Facebook is getting “aggressive” about tagging people in photos posted on the social networking site. Its facial-recognition software, with the creepy name DeepFace, is going through the massive archive of photos and identifying people.
And the software is good at it.
In fact, DeepFace is now “as accurate as a human being at a few constrained facial recognition tasks,” according to Science.
If you don’t want to be tagged in a photo, say an old photo from your carefree college days, Facebook will tag it for you.
“They’re going back to older photos,” said CNET’s Dan Ackerman, and tagging anyone the software recognizes. And it recognizes a lot of people. That’s because the more photos uploaded of the same people, the better the software gets at recognizing faces that pop up over and over again. And users upload some 400 million new photos a day. That’s a lot of learning.
“It knows other people you know, it knows their faces,” Ackerman added. “It has a lot of examples of those faces. That’s how facial recognition works; it needs a bunch of different samples to be able to guess at what it is.”
There is a way to turn it off, but “Facebook doesn’t tend to make that particularly easy.”
Republished with permission from MEMRI
Egyptian TV Host Ibrahim Issa: Nobody Dares to Admit That ISIS Crimes Are Based on Islamic Sources.
ON TV (Egypt) – February 3, 2015
If you’re concerned about the growing cultural propensity for voyeurism, some help is on the way.
Now that drones are widely available for public purchase and use, noflyzone.org lets you establish a no-snoop area over your property.
According to TechCrunch, “a number of drone hardware and software firms have already promised to honor your request. Among the partners in this effort are EHANG (the company behind the Ghost drone), Horizon Hobby, DroneDeploy, YUNEEC, HEXO+, PixiePath and RCFlyMaps.”
Not all the drone manufacturers are on board yet, but noflyzone.org is reaching out to them.
Using NoFlyZone, home owners can register their address and create a geofence around their property. Oddly enough, though, you don’t have to prove that you own a specific property.
If you’re worried that Amazon’s future drone army will not be able to deliver Amazon purchases to your home, never fear.
And don’t worry if you want to sign up now, but still want Amazon’s delivery drones to be able to drop off orders in the future. The company website explains that airspace over private land will become “customisable” when delivery drones become available.
The no-fly scheme follows “rules laid out by the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), which restricts drones from flying over the White House.” Airspace and military bases are also off-limits.
Can the bar get any lower for humanity where “selfless” are concerned?
Ray Mangan, a 16 year old, was found with a fatal gunshot wound in his home on February 4. His funeral was held yesterday.
Maxwell Morton, also 16 yearsold, was arrested and charged with criminal homicide.
Police say they identified Morton through a selfie he took. They say the picture shows Morton next to Mangan’s body, which authorities found in the same position and condition.
According to the Associated Press, Morton “sent a cellphone selfie that also showed another teen he had just fatally shot in the face, sitting in a chair, investigators said in court papers charging the teen.”
How did the police find out about the selfie?
Investigators zeroed in on Morton after the mother of a third boy called police a day after the shooting to report that Morton had sent her son the picture with Mangan’s lifeless body in the background.
The photo “depicted the victim sitting in the chair with a gunshot wound to the face,” which, police said, is how Mangan’s mother found her son when she returned home at about 6 p.m. that day. The Snapchat photo had the name Maxwell at the top, and Morton also sent the same boy text messages saying, “Told you I cleaned up the shells” and “Ryan was not the last one,” according to the criminal complaint.
This is what happens when one’s narcissism trumps one’s psychopathy.
Morton was charged with first-degree murder.
A Brazilian woman deflected a bullet thanks to her under wire bra, according to the Daily Mail. Ivete Medeiros was hit by a bullet when she exited a supermarket to check out some kind of commotion outside. (Probably not the greatest idea.)
Surveillance video shows her being assisted as her husband calls for help. She was relieved not to see any blood — but then felt “a little burning sensation” and found the round stuck in her bra.
Medeiros showed reporters where the bullet was stopped by the under wire.
This isn’t the first time a bra has stopped a bullet. “In 2009, the underwire of a Detroit woman’s bra deflected a bullet fired during a break-in at a neighbor’s home, the Associated Press reported.”
No word on what brand of bra Medeiros was wearing.
From Al-Aqsa TV (Hamas/Gaza) – January 23, 2015
The music industry’s elite went home from the Grammys with a fancy swag bag filled with $25,000 worth of loot. Nominees, presenters and performers will took home a treasure chest of freebies the other 99% can only dream about.
Distinctive Assets has hosted the Grammy Gift Lounge and packaged the accompanying gift bag for 16 years now.
Some of the more impressive contents:
A $69 pillow for frequent travelers from NapAnywhere
A $109 Activity tracker from Polar Loop
$150-$350 designer sunglasses from Marchon
$210 worth of MyntSmile porcelain veneer toothpaste ($210 toothpaste!?!?!)
$275 of Dorco’s Razors
A $300 car shaped purse from Braccialini
A $300Necklace from SIS by Simone I. Smith
3 fitness sessions with expert trainer Lalo Fuentes worth $300
$500 in Sean Jean Clothes
$500 in aromatherapy and nutritional consultation with acupuncturist Heather Loundsbury
$800 custom candy buffet by Candy Vixen
$1,100 of branded Gibson Guitars
$1,200 of Healing Saint products from Wellness 360
A $14,500 luxury rail trip through the Canadian Rockies
Secretary of State John Kerry appeared on Meet the Press on Sunday and told Chuck Todd he’s not ruling out a run.
Todd: “Is there any scenario that you would run for president in 2016?”
Kerry: ”I have no scenario whatsoever in my mind. I haven’t thought about it. As you can tell, I’m pretty busy.”
Todd : (laughs) ”I know. Is it a never say never?
Kerry: ”Well, nobody says never. But I’m not — never — I have no concept of it.”
These guys might have something to say about that:
Reprinted with permission from MEMRI.
Following ISIS’s execution of Jordanian pilot Mu’adh Al-Kasasbeh by burning him alive, Hamas and its leaders condemned the act, but also took the opportunity to express their principled objection to foreign intervention in the region and to foreign military action against Muslims, and to the cooperation of Arab countries with such intervention. They held Jordan responsible for the death of the pilot due to its participation in the anti-ISIS coalition alongside Western countries. One official even said explicitly that it was forbidden to “help the enemies of Allah against the believers.”
Fatah’s spokesman, in response, compared Hamas to ISIS and the Taliban.
The following are excerpts from some Hamas responses:
A statement issued by Hamas following the pilot’s execution said: “We condemn all forms of murder and violence against members of the Arab and Muslim nation.”
Hamas PLC member Sheikh Salem Salama said that Jordan was responsible for the pilot’s death, “because it sent its army to Syria to assist the Syrian regime against the rebels, [thus intervening in] a war that it shouldn’t have entered. [Jordan] should have taken a stance similar to Turkey’s. ISIS members are Muslims, and it is forbidden to help the enemies of Allah against the believers.” Another Hamas PLC member, Yahya Moussa, responded to the execution on his Facebook page with the words “savageness, backwardness, cruelty and barbarity,” but added that the ones responsible for Al-Kasasbeh’s death were “the political leadership that sent [him], as well as the Obama administration and the corrupt Arab regimes.”
Yahya Moussa’s Facebook post (Facebook.com/yahia.mousa.200?fref=ts, February 3, 2015)
Senior Hamas official Salah Al-Bardawil took a similar position. On the one hand, he condemned the murder, stating that “burning the pilot contravenes Islam; moreover the act and its publication can hurt Islam and the Muslims and blacken their image. The major winners are the ummah’s enemies, chiefly Israel.” He added that the pilot’s captors could have freed him or exchanged him (for prisoners they wanted released). On the other hand, he clarified: “We in Hamas are firmly opposed to any intervention by Western countries in Arab states, and believe that it can set the region ablaze and feed religious and sectarian conflicts, and that the Arab nations will [be the ones] paying the price.”
Fatah spokesman Jamal Nazzal condemned the statements by the Hamas PLCs members who had imposed responsibility on Jordan, saying that the religion of Hamas, ISIS, the Taliban and other organizations involved in the murder of Muslims and Arabs is like a tree that is diseased, root and branch.
 Palinfo.com, February 4, 2015.
 Raya.ps, February 4, 2015.
 Palinfo.com, February 4, 2015.
 Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), February 5, 2015.
If you have the cash, the noose used to hang Saddam Hussein can now be yours.
Ex-Prime Minister Mowaffak Al-Rubaie has put the item up for sale more than eight years after he witnessed Hussein hanged in 2006. An unidentified senior Iraqi political official told the Middle East news site Al-Araby al-Jadeed this week that several individuals from Israel, Iran and Kuwait are vying to purchase the rope — with one making a $7 million bid.
How much exactly is the noose worth? It’s hard to say but Al-Rubaie is hoping for more than the current $7M bid.
He obtained the noose after “after they cut Saddam down,” he told The Independent.
There has been no comment from the Iraqi government about the sale, but local law enforcement say any money made from the noose’s sale must go to the state’s treasury.
Reprinted with permission from MEMRI.
A communiqué issued February 4, 2015, by the Islamic State’s (ISIS) General Security Bureau announces that the organization offers a reward to anyone killing or wounding a Jordanian pilot and thereby preventing him from taking part in airstrikes against the Islamic State. Appended to the communiqué is a list of Jordanian pilots allegedly supplied by the captured pilot Mu’adh Al-Kasasbeh before he was burned alive. Muslims in Jordan and Syria are urged to attack these pilots or alternatively provide information on their whereabouts.
The following are the main points of the communiqué, which was posted on the Twitter account of an ISIS media operative:[i]
The communiqué begins with Koranic verses (Al-Tawbah 14-15): “Fight against them so that Allah will punish them by your hands and disgrace them and give you victory over them and heal the breasts of the believers, and remove the anger of the believers’ hearts. Allah accepts the repentance of whom He wills. Allah is All-Knowing, All-Wise.”[ii] It then states: “The Islamic State’s Shura Council offers a reward to anyone killing or wounding a Jordanian pilot and preventing him from flying as part of the Crusader coalition that is attacking Muslims in the Islamic State”. The communiqué specifies that the reward is 100 gold dinars in Islamic State currency, or the equivalent in any currency the recipient prefers. It notes that the Islamic State is willing to dispatch the sum to any location selected by the recipient, provided he demonstrates he has met all the conditions for receiving the money.
Appended to the communiqué is a list of 52 Jordanian pilots whose names were allegedly supplied by Al-Kasasbeh. The list specifies the pilots’ addresses, ranks and jobs. Among those named are Zaid ‘Ali Naqrash, commander of the Muwaffak Al-Salti Airbase, as well as Jamal Jabour Al-Mardini, who is mentioned by Al-Kasasbeh in the execution video as the fellow pilot who alerted him to the fact that his plane had been hit by a missile. The communiqué urges all Muslims in Jordan and Syria to attack the pilots on the list or at least provide useful information that would help reach them.
[i] Twitter.com/GAREB105, February 5, 2015.
[ii] The title of ISIS’s video documenting Al-Kasasbeh’s execution, “Healing the Breast of the Believers”, as also taken from this verse. On this video, see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 5952, “Video Shows Islamic State (ISIS) Execute Captured Jordanian Pilot By Burning Him Alive,” February 3, 2015.
Residents of Seattle will now be able to purchase their pot from vending machines.
The machines are not dispersed throughout the city, as traditional vending machines selling soda or candy are. They are located inside the Seattle Caregivers medical marijuana dispensary and “can only be used by people who are at least 21, with valid ID and medical authorization.”
Information on the back of buyer’s driver’s licenses are used to verify age. (Attention marijuana vending machine users: the government now has a record of your marijuana purchases and they are tied to your driver’s license. Something to think about.)
Once you put in your ID, you can choose from any number of products on the touch screen display, from cold pot-infused drinks to edibles and vacuum-sealed containers of marijuana.
“You’re swiping your ID, we’ve got a variety of different ways we can check that ID against who’s standing in front of the machine. And as we like to say, if there’s any doubt, no cannabis comes out,” said Stephen Shearin with American Green.
Additionally, there are cameras that will scan your face to make sure it matches with your identification and a “weight sensing mat” to make sure the the buyer is the same person on the driver’s license.
As of now, only a few machines are in Seattle but manufacturers are optimistic there will soon be “hundreds.”
The days are over when women would bring pictures of celebrities to plastic surgeons and ask for a nose like this one or lips like that one. Now the rage is bringing your Instagrammed or photoshopped images to a doctor and asking for a nip and tuck.
“This is a huge trend,” says Upper East Side surgeon Dr. Elie Levine. “People are bringing in pictures of themselves taken at a favorite angle or filtered, and saying they want to look like that.”
It’s an expensive endeavor. “Central Jersey mom Geri Hubner says she became obsessed with her growing wattle after staring at photos from her daughter’s wedding. She started using photo filters but then came to the ultimate real-world conclusion: ‘I wanted to look like that all the time,’ says Hubner, 56.” For between $10-20K, she went under the knife.
Another woman, Nancy Chacon, 32, “showed her best face on Instagram, using ‘either the Inkwell or Sutro filters, or the sepia tones, to hide blemishes.’ ” She said: “I decided I wanted people to see that person in person.”
The American Academy of Facial Plastic and Reconstructive Surgery says there’s been a 33% bump in procedures driven by self-awareness from social media since 2013.
Dr. David Shafer, a midtown Manhattan plastic surgeon, said clients come in all the time for a “social media makeover.”
“They whip out their cellphones and start flipping through their pictures, saying, ‘I want to look like this all the time,’” he says.
“I only tell my closest, tightest girlfriends that I’m doing this. Everyone else thinks I just look really well-rested,” says Janet Ross, 47, from San Francisco, who relied on the Amaro filter to soften her selfies before Dr. Jonathan Kaplan used Belotero fillers to reduce the lines around her eyes and mouth.
The new trend is positive according to some. “Clients are not trying to look like a whole different person anymore,” says Dr. Andrew Miller, who is based in Edison, N.J. “We always stress taking what you have naturally and making it better. Otherwise, people can look really weird, with lips that are too big, a jawline that’s unreal.”
This MEMRI Report was reprinted with permission.
Following the immolation of the Jordanian pilot, Mu’adh Al-Kasasbeh, the Islamic State’s “Fatwa and Research Authority” issued a ruling which stated that burning non-Muslims alive “is completely permissible”.
The fatwa was distributed in the streets of Raqqa and also posted on February 3, 2015 on the Twitter account of an ISIS activists’ group called “Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently” (@Raqqa_SI). The following are translated excerpts from it:
“Q: What is the ruling on burning an infidel with fire until he dies?”
“A: The Hanafi and Shafi’i schools [of Islam] hold that burning is completely permissible. They interpreted the saying of the Prophet that ‘Only Allah shall torture with fire’ as [a call for] humility. [The scholar] Al-Muhallab said: ‘This ban is not [an actual] prohibition, but rather a means for [advocating] humility.’
“[Shafi'i scholar] Ibn Hajar, may Allah have mercy on him, said: ‘[This saying] indicates that it is permissibile to burn, as the Companions did. The Prophet blinded two men from ‘Arina [whom he judged to be apostates and criminals] with a branding iron. Khalid bin Al-Walid, [one of the Prophet's Companions], also burned apostates with fire.’
“Some scholars hold that burning with fire is essentially prohibited, but is permissible while acting in retribution, as the Prophat did with the two men of ‘Arina. He blinded them with an iron as an act of retribution, as is mentioned in authentic [hadith]. And this is the most prominent among the proofs.”
A proposal in Colorado that would increase warnings about smoking pot while pregnant is coming under fire because of “limited or inconclusive research on the dangers.”
Pot users in Colorado and Washington already receive warnings that the drug shouldn’t be used by pregnant and nursing women. But a Colorado bill facing its first hearing Tuesday proposes going further by requiring pot shops to post signs saying that maternal marijuana use poses risks to unborn children.
“It’s important to have notification that there is risk,” said Republican Rep. Jack Tate, sponsor of the bill.
The proposal is controversial for several reasons. Some pregnant women use marijuana to ease their nausea and an industry group worries the warnings don’t acknowledge the research on the topic is limited.
Tyler Henson, president of the Colorado Cannabis Chamber of Commerce, called the proposal “another attempt to discredit and ignore the popular public opinion of marijuana’s medicinal use.”
A new report this week out of Colorado notes “that marijuana’s psychoactive ingredient, THC, is passed to children through the placenta and breast milk. But the doctors who compiled the survey of existing research also noted that the health consequences of that THC exposure aren’t fully understood.”
The report, released on Monday, “reflected national conclusions on marijuana’s health risks.”
The National Institute on Drug Abuse says animal studies have suggested that smoking marijuana in pregnancy may harm brain development. But the institute also says more research is needed “to disentangle marijuana’s specific effects from other environmental factors, including maternal nutrition, exposure to nurturing/neglect, and use of other substances by mothers.”
Colorado requires marijuana to be labeled with the warning: “There may be additional health risks associated with the consumption of this product for women who are pregnant, breastfeeding or planning on becoming pregnant.”
The blockbuster movie American Sniper has been pulled from a theater in Baghdad, the only one in Iraq that has chosen to show the film.
The Washington Post reports the decision to pull the movie followed some “rowdy” screenings and complaints coming from movie goers and the Iraqi government.
“It glorifies Americans and makes Iraqis out to be nothing but terrorists,” said Ahmed Kamal, 27, a teacher, who downloaded the film for free on a pirate Web site because he didn’t want to pay to see a movie in which the hero refers to Iraqis as “savages.”
“I wasn’t prepared to spend money to see it,” he said. “It portrays Americans as strong and noble, and Iraqis as ignorant and violent.”
The theater’s manager said he scrapped the film after receiving a call from a senior official at the Ministry of Culture, who warned he could be hit with fines — and even a shut-down — if he continued to showcase the movie.
“He told me the film insults Iraqis,” Fares Hilal told the Washington Post. “If we show it, we will be criticized. But if we don’t, we lose money. A lot of people wanted to see this film.”
The movie chronicles the life of NavySEAL sniper Chris Kyle. Bradley Cooper plays Kyle and told CBS NewsL “I never saw it as a war movie, I saw it as a character study. So, I never even contemplated anything other than someone would get to know this man and his family.”
The film was nominated for six awards at the Oscars, including best picture.
This MEMRI Report was reprinted with permission and prepared by R. Green.
On February 1, 2015, the Palestinian daily Al-Hayat Al-Jadida published a cartoon by illustrator Mohammad Sabaaneh of a man with a heart-shaped shoulder bag standing in an aura of light atop the Earth and scattering droplets of light. The cartoon is titled “Our Master Muhammad” in Arabic and “Prophet Muhammad” in English.
As is well-known, Islamic law forbids any depiction whatsoever of the Prophet Muhammad or of any other prophet.
Mohammad Sabaaneh’s cartoon (Source: Al-Hayat Al-Jadida, PA, February 1, 2015)
The publication of the cartoon in a newspaper belonging to the Palestinian Authority (PA) sparked an uproar. The daily quickly removed the cartoon from its website and deleted the page from the PDF version. Two days after its publication, on February 3, the daily issued an apology: “Al-Hayat Al-Jadida apologizes to readers for a cartoon published Sunday, February 1, 2015, and completely rejects any suspicion or interpretation that the illustration is a depiction of the Prophets and Messengers. In its respect for the sanctity of the exalted divine religions and its professionalism, the newspaper has established a board of inquiry to investigate the published cartoon, whose interpretation is in doubt. This is in addition to [the newspaper's] announcement that its intent in publishing [the cartoon] was to defend religions and the message of love and peace.”
It should be mentioned that the cartoon appears neither on Sabaaneh’s social media accounts nor on websites that publish cartoons from Arab publications. Since February 1, Saba’aneh’s personal website has been offline.
PDF version of Al-Hayat Al-Jadida‘s February 1, 2015 issue with page 14 removed (Source: Alhayat-j.com, February 3, 2015)
The following are reactions to Al-Hayat Al-Jadida‘s publication of the cartoon:
Abbas: The Publication Of The Cartoon Must Be Investigated Immediately – And Steps Taken To Deter Further Such Incidents
The Palestinian news agency Wafa reported that PA President Mahmoud ‘Abbas had “ordered an immediate investigation of the publication of a cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad, peace be upon Him, in Al-Hayat Al-Jadida. ['Abbas] stressed the need to take measures to deter those who caused this grave error, emphasizing the need to defend the sacred religious symbols, chief among them the images of the Prophets and Messengers.” No additional details on the planned investigation were provided.
Sabaaneh: The Cartoon Does Not Depict Muhammad
In response to the outrage, on February 1, Sabaaneh posted a Facebook update stating that his cartoon’s only intention had been to defend Islam: “The aura in the form of a man represents the light and love with which our noble master Muhammad blessed the earth. The intention was not to draw our master Muhammad, peace be upon Him. The figure has no facial features or details, does not even look like our master Muhammad is presumed to have looked, and is not garbed in his robe or other garments. [The drawing] symbolically portrays Islam and its role in spreading light and love to all mankind.
“Since the onset of the attack on our master Muhammad and on Islam, I have believed that our role is more than to merely respond to every attack with another attack, [but rather is one of] defending the message of Islam and its Prophet. The attack on Islam and on our master Muhammad has shifted from the Charlie Hebdo newspaper to other websites and publications. Therefore, it is pointless to respond to every website and newspaper individually…
“The figure [in the cartoon] is a Muslim [man], not our master Muhammad. The Muslim yearns for the message of our master Muhammad, and the light surrounding him is the light of our master Muhammad, and the goodness spread [by the man] is Islam itself.”
Sabaaneh also posted on his Facebook page a number of his previous cartoons presenting Islam in a positive light. He said that he was “republishing them to defend Islam, and not to defend Mohammad Sabaaneh.”
In reaction to the publication of the cartoon, Jerusalem Mufti Muhammad Ahmad Hussein said that according to Islam, it is forbidden to publish “any drawing or visual depiction or portrayal of any Prophet, even with pure intent or in order to defend him.” He added that the cartoon’s caption “Our Master Muhammad” clearly indicates that it is he whom it depicts.
The Hamas ministry of religious endowments in Gaza took a grave view of the incident, calling for those responsible for “this great crime” to be held to account. A ministry statement condemned the newspaper and added that it was very serious matter for an Arab, Islamic, and Palestinian element to publish the cartoon, which enrages 1.5 billion Muslims around the world. It also called on the paper to apologize immediately and to ask God for forgiveness, because “this brazen and illegitimate step” helps “extremists” continue to insult Islam.
Support For Sabaaneh On Social Media: “No To The Policy Of Shutting Mouths”
On social media, Palestinians expressed support for Sabaaneh. Some accepted his explanation that the cartoon did not depict Muhammad himself; many praised Sabaaneh as a symbol of the struggle against Israel and as skillfully expressing in his cartoons the suffering of the Palestinians. Others attacked ‘Abbas’s decision to launch an investigation, saying that this violated free speech. One Twitter user tweeted: “No to the policy of shutting mouths.” Another tweeted: “Is free speech only for France and the French, Mr. President Abu Mazen?”
Islamic State (ISIS) Supporters Threaten Sabaaneh, Al-Hayat Al-Jadida
Following the publication of the cartoon, pro-Islamic State (ISIS) Palestinians called for killing Sabaaneh and Al-Hayat Al-Jadida publisher Nabil ‘Amr.
A February 3, 2015 post on the Jihadi Media Platform message board by ISIS supporter “Abu Mujahid Al-Ghazawi” (“the Gazan”) stated: “Where are you, men of the West Bank, when the Prophet is the subject of mockery?” He added: “The Palestinian murtad [i.e. apostate] Mohammad Sabaaneh mocked the Prophet, and then came out and said he supported the Prophet. By Allah, the only thing he deserves is beheading.”
Another forum member, “Muhammad bin ‘Abd Al-Wahhab,” stated that Al-Hayat Al-Jadida publisher Nabil ‘Amr, an ‘Abbas advisor, is a Christian, although he is actually a Muslim. He wrote: “The newspaper is owned by the Christian Palestinian Nabil ‘Amr, advisor to Baha’i Palestinian Mahmoud ‘Abbas on culture and media in the Palestinian Authority of Corruption.”
* R. Green is a Research Fellow at MEMRI.
 Al-Hayat Al-Jadida (PA), February 3, 2015.
 Wafa.ps, February 2, 2015.
 Facebook.com/Mohammad.Sabaaneh, February 2, 2015.
 Facebook.com/Mohammad.Sabaaneh, February 3, 2015.
 Pal24.net, February 3, 2015.
 Maan (PA), February 3, 2015.
 Twitter.com/NaderaAbuDubeyS, February 3, 2015.
 Twitter.com/hebaassaf2, February 3, 2015.
 Alplatformmedia.com, February 3, 2015.
 Alplatformmedia.com, February 3, 2015.
Lawmakers in Britain will vote on Tuesday whether or not to allow scientists to create a baby using the DNA of three people. The technique is controversial but could prevent children from inheriting deadly genetic diseases. Britain would be the first country in the world that allowed genetically modified embryos.
The techniques — which aim to prevent mothers from passing on inherited diseases — involve altering a human egg or embryo before transferring it into the mother. British law currently forbids any modification of embryos before they are transferred into a woman.
The government has already published rules about how the technique can be used. Dr. Sally Davies, the U.K’s chief medical officer ,wants to see the technique legalized “to give women who carry severe mitochondrial disease the opportunity to have children without passing on devastating genetic disorders.”
Obviously, the procedure has critics. They say that the genetic changes will be passed down from generation to generation and that an entire industry of “designer babies” could crop up.
“(This is) about protecting children from the severe health risks of these unnecessary techniques and protecting everyone from the eugenic designer baby future that will follow from this,” said David King, director of the secular watchdog group Human Genetics Alert.
The techniques, however would only be used in a handful of cases for women who have faulty mitochondria. “To fix that, scientists remove the nucleus DNA from the egg of a prospective mother and insert it into a donor egg, where the nucleus DNA has been removed. This can be done either before or after fertilization.”
The embryo that results would have the nucleus DNA from its parents but its mitochondrial DNA from a donor.
The U.S. is also considering this technique. The Food and Drug Administration met last year to discuss the possibility of its safety.
National Transportation and Safety Board investigators are reporting that taking “selfies” likely contributed to a deadly plane crash with two casualties last year.
The pilot, Amritpal Singh, and his passenger were killed near the Front Range Airport May 31, 2014. The Cessna 150 took off at around 12:30 a.m and was reported missing at 3:45 a.m. by family members. It was discovered around 7 a.m. that morning.
A GoPro camera was retrieved at the crash site and revealed that “Singh and his passenger were taking selfies with their cell phones during the flight.” The report said that the flash from the camera disoriented Singh and caused him to lose control of the plane.
The NTSB report states:
Based on the evidence of cell phone use during low-altitude maneuvering, including the flight immediately before the accident flight, it is likely that cell phone use during the accident flight distracted the pilot and contributed to the development of spatial disorientation and subsequent loss of control.
The report also reveals that the pilot had not met the requirements for flying at night with passengers.
The pilot’s loss of control and subsequent aerodynamic stall due to spatial disorientation in night instrument meteorological conditions. Contributing to the accident was the pilot’s distraction due to his cell phone use while maneuvering at low-altitude.
Pop star Beyonce will launch a new vegan delivery service with her trainer Marco Borges.
The company will be called 22 Days Nutrition, a reference to the claim that it takes 21 days to break a bad habit.
All meals will be 100% plant-based and delivered once a week. All ingredients will be non-GMO, gluten-free, soy-free, dairy-free and organic.
Prices will range from $9.76 to $16.50 each.
Business Insider reports that the Queen Bey has “dabbled” in veganism before. She and husband Jay-Z “famously” adopted a vegan diet for 22 days in the winter of 2013.
“All you have to do is try. If I can do it, anyone can,” Beyonce said in a press release.
“We all know the importance and value of eating plant-based foods but often times find ourselves trapped in a series of bad habits that sabotage optimum wellness,” says co-founder Borges. ”The Vegan Meal Delivery program makes it easier to reset your habits with healthy and delicious plant-based foods.”
Dishes include “sesame cabbage lentil bowl, ratatouille pasta with pesto, curried fried rice with vegetables, and an almond blueberry breakfast loaf.”
Reprinted with permission
On January 31, 2015, the Mashregh website, which is close to Iranian security circles, threatened that, in response to Israel’s targeting of Hizbullah and Iranian operatives, Hizbullah would assassinate one of three IDF commanders: Golani Brigade Commander Ghassan Aliyan, Home Front Command head Maj.-Gen. Eyal Eizenberg, or Bashan Division commander Colonel Yaniv Asor. 
It should be noted that following the death of Jihad Mughniyah, Mashregh and another Iranian website threatened that the sons of Israeli senior politicians, such as Benjamin Netanyahu, Ehud Olmert and Ariel Sharon, would be assassinated, as well as sons of IDF commanders.
 Mashreghnews.ir, January 26, 2015.http://www.memrijttm.org/iranian-website-threatens-hizbullah-is-entitled-to-avenge-israels-assassination-of-jihad-mughniya-no-son-of-the-zionist-commanders-is-safe-anywhere-in-the-world-with-netanyahu-family-photo.html
 See MEMRI JTTM report: “Iranian Website Threatens: Hizbullah Is Entitled To Avenge Israel’s Assassination Of Jihad Mughniya – ‘No Son Of The Zionist Commanders… Is Safe Anywhere In The World’ – With Netanyahu Family Photo,” January 22, 2015.
The Internet, Al-Aqsa TV (Hamas/Gaza) – January 2015 – 07:31
Strippers around the country have been fighting for improved working environments, some have formed unions and some have sued, but in Oregon the entertainers are working directly with state legislators.
“The hardest part about being a stripper is battling the stigma that we are victims that need help from outsiders,” said Elle Stanger, a stripper who’s been active in the movement. “It doesn’t matter if you work in education, clergy, any kind of blue collar work — the people who do the work know what the work environment needs.”
Stanger, who is also assistant editor of the local publication Exotic Magazine, says the conditions in many clubs are dismal.
“Some of the buildings are literally dilapidated and not maintained,” Stanger said. “You have entertainers that could injure themselves from broken glass on the stage, poor wiring with the sound system. We just want to get these workplaces up to a minimum safety standard at least.”
Not all club owners are bad — some take the dancers’ safety seriously. Claude DaCorsi, a club operator and president of the Oregon chapter of the Association of Club Executives, an industry association, said: “We’re here to protect and make safe environments for entertainers. They’re the reason we exist.”
The strippers are looking for improvements on several fronts.
Ideally, they want to see strip clubs comply with mandatory health and safety standards — clean stages, structurally sound poles, adequate security. But that could be a tough sell in the Legislature.
More realistically, they plan to push for a mandate that clubs display a poster outlining dancers’ rights with a hotline they can call to ask questions or report abuses. They want the hotline to be staffed by people with experience in the industry, not bureaucrats or law enforcement.
Strippers work as independent contractors. They pay a fee to the club and other support staff. As contractors, they do not get benefits or pay payroll taxes.
The local government has little control over the strip clubs. “Three times between 1994 and 2000, voters rejected constitutional amendments that would have allowed strip club crackdowns.”
That means the government can’t say where clubs can go, how much clothing dancers must wear or how close they’re allowed to get to customers. Strip clubs can’t be treated any differently than other places that serve food or alcohol.
One of the former stars of the Power Rangers TV show was arrested “on suspicion of fatally stabbing his roommate with a sword.”
Ricardo Medina was jailed on Sunday in the death of Joshua Sutter, Los Angeles County Sheriff’s officials said.
According to authorities, Medina and Sutter got into an argument Saturday afternoon. The argument turned into a fight.
They said Medina retreated to his bedroom with his girlfriend, but when Sutter forced his way into the room Medina grabbed a sword he kept near the door and stabbed his roommate in the abdomen.
Medina reportedly called 911 for help.
Medina played the red Power Ranger on Power Rangers Wild Force in 2002 and Deker on Power Rangers Samurai, for those that follow such things.
Delaware might become the first state in the nation to provide driver’s licenses motorists can keep on their cell phones.
On Thursday, the Delaware House of Representatives passed a resolution “pushing” the Department of Motor Vehicles to issue digital driver’s licenses.
Delaware is not the only state to consider going digital. Iowa announced last year a plan to put licenses on phones.
The [Delaware] resolution cites that “the State of Iowa plans to experiment with digital driver’s licenses in 2015,” as one of its reasons for the move and underscores that “Delaware, with its smaller population, may be in a better position to adopt new digital driver’s license technology.”
MorphoTrust is the license provider for both states and has been working on the digital driver’s license concept for some time.
In an interview earlier this month, MorphoTrust vice president Jenny Openshaw said, “We anticipated this shift a of couple years ago, and are pleased that this process has reached a stage today where we are talking with many of the 42 states that we supply with physical licenses about piloting the concept. Of course, Iowa is the state that is furthest down that road.”
The company is considering certain safeguards and security for the licenses such as biometrics, fingerprints and facial recognition.
The technology would be considered optional in Delaware — motorists could still care a physical license with them if they chose to do so.
A man wanted by law enforcement ordered a pizza in the middle of a four-hour SWAT team stand-off in Texas on Wednesday.
And it gets better.
Daniel Gurney ordered a first pizza Tuesday night, and the pizzeria manager recognized him as someone who had once used a bad credit card at the restaurant. The manager called the police to report the alleged fraudster and provided his address to law enforcement. When the cops looked Gurney up, they found that he had four probation violation warrants for aggravated assault.
Below a pic of pizza enthusiast Gurney:
Officers headed over to Gurney’s address around midnight.
Police said that an officer arrived to arrest Gurney, who did not cooperate. He tried to escape through the back door, but he was met by police. He then retreated into the house, refusing to come out.
Given Gurney’s violent history, police called in a SWAT unit. Authorities said they used beanbag rounds, tear gas and flash-bang grenades before Gurney surrendered peacefully.
During the stand-off, another pizza delivery man showed up with a pizza in hand for Gurney.
The police told the pizza man to leave.
A person wearing an abominable snowman costume was spotted wandering the streets of Boston in the middle of last night’s massive snow storm.
Below, the Yeti tries to hail a cab.
The Boston Yeti debuted mysteriously on Twitter at about 10 p.m. Monday and wandered the deserted streets of Somerville, a Boston suburb, around midnight, after a travel ban went into effect.
The Boston Yeti told ABC News “it was raised and educated by the woods.” The “Yeti’s” identity has not been revealed.
— Boston Yeti 2015 (@BostonYeti2015) January 27, 2015
— Boston Yeti 2015 (@BostonYeti2015) January 27, 2015
British researchers are trying to win approval from the Food and Drug Administration to release millions of genetically modified mosquitoes in the Florida Keys. The mosquitoes would be used to fight two “extremely painful viral diseases.”
“This is essentially using a mosquito as a drug to cure disease,” said Michael Doyle, executive director of the Florida Keys Mosquito Control District, which is waiting to hear if the Food and Drug Administration will allow the experiment.
Dengue and chikungunya are growing threats in the United States but people are terrified of being bitten by a Frankenstein-esque mosquito. More than 130,000 people signed a petition against the experimental insects.
Supporters of the project also think there needs to be a better job of showing the benefits outweigh the risks of the project.
“I think the science is fine, they definitely can kill mosquitoes, but the GMO issue still sticks as something of a thorny issue for the general public,” said Phil Lounibos, who studies mosquito control at the Florida Medical Entomology Laboratory.
Insecticides are sprayed around the Keys year-round to keep the disease at bay. But Aedes aegypti, the female insect responsible for carrying the disease, have evolved to be resistant to the pesticides.
A British biotech firm patented a method for breeding the insect that kills mosquito larvae.
Oxitec’s lab workers manually remove modified females, aiming to release only males, which don’t bite for blood like females do. The modified males then mate with wild females whose offspring die, reducing the population.
Oxitec has built a breeding lab in Marathon and hopes to release its mosquitoes in a Key West neighborhood this spring.
The FDA says there will be no test until the agency “thoroughly reviewed all the necessary information.”
The mosquitoes have already been tested in the Cayman Islands. “3.3 million modified mosquitoes were released over six months, suppressing 96 percent of the targeted bugs. Oxitec says a later test in Brazil also was successful, and both countries now want larger-scale projects.”
But critics say Oxitec did not get informed consent in the Caymans and residents weren’t informed they could be bitten by some stray females “overlooked” in the lab.
“I’m on their side, in that consequences are highly unlikely. But to say that there’s no genetically modified DNA that might get into a human, that’s kind of a gray matter,” said Lounibos.
One Key West resident isn’t buying Oxitec’s story when they made a presentation at a public meeting. She says neither disease has had a major outbreak yet in Florida, so “why are we being used as the experiment, the guinea pigs, just to see what happens?”
White House press secretary Josh Earnest said early Monday morning that a “device” described as a small drone was found on the grounds of the White House.
Early indications are the the device did not pose any kind of threat.
Asked about media reports to that effect, Earnest said the device that was found “doesn’t pose any ongoing threat” to the Obama family. The Secret Service is reportedly investigating.
President Obama and Michelle are traveling in India while their daughters, Sasha and Malia, are home at the White House with their grandmother.
The question arose during a lengthy news conference here about diplomatic talks with the Indian government and Obama’s trip later this week to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, to pay respects to the family of the late king during their mourning period.
Earnest initially said he did not know anything about the reports, but after checking his Blackberry he confirmed a device was found on White House grounds.
Several prominent Muslim American figures have offered to take 100 lashes on behalf of imprisoned blogger Raif Badawi, who was sentenced by Saudi Arabia to 1,000 lashes for insulting Islamic clerics.
In a letter to the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S., Robert P. George, a Princeton professor and vice chairman of the U.S. Commission on International Religious Freedom, and Dr. M. Zuhdi Jasser, president of the American Islamic Forum for Democracy, urged the immediate release of Badawi.
Badawai received the first round of his weekly floggings almost two weeks ago. The second round was postponed after doctors reported he had not recovered sufficiently to receive more lashes.
George and Jasser wrote in the letter that if Badawi is not released, they will volunteer to receive 100 lashes each. The letter included five other signatories: Mary Ann Glendon, of the Becket Fund for Religious Liberty, Daniel Mark, assistant professor of Department of Political Science at Villanova University, Hannah Rosenthal, CEO of the Milwaukee Jewish Federation, Eric Schwartz dean of the Humphrey School of Public Affairs at the University of Minnesota and, Katrina Lantos Swett, president of Lantos Foundation for Human Rights & Justice.
“Compassion, a virtue honored in Islam as well as in Christianity, Judaism, and other faiths, is defined as ‘suffering with another.’ We are persons of different faiths, yet we are united in a sense of obligation to condemn and resist injustice and to suffer with its victims, if need be,” the letter reads. “We therefore make the following request. If your government will not remit the punishment of Raif Badawi, we respectfully ask that you permit each of us to take 100 of the lashes that would be given to him.”
“We would rather share in his victimization than stand by and watch him being cruelly tortured. If your government does not see fit to stop this from happening, we are prepared to present ourselves to receive our share of Mr. Badawi’s unjust punishment,” the group said.
Badawi was arrested in 2012 after his blog writings insulted Islamic Clerics. He was cleared of apostasy, which would have involved a death sentence. Instead he was given 1,000 lashes and a 10 year prison term.
President Obama answered the questions of various YouTube celebrities yesterday. During an interview with Bethany Moto, he was asked: “If you have any free time, what TV shows or movies do you watch?”
To which Obama answered:
“You know, I’m really big on sports. The truth of the matter is, I’m mostly watching SportsCenter,” the president responded. “Whenever I’m working out at the gym if there’s a basketball or football game going on, I’m usually tuned in there.”
He was also asked what he wanted to be when he grew up. “I wanted to be a bunch of different things,” Obama said. “I wanted to be an architect for a long time.”
“I suppose in the back of my mind at some point I thought playing in the NBA would be great, being a basketball player. That ended I think around the age of 13 when I realized I wasn’t talented enough,” Obama also said.
CBS is reporting that an unidentified substance is killing hundreds of birds along the eastern shore of the San Francisco Bay. Scientists have ruled out fish and vegetable oil or petroleum as the culprit, but the mystery goo has yet to be identified.
“This is a true mystery. It has the consistency of rubber cement,” California Department of Fish and Wildlife Information Officer Andrew Hughan said.
The goo sticks to birds feathers preventing the birds from staying warm and causing hypothermia. More than 200 birds have been found dead and more than 300 are being treated at the International Bird Rescue.
A spokesman for the International Bird Rescue is also at a loss. “We have helped to manage oil spill events and other emergency events around the world, but this is a very difficult product,” she said.
Usually, the treatment for cleaning up birds after oil spills is Dawn dishwashing detergent, but that method isn’t working on the goo.
“We’re having to soften it, if you will, with first baking soda, into the feathers and then taking that off with some household vinegar,” the spokesman said.
The EPA has joined in the quest to determine what the mystery goo is but to no avail.
The International Bird Rescue is spending about $8,000 a day to nurse the birds back to health.
Police in a Mexican border town are reporting that a methamphetamine-filled drone has crashed into a supermarket parking lot.
A spokesman for the Tijuana police, Jorge Morrua, said they police were alerted when a drone fell on Tuesday night near the San Ysidro border crossing.
Six packets of the drug, weighing more than six pounds, were taped to the six-propeller remote-controlled aircraft. Morrua said authorities are investigating where the flight originated and who was controlling it. He said it was not the first time they had seen drones used for smuggling drugs across the border.
Other innovative methods of transporting drugs across the border include tunnels and catapults.
On Tuesday the Supreme Court ruled that a Muslim prisoner in Arkansas can grow a beard for religious reasons.
The justices said that inmate Gregory Holt could maintain a half-inch beard because Arkansas prison officials could not substantiate claims that the beard posed a security risk.
Holt sued, claiming he has a right to grow a beard under a federal law that protects prisoners’ religious rights. More than 40 other states allow prisoners to grow beards.
Holt is also known as Abdul Maalik Muhammad. He was backed by the Obama administration and religious groups. The Obama administration is very selective in its support of religious freedom, as they went to the Supreme Court to force private business owners to violate their religious beliefs and provide abortifacients to employees.
Justice Samuel Alito said in his opinion for the court that Arkansas can satisfy its security concerns in some other way when “so many other prisons allow inmates to grow beards while ensuring prison safety and security.”
Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who wrote the dissent in the Hobby Lobby case, remarked on her view of the differences between the two cases in a brief separate opinion Tuesday.
Holt, aka Muhammad, is serving a life sentence for a “brutal assault” on his girlfriend and is being held in a maximum security prison 80 miles outside Arkansas. “Holt argued in court papers that his obligation to grow a beard comes from hadiths, accounts of the acts or statements of the Prophet Muhammad. In one statement attributed to the prophet, Muslims are commanded to ‘cut the mustaches short and leave the beard.’ ”
The Military Times is reporting that almost 130,000 pages of declassified UFO documents are now available online.
You can thank John Greenewald, a UFO enthusiast who spent decades filing Freedom of Information Act requests. Greenewald posted declassified records from Project Blue Book — the U.S. Air Force’s records on alleged UFO and extraterrestrial sightings — on an online database.
The Air Force project was based out of Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio and ran from 1947 to 1969. Through the project, the Air Force amassed a total of 12,618 recorded sightings. Out of that total, 701 incidents remain “unidentified.” A University of Colorado report called the “Scientific Study of Unidentified Flying Objects” found that “there has been no evidence indicating that sightings categorized as ‘unidentified’ are extraterrestrial vehicles,” according to a 1985 Air Force fact sheet. Project Blue Book officially ended on Dec. 17, 1969.
The newly released documents do not shed any light on new UFO sightings, but conspiracy theorists are still fascinated. “People have this fascination when it comes to UFOs,” Greenewald told the New York Daily News. “We can have our speculation that it’s top secret, but we simply don’t know.”
One thing that might disappoint the hardcore UFO enthusiast is the “scant reference” to Roswell, New Mexico. Conspiracy theorists have claimed a UFO landing was covered up by the military in 1947.
“The Roswell location itself does make a few brief appearances in the files. The database includes a few blurry images of lights in the sky that were taken at the New Mexico location in 1949. Additionally, a 1950 document mentions airmen at Roswell reporting a “bluish-white” circular object 10 feet in diameter speed by at 8,000 feet.”