Monday, September 1, 275760

Random Disclaimer: This is a blog.



9/23/14 EDIT: For in-depth video game information for various obscure RPGs, check out my gaming blog at http://not-another-gaming-blog.blogspot.com

5/29/12 EDIT: I've just created a new blog exclusively for ponies and pony-related news, WITHOUT the stressful news articles on this blog.  It's no Equestria Daily, nor will it ever be, but it's still a pony blog. Feel free to check it out if you please... http://brony-montana.blogspot.com


This blog contains some controversial posts concerning certain political issues and depressing news stories. If you find some of the content on my blog too controversial for your liking, or you're simply interested in My Little Pony: Friendship is Magic, go to http://www.dailymotion.com/MLPFiMVideos... That is my DailyMotion channel, which is filled with (almost) every episode of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic so far. If a new episode of MLP:FiM comes on, expect to see it on there within a few hours, unless I lose Internet access or my computer dies out on me, which tends to happen on occasion. It might help to take the edge off from hearing or seeing too much stressful stuff (i.e. some of the posts on my blog), and you may walk away with the realization that not ALL things pertaining to My Little Pony suck. In fact, in the case of FiM, it's AWESOME.

BTW, since DailyMotion absolutely ADORES putting ads all over the place, often ruining perfectly good videos by placing ads at the beginning, end, and occasionally, even the MIDDLE of many videos, please consider installing Adblock Plus for maximum pony enjoyment. DailyMotion can be a great deal better and more enjoyable than YouTube, but only if you use Adblock to get around the horribly annoying ads.

If you're interested in MLP:FiM, but you don't want to go to DailyMotion, either because of the annoying random ads or because the videos play slower there than on other sites, there are dozens, if not hundreds of channels on YouTube that have the entire first and second seasons uploaded to their channels, and they're all ad-free, too. I was planning on creating another YouTube channel to upload pony videos to, but it wouldn't allow me to upload videos past 15 minutes unless I gave a mobile phone number, and I don't have a mobile phone, and I'm NOT breaking these videos into parts.

If you're into ponies, but don't particularly feel like watching a pony episode at this point in time for some reason, or don't have the time to, there are still plenty of adorable pony pictures you can look at... I'll post a few links to pony image dumps immediately below.

Pony image dumps:
http://brony-montana.blogspot.com/2015/03/033015-sweetie-belle-image-dump.html
http://brony-montana.blogspot.com/2015/03/033015-scootaloo-image-dump-contains.html
http://brony-montana.blogspot.com/2015/03/033015-apple-bloom-image-dump-contains.html
http://brony-montana.blogspot.com/2015/03/032915-applejack-image-dump-contains-35.html
http://brony-montana.blogspot.com/2015/03/032915-rarity-image-dump-about-26-pics.html
http://brony-montana.blogspot.com/2015/03/032915-pinkie-pie-image-dump-31.html
http://brony-montana.blogspot.com/2015/03/032315-twilight-sparkle-image-dump-30.html
http://brony-montana.blogspot.com/2015/03/032315-fluttershy-image-dump-25-pics-of.html
http://brony-montana.blogspot.com/2015/03/032313-rainbow-dash-image-dump-30-pics.html
http://brony-montana.blogspot.com/2015/03/032315-pony-image-dump-3-contains-18.html
http://brony-montana.blogspot.com/2015/03/032315-pony-image-dump-2-13-pictures-of.html
http://brony-montana.blogspot.com/2015/03/032315-pony-image-dump-contains-about.html
http://brony-montana.blogspot.com/2015/01/010515-pic-dump-of-day-about-30-random.html
http://brony-montana.blogspot.com/2014/01/011514-fluttershy-image-dump-about-23.html
http://brony-montana.blogspot.com/2014/01/011514-pony-image-dump-4-contains-about.html
http://brony-montana.blogspot.com/2014/01/011514-random-pony-image-dump-3.html
http://brony-montana.blogspot.com/2014/01/011514-rainbow-dash-image-dump-2.html
http://brony-montana.blogspot.com/2014/01/011514-rainbow-dash-image-dump-contains.html
http://brony-montana.blogspot.com/2014/01/011514-applejack-image-dump-contains-20.html
http://brony-montana.blogspot.com/2014/01/011514-pony-image-dump-2-18-pics-mostly.html
http://brony-montana.blogspot.com/2014/01/011514-random-pony-image-dump-20-images.html
http://brony-montana.blogspot.com/2013/10/100213-random-pony-image-dump-mostly.html
http://brony-montana.blogspot.com/2013/09/092713-random-pony-image-dump-contains.html
http://brony-montana.blogspot.com/2013/09/092513-random-pony-image-dump-2-mostly.html
http://brony-montana.blogspot.com/2013/09/91913-random-pony-image-dump-2-about.html
http://brony-montana.blogspot.com/2013/09/091913-random-ponies-image-dump-over.html
http://brony-montana.blogspot.com/2013/09/091613-random-pony-image-dump-3-about.html
http://brony-montana.blogspot.com/2013/09/091613-spike-image-dump-about-80.html
http://brony-montana.blogspot.com/2013/09/091613-fluttershy-image-dump-about-30.html
http://brony-montana.blogspot.com/2013/09/091613-sunset-shimmer-image-dump-46.html
http://brony-montana.blogspot.com/2013/09/091613-random-pony-image-dump-2-about.html
http://brony-montana.blogspot.com/2013/09/091613-ponies-eating-meat-image-dump.html
http://brony-montana.blogspot.com/2013/09/091613-random-pony-image-dump-95-pics.html
http://brony-montana.blogspot.com/2012/08/pony-image-dump-of-day-8281256k-warning.html
http://brony-montana.blogspot.com/2015/05/052515-adorable-pony-image-dump-69-pics.html
http://brony-montana.blogspot.com/2015/05/052515-random-adorable-pony-image-dump.html
http://brony-montana.blogspot.com/2015/05/052515-random-adorable-pony-image-dump_25.html
http://brony-montana.blogspot.com/2015/05/052515-random-adorable-pony-image-dump_69.html
http://brony-montana.blogspot.com/2015/05/052515-random-adorable-pony-image-dump_0.html
http://brony-montana.blogspot.com/2015/05/052515-random-adorable-pony-image-dump_62.html
http://brony-montana.blogspot.com/2015/05/052515-random-adorable-pony-image-dump_86.html
http://brony-montana.blogspot.com/2015/05/052515-random-pony-image-dump-8-about.html
http://brony-montana.blogspot.com/2015/05/053115-huge-random-adorable-pony-image.html
If ponies aren't your thing, I understand. At any rate, I cannot stress enough that there are PLENTY of depressing pieces of news and controversial opinions about certain subjects on here. But if you can get past this disclaimer, you might find that this blog is fairly interesting and informative. I do my best to post interesting articles from various news sources, many of which provide a glimpse into the harsh realities of the world. Some of them may be easily accessed by searching your favorite news site or clicking on CNN, FOX News, MSNBC, etc, whereas some other news stories are less known for various reasons.


BTW, I've noticed a few people have been searching for "Rainbow Dash Attack", basically a ponified version of the popular Adult Swim Flash game "Robot Unicorn Attack". If you want to play "Rainbow Dash Attack", follow the link below.
http://www.comdotgame.com/play/rainbow-dash-attack

If you just want to play the original version, Robot Unicorn Attack, feel free to follow this link...
http://games.adultswim.com/robot-unicorn-attack-twitchy-online-game.html

Friday, January 3, 275000

A Comprehensive List of Suicide Crisis Hotlines across America

If you are feeling suicidal for any reason, please don't throw your life away. Instead, talk with someone you're close to or contact your local suicide hotline. Here is a comprehensive list of all the suicide hotlines across all 50 states.

 Information taken from  http://www.suicide.org/suicide-hotlines.html . If you need more detailed information on the subject of suicide and how to deal with it, please go to the URL and check out any of the links on the left side of it. If you or a loved one or friend is expressing suicidal ideations or behavior, contact the hotline on the list that is nearest to you immediately. 

To find a particular suicide hotline or hotlines in your area, press Ctrl+F, and either type in your state of residence or the name of said hotline.

Thursday, November 30, 200000

List of Shelters for Domestic Abuse Victims

This list is designed to help victims of abuse escape their abusers and start building toward a better future for themselves. A very important part of this is leaving the abusers. In many situations it is extremely difficult to just up and leave these situations for a multitude of reasons. But there are safe places you can go. Provided in this document is a list of Shelters in ALL US states. You don't have to be a victim any longer. You have a voice and you deserve to use it. You deserve better. (For quick reference to your state hit Ctrl+F and simply type in your state)

Saturday, September 10, 2016

Synaptic connectivity motifs contribute to memory storage and retrieval in hippocampus

http://www.sciencecodex.com/synaptic_connectivity_motifs_contribute_to_memory_storage_and_retrieval_in_hippocampus-189953

In a recent research article entitled "Synaptic mechanisms of pattern completion in the hippocampal CA3 network", published on September 9, 2016, in Science, Jose Guzman, Alois Schlögl, Michael Frotscher, and Peter Jonas have investigated these mechanisms by combining functional connectivity analysis and network modeling. Their findings suggest that the rules of synaptic connectivity between CA3 pyramidal cells contribute to the remarkable efficiency of pattern completion.

Previous theories of the hippocampal formation often depicted the CA3 region as a network of highly interconnected cells. The neuroscientists at the Institute of Science and Technology Austria (IST Austria) tested this hypothesis using a technique that allows monitoring the connection between electrical signals in up to eight neurons at the same time. Using this octuple recording technique, they made several highly surprising observations. First, they found that connectivity was sparse, with an average connection probability of approximately 1%. This massively challenges the dogma of a network of highly connected cells. Even more surprisingly, they discovered that connectivity in the network is not random, but exhibits connectivity motifs that occur much more frequently than expected for a random network. Thus, the structure of the hippocampal CA3 network may be somewhat reminiscent of a "small world" architecture as found in social networks. Finally, the authors revealed that synaptic connections between two cells are mediated by only one or two synaptic contacts. This is also remarkable because much higher numbers have been found for excitatory synaptic connections in the neocortex.

What could be the functional significance of these highly specific synaptic connectivity rules, in particular in relation to pattern completion? To address this question, Peter Jonas and his team built a model of the CA3 network that incorporates many of these new experimental observations. In contrast to many previous studies, the network was implemented in full size, so that all 330,000 CA3 neurons of the rat hippocampus were simulated. This modeling approach made heavy use of the computer cluster of IST Austria, and was strongly supported by the scientific service unit "scientific computing" of the institute. The authors found that a full-size network model with realistic connectivity of 1% was indeed able to perform the network computation of pattern completion.
Furthermore, they discovered that the presence of connectivity motives increased, under certain conditions, the performance of the network. Finally, the design of synaptic connections based on one or two synaptic contacts also seems useful for pattern completion, apparently because it minimizes redundancy in the flow of information in the network. Thus, both macro- (e.g. motifs) and microconnectivity (e.g. properties of connection) facilitate pattern completion in the CA3 cell network. "The results provide a nice demonstration of how the Hopfield quote "build it, and you understand it" can be successfully applied to important questions in neuroscience," says Peter Jonas, who leads the cellular neuroscience group.

 source: Institute of Science and Technology Austria

New study questions the safety of caspase inhibitors for the treatment of liver disease

http://www.sciencecodex.com/new_study_questions_the_safety_of_caspase_inhibitors_for_the_treatment_of_liver_disease-189974

Philadelphia, PA, September 9, 2016 - Many acute and chronic liver diseases, including alcoholic hepatitis, result from apoptotic (programmed) cell death mediated by the enzyme caspase. Caspase inhibitors have therapeutic potential to treat and prevent apoptosis-mediated liver injury, and some are currently in clinical trials. However, a new study published in The American Journal of Pathology raises serious safety concerns regarding the clinical use of caspase inhibitors by demonstrating the occurrence of delayed-onset necrotic, non-caspase-dependent liver cell injury.

"Our data suggest that one should be cautious in treating apoptotic cell death just with caspase inhibitors as, despite their efficacy in preventing apoptosis, these inhibitors may trigger necrotic cell death," noted Wen-Xing Ding, PhD, Associate Professor, Department of Pharmacology, Toxicology and Therapeutics of The University of Kansas Medical Center (Kansas City). "The failure to protect against endotoxin-induced liver injury raises concerns on the clinical use of caspase inhibitors."

Liver health and injury depend upon a complex interaction between physiological processes affecting cell survival and death. "A liver cell can die in many different ways, but caspase-dependent apoptosis and caspase-independent necrosis are the predominant cell death pathways that contribute to liver injury," explained Dr. Ding.


Researchers investigated endotoxin and tumor necrosis factor (TNF)-α-induced cell death in cultured hepatocytes and in mouse livers, similar to certain acute human hepatitis and liver failure. Apoptotic cell death is associated with many human liver diseases such as alcoholic hepatitis and nonalcoholic steatohepatitis (NASH). In this study, the researchers found that blocking apoptosis can trigger alternative necrotic cell death.

Apoptotic cell death was caused by TNF-α/actinomycin D (ActD) after 24 hours in primary cultured mouse hepatocytes. Adding the caspase inhibitor ZVAD blocked early apoptotic cell death but revealed the presence of necrotic cell death at 48 hours. Researchers also found that the TNF-ZVAD-induced necrosis was not due to autophagy. More importantly, researchers also confirmed these cell culture findings in an endotoxin-induced liver injury mouse model. Although blocking caspase protected against endotoxin-induced liver injury at an early time point (six hours), this protection was lost after 24 hours due to the switch of liver cell apoptosis to necrosis.

According to Dr. Ding, "We still don't know the mechanism underlying caspase inhibitor-induced necrosis of the liver. Nevertheless, our findings raised concerns about the safety of the current ongoing clinical trials using the caspase inhibitors."

This study provides important insights on the inter-relationship of different types of cell death: apoptosis, necrosis, and autophagy. Apoptosis refers to the death of apoptotic cells that still maintain relative cell membrane integrity without inflammation under physiological and pathological conditions. Apoptosis often occurs during an organism's growth or development. Necrosis refers to the cell death of necrotic cells characterized by rupture of plasma membranes and release of intracellular contents, which are associated with inflammation. Necrosis often occurs under harsh conditions, severe tissues injury, or organ blood supply failure. Autophagy is a conserved lysosomal degradation pathway that regulates homeostasis of proteins and organelles in hepatocytes and plays a critical role in normal liver physiology and liver diseases. However, under certain conditions, excessive activated autophagy may also cause cell death.

source: Elsevier Health Sciences

Men's hidden body fat fears fueling gym attendance

 http://www.sciencecodex.com/mens_hidden_body_fat_fears_fueling_gym_attendance-189981

Men's hidden fears about body fat are fuelling gym attendance motivated by feelings of guilt and shame rather than a desire to build muscle, new research has shown.

Psychology researchers from the UK and Australia discovered that while male attitudes towards muscle or body mass index (BMI) did not predict how frequently they would attend the gym, their perceptions of body fat did.

The researchers found that men worried about body fat were more likely than others to undertake spontaneous, unplanned work-outs - and warned that these 'sporadic' exercise patterns tend to be difficult to sustain over time.

The findings raise questions over the effect portrayals of the 'ideal body' online and in the media have on healthy exercise behaviours in an era of 'selfies'. This has important real-life implications for health and exercise professionals and their intervention programmes, the researchers suggest.

The study is the first of its kind to examine men's body attitudes alongside both their conscious (explicit) and non-conscious (implicit) motivations for attending the gym. The findings could help health and fitness professionals improve gym attendance in the long-term by focusing on pro-active goal-setting and personal autonomy, rather than body image.

The study was carried out by Dr David Keatley from the School of Psychology at the University of Lincoln, UK, and Kim Caudwell from Curtin University, Australia.

Dr Keatley, a specialist in the study of complex patterns of behaviour and motivation, said: "Coaches, trainers, and even 'gym buddies' need to be aware of individuals' motivations and reasons for attending a gym. Spontaneous gym goers are more likely to be motivated by guilt, shame or pressure, so it's important to turn this around and place a focus on positive feelings of achievement and pride, fostering a long-term healthier behaviour change.

"Anyone can be affected by what they see online, the social cues images can give, and the popular conceptions of an 'ideal body image'. With the recent growth of 'selfies' and the return of muscle-bound Hollywood hero icons like Vin Diesel and Hugh Jackman, there's a real risk that males may be more influenced to attend the gym more regularly and workout to a point where it becomes dangerous or detracts from their wellbeing.

"This study is important in showing that whilst they may be more unlikely to admit it, body dissatisfaction and dysmorphia can and do affect males as well as females, and therefore should be investigated fully."

To assess their motivations for exercising, 100 men completed a self-report questionnaire and a second test which evaluated their non-conscious motivation by measuring how long it took them to associate particular words with themselves.

All participants had a slightly elevated BMI and said they work out for around an hour, two or three times a week. Nearly 60 per cent of the men listed health and fitness as their primary reason for attending a gym or fitness activity. Just 16 per cent labelled appearance or amateur body building as their motivation, and eight per cent said training or competing was their main focus.

Participants responded to a series of statements about body image, for example "seeing my reflection makes me feel bad about my body fat and muscularity". They also evaluated a series of statements about their motivation, such as "I feel under pressure to exercise or work out regularly from people I know well". These were scored on a scale from one to four, with one being not very true and four being very true.

To examine hidden, non-conscious motivations, the researchers also asked participants to complete an Implicit Association Test (IAT), a task designed to assess automatic associations. It paired positive and negative feelings about exercising, such as 'spontaneous' and 'willing' or 'restricted' and 'forced', with words relating to the self and others, such as 'me' and 'mine' or 'they' and 'theirs'.

The study is published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research.

Source: University of Lincoln

Tropical Depression 16W slowly intensifying and heading away from Guam

 http://www.sciencecodex.com/tropical_depression_16w_slowly_intensifying_and_heading_away_from_guam-189992

Tropical Depression 16W in the northwestern Pacific Ocean was spotted by the Terra satellite on September 08, 2016. The storm is currently moving northwest toward the island of Guam at 8 mph. It is slowly intensifying as it establishes a steady west-northwest track. Its speed is also expected to intensify in the next few days. Currently TD16W is located 220 miles west-northwest of Guam.
There are no threatened landmasses at this time.

Tropical Depression 16W has maximum sustained winds of 35 mph. Intensification is being forecast during this upcoming weekend and will most likely become a Tropical Storm later today. There is a possibility it could develop into a typhoon by late Sunday. Within 5 days the storm should be full typhoon strength with 125 knot winds.

For more information on this storm, consult the National Weather Service: http://forecast.weather.gov/product.php?site=NWS&issuedby=PQ1&product=TCP&format=TXT&version=1&glossary=0

source: NASA/Goddard Space Flight Center

‘Conspiring together’: Mother of man killed by private DC police suspects cover-up

https://www.rt.com/usa/358865-police-coverup-dc-man-death/

 

The death of Alonzo Smith has already been ruled a homicide by Washington DC’s medical examiner, but Alonzo’s mother said she’s waited 10 months for answers and fears she has been deceived.

“The hardest part of this, outside of my son being murdered by law enforcement who took an oath to protect and serve, is the Metropolitan Police Department and the US attorney’s office are conspiring together and refusing to release the two names of the officers who murdered my son,” Alonzo’s mother, Beverly Smith, told RT. “It has been 10 months now and I have not heard anything from anyone concerning my son’s case - only that it is still under investigation.”

Alonzo Smith was found unable to breathe and in handcuffs on November 1 last year in a second-floor hallway of a Southwest Washington apartment building, according to police. District officers had responded to a call about an assault.

Police accounts have not provided details about what happened before the DC officers responded to the encounter between Smith and security guards at around 4:00 a.m.

The report did say, however, that officers administered CPR before he was rushed to United Medical Center, where he was pronounced dead. Video of efforts to resuscitate Smith have been released but not of what happened before he was found handcuffed and unable to breathe.

A DC medical examiner’s office in December ruled the death of the 27-year-old teacher’s assistant a homicide.

LaShon Beamon, spokeswoman for the DC Office of the Medical Examiner said Smith died of “sudden cardiac arrest,” complicated by “acute cocaine toxicity while restrained,” according to the Washington Post. She listed a secondary cause of death as compression.

The Metropolitan Police Department hires private security guards who are armed and have arrest powers. It is a trend nationwide when city and state police have faced staffing shortfalls leading to an increase in the use of private security. Private police, however, often lack the extensive training and oversight given to regular police officers.

It is up to the DC police and prosecutors to decide whether there was criminal intent. The US attorney’s office said in December they were still investigating.

“I miss him so much,” Beverly Smith said, holding back tears. “There are still some days when I actually believe or think that Alonzo is going to come home then reality in, ‘he’s never come home again.’”

“What that does is it compels me to fight, to be his voice, to fight every day for his justice,” she added. “It also compels me to become an activist against police brutality.”

 

Friday, September 9, 2016

Court denies Sioux tribe request to halt Dakota Access pipeline construction

 https://www.rt.com/usa/358846-dakota-pipeline-judge-ruling/
 
 A federal judge has denied the Standing Rock Sioux tribe’s request for a temporary injunction to halt the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline. The Obama administration later issued a statement halting construction on the pipeline.

In a one-page ruling issued by US District Judge James Boasberg in Washington, DC on Friday, described the government’s relationship with the tribes as being “contentious and tragic.”

The judge said the Army Corp of Engineers “has likely complied with the NHPA (National Historic Preservation Act) and that the Tribe has not shown it will suffer injury that would be prevented by any injunction."

Judge Boasberg ordered the parties to appear for a status conference on September 16, according to the Associated Press.

Just moments after the ruling, the Justice Department issued a statement halting construction on the pipeline on "land bordering or under Lake Oahe."

Solidarity protests have popped up in New York City and Chicago.

“When this pipe goes under the water, it’s going to threaten our people’s water source,” the culture editor for Indian Country Today, Simon Moya-Smith, told RT from a protest in New York.

“We are here to tell people that water is life and water matter and that native lives matter,” Moya-Smith added, saying the Standing Rock Sioux tribe indeed has not had “the greatest relationship with the US government.”

He accused President Barack Obama of ignoring the issues his Native American reservation is facing.

“We have treaties with the US government that they continually break. Their assault is on us, not on them,” Moya-Smith said.

In its lawsuit filed in August, the tribe had challenged the Army Corps of Engineers' decision to grant permits at more than 200 water crossings for Dallas-based Energy Transfer Partners' $3.8 billion pipeline.

They argued the projected violated several federal laws, including the National Historic Preservation Act, and will harm water supplies. The tribe also says ancient sacred sites have been disturbed.

The ruling said that "this Court does not lightly countenance any depredation of lands that hold significance to the Standing Rock Sioux" and that, given the federal government's history with the tribe, "the Court scrutinizes the permitting process here with particular care. Having done so, the Court must nonetheless conclude that the Tribe has not demonstrated that an injunction is warranted here."

A lawyer for the tribe says the ruling will be appealed.

The Standing Rock Sioux's tribal historian told AP the judge’s decision to deny a temporary stop of construction on the pipeline gives her “a great amount of grief.”

LaDonna Brave Bull Allard, who also has been a part of the protests which began in April near the North Dakota reservation, told AP that the tribe will "continue to stand" and "look for legal resources," as well as continue to protest peacefully.

The tribe had achieved a temporary stop work order on Tuesday ahead of Friday’s ruling after arguing that sacred sites in North Dakota had been bulldozed at the weekend. The desecration came a day after the tribe had identified the sacred sites in court papers as part of their lawsuit against the Army Court of Engineers.

The 1,172-mile pipeline project when completed would travels across four states is expected to carry nearly half-million barrels of crude oil daily from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota. The pipeline would travel through North and South Dakota, under the Missouri River, through Iowa to an existing pipeline in Illinois.

The tribe claims the Army Corps of Engineers fast-tracked approval for the pipeline without properly consulting them.

Energy Transfers Partners said they planned to have the pipeline completed this year. In court papers, they argued stopping the project would cost it $1.4 billion the first year, mostly due to lost revenue in hauling crude.

"Investor appetite for the project could shift and financing may no longer be available," the company said, according to AP. "Construction of the entire project would cease and the project itself would be jeopardized."

New York State Assemblyman Bill Nojay blows his brains out in cemetery amid fraud allegations - sources

https://www.rt.com/usa/358831-ny-state-representative-dead/

New York State assemblyman Bill Nojay has been found dead at a cemetery and sources claim he shot himself in the head at his family’s burial plot.

In a death eerily similar to Nick Wasicsko, the former Yonkers mayor featured in HBO's mini-series  
"Show Me A Hero," Nojay reportedly planned to turn himself into authorities on Friday for fraud charges relating to a Cambodian rice company.

The Khmer Times of Cambodia reported that Nojay and three others convinced a woman to invest in company that would export rice to the US.

The woman claims that eight months after investing one million dollars, she discovered the company was bankrupt.

Nojay faced fraud charges in Cambodia where he has been doing business since the 1980s. He dismissed the charges, claiming he had never met the plaintiff.

Elected to the 133rd Assembly District in 2012, the conservative Republican was married with three children.

He was scheduled to run in a primary next week against Richard Milne.

Last year, he served as an observer for The Committee for Open Democracy (COD), a Florida-based, privately-funded “objective” organization with strong ties to the Republican Party, in the Ukrainian National Local Elections, according to the Economist.

COD came under fire in Georgia over claims they were being secretly funded by opposition leader Bidzina Ivanishvili.

911 calls vulnerable to hackers; researchers find no good way to prevent attacks

https://www.rt.com/usa/358851-emergency-response-ddos-attacks/

When people call 911, they expect a fast response to their emergencies. Hackers can use networked cellphones to attack and disrupt the 911 system for the entire US, however ‒ and do it using less than $3.5 million worth of hardware, a new study has found.

Researchers at Israel’s Ben Gurion University tested just how vulnerable the US 911 system is to anonymized distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks launched from a mobile phone botnet by launching just such an attack in North Carolina.
“We found that with less than 6K bots (or $100K hardware), attackers can block emergency services in an entire state (e.g., North Carolina) for days,” they wrote in a paper that they previously passed to the US Department of Homeland Security and released publicly on Friday. “In this scenario, a caller would wait an additional 45sec-3min... and call an average of three times to get emergency service.”

It wouldn’t take much to go from affecting the state to affecting the entire US, either.
“At the country-level, we found that as little as 200,000 bots, distributed across the population of the US, is enough to significantly disrupt 911 services across the US,” the researchers wrote. “This means that an attacker only needs to infect ~0.0006% of the country’s population in order to successfully DDoS emergency services... Under these circumstances, an attacker can cause 33% of the nations’ legitimate callers to give up in reaching 911.”

The result would be similar to what the residents of New York City faced during the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks due to the large volume of calls to 911, they noted, “which, in effect, caused the population to generate a DDoS attack on New York City’s telephony network by collectively dialing 911.”

In their paper, the researchers discussed ways in which “an anonymous, unblockable 911-DDoS attack from mobile phones” might be launched. They then proceeded to carry out such an attack “on a small cellular network,” followed by a simulated attack “on a reconstruction of actual E911 infrastructure,” which they based on “real call volume statistics, network topologies, and configurations.” From there, they analyzed the weaknesses of the current 911 network and measured the number of bots required to accomplish such an attack.

They also discussed ways in which a DDoS attack might be prevented or, at the very least, its effects lessened. The biggest problems with the current set up ‒ including rules put in place by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) ‒ are that 911 call centers, called public-safety answering points or PSAPs, “have no built-in way of blacklisting callers. Therefore, in the face of a large attack, they would have no choice but to answer each and every call,” the researchers wrote. “Even with a blacklisting system in place, the owner of an infected device would be blocked from legitimately receiving emergency services, even in a time of need.”

So even if PSAPs had the technology to prevent such an attack, there would be ethical and legal reasons not to do so. People must be able to get through to 911 from their mobile phones, even if their cells are infected with a bot performing a DDoS attack, for instance. Making sure there is a human on the other end by having the caller press certain buttons ‒ similar to ‘captcha’, a process used on the internet to make sure a purchaser or commenter isn’t a bot ‒ is an already-existing preventative measure, but “may still lead to an overload in the network if there are too many bots.”

Of the mitigating measures that the researchers tried, “Call Firewall was the most effective since it minimizes the load on the network and the consumption of PSAP trunks. However, this solution must be implemented in a trusted layer of the mobile phone,” they wrote. Other options, like blocking “callers who abuse 911 (e.g. prank callers) by implementing and enforcing a Blacklist DDoS of Callers” won’t work because prank callers can still have legitimate emergencies, while silence detection is problematic for the deaf community or for people in unsafe situations who can’t respond to questions from the call center.

“As a last resort, law enforcement can Locate [and] Collect the DDoS Devices,” the researchers wrote. “This approach is not effective because locating a device is a joint effort between the police and the PSAP staff that can take anywhere between 30 minutes and 30 hours requiring a lot of the police and PSAP staff’s time.”

In North Carolina alone, they estimated, it would take law enforcement more than a week to capture the majority of an attack based on 6,000 bots.

15-year-old girl dragged by hair and thrown ‘like a doll’ in brutal arrest - lawsuit

https://www.rt.com/usa/358863-tillman-lawsuit-tacoma-mall/

A 15-year-old girl was met with an extreme use of force when she and her brother were riding their bikes through a mall parking lot in Washington and were stopped by mall security and an off-duty officer.

A lawsuit on behalf of Monique Tillman and her brother, Eric Branch, claims their civil rights were violated when they were stopped by two security vehicles in the Tacoma Mall parking lot while biking home.

The girl demanded to know why she was stopped, but was met with an extreme use of force.

They believe that they were targeted for the stop, because they’re African-American and also claim that the Tacoma police officer who attacked Tillman was negligent in his treatment of a minor while working off duty as a mall security guard.

A video of the 2014 incident between then-15-year-old Tillman and Tacoma police officer Jared Williams is a key piece of evidence in the lawsuit. The surveillance footage shows Tillman and Branch being stopped by a Tacoma Police Department Cruiser and a mall security vehicle.

Tillman is seen gesticulating while she allegedly demanded to know why they were being stopped, her lawsuit claims. Officer Williams claimed that the two teens were “causing a disturbance and being ‘trespassed’ from the mall,” the lawsuit states.

Both Tillman and Branch repeatedly pointed in the direction they were riding their bikes, but when Tillman moved to ride away, Officer Williams reacted with severe force.

He pulled her from her bicycle in a forearm lock and slammed her against a vehicle, where he was “forcefully shoving his hand and forearm into her chest.” He then dragged her by her hair and body slammed her to the pavement where he deployed his Taser on the teen.

Branch, then 17, can be seen trying to come to his sister’s aid but was restrained by Henry Knaack, a security guard for the Tacoma Mall. Branch claims that Knaack threatened him with a Taser as well and “either grabbed or shoved” Branch to the ground.

Tillman was handcuffed and arrested, charged with resisting arrest, obstruction and assaulting a police officer. The charges were later thrown out of court, but Williams has yet to face any repercussions from the incident.

I feel like I was targeted because I am a person of color,” Tillman told the Seattle Times. “It was frustrating because I knew I didn’t do anything wrong, but I couldn’t stop them.

Although Williams was an off-duty security guard for the mall, he was in full police uniform at the time. The lawsuit, which was originally filed in May, was amended to include the Tacoma police department, its chief, and two other defendants, another officer and a security guard.

I think it’s important to stress that police officers are there to protect and serve the community,” Tillman’s attorney, Vito de la Cruz, told the Washington Post.

It isn't about money,” Tillman told KCPQ. “Honestly, I think I deserve a sincere apology from him.
But as a result of her interaction with the Tacoma police officer, Tillman “doesn’t feel secure,” de la Cruz told the Post. “She is frightened of police officers and doesn’t feel like she is safe.

For too long, the African American community and other communities of color have felt that they’re not protected when they’re out and have police encounters,” he added, going on to say, “These two children were riding their bikes and that was all they were doing. And they’re African American, and that seems to have been the reason why they were stopped. At least a prime motivator for it.

Risk factors for congenital heart defects may lie both inside and outside the heart

http://www.sciencecodex.com/risk_factors_for_congenital_heart_defects_may_lie_both_inside_and_outside_the_heart-189930

Congenital heart defects (CHDs) are a leading cause of birth defect-related deaths. Understanding how genetic alterations cause such defects is complicated by the fact that many of the critical genes are unknown, and those that are known often contribute only small increases in CHD risk.
In new research publishing September 8 in the open access journal PLOS Biology, Anne Calof, Arthur Lander and colleagues report that the role of genes in CHD is more complex than previously realized and that overall risk is determined by a combination of gene effects both inside and outside of the heart itself.
Normal heart formation depends on interactions of multiple types of cells that collaborate in precise times and places throughout development to build the heart's intricate structures. To figure out how these interactions can go awry, the Calof-Lander team studied atrial septal defects (ASDs, a common type of heart defect) in a mouse model of the developmental disorder Cornelia de Lange Syndrome (CdLS).
 
Most cases of Cornelia de Lange Syndrome are caused by mutations that inactivate a single copy of Nipbl, a gene that directs the expression of many hundreds of other genes in tissues throughout the body. Just as people with Cornelia de Lange Syndrome have a high incidence of heart defects, 30 percent of mice that harbor similar Nipbl mutations exhibit atrial septal defects.

Employing genetically modified mouse models, the researchers used a novel technology to selectively introduce or remove Nipbl mutations in different tissues during embryonic development. Unexpectedly, they found that no Nipbl deficiency in any single tissue - including the tissue that forms the heart itself - could singlehandedly account for the development of atrial septal defects. Rather, the development of heart defects was determined by interactions between heart-forming tissues and the rest of the body. In fact, Nipbl deficiency in some tissues even seemed to protect against the development of atrial septal defects, in certain situations.
In a Primer article that accompanies this research, Bruce Gelb, MD, from the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, explains why these were "mind-bending results" and writes that "this work provides novel insights into incomplete penetrance and oligogenic effects underlying CHD." He adds that the novel observations "add further complexity to the way in which we need to think about CHD pathogenesis".
"Our results lead us to hypothesize that heart defects such as ASDs occur when the heart does not grow quickly enough to meet the demands of the developing body - in other words, that heart size and body size must be coordinated for the heart to develop without defects," said Calof, Professor of Anatomy & Neurobiology and Developmental & Cell Biology at the University of California, Irvine. "To our knowledge, this is the first genetic demonstration that major risk factors for heart defects are likely to lie outside of the heart itself."
"When a single gene change causes a birth defect, we often assume that it's because one thing goes wrong in one cell type. The big difference in our studies may have to do with the fact that Nipbl controls a large number of other genes," said Lander, the Donald Bren Professor of Developmental & Cell Biology and director of UCI's Center for Complex Biological Systems. "Given that most human CHDs are now thought to be caused by gene variants acting in combination, what we learned from Nipbl-deficient mice may actually be more typical of the way most CHDs arise."
Calof and Lander, working together with researchers at Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, helped identify the causative gene for Cornelia de Lange Syndrome in 2004. The discovery of this gene, Nipbl, has led to the development of tools for molecular diagnosis of CdLS and has spawned a large body of biomedical research on CdLS and related syndromes. As part of this effort, Calof, Lander and their UCI colleague Thomas Schilling, Professor of Developmental & Cell Biology, have developed animal models of CdLS that are being used to find ways to prevent and/or treat this disorder. Their work has been recognized by the CdLS Foundation, and UCI has been designated a Center of Research Excellence in Cornelia de Lange Syndrome.
source: PLOS

Novel heart valve replacement offers hope for thousands with rheumatic heart disease

http://www.sciencecodex.com/novel_heart_valve_replacement_offers_hope_for_thousands_with_rheumatic_heart_disease-189940

Cape Town, South Africa 9 Sept 2016: A novel heart valve replacement method is revealed today that offers hope for the thousands of patients with rheumatic heart disease who need the procedure each year. The research is being presented at the SA Heart Congress 2016.

The annual congress of the South African Heart Association is held in Cape Town from 8 to 11 September 2016 and is jointly organised with the annual congress of the World Society of Cardiothoracic Surgeons. Experts from the European Society of Cardiology (ESC) will present a special programme.

"Over the past decade heart valve surgery has been revolutionised by transcatheter aortic valve implantation (TAVI)," said lead author Dr Jacques Scherman, a cardiac surgeon in the Chris Barnard Division of Cardiothoracic Surgery, University of Cape Town, South Africa. "Heart valves are replaced or repaired via a catheter, obviating the need for open heart surgery or a heart-lung machine."

He continued: "TAVI is only indicated in patients with calcific degenerative aortic valve disease, which is the most prevalent aortic valve pathology in developed countries. In developing countries, rheumatic heart disease still accounts for the majority of patients in need of a heart valve intervention."

Rheumatic heart disease is caused by rheumatic fever, which results from a streptococcal infection. Patients develop fibrosis of the heart valves, leading to valvular heart disease, heart failure and death.
In Africa alone there are around 15 million patients living with rheumatic heart disease of whom 100 000 per year might need a heart valve intervention at some stage of their life. The vast majority of these patients have no access to cardiac surgery or sophisticated cardiac imaging.

Dr Scherman said: "Inspired by the success of TAVI for calcific aortic valve disease, we developed a simplified TAVI device for transcatheter aortic valve replacement in patients with rheumatic heart disease."

Currently available balloon expandable TAVI devices require the use of sophisticated cardiovascular imaging to correctly position the new valve. They also use a temporary pacemaker which allows the heart to beat so quickly that it stops blood circulating to the rest of the body (called rapid ventricular pacing).

Dr Scherman said: "Rapid ventricular pacing can only be tolerated for a short period and therefore limits the time available to do the implantation."

The team in South Africa developed a novel TAVI device which is "non-occlusive", meaning that there is no need to stop blood circulating to the body with rapid ventricular pacing. The device is also "self-locating" and does not require sophisticated cardiac imaging for positioning.

The proof of concept study presented today tested the device in a sheep model. The investigators found that the device was easy to use and positioned the valve correctly, and the procedure could be performed without rapid ventricular pacing.

Dr Scherman said: "We showed that this new non-occlusive, self-locating TAVI delivery system made it easy to perform transcatheter aortic valve replacement. Using tactile feedback the device is stabilised in the correct position within the aortic root during the implantation. It also has a temporary backflow valve to prevent blood leaking backwards into the ventricle during the implantation of the new valve. All these factors together allowed for a slow, controlled implantation compared to the currently available balloon expandable devices."

He added: "This simplified approach to transcatheter aortic valve replacement could be done in hospitals without cardiac surgery at a fraction of the cost of conventional TAVI. It has the potential to save the lives of the large numbers of rheumatic heart disease patients in need of valve replacement."
Professor Karen Sliwa, president of the South African Heart Association, said: "I am truly excited that we have not only an internationally strong group working on epidemiology and prevention of rheumatic heart disease at the University of Cape Town, but also a dedicated and successful surgical group, led by Prof. Peter Zilla at the Chris Barnard Department. Although prevention is the final goal, millions will need surgery as life-saving measure for decades to come. Knowing from my own
Pan-African collaborations how inadequate the provision of cardiac surgery is on the African continent this fascinating solution promises surgical help for all these young patients with rheumatic heart disease on a continent that has a fair density of general hospitals but hardly offers any open heart surgery."

Professor Fausto Pinto, ESC president and course director of the ESC programme in South Africa, said: "The development of innovative therapeutic strategies is extremely important to allow a larger number of patients to be treated."
 
Source: European Society of Cardiologyp-+p

Nintendo Cracking Down On Pokemon Go 'Pirates' Despite The Game Being Free

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20160715/09441734981/nintendo-cracking-down-pokemon-go-pirates-despite-game-being-free.shtml

In these past few weeks, the world has become divided into two camps: those who are sick of hearing anything about Nintendo's new smash mobile hit, Pokemon Go, and those who can't get enough of it. While the media tags along for the ride and with the app shooting up the charts as the craze takes hold, it's worth keeping in mind that this is Pokemon and Nintendo we're talking about, two connected groups with a crazy history of savagely protecting anything to do with their intellectual property.

Still, it was strange to learn that Nintendo is issuing all kinds of takedown requests to "pirate" versions of the Android app that are available roughly all over the place. The reason I wrapped that word in quotation marks above is that the Pokemon Go app is entirely free and even the unofficial versions of the app still point the user back to the app's official store for any in-game purchases.
Nintendo is obviously not happy with this black market distribution. Although it doesn’t seem to hurt its stock value, the company is targeting the piracy issue behind the scenes. TorrentFreak spotted several takedown requests on behalf of Nintendo that were sent to Google Blogspot and Google Search this week. The notices list various links to pirated copies of the game, asking Google to remove them.
Thus far the efforts have done little to stop the distribution. The files are still widely shared on torrent sites and various direct download services. The copies on APKmirror.com remain online as well.
So why is Nintendo engaging in a losing war against its own popularity instead of deciding to spend the time counting the money that is streaming in from its smash hit instead? Well, the speculation is that this has all to do with the geographic release windows for the app.
With no commercial gain to be had from stopping people playing the game, I’m guessing Nintendo is just trying to keep it in the hands of users in countries where Pokémon Go has been officially released. Maybe to cut back on stuff like the problems some Korean gamers are having right now.
The issue appears to be that the game doesn't really function in countries where it hasn't been officially released yet. This means that users of the unofficial apps in these countries are likely to find that no Pokemon exist to be collected, or are at least far more sparse than they will be once the release is official in that country. This has led to some minor frustration from those who downloaded the app from an unofficial source, as they wander around doing essentially nothing.

But so what? That isn't really Nintendo's problem and there's no way that the company will take on any ill-will from those downloading unofficial copies of the game where it hasn't been released yet.
The app, keep in mind, is a free one and points to Nintendo's in-game store for purchases whether it's from the official app or the unofficial one. There's literally no money lost in this in any way and, it can easily be argued, the widespread availability from many different sites may well be super-charging the viral nature of the product. That should be a huge win for Nintendo, as the company gains new and free distribution channels at zero cost.

If this is about the geo-restricted release dates, I sort of get it, but I only sort of get it because I already know how crazy-insane Nintendo is in terms of controlling every last aspect of every last product it offers. The company just can't help itself, even when it can be argued the "pirated" apps are doing way more good than harm.

TSA Endangers 3-Year-Old With Rare Medical Condition

 https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20131105/11133325138/tsa-security-theater-makes-unwilling-co-star-out-3-year-old-with-rare-medical-condition.shtml

It seems the TSA is unable to learn from its mistakes. When your entire operation is continually scrutinized and criticized by the public and policy makers, you'd think there would be a concerted effort to minimize these sorts of embarrassing incidents.

The TSA hasn't met a medical condition it can't treat as threat. Anything physically unusual is subjected to additional patdowns, harassment and detainment. Err on the side of caution, I suppose, but it's doing itself no favors by refusing to up its level of understanding past "aggressively mystified."
A disabled child was harassed by government agents and his family was caused to miss their flight, all because inept security screeners thought that his medical equipment may have been a bomb. Even children with debilitating medical conditions set off paranoiac ideations and inhumane treatment from the Transportation Security Administration.

3-year-old Apollo, who was born with a cardiovascular abnormality that affects his ability to eat, was suspected of harboring an explosive device after TSA employees believed they had detected residue on the medical supplies that help keep him alive.
Yes, Apollo's condition is unusual and yes, for whatever reason, his very essential formula set off the explosive residue testing equipment, but the entire system leading up to this point is incredibly fallible. The TSA's boilerplate response ignores a great many facts in its hurry to offload the blame on Apollo's parents.
The TSA looked into Bergeron’s complaint for Yahoo Shine on Friday before issuing the following statement: “We regret that the family did not have a positive screening experience. We strongly encourage passengers with medical conditions to arrive at the checkpoint with ample time for screening. We are committed to maintaining the security of the traveling public and strive to treat all passengers with dignity and respect.”
Thanks for the "arrive early" tip, but Apollo's mother (Renee Bergeron) did everything she could do to expedite this process and it still went wrong.
“I walked right up to the first agent and told her, ‘My son is tube-fed and this cooler has formula and medical supplies in it,’” Bergeron said, explaining that she had hoped that being direct would be a helpful approach and that it would have prompted a TSA agent to do a thorough search and swab of the items before sending them through to their gate.
No such luck. The responding (ha!) TSA agent told her to put it on the belt with the rest of luggage and made no attempt to inform the screeners up ahead that something unusual might be on the way. The formula cooler triggered the "bomb residue" alarm and Bergeron's (and Apollo's) day went from merely difficult to something much worse.
They were escorted to a restroom then, as Apollo had to go, but Bergeron was not allowed to take him alone. Then the two were ushered to a private room where agents gave Bergeron a thorough pat-down and where a nervous Apollo began to cry and beg his mom to hold him. Bergeron was told she couldn’t touch her son because she could “contaminate” him. “It was horribly traumatic for him,” she said.

“To make a long story short, the flight left without us,” she wrote in her blog. “As it turns out, they don’t hold flights for people suspected of carrying explosives onto the plane.”
Somewhat ironically, Bergeron and her son were on their way to an "Everybody Plays" event, which celebrates and encourages active lives for children with different health issues and disabilities. To be subjected to additional hassle and attention because of his condition isn't going to help Apollo learn to live a fuller life.

Now, it may seem a bit churlish to criticize the agency for following its own policies regarding explosive residue, but it's not as if Bergeron didn't try to let agents know something unusual was headed their way, in terms of both luggage and human beings. But this was ignored and the usual panic ensued when the machine decided the formula was actually explosives. And it's not as if the agency doesn't have any previous experience with this exact flier.

Bergeron said she is considering filing a complaint with the TSA. It’s not the first time they have experienced harassment at the hands of the agency.
Last year they were mistreated on their way to Texas for Apollo’s medical treatment. In that instance, a TSA employee attempted to pour out all four of Apollo’s bottles of formula before he found it in himself to spare all but one. “It was so blown out of proportion and ridiculous” Bergeron said.
The policies constantly override any innate logic TSA agents might possess and continue unimpeded even when the agency itself admits it doesn't think airplanes are terrorist targets. The underlying problem with these policies and the security theater they anchor is that they're unable to be overridden by agents' intuition or better judgement. Because of this, no one learns anything from these experiences. The TSA just copy-pastes another boilerplate "just policy" non-apology and moves on to the next debacle.

Even worse, the TSA itself provides absolutely no assistance for travelers in terms of prepping for unusual situations, other than tell them to "arrive early." Arriving early is completely useless when agents are free to detain fliers for nearly any reason and for indefinite periods of time. A spokesperson spoke to Yahoo and pointed to this post on the TSA's blog as "answering" questions about how bomb residue tests work. But what's contained in that post doesn't address Bergeron's situation at all. Furthermore, it doesn't really explain the system. It spends most of the post telling people TSA agents will be using swabs to detect bomb residue. No information is given as to what common (or uncommon) items/chemicals/household products might cause a false positive. There's no info on failure rates or anything detailing the technology involved. It's just "we'll be using these so don't be worried." In terms of dealing with Bergeron's multiple experiences with the TSA, it's about as useless as a 404 page.

I understand that too much information might give someone an idea of how to bypass these tests, but when you're dealing with the possibility of throwing out the only food a child with a rare medical condition can eat simply because of policies and faulty machinery, you need to be willing to disseminate more info than a canned response and a worthless "we're the good guys" blog post.

TSA Scores Another PR Win With Assault Of Nineteen Year Old Brain Tumor Patient On Her Way To Treatment (WARNING: RAGE)

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20160705/06265534893/tsa-scores-another-pr-win-with-assault-nineteen-year-old-brain-tumor-patient-her-way-to-treatment.shtml

The TSA -- still reeling from an investigation showing agents couldn't find explosives in a fireworks factory and mounting complaints about long screening lines stemming from its unofficial work slowdown, one that began shortly after the agency's inception -- has decided to generate more positive PR by brutalizing a disabled nineteen-year-old girl with a brain tumor
.
If this sounds like broad satire of the often-thuggish agency rather than real life, read on and be amazed/dismayed. First, let's take a quick look at the threat to traveler safety TSA agents neutralized at the Memphis International Airport.

Half Of TSA's 60,000 Employees Accused Of Misconduct; Nearly A Third Multiple Times

https://www.techdirt.com/articles/20160716/12015834995/half-tsas-30000-employees-accused-misconduct-nearly-third-multiple-times.shtml

The TSA is a multibillion dollar agency with nearly zero redeemable qualities. It can only act in hindsight, does almost nothing to make traveling safer, and seemingly devotes most of its screening efforts to toddlers, cancer patients, and ensuring carry-on liquids do not exceed three ounces.
What it lacks in competency, it makes up in misconduct. Lines at security checkpoints have slowed to a crawl. Making it through the tedious, invasive process sometimes means inadvertently "donating" expensive electronics to sticky-fingered agents. The TSA's morale is generally on par with Congress' approval rates. And, when it's all said and done, the people hired to protect travelers just plain suck at their job.
Despite the Transportation Security Administration's ten-point action plan to reduce long lines at airports across the country, lengthy queues remain. Now, the TSA's summer may be getting even worse: According to a recent report from the House Homeland Security Commission entitled "Misconduct at TSA Threatens the Security of the Flying Public", nearly half of the TSA’s 60,000 employees have been cited for misconduct in recent years.
As Katherine LaGrave of the Conde Nast Traveler points out, the problem is only getting worse. Complaints are up 28% over the last three years, with larger airports averaging a complaint a week. Long lines may be causing a spike in the complaints, but the misconduct detailed in the report has very little to do directly with this issue.
Attendance issues are part of the problem, but the offenses listed in the report range from missing work to smuggling drugs/humans to "engaging in child pornography activities." Although processes are in place to handle disciplinary issues, they are both bureaucratic and inconsistently applied. Worse, the investigation found that the agency has no specific process in place to fire problem employees.
But the obvious takeaway from this report is that the TSA is not improving. It's getting worse, despite the institution of an action plan and added layers of direct oversight. The report also cautions that this will never improve, at least not if the TSA continues to ignore internal issues. It notes that misconduct allegations have increased by nearly 29% in the last three years but opened investigations not increased, but have actually gone down 15% over the same period.
Then there's this:
Almost half of TSA’s entire workforce allegedly committed misconduct, and almost half of that number allegedly did so repeatedly. According to TSA data, from fiscal year 2013 through 2015, almost 27,000 unique employees had an allegation of misconduct filed against them. Moreover, about half of those employees had two or more misconduct allegations filed against them, with some employees having 14, 16, and 18 allegations. In fact, 1,270 employees had five or more misconduct allegations filed against them.
The TSA knows -- or should know -- who its problem employees are. It just isn't willing to do anything about them.
The TSA's toxic culture didn't form in a vacuum. It started at the top, thanks to legislators granting the agency far too much power and demanding far too little in terms of accountability in return. The TSA has crafted policies containing several exploitable loopholes for upper management to abuse. TSA officials are unwilling to fix internal issues, and have provided nothing to Congressional oversight when questioned about the agency's disciplinary problems.
On March 10, 2016, Chairman McCaul requested data from TSA on the number of directed reassignments that have taken place to understand the depth of this type of misconduct and to give TSA an opportunity to present information in its defense. However, almost four months later, TSA has only provided about half of the requested data stating that it has required manual review of case files. If this information is not readily available to provide to Congress, it is likely not readily available to TSA decision-makers, and indicates that TSA is not providing oversight of these types of reassignments.
The agency refuses to track misconduct on its own, suggesting it would rather have a bunch of warm bodies in place than anyone truly interested in the important job they've been entrusted with. Everything rolls downhill from there. If the agency is unwilling to do even the minimum to curb misconduct, it should come as no surprise that it's become host to a large number of misbehaving employees. Fifteen years of mismanagement has turned a response to a horrific attack into a playground for people who like lots of power and zero accountability.