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Updated: 14 min 4 sec ago

Detroit Cuts Deal With Retired Police and Firefighters

Wed, 04/16/2014 - 04:24

Detroit has reached a deal with some retired workers over pension benefits, but cut monthly payments for other former employees, in a move that could give a boost to the city’s plan to exit bankruptcy in October, officials said Tuesday.

According to tentative agreements, retired police officers and firefighters will continue to receive their pensions while those who do not work in public safety will have some of their benefits scrapped.

There will be a 4.5 percent cut and an elimination of the cost-of- living payments for the general fund pensioners, said Tina Basset, spokesperson for the fund.

The agreement will cover more than 20,000 retired workers in a city going through one of the largest public bankruptcies in U.S. history. Both the retirees, as well as current workers who qualify for a future pension, will be allowed to vote as creditors in the bankruptcy.

Retired Detroit Police and Fire Fighters Association attorney Ryan Plecha said preserving the pension benefits was the “crown jewel.”

Bill Nowling, a spokesperson for Detroit emergency manager Kevyn Orr, who is overseeing the bankruptcy process, said the deal with retired workers had been possible because of an improved financial performance of the pension funds.

However, both deals depend on the $816 million that Detroit is hoping to raise from foundations, philanthropists and the state of Michigan. Lawmakers are yet to approve Michigan’s $350 million contribution.

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Sonia Gandhi to Indian Voters: Don’t Fall for ‘Divisive’ Politics

Wed, 04/16/2014 - 03:50
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As the second week of India’s elections got under way, Congress Party president Sonia Gandhi lashed out indirectly at the opposition, saying that it was driven by a “divisive and autocratic” ideology that threatened the future of India.

In a three-minute television address, the 67-year-old party leader did not name the opposition Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) or its prime-ministerial candidate Narendra Modi, but told voters that the incumbent Congress Party was fighting for the “heart and soul” of India during the elections.

The opposition’s vision was “clouded with hatred and falsehood, their ideology, divisive and autocratic, will drive us to … ruination,” she said, according to an English-language translation on

The BJP was quick to dismiss Gandhi’s message. “She wants to give power to the people but did not give power to the Prime Minister,” a BJP spokesperson told Reuters, referring to the oft-repeated allegation that Gandhi has been the controlling force behind Prime Minister Manmohan Singh in recent years.

Gandhi made the address as the latest opinion poll by news channel NDTV showed the BJP and its allies might pass the crucial mark of 272 seats in the ongoing parliamentary elections to win the majority needed in India’s lower house needed to form a government.

Elections began on April 7 and will take place in nine phases over the next several weeks, with poll results expected on May 16.

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Arizona Approves Surprise Inspections of Abortion Clinics

Wed, 04/16/2014 - 03:05

Health officials will be able to inspect Arizona’s abortion clinics without warrants after Arizona Governor Jan Brewer signed a bill into law Tuesday.

The new law nullifies previous measures that required judges to approve any potential inspection of the state’s nine registered abortion clinics.

“This legislation will ensure that the Arizona Department of Health Services has the authority to appropriately protect the health and safety of all patients,” said the Governor’s spokesman Andrew Wilder, according to Reuters.

Pro-choice advocates said the Republican Governor’s decision as part of her sustained attack on women’s health.

“[Brewer] has been hostile to women’s health care, including abortion and family planning, since the day she took office,” the president of Planned Parenthood Advocates of Arizona, Bryan Howard, said in a statement following the passage of the bill.

Arizona joins ten other states that allow for similar snap inspections of abortion facilities.


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Judge Says a Radical Cleric’s 9/11 Comments Can Be Used as Evidence

Wed, 04/16/2014 - 02:49

Jurors at the trial of radical Islamic cleric Mustafa Kamel Mustafa, who is also known as Abu Hamza al-Masri, will be privy to comments the suspect made praising the 9/11 terrorists attacks, a judge ruled this week.

Mustafa is accused of trying to establish al Qaeda training camps in Oregon in the late 1990s and of aiding extremists who kidnapped a group of foreigners, including two American tourists, in Yemen in 1998.

According to an undated interview with a British television station, Mustafa stated: “Everybody was happy when the planes hit the World Trade Center.” And according to U.S. District Judge Katherine B. Forrest, who is presiding over the case, these comments can be presented as evidence in court.

“Expressing clear and unequivocal support for terrorism is no doubt prejudicial. However, the defendant is charged with just those sorts of crimes,” Judge Katherine B. Forrest said in a written decision earlier this week.

Jury selection for the case concludes on Monday, while opening statements for the trial are set to commence on Thursday morning.


Categories: Magazines

Highway Funding Is About to Run Out

Wed, 04/16/2014 - 02:17

The U.S. Highway Trust Fund is on the verge of insolvency, threatening widespread layoffs and delays of badly needed highway projects.

President Barack Obama has put forward a $302 billion plan to Congress to boost the fund with savings from proposed changes to corporate tax laws.

If no action is taken, the fund will dry up before the end of September. Officials in some states are already considering a halt to some projects.

“I feel it’s clearly a crisis,” said transportation secretary Anthony Foxx, who is on an eight-state tour to whip up public backing for the Obama plan.

The White House proposal is intended to put the fund on a longer-term footing than the bare minimum top-ups Congress has been voting in the past five years. Such minimum payments discourage states from making long term plans because of fears the fund will run out.

“We have a responsibility to put a proposal out there that casts a longer-term vision,” Foxx said. “Tell Congress we can’t slap a Band-Aid on our transportation system any longer.”

However, a highly partisan election year such as this doesn’t hold much promise for any major reforms.

“There doesn’t seem to be much of an appetite to go after corporate tax reform this year, which is the only long term funding source that has been proposed by both the administration and Congress,” said Joshua Schank, the president of Washington transportation think-tank Eno Center for Transportation.


Categories: Magazines

How Eldercare Handicaps Women

Wed, 04/16/2014 - 00:01

As a 48-year-old physician, wife, and daughter of aging parents, I am increasingly aware of my role as a medical decision-maker on both sides of the equation. In my work as a medical advocate, I have noticed that this role is played largely by women.

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While I am proud that women are still fighting for sexual and reproductive freedoms, that child-rearing has become more of a team sport, and that women’s health issues such as breast cancer and heart disease are on everyone’s radar, the important role of women as medical decision-makers has not yet been given its due.

Almost half of hospitalized patients 65 or older needed a surrogate to help with at least one major decision, according to a recent study in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Almost a quarter of those patients needed a surrogate to make all of the decisions.

And who are the surrogates? According to JAMA, 58% were daughters, 20% were sons, and 20% were spouses, wives included.

It’s now estimated more than 60% of adults 65 and older will need some form of long-term care, many of them for the devastating onset of Alzheimer’s disease or dementia. Alzheimer’s is also one of the key reasons elderly patients require assistance with providing consent or refusal for medical treatment.

It’s not easy being a healthcare surrogate. This is especially true when the decisions center on end-of-life questions, a weighty decision when you consider that in California 77% of unpaid in-home caregivers are women. Where should mom live after a stroke? Would dad want to spend his last days on a ventilator, heavily sedated and paralyzed? Contrary to what many people assume about what happens in the hospital today, it is often the appointed surrogate, not the treating physicians, that make the final decisions about extent of treatment at the end of life.

Research has shown that surrogate decision-makers experience a lot of stress when decisions need to be made, and after the fact as well. However, a well-known study in the British Medical Journal showed that surrogates that had discussed advance directives and wishes with their loved one had significantly less stress, shorter grieving periods, and less substance use after their loved one’s death than those who had not had those conversations.

Nevertheless, only 30% of Americans have created an Advance Health Care Directive or Living Will. In the JAMA study, 25% had a designated surrogate on the chart, but a mere 7% had left any guidelines about their wishes. To be sure, these issues are difficult to contemplate in advance and still carry a lot of stigma in our optimistic never-say-die culture. It’s time for that to change.

I encourage all families to start creating an Advance Health Care Directive or Living Will now with all family members at the table. Clarifying the goals a person has for his or her life, including its end, can ease the burdens of decision-making when a crisis arrives. This process is known as advance care planning.

Furthermore, it’s time for doctors to get formal training about how to discuss decisions that need to be made with the surrogate decision-maker in a way that focuses on the overall goals of care and not just the immediate crisis. Doctors also need to circle back to taking more responsibility for decisions, keeping the patient’s and surrogate’s goals into account, and avoiding the old paternalistic attitude.

Everyone admires the woman who can “have it all,” be a mother, wife, and have a career and a full personal life. When we talk about what derails women’s careers, the conversation focuses on having children. The truth is that “sandwich generation” women have a lot more on their plate. It’s time to give advance care planning and healthcare decision-making the attention it deserves. It’s a woman’s prerogative.

Categories: Magazines

The Science Of ‘Happily Ever After’: 3 Things That Keep Love Alive

Wed, 04/16/2014 - 00:01

As Daniel Jones, author of Love Illuminated, explains: we spend youth asking “How do I find love?” and midlife asking “How do I get it back?”

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Anyone in a relationship or who plans on being in one needs to know how to keep love alive over the long term.

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But how do you learn the secret to this? Everyone is happy to explain “how they met” but few give the details on “how they stayed together.”

So let’s look at what science has to say.

“Happily Ever After” Ain’t Easy

Aside from being the epitome of lazy writing, “happily ever after” is not simple.

Ty Tashiro explains that couples in their first year of marriages score 86% for marriage satisfaction. By the seventh year, it’s under 50%.

The Science of Happily Ever After: What Really Matters in the Quest for Enduring Love

Yes, about 50% of couples get divorced. Another 10-15% separate but do not file paperwork. And 7 more percent are chronically unhappy.

So the real stat is two-thirds of marriages do not live “happily ever after.”

Via The Science of Happily Ever After: What Really Matters in the Quest for Enduring Love:

The divorce rate often reported by the media is 50 percent, which is based on Census Bureau data. However, census data does not capture the 10 to 15 percent of couples who permanently separate but do not file formal paperwork for a legal divorce. This means that a conservative estimate of the divorce and permanent separation rate is 60 percent. Add the additional 7 percent of chronically unhappy couples who do not divorce or permanently separate but are consistently unhappy in their marriage, and this means that two-thirds of all married couples do not live happily ever after.

Why is marriage so hard over the long term?

One of the main reasons is what science calls it “habituation.” Which is a fancy way of saying we get bored.

Early on, when a couple can finish each other’s sentences it’s romantic. But over time “predictable” is a huge negative.

Chris Rock gets the point across humorously in this video (NSFW):

Robert Greene, author of The Art of Seduction, explains that surprise is key to romantic feelings:

Seduction involves a degree of surprise, which is generally the first thing that disappears after you’ve been in a relationship, and why there’s no more seducing that goes on. Everything is familiar and you’re no longer surprised by the other person.

So is there any way to bring those tingles back?

Yes. Here’s how.

What You Can Learn From Arranged Marriages

“Arranged marriage! AGH! Weird!”

Hold on a sec. We can learn something here. What do researchers find when they compare at 50 arranged marriages and 50 “love” marriages?

Love marriages start out happier — but that declines quickly.

Arranged marriages start out less happy, but after 10 years, they’re happier than love marriages. And stay that way.

Via The Art of Choosing:

The couples who had married for love and been together less than a year averaged a score of 70 points out of a possible 91 on the love scale, but these numbers steadily fell over time. The love couples who had been married ten years or longer had an average score of only 40 points. In contrast, the couples in arranged marriages were less in love at the outset, averaging 58 points, but their feelings increased over time to an average score of 68 at the ten or more years mark.

What’s the secret behind the long term success of arranged marriages?

They have to work at it.

They don’t passively rely on “magic” and intense emotion. They have to spend a lot of time thinking about how to make it work.

Via Love Illuminated:

That process of discovery is ostensibly the fun of courtship, too, except that in arranged marriage the goal is to figure out how to be married, not whether to marry.

Research shows expecting a fairy tale relationship is a prescription for disappointment.

Via 100 Simple Secrets of Great Relationships:

Elements of fairy tales such as Cinderella were present in 78 percent of people’s beliefs about romantic love. Those people were more likely to have experienced disillusionment, devastation, and angst in their relationships than were those who gave less credence to fairy tales. – Lockhart 2000

Feeling like it’s all magic means it’s out of your control — and that without that initial magic, it’s hopeless.

The happiness of arranged marriages means a couple can make magic if they try.

So you need to actively keep the marriage happy. How do you do that?

Don’t Fix The Bad. Increase The Good.

Look at your spouse as something you purchased “as-is.” Research shows trying to change them doesn’t work:

…when participants (N = 160) focused their relationship improvement attempts on changing the partner, individuals reported more negative improvement strategies, lower improvement success, and, in turn, more negative relationship evaluations… results suggest that targeting the partner may do more harm than good despite that relationship evaluations pivot on whether the partner produces change.

John Gottman, researcher and author of The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work, says 69% of a couple’s problems are perpetual.

These problems don’t go away yet many couples keep arguing about them year after year.

Via The Seven Principles for Making Marriage Work:

Most marital arguments cannot be resolved. Couples spend year after year trying to change each other’s mind – but it can’t be done. This is because most of their disagreements are rooted in fundamental differences of lifestyle, personality, or values. By fighting over these differences, all they succeed in doing is wasting their time and harming their marriage.

So if you can’t change them and they won’t change you, how can you reduce the bad stuff?

You can’t. But you don’t need to.

The best relationships are more about increasing the good than reducing the bad.

Divorce may have less to do with an increase in conflict and more to do with a decrease in positive feelings.

Via Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being:

Shelly Gable, professor of psychology at the University of California at Santa Barbara, has demonstrated that how you celebrate is more predictive of strong relations than how you fight.

Okay, so you need to increase the good times. What’s the best way to do that?

(This part is exciting. I mean, literally.)

Forget Romance. Think Excitement.

Think a pleasant date night is all it takes to keep love alive?

Researchers did a 10 week study comparing couples that engaged in “pleasant” activities vs “exciting” activities. Pleasant lost.

Via For Better: How the Surprising Science of Happy Couples Can Help Your Marriage Succeed:

Those who had undertaken the “exciting” date nights showed a significantly greater increase in marital satisfaction than the “pleasant” date night group…

Why would doing anything exciting have such a big effect on a relationship?

Because we’re lousy about realizing where our feelings are coming from.

Excitement from any source will be associated with the person you’re with, even if they’re not the cause of it.

As happiness researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky explains, excitement experienced mutually brings the tingles back.

Via The Myths of Happiness: What Should Make You Happy, but Doesn’t, What Shouldn’t Make You Happy, but Does:

…Whether the couples were only dating or long-married, the ones who did the shared novel activity were more likely than the ones who did the shared neutral activity to agree to statements like “I feel happy when I am doing something to make my partner happy” and “I feel ‘tingling’ and ‘an increased heartbeat’ when I think of my partner” after the activity than before.

So no boring, lame date nights. Go do something exciting. Go dancing together or anything else you can both participate in as a couple.

Sum Up

Keeping love alive can be tricky. You need to actively work at it and it’s more important to increase the good then to reduce the bad.

And the best way to do that is by increasing excitement.

So you’re hopping on roller coasters and going white water rafting — but what do you need to do when you’re there?

Pretend you’re on your first date.

Studies show pretending time with a romantic partner was a first date makes it more enjoyable for you and for your partner:

Across a series of studies, participants underestimated how good they would feel in situations that required them to put their best face forward… participants who were instructed to engage in self-presentation felt happier after interacting with their romantic partner than participants who were not given this instruction…

Why? On first dates we make an effort to impress. And we’re full of hope.

Love means being a little delusional (Some researchers even think love might qualify as a mental illness.)

Thinking your partner is better than they really are makes for longer, better relationships.

Via The Science of Love:

Sandra Murray and her colleagues have been studying romantic relationships now for several decades, and have found that idealising one’s partner is a sure recipe for marital success; moreover, the higher one’s ideals are and the more one idealises one’s partner, the more satisfied one is with the relationship – and the longer it is likely to last.

Letting yourself be a little crazy — crazy for your partner — pays off.

What’s Next?

Other posts you should read on improving marriage, love and romance:

Want to learn more? Join 45K+ readers. Get a free weekly update via email here.

This piece originally appeared on Barking Up the Wrong Tree.

Categories: Magazines

Scores Missing as South Korean Ferry Carrying 477 Sinks

Tue, 04/15/2014 - 23:40

Updated: April 16, 2014, 3:14 a.m. E.T.

Two people have died and 295 people are still unaccounted for, after a ferry carrying 477 passengers began sinking off the southern coast of South Korea on Wednesday morning.

A massive rescue operation, including at least 18 helicopters, 34 vessels and special-operations divers, has been working on the scene for over five hours, after a distress signal was picked up at 9 a.m. local time. More than 290 people remain missing — a far cry from earlier estimates, when the government announced that 368 people had been rescued. It later acknowledged that there had been an error in tallying up the numbers.

The majority of the passengers were students on their way from Incheon to the resort island of Jeju together with their teachers. An official at the Danwon High School in a suburb to Seoul said all of its 338 students and teachers had been rescued, but that number could not be confirmed by authorities. Other reports claim that one of the two casualties was a high school student, the other a 27-year-old crew member.

Officials say some passengers could have been rescued by private fishing boats, but fears are growing that scores of people could have been trapped as the ship began listing sharply and capsized within two hours. The sea is a freezing 12.6ºC and potentially fatal after more than a few hours’ immersion.

A U.S. Navy amphibious assault ship equipped with two helicopters is currently moving to the scene to assist in the effort.

It is not yet clear what caused the incident, but testimonies suggest it may have hit a rock or another vessel.

“There was a bang, and then the ship suddenly tilted over,” a survivor identified by his surname Yoo told Yonhap News Agency. “Downstairs were restaurants, shops and entertainment rooms, and those who were there are feared to have failed to escape.”

The South Korean government has announced that all efforts now are focused on the rescue mission — determining the cause is a secondary priority.

Categories: Magazines

China’s Growth Slows to 7.4 Percent in First Quarter

Tue, 04/15/2014 - 22:09

(BEIJING) — China’s economic growth slowed to 7.4 percent in the first quarter, raising the risk of job losses and a potential impact on its trading partners.

The figure reported Wednesday by the government was down from the previous quarter’s 7.7 percent. It came in below the full-year official growth target of 7.5 percent announced last month.

Beijing is trying to guide China to slower, more sustainable growth based on domestic consumption rather than trade and investment following a decade of explosive expansion.

Growth in retail sales, factory output and investment also slowed, raising the possibility of politically dangerous job losses.

Chinese leaders have signaled they are willing to tolerate growth below the official target so long as the economy keeps creating enough jobs to avoid potential unrest. In a sign of concern about employment, they launched a mini-stimulus in March of higher spending on construction of railways, low-cost housing and other public works.

In a speech last week, Premier Li Keqiang, the country’s top economic official, said the economy still faced “downward pressure” but ruled out additional stimulus. He said Beijing would focus on “long-term efforts to achieve sustainable and healthy development.”

The latest growth is the weakest the third quarter of 2012, when growth tumbled after an unexpected decline in demand for Chinese exports while the government was tightening controls on lending and investment to cool inflation.

Weaker growth could have global repercussions, hurting Asian economies and others such as Australia and Brazil for which China is the leading market for commodities and industrial components.

Chinese imports suffered an unexpectedly sharp contraction of 11.3 percent in March in a sign of weak raw materials demand from manufacturing and construction.

“A hard landing in China’s economy is one of the biggest risks clouding the outlook for the rest of emerging Asia,” said Capital Economics in a report this week.

Categories: Magazines

The Armed Rebellion on a Nevada Cattle Ranch Could Be Just the Start

Tue, 04/15/2014 - 22:02

It could have been a catastrophe. For several days last week, hundreds of angry protesters faced off with federal workers on an arid ranch near Bunkerville, Nev. Militiamen squatted among the sagebrush and crouched on a highway overpass, cradling guns and issuing barely veiled threats at the government officials massed behind makeshift barricades. The specter of a violent standoff hung over the high desert.

The hair-trigger tension seemed at odds with the arcane origins of the dispute. Twenty years ago, the U.S. Bureau of Land Management (BLM) decided to clear privately owned cattle off this patch of public land to protect the endangered Mojave Desert tortoise. Dozens of ranchers left. Cliven Bundy stayed.

Rancher Cliven Bundy poses at his home in Bunkerville, Nevada, April 11, 2014. Jim Urquhart—Reuters

Bundy, 68, has refused to recognize federal authority over the land, or to pay the feds for allowing his cattle to graze there. Those accumulated fees and fines now total more than $1 million, according to the government. Armed with fresh court orders, the government moved last week to impound a few hundred of the rancher’s cows.

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Bundy balked, and the far right-wing media sounded a clarion call for his cause, casting the standoff as a flashpoint in a broader struggle against federal oppression. A cavalry of patriots arrived, bearing weapons and a seemingly bottomless grudge against the government.

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On April 12, BLM retreated, abandoning the round-up amid “serious concerns” over the safety of federal employees. The cattle “gather is over,” BLM spokesman Craig Leff says. No shots were fired; no blood was spilled. Bundy declared victory in the Battle of Bunkerville. His supporters festooned a nearby bridge with a hand-lettered sign reading: “The West Has Now Been Won!”

For the government, it is not yet clear what was lost. The decision to de-escalate the situation was a wise one, according to officials familiar with the perils posed by such confrontation. “There was no need to have a Ruby Ridge,” says Patrick Shea, a Utah lawyer and former national director of BLM, invoking the bloody 1992 siege at a remote Idaho cabin, which became a rallying cry for the far right. Shea praises BLM’s new director, Neil Kornze, for defusing the conflict and skirting the specter of violence. There are plenty of ways for the government to recoup the money Bundy owes, Shea says, from placing liens on his property to collecting proceeds when the cattle go to slaughter. When you have been waiting a generation to resolve a dispute, what’s another few weeks?

But prudence may also set a dangerous precedent. Having backed down from one recalcitrant rancher, what does BLM do the next time another refuses to abide by the law? “After 20 years and multiple court orders to remove the trespass cattle, Mr. Bundy owes the American taxpayers in excess of $1 million,” Kornze said in a statement. “The bureau will continue to work to resolve the matter administratively and judicially.” A BLM spokesman would not say what those remedies might be, and declined to make officials available to explain how the agency may treat similar situations in the future.

The government’s legal case against Bundy is strong. It has been winning courtroom battles against the rancher since 1998, and over the past two years has obtained court orders requiring Bundy to remove his cattle from public lands. This month’s roundup was a long-threatened last resort, and Bundy’s success in spurning it could spark copycat rebellions.

“I’m very concerned about that, as I’m sure others are,” says Bob Abbey, a former BLM director and state director for Nevada. Nearly all ranchers whose animals graze on public land are in compliance with federal statutes, Abbey says. But “there always is a chance that someone else may look at what happened with Mr. Bundy and decided to take a similar route.”

Especially since Bundy has become something of a folk hero for people who resent federal control of the old American frontier. The BLM manages more than 245 million acres of land, including about 60% of the territory across a swath of 12 Western states. About 85% of the land in Nevada is managed by the feds.

Bundy, whose ancestors have inhabited the disputed land since the 19th century, rejects this arrangement. The rancher, whose family did not respond to multiple interview requests from TIME, says he does not recognize federal authority over Nevada’s public land. “I abide by all state laws,” he said in a recent interview with the Los Angeles Times. “But I abide by almost zero federal laws.” He has warned that the impoundment of his cattle would spark a “range war,” and said in a court deposition that he would attempt to block a federal incursion, using “whatever it takes.”

Likeminded libertarians in the West have resurrected the spirit of the so-called Sagebrush Rebellion, a 1970s-era movement to transfer control of federal lands to the states. Demar Dahl, an Elko County, Nev., commissioner and longtime friend of Bundy, says the rancher is willing to pay the back fees he owes (though both dispute the amount) to the county or to the state, but not the federal government. “He says the federal government doesn’t have the authority to collect the fees,” Dahl says. “You can call him bullheaded. He’s a strong and moral person. He decides what needs to be done and how, and where he stands.”

To Bundy’s supporters, the legal proceedings are nothing but a land grab. And some of them believe government invoked the protection of the desert tortoise as a pretext. This line of thinking holds that Nevada Senator Harry Reid, the Democratic leader whose former aide, Kornze, now runs the BLM, wants to requisition the land so that his son and Chinese investors can build a lucrative solar farm. At the same time, the left sees in the resistance the ubiquitous hand of the Koch brothers, whose main political outfit, Americans for Prosperity, has rallied support for Bundy.

While the protesters have mostly dispersed, the standoff “isn’t over,” Reid declared Monday. And local officials know just how close they crept to a cataclysmic incident. “That was as close to a catastrophe as I think we’re ever going to see happen,” Dahl says.

The high drama seemed to stoke a sense of theatrics in the protesters. At a press conference on April 14, they invoked battles against the British and shouted quotes from the Scottish revolutionary William Wallace, memorialized in the Hollywood blockbuster Braveheart. The men who rode to Bundy’s defense got to play the hero in the movies of their minds; the threat is that the next climax doesn’t have a peaceful ending.

Bundy “would probably rather be a martyr than a profitable rancher,” says Shea, the former BLM director. “Eventually, you have to draw the line. We go through these sad episodes where fanaticism has to be brought under legal control. And inevitably, somebody is killed.”

Categories: Magazines

Reports: Ferry With 471 People Sinks Off South Korea

Tue, 04/15/2014 - 21:52

(SEOUL, South Korea) — A government office says a South Korean passenger ship carrying about 470 people has sent a distress call off the southern coast after it began leaning to one side.

South Korean media, including Yonhap news agency, say passengers were asked to jump overboard with life vests as the ship was on the verge of sinking. News reports say about 120 people have already been rescued.

The Busan Regional Maritime Affairs & Port Administration says in a statement that the ferry with 471 people was sailing to the southern island of Jeju when it sent a distress call Wednesday morning.

There are no immediate reports of causalities.

Agency officials say they have no further details. Calls to South Korea’s coast guard headquarters weren’t immediately answered.

Categories: Magazines

Neil Young on PonoMusic, the Third Biggest Kickstarter Project of All Time

Tue, 04/15/2014 - 21:46

Back in 2012, when legendary musician Neil Young started talking about Pono–his effort to build a portable player with an emphasis on audio quality above all else–it wasn’t particularly obvious that the idea had legs in the 21st century.

For a lot of us, after all, music has become something we listen to on our smartphone, streamed from a service such as Pandora, Spotify or Rdio at whatever quality the service in question chooses to give us. To riff on William F. Buckley’s memorable description of the conservative movement, Young seemed to be standing athwart tech history, yelling “stop!”


Pono still hasn’t hit the market. The wedge-shaped touchscreen gadget–bigger than an iPod, but smaller than a Bluetooth speaker such as the Jambox–will sell for $399 when it shows up. (Once expected to ship last year, it’s now due this fall.) But enough people are excited about the concept to have made PonoMusic the third biggest Kickstarter project of all time. The campaign hit its goal of $800,000 in ten hours, then went on to raise a total of $6,225,354 from 18,220 backers, who pledged anywhere from $5 (for a thank-you) to $5000 (for an invitation to a VIP dinner and listening party, plus a Pono).

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I chatted with Young as the campaign was rocketing past its original target. He told me that idea that became Pono has been kicking around inside his head for years, and didn’t always involve a new portable player.

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“First of all, I thought this would be an Internet thing, then I realized that’s not going to happen,” he explains. “The bandwidth isn’t there. We’d have to go back to the original model of the iPod, but with really, really top quality.”

With typical services, he says, “music has been downgraded to ‘content,’ It’s a Xerox of itself. When you see the original art compared to the Xerox, the difference is startling. Whatever the artist creates is what you hear when you hear Pono.”

Although Young talks about Pono as a movement as much as a business enterprise, and sought grassroots funding through Kickstarter, it is in fact a company, with veteran executives and technologists on board. “I’m pretty much the vision of it,” Young says. “I drive the purity and the quality and the transparency of the original artists’ intent.”

Part of Pono’s Kickstarter success was due to its artfully managed campaign, which involved the ability for backers to reserve limited-edition PonoPlayers with the engraved signatures of musicians who back the concept: Everyone from Elton John to EmmyLou Harris to Foo Fighters to Herbie Hancock to Pearl Willie Nelson to Young’s own groups Buffalo Springfield and Crosby Stills Nash & Young.

“They get it immediately,” says Young of the response to Pono by other musicians. “There’s no learning curve. They’ve been waiting for something like this for a long, long time.”

But he says he’s aiming for mass-market success: “Anyone who thinks this is only for nerds and audiophiles is in for a surprise. Anyone can hear the difference. That’s why we’ve priced it low.”

The era of purely digital music got underway in the late 1990s with the arrival of apps such as Winamp and gadgets like the Diamond Rio, the first successful MP3 player. (I still have audio files I ripped from CD back then, opting for absurdly aggressive compression to conserve precious storage space on my 32MB Rio.) Today, some level of compression–the rate varies widely–is still standard practice for digital music. Which means that there are adults who may be largely ignorant of music in its pre-MP3 form.

Will those folks care about Pono? “The MP3 era is in for a shock,” Young says. “They’re going to realize what they’re missing when they hear this. 100 percent of the time it happens. They hear it and can’t believe it: ‘I’m hearing things I’ve never heard in songs I’ve heard many times before. How can it be?’”

Pono is not without its critics and skeptics. They argue that the platform’s use of super-high-resolution data–it uses lossless files in the FLAC format, at up to 192 kHz and 24 bit sampling–is a pointless exercise in specsmanship, because going beyond CD quality doesn’t result in a difference which human beings can actually hear. Even if that’s true, it doesn’t seem to me that it’s the last word on Pono, since focusing on audio quality might allow a company such as this to design hardware that’s capable of better audio reproduction than your average phone. And PonoPlayer will be able to work with CD-quality files as well as higher-resolution ones.

It’s no shocker that Young is dismissive of the Pono opponents, pointing out that they’ve reached their conclusions without having listed to the still-unreleased player. “They don’t have to waste their time. They can get another MP3 and keep on rocking.”

If Pono is erring on the side of lavishing music with more tender loving care than it may really need, that seems to me to be more admirable than giving it short shrift, as has often happened so far in this century. Other companies have tried to build a business on super-high-quality music and failed, such as MusicGiants; if nothing else, Young’s ambitious, high-profile effort should be the definitive test of whether there’s a market for this.

And it’s not just about the player and whatever music will be available at launch. He talks about, well, just about every song eventually being available for Pono: “The goal is to keep doing it until we’ve got it all—get the new stuff out there and the older stuff that’s still available to get.”

Young calls music “a window to the soul” and “a reflection of civilization.” Sounding like an archivist as much as a purveyor of hardware and software, he says that Pono’s mission “is to create an ecosystem that preserves the history of music for the world in its highest possible form. It’s something that the technological era we live in, the 21st century tech, is capable of delivering.”

“We wouldn’t have a museum where people listened to Frank Sinatra on MP3. It’s the 21st century’s most obvious idea.”

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Officials Charge Suspect for Dropping Suspicious Bags Near Boston Marathon Finish Line

Tue, 04/15/2014 - 21:00

Updated 2:40 a.m. E.T. on Wednesday

Authorities have charged a male suspect with disturbing the peace, possessing a hoax device and disorderly conduct after he left two unattended backpacks near the Boston Marathon finish line Tuesday, the Boston Police Department announced:

#BPDPublicSafetyAlert: #BPD confirming a male suspect in custody in connection to the unattended backpacks found at the Finish Line.—
Boston Police Dept. (@bostonpolice) April 16, 2014

Police evacuated the area Tuesday evening, and a bomb squad was called to investigate the scene. According to local news reports, one of the backpacks was allegedly left by a barefoot man shouting “Boston strong” before police removed him from the area.

Police spokesman David Estrada said there did not appear to be any evidence that the bags were explosive or dangerous but that police take reports of unattended bags very seriously, the Boston Globe reports. A nearby train station was also shut down.

The discovery of the bags occurred exactly one year after a bombing of the 2013 Boston Marathon killed three people and injured 264 others.

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Ukraine Is Not Ready for the Consequences of Taking Russia’s Military Bait

Tue, 04/15/2014 - 20:50
MoreWhite House Backs Ukraine’s Eastern OffensiveNot Even the Threat of War in Europe Can Unite the E.U.Ukraine Powerless to Act as East Slips Under Russian Control

Like many of the leading men in Ukraine’s new military pecking order, Petr Mekhed wasn’t exactly ripe for the task of fending off a Russian invasion when he assumed the post of Deputy Defense Minister in February. His last tour of combat duty was about 30 years ago, during the Soviet war in Afghanistan, after which he reached the rank of colonel in the Red Army. When revolution in Ukraine broke out this winter, his wartime experience made him better equipped than most at defending the barricades of the Maidan protest camp in the center of Kiev. But it was not as useful in preparing him to lead his country into war. “For some issues I’ve had to sit down with a book and study up,” he says.

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His conclusion so far is an unsettling one for Ukraine’s political leaders. If they want to find a way out of their conflict with Russia, which edged closer on Tuesday to military confrontation in the eastern region of Donetsk, they have only one way to do it, Mekhed says, and that is to negotiate. “We’ll never get anywhere through the use of military force,” he tells TIME. It would be much more effective to undercut Russia’s support for the local separatists by meeting them halfway, Mekhed suggests, with an offer of more autonomy for Ukraine’s eastern regions. “Our chances of saving Donetsk are now in the hands of our politicians and their ability to sit down with the people there and talk to them.”

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But those politicians don’t seem to agree. On Tuesday morning, Ukraine’s interim President, Oleksandr Turchynov, launched the first military action against the pro-Russian gunmen who seized parts of Donetsk over the weekend. The assault, which the central government in Kiev termed an antiterrorist operation, reportedly involved more than a dozen armored personnel carriers, as well as helicopters and military trucks that faced off against 30 gunmen for control of an airport near the town of Kramatorsk.

So was Ukraine ready for that kind of standoff? Maybe. But some of its top military and intelligence officials highly doubt it that it is ready for the likely fallout, and whatever support Tuesday’s operation garnered from the White House will probably not translate into much military assistance from the West. More likely, it will provoke a Russian counterstrike, not from the small group of Russian special forces who have apparently been leading the separatists in Donetsk, but from the full weight of the Russian military. That would mean game over pretty quickly for Ukraine.

So far, its leaders seem to be enjoying their taste of victory. When reports came back to Kiev that Tuesday’s operation was a success — that the Ukrainian forces had managed to repel the separatist attack on the airport — Turchynov made a self-congratulatory statement to parliament. “I’m convinced that there will not be any terrorists left soon in Donetsk and other regions and they will find themselves in the dock — this is where they belong,” he said.

That did not go over well with Vladimir Putin. In a phone call on Tuesday night with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, the Russian President said the crisis in eastern Ukraine had “sharpened drastically” and stressed that the world “must clearly condemn these anticonstitutional actions.” The world, of course, did no such thing, nor has it done much to help Ukraine prepare for what’s likely coming.

In early March, when Russia had just begun its military occupation of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula, Mekhed, a small, soft-spoken man with silver hair and a slight stutter, made his first official visit to Brussels to hold talks with the NATO alliance. He had no illusions about any of the Western powers coming to Ukraine’s defense, but he held out hope for some help with communications and intelligence. “We have problems with figuring out what forces are where,” he said, referring to the Russians. “On top of that, our weapons systems are by and large tied up with Russia, with cooperation with Russia.”

That makes upgrading those systems extremely difficult for Ukraine. In recent years, its military infrastructure has been “systematically destroyed” through the neglect, corruption and malfeasance of Ukraine’s former leaders, says Mekhed, but bringing them back to working order would require buying up spare parts from Russia, which Moscow has unsurprisingly refused to sell.

On Tuesday afternoon, a few hours before the clashes near the airport, the Russian Defense Ministry announced that it was suspending all military supplies to Ukraine. “May I remind you that Russia has committed not to provide, or to show restraint in providing, weapons to conflict zones,” Russia’s Deputy Minister of Defense Anatoly Antonov said in a statement explaining the decision. (His caveat about “restraint” was apparently meant to make room for Russia’s ongoing sale of weapons to Syria during its civil war.)

In those conditions, Ukraine would be unable to repair much of its military hardware even if it had help from NATO; none of the members of that alliance use or produce the kind of kit that Ukraine needs. “The spare parts all come from Russia,” says Mekhed. “So we have to find new markets to find similar equipment to arm our troops, and not only weapons, but also training of the servicemen before we can put those weapons on the battlefield.”

That would take months or years, not to mention billions of extra dollars that Ukraine’s nearly bankrupt economy cannot spare. It is already having enough trouble with the relatively faster and cheaper task of bringing its intelligence services up to scratch. Much like the weakness of its military, Ukraine’s failures in the field espionage have a lot to do with its fraternal ties to Russia. “We even have an agreement on the books that forbids our [military intelligence] agencies from working against each other,” says Igor Smeshko, who served as head of Ukraine’s State Security Service from 2003 to 2005. “We could never have imagined that our Russian brothers would ever fight a war against us,” he says. “We could never have thought that just when we’d been bloodied from fighting our own tyranny here at home, that we would get a knife in the back from the Russians.”

In retrospect, that abundance of trust looks painfully naive, but it goes far in explaining why Ukraine let its intelligence work lapse in recent years, particularly near the border with Russia. That mistake has left it particularly ill equipped to deal with the current phase of the conflict with Russia. Over the past few days, the troops who have been seizing police stations and other government buildings borne all the hallmarks of Russian special forces who have removed the insignia from their uniforms — the same tactic Russia used during its conquest of Crimea.

The most effective way for Ukraine to counter that kind of semiclandestine invasion, says Smeshko, would be to deploy small, mobile teams of special-operations troops, the kind that Ukraine’s intelligence services should have at their disposal, to isolate and arrest the Russian saboteurs. “Only special forces can go up against special forces,” he says.

Instead, the government in Kiev seems to be employing a mix of Interior Ministry police and military troops, and on Tuesday morning, it also sent its first batch of national guard volunteers, with little or no apparent training, to help fight separatism in eastern Ukraine. “The troops have a high fighting spirit,” said Andrey Parubiy, the head of Ukraine’s National Security and Defense Council, in dispatching them to the east. “It’s not easy over there,” he wrote on his Facebook page. “But I’m sure we will win, because with us is God and Ukraine.” (Before assuming one of his country’s most senior military posts in February, Parubiy had zero military experience of any kind other than his work protecting the protest camp in Kiev this winter. His Russian counterpart, Nikolay Patrushev, is a hardened 17-year veteran of the KGB who oversaw Russia’s scorched-earth conquest of Chechnya in 1999–2000.)

The mismatched forces now facing off in eastern Ukraine also present a potential risk to the locals. In the past few days, the pro-Russian separatist troops have proved adept at blending in among mobs of civilians, who have done the heavy lifting in the occupation of numerous government buildings across Donetsk. The military forces Ukraine has now sent to evict them are not trained to pick out the organizers of those attacks from among the throngs they use. “And that is the one thing our strategic opponent is waiting for, a picture of mass bloodshed,” says Smeshko.

Considering how little room for error Ukraine has in this operation, Mekhed should perhaps feel lucky to be focusing on a different part of the battlefield. Russia’s annexation of Crimea left thousands of Ukrainian servicemen marooned on that suddenly foreign peninsula, and Mekhed has been in charge of securing their return to mainland Ukraine. At the briefing he gave to reporters on Tuesday in Kiev, he focused mostly on all that this effort entails, such as the purchase of sleeping bags, sleeping mats and camouflage netting for all the displaced troops.

“We have to evacuate all of our servicemen and equipment from Crimea, to save what we could salvage from there, to set up new garrisons, and all of that is a whole lot of work,” he told me after the briefing at a Kiev hotel. “So believe me, Russia’s actions have already set us back years.” And that may just be the beginning.

Categories: Magazines

Miley Cyrus Cancels Concert After Hospitalization

Tue, 04/15/2014 - 20:10

Miley Cyrus canceled a concert in Kansas City, Mo. on Tuesday after being hospitalized, a spokeswoman said.

Cyrus, 21, had a severe allergic reaction to antibiotics. A statement from Cyrus’ publicist reported that the “Wrecking Ball” singer is on “medical rest” at the advice of her doctors.

She sent emoji-filled tweets to fans saying she was in “good care” thanks to some “amazing” doctors.

Kansas I promise Im as

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NYPD Nixes Muslim Spy Unit

Tue, 04/15/2014 - 19:49

The New York Police Department has shuttered a program designed to spy on Muslim communities, the department announced on Tuesday.

The surveillance initiative, which began in 2003 and was once known as the Demographics Unit, sent detectives into neighborhoods with Muslim populations to eavesdrop on conversations and record detailed information about where and how Muslims spent their time. The decision to end the program signifies a reevaluation of the department’s post-9/11 intelligence policies by new commissioner William J. Bratton, the New York Times reports.

The department’s activities attracted both criticism from the FBI and civil rights organizations as well as multiple federal lawsuits.

“The Demographics Unit created psychological warfare in our community,” Linda Sarsour of the Arab American Association of New York told the Times. “Those documents, they showed where we live. That’s the cafe where I eat. That’s where I pray. That’s where I buy my groceries. They were able to see their entire lives on those maps. And it completely messed with the psyche of the community.”

The NYPD has admitted that its tactics never generated a lead about possible terrorist activity.

[NY Times]

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The Devil Dogs Turn Pavlovian

Tue, 04/15/2014 - 19:31

The top enlisted Marine called for a little bit of sacrifice by his fellow devil dogs last week that has set off a firestorm that’s still raging. Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., asked Sergeant Major Micheal Barrett what would be the impact of slowing the rate of growth in military compensation. He responded:

Marines don’t run around and ask and what’s on their mind is compensation, benefits or retirement and modernization. That’s not on their minds…Hey, you know what? Out of pocket, you know what, I truly believe it will raise discipline and it’ll raise it because you’ll have better spending habits, you won’t be so wasteful.

The independent Marine Corps Times newspaper lit the fuze with its headline on a story about the decorated combat vet’s comments:

Sgt. Maj. of the Marine Corps Barrett: Less pay raises discipline

That led him to issue a clarifying letter:

Recent reporting of my testimony may have left you with a mistaken impression that I don’t care about your quality of life and that I support lower pay for servicemembers. This is not true.

In fact, despite the headline, no one is talking about cutting troops’ pay. But like Pavlov’s dogs—trained to salivate at the ringing of a bell—some troops pounce at any suggestion of scaling back military compensation.

“If you consider the benefits military members exorbitant like the Sgt Maj does that’s your right, bought and paid for with the blood of the millions you think are overpaid,” said one commenter who said he earned $40,000, including combat pay, for the year he spent in Sarajevo during the Balkan wars. “It boggles my mind that anyone can justify that as well compensated considering I was working minimum 13 hr days at that time, living in a shared space with 17 other guys sharing a single bathroom and even in a fairly friendly (as war zones go) environment was shot at twice and almost stepped on a landmine,” he said. “Pardon me if I have a tough time considering that equal to managing a Kinko’s, working as an intern or selling cars.”

“Enlisted troops are rather well compensated for their education/experience level,” a second poster noted. “Not saying they deserve a pay cut by any means, but for someone in their early 20s to gross 45-55 thousand a year is nothing to sneeze at.”

“Enlisted troops are paid better than some civilian counterparts,” a third countered. “But the fact their life is on the line, there isn’t enough pay. If you didn’t serve, shut the heck up!”

A common theme among posts by readers of the Times story is that those who didn’t serve in uniform don’t have the bona fides to discuss military compensation. That, of course, is what has happened on Capitol Hill. With fewer veterans in Congress, lawmakers—perhaps feeling just a tad guilty—routinely have boosted annual military pay raises beyond what their commanders and Pentagon civilians have recommended.

Last month, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said he wants to take the $2.1 billion a year saved by modest trims in compensation and invest it in training and weapons. Those are the changes Barrett was discussing. Here’s what Hagel said:

We need some modest adjustments to the growth in pay and benefits…First, we will continue to recommend pay raises. They won’t be substantial as in the past years—as substantial—but they will continue. Second, we will continue subsidizing off-base housing. The 100% benefit of today will be reduced, but only to 95%, and it will be phased in over the next several years. Third, we are not shutting down any commissaries. We recommend gradually phasing out some subsidies, but only for domestic commissaries that are not in remote locations. Fourth, we recommend simplifying and modernizing our three TRICARE programs by merging them into one TRICARE system, with modest increases in co-pays and deductibles for retirees and family members, and encourage using the most affordable means of care. Active-duty personnel will still receive health care that is entirely free.

The firefight suggests just how tough it is going to be to tame military spending. After all, the Marines have the largest share of first-termers among the four services, many of whom stay for only a single four-year hitch before moving on with their lives. If words from the senior enlisted leatherneck can set off such a storm among his troops, it’s likely to be even tougher to convince soldiers, sailors and airmen that they may be forced to relax their webbed belts a little more slowly than they had planned.

But this shouldn’t come as much of a surprise. The fealty the nation has shown its warriors since 9/11 has put it into this predicament. Granted, it is impossible to place a price on the blood U.S. troops have shed on behalf of the 99% of the citizenry who elected not to serve, nor on the mental wounds more than a decade of war has inflicted on many of them.

But it’s also true that U.S. troops—all volunteers—earn more than 90% of their civilian counterparts with similar education and experience.

“In my 33 years, I have never seen this level of quality of life ever—we have never had it so good,” Barrett told the Senate panel. “If we don’t get a hold of slowing the growth, we will become an entitlements-based, a health-care-provider-based corps, and not a warfighting organization.” Those are words you often hear in private, but rarely out in the open.

In some quarters, the military is increasingly sounding less like a service, and more like a guild.

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Study: New Technique Predicts Consciousness of Brain-Damaged Patients

Tue, 04/15/2014 - 18:58

End-of-life questions are complicated by the uncertainty of whether a patient in a deep vegetative state will ever regain consciousness or recover, and doctors have been baffled by patients who they thought were all but dead coming back to life after an extended period of unconsciousness.

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For those cases where patients do seem to wake from the dead, it’s most likely that they were in a minimally conscious state, where there is some awareness or response to stimuli. Such patients have a better chance of recovery than those in a vegetative state, where there are no signs of awareness or response to stimuli.

Diagnosing consciousness is tricky; oftentimes brain activity can be observed, but that doesn’t necessarily translate into consciousness on the part of the patient. The most well-known and standard test for determining awareness is the Coma Recovery Scale-Revised (CSR-R), a behavioral test. Now researchers have discovered that a particular type of brain imaging, positron emission tomography, may be able to determine which vegetative patients will recover.

In a study out Tuesday, scientists looked at 126 patients who had experienced severe brain damage. Researchers from the University of Liége in Belgium tested whether using PET with the imaging agent fluorodeoxyglucose (FDG) or another imaging technique called functional MRI (fMRI) could distinguish between a vegetative and a minimally conscious state.

Overall, the FDG-PET combination was better than the fMRI method at distinguishing between the two states. FDG-PET was also 74% accurate at predicting recovery within the next year. Additionally, 12 of the patients in the study group who showed some brain activity on the FDG-PET scan were diagnosed by the CSR-R method as behaviorally unresponsive, but 9 of them later recovered some consciousness.

“We confirm that a small but substantial proportion of behaviourally unresponsive patients retain brain activity compatible with awareness,” says study leader Professor Steven Laureys from the University of Liége in Belgium.

But diagnosing consciousness through brain imaging is far from an exact science. It’s often unclear how to interpret brain activity. In 2011, researchers from the University of Western Ontario reported that they had successfully used an electroencephalogram (EEG) to record brain signals that suggested awareness in patients in a vegetative state. However, when a team of scientists from Weill Cornell Medical College tried to replicate their data a few years later, they discovered that the original researchers didn’t account for false-positives. When they went back over the data, accounting for interfering factors like muscle activity and EEG blips, they were unable to replicate the results.

What the study does indicate, though, is that PET may be needed for confirmation of consciousness. “Our findings suggest that PET imaging can reveal cognitive processes that aren’t visible through traditional bedside tests, and could substantially complement standard behavioural assessments to identify unresponsive or ‘vegetative’ patients who have the potential for long-term recovery,” Laureys said in a statement.

Categories: Magazines

Calgary’s ‘Worst Mass Murder’ Leaves 5 Students Dead

Tue, 04/15/2014 - 18:54

A 23-year-old man will likely face murder charges after allegedly stabbing and killing five University of Calgary students at a party Tuesday.

After arriving at a party shortly after midnight on Tuesday, the suspect — who was an invited guest and is a also a student at the university — allegedly targeted other students individually, according to Calgary Police Chief Rick Hanson. “The suspect arrived at the party, obtained a large knife and targeted the victims one by one, stabbing them,” said Hanson.

Calling the incident “the worst mass murder in Calgary’s history,” the chief identified the arrested suspect as Matthew de Grood, a University of Calgary student.

Hanson said de Grood had no prior history with the police and was likely not under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the time. Police believe he brought a weapon directly from his place of work to the party, but used knife found at the party to stab his victims.

“The suspect arrived at the party, obtained a large knife and targeted the victims one by one, stabbing them,” Hanson said.

The victims were four males and one female. Two of them have been identified as Josh Hunter and Zackariah, members of the Calgary band Zackariah and the Prophets, which just put out a debut album on Saturday.


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