Today’s News: December 20, 2019

World News

As deadly protests grow in India, many fear democracy is being eroded

CBS – The protests in India against a controversial new citizenship law continued escalating Thursday. The crisis could become a watershed moment in the history of the world’s largest democracy. Unrest has erupted in cities and towns across this vast nation since the government brought in the new law which, for the first time in India’s 70 years of democracy, singles out people of one faith.

Critics, from constitutional scholars to politicians, historians and Bollywood stars, have derided the legislation as unconstitutional and anti-Muslim, and next month India’s Supreme Court will take up a legal challenge against it. The Citizenship Amendment Act (CAA) paves the way for illegal immigrants from Afghanistan, Bangladesh and Pakistan to become citizens, unless they are Muslim.

At least eight people have died, hundreds have been injured and several hundred more detained — including some prominent figures — as the protests have spread across this South Asian nation of more than 1.3 billion people. As the unrest escalated, the government banned large gatherings in parts of Delhi on Thursday, and in the states of Uttar Pradesh and Karnataka, where the technology hub of Bengaluru is located.  

China Expects Its “Artificial Sun” to Be Operational in 2020

Futurism – In March, Chinese researchers predicted that the nation’s HL-2M tokamak — a device designed to replicate nuclear fusion, the same reaction that powers the Sun — would be built before the end of 2019.

No word yet on whether that’s still the case, but in November, Duan Xuru, one of the scientists working on the “artificial sun,” did provide an update, saying that construction was going smoothly and that the device should be operational in 2020 — a milestone that experts now tell Newsweek could finally make nuclear fusion a viable energy option on Earth.

MPs pass Johnson’s EU withdrawal bill, paving way for January 31 Brexit

RT – UK MPs have voted to pass PM Boris Johnson’s amended EU Withdrawal Agreement Bill (WAB), which sets the stage for an almost-certain Brexit on January 31 — and prevents any extension of the transition period beyond December 2020.

A previous version of the bill said that the post-Brexit transition period could be prolonged by mutual agreement for up to two years, but with Johnson’s Conservative Party now commanding such a large post-election majority in the House of Commons, that concession to the anti-Brexit opposition could be removed.

The bill was passed comfortably by 358 to 234 votes.

The Labour Party did not support the bill, with leader Jeremy Corbyn describing it as a “battering ram” to drive Britain down a path toward “more deregulation” and a “toxic” trade deal with the Trump administration.

 
In rare move, U.S. and Iranian envoys talk after U.N. meeting on nuclear deal

Reuters – The U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations made a rare compassionate public gesture toward her Iranian counterpart in the Security Council chamber on Thursday, expressing condolences over the death of an Iranian toddler.

Since Washington pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018, tensions between the United States and Tehran have risen.

But after a contentious U.N. Security Council meeting on compliance with the 2015 accord between world powers and Iran, Ambassador Kelly Craft walked over to talk to Iran’s U.N. Ambassador Majid Takht Ravanchi.

Ravanchi had spoken about a two-year old girl during his statement to the 15-member council. He said the girl had died in June from a rare disease known as EB and blamed the death on U.S. sanctions.

An official from the U.S. mission to the United Nations said Craft was expressing her condolences to Ravanchi.

Iran’s U.N. mission spokesman Alireza Miryousefi said they “merely had a short conversation on EB patients affected by sanctions”.

“It is not out of the ordinary for U.N. diplomats accredited to the U.N. to run into each other, or to have brief encounters, at HQ,” Miryousefi tweeted.

However, such direct interactions between Iranian and U.S. officials have been very rare in the past years.

U.S. News, Politics & Government

 
You have NO IDEA what’s coming: Virginia Dems to unleash martial law attack on 2A counties using roadblocks to confiscate firearms and spark a shooting war

NaturalNews – After passing extremely restrictive anti-gun legislation in early 2020, Virginia has a plan to deploy roadblocks at both the county and state levels to confiscate firearms from law-abiding citizens (at gunpoint, of course) as part of a deliberate effort to spark a shooting war with citizens, sources are now telling Natural News.

Some might choose to dismiss such claims as speculation, but these sources now say that Virginia has been chosen as the deliberate flashpoint to ignite the civil war that’s being engineered by globalists. Their end game is to unleash a sufficient amount of violence to call for UN occupation of America and the overthrow of President Trump and the republic. Such action will, of course, also result in the attempted nationwide confiscation of all firearms from private citizens, since all gun owners will be labeled “domestic terrorists” if they resist. Such language is already being used by Democrat legislators in the state of Virginia.

The Democrat-run impeachment of President Trump is a necessary component for this plan, since the scheme requires Trump supporters to be painted as “enraged domestic terrorists” who are seeking revenge for the impeachment. This is how the media will spin the stories when armed Virginians stand their ground and refuse to have their legal firearms confiscated by police state goons running Fourth Amendment violating roadblocks on Virginia roads.

The gun confiscation roadblocks are almost sure to start a shooting war

Roadblocks will be set up in two types of locations, sources tell Natural News: 1) On roads entering the state of Virginia from neighboring states that have very high gun ownership, such as Kentucky, Tennessee and North Carolina, and 2) Main roads (highways and interstates) that enter the pro-2A counties which have declared themselves to be Second Amendment sanctuaries. With over 90 counties now recognizing some sort of pro-2A sanctuary status, virtually the entire State of Virginia will be considered “enemy territory” by the tyrants in Richmond who are trying to pull off this insidious scheme.

 
Affordable Care Act’s ‘individual mandate’ unconstitutional, court rules — but real impact is unclear

Marketwatch – A federal appeals court on Wednesday struck down “Obamacare’s” now-toothless requirement that Americans carry health insurance but sidestepped a ruling on the law’s overall constitutionality. The decision means the law remains in effect for now.

The 2-1 ruling handed down by a panel of the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans means the ultimate fate of the rest of the Affordable Care Act including such popular provisions as protections for those with pre-existing conditions, Medicaid expansion and the ability for children under the age of 26 to remain on their parents’ insurance remains unclear.

The panel agreed with Texas-based U.S. District Judge Reed O’Connor’s 2018 finding that the law’s insurance requirement, the so-called “individual mandate,” was rendered unconstitutional when Congress, in 2017, reduced a tax on people without insurance to zero.

The court reached no decision on the big issue — how much of the Affordable Care Act must fall along with the insurance mandate.

“It may still be that none of the ACA is severable from the individual mandate, even after this inquiry is concluded. It may be that all of the ACA is severable from the individual mandate. It may also be that some of the ACA is severable from the individual mandate, and some is not,” Judge Jennifer Elrod wrote.

The decision sends the case back to a judge who already ruled once to throw out the entire ACA but with some guidance. O’Connor has to be more specific about which parts of the law can’t be separated from the mandate, and also must take into account Congress’ decision to leave the rest of the law essentially unchanged when it reduced the penalty for not having insurance to zero, Elrod wrote.

Congress Passes Sweeping Overhaul of Retirement System

WSJ – Bill encourages 401(k) plans to offer products with guaranteed income payment

Congress passed the most significant changes to the nation’s retirement system in more than a decade, a move designed to help Americans save more.

With the U.S. population aging and employers shifting responsibility for retirement saving to individuals, lawmakers have grown concerned that a significant portion of Americans are at risk of outliving their money. 

Feldman claims impeachment is not complete until Articles of Impeachment have been given to Senate

The Daily Sheeple – One of the impeachment witnesses the Democrats presented in their case against President Donald Trump, Harvard Law professor Noah Feldman, said in an op-ed on Thursday that Democrats have not yet impeached the president despite their vote last night.

Feldman’s op-ed at Bloomberg News comes as House Speaker Nancy Pelosi is considering withholding sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate because she is worried that the political trial would be biased in favor of the president.

“So far we haven’t seen anything that looks fair to us,” Pelosi told reporters last night. “That would’ve been our intention, but we’ll see what happens over there.”

Feldman noted that “according to the Constitution, impeachment is a process, not a vote,” and that while a modest delay would not pose a problem, a lengthy delay would be a “serious problem.”

“Impeachment as contemplated by the Constitution does not consist merely of the vote by the House, but of the process of sending the articles to the Senate for trial,” Feldman wrote. “Both parts are necessary to make an impeachment under the Constitution: The House must actually send the articles and send managers to the Senate to prosecute the impeachment. And the Senate must actually hold a trial.”

Feldman continued, “If the House does not communicate its impeachment to the Senate, it hasn’t actually impeached the president. If the articles are not transmitted, Trump could legitimately say that he wasn’t truly impeached at all.”

Feldman noted that if Democrats do not send the articles of impeachment to the Senate that it would not only deviate from constitutional protocol but it would also “deny the president the chance to defend himself in the Senate that the Constitution provides.”

Arsenic Blankets This Tiny Montana Town. Its Residents Are Asking the Supreme Court to Let Them Clean It Up

Vice – The case could affect the cleanup of hundreds of other polluted sites in the U.S.

Serge Myers used grow vegetables in his yard. But he doesn’t anymore. There’s too much arsenic in the soil.

“I gave the garden up because I don’t know what I’m eating anymore, you know?” the 74-year-old said.

Myers lives on a Superfund site, the Environmental Protection Agency’s term for a highly polluted area, in Opportunity, Montana, a small factory town where many residents once worked for the industry responsible for polluting it.

Every day for 75 years, the local copper plant’s nearly 600-foot smokestack pumped as much as 62 tons of arsenic into the air, seeping into the soil in an area the size of New York City. And for the past decade, Myers and about 100 other people in the town have fought the company responsible, Atlantic Richfield Co. or Arco, to do even more than what the EPA’s plan requires to clean up the mess.

Now the Supreme Court will decide whether the landowners can create their own plan for mopping up the arsenic and lead in the soil — and force the company to carry it out. The case, Atlantic Richfield Co. v. Christian, could affect how the EPA oversees the cleanup of hundreds of the most polluted sites in the country.

“So the question is what happens if a state, individuals — anybody — looks at EPA’s cleanup and says they want to do more than what EPA has done,” said John Cruden, an attorney who worked for more than two decades at the Department of Justice’s Environment and Natural Resources Division.

Economy & Business

Four Banks & Three Tech Companies Blow $56 Billion in Q3 to Prop up Their Own Shares    By Wolf Richter for WOLF STREET.

Companies in the S&P 500 index bought back $176 billion of their own shares in the third quarter, down 13.7% from the third quarter last year, and down 21.1% from the record share-buyback mania in Q4 2018, according to the S&P Dow Jones Indices. But hey, since the beginning of 2012, these companies have bought back $4.37 trillion of their own shares, exceeding the magnitude of Germany’s annual GDP.

Think of what else these companies could have done with this money, instead of blowing it on share buybacks. They could have invested more in productive activities in the US and they could have raised the pay for their employees and gig workers so that they could recirculate this money in the economy.

And the biggest banks could have used those funds to shore up their capital to get ready for the moment when the bubbles in corporate debt and commercial real estate, that the Fed is so worried about, come apart.

 

Science & Technology

A Surveillance Net Blankets China’s Cities, Giving Police Vast Powers

The authorities can scan your phones, track your face and find out when you leave your home. One of the world’s biggest spying networks is aimed at regular people, and nobody can stop it.

NYT – China is ramping up its ability to spy on its nearly 1.4 billion people to new and disturbing levels, giving the world a blueprint for how to build a digital totalitarian state.

Chinese authorities are knitting together old and state-of-the-art technologies — phone scanners, facial-recognition cameras, face and fingerprint databases and many others — into sweeping tools for authoritarian control, according to police and private databases examined by The New York Times.

Once combined and fully operational, the tools can help police grab the identities of people as they walk down the street, find out who they are meeting with and identify who does and doesn’t belong to the Communist Party.

The United States and other countries use some of the same techniques to track terrorists or drug lords. Chinese cities want to use them to track everybody.

Leaked Data Set Reveals Individual Tracking of 12 Million Phones   

National Review – The New York Times has obtained a massive data set of over 50 billion location pings linked to more than 12 million phones which illustrates the ease with which tech companies can track and identify individuals.

The data, which was leaked to the Times, allowed reporters to easily identify individuals by tracking their movements, despite claims by companies like Foursquare, which says it anonymizes personal data when sharing with third parties.

Location data — which is often embedded in apps — is pseudonymized by a 30-digit-long mobile advertising ID which works cross-platform for advertisers and other businesses. The ID can also stitch geolocation together with other information like name, home address, email, phone number or even an identifier tied to your Wi-Fi network.

Using publicly-available information and the IDs in the data set, the Times said it “easily” surveilled a number of prominent individuals.

“We did not name any of the people we identified without their permission,” the report caveats. But it was able to identify patterns in movement to reveal “hints of faltering marriages, evidence of drug addiction, records of visits to psychological facilities,” and other sensitive information.

The selling of user data has come under fire in recent months. In November, documents showed that the California Department of Motor Vehicles generates $50 million a year by selling drivers’ personal information to private companies, in potential violation of a new privacy law set to take effect in January.

In September, Google agreed to pay a $170 million fine for illegally gathering the personal information of children through YouTube and selling it to advertisers.

 
APPLE Top Secret Team Working on Satellites

Bloomberg – Apple Inc. has a secret team working on satellites and related wireless technology, striving to find new ways to beam data such as internet connectivity directly to its devices, according to people familiar with the work.

The Cupertino, California-based iPhone maker has about a dozen engineers from the aerospace, satellite and antenna design industries working on the project with the goal of deploying their results within five years, said the people, who asked not to be identified discussing internal company efforts. Work on the project is still early and could be abandoned, the people said, and a clear direction and use for satellites hasn’t been finalized. Still, Apple Chief Executive Officer Tim Cook has shown interest in the project, indicating it’s a company priority.

Apple’s work on communications satellites and next-generation wireless technology means the aim is likely to beam data to a user’s device, potentially mitigating the dependence on wireless carriers, or for linking devices together without a traditional network. Apple could also be exploring satellites for more precise location tracking for its devices, enabling improved maps and new features.

It’s not clear if Apple intends to pursue the costly development of a satellite constellation itself or simply harness on-the-ground equipment that would take data from existing satellites and send it to mobile devices. Northrop Grumman Corp., Lockheed Martin Corp. and Boeing Co. are some of the biggest satellite makers. An Apple spokeswoman declined to comment.

Amazon.com Inc. plans to deploy more than 3,000 satellites as part of a future constellation. However, the industry is littered with failures. Iridium LLC filed for bankruptcy protection in 1999, and Teledesic abandoned its “internet from the sky” plan more than a decade ago. Newer efforts from Facebook, SpaceX and Amazon are a long way from generating revenue, and Apple rarely enters new categories without a clear way to make money.

 

Health

 
NJ lawmakers advance bill to end religious exemptions for vaccines

Burlington County Times – Legislation seeking to end religious exemptions for New Jersey’s mandate that all students receive vaccinations before attending school drew a small army of opponents to the Statehouse on Thursday, but the opposition did not stop the measure from continuing to advance toward final votes.

Hundreds of so-called “anti-vaxxers” crammed into the Statehouse Annex for a hearing of the Senate Health Committee on the controversial bill, which would allow students to be exempt from school vaccination requirements only with a doctor’s note and not for religious beliefs.

Supporters of the change say it’s needed to protect both students and adults from infectious diseases like measles, mumps and whooping cough and other serious diseases.

Opponents counter that the bill would infringe on their religious freedom and their right to refuse certain medical treatments.

The issue has received increased attention due to a recent resurgence in measles outbreaks across the nation, including New Jersey where 19 measles cases have been reported this year, according to the Department of Health.

If the legislation becomes law, New Jersey would become the sixth state to end religious exemptions for vaccinations, joining New York, Maine, Mississippi, California and West Virginia. Massachusetts is also considering the move

 
Massachusetts Lawmakers consider limiting vaccine exemptions

Massachusetts Live – Daniel Koretz held a picture of his baby granddaughter, who had heart failure and a heart transplant as an infant, which left her immunocompromised for life. Koretz said she was too young to be vaccinated, and her immune system now cannot handle a live virus vaccine.

Koretz said his granddaughter cannot attend public schools because of people who do not vaccinate their children. “I’m angry beyond words at people who would dare put my grandchild at risk,” Koretz said.

Koretz said he feels powerless because he, her parents and her doctors cannot protect her. “The only people in Massachusetts who can protect her are you,” Koretz told lawmakers at a hearing on Tuesday, as they considered bills to limit vaccine exemptions.

Today, Massachusetts sets standards requiring children to get certain vaccines before entering preschool, grades K-6 and grades 7-12. The state allows religious and medical exemptions.

Attempts to limit those exemptions pit people like Koretz against equally passionate advocates like Amy Walenky. Walenky said her husband, at 16 months old, slipped into a coma and almost died after his heart stopped, nine days after getting the measles vaccine.

 
Invisible Ink Could Reveal whether Kids Have Been Vaccinated

The technology embeds immunization records into a child’s skin

Scientific American – Keeping track of vaccinations remains a major challenge in the developing world, and even in many developed countries, paperwork gets lost, and parents forget whether their child is up to date. Now a group of Massachusetts Institute of Technology researchers has developed a novel way to address this problem: embedding the record directly into the skin.

Along with the vaccine, a child would be injected with a bit of dye that is invisible to the naked eye but easily seen with a special cell-phone filter, combined with an app that shines near-infrared light onto the skin. The dye would be expected to last up to five years, according to tests on pig and rat skin and human skin in a dish.

The system—which has not yet been tested in children—would provide quick and easy access to vaccination history, avoid the risk of clerical errors, and add little to the cost or risk of the procedure, according to the study, published Wednesday in Science Translational Medicine.

The research, conducted by M.I.T. bioengineers Robert Langer and Ana Jaklenec and their colleagues, uses a patch of tiny needles called microneedles to provide an effective vaccination without a teeth-clenching jab. Microneedles are embedded in a Band-Aid-like device that is placed on the skin; a skilled nurse or technician is not required. Vaccines delivered with microneedles also may not need to be refrigerated, reducing both the cost and difficulty of delivery, Langer and Jaklenec say.

The approach raises some privacy concerns, says Prausnitz, who helped invent microneedle technology and directs Georgia Tech’s Center for Drug Design, Development and Delivery. “There may be other concerns that patients have about being ‘tattooed,’ carrying around personal medical information on their bodies or other aspects of this unfamiliar approach to storing medical records,” he says. “Different people and different cultures will probably feel differently about having an invisible medical tattoo.”

First ever Ebola relapse recorded

Daily Star – The first ever Ebola relapse of the latest killer epidemic has been recorded sparking fears the disease epidemic will surge once again.

Health officials in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo have documented the first relapse in the current Ebola epidemic, the World Health Organization said on Friday.

CDC: Puppies may be making people sick

CNN – Puppies: cute balls of fur.

But according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, they’re also linked to a multi-state outbreak of an infection that’s resistant to multiple drugs.

An outbreak strain of Campylobacter jejuni has been reported in 13 states and so far 30 people have been infected, the CDC said.

Four have been hospitalized but no deaths have been reported, the center said.

“Epidemiologic and laboratory evidence indicate that puppies purchased from pet stores are the likely source of this outbreak. Many of the cases had contact with puppies or were employees at pet stores, including Petland,” it said.

The CDC has not yet identified one common supplier of puppies, it said.

Some of the illnesses date as far back as January 2019 and people who have been infected range from 8 months to 70 years old.

The symptoms include diarrhea, stomach cramps and fever and usually last for about a week. People usually recover without antibiotics, the CDC said.

Ways to avoid getting infected include washing your hands and making sure you take any new dogs to the vet for a checkup.

Good News

Miami barbershop hands out free haircuts to the homeless for Christmas

Fox – Christmas is right around the corner,  and one barbershop is inspiring some holiday cheer.

RAZZLEDAZZLE Barbershop in Miami is helping the homeless make the cut this year for Santa’s gift list.

Linares and her team of stylists are giving out free haircuts — around 70 during the month — to the homeless in South Florida. Linares and her stylists also set up a pop-up shop inside Camillus House, a homeless shelter in Miami.

Boy’s Reaction to Trying On Colorblind Glasses is Helping Finance Hundreds of Pairs for Other Kids Like Him

Good News Network – 12-year-old Jonathan Jones was filmed trying on colorblind-corrective glasses for the first time in his life during his high school science class last week—and his reaction is now helping to distribute those glasses to other colorblind students just like him.

Jonathan is just one of Principal Scott Hanson’s students at Lakeview High School in Cottonwood, Minnesota, but they do share the same problem of being unable to see color. Prior to trying on the glasses, Jonathan had never been able to differentiate between the periodic table color groupings.

The specially-designed EnChroma glasses belonged to Hanson. Since he had been given the glasses as a Christmas gift several years ago, he has always made sure to bring them to school as an educational tool for genetics lessons in science class.

Upon learning that one of his students shared the same condition, Hanson brought the glasses into his class so Jonathan could try them on—and the youngster’s reaction was priceless.

“I’ve been in education for 25 years, and to see that reaction on his face, and that pure joy and overwhelming happiness and sadness, all those emotions at once, was just an awesome experience,” Hanson told The Washington Post.

Jonathan’s parents—who were present for his monumental classroom experience—immediately launched a GoFundMe page so they could try to raise enough money to buy Jonathan his own pair of glasses, which typically cost upwards of $270.

Luckily, Jonathan’s brother uploaded a video of the boy’s reaction to Twitter where it has since been viewed thousands of times.

>> Related: Libraries Are Now Offering Colorblind Glasses for Their Patrons to Borrow for Two Weeks at a Time

In addition to patrons being able to borrow their favorite books at this Florida public library system, visitors can now lend out colorblind-corrective glasses for up to two weeks at a time.

The St. Johns County Public Library System (SJCPLS) announced earlier this week that they had partnered with EnChroma—inventors of eyewear for color blindness—in order to offer EnChroma glasses to colorblind patrons at all six of the library’s branches.

The purchase of the EnChroma glasses was funded by a generous $13,000 grant award from the nonprofit Barbara A. Kay Foundation, which will also fund the library’s new “Color Your World” program with free oil pastel classes available to all of their patrons.

“The St. Johns County Public Library System is in the forefront of supporting accessibility and eager to serve the many needs of our community,” said Library Director Debra Rhodes Gibson of St. Johns County Public Library System. “EnChroma glasses will allow those who cannot see colors as well or vibrantly to enjoy and experience color as much as everyone else does. We are grateful to the Barbara A. Kay Foundation for helping to bring color accessibility to the people of St. Johns County.”

Girl, 7, who learned CPR from YouTube videos saves mom with emergency procedure: ‘She’s my hero’

Fox – A 7-year-old British girl is credited with saving her mother’s life with CPR after learning how to perform the emergency procedure by watching videos on YouTube.

Early one November morning, Jessica Kinder was home feeling sick and watching the holiday movie “The Grinch” when her mother, Becky Green, 32, suddenly collapsed and began having a seizure.

The young girl was quick to act, using her mother’s phone to call emergency officials, and quickly began CPR.

“I put a Christmas film on to make Jessica feel better and the last thing I remember is putting a cup of tea down for her, then I passed out,” Green recalled to South West News Service (SWNS), a British news agency. “When I woke up, the paramedics were here and my little girl was hysterical.”

The mom of two was rushed to a local hospital and was later diagnosed with epilepsy.

“When I realized what had happened I asked her, ‘How did you know what to do?’ She said to me, ‘I saw someone do it on YouTube.’  I couldn’t believe it,” added Green of Jessica, who now aspires to become a nurse or a doctor one day.

“She likes watching videos and I know that she takes things in quite well but I had no idea she had watched a video about CPR,” Green continued. “My little girl straddled me to do CPR because she thought I was dying. She knew she had to put all her weight on me from YouTube videos.”

She added: “If she hadn’t known what to do and acted so quickly, who knows what might have happened?”

Green said she has planned something “extra special” for her daughter this Christmas as a “big thank you.”