An Inconvenient Review: After 10 Years Al Gore’s Film Is Still Alarmingly Inaccurate

It’s been nearly one decade since former Vice President Al Gore released his film “An Inconvenient Truth.” It sent shockwaves through American politics and emboldened environmental activists to push for more regulations on American businesses.

Gore warned increasing carbon dioxide emissions would spur catastrophic global warming that would cause more extreme weather, wipe out cities and cause ecological collapse. To stop global warming, humans needed to ditch fossil fuels and basically change every aspect of their lives.

Watching “An Inconvenient Truth” is sort of like going back in time. Back to a world where flip phones were cool and “Futurama” was still putting out new episodes. A world where a bitter presidential candidate was trying to rebrand himself as an environmental crusader.

But have Gore’s warnings, which were alarming to many in 2006, come true?

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April Marks 12th Straight Month of Record Gun Sales

This April saw the most gun-related background checks of any April on record, making it the 12th month in a row to achieve a high water mark for gun sales.

The FBI ran 2,145,865 checks through the National Instant Background Check System last month, according to the agency’s records. That represents more than a 400,000 increase over the previous record set in April 2014. Though the numbers represent the best April on record, the month also saw the fewest checks of any month thus far in 2016.

The trend of record-setting months began last May. In that period the background check system has seen records set for the most checks in a day, month, and year. Thus far 2016 is on pace to pass 2015 as the best year on record for gun-related background checks.

The number of background checks is considered a reliable barometer for gun sales as nearly all sales made through licensed firearms dealers must by law include such a check. Some states also require a background check for gun sales between private citizens.

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An Insurance Exodus From Obamacare Could Come in 2017

UnitedHealthcare’s decision to not offer Affordable Care Act exchange plans next year in “at least 26 of the 34 states where it sold 2016 coverage” may soon be followed by similar announcements from other health care insurers.

At least that is one implication that can be drawn from the findings reported in a new paper analyzing the performance of insurers that offered exchange coverage in 2014.

The paper’s authors—Heritage Foundation senior research fellow Ed Haislmaier, Mercatus Center senior research fellow Brian Blase, and Galen Institute senior fellow Doug Badger—examined enrollment and financial data for the 289 Qualified Health Plans sold on the exchanges in 2014.

They found that, in the aggregate, insurers incurred substantial losses offering exchange coverage. Furthermore, the poor results were despite insurers receiving substantial subsidies—indeed, more than they originally expected—through the Affordable Care Act’s “reinsurance” program. Specifically, they found that aggregate insurer losses were in excess of $2.2 billion, despite insurers receiving net reinsurance payments of $6.7 billion.

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Obama to name Stonewall 1st national monument for gay rights

New York’s iconic Stonewall Inn, where the modern gay rights movement took root, will become the first national monument honoring the history of gays and lesbians in the U.S. under a proposal President Barack Obama is preparing to approve.

Designating the small swath of land will mark a major act of national recognition for gay rights advocates and their struggles over the last half-century. Since the 1969 uprising in Greenwich Village, the U.S. has enacted anti-discrimination protections, allowed gays and lesbians to serve openly in the U.S. military and legalized same-sex marriage nationwide.

Though land must still be transferred to the federal government and other details worked out, the president is expected to move quickly to greenlight the monument following a public meeting Monday in Manhattan, according to two individuals familiar with the administration’s plans. They weren’t authorized to discuss the plans publicly and requested anonymity.

Next month marks Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month in the U.S.

The gritty tavern, known colloquially as the Stonewall, became a catalyst for the gay rights movement after police raided it on June 28, 1969. Bar-goers fought back, and many more joined in street protests over the following days in an uprising widely credited as the start of large-scale gay activism in New York and around the word. Annual pride parades in hundreds of cities commemorate the rebellion.

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12 Toxins in Your Drinking Water

Water quality is a subject that’s been big news lately. Residents of Flint, Michigan are suffering from toxic levels of lead in their water due to incompetent governance.

Unfortunately, water quality issues are not a recent development. Industrial dumping, pesticide runoff, leaky storage tanks, and government mandates have created big problems. Let’s take a look at some of the nastiest water contaminants that may be pouring out of your faucet.

1. Fluoride

Adding fluoride to drinking water is a process that began back in the 1940’s to help reduce tooth decay. It sounds like a noble cause but fluoride is a neurotoxin and an endocrine disruptor. It can harm the thyroid gland and calcify the pineal gland. It’s so toxic that several countries have banned water fluoridation. Even some dU.S. cities have caught on and started rejecting the process of fluoridation.[1]

2. Chlorine

Chlorine has disinfectant properties that make it useful for cleaning products and swimming pools. It’s even used to sanitize sewage and industrial waste. Chlorine is added to drinking water as a purification technique, despite not being completely safe.[2]

Chlorine is a reactive chemical that bonds with water, including the water in your gut, to produce poisonous hydrochloric acid. Chlorine exposure can cause respiratory problems and damage cells. Long term effects include memory loss and impaired balance.[3][4]

3. Lead

Lead is the main toxin causing problems in Flint. Corroded pipes are releasing up to ten times the allowable amount of lead into the water. Lead is toxic to almost every organ and affects children the worst. Developmental issues, stunted growth, deafness, behavioral problems, learning disabilities, and brain damage can all result from exposure to lead.[5] If ingested during pregnancy, lead can cause premature birth.[6] Lead exposure has even been linked to autism, prostate cancer, and reproductive problems for both men and women.[7] It’s damaging to the cardiovascular system and kidneys, too.[8]

4. Mercury

Although mercury is a naturally occurring element, “natural” does not mean “safe.” Mercury is extremely toxic and can cause brain damage, blindness, nerve damage, cognitive disability, impairment of motor functions, headaches, weakness, muscle atrophy, tremors, mood swings, memory loss, and skin rashes.

A byproduct of mining and industrial practices, mercury vapor can linger in the atmosphere and ride the winds halfway around the globe.[9]

5. PCBs

PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, are chemicals used for industrial purposes such as insulation, machinery, oil, paints, adhesives, electronics, and fluorescent lights.

Although PCBs were banned in 1979, they’re still present in landfills and pose a danger to the environment. PCBs break down slowly and infiltrate the environment. They have been found in snow and sea water thousands of miles from where they were produced.[10]

Animal tests have found PCBs to cause cancer and negatively affect the immune, reproductive, nervous, and endocrine systems.[11]

6. Arsenic

Arsenic, despite being poisonous, is used in a multitude of industrial processes. Environmental contamination may result from improper waste disposal, or from poorly-planned wells that hit a natural source.[12]

Arsenic poisoning can cause vomiting, abdominal pain, diarrhea, and even death in severe cases. Long-term exposure can lead to skin cancer, lung cancer, and bladder cancer. In Taiwan, arsenic causes “blackfoot disease,” a type of gangrene that causes blood vessels to die and rot.[12]

7. Perchlorate

Perchlorates are a key ingredient in rocket fuel and explosives. They dissolve easily and seep into groundwater from military and industrial sites. It’s believed that perchlorates have contaminated much of the Colorado river.[13] The problem is severe; almost all humans will test positive for perchlorates, which attack the thyroid.

8. Dioxins

Dioxins are released during combustion, such as burning of hazardous waste, forest fires, cigarette smoke, and burning oil and coal. They settle in the environment and destroy water sources.[14]

Short term exposure can cause lesions and respiratory problems. Long-term exposure can affect the immune, nervous, endocrine, and reproductive systems. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has declared dioxins are carcinogenic. In developing fetuses, dioxin poisoning can cause birth defects or stillbirth.[15]

9. DDT (Dichloro-Diphenyl-Trichloroethane)

DDT was used as an insecticide in the 1940s to combat insect-borne diseases like malaria and typhus. It had widespread use as an agricultural insecticide until it was banned in the United States in 1972 due to environmental concerns.[16]

It remains in use in other parts of the world and is still a major health concern for all of us. DDT molecules are persistent and can travel vast distances in the atmosphere.[17]

Animal testing has found DDT causes reproductive problems and liver damage. The International Agency for Research on Cancer has declared DDT is a cancer risk.[18]

10. HCB

Until 1965, HCB, or Hexachlorobenzene, was used as a pesticide. Production has been banned, but it is still formed as a byproduct from the production of other chemicals. A large dose can result in death. Smaller doses can lead to liver disease and skin lesions. The EPA has classified HCB as a probable cancer source.[19]

In Anatolia, Turkey in the late 1950’s, over 4500 people suffered HCB poisoning as a result of tainted grain. Over 500 people died, including children. 30 years later, follow-up studies found that the breast milk of women in the area still contained up to 150 times the amount of HCB allowed in cow’s milk.[20]

11. Dacthal

Dacthal (dimethyl tetrachloroterephthalate, or DCPA) is an herbicide that contaminates soil and water sources. Unlike HBA and DDT, Dacthal is still in use today. Animal tests have found dacthal damages the adrenal glands, kidneys, liver, thyroid, and spleen.[21][22]

12. MtBE

MtBE (methyl tertiary-butyl ether) is a gasoline additive that can render large quantities of groundwater completely undrinkable. In 1996, the city of Santa Monica, CA found this out the hard way and the city had to shut down 50% of its water supply and pay for replacement water.[23]

The health effects of MtBE are not understood. Animal tests have linked it to kidney damage, seizures, and problems with fetal development.[24]

Further Concerns and Safety

I need to clear up a common misconception. Some people are under the impression that they can remove toxins from water by boiling it. Boiling water kills harmful organisms but does nothing to remove toxic chemicals, compounds, salts, and metals.

This is by no mean a complete list of all the toxins that might be in drinking water. Please keep informed of water quality issues in your area. If poor-quality tap water is a problem for you, I recommend investing in a quality water filter or glass-bottled distilled water.

This article originally appeared at Global Healing Center.

US GDP Growth Forecast 2.2% Decline, Global Economy to Remain Weak in 2016

According to 2016 Spring Economic Forecast made by the European Commission the United States economy grown is assessed by 0.4 percentage points less than earlier.

The European Commission in Tuesday’s Spring 2016 Economic Forecast has reduced its growth expectations for the United States economy by 0.4 percentage points to 2.25 percent for 2016.

“Growth is now expected to slow progressively to roughly 2¼% in both 2016 and 2017 amid a maturing cycle and closing output gap,” the commission said in the report.

Increased global economic turmoil, the slump in the energy sector and consequent inventory adjustments have weakened the prospects for US growth, according to the report. In its winter forecast, the European Commission predicted a GDP growth rate of 2.7 percent for the world’s largest economy.

At the same time, global economic growth will remain weak and is forecast to pick up only modestly by 3.1 percent in 2016 and 3.4 percent in 2017, a spring 2016 Economic Forecast by the European Commission indicated Tuesday.

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HSBC Profit Falls 14% Amid Volatility and Weak Trading Conditions

HSBC reported a sharp decline in profit in the first three months of 2016, as market volatility and weak trading conditions dented its performance. However, the decline was smaller than expected and was partly offset by a surge in revenue in the commercial banking division, the lender said on Tuesday (3 May).

In the quarter to 31 March, the bank posted a 14% year-on-year decline to $6.1bn (£4.1bn, €5.3bn) in statutory pre-tax profit, compared with analysts’ expectations for a $4.3bn figure. Excluding currency fluctuations and other one-off items, profit declined 18% from the corresponding period in 2015 to $5.4bn.

The FTSE 100-listed bank, however, described the profit figures as “a resilient performance despite challenging market conditions”. On the revenue front, Britain’s biggest bank saw underlying revenue decline 4% year-on-year to $13.9bn, as income generated by the market division fell 12%. However, the group’s commercial banking arm posted a 2% increase in the period, boosted by growing demand for loans in the UK market.

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Former FBI Agent Pleads Guilty to Stealing $136,000 in Drug Proceeds

A former agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation accused of stealing more than $136,000 in drug money and spending it on cars, vehicle accessories and cosmetic surgery for his wife pleaded guilty to federal charges on Monday.

Scott Bowman, 45, pleaded guilty in U.S. District Court in Los Angeles to one count each of conversion of property by a federal agent, obstruction of justice, falsification of records and witness tampering, the Department of Justice said in a statement.

“As Mr. Bowman takes responsibility for his actions by pleading guilty, the public should be reminded that FBI personnel are held to the highest standards and misconduct of any kind is taken very seriously,” said James Struyk, acting assistant director in charge of the FBI’s Los Angeles field office.

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Slashing Sugar Makes Kids Healthier in Just 10 Days

Although it may sound like a bad infomercial, a study financed by the National Institutes of Health has shown that cutting added sugar in children’s diets can improve their overall health incredibly quickly.

The study observed 43 obese children and found that eliminating or reducing added sugar, even while keeping the same number of calories and savory junk foods in their diets, led to improving many obesity-related health issues in just ten days. The children who were selected were not only obese, but also suffered from a chronic metabolic disorder, such as high blood pressure or high cholesterol.

Despite no change in caloric intake and other fatty foods, the children lowered their blood pressure and cholesterol, and several even lost some weight. During the experiment, the children replaced sugary cereals and pastries with bagels, and sugary dishes like chicken teriyaki with hamburgers or turkey hot dogs.

They were still allowed as much fatty food as they desired during the experiment. Several of the children also had improved function in their liver and kidneys and several reported feeling “too full” during the experiment. Yet, 42 out of 43 of the participants said they found the new diet to be appetizing.

Dr. Robert Lustig, a pediatric endocrinologist at Benioff’s Children’s Hospital at the University of California San Francisco said of the study:

“This paper says we can turn a child’s metabolic health around in 10 days without changing calories and without changing weight – just by taking the added sugars out of their diet. From a clinical standpoint, from a health care standpoint, that’s very important.”

While this study indicates a major step forward in learning about nutrition, it should also be noted that many scientists and nutritionists remain skeptical.

Barry Popkin, nutrition professor at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, advocates for a tax on sugary drinks, but remains a little wary of the results of the new study.

“While this work is suggestive of a dramatic beneficial health effect, there are too many careful, well-controlled studies on this topic that do not find such unique, dramatic results.”

Scientists and nutritionists hope to expand on this study to see if the findings can be replicated.

This article originally appeared at Natural Society.

Women 31% More Likely to Receive Bachelor’s Degree Than Men

Women are 31 percent more likely to have earned a college degree by the time they turn 29 years of age than men, according to data released by the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

The study evaluated the educational attainment and employment experiences of 9,000 young men and women who were born between 1980 and 1984. The bureau found that 34 percent of women had received a bachelor’s degree by the time they were 29, compared to 26 percent of men who did the same.

“Women were more likely than men to have received a bachelor’s degree by age 29,” states the report. “In total, 72 percent of women had either attended some college or received a bachelor’s degree, compared with 63 percent of men.”

“In addition to being more likely to attend college, women were more likely to have finished their college degree,” the report states. “Of the 72 percent of women who started college, 47 percent received a bachelor’s degree by age 29. In comparison, of the 63 percent of men who started college, 41 percent had received a bachelor’s degree.”

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In 6 Months Since Budget Deal: Debt Up More Than $1 Trillion

In the six months that have passed since then-retiring House Speaker John Boehner and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell cut a budget deal with President Barack Obama that suspended the legal limit on the federal debt until March 15, 2017, the federal debt has increased by more than $1 trillion.

The Senate passed “The Bipartisan Budget Act of 2015” with a vote held in the early morning hours of Friday, Oct. 30. Obama signed it on Monday, Nov. 2.

At the close business on Oct. 30, 2015, the total federal debt was $18,152,981,685,747.52. By the close of business on April 28, 2016—the latest date for which the Treasury has published the number–the total federal debt was $19,186,207,744,589.55.

That is an increase of $1,033,226,058,842.03.

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Justices reject franchise appeal to Seattle $15 minimum wage

The U.S. Supreme Court will not hear a challenge to Seattle’s $15-an-hour minimum wage from franchise owners who say the law discriminates against them by treating them as large businesses.

Seattle was one of the first cities in the nation to adopt a law aiming for a $15 minimum wage, giving small businesses employing fewer than 500 people seven years to phase it in. Large employers must do so over three or four years, depending on whether they offer health insurance to their employees.

Five franchises and the International Franchise Association sued the city, saying the law treats Seattle’s 623 franchises like large businesses because they are part of multistate networks. But the franchises say they are small businesses and should have more time to phase in the higher wage.

The justices did not comment on their order Monday that leaves in place a federal court ruling in favor of Seattle.

The decision comes as several other cities and a group of states, including California and New York, have started to phase in a $15 minimum wage in recent months. But each municipality and state takes a slightly different approach. San Francisco changed its minimum wage around the same time Seattle did.

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3 Bombings In & Around Baghdad Kill 18, Injure 45

At least eighteen people have been killed and 45 more injured when three bombs went off in separate locations in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, police and medics said.

The worst explosion hit the Sunni-dominated Saydiya district of southwestern Baghdad. A bomb in a parked car killed eleven people and injured 30 more, sources said.

The majority of the victims were Shiite Muslim pilgrims who were on their way to the shrine, in the Iraqi capital, of Imam Moussa al-Kadhim, a great-grandson of Prophet Mohammad.

Security forces have cordoned off the scene and transported the injured to a nearby hospital, and the dead bodies for forensic examination, a police source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told local Alsumaria TV.

Several explosive devices planted in Tarmia, a town near the Iraqi capital, left two dead and six injured.

Also a roadside bomb in the town of Khalisa, 30km from Baghdad, killed one and injured two.

Islamic State claimed responsibility for the attacks in an online statement.

Baghdad has been hit by a wave of suicide attacks, with dozens of people dying in the space of a few weeks.

On Saturday, a car bomb killed at least 21 people near the Iraqi capital. The bomb targeted a Shiite open air market in Nahrawan. Terror group Islamic State (IS, formerly ISIS/ISIL) claimed responsibility for the bombing.

On April 22, nine people were killed following a suicide attack on a Shiite mosque in southwest Baghdad, also claimed by IS. The blast took place after Friday prayers, when a bomber detonated his explosive vest.

Rasmussen: Trump 41%, Clinton 39%

Last week, Rasmussen Reports gave voters the option of staying home on Election Day if Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are the big party nominees, and six percent (6%) said that’s what they intend to do for now. Clinton and Trump were tied with 38% support each; 16% said they would vote for some other candidate, and two percent (2%) were undecided.

But Trump edges slightly ahead if the stay-at-home option is removed. Trump also now does twice as well among Democrats as Clinton does among Republicans.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey of Likely U.S. Voters finds Trump with 41% support to Clinton’s 39%. Fifteen percent (15%) prefer some other candidate, and five percent (5%) are undecided. (To see survey question wording, click here.)

This is the first time Trump has led the matchup since last October. Clinton held a 41% to 36% advantage in early March.

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CIA Boss Says Releasing 9/11 28 Pages Will Compromise “Sensitive Methods”

CIA Director John Brennan on Sunday said releasing the excised 28 pages to the 9/11 report, aka the National Commission on Terrorist Attacks Upon the United States, would compromise “sensitive methods” and “investigative actions” used by the government.

Brennan said the missing chapter has not been released to the public because it hasn’t been vetted or corroborated. He added that releasing the information would be used by enemies of Saudi Arabia.

“I think there’s a combination of things that are accurate and inaccurate [in the report],” Brennan said. “I think the 9/11 Commission took that joint inquiry and those 28 pages or so and followed through on the investigation and then came out with a very clear judgment that there was no evidence that … Saudi government as an institution or Saudi officials or individuals had provided financial support to al Qaeda.”

While there is scant information available implicating the Saudi government directly in aiding and abetting al-Qaeda, there is sufficient evidence the kingdom green lighted private funding of al-Qaeda, the Taliban, and Lashkar-e-Taiba, a terrorist group based in Pakistan-administered Kashmir.

Saudi private funding of terrorism was admitted in a memo attributed to Hillary Clinton when she was Secretary of State.

“More needs to be done since Saudi Arabia remains a critical financial support base for al-Qaida, the Taliban, LeT and other terrorist groups,” a secret December 2009 paper signed by Clinton states.

“Donors in Saudi Arabia constitute the most significant source of funding to Sunni terrorist groups worldwide,” she said. “It has been an ongoing challenge to persuade Saudi officials to treat terrorist financing emanating from Saudi Arabia as a strategic priority.”

The memo is part of a cache of diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks.

A CIA Inspector General report released last year addressing so-called “intelligence failures” leading up to the attack also clears the Saudi government. The CIA report was made public several days after Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky introduced a bill to release the 28 pages.

Despite the claim the Saudi government was not involved in the attacks, there is sufficient evidence showing a Saudi relationship to the alleged hijackers. (See our “Here’s what will not be included in the 9/11 ’28 pages.’”)

Saudi Arabia insists it was not involved in the attack and has threatened to sell off hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of American assets if a bill supported by members of the Senate and the House is passed and the 28 pages are released.

Obama has lobbied against the legislation.

Graham: Trump Would Lead To ‘Another 9/11’

South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham is predicting “another 9/11” if Donald Trump is elected president. 

In an interview on CBS’ “Face the Nation” Graham said the Republican Party is in the midst of a “civil war” and called Trump’s foreign policy positions dangerous.

He pointed to former House Speaker John Boehner’s comments about his friendly relationship with Trump, and Boehner’s dismissal of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz, Trump’s chief Republican presidential rival, as “Lucifer in the flesh.”

“There’s a civil war going on in the Republican Party, obviously,” Graham said. “John and I are very close friends, but he’s embracing Donald Trump, and I am not. Why? Because I believe Donald Trump’s foreign policy is isolationism. It will lead to another 9/11.”

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Americans haven’t gotten a raise in 16 years

Mark Twain is credited with saying “figures don’t lie, but liars figure.”

If he were around today Twain’s quote might go something like this: “Figures do lie, and liars figure out how to make people believe them.”

Granted, not as catchy.

But my quote goes a long way toward explaining something that is bothering many political pundits today. President Obama whined last week that he’s not getting enough credit for the economy.

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11-year-old Boy Shoots Home Intruder: ‘He started crying like a little baby’

An Alabama boy is being praised after using a firearm to ward off a home invader.

Alone at his Talladega home Wednesday morning, Chris Gaither, 11, says he retrieved a knife and then his stepdad’s 9mm pistol after his dog alerted him to a break in.

“I seen the guy and I warned him four times to get out and then he ran upstairs,” Chris said. “And he came back down with a .38 in his hand.”

The young boy recalled being scared after the suspected burglar pointed the gun at him, but Chris proceeded to stand his ground.

“When he was coming downstairs he told me he was going to kill me and F you and all that,” Chris told WVTM reporters.

“I told him I was gonna kill him and all that with the gun if he didn’t get out of my house,” the home school student said.

With a hamper in tow, the intruder attempted to flee the home and jump over a fence, but Chris already had him in his sights.

“I shot through a hamper that he was carrying. It was a full metal jacket bullet it went straight through the back of his leg,” Chris described.

When all was said and done, Chris fired 12 shots at the man, with the last bullet hitting him “and he started crying like a little baby.”

Chris suspects the burglar didn’t realize the gun was authentic until it was too late.

“When I pulled the gun out on him, I guess he didn’t think it was a real gun because he just kept on walking,” Chris said.

The boy credited his stepfather with teaching him how to properly use a firearm, and says he also “plays zombies for target practice.”

Asked if he had a message for the burglar, Chris imparted, “I hope you learned your lesson from coming to this house and trying to steal stuff.”

Watchdog: Global Freedom of Press at Lowest Point in 12 Years

International press freedom has hit a 12-year low point, a decline due in part to European countries pursuing security measures to thwart terrorism, newly released data from the nonpartisan organization Freedom House reveals.

The findings were made public Wednesday at the Newseum in Washington, D.C. as the watchdog group released its annual Freedom of the Press report.

“Global press freedom declined to its lowest point in 12 years in 2015, as political, criminal and terrorist forces sought to co-opt or silence the media in their broader struggle for power,” Freedom of the Press research director Jennifer Dunham wrote.

“Syria remained by far the deadliest place in the world for journalists in 2015,” the report stated. According to the Committee to Protect Journalists, 72 members of the press were killed on the job last year, 14 in Syria.

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Facebook Spent $16 Million on Armed Guards for Billionaire Progressive Mark Zuckerberg

Facebook has spent $16 million on armed security for billionaire progressive Mark Zuckerberg.

This means that even as Facebook was incrementally barring law-abiding citizens–including licensed gun dealers–from advertising firearm sales for self-defense, they were spending millions to keep Zuckerberg surrounded by hired guys carrying guns.

Facebook’s ban on the advertisement of gun sales has even led to the deletion of accounts on which the word “firearms” is included.

According to Quartz, Zuckerberg “famously takes $1 annual salary” from Facebook. However, Facebook “revealed that it spent more than $16 million over the past five years on private air travel and other aspects of Zuckerberg’s ‘overall security program.’”

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Statoil Chopper Crashes Off Norway Coast, 11 of 13 on Board Reported Dead

Eleven people have been killed in a helicopter crashed off the west coast of Norway near Bergen, AFP reports. A Briton, an Italian and 11 Norwegians were amongst those on board the helicopter, which was totally destroyed on impact.

“We have received many, many reports of a helicopter crash just west of Turoy near Bergen. Many people have reported that they heard an explosion and saw smoke. We can confirm that a helicopter has crashed and that there are people in the sea,” police told the Verdens Gang newspaper.

Norwegian police have told the broadcaster NTB that there were 13 people on board the helicopter when it came down. The area has frequent helicopter traffic servicing offshore oil platforms in the North Sea off the Norwegian coast.

Rescuers tried to find survivors, though a few hours after the crash, it was announced that 11 people had been killed. The other two people on the helicopter are presumed dead. It was reported that 11 Norwegians, one Briton and one Italian were amongst those on board, though the nationalities of those killed has yet to be confirmed.

“We do not know the sequence of events or what the helicopter to come down,” Bjorn Jarle, from the Rescue Coordination Center for South Norway.

Bergen is the second-largest city in Norway. Reports say there was no problem with the weather as conditions were good for flying, according to local meteorologists.

The helicopter that came down was a Eurocopter and was owned by the CHC Helicopter Group, which specializes in providing offshore transportation to the oil-and-gas industry. However, the Norwegian Civil Aviation Authority mentioned that the helicopter has suffered from technical faults in the past.

“There have been challenges with this kind of helicopter model in 2012, when errors in the main gear box were identified,” the authority said in a statement, according to Reuters. “That model received flying restrictions in 2012 and 2013.”

Norwegian oil company Statoil has confirmed to the Aftonbladet publication that the crashed helicopter came from the Gullfaks B platform – a North Sea oil field operated by Statoil.

Ivar Moen, from the Rescue Coordination Center for South Norway, told Verdens Gang that diving equipment is being brought to help with the rescue operation.

“There are a lot of people who can help in the area, but the Rescue Coordination Center has requested vessels with the capacity to dive. The Norwegian Stealth Frigate, the Otto Sverdrup will help with the rescue attempts and is heading to the area,” he said.

Statoil is setting up an emergency center in Bergen, while it confirmed that 11 of those on board worked for the oil firm. The oil giant has also said that all helicopters of a similar type to the one that crashed have been temporarily taken out of service.

North Korea Sentences American to 10 Years Hard Labor

North Korea has sentenced a South Korean-born American citizen to 10 years of hard labor for subversion and espionage, a North Korean official told CNN.

Prosecutors were seeking a 15-year hard labor sentence for Kim Dong Chul for committing “offenses in a scheme to overthrow the socialist system of the DPRK,” according to state-run news agency KCNA.

The defense asked that Kim’s sentence be commuted, arguing “the crimes by the accused are very serious but he is old and may repent of his faults.”

Friday’s verdict was handed down by North Korea’s Supreme Court.

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U.S. Has Record 10th Straight 1st Quarter With GDP Growth Less than 3%

After finishing a record tenth-straight year with less than 3-percent growth in real Gross Domestic Product in 2015, the United States has started 2016 with a record tenth-straight first quarter in which real GDP grew at an annual rate of less than 3 percent, according to the “advance” estimate of first quarter GDP published today by the Bureau of Economic Analysis.

The BEA’s advance estimate of real GDP for the first quarter of 2016 showed real GDP growing at an annual rate of 0.5 percent.

Since 1948–the earliest year for which BEA has estimated the annual rate of growth in real GDP for the first quarter of the year–there has never been a year in which real GDP grew by as little as 0.5 percent in the first quarter and then the economy rebounded enough to see real GDP grow by 3.0 percent or better for the entire year.

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Murderers, Rapists, Kidnappers: Nearly 20,000 Criminal Aliens Released in 2015

Federal immigration authorities last year released 19,723 criminal illegal aliens back onto U.S. streets who have been convicted of 64,197 crimes — including 208 homicides.

That’s according to data that U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) provided to Congress this week ahead of a House Oversight Committee hearing scheduled for Thursday.

The number of criminal aliens released from ICE custody is down from previous years, though apprehensions of illegal aliens in general have also fallen during the Obama regime.

In 2013, more than 36,000 criminal illegal aliens with convictions for more than 88,000 crimes were released from custody. In 2014, more than 30,000 were released.

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Saudi Arabia and 9/11: The Kingdom May Be in for a Nasty Shock

Foreign leaders visiting King Salman of Saudi Arabia have noticed that there is a large flower display positioned just in front of where the 80-year-old monarch sits. On closer investigation, the visitors realised that the purpose of the flowers is to conceal a computer which acts as a teleprompter, enabling the King to appear capable of carrying on a coherent conversation about important issues.

One visiting U.S. delegation meeting with King Salman recently observed a different method of convincing visitors—or at least television viewers watching the encounter—that he can deal with the escalating crises facing Saudi Arabia. The king did not look at the group but at a giant television screen hanging from the ceiling of the room on which was appearing prompts. Simon Henderson, the Saudi expert at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, who tells the story, writes that off to one side in the room was an aide who “furiously hammered talking points into a keyboard.”

Of course, King Salman is not the only world leader past or present whose inability to cope has been artfully concealed by aides and courtiers. But eyewitness accounts of his incapacity does put in perspective the claim by the White House that President Obama’s visit to Saudi Arabia and two-hour meeting with the king on April 20 was “cordial” and cleared the air after a troubled period in Saudi-U.S. relations.

It is hardly a secret that real authority is shifting to Crown Prince Muhammad bin Nayef and his son, Deputy Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman. But the power vacuum does help explain the bizarre and self-destructive nature of present-day Saudi foreign policy that suddenly shifted from cautious use of Saudi Arabia’s vast oil wealth to further its aims, while always keeping its options open, to a militarised and confrontational pursuit of foreign policy objectives.

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US Lawmaker to Meet with Intelligence Director on Declassifying 9/11 Report

US lawmakers are scheduled to meet next month with Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper to discuss the declassification of 28 pages of the joint congressional report on the September 11, 2001 terrorist attacks, Congressman Walter Jones told Sputnik on Wednesday.

Besides Jones the meeting with Clapper will attend former US Senate Intelligence Committee Chairman Bob Graham and possibly Congressman Stephen Lynch.

“On the 17th of May, we will be meeting with DNI Clapper to have a discussion with the hopes that he will agree to encourage the President [to declassify the 28 pages],” Jones said.

After the September 11 attacks, a joint congressional committee issued an investigative report published in 2002, with the exception of a 28-page chapter reportedly dealing with foreign financing of the terrorist attacks.

Former Senator Graham, one of the authors of the report, has indicated that the chapter may implicate Saudi Arabia in financing some of the September 11 hijackers.

“I’m not sure there would be anything in the 28 pages that I read that would be of national security consequences at all. The Saudis have for many years been very supportive of the jihadist types in the Middle East,” Jones noted.

He argued that the families of the terrorist attacks’ victims and every US citizen has “have a right to the truth,” and should be able to read the classified section of the report.

Earlier in April, DNI Clapper indicated that the White House was reviewing the pages and considering declassifying at least part of the chapter by June.

Jones is the lead sponsor of legislation calling on President Barack Obama to declassify the report on the 2001 terrorist attacks that killed nearly 3,000 Americans. The legislation was also picked up by the Senate and is supported by Senator and former Republican presidential Candidate Rand Paul.

Army in Thailand arrests 10 people for Facebook comments

Ten people have been arrested by the army in Thailand while charges have been filed against those behind a Facebook page which criticised the military-backed draft constitution.

It is not known if the arrests are linked to the charges brought by election commissioner Somchai Srisuthiyakorn against members of a Facebook group based in Thailand’s northeastern province of Khon Kaen.

The Thai Army ousted the democratically elected government of prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra in May 2014 after months of political turmoil.

A supporter rides past a sign showing ousted prime minister Yingluck Shinawatra and her brother Thaksin, who were both ousted by military coups. Thailand’s military is touchy about criticism of its new draft constitution

The Bangkok Post newspaper reported that those arrested had been taken to army bases and would be held there for a week for what was sinisterly referred to as ‘attitude adjustment’.

Eight people were detained in Bangkok and two in the city of Khon Kaen, which is in the Isan region.

Isan is the stronghold of Yingluck and her brother, the former prime minister Thaksin Shinawatra, who was ousted by another military coup in 2006.

After the 2014 coup General Prayut Chan-ocha, head of the Thai army, took over as prime minister and set up a National Council for Peace and Order.

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Ex-Cop Confesses to Shooting, Killing Wife on 911 Call

Prosecutors likely won’t have a hard time convicting an ex-Ohio officer after a stunning 911 call in which he readily confessed to murder.

Around midday Monday, former Chicago-area police officer Jeffrey Hawkins, 57, calmly phoned the Colerain Township emergency dispatch line to report he had shot his wife dead.

“I just shot and killed my wife,” Hawkins admitted to the 911 dispatcher in a call released by police Tuesday.

“You said you just shot and killed your wife?” the dispatcher asks.

“Yes,” Hawkins replies, reassuring, that the gun “is on the sink” and that “I’m not a threat to anybody – I’m a former police officer – I’m not sure what happened.”

The ex-cop, who also worked as a private security consultant according to his LinkedIn page, goes on to admit he and his wife, JoAnn Hawkins, 59, had fought throughout the weekend over money, and that she repeatedly kept telling him to speak to her lawyer.

“She took out all of the money out of our bank account on my birthday Saturday and you guys were out here a couple of times,” Hawkins states to the 911 dispatcher.

“She was gone and I came home and she was here. She just wouldn’t talk to me. She kept saying talk to my lawyer. I don’t know. It just happened. I never wanted to do anything. I’m just so hurt. I’m alright. I mean I’m not alright. God… god forgive me.”

Police arrived and found JoAnn’s body riddled “by several gunshot wounds.”

The Hamilton County Court judge ordered Hawkins’ bond set at $3 million in order to keep him behind bars until trial. He is charged with one count of murder.

9/11 Families and Survivors Livid Over Obama Groveling to Saudi Arabia

Wayne Madsen Reports has spoken to family members of the victims of the 9/11 attacks, as well as survivors of the attack on the World Trade Center in New York who are livid over President Obama’s kow-towing to Saudi Arabia.

Obama, prior to boarding Air Force One on a direct flight to Riyadh, said he would veto a bill in Congress that would lift Saudi Arabia sovereign immunity to allow the 9/11 victims’ families and survivors of the attack to sue the Saudi government.

Wayne Madsen is an investigative journalist who consistently exposes cover-ups from deep within government. Want to be the first to learn the latest scandal? Click on the banner above and subscribe today!

Although White House national security staffer Brett Holmgren told former Florida Senator Bob Graham that Obama would make a decision in one or two months on releasing the remaining 28 pages from the 2003 Joint Congressional Inquiry into the intelligence failures that led to the 9/11 attacks, victims’ families and survivors remain skeptical whether Obama will release the pages in full. The Saudis have lobbied strenuously on Capitol Hill against any release of the pages. The Obama administration may compromise by redacting the portions of the 28 pages that implicate Saudi officials, including former Saudi ambassador to the United States Prince Bandar in providing funds to handlers for the 19 hijackers, 15 of whom were Saudi nationals.

A number of members of the congressional joint inquiry, including Graham who served as the co-author in his position as chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, and members of Congress who have read the report have said that the release of the 28 pages do not constitute a national security threat to the United States and should be released in full.

Early on in his administration in 2009, Obama bowed before Saudi King Abdullah. He is now doing the same for King Salman, who, as governor of Riyadh province, provided cash, hotel rooms, and airline tickets to Al Qaeda members transiting through Riyadh between the United States and Afghanistan. The classified 28-pages likely implicate Salman in the 9/11 attacks, in addition to Prince Bandar.

However, Obama appears to be taking his cues from the wishes of the Saudi government. Perhaps Obama, who, as a young boy prayed to Mecca at the madrassa in Menteng elementary school in Jakarta, Indonesia, and who has kept the pro-Saudi John Brennan as his Central Intelligence Agency director cannot act objectively when it comes to Saudi Arabia. And siding with the Saudis, who continue to support jihadist terrorism in Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Lebanon, Libya, Bahrain, Nigeria, Bangladesh, Afghanistan, Pakistan, France, Belgium, and elsewhere, makes Obama a feckless coddler of the Wahhabist cause.

It is doubtful that Obama, who avoids lecturing Saudi Arabia on its dismal human rights record, one that sees Islamic State-style beheadings on Riyadh’s infamous “Chop Chop Square,” and floggings and imprisonment for bloggers, will criticize the Saudi regime. After all, Saudi foreign minister, Adel al-Jubeir, a former Saudi ambassador to Washington who once made up a story about an Iranian assassination attempt against him while he dined at the Cafe Milano in Georgetown in Washington, has threatened to sell off the $750 billion Saudi securities portfolio in the United States, including Treasury notes. When it comes to what is best for America and its citizens, Hussein Obama can always be relied upon to side with Wall Street and Islamist radicals like Salman, Jubeir, and Turkey’s modern-day sultan, Recep Tayyip Erdogan, against the victims’ families and survivors of 9/11.

Wayne Madsen is an investigative journalist who consistently exposes cover-ups from deep within the government. Want to be the first to learn the latest scandal? Go to subscribe today!

Apple Sales Down 13%

Apple Inc.’s smartphone woes are deepening.

The company posted its first quarterly revenue drop in more than a decade and forecast another decline in the current period, dragged down by waning demand for the iPhone as fewer users race to snap up the latest version of the device. Shares fell as much as 8.3 percent in extended trading.

Chief Financial Officer Luca Maestri said demand has fallen off since the debut of the larger-screen iPhone 6 and 6 Plus, which led customers to upgrade more quickly. “Last year we had a very strong iPhone upgrade cycle.”

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Flush with Cash: US Government Collects Record Taxes in 2015

With April 15 come and gone, let’s have a look at how well the Federal government has been doing for itself in recent years.

It turns out things have been going quite well. In 2015, Federal receipts (well over 90 percent of which comes from taxes) hit an all time high of 3.2 trillion in 2009 dollars. In real terms, that’s the highest level ever reached.

Naturally, revenues dropped, when measured year over year, from 2008 to 2009 due to the recession at the time. However, revenue began to quickly grow again, and has now rebounded well above what it was at the end of the last cyclical peak. Receipts had peaked at 2.56 trillion (in 2009 dollars) in 2007.

If we look at growth rates, we also find that tax receipts have been outpacing population growth in recent decades. Even if we accept that everything the government does is a good and essential thing, there’s no reason for receipts to outpace population growth, especially for a government that is already as large, established, and immensely powerful as the US state. And yet, in 2015, the five-year growth rate in receipts was 41 percent, compared to 2.3 percent in population growth:

Growth rates declined in the aftermath of the recession, but revenue growth has been near 30-year highs since 2013.

One would think that, given all this growth, the US government might be covering its political liabilities. But, of course, that’s not the case. The US government continues to spend far more than it collects in revenues. This has been financed partly by selling debt, which has been facilitated by open market manipulations on hte part of the central bank that enable the Treasury to continue to sell government debt at very low interest rates.

Federal spending has been above revenues since 2002:

The gap between receipts and spending continues to drive sizable deficits every year. In 2009, the deficit peaked at more than 1.4 trillion dollars, but even in recent years, with apologists for federal spending crowing about how the deficit in shrinking, we’re still looking at deficits around 400 billion dollars.

All of this must be paid for by current holders of US cash in the form of inflation, or by current taxpayers in the form of debt service paid constantly to the holders of US debt.

But how does all this tax revenue look when compared to the US economy overall? Are tax collections outpacing economic growth? Some observers of tax policy have pointed out that if compared to overall GDP, tax revenues have been around 20 percent for many years:

A better question to ask is whether the U.S. government is collecting more taxes as a percent of the total U.S. economy. In other words, is the government taking a bigger bite of the economy?

The answer is no. In 2015, federal taxes are on track to be about 18% of the economy. That’s normal.

“It’s not as catchy [to say]: ‘tax receipts running at historical average,’ but that’s a more accurate description of where we’re at right now,” says Joe Rosenberg, a senior research associate at the Tax Policy Center.

Of course, measuring taxes against total GDP in this way rather misses the point since GDP includesgovernment spending. If the feds want to pump up GDP numbers, they only need increase government spending.

A more practical way to look at this is to measure GDP while taking out the government component.

First, let’s look at total GDP compared to government spending. For this next graph, I’ve subtracts total government spending (including state and local spending) from GDP to get a better sense of how much growth is actually taking place in the private-sector economy. This is a fairly crude way of removing the government component from GDP, but as long as we apply it in the same way every year, it gives us some useful comparisons.

Total government spending has been rather flat since 2009 following a surge during the financial crisis. When we subtract the orange line from the blue line, we get the gray line. We want to compare the red line to the gray line, and not the blue line. The blue line can be made bigger simply by increasing the orange line.

If we look at federal receipts to overall GDP, it does indeed come in around 18 to 20 percent much of the time. However, if we compare receipts to the private economy, we find that receipts usually come in around 25 percent of the bigger picture.

Moreover, when compared to the private economy, we find that in 2015, receipts were at a 15-year high. That is, federal receipts were equal to 27.3 percent of the private economy. We have to go back to 2001 and the height of the dot-com boom, to find a similar number in the past.

In other words, the federal government is doing quite well for itself while job growth and wages stagnate.

A Switch from Tax Revenue to Central-Bank-Created Revenue 

However, those years of relatively low percentages from 2009 to 2012 are not indications that the federal government had backed off on tax collection, and allowed a larger role for the private economy. On the contrary, the fact that the revenue-to-private-GDP ratio was so low in those years shows that the federal government, and recipients of federal monies, were becoming less reliant on tax revenue, and more reliant on money creation via monetary policy. After 2009, government spending reached new highs, which propped up GDP. At the same time, tax revenue declined in importance as government spending increasingly relied on money creation through the central bank.

If tax revenues could not keep up with political demands for increased spending, then one can simply turn to other non-tax sources of revenue — assuming there’s a central bank. That is, we can always turn to inflationary monetary policy.

Tax revenue is now on the rebound, but don’t look for comparable decline in central bank involvement in facilitating more government spending.

What If the Official 9/11 Story Were True?

Two planes crashed, 3 buildings collapsed on 9/11 according to the official story.

If true, how would it affect the risks to to public and to firefighters from burning buildings if minor fires alone could cause a steel building to collapse?

Why has there been no change in firefighting procedures, no change in building codes, and no lawsuits if the official story is true?

UK filmmaker, Tony Rooke, and Scottish firefighter, Brian Maxwell, join David Knight to talk about Maxwell’s official censure when he appeared for 3 minutes in the documentary “INCONTROVERTIBLE” and questioned the safety implications of the 9/11 official report.

Classified 28 Pages of the 9/11 Commission Report Could Be Released

Twenty-eight classified pages from the famous 9/11 Commission Report on the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001, could be made public by June, according to James Clapper, the director of National Intelligence.

An April 25 report from VOA quoted Clapper’s remarks made at a Christian Science Monitor breakfast. “I think that is certainly a realistic goal from where we stand with that,” said Clapper who is responsible for overseeing the redacted pages’ potential declassification. “We are in the position of trying to coordinate interagency position on the declassification of the 28 pages,” the director and retired Air Force lieutenant general added.

VOA noted that only a select group of U.S. officials have read the classified report, which has been locked in a secure area of the U.S. Capitol building since a joint congressional committee compiled it in 2002. Bills have been introduced in both the Senate and House of Representatives calling for the declassification of the report’s redacted pages.

One of the most outspoken voices calling for a release of the classified pages has been former Democrat Florida Governor and Senator Bob Graham, who said Sunday during an interview on NBC’s Meet the Press that the pages should be released to end the continued debate over what they contain and to allow the American public to make up its own mind about the significance of their contents.

VOA summarized Graham’s contention that the question of whether the 19 hijackers — 15 of whom were Saudi citizens — had received any outside help is the most important outstanding question related to the September 11, 2001, attacks. “I think it’s implausible to think that people who couldn’t speak English, had never been in the United States before, as a group were not well-educated, could have done that,” Graham said on Meet the Press. “So who was the most likely entity to have provided them that support? And I think that all of the evidence points to Saudi Arabia.”

Graham has been making his point on other TV talk shows, including a CBS News 60 Minutes program that aired on April 10 called “28 Pages.”

As we wrote in our April 15 report about that program, 60 Minutes noted that Graham has been trying to get those 28 censored pages released since they were classified back in 2003, during a time when he was chairman of the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence and co-chair of the bipartisan joint congressional inquiry into intelligence failures surrounding the attacks.

We also cited a CBS News report that the joint inquiry had reviewed a half a million documents, interviewed hundreds of witnesses and produced an 838-page report, the final chapter of which was blanked out — redacted by the Bush administration for reasons of “national security.”

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Egypt Jails 11 Men Accused of Homosexuality

An Egyptian court has sentenced 11 men accused of homosexuality to jail terms of between three and 12 years, legal sources said.

The defendants were arrested in a flat in the leafy Cairo suburb of Agouza in September last year.

The court convicted them of “debauchery and incitement to debauchery”, the charges generally used to prosecute alleged homosexuals in Egypt as the law does not formally prohibit same-sex relations.

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