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Fri, 28 Apr 2017
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Five injured after house explodes in north central Texas

© The Dallas Morning News
Five people were hurt late Thursday night after a house suddenly exploded, according to Navarro County Sheriff Elmer Tanner.

It happened about 11 p.m. at a home in the 500 block of West Highway 31 in Dawson.

Emergency crews were able to rescue all five people from the home. Three of them were flown to a Dallas-area hospital, Tanner said. It's unclear how they're doing. Two others were being treated for non-life-threatening injuries.

A neighbor said an elderly couple lives inside the home. Three of their family members were staying with them when the explosion happened.

Homeowners Cathy Spruiell and her husband Dwain Spruiell are in stable condition at Parkland in Dallas. Another person in the home is also at Parkland.

Brick Wall

Separate anti-radicalization 'jihadi jails' being built for extremist prisoners in UK

© Denis Balibouse/Reuters
The British Ministry of Justice has announced that plans will go ahead to separate extremist prisoners from mainstream inmates and isolate them in "jihadi jails" to deter radicalization.

Three separation centers will be built as part of high-security prisons to incarcerate subversive prisoners who are thought to have been involved in planning terrorist attacks, or who represent a threat to national security either in person or through radicalizing others.

Construction of the first purpose-built block will begin at HMP Frankland high-security prison in the coming weeks, with two more to follow.

Plans to create the separation centers, which will have the capacity to hold up to 28 inmates, came after an inquiry found that "incapacitation units" are needed to keep Islamists and jihadis from manipulating other people.

The special units will hold people promoting all forms of extremism, including that of the far-right, and will be used to isolate "self-styled emirs" who attempt to draw other prisoners to extremist Islamic principles.


Barghouti freed to travel, will receive Gandhi award at Yale, as will Ralph Nader

© Palestine Chronicle/nader.org
Omar Barghouti and Ralph Nader
This is special: On Sunday afternoon at Yale, Omar Barghouti, leader of the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions campaign (BDS), will receive a Gandhi peace award, along with Ralph Nader. At the last minute Barghouti was allowed by an Israeli judge to travel to the States.

Rebecca Vilkomerson of Jewish Voice for Peace will introduce Barghouti.

JVP's recent conference in Chicago included a video'd shoutout to Barghouti, who was then jailed by Israel on alleged tax offenses and facing days of interrogation. The arrest came at the same time as a new law barring travel to Israel by those supporting BDS, and as a government minister was vowing to undertake the civil "elimination" of BDS supporters.

After his release, Barghouti was subjected to a gag order and barred from leaving Palestine. Israel was pursuing a "McCarthyite witchhunt" against him, he told EI. But a judge reportedly suspended the travel ban.

Comment: See also:


Russia passes law banning bizarre baby names

The law will ban figures, abbreviations, numerals, symbols and characters, which are not letters (except a dash)

© Boris Kavashkin/TASS
Russia's State Duma (lower house of parliament) passed the bill on Friday, which ban parents from officially giving their babies names that are foul words, numbers, titles or abbreviations.

The law will ban figures, abbreviations, numerals, symbols and characters, which are not letters (except a dash), obscene words and titles or positions as baby names, Pavel Krasheninnikov, the head of Duma committee for state construction and legislation, told TASS.


This man has no shame: Internet firestorm erupts after John Podesta's tweet endorsing pizza

On Thursday, John Podesta took to Twitter to post a link to a Washinton Post piece written by James Alefantis, the owner of the now famous Comet Ping Pong Pizzeria in Washington, D.C. In his Tweet, Podesta made the tasteless and terrible joke, while downplaying actual concern about the pedophilia and child trafficking that currently plagues the planet.

I know I'm asking for it but the community is great and the pizza is great too. Thanks James.

In what appears to be an attempt to reverse troll his accusers, Podesta only gave them fodder for an all-out Twitter assault.


Bad Guys

Study finds BP oil spill caused $17.2 billion in damage to natural resources in Gulf of Mexico

© U.S. Coast Guard
The first-ever comprehensive appraisal of the BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill's financial impact on natural resources found that it did $17.2 billion in damage.

The six-year study is the first-ever financial evaluation of spill's impact

The 2010 BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill did $17.2 billion in damage to the natural resources in the Gulf of Mexico, a team of scientists recently found after a six-year study of the impact of the largest oil spill in U.S. history.

This is the first comprehensive appraisal of the financial value of the natural resources damaged by the 134-million-gallon spill.

"This is proof that our natural resources have an immense monetary value to citizens of the United States who visit the Gulf and to those who simply care that this valuable resource is not damaged," said Kevin Boyle, a professor of agricultural and applied economics in the Virginia Tech College of Agriculture and Life Science and one of the authors on the paper.

Comment: The true costs of this horrific disaster to those whose lives have been irreparably changed can never be measured.

Arrow Down

Study finds little oversight in use of hazardous chemicals in routine unregulated oil and gas operations

California and more than two dozen other states require oil and gas producers to disclose the chemicals they use during hydraulic fracturing activities, enabling scientific and public scrutiny of the environmental and human health hazards these substances may pose. But all existing disclosure regulations cover chemical use only in hydraulic fracturing, known as fracking, and, in California, two other types of well-stimulation treatments. Many of the same chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing go undisclosed when they are used in numerous routine, unregulated oil- and gas-field activities such as the drilling, cleaning and maintenance of wells, according to a study published in PLOS ONE today (April 19).

The study, conducted by scientists at the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory, University of the Pacific and the California-based energy science and policy institute PSE Healthy Energy, is the first published research to investigate chemicals used in unregulated routine oil- and gas-field activities, including the overlap between chemicals used in both regulated and unregulated activities.

Analyzing publicly available data of chemical use in oil and gas production operations in the Los Angeles Basin, researchers found that the number of the chemicals used for routine activities is as high or higher than the number used for hydraulic fracturing, and those chemicals are used frequently and in high quantities. Further, the disclosure data showed that the same chemicals used in hydraulic fracturing were also used in more than half of recorded routine activities, which are unregulated. For example, they found common use of biocides, a class of hazardous chemicals that includes formaldehyde, and acidizing agents including hydrofluoric acid, in both regulated well-stimulation activities and unregulated routine activities. These findings have major implications for chemical disclosure policies and risk assessments of oil and gas development in California and across the nation, the researchers concluded.



Volkswagen to pay $2.8 bn criminal penalty in diesel emissions scandal

© Frank May / Global Look Press
German carmaker Volkswagen will pay a $2.8 billion criminal penalty for cheating on diesel emissions test, in a negotiated settlement with the US Justice Department.

US District Judge Sean Cox ordered the fine on Friday, following the terms of the deal in which Volkswagen pleaded guilty to conspiracy and obstruction of justice.

Nearly 600,000 diesel cars in the US were programmed to turn on pollution controls during testing, but turn it off while on the road, the company admitted.

Comment: See also: Volkswagen set to plead guilty to US emissions fraud


Jehovah's Witnesses banned as 'extremist' in Russia, property to be seized - Supreme court decision

© Jehovah's witnesses sing songs during the meeting in Rostov-on-Don Getty Images
Jehovah's witnesses sing songs during the meeting in Rostov-on-Don.
Russia's Supreme Court has banned the Jehovah's Witnesses, declaring it an "extremist organization" and ordering to hand over its property to the state. The Christian group says it is planning to appeal the decision.

Delivering the verdict on Thursday, Judge Yury Ivanenko ruled that all 395 branches of the religious group on Russian territory are subject to disbandment and the property is to be forfeited to the state.

In the run-up to the ruling on its liquidation, based on a lawsuit filed by the Russian Justice Ministry, the Jehovah's Witnesses group has repeatedly found itself in trouble with Russia's anti-extremism legislation. In October last year, a lower court notified the organization of a looming ban if it did not stop engaging in what it considered extremist activity. In January this year, the warning was upheld by the Moscow City Court.

Jehovah's Witnesses leaflets promoting information "posing a threat to health" were provided as evidence by the Ministry of Justice during the hearings, Svetlana Borisova, the ministry's representative said, as cited by RIA Novosti. More than 90 printed booklets of the organization have been found to contain extremist materials.

One of Jehovah's Witnesses strict beliefs - a complete ban on blood transfusions - can potentially endanger the life of a child, argued Borisova. She cited a case when devout followers of the group refused to give consent for the procedure needed by their child.

The present lawsuit was revolving around Jehovah's Witnesses' chief managing organization in Russia, based in St. Petersburg, which is in charge of all its outfits scattered on the Russian territory.

Comment: See also: Russian court turns down Jehovah's Witnesses' bid for 'victim of repression' status


Arkansas puts to death first inmate in 12 years, more executions to come before lethal drug expires

© Reuters
The state of Arkansas has executed an inmate for the first time since 2005, and plans to execute several more convicts before its supply of a lethal chemical expires in late April.

Ledell Lee, who was sentenced to death for murdering his neighbor, Debra Reese, in a Little Rock suburb in 1993, was pronounced dead at 11:56pm central time at the Cummins Unit prison in southern Arkansas. He received three lethal injections, including midazolam, to render him unconscious, vecuronium bromide to halt his breathing, and potassium chloride to stop his heart.

On Thursday, the US Supreme Court cleared the way for Arkansas to execute its first inmate since 2005 by removing holds on its lethal injection procedure, which was carried out just 30 minutes before the death warrant expired, according to Reuters.

Arkansas authorities plan to execute eight more death row inmates in the next two weeks.

Comment: See also:
  • Arkansas, struggling to find volunteer witnesses, seeks to rush through 8 executions in 10 days in April
  • BYO: Arizona lets death row inmates bring their own lethal injection drugs to executions