You don’t have to be just male or female on Facebook anymore. The social media giant has added a customizable option with about 50 different terms people can use to identify their gender as well as three preferred pronoun choices: him, her or them. Facebook said the changes, shared with The Associated Press before the launch on Thursday, initially cover the company’s 159 million monthly users in the U.S. and are aimed at giving people more choices in how they describe themselves, such as androgynous, bi-gender, intersex, gender fluid or transsexual. “There’s going to be a lot of people for whom this is going to mean nothing, but for the few it does impact, it means the world,” said Facebook software engineer Brielle Harrison, who worked on the project and is herself undergoing gender transformation, from male to female. On Thursday, while watchdogging the software for any problems, she said she was also changing her Facebook identity from Female to TransWoman. More
Even before RHIC began operating in 2000, some people worried that the unprecedented experiment would pose risks of potentially catastrophic scenarios. Some of the concerns included the creation of a black hole or production of strange matter that could result in the destruction of the Earth, possibly within seconds. In 1999, before the collider opened, the media attention on the subject prompted BNL to form a committee of scientists to investigate the probability of such catastrophic scenarios. A few months later, the committee concluded that RHIC was safe. RHIC has now been running for nearly 15 years, and scientists have used it to make many fascinating discoveries, such as that of a quark-gluon plasma with a temperature of 4 trillion K. This liquid-like substance is unlike any kind of normal matter and recreates the conditions that existed during the first seconds of the universe. But due to budget cuts, in 2013 a government advisory panel recommended shutting down RHIC in the coming years as funding is put toward other projects. The US Consolidated Appropriations Act of 2014, passed just a few weeks ago, includes a provision for the establishment of a nine-member commission to evaluate the cost-effectiveness of all of the US national labs, including RHIC. It’s called the Commission to Review the Effectiveness of the National Energy Laboratories. According to Eric E. Johnson, Associate Professor of Law at the University of North Dakota, and Michael Baram, Professor Emeritus at Boston University Law School, this may also be a good time to reevaluate the safety risks at RHIC. They have written an opinion piece on the subject that is posted at International Business Times. Johnson and Baram are calling for the new commission to look into the risks of RHIC destroying the Earth in addition to evaluating the financial aspects. A large part of the motivation for their appeal is because of the ongoing upgrades to RHIC. The collider is preparing for its 14th run, where it will be operating at 18 times the luminosity for which it was originally designed. The high luminosity will enable scientists to conduct more detailed studies of the quark-gluon plasma’s properties and investigate how it transitions into the normal matter that we see in the universe today. More
Police in Multnomah County quietly suspended a new data mining program this week after a local newspaper began questioning its legality. For the last several weeks, police have issued ID-scanning devices to clubs and bars all throughout Portland’s Old Town neighborhood. The scanners not only captured customers’ personal data, including names and photos, but uploaded all the information to a police database. After receiving a three-year alcohol abuse reduction grant in 2011, Multnomah County awarded the nonprofit “Lines for Life” $60,000 to obtain the police-run scanners for multiple drinking establishments. Despite Oregon law placing strict limits on storing and sharing information from ID scanners specifically, police were persistent in getting local bars to comply with the program. “We tried to say ‘no’ at the very beginning, and police strongly encouraged that we should do it,” club manager Mike Reed told the Willamette Week. “We don’t want to track people’s every move. We considered that a possible issue.” According to Reed, police not only encouraged the program, but continually reassured club owners that the practice was completely legal. “To our understanding, we’re doing everything within the law,” Reed said. “Police were definitely the big promoter of the scanners.” The city of Portland denied any knowledge of the ID scanner law when confronted by the Willamette Week, but assured the incident was the result of a simple mistake. “We‘re glad when someone brings this up. We want to do what’s best to protect public safety and protect people’s rights,” Multnomah County spokesman David Austin said. Incredibly, police spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson denied any possibility of wrongdoing by Portland officers, even going as far as claiming bar owners, not police, would be to blame for any broken laws. More
The Department of Homeland Security is set to activate a national license plate tracking system that will be shared with law enforcement, allowing DHS officers to take photos of any license plate using their smartphone and upload it to a database which will include a “hot list” of “target vehicles”. The details are included in a PDF attachment uploaded yesterday to the Federal Business Opportunities website under a solicitation entitled “National License Plate Recognition Database.” The system will “track vehicle license plate numbers that pass through cameras or are voluntarily entered into the system from a variety of sources (access control systems, asset recovery specialists, etc.) and uploaded to share with law enforcement” in order to help locate “criminal aliens and absconders.” In other countries that have activated license plate tracking networks, such as the United Kingdom, political activists have been targeted by having their vehicles added to a “hotlist” after attending protests. One example led to a man being questioned under anti-terror laws after he traveled to take part in an anti-war demonstration. As the image above illustrates, the cameras are also used by local governments in Australia to keep records of people who violate parking restrictions. Critics of the system in Australia have condemned it as “a Pandora’s box for abuse of power, mistakes and illegal disclosure,” stressing that the technology allows authorities to record “your number plate at a certain time and location,” allowing police to “compile an extraordinary amount of data about you. This includes your name, address, contact details, driving history and licence status.” “Innocent people are increasingly being treated with suspicion due to the tiny chance that some offence may be committed,” writes David Jancik. The DHS’ database will allow authorities “to determine where and when the vehicle has traveled,” using data compiled “from a variety of sources nationwide,” including “metropolitan areas” within the United States, suggesting the system may be linked in with regular surveillance cameras as it is in the UK. The system will also allow DHS officials to take a picture of any license plate via their smartphone, upload it to the database and immediately receive an alert if the plate is on the watchlist.
“The NLPR data service should provide details on clarity of photos provided. The Government would prefer a close-up of the plate and a zoomed out image of the vehicle,” states the solicitation. The system must also have the capability to “flag license plates and conduct searches anonymously so that other law enforcement agencies may not have access.” Given rampant concerns that the Department of Homeland Security, which is ostensibly introducing this system in the name of catching illegal aliens, is in fact an increasingly bloated federal bureaucracy designed to target the American people, the notion of the DHS enjoying access to a fully integrated nationwide license plate tracking grid is chilling, especially given the fact that the agency has funded reports which characterize “liberty lovers” as potential terrorists. The DHS also recently awarded the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority $7 million dollars to outfit its buses with high tech 360 degree surveillance cameras. The federal agency is simultaneously supporting the rollout of ‘Intellistreets’ lighting systems that double as surveillance hubs which can record conversations. “Do not kid yourself. This is tracking of an individual that can be accessed at a whim,” writes James Smith. “Yearly, officers are terminated for accessing the LEDS/NCIC database for looking into the histories of ex-lovers, future spouses, and potential sons/daughters-in-law. And with license plate tracking toy (not a tool), they will know where you are, as long as you have driven into the cross hairs of this new weapon for tyranny.” INFO WARS
The overall number of new people who will develop cancer in a given year is expected to nearly double over the next two decades, claims a new report put out by the World Health Organization (WHO). Analysts at the international governing body say the current global rate of about 14 million new cancer cases annually, per 2012 data, will eventually balloon to somewhere in the ballpark of 25 million new cancer cases annually by 2035. The sobering report comes on the heels of an earlier one out of France that similarly calculated a 75 percent increase in cancer diagnoses by 2030. With the exception of a few minor variances, both reports speculate that, based on current trends, new cases of cancer will skyrocket in the coming years. And the hardest hit will be poor and developing countries, many of which are right now undergoing major changes as a result of Western influence. As far as the latest WHO report, this expected increase in new cancer cases has already been dubbed an imminent “human disaster,” according to the U.K.’s Guardian. Unless the governments and medical systems of the world make a rapid switch to focusing on prevention rather than treatment, WHO says, the devastation that is soon to come, both in terms of unsustainable medical costs and widespread societal loss, will be unprecedented. “The global cancer burden is increasing and quite markedly, due predominantly to the aging of the populations and population growth,” alleges Chris Wild, director of WHO’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, as quoted by BBC News. “If we look at the cost of treatment of cancers, it is spiraling out of control, even for the high-income countries. Prevention is absolutely critical and it’s been somewhat neglected.” More
The family of a six-year-old girl with cerebral palsy have condemned ‘cruel’ NHS bosses after an operation to help her walk was cancelled at the last moment – because of budget cuts. Shannon Bowley can only shuffle around on her bottom or take a few slow steps with the aid of a walking frame. She was due to have a life-changing operation this Friday which would have loosened her muscles to help her walk independently. But just six days before surgery, her family were dealt a devastating blow when they received a letter informing them that NHS England had cancelled funding for the operation. Shannon’s grandmother and full-time carer Samantha Jones, 42, said her grand-daughter had also been through a year of painful procedures in preparation for the surgery. She said: ‘I felt like I had been punched in the stomach when I opened the letter – I was crying and I was heartbroken. I couldn’t think straight and I was just trying to phone the hospital. More
Former CIA Director James Woolsey has reiterated his call to release Jonathan Pollard, who is now in his 29th year behind bars in the US on charges of spying for Israel. Speaking exclusively to Arutz Sheva, Woolsey noted that the time Pollard has served already is unprecedented for the crimes he was convicted of; namely, spying for a US ally. In the shady world of espionage, even friendly nations spy on each other, he pointed out – an argument Israeli leaders have made particularly ardently since revelations late last year that the US was spying on its closest allies, including Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu. “The US has had friends and allies spy against it throughout its history,” he said. “We have imprisoned South Korean-Americans, Greek-Americans, Filipino-Americans for spying on the US… they stayed in prison for a few years… two or three years, in one case close to 10 years – but that’s all, not close to a quarter of a century!”