‘Holocaust ‘hero’ Sir Nicholas Winton dies aged 106′.. 

Sir Nicholas Winton, who organised the rescue of 669 children destined for Nazi concentration camps – dies aged 106.

Sir Nicholas – then a stockbroker – arranged for trains to carry Jewish children out of occupied Prague.

The prime minister described him as a ‘great man’ and the chief rabbi praised his ‘exceptional courage’.

He died on the anniversary of the departure of a train in 1939 carrying the largest number of children – 241.

His son-in-law Stephen Watson said he died peacefully in his sleep at Wexham Hospital, Slough.

Sir Nicholas brought the children to Britain, battling bureaucracy at both ends – saving them from almost certain death – and then kept quiet about his exploits for a half-century.

He organised a total of eight trains from Prague – with some other forms of transport also set up from Vienna.

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(ed:..make sure you scroll down (in link) to the reunion-vid from the 80’s..)

Source: Holocaust ‘hero’ Sir Nicholas Winton dies aged 106 – BBC News

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‘Watch Stephen Colbert Interview Eminem on Public Access Show’.. 

Rapper and aloof host discuss everything from traffic to Bob Seger.

‘So [you’re] from Detroit’ Colbert says at one point. ‘Who are some of your biggest musical influences? I imagine Motown – Ted Nuget [sic], obviously – Seger?”‘Bob Seger?’ Eminem asks. ‘Bob Seger’s great’. Colbert goes on to challenge Eminem to sing Seger songs like ‘Against the Wind’ ‘Like a Rock’ and ‘Night Moves’. The rapper just played it cool – eventually muttering ‘Old Time Rock and Roll’.

Their conversation goes on to cover Eminem’s feelings about Will Smith and Bone Thugs-n-Harmony – the meaning of ‘feat’. on a rap song and why the rapper would want to hide ‘such a cute face’ under a hoodie. The rapper even puts on Colbert and says that he keeps it clean in his raps.

Other highlights include Colbert reading Eminem’s lyrics and the ‘clip’ from the Eminem-produced boxing film Southpaw featuring cats (at the 31-minute mark). Ultimately they run out of time for Eminem to perform – though the rapper has time to read the town’s community calendar.

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‘Accountant of Auschwitz’ trial: Oskar Gröning admits guilt’.. 

Former SS guard at Nazi death camp also tells court in Germany that he has no right to ask for forgiveness.

The former SS guard Oskar Gröning – who is accused of complicity in the murder of 300,000 Hungarian Jews – has admitted guilt for his role in the Nazi killing machinery but said he had no right to ask for forgiveness.

Gröning (94) told a court: ’I’ve consciously not asked for forgiveness for my guilt. Regarding the scale of what took place in Auschwitz and the crimes committed elsewhere – as far as I’m concerned I’m not entitled to such a request. I can only ask the Lord God for forgiveness’.

nd in suitcases and clothing Gröning – called the Accountant of Auschwitz because he was tasked with sorting through Jews’ possessions and collecting and counting the money found– also revealed for the first time the profound emotional impact the testimonies of Auschwitz survivors and their relatives had made on him.

‘The events of Auschwitz – the mass murders – were known to me. But many of the details that have been told here were not known to me’ he told the court in Lüneburg northern Germany – through his lawyer.

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Source: ‘Accountant of Auschwitz’ trial: Oskar Gröning admits guilt | World news | The Guardian

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‘Decisions that will shape Greece’s future are being made in Frankfurt’.. 

Athens knows that without support from the ECB – capital controls and withdrawal limits would just be the start.

Yanis Varoufakis – the Greek finance minister – and his colleagues in Athens have also faced the prospect of a total financial collapse this week – but key decisions about whether and on what terms to prop up its struggling banks are being taken hundreds of miles away in Frankfurt.

That is the desperate background against which the Greek prime minister Alexis Tsipras urged voters on Wednesday night to strengthen his negotiating hand by delivering a clear rejection of the latest bailout plan.

As the Greek bank run continued in recent weeks – the ECB had repeatedly extended the ceiling for its crisis loan scheme – known as emergency liquidity assistance (ELA) – which permits the Greek central bank to prop up the country’s lenders.

When the ECB opted to leave the ELA ceiling unchanged on Sunday it didn’t amount to pulling the plug on the banks. That would be a ‘political’ decision but as Darling – King and their colleagues discovered during the credit crunch – in times of deep crisis every decision becomes political.

The ECB’s choice clearly delivered a warning that Frankfurt and by extension Brussels – might be willing to watch the Greek banking sector fail.

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Source: Decisions that will shape Greece’s future are being made in Frankfurt | Business | The Guardian

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‘NZ dollar falls on weak dairy auction’.. 

International dairy prices continued to deteriorate at the latest GlobalDairyTrade auction – with the GDT price index dropping by 5.9 per cent from the last sale to record their ninth decline in a row and driving the New Zealand dollar to a fresh five-year low.

The price of whole milk powder – which is responsible for about 75 per cent of Fonterra’s farmgate milk price – fell by 10.8 per cent to US$2054 a tonne.

Fonterra’s current milk price forecast of $5.25 per kg of milksolids for 2015/16 is based on GDT prices reaching about US$3500 a tonne towards the end of this season.

The auction result saw the New Zealand dollar sink to a new five-year low of US67.30c and ANZ Bank senior foreign exchange strategist Sam Tuck said he expected the currency to remain under downward pressure.

‘Clearly there was further bad news from the auction with powder prices taking the brunt of the price declines’ he said.

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Source: NZ dollar falls on weak dairy auction – Business – NZ Herald News

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‘The man who grew a church from trees’.. 

What does a gardener with a passion for ecclesiastical architecture do with 3 acres in the Waikato? Create a tree church – of course.

The effort and time it takes to create even the most simple of structures by pleaching trees together is no mean feat. So you would be hard-pressed to find another structure in the world in the same league as the one Barry Cox has created in this corner of the Waikato. Some ‘cathedrals’ have been formed in Italy and the UK by planting trees close togethe – but none have the structural complexity of Barry’s Tree Church.

After a few local garden clubs had visited and been enthralled at Barry’s sheer creativity and green engineering expertise the formerly reluctant host was brought round to the idea by the gentle encouragement and rewarding feedback from fellow gardeners.

‘I like that the gardener visitors enjoy and appreciate my Tree Church’ he says. ‘I find that gardeners and those passionate about trees are generous people who simply want to share and enjoy with like-minded others. Visitors have said that they find the Tree Church relaxing and that their worries disappear. I find that sort of feedback immensely rewarding’.

Barry Cox is not one to beat around the bush – if you’ll pardon the pun. A spade is a tree spade in his view and he has been known to move trees three times until they’re in exactly the right position.

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Source: The man who grew a church from trees | Stuff.co.nz

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‘Foods to enhance your mood’.. 

How you’re feeling may have more to do with what’s going on in your body than your brain.

When we think of our mood we tend to think of it being related to our brain – yet many neurotransmitters are actually made in the gut.

Eighty percent of the body’s serotonin – a happy, calm, content hormone – for example is made in the gut. Fermented foods typically contain microbes that are beneficial to the human digestive system and hence can enhance our mood. You can buy them or make your own.

Chocolate is a good source of tryptophan, an amino acid that supports the production of serotonin. Chocolate consumption also drives the brain to produce another chemical called anandamide – which has been shown to temporarily block feelings of pain and depression. Dopamine is also produced when we eat chocolate and this can have a mood lifting effect on many people.

However for those with already elevated dopamine levels excessive amounts of chocolate can lead to tension and aggression. So like with all things related to mood there is no one size fits all; some find chocolate enhances their mood – for others it gives them a headache and/or fires them up.

Bananas – particularly ripe bananas – can help to regulate dopamine – a feel good factor – as they contain a high concentration of tyrosine – an amino acid that helps generate dopamine in the brain. Bananas are also rich in B group vitamins – including vitamin B6  as well as magnesium – both essential for relaxation and a calm nervous system.

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Source: Dr Libby: Foods to enhance your mood | Stuff.co.nz

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‘2 Cheap Cars shaking up motor industry with cheap parallel imports from Japan’.. 

New Japanese cars could be sold for cheaper in New Zealand-  with an importer who wants to ‘shake up the industry’ claiming consumers can save up to $10,000.

New Zealand’s biggest importer of used Japanese cars 2 Cheap Cars – plans to import new models of Toyota – Honda and Mazda vehicles later this year.

The announcement has left New Zealand dealerships and the industry body scratching their heads wondering how it was possible.

The Motor Industry Association chief executive David Crawford said the industry was not against competition – but it was concerned consumers would be given incorrect information about the vehicles.

He was suspicious about how it was being done.

He believed it was likely the cars were not new – but near new having been registered in Japan and then unregistered.

The consumer needed to know a vehicle’s full history and understand that its specifications were built for the Japanese market and not for export – Crawford said.

This could lead to tracing issues for recalls and a difficulty finding parts after a breakdown – he said.

‘To claim they are new vehicles is mischievous and it’s wrong to try to pass off a used car as new’.

 However, 2 Cheap Cars chief executive Eugene Williams refuted Crawford’s comments.

‘The imported cars have never been registered in Japan or elsewhere before’ Williams said.

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Source: 2 Cheap Cars shaking up motor industry with cheap parallel imports from Japan | Stuff.co.nz

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‘Oregon legalises recreational marijuana as campaign spreads’.. 

Oregon is the third US state to allow the smoking and growing of small amounts of marijuana for recreational use.

Crowds counted down the minutes to midnight – then lit up joints as smoking marijuana became legal in Oregon on Wednesday – as the growing legalization movement spreads to the fourth western US state.

Hundreds gathered on the Burnside Bridge in downtown Portland and smoked under the glow of a neon city sign – marking the moment that the law allowing recreational use – backed by voters in November – came into effect.

The legislation opens the way for shops to sell marijuana by next year – though some lawmakers say they will still try to block retail outlets.

Similar legalisation initiatives that have ushered in a network of retail pot shops are already in force in Washington state and Colorado – reflecting a shifting legal landscape for a drug that remains illegal under federal law. Alaska – which also voted to legalise marijuana – hopes to see pot shops in 2016.

About half the country’s states allow marijuana for medical use. The District of Columbia has voted to allow recreational-use marijuana but not retail shops and a pot legalisation campaign is getting underway in California.

‘We are thrilled with the end of adult marijuana prohibition – but we are far from where we need to be’ said Russ Belville from the Portland chapter of pro-marijuana group NORML on Tuesday before the law came into effect.

Oregon residents aged 21 and older can now smoke privately – grow up to four plants – and possess up to eight ounces (227 grams) at home and one ounce outside home – the Liquor Control Commission said.

Driving while high remains illegal and pot cannot be transported out of state – even to neighbouring Washington – where retailing started last year the commission said.

Public smoking also remains illegal but there were no immediate reports of arrests at the Portland bridge.

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Source: Oregon legalises recreational marijuana as campaign spreads | Stuff.co.nz

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‘It’s time for some myth-busting about safety laws – and our place in the world’.. 

If you think NZ is a small, trade-dependent nation that ‘punches above our weight’ you need to read this.

As a nation one of our most enduring myths is that we live in a small trade-dependent nation – geographically distant.

For all its use as a way to describe everything from our devotion to free trade deals to our self-congratulatory ability to ‘punch above our weight’ to our ‘little battler makes it on to the United Nations Security Council’ it seems only one of those – the end of the earth thing – is really true.

At least that was the point made by German Institute of Global and Area studies director Patrick Koellner in his presentation at Otago University’s Foreign Policy School.

He argued that looking at New Zealand from an outsider and European perspective the ‘small – trade-dependent nation’ was arguably a self-defining myth.

So – small? No. New Zealand’s 270,500 square kilometres ranks it 75th out of 234 countries and territories. That’s bigger than Britain – Uganda – Romania or Laos. The median countries  – Serbia and Panama – are only 75,000 square kilometres. Within the United Nations’ 193 members New Zealand is in the top half.

In terms of coastline we are a relative gorilla – ninth or tenth just behind the United States but ahead of China. And our exclusive economic zone is about the sixth biggest – if you factor in Niue – Tokelau and the Cook Islands.

Even in terms of population our 4.6 million souls rank us 124th – around the median spot.

When it comes to the OECD’s measure of ‘trade intensity’ – exports and imports as a proportion of GDP – we are also not that extraordinary.

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Source: It’s time for some myth-busting about safety laws – and our place in the world | Stuff.co.nz

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‘Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year – says study’.. 

Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year and should be eliminated from people’s diets – medical experts have warned. The global death toll from sugar-laden drinks – ranging from soft drinks to fruit smoothies – has been revealed in a new paper published in the American Heart Association’s Circulation journal.

Most of the deaths are from people who die from diabetes – estimated at some 133,000 a year. Around 45,000 people die each year from heart disease and another 6,450 from cancer – according to the study – which is the first comprehensive assessment of the global deaths attributable to sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs).

Researchers estimating the deaths from diabetes – heart disease – and cancers in 2010 defined SSBs as any sugar-sweetened fizzy drinks – fruit drinks – sweetened iced teas – sports/energy drinks – or homemade sugary drinks.

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Source: Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year, says study – Health News – Health & Families – The Independent

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‘John Oliver Shows Just How Far We Have To Go On Transgender Rights’..

The media and country as a whole still can’t seem to grasp the very graspable concept of transgender.

While we’ve made great strides in the transgender rights movement, there is still a lot of work left to do – as John Oliver showed on Sunday’s “Last Week Tonight.”At the moment the community is dealing with ignorance on a few fronts; from talk show hosts asking incredibly personal questions to their transgender guests — questions they’d never ask a non-transgender person — to two transgender individuals who identified as women being asked at the DMV to remove their jewelry – makeup and wigs before they could be photographed.

‘For the record’ Oliver points out ‘you get to pick virtually everything else on your driver’s license. They ASK you your weight – they don’t weigh you like a prize hog’.
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The Casual Idiotic Racism of Modern American Conservatism’.. 

Many exhibit a worldview that is (whether consciously or not) white supremacist to the core.

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Source: The Casual, Idiotic Racism of Modern American Conservatism | Alternet

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‘How to build a city from scratch: the handy step-by-step DIY guide’.. 

From Songdo South Korea – to Lavasa India via Egypt’s unnamed new capital – everywhere you look it seems someone’s building a brand-new city. How hard could it be?

Building a real city from scratch isn’t like playing Minecraft, Civilization or SimCity. Well it is a little. But problems arise in reality that don’t come up in cyberspace – including vainglorious dictators – pompous architects – bureaucratic impedimenta – and the fact that much of the best land is already inhabited by those intractable objects: pesky humans.

Nevertheless after studying several urban planning projects around the world – we’ve mastered the step-by-step process of how to build your very own real city.

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Source: How to build a city from scratch: the handy step-by-step DIY guide | Cities | The Guardian

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‘How being poor can lead to a negative spiral of fear and self-loathing’.. 

A new report shows how the ‘scarcity mindset’ affects those living in poverty – they focus on the short term – internalise negative images and have feelings of failure.

Commenting on the actions and choices of those in poverty seems to have become a national sport. It’s rare to ever have a discussion about economic hardship in Britain without a bystander or internet commenter leaning forward and opining ‘But they’ve all got flatscreen TVs and smoke cigarettes’. The economic choices of the very poorest are seen as ripe for public dissection.But the psychological consequences of poverty are discussed far less. Oxford University and the Joseph Rowntree Foundation have released a study that goes some way to silencing those who would argue poverty is simply a moral failing. The newly released Household Below Average Income figures for 2013/14 show no progress whatsoever on poverty rates – and a slim increase in child poverty and working families earning less than they need – so poverty is here to stay.

When facing poverty the researchers found individuals enter a ‘scarcity mindset’. When focused on short-term survival your decision-making ability is scrambled and your attention span narrowed. The attendant worry means long–term planning and the completion of peripheral routine tasks is downgraded – as the immediate future becomes the only focus. Debt counsellors have found this for years – with people in debt struggling to understand how they ended up like that – only knowing that many short-term financial crises snowballed.

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‘Metaphor map charts the images that structure our thinking’.. 

Huge project by Glasgow University researchers plots thirteen centuries of startling cognitive connections.

Metaphor is not the sole preserve of Shakespearean scholarship or high literary endeavour but has governed how we think about and describe our daily lives for centuries – according to researchers at Glasgow University.

Experts have now created the world’s first online Metaphor Map – which contains more than 14,000 metaphorical connections sourced from 4m pieces of lexical data – some of which date back to 700AD.

While it is impossible to pinpoint the oldest use of metaphor in English –  because some may have been adopted from earlier languages such as Germanic – the map reveals that the still popular link between sheep and timidity dates back to Old English. Likewise we do not always recognise modern use of metaphor: for example, the word ‘comprehend’ comes from Latin – where it meant to physically grasp an object.

The three-year-long project to map the use of metaphor across the entire history of the English language – undertaken by researchers at the School of Critical Studies – was based on data contained in the Historical Thesaurus of English – which spans 13 centuries.

Dr Wendy Anderson- the project’s principal investigator – said that the findings supported the view that metaphor is pervasive in language and is also a major mechanism of meaning-change.

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Source: Metaphor map charts the images that structure our thinking | Books | The Guardian

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‘Chronic depression shrinks brain’s memories and emotions’.. 

Global study finds the more episodes of depressio the greater the reduction in hippocampus size – but it was very likely damage was reversible.

The hippocampus – an area of the brain responsible for memory and emotion – shrinks in people with recurrent and poorly treated depression – a global study has found.

The findings highlighted the importance of treating depression early – particularly in teenagers and young adults – the study concluded.

Fifteen research institutes around the world – including from the US – Europe and Australia – collaborated to combine the results of their existing smaller studies comparing the hippocampuses of depressed and healthy people.

This allowed them to examine the brain magnetic resonance imaging data of 8,927 people – 1,728 of whom had major depression and the rest of whom were healthy.

The researchers found 65% of the depressed study participants had recurrent depression and it was these people who had a smaller hippocampus – which is near the centre of the brain and is involved with long-term memory – forming new memories – and connecting emotions to those memories.

The findings of the largest international study to compare brain volumes in people with and without major depression were published in the medical journal Molecular Psychiatry.

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Source: Chronic depression shrinks brain’s memories and emotions | Society | The Guardian

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‘China makes carbon pledge ahead of Paris climate change summit’..

China submits carbon-curbing plan to UN ahead of Paris climate change summit – saying it will ‘work hard’ to peak emissions earlier than 2030 target.

China will aim to cut its greenhouse gas emissions per unit of gross domestic product by 60-65% from 2005 levels under a plan submitted to the United Nations ahead of crucial climate change talks in Paris later this year.

The pledge has been eagerly awaited as the country is the world’s largest carbon emitter.

China said it would increase the share of non-fossil fuels as part of its primary energy consumption to about 20% by 2030-  and peak emissions by around the same point – though it would ‘work hard’ to do so earlier.

The figures are contained in a document submitted to the United Nations ahead of the next round of UN climate talks in Paris. All countries are expected to submit their national pledges to reduce carbon emissions beyond 2020, also known as Intended Nationally Determined Contributions (INDC).

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Source: China makes carbon pledge ahead of Paris climate change summit | Environment | The Guardian

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‘Cuba first to eliminate mother-to-baby HIV transmission’.. 

World Health Organisation hails ‘one of the greatest public health achievements possible’ – five years into regional initiative.

Cuba has become the first country to eliminate the transmission of HIV and syphilis from mother to baby – the World Health Organisation has announced.

The WHO’s director general Margaret Chan said it was ‘one of the greatest public health achievements possible’ and an important step towards an Aids-free generation.

Over the past five years Caribbean countries have had increased access to antiretroviral drugs as part of a regional initiative to eliminate mother-to-child transmission.

HIV and syphilis testing for pregnant women and their partners – caesarean deliveries and substitution of breastfeeding have also contributed to the breaking of the infection chain – said the WHO.

Carissa Etienne – the director of the Pan American Health Organisation – which partnered with the WHO on the initiative, said: ‘Cuba’s achievement today provides inspiration for other countries to advance towards elimination of mother-to-child transmission of HIV and syphilis’.

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Source: Cuba first to ?eliminate mother-to-baby HIV transmission | Society | The Guardian

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‘New Zealand’s history of Ponzi schemers’.. 

Between 1991 and 2012 New Zealand had undetected Ponzi schemes operating.

New Zealand has a horrible history of ponzi schemers.

In five of the last nine years ponzi schemers have been banged up in jail as a result of their nefarious actions.

Between 1991 to 2012 New Zealand had at least one active Ponzi schemer at work at all times – most under the old Securities Commission – which was ineffectual and was swept away to be replaced by the Financial Markets Authority (FMA).

The FMA can’t guarantee there are no ponzi schemes operating as you read this.

That means being on the alert when you choose who to invest with – but the large numbers of investors who have been caught indicate it is easy to fall prey to sharp Ponzi schemes – which the regulator says pop up more frequently in low interest rate times.

The word Ponzi comes from Italian Charles Ponzi – whose 1920s investment scheme in America forever joined his name to faux investment schemes where one depositors’ money is paid as returns to another with the pretence that it was legitimately earned from investing.

The classic feature of a Ponzi scheme is that early investors – who are gulled with huge fictitious returns claimed to be from investments in exotic or hard-to-price assets – become ambassadors for the scheme – often encouraging friends and relatives to join.

 Spotting a Ponzi scheme has proven beyond the ability of many investors – but they all share some hallmarks.
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‘Burning Man: Psychedelics and Harm Reduction’.. 

A skeptic attends Burning Man – assists in harm reduction for those on bad trips – and finds dharma all around him.

Burning Man dates back to 1986 when solstice bonfire gatherings were hosted on Baker Beach in San Francisco. The credit for the original Burning Man bonfire is given to Larry Harvey – Jerry James, and their friends – who burned an eight-foot-tall wooden sculpture said to represent past romantic involvements. Harvey described his mission as ‘creating a place that would give people permission to act on their dreams’. These two overarching themes—freedom and creativity—are still central to the festival and you are ostensibly free to do and create as you like as long as you aren’t hurting anyone else in the process. In addition Harvey articulated ten core principles at the heart of Burning Man: radical inclusion – gifting – decommodification – radical self-reliance – radical self-expression – communal effort – civic responsibility – participation – immediacy – and leaving no trace.

Since the ’80s, Burning Man has grown from about 20 people to 68,000 – turning through the years from a small gathering of friends into a giant costume party with awe-inspiring pyrotechnic displays – not to mention a reputation for debauchery—and the presence of law enforcement. Despite its third core principle of decommodification it is now a $23-million operation – mainstream enough to attract all kinds of celebrities – especially top Silicon Valley players. The entire executive team at Google has been to Burning Man and this year Mark Zuckerberg helicoptered in for a day and handed out grilled cheese sandwiches. His nemeses – the Winklevoss twins – were also in attendance – along with everyone from rapper Sean ‘P. Diddy’ Combs and actress Susan Sarandon to Michael Levitt – winner of the 2013 Nobel Prize in Chemistry and Charles Eisenstein – author of Sacred Economics.

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Source: Burning Man: Psychedelics and Harm Reduction – Mind and Body – Utne Reader

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‘Paired With AI and VR – Google Earth Will Change the Planet’.. 

As Google Earth celebrates its 10th anniversary – it’s evolving way beyond a way to find your house.

When it debuted in 2005 Google Earth was a wonderfully intriguing novelty. From your personal computer you could zoom in on the roof of your house or get a bird’s eye view of the park where you made out with your first girlfriend. But it proved to be more than just a party trick. And with the rapid rise of two other digital technologies—neural networks and virtual reality—the possibilities will only expand.

Through an extension to Google's Chrome web browser called Earth View, you can view "the most beautiful and striking" satellite images from around the world, "diving in" to places like Cuba. Click to Open Overlay Gallery

 (cont..)

Source: Paired With AI and VR, Google Earth Will Change the Planet | WIRED

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‘Study Offers New Evidence That Google Skews Search Results’.. 

Evidence continues to mount that when it comes to search results  – Google isn’t always playing fair.

Google is serving up less useful search results, which is therefore damaging to the end user.’From this paper one thing should be abundantly clear’ the authors write. ‘The easy and widely disseminated argument that Google’s universal search always serves users and merchants is demonstrably false. Instead – in the largest category of search (local intent-based), Google appears to be strategically deploying universal search in a way that degrades the product so as to slow and exclude challengers to its dominant search paradigm’.

The paper goes on to emphasize the many ways that these skewed search results harm consumers – which is key to any antitrust case – and which the FTC seemed unable to adequately prove during its investigation two years ago. The paper argues that when users don’t get the best search results they experience harm because they either give up on the search – take more time to find the result they’re looking for – or end up patronizing a subpar business. ‘The harm caused by such misdirection when it occurs, will vary, but is undeniable in the aggregate’ the paper reads.

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Source: Study Offers New Evidence That Google Skews Search Results | WIRED

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‘Pope Francis to chew coca leaves on Bolivia visit – says government minister’.. 

Pope Francis will experiment with coca leaves – the natural source of cocaine – when he visits Bolivia in July – said a government minister in the South American country.

Although their use is prohibited in much of the world – including the UK and the US – the Argentine pontiff will join with indigenous people in chewing on the small leaves which in addition to giving users a lift are said to help with muscular pain and altitude sickness.

‘We offered [the pope] coca tea or something for the altitude’ Culture Minister Marko Machicao told journalists. The Bolivian capital La Paz is 3,650 metres (11,975 ft) above sea level.

‘He has requested that he wants to chew coca – so we shall be awaiting the Holy Father with the sacred coca leaf’ he said.

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(ed:..not a headline i thought i would ever see..)

Source: Pope Francis to chew coca leaves on Bolivia visit, says government minister – Americas – World – The Independent

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‘The psychology of flirtation: how to know when someone’s interested’.. 

Have you ever wondered to yourself ‘Was that person just flirting with me?’ This may not only happen at a bar or party. It could be after a pleasant exchange at the supermarket – a few shared glances at a coffee shop – or following a more involved conversation at a social event.

It is important to read these situations properly because the line between friendly and more than friends can be difficult to discern.

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Source: The psychology of flirtation: how to know when someone’s interested – Love & Sex – Life and Style – The Independent

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‘Should Apple buy Greece?’.. 

It started as a joke at an Apple investor conference a few years ago. An audience member piped up that Apple should use its mass of cash – which now amounts to $194 billion – to buy Greece.

Meanwhile Apple’s $194 billion cash pile continues to grow. The company has shied away from expensive, projects – like a space mission or a new breed of car – in favour of small improvements to existing products: the iPhone as a wristwatch – iTunes as a streaming service.

Apple CEO Tim Cook announces the Apple Watch in March

 Bershidsky has done some maths and worked out that Apple – Microsoft – Google – Pfizer and Cisco have stockpiled $429 billion between them. Most of that is kept out of the US to avoid a 35 per cent tax hit.

If half of that cash was used to bail out Greece – it would cut Greece’s debt problem to 70 per cent of its GDP – a level Bershidsky said is manageable.

In return Greece could offer the five big tech companies a sweetheart tax deal. That’s the kind of deal Apple already has in Ireland – where it pays corporate tax of 2 per cent despite Ireland’s corporate tax rate coming in at 12.5 per cent as standard.

(cont..)

Source: Should Apple buy Greece? – Business News – Business – The Independent

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‘Paul Krugman: What Happens When the West Imposes Endless Crippling Austerity on a Country’.. 

Greece’s debt trap is inescapable and its exit from the euro will hurt the whole world economy.

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Source: Paul Krugman: What Happens When the West Imposes Endless Crippling Austerity on a Country | Alternet

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‘So robots will make us their pets? I can’t wait’.. 

A life of elysian indulgence awaits – if Steve Wozniak’s prediction comes true about intelligent machines benignly enslaving humans.

Steve Wozniak – the Apple co-founder and Silicon Valley legend – has seen the future – and it is good. When processors develop intelligence and the robots take over we won’t perish on the bloody wastelands of a futile resistance against the machines. Wozniak’s sincere belief is that one day robots will keep us as pets. Ours will be a life of ease and luxury beyond our wildest imagination.No longer will society require us to schlep from place to place under the pretext of making a meaningful contribution to the evolution of our species. Attaining the status of beloved pet will leave our days free for investigating interesting smells – eating – and most importantly taking spontaneous naps. This will be enough for our cybernetic keepers – who will take over the tedious business of working for a living-  in a society that will become ever more obsessed with humans as we take up our rightful place as loving – mischievous companions to technology.

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Source: So robots will make us their pets? I can’t wait | Rupert Myers | Comment is free | The Guardian

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‘hexagonal homes could give first-time buyers a hive of their own’.. 

A three-unit Hivehaus – on sale for £55,000 with options to extend the honeycomb design – offers an alternative way on to the property ladder.

Ancient Greeks originally theorised that the elegant shape of honeycomb – with its interlocking hexagons – was an example of nature’s efficiency. In the back garden of his home outside Wigan Barry Jackson has taken similar inspiration to create an alternative form of housing.The 52-year-old builder had been considering how to create a ‘man cave’ on his property for his drum kit and photography equipment – when he thought of constructing a series of six-sided rooms which could be built and attached together in a honeycomb design.

The result – some three years later – is the Hivehaus – hexagonal rooms each of 100 square feet attached together to form a personalised building. It can be erected in four to five days by three builders – has no foundations – and can be used as a study – garden room – gym – and possibly even transportable housing.

Describing the design as ‘anti-builder and anti-architect’ Jackson said the identical structures use standard off-the-shelf materials. A three-unit Hivehaus costs about £55,000 – offering an alternative way to get people on to the property ladder.

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Source: The innovators: hexagonal homes could give first-time buyers a hive of their own | Business | The Guardian

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‘How to eat healthy and save the planet’.. 

As dietitians increasingly focus on the environment – they’re finding that what’s better for the earth is usually better for the body.

‘Consumers aren’t just looking for what’s on the nutrition fact panel anymore – they have a whole list of other things they want to know about and how they define eating right’ she says.

Supermarkets are also looking at the intersections of health and environmental concerns – Geagan adds. ‘Supermarket dietitians are very interested in this as a way to engage consumers and create value’ she says – pointing to Kroger’s Free From 101+ as a prime example. The supermarket chain conducted consumer testing and surveyed shoppers to pinpoint 101 ingredients they don’t want in their food – and are now in the process of weeding them out of stores nationally.

Christopher Gardner – professor at Stanford University’s School of Medicine – says he sees the various aspects of sustainability – creating local economies – fair labor practices – animal rights – and environmental impacts – as useful drivers of behavior modification. ‘I spent decades doing all this research to show people what they should be eating and I had very little success getting anyone to change their diet’ he said during a presentation at the Sustainable Foods Institute in Monterey, CA, last month. ‘But when I started adding in discussions about animal rights or labor practices or climate change – I saw really meaningful shifts in people’s willingness to change’.

The reason he says – is that most people relate to at least one of those drivers – and that adding multiple reasons to shift a behavior tends to be more effective than focusing on any one.

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Source: How to eat healthy and save the planet | Life and style | The Guardian

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‘Greece in chaos: will Syriza’s last desperate gamble pay off?’.. 

The banks are closed – the bailout referendum is looming – and Europe’s only far-left government is struggling to hold on to its mass support. In less than a week it will either be triumphant or finished.

If it all ends on Monday with the Greeks voting for austerity in order to keep the euro – the first far-left party to hold office in modern Europe will be judged by its critics a failure.

By calling a referendum Syriza has gambled that it can strengthen its hand in negotiations with its lenders. But with no extension to its bailout programme – and emergency funds from the European Central Bank (ECB) on a knife-edge – the move has prompted this week’s ‘bank holiday’ and the rationing of cash at ATMs.

With the opposition and business groups warning of economic catastrophe – Syriza – which means ‘coalition of the radical left’ – faces a nailbiting week. What is at stake is whether this party of around 20,000 members can hold the left half of Greek society together long enough to force the lenders to negotiate – or whether it will crash and burn under the pressure of popular anger and disillusion.

If they win – on the other hand – they will be seen as heroes by opponents of austerity across Europe.

But win or lose Syriza in office has been a work in progress, impossible to read for people ignorant of Greece – let alone people who don’t know there are subcategories to moderate Marxism.

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Source: Greece in chaos: will Syriza’s last desperate gamble pay off? | World news | The Guardian

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‘Glastonbury 2015: Guardian writers share their highlights’.. 

Guardian writers turned up at Glastonbury expecting to review bands … but they ended up doing yoga with Jarvis Cocker – crying with strangers and calling underground Korean restaurants from a mystery phone box.

Patti Smith is dangerous – and we adored her

Patti Smith’s Sunday-afternoon set on the Pyramid stage embodied the best of the festival: passionate – punky and poetic. She spat – she sang; she fell over and she announced: ‘I don’t care – because I am an animal'; she urged us to to raise our arms in celebration of our freedom; and she even brought the Dalai Lama on to eat birthday cake. It was a privilege to witness her in full flow – bringing a field full of instant devotees with her on a manic meandering journey into Land/Horses and ripping through My Generation with a doff of the cap to headliners the Who. When it ended my heart was lifted and my soul had been charged. Smith raised her de-stringed guitar aloft and yelled: ‘This is the weapon of my generation’. This magnificent woman is dangerous – and we all adored her.

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Source: Glastonbury 2015: Guardian writers share their highlights | Music | The Guardian

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‘Joseph Stiglitz: how I would vote in the Greek referendum’.. 

Neither alternative – approval or rejection of the troika’s terms – will be easy – and both carry huge risks.

The rising crescendo of bickering and acrimony within Europe might seem to outsiders to be the inevitable result of the bitter endgame playing out between Greece and its creditors. In fact European leaders are finally beginning to reveal the true nature of the ongoing debt dispute – and the answer is not pleasant: it is about power and democracy much more than money and economics.

It is startling that the troika has refused to accept responsibility for any of this or admit how bad its forecasts and models have been. But what is even more surprising is that Europe’s leaders have not even learned. The troika is still demanding that Greece achieve a primary budget surplus (excluding interest payments) of 3.5% of GDP by 2018.

Economists around the world have condemned that target as punitive, because aiming for it will inevitably result in a deeper downturn. Indeed, even if Greece’s debt is restructured beyond anything imaginable the country will remain in depression if voters there commit to the troika’s target in the snap referendum to be held this weekend.

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Source: Joseph Stiglitz: how I would vote in the Greek referendum | Business | The Guardian

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‘Chart Reveals Which Drugs Are Most Popular at Each Music Festival’.. 

A new chart released by DrugAbuse.com has revealed which drugs are the most popular at each music festival. The study was conducted by gathering and analyzing over 3 million instagram posts from 15 different festivals.

Marley Fest was ranked the No. 1 festival for marijuana use, followed by Camp Bisco and Bonnaroo.

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Source: Chart Reveals Which Drugs Are Most Popular at Each Music Festival | High Times

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‘Greek crisis deals blow Downunder’..

The New Zealand sharemarket fell to a five-month low and Australia’s suffered one of its biggest falls in years – with nearly $40 billion wiped out – as Greece inched towards a default on its debt and a potentially catastrophic exit from the eurozone.

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The Australasian and Asian markets were caught up in a global sell-off stemming from the collapse of debt negotiations between Greece and its European Union and International Monetary Fund creditors. Greece needs to repay 1.6 billion ($2.6 billion) of loans to the IMF by tomorrow (NZT) to avoid defaulting on its debt.

Investors had widely expected the two sides to do what they have done many times before and strike an 11th-hour deal.

But Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras derailed the talks and stunned Europe by announcing a referendum for July 5 on the creditors’ proposed reform package that would see the country cut pensions and raise taxes to pay its debts.

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Source: Greek crisis deals blow Downunder – Business – NZ Herald News

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‘Big business declares war on science: The secret story of the Chamber of Commerce’s battle against the environment- global warming action’.. 

Driven by a fervor for profit and an anti-government frenzy – the Chamber is a fighting force for the 1 percent.

As the devastating findings kept coming from a steady stream of scientific papers – the Chamber joined an angry chorus of industry groups that made strenuous efforts to shout them down. The Burson-Marsteller public relations firm coordinated a campaign dedicated to sowing continued doubt over the existence of global warming. As part of that effort – headquartered out of the rival National Association of Manufacturers – the Chamber lobbied members of Congress against bills – amendments – and U.S. ratification of the Kyoto Protocol – which would have signed the United States up for a rollback to 1990 levels of carbon emissions.

And for a few years – with the fossil-fuel-industry-friendly Bush administration in the White House and Republicans leading the House of Representatives – the regulations crew at the Chamber could move on to other urgent priorities – like pouring salt into the American diet.

Then in 2007 Democrats took over the House, and the political sands shifted again. As soon as the new majority took the gavel – a core of leading Chamber members broke ranks to urge federal action to reduce U.S. greenhouse gas emissions.

The companies that formed the United States Climate Action Partnership were motivated mostly by their usual spur: profit. Their executives could see oh so clearly that Congress was poised to rein in greenhouse gas emissions. If a cap-and-trade carbon crackdown could yield a money-making opportunity or competitive advantage—-well that was something these companies could get behind.

Caterpillar – Duke Energy – General Electric – PG&E – Dow Chemical – Alcoa – DuPont—-the inaugural membership of the Climate Action Partnership had much in common with the list of Chamber board members past and present.

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Source: Big business declares war on science: The secret story of the Chamber of Commerce’s battle against the environment, global warming action – Salon.com

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’12 Reasons Why New Zealand’s Economic Bubble Will End In Disaster’.. 

Though commonly hailed as a safe-haven – New Zealand has an inflating bubble that will end in tears.

New Zealand’s economy has been hailed as one of world’s top safe-haven economies in recent years after it emerged from Global Financial Crisis relatively unscathed. Unfortunately my research has found that many of today’s so-called safe-havens (such as Singapore) are experiencing economic bubbles that are strikingly similar to those that led to the financial crisis in the first place.

Though I will be writing a lengthy report about New Zealand’s economic bubble in the near future – I wanted to use this column to outline key points that are helpful for those who are looking for a concise explanation of this bubble.

Here are the reasons why I believe that New Zealand’s economy is heading for a crisis:

Source: 12 Reasons Why New Zealand’s Economic Bubble Will End In Disaster – Forbes

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‘College is a con: The savage truth about your bachelor’s degree’.. 

Higher education wears the cloak of liberalism – but in policy and practice it’s a cutthroat system of exploitation.

But the reality is that while college administrators might affix ‘down with the man’ stickers on their office doors – many prop up a system that is severely unfair to American students and professors – a shocking number of whom struggle to make ends meet. Even the most elementary level of political science instructs that politics is about power. Power in America is about money: who has it? Who does not have it? Who is accumulating it? Who is losing it? Where is it going?

Four hundred faculty members at New York University – one of the nation’s most expensive schools – recently released a report on how their own place of employment – legally a nonprofit institution – has become a predatory business – hardly any different in ethical practice or economic procedure than a sleazy storefront payday loan operator. Its title succinctly summarizes the new intellectual discipline deans and regents have learned to master: ‘The Art of The Gouge.’

The result of their investigation reads as if Charles Dickens and Franz Kafka collaborated on notes for a novel. Administrators not only continue to raise tuition at staggering rates but they burden their students with inexplicable fees – high cost burdens and expensive requirements like mandatory study abroad programs. When students question the basis of their charges – much of them hidden during the enrollment and registration phases – they find themselves lost in a tornadic swirl of forms – automated answering services and other bureaucratic debris.

Higher education wears the cloak of liberalism but in policy and practice it can be a corrupt and cutthroat system of power and exploitation. It benefits immensely from right-wing McCarthy wannabes – who in an effort to restrict academic freedom and silence political dissent – depict universities as left-wing indoctrination centers.

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Source: College is a con: The savage truth about your bachelor’s degree – Salon.com

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‘Corporate Greed Must End’ – Sen. Bernie Sanders..

Over the last 40 years, the largest corporations in this country have closed thousands of factories in the United States and outsourced millions of American jobs to low-wage countries overseas. That is why we need a new trade policy and why I am opposed to the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership now before Congress.

Here is the reality of the American economy. Despite an explosion in technology and a huge increase in worker productivity the middle class of this country continues its 40-year decline. Today millions of Americans are working longer hours for lower wages and median family income is almost $5,000 less than it was in 1999.

Meanwhile the wealthiest people and the largest corporations are doing phenomenally well. Today 99 percent of all new income is going to the top 1 percent – while the top one-tenth of 1 percent own almost as much wealth as the bottom 40 percent. In the last two years the wealthiest 14 people in this country increased their wealth by $157 billion. That increase is more than is owned by the bottom 130 million Americans — combined.

Over the last 40 years the largest corporations in this country have closed thousands of factories in the United States and outsourced millions of American jobs to low-wage countries overseas. That is why we need a new trade policy and why I am opposed to the 12-nation Trans-Pacific Partnership now before Congress.

Large corporations and their lobbyists have created loopholes enabling corporations to avoid an estimated $100 billion a year in taxes by shifting profits to the Cayman Islands and other offshore tax havens. That is why we need real tax reform which demands that the very wealthy and large corporations start paying their fair share of taxes.

Corporate America has mounted vigorous anti-union campaigns, making it harder for workers to collectively bargain for decent wages and benefits. That is why we must make certain that workers are given a fair chance to join a union.

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Source: Corporate Greed Must End | Sen. Bernie Sanders

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‘Since Oklahoma Legalized Cannabis Oil – These Two Children Have Been Seizure Free’..

Denying sick children and adults the potential to treat themselves is criminal.

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Source: Since Oklahoma Legalized Cannabis Oil, These Two Children Have Been Seizure Free | Alternet

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