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Thu, 11 Feb 2016
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Flint water crisis: Hundreds of inmates given lead poisoned water, first official fired, scandals keep surfacing

© Rebecca Cook / Reuters
A Flint official involved in causing the city's water supply to be contaminated with high levels of lead has been fired, but scandals keep surfacing. An ex-prisoner says he served fellow Genesee County Jail inmates the poisonous stuff for months.

Liane Shekter-Smith was already demoted from her former position as head of the Michigan Department of Environmental Quality's Drinking Water and Municipal Assistance, but on Friday she became the first Flint official to be fired over the water crisis.

Comment: See also:
  • Dogs become latest victim of Flint water crisis
  • Nestle's ties to the Michigan water crisis
  • Health officials blasted at congressional hearing over handling of Flint water crisis


Dogs become latest victim of Flint water crisis

© Kham / Reuters
The Flint water crisis is expanding again. This time, however, the devastation is affecting man's best friend, as two dogs in Genesee County, Michigan have tested positive for lead toxicity, according to the state veterinarian.

The two dogs, both crossbreeds, are still alive, said Dr. James Averill, state veterinarian and Animal Industry Division Director for the Michigan Department of Agriculture and Rural Development. One dog is a pet, while the other is a stray.

The lead-toxicity test results were confirmed in October 2015 and January 2016, but state officials declined to release further details about the cases, including whether either or both of the pups live in Flint, the Detroit Free Press reported.

"The confidentiality of the owners is like medical information in humans," Averill said.

The two dogs are the first confirmed cases of lead toxicity in canines in the past five years, the Free Press reported citing state records.

It is unknown if the dogs drank Flint water, which has been contaminated since city officials sought to save money by switching the water source from Lake Huron to the Flint River ‒ now known to contain high levels of chloride ions ‒ in April 2014.

Soon after, Flint residents started complaining about their drinking water, and the city issued a number of boil notices that summer, following fears that fecal coliform bacteria was present in the water supply.

Comment: It is without question that any living being drinking this contaminated water could be harmed.


Obama (correctly) depicted as a murderous devil in downtown Moscow public video installation

A video depicting President Obama feasting on the souls of a half-million people was reportedly projected onto buildings in downtown Moscow early Friday along with a message calling for him to be tried in international court.

Video footage uploaded to YouTube shows a computer-generated version of Mr. Obama picking up little spheres colored in the national flags of several countries and placing them in his mouth.

The president's face gradually turns red and horns sprout from his head as he begins to chew and symbolically destroys the populations of Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, Ukraine and Libya.


How the Zika crisis highlights twisted and brazenly out of touch blind spots in reproductive health

Government responses to the current Zika emergency highlight failures of health policy both in America and abroad
© AP/Felipe Dana
In this Jan. 30, 2016 photo, Solange Ferreira holds Jose Wesley outside their house in Bonito, Pernambuco state, Brazil.
Last month, the World Health Organization declared the mosquito-borne Zika virus a "international health emergency." Though the virus doesn't harm most who get it, recent research suggests that Zika can cause serious damage to the brains of fetuses and, in rare instances, neurological problems in adults.

Since last spring, more than 20 countries have reported locally acquired cases of Zika. "The level of alarm is extremely high," said Dr. Margaret Chan, director general of the World Health Organization, in a speech in Geneva. Such alarmist language about the Zika virus is mostly focused on the implications on pregnant women and their fetuses, specifically on the purported link between the virus and microcephaly, a rare condition in which infants are born with abnormally small heads and damaged brains. Despite the fervor and worry, experts say it is too early to tell whether Zika is causing microcephaly in infants. Nonetheless, in response to the increase in Zika cases, the government of El Salvador has advised women to refrain from becoming pregnant until 2018. Brazil has seen the most Zika cases in Latin America, and recently a leading Brazilian health official recommended that women in the hard-hit northeastern region postpone pregnancy. U.S. health officials have warned pregnant Americans to refrain from traveling to Latin American countries.

In additional pregnancy-related worry, on the heels of the WHO's announcement about the Zika explosion, the United States' Centers for Disease Control issued a report finding that three in four American women who plan to get pregnant soon are still drinking alcohol. The report also found that whether women plan to get pregnant or not - an estimated 3.3 million, between the ages of 15 and 44, risk harming a developing fetus with alcohol because they are drinking and having sex without birth control. Anne Schuchat, principal deputy director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, said that "Alcohol can permanently harm a developing baby before a woman knows she is pregnant." This is especially important given that, "About half of all pregnancies in the United States are unplanned, and even if planned, most women won't know they are pregnant for the first month or so, when they might still be drinking."

These are distinct health issues with different causes and impacts. The common threads are the emphasis on pregnancy-related health concerns and solutions that center on behavior-change. The juxtaposition of these scenarios is interesting because of what it exposes about gender and public health — the emphasis on behavior change with a dramatic disregard for the fact that it is growing more and more difficult here in the U.S. and around the world to plan a pregnancy and have control over one's pregnancy outcome — whether it is a healthy childbirth and child, a miscarriage or an abortion.

Comment: See also: The Zika freakout: Is there more to this virus scare than meets the eye?

Light Saber

After petition receives 400,000 signatures, Hollande pardons woman who killed her husband after decades of sadistic abuse

Jacqueline Sauvage, centre, a French woman convicted of murdering her abusive husband, in Blois, France. French President Francois Hollande pardoned Jacqueline Sauvage after a clemency plea by her children.
Norbert Marot was described as violent alcoholic who raped and beat his wife and their three daughters

A 68-year-old French woman jailed for 10 years for murdering her husband after nearly 50 years of rape and violent abuse is set to be freed, after President Francois Hollande intervened following a public outcry. Jacqueline Sauvage, of Montargis in central France, shot her husband Norbert Marot three times in the back with his own hunting rifle in September 2012, the day after their son hanged himself.

She described Marot as violent alcoholic who raped and beat her and their three daughters and also abused their son. After an appeal against an earlier conviction, Ms Sauvage was found guilty in December and given a 10-year-sentence. But then more than 400,000 people, who signed a petition, politicians on the left and right, and Mr Hollande's former partner, Valérie Trierweiler, all called on the president to use his right to pardon convicted criminals.

The power is seldom used in France, but the president's office said it had been decided to waive the remainder of Ms Sauvage's sentence, stopping short of an actual pardon. "In the face of an exceptional human situation, the president wanted to make it possible for Madame Savage to quickly return to her family while respecting judicial authorities," a presidential spokesperson told the Associated Press.

Comment: A great action for France to take - even more so, the people power behind it.


Twitter shuts down 125,000 accounts linked to Daesh Takfiri terrorist group

© sputniknews.com
Twitter accounts purged.
Twitter, an American social networking website, says since 2015 it has deleted 125,000 accounts linked to the Daesh (ISIL) Takfiri group. The California-based company made the announcement on Thursday, adding it has stepped up its fight against violent extremism online. "We condemn the use of Twitter to promote violent terrorism. This type of behavior, or any violent threats, is not permitted on our service," Twitter officials said in a statement.

The service has increased the size of the teams in charge of reviewing reports of terrorist activity, reducing the time required to respond to such reports, it added. This is the first time that the popular micro blogging service has revealed the scale of terrorist activity on its service. Last year, the Brookings Institution said there might be as many as 46,000 Twitter accounts used by Daesh sympathizers.

The new figure suggests that either Daesh has increased its presence on the service since then, or Twitter has gotten more effective in identifying terrorist accounts. "We have already seen results, including an increase in account suspensions and this type of activity shifting off of Twitter," the company added. According to Twitter, the Federal Investigation Bureau (FBI) Director James Foley, in July, praised the company for its help in trying to shut down terrorism related accounts. It is estimated that extremists post about 90,000 Twitter messages a day, according to the Counter Extremism Project, a New York-based nonprofit organization.

Comment: The massive elimination of accounts should put a speed bump in the recruiting of Daesh Takfiri hopefuls. Social media sites have been easy platforms for networking, propaganda and funding solicitation on a global scale. With the crackdown from Twitter, will other SMSs follow suit or will Daesh find yet another source and outlet?

Light Sabers

Saudi-Led forces killed in Yemeni Tochka missile attack

© Unknown
A Yemeni Tochka missile hit the Saudi-led coalition's military base in Ma'rib province, killing tens of coalition servicemen, including 8 senior Saudi and UAE officers.
A Commander of Yemen's Ansarullah Movement confirmed firing of the ballistic missile at the Ma'as military base in Ma'rib in Central Yemen.

He noted that at least 48 Saudi forces were killed in Yemen's Tochka missile attack.

In a relevant development on Wednesday, the Yemeni army and popular forces rained down a barrage of missiles at the Saudi forces' military tower in Al-Dokhan region in Jizan province in Southern Saudi Arabia.

Al-Dokhan tower was reportedly destroyed in the Yemeni missile attacks in Jizan as eyewitnesses said that they had seen smoke rising from it.

Arrow Down

Obama's $10 oil tax proposal would cost consumers

© Getty Images
A woman fills her vehicle with gas at a U-Gas station in Miami, Florida.
Consumers will likely pay the price for President Obama's proposed $10 tax per-barrel of oil, an administration official and a prominent analyst said Thursday.

Energy companies will simply pass along the cost to consumers, Patrick DeHaan, senior petroleum analyst for GasBuddy.com, which tracks gas prices nationwide, said in an interview with USA TODAY.

Obama is set to propose the tax when he reveals his budget next week, as part of an effort to reduce carbon emissions and generate billions of dollars for mass-transit investments and self-driving vehicles. The new tax would be phased in over five years, and would apply to both domestic and imported oil.

Heart - Black

Remorseless and arrogant: Shkreli invokes 5th amendment, treats House panel with contempt at drug price hearing

© Joshua Roberts / Reuters
Martin Shkreli, former CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals LLC, prepares to testify before a House Oversight and Government Reform hearing on "Developments in the Prescription Drug Market Oversight" on Capitol Hill in Washington on February 4, 2016
Pharmaceutical CEO Martin Shkreli ‒ the "most hated man in America," who raised the price of an HIV treatment 5,500 percent ‒ remained silent during a congressional hearing on prescription drug prices. He later tweeted that politicians were "imbeciles."

Summoned before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee to give testimony on his former company's recent increases in prices of prescription drugs, Shkreli invoked his Fifth Amendment right to remain silent.

To the repeated urging of Chairman Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) and Representative Trey Gowdy (R-South Carolina), the ex-CEO of Turing Pharmaceuticals merely replied he intended "to follow to advice of my counsel, not yours."

Bacon n Eggs

Supermarkets in France banned from throwing away food; obliged to sign donation deal with charities

© Reuters
Carrefour supermarket
Supermarkets in France have been banned from throwing away or spoiling unsold food by law.

The stores are now required to donate unwanted food to charities and food banks. To stop foragers, some supermarkets have poured bleach over the discarded food or storing binned food in locked warehouses.

This law was voted unanimously by the French senate on Wednesday after a petition was launched by Courbevoie councillor Arash Derambarsh. It will apply to any supermarket with a footprint of 400 square metres or larger. If companies flout the law they could incur fines up to 75,000 Euros (£53,000) or two years in prison.

Jacques Bailet from Banques Alimentaires, a network of Food banks, told the Guardian: "Most importantly, because supermarkets will be obliged to sign a donation deal with charities, we'll be able to increase the quality and diversity of food we get and distribute. In terms of nutritional balance, we currently have a deficit of meat and a lack of fruit and vegetables. This will hopefully allow us to push for those products."

"That is very important for food banks because this is a real source of quality products, coming straight from the factory." Mr Derambarsh is now looking to get an EU-wide law banning supermarket food waste.

He said: "The next step is to ask the president, François Hollande, to put pressure on Jean-Claude Juncker and to extend this law to the whole of the EU.

"This battle is only just beginning. We now have to fight food waste in restaurants, bakeries, school canteens and company canteens."

Comment: This measure was also passed unanimously by the French Assembly back in May 2015. Is France preparing for food shortages?