beneficial effects," he says. "Most of this evidence has been out there for years and nobody has been looking at this basic issue." In previous research, Andrews and his colleagues had questioned the effectiveness of anti-depressants even for their prescribed function, finding that patients were more likely to suffer relapse after going off their medications as their brains worked to re-establish equilibrium. With even the intended function of anti-depressants in question, Andrews says it is important to look critically at their continuing use. "It could change the way we think about such major pharmaceutical drugs," he says. "You've got a minimal benefit, a laundry list of negative effects -- some small, some rare and some not so rare. The issue is: does the list of negative effects outweigh the minimal benefit?"
Madeleine McCann, the British girl who went missing while on holiday in Portugal half a decade ago, could still be alive, Scotland Yard said on Wednesday.
Detectives released a new “age progression” image of the toddler, which they said showed what she would look like today at the age of nine.
On Wednesday, Britain’s biggest police force said that as a result of evidence uncovered during a review “they now believe there is a possibility Madeleine is still alive”.
Officers have so far identified nearly 200 new items for investigation within historic material and are also “developing what they believe to be genuinely new material”.
Scotland Yard urged Portuguese authorities to reopen the search for her amid the new "investigative opportunities".
Police said the image, created ahead of what would have been her ninth birthday on May 12, had been created in “close collaboration with the family”.
The mosquito can carry dengue and chikungunya viruses
A mosquito that spreads tropical diseases including dengue fever may be poised to invade the UK because of climate change.
The Asian tiger mosquito has already been reported in France and Belgium and could be migrating north as winters become warmer and wetter.
Scientists have urged "wide surveillance" for the biting insect across countries of central and northern Europe, including the UK.
The mosquito can carry dengue and chikungunya viruses, both of which cause high fevers. The infections usually occur in tropical regions of Africa, Asia and South America.
Scientists led by Dr Samantha Martin, from the University of Liverpool, used climate models to predict how changing conditions might affect Asian tiger mosquito distribution.
They wrote in the Journal of the Royal Society Interface: "Mosquito climate suitability has significantly increased over the southern UK, northern France, the Benelux, parts of Germany, Italy, Sicily and the Balkan countries."
The research shows that parts of the UK could become hot-spots of Asian tiger mosquito activity between 2030 and 2050.
The mosquito has been introduced into Europe from Asia via goods shipments, mainly used tyres and bamboo.
Climate change is now shifting conditions suitable for the insect from southern Europe to central north-western areas.
The mosquito could survive in water butts and vases, and may find winter protection in greenhouses, said the researchers.
Tuesday, 24 April 2012
Eight American soldiers died of overdoses involving heroin, morphine or other opiates during deployments in Afghanistan in 2010 and 2011, according to U.S. Army investigative reports. The overdoses were revealed in documents detailing how the Army investigated a total of 56 soldiers, including the eight who fell victim to overdoses, on suspicion of possessing, using or distributing heroin and other opiates. At the same time, heroin use apparently is on the rise in the Army overall, as military statistics show that the number of soldiers testing positive for heroin has grown from 10 instances in fiscal year 2002 to 116 in fiscal year 2010. Army officials didn't respond to repeated requests for comment on Saturday. But records from the service's Criminal Investigation Command, obtained by the conservative legal group Judicial Watch, provided glimpses into how soldiers bought drugs from Afghan juveniles, an Afghan interpreter and in one case, an employee of a Defense Department contractor, who was eventually fired. The drug use is occurring in a country that is estimated to supply more than 90% of the world's opium, and the Taliban insurgency is believed to be stockpiling the drug to finance their activities, according to a 2009 U.N. study. While the records show some soldiers using heroin, much of the opiate abuse by U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan involves prescription drugs such Percocet, the Army documents show. Judicial Watch obtained the documents under the Freedom of Information of Act and provided them to CNN. Spokesman Col. Gary Kolb of the International Security Assistance Force, the NATO-led command in Afghanistan, verified the documents to CNN on Saturday. One fatal overdose occurred in June 2010 at Forward Operating Base Blessing, after a soldier asked another soldier to buy black tar opium from a local Afghan outside the base's entry control point. The first soldier died after consuming the opium like chewing tobacco and smoking pieces of it in a cigarette, the documents show. The reports even show soldier lingo for the drug -- calling it "Afghani dip" in one case where three soldiers were accused of using the opiate, the Army investigative reports show. The United States has 89,000 troops in Afghanistan. The U.S. death toll since the September 11, 2001, attacks that triggered the war has risen to more than 1,850, including 82 this year, according to the U.S. Department of Defense and U.S. Central Command. Tom Fitton, president of Judicial Watch, said his group was interested in soldiers' drug use partly because the risk was present during the Vietnam War. "You never want to see news of soldiers dying of drug use in Afghanistan," Fitton said. "Our concern is, will the military treat this as the problem that it is, and are the families of the soldiers aware of the added risk in this drug-infested country? "There is a dotted line between the uses. Prescription abuse can easily veer into heroin drug use," Fitton added. "Afghanistan is the capital of this opiate production and the temptation is great there and the opportunity for drug use all the more." The group is concerned that "there hasn't been enough public discussion, and we would encourage the leadership to discuss or talk about this issue more openly," Fitton said. In one case, a soldier bought heroin and the anti-anxiety drug Xanax from five "local national juveniles at multiple locations on Camp Phoenix, Afghanistan, and consumed them," one report states. Soldiers also distributed heroin, Percocet and other drugs among themselves, according to the reports. Another soldier fatally overdosed in December 2010 after taking several drugs, including morphine and codeine, though the drugs were not prescribed for him, the Army documents show. One female soldier broke into the Brigade Medical Supply Office at Forward Operating Base Shank and stole expired prescription narcotics including morphine, Percocet, Valium, fentanyl and lorazepam, the documents show. The investigative reports show soldiers using other drugs, including steroids and marijuana, and even hashish that was sold to U.S. servicemen by the Afghan National Army and Afghan National Police personnel, the reports state.
Monday, 23 April 2012
Myth: Salt in your diet causes high blood pressure In the 1940s, Walter Kempner, a researcher at Duke University, North Carolina, became famous for using salt restriction to treat people with high blood pressure. Later, studies confirmed that reducing salt could help reduce hypertension. But you don't have to avoid salt entirely, says Sara Stanner, of the Nutrition Society. "Adults need a small amount of sodium in their diet to maintain the body's fluid balance."
Myth: Salt in your diet causes high blood pressure
In the 1940s, Walter Kempner, a researcher at Duke University, North Carolina, became famous for using salt restriction to treat people with high blood pressure. Later, studies confirmed that reducing salt could help reduce hypertension. But you don't have to avoid salt entirely, says Sara Stanner, of the Nutrition Society. "Adults need a small amount of sodium in their diet to maintain the body's fluid balance."
Average salt intakes have come down in recent years, mainly due to product reformulation. But it's still the case that many of us consume too much salt – around 9g a day instead of the maximum recommended dose of 6g per day – around 75 per cent of which is in processed foods such as soups, sauces, sandwiches and processed meat.
"People often think it's really bad to add salt into cooking or on to your plate, but that forms no more than 10 per cent of your total intake," says Stanner. "So you can get people who never have salt at their table, but have a very high salt intake, while others put salt on most meals, but have a lower intake."
Myth: Carbohydrates are bad for you
"Carbohydrate-rich foods are an ideal source of energy. They can also provide a lot of fibre and nutrients," says Sara Stanner. "Potatoes, for instance, are one of the best sources of vitamin C, yet potato consumption in the UK has fallen considerably."
One of the main reasons carbohydrates have fallen out of favour is that they are perceived to be fattening. "Foods high in carbohydrates have had a rough time in the past few years, thanks to the success of low-carb diets, such as the Atkins diet," explains Juliette Kellow.
"But there's no proof that carb-rich foods are more likely to make us gain weight than any other food. Ultimately, it's an excess of calories that makes us pile on the pounds – and it really doesn't matter where those extra calories come from. More often than not, it's the fat we add to carbs that boosts the calorie content, such as butter on toast, creamy sauces with pasta and frying potatoes to make chips."
Myth: Dairy products are fattening and unhealthy
In a study by the Curtin University of Technology in Perth, Australia, slimmers on low- calorie diets which included cheese, yoghurt and milk lost more weight than those on low-dairy diets. Those on the diet including dairy also had the least stomach fat, lower blood pressure and a significantly better chance of avoiding heart disease and diabetes.
Dairy products are packed with essential nutrients that help keep us healthy, says Juliette Kellow. "As well as being good sources of protein, zinc and some B vitamins, dairy products are packed with calcium, a mineral that helps to build strong, healthy bones – and the stronger the bones are, the less likely you'll be to suffer from osteoporosis in later life."
There are loads of low-fat versions of dairy, such as skimmed or semi-skimmed milk, low-fat yoghurts and reduced-fat cheeses, she says – and low-fat versions don't mean less calcium. "Skimmed and semi-skimmed milk actually contain slightly more calcium than full-fat milk."
Myth: Red meat is bad for you
Publishing what it called "the most authoritative ever report of bowel cancer risk" last year, the World Cancer Research Fund recommended that people limit their intake of red meat to 500g a week, or just over a pound in weight. The net result of such studies is always the same – people panic.
But 500g is roughly the equivalent of five or six medium portions of roast beef, lamb or pork. "Red meat is a valuable source of minerals and vitamins, particularly iron, and we know that large numbers of women have such low intakes of this nutrient that they're at risk of anaemia. There's no need for people to think, 'I should be eating fish' when they have a steak,' provided they eat it in moderation," says Sarah Schenker.
Another myth about red meat is that it's high in fat, says Juliette Kellow, dietitian and advisor to Weight Loss Resources. "Thanks to modern breeding programmes and new trimming techniques, red meat is now leaner than ever.
Processed meat of all kinds, however, should be avoided.
Myth: Fresh is always better than frozen
Frozen fruit and vegetables can be more healthy than fresh. "Research shows that freezing vegetables such as peas as soon as they're picked – when they are at their nutritional peak – means they retain higher levels of vitamins, particularly vitamin C," says Sarah Schenker. "Once frozen, the deterioration process stops, locking in goodness. The fresh variety often travel long distances and sit on grocery shelves and along the way, heat, air, water and time can lead to a significant loss of nutrients."
Frozen or canned fruits and vegetables can also be as nutritious as fresh ones, if not more so. Again, they are often packaged within hours of being picked, retaining their nutritional value. "Always check salt and sugar levels though by comparing labels," says Sarah Schenker, of the British Dietitic Association. Even dried fruit can be healthier than fresh. "When you eat dried fruit you usually eat more than the fresh equivalent – for instance six dried apricots instead of three fresh ones. This is more calorific but you get a bigger amount of nutrients," says Schenker.
Myth: Soy eases menopausal problems
For years, the fact that Asian women have fewer menopausal symptoms has been attributed to high levels of soy in their diet. Soy products such as tofu contain natural plant oestrogens and there have been increasing claims that these might help women going through the menopause whose own oestrogen levels are dwindling.
But a University of Miami study has found that soy does nothing to abate hot flushes and bone-density loss. In fact, the women given soy appeared to experience more hot flushes than those given a placebo.
Experts including Dr Malcolm Whitehead, a menopause expert at King's College Hospital in London, aren't surprised. "In my clinical experience, women say this doesn't work for them," he says, adding that HRT is a safe and effective treatment for most women.
Others point to previous studies showing that soy can work, but the British Dietetic Association's Sarah Schenker, says, "This research has always been weak. People got excited about those early small studies, but the more research that was done, the more doubts appeared."
Myth: Brown bread is better for you than white
A darker loaf of bread does not necessarily mean it's made with whole grains – it could simply contain caramel colouring or such a small amount of whole wheat that its nutritional benefits are no different to white bread. "The real health benefits come from eating wholemeal bread instead of white," says Sarah Schenker.
Wholemeal is made from flour containing all the goodness of wheat grains. The outer husk has not been removed, so the resulting bread is much richer in fibre, protein and vitamins B1, B2, niacin, B6, folic acid and biotin. Brown bread, in contrast, is made from finely milled wheat, from which the bran has been extracted.
Look for the words "whole grain" or "100% whole wheat" on packaging and ensure the first ingredient listed is whole wheat, oats, whole rye, whole grain corn, barley, quinoa, buckwheat or brown rice. Seeded bread is even better, since it contains even more vitamins, minerals and healthy fats.
Myth: Everyone needs a lot of protein
Protein is essential for growth and development, but experts agree that most people eat far too much of it. "The Department of Health recommends that protein should make up around 10-15 per cent of your daily diet – that's around 55g for men and 45g for women," dietitian Azmina Govindji says. "Yet, according to the British Nutrition Foundation, men are probably munching their way through an average of 88g and women around 64g."
So what's fuelling this notion that we need so much? "Some diets, such as the Atkins diet, advocate speedy weight loss on cutting the carbs and piling on the proteins", Govindji says.
Another contributory factor is that in the past, it was believed nobody could eat too much protein. In the early 1900s, people were told to eat well over 100g a day and in the 1950s, health-conscious people were encouraged to boost their protein intake. But high protein can put a strain on liver and kidneys and other bodily systems.