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Fri, 27 Jan 2023
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An ancient technology is helping India's "water man" save thousands of parched villages

dry land
© Reuters/Amit Dave
Water scarcity has begun early in India.
In 1985, a 28-year-old man from Uttar Pradesh quit his government job, left his family and arrived in the dead of the night at a small village in Rajasthan's Alwar district.

Rajendra Singh, along with four companions from the Tarun Bharat Sangh, a non-profit that traces its origins to the University of Rajasthan, wanted to work in the hinterland. The initial idea was to establish clinics.

"Maybe it was some social chromosomes that fired my imagination to do something useful," Singh said in an interview. "I was a government servant in Jaipur, fed up with just sending statistics to officials."

It look him a few months before finding his life's mission—and it took an ancient innovation, a fast disappearing traditional technology, to help him transform the lives of thousands of villagers in one of India's most arid regions.

On March 20, Singh was awarded the 2015 Stockholm Water Prize, sometimes described as the Nobel prize for water.


German Wings jet crashes in Southern French Alps with 142 passengers on board - eyewitness heard "series of loud noises in air"


A German wings A320 crashed in the French Alps Tuesday morning with 142 passengers on board.
An Airbus A320 with 142 passengers and six crewmembers has crashed in Digne region, southern France, media reports say. The jet, which belonged to Germanwings low-cost airline, was flying from Barcelona to Düsseldorf.

The plane crash in the French Alps was confirmed by General Directorate of Civil Aviation (DGCA). The jet crashed in the Upper Bléone Valley, Le Provence wrote. Emergency services are currently heading to the disaster zone.

France's Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve has confirmed the plane crash and is headed to the scene, local TV reported. He added that debris from the crashed jet has been found near a village. He added that debris from crashed jet has been found near the small town of Barcelonnette, a commune in Alpes-de-Haute-Provence.

The owner of a camp site in the French Alps near the scene of the crash says he heard a series of loud noises coming from the air before the Germanwings A320 Airbus crashed. Pierre Polizzi told AP the noise began at 11:30 local time.

"There are often fighter jets flying over, so I thought it sounded just like that. I looked outside but I couldn't see any fighter planes."

"The noise I heard was long - like 8 seconds - as if the plane was going more slowly than a military plane speed. There was another long noise about 30 seconds later."


The route taken by the German wings plane

Comment: What the eyewitness is saying, essentially, is that he heard two "sonic boom" type noises, 30 seconds apart. But there were no jets in the area at the time. This data puts this tragedy squarely in the domain of an overhead meteorite explosion.

Bad Guys

Survivors of institutional abuse outraged at plan to seal abuse reports for 75 years

Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan
© Unknown
Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan
Surviviors of institutional abuse have expressed outrage over Government plans to seal all major industrial school and orphanage investigation records for 75 years.

The move, which also allows for the possible destruction of documents, must now be ratified by the Dáil in a bill which will be brought forward by Education Minister Jan O'Sullivan.

The Irish Independent has learned that the bill has been approved by Cabinet for drafting.

The Retention of Records Bill 2015 will provide for the strict and confidential sealing of documents from the Commission into Child Abuse, the Residential Institutions Redress Board and the Residential Institutions Review Committee.

Tom Cronin of Irish Survivors of Institutional Abuse International said abuse survivors were "shocked and horrified" that the records would be sealed for so long.

"I can understand that these documents are sensitive and that they might need to be sealed for a period of years.

"But why seal them for 75 years? Why not seal them for five or 10 years? By the time they can be accessed again, everyone associated with this most shameful period of Irish history will be long dead. The whole thing won't be anything more than a footnote in history by 2090," he said.


Good for him! Okinawa governor blocks survey needed to build U.S. military base

© Reuters / Toru Hanai
Okinawa's governor ordered a halt to an underwater survey needed for reclamation of land for a new $8.6-billion base, which would host US troops after the Futenma facility on the island is closed.

Takeshi Onaga is delivering on the promise he made to voters to oppose the construction, after his election last November. At a media conference on Monday, he announced that defense ministry contractors must stop the survey due to the damage it's causing to coral reefs. If they don't, Onaga said he would revoke approval for drilling operations given by his predecessor in December 2012 within days.

The survey is necessary for the eventual construction of an off-shore runway for the future US military base in the less populous area of northern Okinawa, which would house thousands of troops after the closure of the Futenma base in the south.

The facility is viewed by locals as a source of noise, pollution and crime. Opposition to its presence flared up after the rape and abduction of a 12-year-old girl by three US servicemen in 1995.


ACLU finds Chicago police overwhelmingly target minorities with stop-and-frisk policy

© Reuters / Jim Young
Move over, Manhattan. The controversial stop-and-frisk practice once common among the New York Police Department has spread to Chicago, according to a new report, and is more prevalent in the Windy City than in the Big Apple.

A report published by the American Civil Liberties of Illinois on Monday accuses Chicago Police Department officers of overwhelmingly targeting minorities during an apparent stop-and-frisk surge last year.

African-Americans accounted for around 72 percent of civilians stopped by the CPD during a four-month period last summer, according to the ACLU. This is despite them accounting for less than one-third of Chicago's population. Whites and Hispanics were subjected to stop-and-frisk policing 17 percent and 9 percent of the time respectively.

From May through August 2014, according to the report, the CPD stopped around a quarter of a million people without making an arrest. With statistics showing that minorities are predominantly the victims of these searches, the ACLU report suggests constitutional violations may be afoot.


Four cops fired for racists texts and KKK video

© Reuters / Lucy Nicholson
Four cops are out of a job after an internal review within the Ft. Lauderdale Police Department in Florida uncovered a slew of racially-charged messages sent between officers, and even a homemade movie that's ripe with hateful epithets.

Three officers have been fired, Ft. Lauderdale Police Chief Frank Adderley said at a news conference on Friday, and a fourth, Alex Alvarez, had already resigned in the midst of a five-month probe launched late year when his former fiancée filed a complaint with the department.

The woman, who has not been named, approached authorities in October 2014 about text messages sent between Alvarez and other officers with the Ft. Lauderdale police.

"She said she had personally seen it herself and felt it was inappropriate," Adderley said.

A subsequent review of text messages sent between the cop and his colleagues uncovered several instances in which the officers used derogatory terms.

"I had a wet dream that you two found those two n*****s in the VW and gave them the death penalty right there on the spot," reads one of the text messages in question.


'American exceptionalism': Utah becomes only state in America to approve death by firing squad

© Reuters/Brian Snyder
Utah Gov. Gary Herbert has signed a law authorizing the use of firing squads to carry out death penalty sentences if officials cannot acquire lethal injection drugs, making the state the only one in America to approve of the method.

"Those who voiced opposition to this bill are primarily arguing against capital punishment in general and that decision has already been made in our state," said Marty Carpenter, spokesman for Herbert, as quoted by the Guardian.

"We regret anyone ever commits the heinous crime of aggravated murder to merit the death penalty and we prefer to use our primary method of lethal injection when such a sentence is issued. However, when a jury makes the decision and a judge signs a death warrant, enforcing that lawful decision is the obligation of the executive branch."

Comment: Yep, 'American exceptionalism' strikes again.


Above the law: Cops in the U.S. kill citizens at 70 times the rate of other first world countries

In case you've been under a rock lately, it is becoming quite clear that police in the US can and will kill people, even unarmed people, even on video, and do so with impunity.

The tallying methods, or rather lack thereof, used by both the FBI and individual police departments to count the amount of people killed by police, have been shown to be staggeringly inaccurate.

However, this inability of the government to count the number of people it kills, has been met with multiple alternative means of calculating just how deadly the state actually is.

One of these citizen run databases, is the website www.killedbypolice.com. The site is basically a spreadsheet that lists every person killed by cops in the years 2013 and 2014. In addition to naming those killed, it also provides a link to media reports for each of the killings, age, sex and race if available.

The tally for 2014? 1,100 people killed by those sworn to protect. That is an average of three people a day.

Chart Pie

Privatization: Empowering the wealthy while impoverishing the masses

USPS vs Fedex

'USPS is so inexpensive, in fact, that Fedex actually uses the U.S. Post Office for about 30 percent of its ground shipments,' writes Buchheit.
'USPS is so inexpensive, in fact, that Fedex actually uses the U.S. Post Office for about 30 percent of its ground shipments,' writes Buchheit. (Photo: file)

The Project on Government Oversight found that in 33 of 35 cases the federal government spent more on private contractors than on public employees for the same services. The authors of the report summarized, "Our findings were shocking."

Yet our elected leaders persist in their belief that free-market capitalism works best. Here are a few fact-based examples that say otherwise.

Comment: Corporations are in business to make money for their shareholders. As that is their primary mandate, there is little incentive to provide for the common good. In many instances where corporations have taken control of public utilities, services have deteriorated while costs have risen. Yet, because of the power they wield and their ability to control the media they are very artful in managing to convince large sectors of the public into voting against their common interests.


Escape plot foiled as Bedford Prison staff intercept drone laden with drugs and weapons

drone used british jail

This is the first known case of a remote-controlled aircraft being used to infiltrate a British jail
A drone has been used in a daring night-time attempt to smuggle drugs and weapons into a high security jail.

The plan was only thwarted when the machine became entangled in razor wire on a security wall and was then spotted by staff at Bedford Prison.

It is the first known case of a remote-controlled aircraft being used to infiltrate a British jail.

The Chinese-made machine was carrying a package containing drugs, mobile phones, screwdrivers and a knife.

Prison staff spotted it on the razor wire and managed to retrieve it.