Obama Announces Plan to Close Guantanamo Detention Facility.

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Obama Announces Plan to Close Guantanamo Detention Facility. 

President Barack Obama presented a long-awaited plan to Congress to shut down the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay, insisting that keeping the prison open is “contrary to our values.”

“It’s been clear that the detention center at Guantanamo Bay does not advance our national security,” Obama said from the Roosevelt Room at the White House. “It undermines it.”

The plan, which has been on Obama’s agenda since he took office in 2009, hinges on the transfer of between 30 and 60 detainees to U.S. soil, and suggests several possible locations in South Carolina, Kansas and Colorado. The rest of the 91 detainees at the prison could be sent to other countries.

There are currently 35 detainees eligible for transfer and the plan calls for an accelerated review of remaining detainees to determine whether they pose a threat — and, if not, if they should be eligible for transfer.

“Keeping this facility open is contrary to our values,” Obama said. “It undermines our standing in the world. It is viewed as a stain on our broader record of upholding the highest standards of rule of law.”

Obama is already facing pushback from Republicans in Congress. Both chambers have repeatedly passed legislation banning any effort to move detainees to the U.S.

“President Obama seems to be captured on one matter by one campaign promise he made in 2008,” Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on the Senate floor on Tuesday.

“This isn’t even a case where the president can use some kind of pen and phone strategy by claiming the Congress refused to act,” McConnell said.

Rep. Mac Thornberry, R-Texas, chairman of House Armed Services Committee, has said his panel would hold a hearing on a closure plan. But he sent a letter to Obama warning that Congress has made clear what details must be included in any plan and that anything less than that would be unacceptable.

Obama said politics has complicated an issue which once had bipartisan agreement.

“When I first ran for president, it was widely recognized the facility needed to close,” Obama said, adding that former president George W. Bush and former Republican presidential candidate Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., once backed closure.

But such plans became unpopular, Obama said.

“Suddenly, many of those who said it needed to close backed off because they were worried about the politics,” he said.

“I think a lot of the American public are worried about terrorism, and in their mind the notion of having terrorists held in the United States rather than in some distant place can be scary,” he said. “But part of my message to the American people here is we’re already holding a bunch of really dangerous terrorists here in the United States because we threw the book at them. And there have been no incidents.”

The White House hasn’t officially ruled out the possibility of the president using executive action to close Guantanamo Bay prison if an agreement with Congress isn’t struck.

U.S. officials say the plan considers 13 different locations in the U.S., including seven existing prison facilities in Colorado, South Carolina and Kansas, as well as six other locations on current military bases. They say the plan doesn’t recommend a preferred site and the cost estimates are meant to provide a starting point for a conversation with Congress.

Some lawmakers representing South Carolina, Kansas and Colorado have already made it clear they oppose housing Guantanamo detainees in their states.

Obama, for his part, called for immediate action.

“I don’t want to pass this problem on to the next president, whoever that is,” he said.

Source: http://nbcnews.to/1SbWn6q

Vaccinations Have Reduced The HP Virus in Teenage Girls by Nearly Two-Thirds.

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Vaccinations Have Reduced The HP Virus in Teenage Girls by Nearly Two-Thirds. 

A decade after its introduction, the vaccine for human papillomavirus has reduced the prevalence of this cancer-causing STD in teenage girls by nearly two-thirds. It’s an incredible success story, leading experts to question why HPV vaccinations aren’t more common in the United States.

According to a new study in Pediatrics, there was a 64 percent decrease in HPV prevalence among teenage girls aged 14 to 19, and a 34 percent decrease among women aged 20 to 24, within six years of the vaccine’s introduction. The federal research team, headed by Elizabeth R. Unger from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), investigated the prevalence of the disease in women and girls of various age groups before the vaccine was introduced in 2006, and compared the prevalence in the same age groups between 2009 to 2012. Only girls were studied because the recommendation to vaccine boys wasn’t issued until 2011 (the researchers say they’ll include boys in future studies).

“The vaccine is more effective than we thought,” Debbie Saslow of the American Cancer Society told the New York Times. And vaccinated teenagers are not spreading the virus, so “they also protect the people who haven’t been vaccinated.”

HPV is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. The CDC says nearly all sexually active men and women will contract some form of it at some point in their lives. Most people will clear the virus, but some forms of HPV persist, leading to genital warts and certain forms of cancer, including cervical, anal, penile, mouth, and throat cancers.

When the vaccine was introduced 10 years ago, the CDC immediately recommended it be administered to all adolescents. But today, only 40 percent of girls and 20 percent of boys in the US are immunized. Part of the problem has to do with the unfounded claim that HPV vaccines will somehow make girls more promiscuous; a 2014 Canadian study quickly dispelled this false association.

But there are other barriers as well. As the New York Times reports:

In other countries, the vaccine is often given in two doses, particularly to girls younger than 15. In the United States, it is given in three doses. An immunization advisory committee to the C.D.C. will convene this week to learn more about the efficacy of the lower dose.

And in some countries, the vaccine is either mandatory or at least offered at school, its cost covered by a national health care system, making administration more streamlined and comprehensive. Such measures helped Rwanda achieve a 93 percent immunization rate in girls. Australia, where the vaccine is offered free to schoolgirls, accomplished a 92 percent reduction in genital warts in women under 21, a study showed.

But in the United States, the vaccine is largely optional.

As pediatric specialist Joseph A. Bocchini Jr. pointed out, one way to deal with the problem is to exclude the sexually transmitted nature of the virus from the conversation. “We don’t really discuss how people become infected with every vaccine-preventable disease,” he said.

Perhaps instead of framing it as something related to sex, healthcare providers should call it for what it really is: The world’s first cancer vaccine.

Source: http://bit.ly/1UmDa2t

Cambodia builds $40,000 lakeside toilet for Thai princess’s visit – and plans to demolish it when she leaves.

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Cambodia builds $40,000 lakeside toilet for Thai princess’s visit – and plans to demolish it when she leaves.

The visit of a Thai princess to one of Cambodia’s poorest provinces has sparked controversy after at least $40,000 was spent building an air-conditioned outhouse in anticipation of her arrival.

The luxury toilet has been assembled on the banks of the protected Lake Yeak Laom in Ratanakkiri province, where Princess Maha Chakri Sirindhorn will spend the relaxing first leg of her three-day visit to the country.

With silver railings up its white-washed steps and an all-white tiled roof, the 8-metre square building has taken Thai construction company SCG around 19 days to complete.

The toilet will be reserved exclusively for the use of the princess during her one-night visit to the lake and, once she is done with it, will be disassembled.

Local officials told the Khmer Times that $40,000 was, given the number of Thai workers involved and the fact that all the materials were imported from Bangkok, a low estimate.

An SCG manager identified as Mr Pursat told the newspaper the community could use the small building as an office after the royal delegation had left, and defended spending such a figure on a facility that will be used only once.

“If you have a king—well, just, normal people can’t use the king’s toilet,” he said.

Ven Churk, head of the Yeak Lom Lake committee, said local community leaders had been told to make sure the princess’s visit goes well or risk losing control of the nature reserve to the government.

With a sparse population largely made up of subsistence farmers and a history of logging and mining exploitation, Ratanakkiri is one of the least developed provinces in Cambodia.

Source: http://bit.ly/1TBwDS4

Two more babies get herpes after ritual ultra-orthodox Jewish oral blood sucking circumcision in New York City.

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Two more babies get herpes after ritual ultra-orthodox Jewish oral blood sucking circumcision in New York City.

Two more new born have been infected with herpes virus in the last three months after undergoing a controversial religious oral circumcision in New York City.

These latest cases bring the total count to 13 infants since 2000, two of which suffered brain damage and two died from the virus which can rapidly spread throughout its body.

The ultra Orthodox Jewish ritual of metzitzah b’peh requires a practitioner to orally suck the penis of baby to ‘cleanse’ the open wound following its circumcision, making them vulnerable to the virus.

The ultra-Orthodox practice of metzitzah b'peh requires a practitioner to orally suck the baby's penis to 'cleanse' the open wound following its circumcision, making them susceptible to the virus (file photo)

The department of health says one of the latest infants to contract the virus developed a fever and a lesion on its scrotum, seven days after the procedure. The boy later tested positive for HSV-1. That virus differs from HSV-2, the genital herpes, which is contracted during sexual intercourse.

‘A herpes infection in a newborn baby has the risk of leading to severe illness and death,’ Jay Varma, deputy commissioner for disease control at the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene told ABC News.

‘The reason is that the baby doesn’t have the same fully developed immune system as an adult. Instead of staying in the genital area, it extends throughout different organs in the body,’ he explained.

He said it’s too soon to tell whether the boys will suffer permanent effects.

The identify of the rabbi who performed the circumcision is being withheld by the boys’ parents, preventing the health department to step in, they said.

 Since 2000 13 known cases of herpes have resulted from the practice, two of which suffered brain damage and two others died

The religious practice that dates back to more than 5,000 years defies warning by the city’s department of health which says there is no safe way to perform the oral suction on an open wound.

More modern Jewish practices use a sterile aspiration device to clean the wound or a pipette opposed to the oral sucking.

Source: http://bit.ly/1Q60uwa

Study finds homeopathy effective for 0 out of 68 illnesses.

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Study finds homeopathy effective for 0 out of 68 illnesses.

A leading scientist has declared homeopathy a “therapeutic dead-end” after a systematic review concluded the controversial treatment was no more effective than placebo drugs.

Professor Paul Glasziou, a leading academic in evidence based medicine at Bond University, was the chair of a working party by the National Health and Medical Research Council which was tasked with reviewing the evidence of 176 trials of homeopathy to establish if the treatment is valid.

A total of 57 systematic reviews, containing the 176 individual studies, focused on 68 different health conditions – and found there to be no evidence homeopathy was more effective than placebo on any.

Homeopathy is an alternative medicine based on the idea of diluting a substance in water. According to the NHS: “Practitioners believe that the more a substance is diluted in this way, the greater its power to treat symptoms. Many homeopathic remedies consist of substances that have been diluted many times in water until there is none or almost none of the original substance left.”

The review found “no discernible convincing effects beyond placebo” and concluded “there was no reliable evidence from research in humans that homeopathy was effective for treating the range of health conditions considered”.

Writing in a blog for the British Medical Journal, Professor Glasziou states: “As chair of the working party which produced the report I was simply relieved that the arduous journey of sifting and synthesising the evidence was at an end. I had begun the journey with an ‘I don’t know attitude’, curious about whether this unlikely treatment could ever work… but I lost interest after looking at the 57 systematic reviews which contained 176 individual studies and finding no discernible convincing effects beyond placebo.”

He continues: “I can well understand why Samuel Hahnemann- the founder of homeopathy- was dissatisfied with the state of 18th century medicine’s practices, such as blood-letting and purging and tried to find a better alternative.

“But I would guess he would be disappointed by the collective failure of homeopathy to carry on his innovative investigations, but instead continue to pursue a therapeutic dead-end.”

In the UK, two NHS hospitals provide homeopathy, as well as a number of GP practices.

Source: http://ind.pn/1QSSVbKhttp://ind.pn/1QSSVbK

Obama cuts all funding for Christian-based ‘Abstinence Only’ sex-ed programs.

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Obama cuts all funding for Christian-based ‘Abstinence Only’ sex-ed programs.

President Obama’s 2017 budget proposal has removed a $10 million annual grant that goes towards funding “abstinence-only” sexual education classes in public schools. By eliminating the grant, Obama would end the financial incentive for states to continue teaching the debunked sex-ed program.

“Abstinence Only” is a sex education course that refuses to teach about condoms or other forms of birth control in favor of encouraging teens to abstain. The outdated and ineffective curriculum is favored by many Christian sects, and is supported by many Republican lawmakers.

The program often skips information about anatomy, puberty, sexual health and orientation. In addition, it’s been theorized that the courses can create a hostile environment for same-sex couples, couples that have premarital sex, or other people who don’t fit in with the image of sexuality described in the class.

Jessica Boyer, CEO of The Sexuality Information and Education Council of the U.S. (SIECUS), said in a statement that she is “grateful for President Obama’s leadership in seeking to end abstinence-only-until-marriage funding once and for all.

After three decades and nearly $2 billion in federal spending wasted on this failed approach, the President’s proposed budget increases support for programs and efforts that seek to equip young people with the skills they need to ensure their lifelong sexual health and well-being.

Congress has until October 1, the end of the fiscal year, to debate the budget. With Obama entering the final year of his presidency, the Republican Congress is sure to fight him on nearly every platform.

Source: http://bit.ly/1oRafaD

Nike Drops Manny Pacquiao Following Anti-Gay Comments.

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Nike ended their longtime partnership with boxer Manny Pacquiao on Wednesday, just two days after the boxer caused international outrage by saying gay people were “worse than animals”

In a statement, Nike called Pacquiao’s comments “abhorrent” and said the company “strongly oppose[s] discrimination of any kind.”

The 37-year-old has faced loud backlash since he made the controversial statement in an interview with a Filipino television station on Monday.

“Will you see any animals where male is to male and female is to female? The animals are better,” Pacquiao said in the interview, according to CNN. “They know how to distinguish male from female. If we approve [of] male on male, female on female, then man is worse than animals.”

On Tuesday, Pacquiao offered an apology on Instagram, but reasserted that he does not believe in same-sex marriage.

“I’m sorry for hurting people by comparing homosexuals to animals. Please forgive me for those I’ve hurt” the Instagram caption read. “I still stand on my belief that I’m against same sex marriage because of what the Bible says, but I’m not condemning LGBT.”

Nike and Pacquiao have been in partnership since at least 2006. The boxer is scheduled to fight his last match against Timothy Bradley Jr. in April.


Source: http://huff.to/1otg526

Saudi Arabia and Russia agree to freeze oil production (and what it means for the world)

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Saudi Arabia and Russia agree to freeze oil production (and what it means for the world)

Saudi Arabia and Russia have agreed to freeze oil output in a meeting in Qatar. Ali al-Naimi, the Saudi Arabian oil minister met with Alexander Novakin Doha, his Russian counterpart, and representatives from Venezuela and Qatar in Doha on Tuesday where they agreed a freeze in the oil production at January levels.

“Freezing now at the January level is adequate for the market,” said Saudi Arabian Oil Minister, Ali al-Naimi.

“We don’t want significant gyrations in prices, we want to meet demand. We want a stable oil price.”

The agreement fell short of cutting production to shore up oil prices.


The price of brent crude surged 6 per cent on Tuesday to trade at $35.22 a barrel in anticipation of an agreement.

It slipped back from earlier gains after the announcement was made, reflecting disappointment that production would not be reduced. Many oil producers are already pumping at full capacity.

Oil has lost more than 70 per cent of its value in 18 months, wreaking havoc on the oil-dependent economies such as Saudi Arabia, which has been forced to make sweeping welfare cuts.

The kingdom insisted it wouldn’t curb production unless other producers in the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries agreed to co-operate.

Saudi Arabia has one of the most oil reliant economies in the world, as shown by the above Statista infographic. King Salman said in a speech that the kingdom would seek to diversify its revenues in 2016.

Venezuela has been hit hardest from low oil prices. It had lobbied exporters including Russia, Iran and Saudi Arabia to arrange a meeting with OPEC to try and reach an agreement.

The deal is a huge turnaround from OPEC’s last meeting in December, when members were said to be hardly talking to one another.

It now depends on the agreement of Iran and Iraq.

The nations will meet for further talks on Wednesday, but analysts suspect Iran will be reluctant to freeze production because it has only just returned to the market following the lifting of sanctions.

Source: http://ind.pn/1R67Jq5

DEVELOPING NEWS: Richard Dawkins has suffered a stroke.

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DEVELOPING NEWS: Richard Dawkins has suffered a stroke. 

Richard Dawkins has had a stroke on the eve of his tour of Australia and New Zealand.

Management for the 74-year-old author of The God Delusion said he had suffered a “minor stroke” in the UK on Saturday but had already returned home from hospital.

But the health scare has caused him to postpone his tour, his management said in a message passed on to ticket holders on Friday.

“On Saturday night Richard suffered a minor stroke, however he is expected in time to make a full or near full recovery,” the statement said. “He is already at home recuperating.

“This unfortunately means Richard will be unable to make his planned Australian and New Zealand tour. He is very disappointed that he is unable to do so but looks forward to renewing his plans in the not too distant future.”

By Thursday he had recovered enough to use Twitter, plugging a book called God: The Most Unpleasant Character in All Fiction, for which he had written the foreword.

The events were to be centred around his recently published second memoir, Brief Candle in the Dark. It’s his 13th book. His first, The Selfish Gene, published in 1976, has sold more than a million copies. The God Delusion, the 2006 book for which he is now best known, has sold more than three million.

A steadfast critic of religion, who nevertheless recently criticised leading UK cinema chains for refusing to screen an advert featuring the Lord’s Prayer, Dawkins has regularly been named one of Britain’s top public intellectuals.

He also coined the term “meme”, in described in rather loftier tones than its current manifestation as an infinite cascade of sad frogs named Pepe, as a self-replicating unit that transmitted cultural ideas.

Memes, Dawkins told The Guardian in 2013, are “cultural replicators, the cultural equivalent of a gene, the cultural equivalent of DNA,” adding “the internet is a first-class ecology for memes to spread.”

Source: http://bit.ly/1PQEd8T

Bernie Sanders talks about religion (and some atheists aren’t happy)

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Bernie Sanders talks about religion (and some atheists aren’t happy)

Presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders dashed the hopes of some atheists when he declared he had “very strong religious and spiritual feelings” at a Democratic town hall.

“It’s a guiding principle in my life, absolutely, it is,” Sanders said Wednesday (Feb. 3) when a New Hampshire voter asked him about his faith. “Everybody practices religion in a different way. To me, I would not be here tonight, I would not be running for president of the United States, if I did not have very strong religious and spiritual feelings.”

The statement came a week after the Vermont senator told The Washington Post he is “not active in any organized religion” but believes in God. That statement prompted a number of pundits — atheist and otherwise —  to describe Sanders as the first “none” to run for president, referring to people who have no religious preference.

“Sanders defines God in a very different way than the way most Americans do, and in fact, a way that would be compatible with nontheistic humanists,” Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association, told The Huffington Post after Sanders’ interview with The Washington Post appeared.

Lauren Nelson, writing on the popular blog Friendly Atheist one day after the town hall, described Sanders’ response as a “punch to the gut.”

“Here was a candidate who, throughout decades of public service, had always been a staunch advocate for keeping religion out of politics, and he was saying that religion was the reason he was running?!” Nelson wrote. “Sanders, who has in the past indicated that his Judaism was a function of culture instead of belief?! HOW COULD HE BETRAY US?!”

Nelson eventually concluded Sanders’ religion is “empathy” and said she could support that. Other viewers seemed to be equally forgiving, at least on social media.

“Shame that you can’t openly come out as an atheist and still have a chance to get elected,” @bensouthard tweeted during the town hall.

And @MBrothers22 tweeted, “This (is) what an atheist says when they don’t want to offend anyone.”

Source: http://huff.to/1RkGyKf

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