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ND-Dem's Journal
ND-Dem's Journal
January 23, 2015

Virtual policing comes to Miami

A new virtual policing system that allows authorities to watch people in real time - and slow motion - is now in place in Miami, Fla, reports CBS Miami.

Twenty-five cameras are up and running in the city of Miami but 250 will reportedly be up in the next few weeks. In all, the system can hold up to 25,000 cameras, according to the station.

"The future in policing is virtual," said City of Miami Police Chief Manuel Orosa.

The program, which is funded by the U.S. Dept. of Homeland Security, means better protection for everyone, police say. But some say it's an invasion of privacy.

"They don't need to monitor everyone's every move," Baylor Johnson with the American Civil Liberties Union, told CBS Miami.

The cameras are reportedly going to be stationed in government buildings and high crime areas. Each camera can shoot 25 miles out, reports the station, and one feature of the system allows authorities to zero in on a certain car or certain color. The cameras can also get boat registration numbers and read license tag numbers.

According to the station, the camera system is also in place in New York City and in 2010, it helped flag a man with a car filled with explosives that was parked in Times Square. The system has also reportedly been in effect in London.


January 23, 2015

PM Valls sets out sweeping measures to safeguard France from terror

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls on Wednesday announced "exceptional measures" to respond to the "change of scale" of the terrorist threat in the wake of deadly attacks two weeks ago in Paris.

Valls said close to 3,000 people in France with jihadist ties needed to be under surveillance -- and that the number of people with links to networks in Iraq and Syria had increased by 130% in the past year.

In response to the threat, 2,680 new jobs will be created, of which intelligence services alone will account for 1,100, he said. Many of the new jobs will be dedicated to tackling the threat from online jihadism.

France will allocate 425 million euros ($490 million) over the next three years to boost the fight against extremism, Valls said.

These resources will be used to buy new equipment, such as bulletproof vests and better weapons for police officers.

Belgium cracks down

Amid heightened concern over the threat posed by radical Islamists in Europe, Belgium and Germany have cracked down on alleged extremists in recent days...


As predicted here, I believe.
January 22, 2015

Oxfam: 85 richest people as wealthy as poorest half of the world

The world's wealthiest people aren't known for travelling by bus, but if they fancied a change of scene then the richest 85 people on the globe – who between them control as much wealth as the poorest half of the global population put together – could squeeze onto a single double-decker.

The extent to which so much global wealth has become corralled by a virtual handful of the so-called 'global elite' is exposed in a new report from Oxfam on Monday. It warned that those richest 85 people across the globe share a combined wealth of £1tn, as much as the poorest 3.5 billion of the world's population.

Oxfam also argues that this is no accident either, saying growing inequality has been driven by a "power grab" by wealthy elites, who have co-opted the political process to rig the rules of the economic system in their favour.

Polling for Oxfam's report found people in countries around the world - including two-thirds of those questioned in Britain - believe that the rich have too much influence over the direction their country is heading.


January 21, 2015

Joni Ernst: batshit crazy liar who wants to end the federal minimum wage and loves zygotes

But what is surprising is that the campaign has not been much affected by a series of controversial, extreme, or just plain dumb remarks Ernst has made—and her subsequent denials that she said them.

Here are a few examples of Ernst's out-there statements:

◾Ernst has alleged that the federal government is partnering with the United Nations to force Iowans off their land and into urban cores as part of a conspiracy called Agenda 21. At a campaign event last November, she said:

All of us agreed that Agenda 21 is a horrible idea. One of those implications to Americans, again, going back to what did it does do to the individual family here in the state of Iowa, and what I've seen, the implications that it has here is moving people off of their agricultural land and consolidating them into city centers, and then telling them that you don't have property rights anymore. These are all things that the UN is behind, and it's bad for the United States and bad for families here in the state of Iowa.

◾At a candidate forum in January, she said that President Obama has "become a dictator" and should be impeached.

◾Meeting with business leaders in late August, she complained about the existence of federal minimum wage. Here's what she said, per the Mason City (Iowa) Globe Gazette:

The minimum wage is a safety net. For the federal government to set the minimum wage for all 50 states is ridiculous…The standard of living in Iowa is different than it is in New York or California or Texas. One size does not fit all.

◾She told the Des Moines Register editorial board in May that the United States really did find weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

◾She said at a GOP primary debate in May that abortion providers "should be punished" and zygotes should be granted full constitutional protection if the state passed a "personhood" amendment—and in 2013, sponsored a bill in the state Senate to make that possible.

Ernst is hailed by supporters as a straight-talking candidate who will stick to her conservative principles. But throughout this campaign, she has been quick to walk away from her most bizarre statements as soon as she's challenged on them.

When asked by Yahoo News last month about her suggestion that an international cabal would relocate her constituents to Des Moines, Ernst said, "I don't think that the UN Agenda 21 is a threat to Iowa farmers...."


I'll make fun of her all I want. The federal minimum wage is inadequate EVERYWHERE. She's a right wing liar who never was poor a day in her life but pretends she was so she can fuck the poor by doing things like ending minimum wage.

She's a corrupt politician who, as soon as she got into minor state office, channeled government contracts to her father.

She'd be a joke if she wasn't dangerous and I can't believe people here are sticking up for her in the name of solidarity with the poor.

That's bullshit.

January 21, 2015

Curiouser and curiouser: Chris Kyle founded Craft International and was its president til he died.

When he left the Navy in 2009, Kyle co-founded Craft International, which provided tactical training to military and law enforcement. After Kyle's death, Craft became embroiled in legal and financial troubles. In 2013, Kyle's wife, Taya, filed suit against Steven Young and Bo French for conspiring to "steal" the company. In September 2014, Taya sued the now-bankrupt company so it would stop using her husband's image to sell merchandise.


After a decade in the military Kyle retired to spend more time with his family and joined other former SEALs to establish Craft International, a security company with the motto "Despite what your momma told you, violence does solve problems." He also helped found Fitco Cares, a foundation providing gyms and fitness equipment to keep soldiers active and providing counselling and medical networks.


Kyle was president of Craft International, a military and law enforcement training company. In a statement lamenting the slayings, the company identified Littlefield as Kyle's trusted friend and said they died trying to help "a troubled veteran."


January 20, 2015

The Last Laughing Death

After 55 years, the final patrol for cases of the mysterious ‘laughing death’ in remote Papua New Guinea has returned from the highlands. From this pursuit came Nobel-winning science, clues to ‘mad cow’ and insights into Alzheimer’s disease.

t’s 50 years since Michael Alpers, a 28-year-old medical graduate from Adelaide with a restless spirit and an urge “to do health in a different kind of way”, hiked into the Papua New Guinea highlands looking for the crucible of a devastating disease epidemic — and stumbled into the crater of an uncharted volcano.

While he smartly sidestepped the sulphuric grumblings of Mount Yelia, young Dr Alpers never really made it back from that trek, succumbing en route to a mystery, a mission, and a culture. This month the now-venerable professor’s long expedition reaches its conclusion: The last of the corps of local foot-soldiers he trained over decades to track down and document cases of kuru — the name the afflicted Fore people gave to the tremors signalling inevitable and terrible death — are just winding up their final routine surveillance patrols through the villages where the disease once raged.

Today’s kuru reporters will emerge from their last monthly trek through the mountains and negotiate the rough track north to the provincial capital of Goroka — a four-hour trip, if the route has not washed away in the latest downpour. When they have submitted their final reports to the PNG Institute of Medical Research and collected their last pay cheques, the file will be closed on an epic continuous surveillance effort which began when the first documented reports of the disease emerged in 1957. Along the way, its foot soldiers have navigated some of the most arduous geographical, cultural and humanitarian landscapes imaginable.

Several of the surveyors are second-generation kuru sleuths and bush medics, heirs to the stories and skills their fathers acquired in the 1960s when they accompanied Alpers and other pioneering investigators during the height of the kuru scourge. Then the mysterious disease was killing up to 200 people a year — mostly women and children — in the Purosa Valley, in the remote Eastern Highlands. It very nearly wiped out the Fore. Locals blamed powerful ritual sorcery for the curse; intrigued medical scientists postulated a genetic cause, or maybe an environmental factor; and patrol officers installed by the Australian administration suspected the Fore tradition of eating their dead — an outlawed practice that had largely ended by 1960. They would all, to varying degrees, turn out to have part of the story.


January 18, 2015

Blacks Are The Most Religious Americans

Of all the major racial and ethnic groups in America, blacks are the most likely to report a formal religious affiliation, and even among black adults who are unaffiliated (12%), more than two-thirds (70%) say that religion is somewhat or very important in their lives.

Only 1% of blacks identify as atheist or agnostic.

About six-in-ten (59%) black adults are affiliated with historically black Protestant churches; however, only about two-in-ten are members of predominantly white evangelical (15%) and mainline (4%) Protestant churches.

Asians are the ethnic group most likely to be unaffiliated. Roughly a quarter (23%) of Asians have no religious affiliation, and more than three-in-four of these are either secular (11% overall), atheist (3% overall) or agnostic (4% overall).


January 17, 2015

My Experience as a College Graduate in the Restaurant Industry

It’s a Saturday night. I just worked a grueling 12-hour shift on my feet for a measly $87...

It wouldn’t be so bad if I didn’t wake up every day with $60,000 in college debt hanging like a noose around my neck.

“I should be able to do better than this,” I think.

I grew up poor. Neither of my parents finished college. As the first in my family to finish my degree, I thought this was supposed to be my way out. Why did I just spend $60,000 and six years of my life, only to end up back where I started — waiting tables?

This was my nightmare. Somehow, somewhere, I failed.

But I know that’s not true. I’m a first-generation college graduate with a master’s degree from a prestigious university. My degrees should be evidence of success, not failure. Something else is going on here.

Since the Great Recession, part-time job growth has skyrocketed and continues to remain high. Currently, there are 260,000 college graduates working for minimum wage and over 43 percent of minimum wage workers have at least some college education. That’s twice as many as the pre-recession rate of 127,000 in 2005... What’s worse, research shows that college grads are pushing non-graduates out of work because we’re all competing for the same low-wage jobs. It looks like we are creating an economy where a college degree is the new norm not for a professional job.For any job.


January 17, 2015

America’s Fading Main Streets: A Photo Essay


"It's inconceivable that we spend trillions on wars and billions bailing out Wall Street but that these important parts of our country and ultimately individuality are just left to rot."
January 17, 2015

The Ones We’ve Lost: The Student Loan Debt Suicides

One evening in 2007, Jan Yoder of Normal, Illinois noticed that her son Jason seemed more despondent than usual. Yoder had been a graduate student in organic chemistry at Illinois State University but after incurring $100,000 in student loan debt, he struggled to find a job in his field. Later that night, Jason, 35, left the family’s mobile home. Concerned about her son’s mood, Jan Yoder decided in the early morning hours to go look for him on campus, where a professor she ran into joined her in the search. The two of them discovered his body in one of the labs on campus and called campus police at 8:30AM. 32 minutes later, Jason was declared dead due to nitrogen asphyxiation.

When the story was posted on several different sites in 2007 and 2008, the Internet chatter was not always kind to the dead man. While many expressed great sympathy for Yoder and ranted against the student lending system, others were quick to invoke the “personal responsibility” argument — “it was his fault;” “why did he take out that amount of loans?;” “Mr. Yoder took out those loans . . . he had an obligation to pay them back.” — and denigrate him.

His mother, of course, saw it differently. While she was preparing for Jason’s funeral, student debt collectors were still phoning her about the money her son owed. As reporter David Newbart wrote in a 2007 article for Chicago Sun Times, she was gruff when confronted by these calls. “You are part of the reason he took his own life,” she told them and then hung up the phone.

Suicide is the dark side of the student lending crisis and, despite all the media attention to the issue of student loans, it’s been severely under-reported. I can’t ignore it though, because I’m an advocate for people who are struggling to pay their student loans, and I’ve been receiving suicidal comments for over two years and occasionally hearing reports of actual suicides. More people are being forced into untenable financial circumstances as outstanding student loan debt has surpassed $1 trillion. And people simply aren’t able to pay all the money they owe. In the past few years, the rate of defaults for federal loans has increased at an alarming rate. According to the Department of Education, those recent graduates who began repayments in 2009, 8.8 percent had already defaulted on their federal loans. That compares to 7 percent in 2008. Currently, 36 million Americans have outstanding federal loans. I can’t help but wonder how many of those millions are feeling distressed or suicidal, or how many have attempted suicide because of all that debt hanging over their heads...

There have been no epidemiological studies attempting to find a correlation between student loan indebtedness and suicide or suicide attempts, but experts would not be surprised if one exists. A statement published on the website by the American Association of Suicidology (APS) notes, “There is a clear and direct relationship between rates of unemployment and suicide. The peak rate of suicide in 1933 occurred one year after the total US unemployment rate reached 25% of the labor force. Similar findings have been documented internationally. At the individual level, unemployed individuals have between two and four times the suicide rate of those employed.” The document adds, “Economic strain and personal financial crises have been well documented as precipitating events in individual deaths by suicide.”


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