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

If you're a brony and a Final Fantasy fan, and you want to play a game that combines ponies with Final Fantasy, I just thought you might like to know that an excellent fan game called Pony Fantasy 6 was released a few days ago.

If you are interested in this game, and would like to give it a try, please follow this link... http://www.pony-fantasy-6.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 that is filled with every episode of My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic so far. If a new epsisode of MLP:FiM comes on, expect to see it on there within a few hours. 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 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




Saturday, December 31, 275555

A veritable encyclopedia of important links, including search engines, Pastebins, proxies, alternative news sources, etc.

Alternative Search Engines
 
001 http://www.mamma.com
002 https://blekko.com/
003 https://startpage.com/
004 https://ixquick.com
005 https://duckduckgo.com/
006 http://www.alltheweb.com
007 http://www.gigablast.com/
008 http://www.proxysearchengine.tk
009 http://74.125.47.132  (google)
010 http://gibiru.com/
011 http://filetram.com/  (file search)
012 http://www.worldcat.org/  (library search engine)
013 http://www.monstercrawler.com
014 http://searchalot.com
015 http://www.searchcanvas.com/
016 http://web.search.ch
017 http://mamma75.mamma.com
018 http://search.freecause.com/
019 http://www.general-files.com/  (file search)
020 http://www.ebook3000.com/ (free books)
021 http://www.sqfile.com  (file search)
022 http://www.zoozle.org/ (file search)
023 http://translate.google.com/
024 http://www.robtex.com/
025 http://95.154.230.253 (hide my ass)

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, March 6, 2025

CISA 2.0 (Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act) Frequently Asked Questions

 https://www.accessnow.org/blog/2015/03/04/the-cisa-2.0-frequently-asked-questions-faq

What is CISA?

Lawmakers in Washington, D.C. love their acronyms. “CISA” is the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act (CISA).

CISA is a bad bill. It would risk user privacy by encouraging companies to transfer private information. It also creates new risks by enabling the use of countermeasures or “hack backs,” which endanger the integrity of the internet and further risk exposure of private information. Yet, the bill seems to be a high priority for some members of Congress and we may see a floor vote within the next few months.


What does CISA do?

CISA’s primary mechanism is to facilitate the transfer of “cyber threat indicators,” which are defined broadly enough to include private information such as email content or personal identities.1 CISA even protects companies that transfer “cyber threat indicators” that other privacy laws would have protected.2 It also ensures that companies that pass on information will be protected against court action — liability limits that disincentivize companies from adequately protecting user privacy.
In addition, the bill does little to allow users to enforce their rights even when companies violate the few privacy protections found in the bill. Knowing when rights have been violated would pose its own challenge. CISA’s transparency provisions wouldn’t allow us to know the full impact on users (in fact, it exempts this information from disclosure under federal open government laws).

How can we stop CISA?

First off, you sign our petition.

Then, you can call or write your senators, particularly Intelligence Committee Chairman Richard Burr and Vice Chairman Dianne Feinstein, to express your concerns. You can also reach out to your local representative to let them know cybersecurity legislation should protect your rights.

Do they really need my personal information?

No, they don’t. Security experts have made clear that personal information need not be shared in order for us to maintain our cybersecurity. Alex Stamos, the Chief Information Security Officer at Yahoo! recently said that while information sharing is easy to discuss, it doesn’t fall into the top ten most effective things the government can do to protect users. Even if companies attempt to go beyond CISA’s requirements and remove private information, advanced analytics might still be used on the “cyber threat indicators” to gain access to identities.

What would companies be able to do with personal information after it is collected?

The bill does little to ensure companies would strip private information before passing “cyber threat indicators" to other companies and the government. CISA requires companies to review “cyber threat indicators” and remove what is known to be private at the time of transfer, however a company would not have to remove information it suspects to be private — or which may be used in conjunction with other information that can identify a user.3


But won’t CISA make the internet more secure?

CISA may actually make the internet less secure.

The bill contains a provision enabling the deployment of countermeasures, also referred to as “hack backs,” which enable a company to take action in response to threats to their network.4 While the bill enables countermeasures to protect the rights of a network owner, owners are only prohibited from intentionally destroying other systems. If they perceive that they are acting based on their rights, and they end up causing damage to other systems, they may not be liable. For instance, a malicious hacker may use a botnet, causing companies to use countermeasures that affect innocent users with no knowledge or intent to participate.

Will the National Security Agency (NSA) be involved?
CISA requires the direct transfer of “cyber threat indicators” to every appropriate agency, including the NSA. That would give the NSA immediate access to massive new datasets, even as Congress has so far failed to pass reforms in the wake of revelations about NSA surveillance.5

Is CISA already a law? Who’s behind it?

No. A draft of the bill was recently circulated to the U.S. Senate Select Committee on Intelligence by Chairman Burr. As of March 4, 2015, the bill has not yet been formally introduced. Vice Chairman Feinstein introduced a version of the bill last year, though it never made it to a vote by the full Senate. While this is the second iteration of CISA, there have been a number of information sharing bills floated around Congress, in this and previous sessions.

How does President Obama feel about the bill?

While President Obama twice threatened to veto the Cyber Intelligence Sharing and Protection Act (CISPA), a similar bill from the House of Representatives, he never made the same threat against CISA, probably because it never made it to a Senate vote. The president did recently introduce his own legislative proposal, which, while not good, is not as bad as CISA.

But now that Sony and Anthem have been victims of high-profile hacks, and President Obama has hosted his own cybersecurity summit, there’s a lot of pressure on him to sign effective cybersecurity legislation. That legislation should not be CISA. President Obama should stand by his past opposition to CISPA and reject the similarly awful CISA.

Here is a letter from Access and a number of other privacy groups urging President Obama to pledge to veto the previous version of CISA.

How do other experts feel about the bill?

Access recently co-signed a joint letter to the Senate Intelligence Committee urging a rejection of the bill. It was signed by dozens of leading digital rights groups, academics, and technologists. You can read the letter here.


What are the alternatives to information sharing legislation?

The government should pass legislation that promotes proper digital hygiene, such as the use two-factor authentication and indicators of phishing attacks, and encourages companies to do the same. It could encourage the integration of digital security into education curriculums, so that students know how to protect themselves and learn about career opportunities. The government could also implement a federal bug bounty program to encourage individuals to find and report bugs.

Saturday, May 23, 2015

March against use of harmful pesticides in public spaces, GMOs held in Valletta

 http://www.independent.com.mt/articles/2015-05-23/local-news/March-against-use-of-harmful-pesticides-in-public-spaces-GMOs-held-in-Valletta-6736136035

Six local councils have confirmed that they use potentially harmful pesticides in public areas and more than 40 others have failed to declare their preferred way of killing weeds and shrubs, raising suspicions that they also make use of the harmful chemicals, the Clean Food Movement said this morning. 

CFM is a gathering of 21 NGOs, organisations and people that share the common philosophy and that are concerned with the current affairs of our food system and the environment. 

Group spokesperson John Portelli said the six local councils that have admitted to using pesticides are the Zejtun, Naxxar, Marsascala, Kalkara, Floriana and Balzan local councils. 19 councils said they used motorized grass cutters but 44 others have not declared what method they used.
Mr Portelli was speaking at the ‘March against Monsanto’ held this morning in Valletta. Monsanto is a leading producer of genetically engineered (GE) seed and of the herbicide glyphosate, which it markets under the Roundup brand.

The group says that, according to research, the genetically modified foods produced by Monsanto and other producers can lead to serious health conditions such as the development of cancer tumours, infertility and birth defects. Monsanto executives wield strong power within the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the company has been, for far too long, the benefactor of corporate subsidies and policical favouritism. The US Congress has recently passed the so-called ‘Monsanto Protection Act’, which bans courts from halting the sale of Monsanto’s genetically modified seeds. 
Apart from the health hazards to humans, GMOs have also been found to damage eco-systems.

CFM is advocating a number of solutions, including ‘voting with your dollar’ by buying organic food and boycotting Monsanto-owned companies that use GMO in their products and labelling of GMO products so that consumers can make an informed choice. They are also advocating the repealment of the ‘Monsanto Protection Act’ and calling on governments to further scientific research on the health effects of GMOs. Monsanto executives and the politicians who support them should also be held accountable and the public should be informed about the company’s secrets. Another ‘solution’ is for people to take to the streets and show the world and Monsanto that they will not take these ‘injustices’ quietly.
The Clean Food Movement this morning issued a declaration requesting the Prime Minister to protect Maltese citizens, especially vulnerable groups, from the dangers of the poisonous chemicals found in pesticides that are still abundantly applied in Maltese public spaces. The public, the group said, should also be informed about the use of such chemicals and the adverse effects they could have. 

CFM is calling on the government to enforce Malta’s National Action Plan for the Sustainable use of Pesticides 2013-2018 which, among other things, says the use of pesticides should be minimized or prohibited in specific areas, including public spaces, residential zones, public and private gardens, urban open spaces, hospitals, schools and any location accessible to the public.

The legislation also says pesticides should be used at a distance from water paths and sources, a minimum of 30 metres away from the coast and bathing waters and that they should be applied at times of lowest human activity wherever possible.

The group also referred to news articles from the past months that relate to concerns over various alleged abuses in local food production. “It is being noted that till this very day Malta lacks an accredited laboratory that can carry out tests on food for chemical residues and GMOs that can be presented as evidence in the courts. Since all the tests have to be assigned to a foreign laboratory, this is creating an unwarranted latency in the food control system, encouraging abuse by some unscrupulous producers and processors. It is evident that the authorities are also lacking an efficient and effective enforcement structure to guarantee the continuous safety of the food we consume.”

Back in April, The Malta Independent had reported that the government would not ban the use of glyphosate unless the EU imposes a ban or introduces new procedures related to its use. 

The Malta Competition and Consumers Authority was asked to react after a German study contradicted a World Health Organisation report which concluded that glyphosate was to be classified as ‘probably carcinogenic to humans. Glyphosate is the main ingredient of Roundup, a weed killer that is used in Malta. The WHO report found sufficient evidence of carcinogenicity in experimental animals and also found that it caused DNA and chromosomal damage in humans.

Australia Kicks Off Annual March Against GMO Giant Monsanto

http://sputniknews.com/society/20150523/1022486421.html#ixzz3ayAMmsQF

Thousands of campaigners against the US agri-business giant Monsanto gathered across Australia on Saturday to raise awareness about health threats posed by the corporation's genetically modified seeds and chemical herbicides.

MOSCOW (Sputnik) Thousands of campaigners against the US agri-business giant Monsanto gathered across Australia on Saturday to raise awareness about health threats posed by the corporation's genetically modified seeds and chemical herbicides.
Kicking off the global day of action, demonstrators in Sydney held banners with anti-genetically modified food slogans and told RT's Ruptly video agency they wanted to promote clean food.

"This company has repeatedly committed crimes against the Earth," one of the Sydney event's organizers told the agency.

The worldwide protests' coordinator, the March Against Monsanto (MAM) group, claimed on its website that 428 cities in 38 countries will hold peaceful demonstrations on Saturday.

The MAM movement seeks to shed light on the dangers surrounding Monsanto's genetically modified seeds and herbicides linked to cancer, particularly Roundup.

The $20-billion company employs 22,000 people across 61 countries and is the world's leading producer of genetically engineered seeds and chemical herbicides.

Government urged to ban pesticides from public spaces by the Clean Food Movement

http://www.maltatoday.com.mt/news/national/53284/watch_government_urged_to_ban_pesticides_from_public_spaces

The Clean Food Movement has called on the government to ban pesticides from public spaces, residential zones, and both public and private gardens.

“The World Health Organisation has recently categorized the leading global pesticide glyphosate as probably carcinogenic,” movement activist John Portelli said, while citing a urine sample test by Friends of the Earth Europe in which 90% of Maltese participants tested positive.

He was speaking during a protest march in Valletta to condemn the agribusiness giant Monsanto, as part of the third annual worldwide ‘March Against Monsanto’, organized by the Clean Food Movement, a front of 21 NGOs including the Gaia Foundation, BirdLife and Friends of the Earth Malta.

Around 60 people attended the protest march

Portelli warned that six local councils- Naxxar, Zejtun, Marsascala, Floriana, Balzan and Kalkara- have admitted using pesticides to treat plants in public spaces. 19 local councils denied doing so, while the remaining 43 chose not to respond after “two weeks of pressure by the movement”.  

He pointed out that Malta does not have an accredited laboratory that can carry out food tests for chemical residues and genetically modified organisms (GMOs) that can be used as evidence in court.

“Since all tests have to be assigned to a foreign laboratory, this is creating an unwarranted latency in the food control system encouraging abuse by some unscrupulous producers and processors,” Portelli said. “It is evident that the authorities are also lacking an efficient and effective enforcement structure to guarantee the continuous safety of the food we consume.”

They warned that Monsanto's Round-Up weedkiller contains glyphosate, that the US-government-run Food and Drugs Administration is led by ex-Monsanto executives, and that Monsanto's GM seeds have contributed to the decline in the world's bee population. Despite this, the U.S. Congress has banned courts from halting the sale of Monsanto's GM seeds.

The movement are calling on people to eat organic food, to avoid junk food and processed food containing GMOs, to spread awareness

ISIS' child soldiers: What will happen to 'cubs of the caliphate'?

 http://www.wptv.com/news/world/isis-child-soldiers-what-will-happen-to-cubs-of-the-caliphate

(CNN) -- A boy in a black knit cap stands in front of a man on his knees.

He locks eyes with the captive, brow furrowed, his gaze seething with anger. He lifts a pistol and shoots the man in the forehead.

The boy is a soldier for the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria -- and he's not the only one.

The Sunni extremists of ISIS appear to be brainwashing an entire generation to create an army of impressionable young soldiers.

They lure or kidnap children and then train them to fight.

They force some children to give blood to injured fighters or to spy for them, and make others whip prisoners, human rights groups say.

Their plight raises questions that defy simple answers:

What future awaits these children if ISIS is ever to be defeated? Can anything be done to help them recover from the scars of war, or will Iraq and Syria face the prospect of a lost generation, paralyzed by the memories and atrocities of their youth?

Behind the smile

Former child soldiers can lead healthy lives after fighting in wars.

Take, for example, Ngor Mayol. He now works in a grocery store in Georgia. He's got a warm demeanor and is the type of guy who says hello to everyone he encounters, no matter what mood they seem to be in.

Mayol's friendly nature belies an unsavory past: At age 15, he was fighting against the Sudanese government in that country's civil war.

"I have lived in the unforgettable place where human flesh has been used as food for birds and insects," he wrote as part of an exercise in English class.

Mayol says he didn't go through any formal rehabilitation process after his time as a child soldier. He says he suffered no residual trauma from the war and now lives a seemingly quiet and normal life.

Though the faces of his friends who were killed in the conflict are seared in his memory, he doesn't regret the time he spent fighting.

"My life experience in the military, I was so proud of it, to defend the territory of South Sudan," Mayol said.

'Cubs of the caliphate'

Many of ISIS' child soldiers have experiences similar to Mayol's.

One teenager told CNN's Arwa Damon last year that at 15 years old, he was strapped into an explosive belt and given a pistol, an AK-47 and a radio and ordered to protect a base in the eastern Syrian city of Deir Ezzor.

ISIS has sent some children into combat and made others blow themselves up in suicide attacks, according to Human Rights Watch and activists. The group forces teen girls to become sex slaves or wives for its fighters, some escapees have reported.

Children are also used to cook meals and deliver messages, says Abu Ibrahim al-Raqqawi. He's a founder of "Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently," a group whose name refers to the Syrian city that is the de-facto capital of territory ISIS controls. The group opposes ISIS, as well as the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.

In ISIS propaganda videos, the group calls its child soldiers "cubs of the caliphate" -- the "caliphate" being the religious state the group claims to rule.

At least two propaganda videos end with boys killing unarmed men.

Forced to watch

The children made to fight for ISIS join hundreds of thousands of others in the global fraternity of child soldiers, fighting in places as diverse as India, Somalia and Thailand, the United Nations says.

The outside world has little to no access inside the self-described "Islamic State," so proof of the terror group's use of child soldiers tends to come from propaganda or anecdotal evidence.

It's impossible to say how many child soldiers the group has, but its recruitment and training operation appears massive.

About 6 million people live in ISIS-controlled territories, according to Luay al-Khatteeb, founder and director of the Iraq Energy Institute. Other estimates say the group has as many as 8 million people under its rule.

As of 2014, 33.1% of Syria's population was under age 14, according to the CIA World Factbook. In Iraq, the figure jumps to 36.7%.

While those percentages don't account for demographic shifts across the country (ISIS controls territory in Syria's more sparsely populated north and in Iraq's Sunni-dominated north and west), they still shed light on how many potential young recruits the militant group has to mold to its liking.

A documentary released last year by VICE News included some of the first footage from an independent media outlet to show life inside ISIS, and the sheer number of kids the terror group had under its sway is striking.

The war won't end as quickly if ISIS can readily replace its fallen soldiers with brainwashed children, al-Raqqawi notes.

"It will be a matter of generations," he said of how using child soldiers will affect the Middle East. "It will take maybe 20 years, 30 years. It's a long, long process and it's very dangerous."

Headless corpses in pools of blood as ISIS takes historic site

http://www.independent.ie/world-news/middle-east/headless-corpses-in-pools-of-blood-as-isil-takes-historic-site-31243379.html

Jihadis from Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isil) were going door-to-door in search of "regime collaborators" in the Syrian city of Palmyra last night after already leaving the bodies of nine men, some beheaded, in the street as a warning to others.


Residents said there was no immediate news of Isil fighters damaging the historic ruins of Palmyra, but that inhabitants of the modern town, known locally as Tadmur, had fled in fear.

"Isil is imposing a curfew and searching for any elements related to the regime," a resident, Abu 
Leith al-Shaer, said, after he too left.

"They executed nine people from two families after accusing them of being spies for the regime."

Outcry

Despite the worldwide outcry at the fall of Palmyra, coming shortly after the defeat of the Iraqi government forces in Ramadi across the border to the east, Barack Obama, the US president, said he would not change course.

He has so far been hoping that a strategy of training some Syrian "moderate" rebels, and backing the official army in Iraq, would both see off Isil and eventually lead to a negotiated end to the Assad 
regime.

A White House spokesman said that Isil's capture of Palmyra was a "setback" for the US-led coalition in its fight against Isil.

However, Fran├žois Hollande, the French president, became the first Western leader to say that the world must respond to Isil seizing Palmyra.

"We have to act because there is a threat against these monuments which are part of humankind's inheritance and at the same time we must act against Daesh," he said, referring to Isil by its Arabic name.

"It is really upsetting when a site of such riches, which belongs to all of humanity, falls into the hands of a terrorist group," he added, as he arrived at an EU-Eastern Partnership summit in the Latvian capital Riga.

Unesco warned earlier that the destruction of the Roman city, a World Heritage site, would be "an enormous loss to humanity".

"It is the birthplace of human civilisation," said Irina Bokova, director of Unesco. "It belongs to the whole of humanity and I think everyone today should be worried about what is happening." But Mr Obama rejected calls from some Republicans for America to send troops to combat Isil directly.

In an interview with 'The Atlantic' magazine, published earlier yesterday, Mr Obama insisted that the loss of Ramadi was also no more than a "tactical setback", even as tens of thousands of refugees trekked towards Baghdad. "No, I don't think we're losing," he said. He added that America would have "to ramp up not just training, but also commitment" but would not "repeat the mistakes of the past" by sending in troops to fight. The Pentagon announced that increased aid, for the time being, would consist only of 2,000 anti-tank missiles, to be used as a defence against Isil's huge suicide car bombs, which proved crucial in the fight for Ramadi.

"Today the question is not whether or not we are sending in contingents of US ground troops," Mr Obama said. "Today the question is: how do we find effective partners to govern in those parts of Iraq that right now are ungovernable and effectively defeat Isil, not just in Iraq but in Syria?"

He said that even if it took years, it was the Iraqis who had to defeat Isil. "If they are not willing to fight for the security of their country, we cannot do that for them," he said.

However, Mr Obama already seemed to be at odds in his assessment of the dangers posed by Isil with his own state department.

At a briefing late on Wednesday, a senior official said that Isil was a more accomplished outfit than its predecessor, al-Qa'ida in Iraq (AQI), which was only eventually defeated by a combination of a "surge" in US troops and recruiting an informal militia of Sunni tribal fighters.

"Isil as an organisation is better in every respect than its predecessor of AQI," the official said.

"It's better manned, it's better resourced, they have better fighters, they're more experienced.

"And we know what it took for us, the best military in the world, to get a handle on AQI."

Syrian Al-Qaeda rebels 'seize hospital holding 150 soldiers and dozens of civilians'

 http://news.yahoo.com/syrian-rebels-seize-hospital-holding-150-soldiers-084504429.html

Beirut (AFP) - Islamist rebels on Friday overran a hospital in northwest Syria where at least 150 regime forces and dozens of civilians were trapped for nearly a month, a monitor said.

 Al-Nusra Front, which is Al-Qaeda's affiliate in Syria, and other factions "have taken complete control of Jisr al-Shughur hospital," said Rami Abdel Rahman, who heads the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The monitoring group's head said "dozens" of people had managed to flee but others were killed, wounded or taken hostage, without giving exact figures.

The end of the siege came as rebels were subjected to heavy shelling by the army, the Observatory said.

Earlier this month, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad had pledged to free the besieged forces, saying his "army will arrive soon to these heroes trapped in the Jisr al-Shughur hospital."

The regime and Al-Nusra Front gave differing accounts of the end of the siege.

The army managed to "successfully break the siege" using a "tactical manoeuvre", state television reported.

"The heroes defending Jisr al-Shughur hospital were reunited with their comrades," it said.
Al-Nusra on its official Twitter account posted pictures of a line of soldiers apparently exiting the destroyed hospital amid plumes of smoke.

Regime soldiers had "left dejected from the intensity of the siege", it said.

The hospital complex is in the southwest of the town in Idlib province that rebels seized on April 25.
At least 150 regime forces and dozens of civilians, including families and government bureaucrats, had since remained trapped in the hospital.

Rebel groups have made a series of major gains in Idlib province, including its capital city of the same name that they seized on March 28.

And on Tuesday, rebels took control of Al-Mastumah, the regime's largest military base in the province.

‘March Against Monsanto’: Protest against GMO giant to roll in 38 countries this weekend

 http://rt.com/usa/261345-march-against-monsanto-protests/

Hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in 428 cities are expected to turn out this weekend to protest

agribusiness giant Monsanto. The third annual 'March Against Monsanto' seeks to highlight the company's part in control of the food supply.

The worldwide protest scheduled for May 23 is a continuation of growing awareness and opposition to industrial agriculture's increasing consolidation of farming resources and methods, according to organizers.

In 2013, the first March Against Monsanto garnered more than 2 million protesters in 436 cities across the world, according to a previous report by RT. Similar numbers were reported for last year's demonstrations.

Monsanto's track record has been scrutinized ever since it aided US warfare during the Vietnam war. Agent Orange was manufactured for the US Department of Defense primarily by Monsanto Corporation, the use of which is estimated to have killed and maimed around 400,000 while causing birth defects for 500,000 children.

Scientific studies have linked the chemicals in Monsanto's biocides to Parkinson's disease, Alzheimer’s disease, autism, and cancer.
 
"People are fed up. We should break up Monsanto," Adam Eidinger of Occupy Monsanto told RT.  
"Monsanto is a monopoly, and it's acting like one. It's basically controlling 90 percent of the seed market in the United States. We wouldn't let one cell phone company control 90 percent of the cell phones. But for some reason we let food be controlled."


As the most powerful multinational biotech corporation today, Monsanto has drawn the ire of those
within the movement for its firm grip on the global food chain. The company's control and advancement of genetically modified organism (GMO) seeds is of prime concern.
 
"In polls conducted by the New York Times, Washington Post, Consumer Reports, and many others, over 90% of respondents were in support of national GMO labeling – an initiative that has been defeated time and time again at the state level thanks to heavy spending by Monsanto-backed lobbying groups," wrote March Against Monsanto in a news release.

Amid a wave of concern over genetically engineered foods sweeping through the US and around the world, major agribusiness and biotechnology conglomerates like Monsanto have spent immense amounts of cash to cloud the ‘right-to-know’ movement in the US.

According to the Center for Food Safety, dozens of US states have in recent years considered labeling legislation and ballot initiatives while a handful have passed laws mandating GMO transparency. Vermont’s governor signed the nation’s first clean GMO-labeling requirement into law in 2014, to take effect in 2016, but a coalition of biotech firms filed a lawsuit to prevent that from happening. Other states have passed labeling laws, but with strings attached.

To counter this movement, powerful farming and biotechnology interest groups have joined forces under the name "Coalition for Safe Affordable Food" to push a federal voluntary labeling standard for food made with GMOs, which would preempt state laws.

The Safe and Accurate Food Labeling Act of 2015 -- called the “Denying Americans the Right-to-Know Act” by opponents -- was introduced by Republican Rep. Mike Pompeo, an ally of Charles and David Koch, heads of the powerful multinational corporation Koch Industries. The bill has yet to leave the committee level, as of May 22.


Congressional supporters of an involuntary federal labeling standard have responded with the Genetically Engineered Food Right-to-Know Act, reintroduced in Congress in February.

The claim by biotech companies that GMOs are key to feeding the world's growing population has been heavily contested. A recent report found that GMO "seed companies' investment in improving yields in already high-yielding areas does little to improve food security; it mainly helps line the pockets of seed and chemical companies, large-scale growers and producers of corn ethanol."
 
GMO crops and ingredients have been consumed in the US for more than two decades. Large amounts of corn, soybeans, and canola produced in the US are genetically engineered. As much as 75 percent of processed food made in the US contains GMO ingredients.

GMO seeds have caused use of glyphosate, the leading ingredient in the company's Roundup biocide, to increase immensely since the 1990s, according to US Geological Survey data.


The World Health Organization's International Agency for Research on Cancer announced in May that Roundup, the most used herbicide in the world, is a "probable carcinogen."
 
"There's no question that March Against Monsanto is the most powerful grassroots initiative we have in the fight to reclaim our food supply from the GMO seed juggernaut known as the Monsanto Company," said Anthony Gucciardi, a March Against Monsanto speaker.

"With the new admission by the World Health Organization that Monsanto's best-selling herbicide Roundup is causing cancer worldwide, now is the most important time to join the movement and take a stand."

Senate kills bill on NSA domestic surveillance reform

 http://rt.com/usa/261341-senate-blocks-surveillance-reform-bill/

The USA Freedom Act has failed in the Senate, stalling an effort to reform certain federal surveillance programs before an end-of-the-month deadline ends the government’s ability to collect the phone records of Americans.

During a Senate vote on Friday, the bill was rejected by a vote of 57-42. It had previously been passed in the House of Representatives with overwhelming success.

The Senate will return to Washington on May 31 to consider ways to prevent the expiration of the program on June 1, according to Republican US Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Had lawmakers approved the Freedom Act, the bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records, as conducted by the government under a controversial interpretation of Section 215 of the Patriot Act, would have been limited by new restrictions.

The “USA Patriot Act” as a whole also fell short of being adopted, with the Senate voting 45-54. A total of 60 votes in favor were needed to advance the measure.

On June 1, the legal authorization permitting the bulk collection of American’s so-called phone “metadata” expires, calling into question the future of federal counter-terrorism and national security operations.

On Friday, White House press secretary Josh Earnest lashed out at the Senate’s reluctance to move on the bill as the deadline drew nearer.

“The refusal of the Senate to consider this legislation in a similar bipartisan spirit puts at risk not just the bipartisan compromise, but it puts the risk of our national security professionals to keep us safe,” Earnest said.

Meanwhile, a federal appeals court recently concluded that the Patriot Act provision never authorized the federal investigators to collect business records containing telephone data and other information, contrary to the government’s post-9/11 assertions.

Crying and shackled, mother consents to son’s circumcision after being jailed

 http://rt.com/usa/261357-court-circumcision-mother-prison/

Heather Hironimus, a mom from Florida, agreed to her son’s circumcision after spending a week in custody, putting an end to a yearlong battle she led against the 4-year-old’s father, who insisted the procedure be performed.
 
Hironimus on Friday signed the paperwork allowing the circumcision in a courtroom, crying and clasping her shackled hands, according to the Associated Press account.

The woman had been under arrest since May 14, facing criminal charges for interfering with the child’s custody. She and her child went missing in February after a circuit and appeals court sided with the father in the circumcision dispute. Hironimus and the boy’s father, Dennis Nebus, initially agreed to the procedure in an agreement filed in court. The mother later changed her mind.

Hironimus lost the case in May 2014, when the court found that the boy should be circumcised, according to the Orlando Sun Sentinel.


The judge ordered Hironimus to bring her son to court, where she was to be compelled to agree to a scheduled circumcision procedure, but she never did. Instead, the woman hid in a domestic violence shelter to avoid being arrested.

In April, Heronimus filed a lawsuit against both Nebus and the judge, saying there was no medical reason for her son’s circumcision. Moreover, the child was afraid and didn’t want to undergo the procedure, she said, adding that it could result in negative physical and psychological effects.

Hironimus has only been released from a civil harassment restraining order and still faces a criminal charge, meaning the remaining length of her jail-stay remains unclear.

The judge granted the father the temporary right to make sole-decisions in matters regarding his son's health, including the circumcision procedure. He also gave him the freedom to take his son out of state without his mother’s permission.

Over the year, Hironimus has become a uniting figure for anti-circumcision advocates, a movement that is gaining momentum in the US.

Star Wars one step closer: DARPA’s ‘death ray’ to begin field tests

http://rt.com/usa/261285-darpa-laser-field-tests/

The US Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) has received government permission to field test its HELLADS laser weapon system.

“The technical hurdles were daunting, but it is extremely gratifying to have produced a new type of solid-state laser with unprecedented power and beam quality for its size,” DARPA program manager Rich Bagnell said in a statement cited by the agency’s website. The testing is set to start this summer.

High-Energy Liquid Laser Area Defense System (HELLADS) has been in development since 2003. It is intended for use as a protection system for aircraft.
 
“Enemy surface-to-air threats to manned and unmanned aircraft have become increasingly sophisticated,” DARPA states on its website. “High power lasers can provide a solution to this challenge, as they harness the speed and power of light to counter multiple threats.”
 
READ MORE: Next-gen US drone: Now equipped with ‘death ray’ laser

The statement adds however, that the laser could also be used for attack: “Laser weapon systems provide additional capability for offensive missions as well—adding precise targeting with low probability of collateral damage.”

To deploy that in practice, though, DARPA says the weapon must be made smaller and lighter than currently possible – and America’s drones will have to stick with relatively imprecise missiles for the time being.


The goal of the HELLADS project is to build a laser with 150 kilowatts of power, weighing under 750 kilograms, and with a size less than 3 cubic meters.
 
In mid-April, DARPA’s contractor General Atomics Aeronautical Systems (GA-ASI), unveiled the HEL Generation 3 laser. It meets these size specifications and is fitted with a module generator system, which enables it to produce 75 to 300-kilowatt beams.
 
Developers believe it can be mounted on GA-ASI’s new Avenger drone. The drone’s jet engine is capable of producing enough energy to recharge the laser’s battery in flight, essentially giving the weapon infinite ammunition.

Mexican standoff: At least 39 dead in mass shootout with drug cartel

http://rt.com/news/261417-mexico-shootout-drug-cartel/ (GRAPHIC VIDEO IN LINK, ALSO SOME DISTURBING PHOTOS BELOW)

A security raid in western Mexico turned into an all-out, three-hour gunbattle between police and army on one side and drug cartel thugs on the other. At least 37 armed civilians and two federal police officers have been shot dead.

The shootout took place in Mexico’s western state of Jalisco, at a private 112-hectare ranch, reportedly called Rancho del Sol (Sun Ranch), where drug dealers made their last stand. The number of victims makes it one of the deadliest shootouts in modern Mexican history.


Monsanto helps fund all-expense-paid ‘reporter boot camp’ for food writers

http://rt.com/usa/261377-monsanto-helps-fund-reporter-conference/

Biotech company Monsanto is helping fund a “reporter boot camp” that will be hosted by the National Press Foundation, featuring an all-expense-paid journalism conference called “Food, From Farm to Table.”

The event includes a visit to an organic farm and Monsanto’s research lab.

Twenty journalists will be selected as National Press Foundation fellows to attend the conference in July, which includes travel, meals and hotel accommodation in St. Louis, Missouri. It offers “to take a holistic look at the issues: hunger, food waste, organic, GMOs, food science, feeding the world’s population, and more.
National Press Foundation President Sandy Johnson told the Eater website that she initiated the NPF’s sponsorship relationship with Monsanto after attending a dinner party in January and finding herself sitting next to a member of the Monsanto board of directors. Eater asked if she was familiar with Monsanto’s controversial reputation.

In whose eyes? In your eyes? I'm familiar with the Monsanto that created research and science around agriculture that has allowed the United States to feed the world,” Johnson responded.

Johnson, according to the NPF website, was managing editor for the Institute of Public Integrity and previously the executive editor for state news for AARP. Before that, she was bureau chief for the Associated Press in Washington, DC, the news service’s largest bureau. Under her direction, AP refused to call the 2000 election for George W. Bush despite enormous pressure after TV networks
had made an erroneous call.

READ MORE: Trade associates still seeking injunction against Vermont's GMO-labeling law

Monsanto is one of four sponsors for the fellowship, including the AARP Foundation, the Organic Trade Association and the American Farm Bureau Federation, all of which have contributed towards a $100,000 fund to finance the conference. Johnson wouldn’t disclose how much each group had contributed, but she did tell Eater that they had decided to locate the conference in St. Louis, Missouri so they could include a visit to the Monsanto’s labs in the programming.

This is not the first time the NPF has accepted corporate sponsorship. In 2010, the nonprofit came under fire for a multi-day conference training journalists to write about cancer, sponsored by pharmaceutical giant Pfizer, and for another conference on retirement sponsored by Prudential, a company which sells insurance and pension investments.

On Saturday, a worldwide event dubbed March Against Monsanto is planned in 38 countries and 428 cities, meant to raise awareness about the dangers surrounding the company’s genetically modified seeds and cancer-linked herbicide Roundup.

The march comes as the demand for GMO labeling is gaining momentum in states like Vermont. In polls conducted by The New York Times, the Washington Post and Consumer Reports, 90 percent of respondents were in support of GMO labeling – an initiative defeated by heavy spending by Monsanto and other food industry-backed lobbying groups.

Friday, May 22, 2015

Volunteers strive to clean CA beaches, save wildlife after massive oil spill

 http://rt.com/usa/260917-santa-barbara-oil-cleanup/

Clean-up crews are working day and night to remove 100,000 gallons of oil that fouled a stretch of California coastline after a pipeline ruptured Tuesday. It is the biggest oil spill in the Santa Barbara area since 1969.

Approximately 300 clean-up workers are combing the beaches, scooping up oil- and tar-covered sand.


One of the volunteers said the effort would take “weeks, if not months.”
 
GALLERY: Aftermath of massive oil spill at Santa Barbara beaches

Coast Guard Captain Jennifer Williams told Reuters the clean-up will involve scrubbing soiled rocks and hosing down contaminated areas.

Nine ships are assisting in cleaning up the stretch of affected ocean. Three are scooping up oil from the surface, while six are containing the oil slick with booms.

Clean-up crews are asking for more buckets, gloves, shovels, water, and volunteers.
Fishing and shellfish harvesting in the area has been suspended until further notice.
 
READ MORE: Busted pipeline leaks 21,000 gallons of oil off California coast
 

Two popular seaside destinations, Refugio State Beach and El Capitan State Beach, will remain closed to the public during the upcoming Memorial Day holiday weekend.

30 casualties feared in suicide bomber attack on mosque in South Arabia

 http://rt.com/news/261141-bomber-saudi-arabia-prayers/ (WARNING: LINK CONTAINS GRAPHIC IMAGES)

A suicide bomber has blown himself at a Shiite mosque in the east of Saudi Arabia during Friday prayers. Local residents say the explosion has killed and wounded at least 30 people.

The blast took place at the Imam Ali mosque in the town of al-Qadeeh, Qatif province. One witness said there were at least 30 casualties in the attack, where more than 150 people were praying.

"We were doing the first part of the prayers when we heard the blast," Kamal Jaafar Hassan, one of the worshipers, told Reuters by telephone from the scene.

Another eyewitness told the Middle East Eye that at least five people have been killed and 20 have been injured. Reports on Twitter, however, put the death toll at 10-22 people.


The Saudi state has confirmed that an explosion took place at a mosque in the east of the country and said more details would be provided later.

Photographs from the scene show bodies strewn across the floor, while emergency vehicles are already at the site of the blat. Inside the mosque, glass has been shattered; pieces of concrete, perhaps
from the ceiling, are littered across the floor.

The al-Qadeeh town is home to Saudi Arabia’s Shiite minority, in a country which is predominantly Sunni.

In late March Houthi fighters from Yemen threatened to carry out suicide bombings in Saudi Arabia if airstrikes against their positions continued.

Abdel Mon'em Qurashi, a senior member of the Houthis Executive Committee, said on March 28 that they would destroy the Saudi regime for its “aggressive” policies, the Fars news agency from Iran reported.

However, Houthis are also Shiite Muslims, like those killed in the suicide attack.
Saudi Arabia has also been threatened by Islamic State, which is being targeted by an international coalition including the Sunni kingdom.

Shiites make up around 10-15 percent of the Saudi Arabian population. They are mainly based in two districts in the Eastern province, not far from Bahrain, in Qatif and al-Ahsa. Both areas have historically been the focal points for anti-government demonstrations, according to Al Jazeera.

Shiites living in Saudi Arabia have often complained of discrimination by the Sunni government, which is a charge they deny.