(huffington post) – Martin Shkreli ‘Also Hiked Rare Kidney Disease Drug By 2,000% At Previous Pharmaceuticals Firm’

The CEO of a company which grossly raised the price of a life-saving drug used by AIDs and cancer patients is under scrutiny for reportedly inflating the cost of a medicine for a rare kidney disease at a previous firm.

Turing Pharmaceuticals CEO Martin Shkreli sparked an angry backlash this week when it emerged the price of Daraprim – a drug used to treat a deadly parasitic infection – had been raised by 5,500%.

This increased the price of each pill from $13.50 to $750.

shkreli

Martin Shkreli told ABC News the drug price will be lowered to make it more ‘affordable’

Following an international uproar – including criticism from Hillary Clinton who called the move “outrageous” – Shkreli told ABC News on Tuesday the drug would be re-priced to make it more affordable, though he did not immediately say how much it would be.

Now it has emerged that during Shkreli’s term as CEO and founder of pharmaceutical company Retrophin, it acquired the rights to sell Thiola, used to treat cystinuria, a rare, incurable condition which causes persistent and painful kidney stones.

Sufferers can require between five and ten of the tablets a day, the Independent reports.

In a report from September last year, Reuters writes: “Shkreli said on a conference call after the deal that the drug, Thiola, then sold for $4,000 a year per patient, would be priced closer to rival drug penicillamine, which costs $80,000 to $140,000.”

Writing for Forbes, Steve Brozak claimed Retrophin had bloated the price of a $1.50 tablet to $30 a tablet, representing a nearly 2,000% increase.

He added: “Keep in mind that Retrophin hasn’t hasn’t conducted any new trials, made any new claims about the drug, changed its formulation or delivery mechanism. As the only supplier of the drug to the U.S., Retrophin has increased the price for the drug just because it can.”

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(Yahoo News) – Now you see it, now you don’t: invisibility cloak nears reality

Light reflects off the cloak (red arrows) as if it were reflecting off a flat mirror in this 3D illustration

By Will Dunham

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – A cloak of invisibility may be common in science fiction but it is not so easy in the real world. New research suggests such a device may be moving closer to reality.

Scientists said on Thursday they have successfully tested an ultra-thin invisibility cloak made of microscopic rectangular gold blocks that, like skin, conform to the shape of an object and can render it undetectable with visible light.

The researchers said while their experiments involved cloaking a miniscule object they believe the technology could be made to conceal larger objects, with military and other possible applications.

The cloak, 80 nanometers in thickness, was wrapped around a three-dimensional object shaped with bumps and dents. The cloak’s surface rerouted light waves scattered from the object to make it invisible to optical detection.

It may take five to 10 years to make the technology practical to use, according to Xiang Zhang, director of the Materials Sciences Division of the U.S. Department of Energy’s Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory and a professor at the University of California, Berkeley.

“We do not see fundamental roadblocks. But much more work needs to be done,” said Zhang, whose research was published in the journal Science.

The technology involves so-called metamaterials, which possess properties not present in nature. Their surfaces bear features much smaller than the size of a wavelength of light. They redirect incoming light waves, shifting them away from the object being cloaked.

The cloaking “skin” boasts microscopic light-scattering antennae that make light bouncing off an object look as if it were reflected by a flat mirror, rendering the object invisible.

“The fact that we can make a curved surface appear flat also means that we can make it look like anything else. We also can make a flat surface appear curved,” said Penn State University electrical engineering professor Xingjie Ni, the study’s lead author.

The researchers said they overcame two drawbacks of previous experimental microscopic cloaks that were bulkier and harder to “scale up,” or become usable for larger objects.

Ni said the technology eventually could be used for military applications like making large objects like vehicles or aircraft or even individual soldiers “invisible.”

Ni also mentioned some unconventional applications.

How about a cloaking mask for the face? “All the pimples and wrinkles will no longer be visible,” Ni said. How about fashion design? Ni suggested a cloak that “can be made to hide one’s belly.”

(Reporting by Will Dunham; Editing by Eric Beech)

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Source: Now you see it, now you don’t: invisibility cloak nears reality – Yahoo News

(CNN) – Huge mosque opens in Moscow

  • Moscow has 2 million Muslims and just four mosques
  • Russian President Vladimir Putin attended a ceremonial opening of the Moscow Cathedral Mosque
  • He spoke of Moscow being a multireligious city and railed against ISIS

Moscow (CNN)After more than decade under construction, the doors of the newly built Moscow Cathedral Mosque have finally opened in the European city with the largest Muslim population.

It’s hoped the mosque, which can accommodate more than 10,000 worshipers, will help alleviate the acute shortage of space for Muslim prayer in the Russian capital.

“Today, we have only four mosques for 2 million Muslims in Moscow. This is not enough,” Rushan Abbyasov of the Russian Council of Muftis told CNN.

“However, according to our agreement with the Moscow government, we will start considering new projects. God willing, another massive mosque will appear,” he said.

A new spire for the Moscow skyline.

But that may prove unpopular among many non-Muslim Muscovites, many of whom disapprove of the city’s growing Muslim population.

A recent opinion poll, published by the Levada Center, an independent agency, found that 51% of Muscovites, who are overwhelmingly Orthodox Christian, are against further mosque construction. Only 4% said they support mosque building.

But the Kremlin, usually sensitive to popular sentiments of this kind, appears to be paying little attention to the concerns.

The ceremonial opening of the Cathedral Mosque, near the city center, was overseen by Russian President Vladimir Putin.

Foreign dignitaries also attended, including Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Palestinian leader Mahmoud Abbas.

With his speech broadcast live on state television, Putin said that the mosque was “worthy” of a multireligious Russian capital and that he hoped it would become a center of spirituality and education in Russia.

Putin, who is stepping up military backing of the Syrian government, also used the mosque opening to push his anti-ISIS message.

“We see what’s happening in the Middle East, where terrorists from the so-called Islamic State are discrediting the great world religion of Islam, planting hatred, killing people, destroying world cultural monuments in a barbaric way,” he told the hundreds of invited guests.

“Their ideology is based on a lie, on a distortion of Islam.”

For Putin, this was clearly more than just a big mosque opening its doors to a grateful Muslim public.

This was another platform from which to bolster his credentials as a staunch opponent of Islamic extremist groups, like ISIS.

And perhaps to prepare the Russian public for even greater involvement in Syria’s brutal civil war.

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(forbes) – Fidget While You Work: It May Be Good For Your Health

Alice G. Walton ,CONTRIBUTOR

Opinions expressed by Forbes Contributors are their own.
If you’re concerned that the amount of sitting you do might one day kill you, as some studies have suggested, new research in the American Journal of Preventive Medicine may buck you up: It finds that fidgeting while you work may help offset the negative health effects of sitting for hours at the time, as so many of us do these days. At least in part — it’s certainly no alternative to actual physical activity. But since regular exercise itself can’t quite trump the ill effects of a sedentary lifestyle, the study may bring some encouraging news for those of us who can’t seem to stop moving as we sit.

ManInOffice

The researchers in Britain looked at data from 12,000 women who answered questions about their diets, alcohol use, exercise habits, fidgeting and many other lifestyle habits. They also provided information about their health, body weight and what, if any, health conditions they’d experienced over the years; the team was also informed about any participants who died during the course of the study. At the end of 12 years, the team looked for any relationships between the variables.

As other studies have, the team found that longer time spent sitting was linked to mortality. Among women sat for more than seven hours per day and who didn’t fidget much, their risk of mortality was 43% higher than those who sat for less than five hours. (When the team adjusted for things like smoking and drinking, the mortality risk for sitting for more than seven hours a day was still higher by 30%.)
But what was really interesting was that being more fidgety seemed to counteract this effect: That is, the middle- and high-fidgeting groups didn’t have any greater risk of death even sitting more than seven hours every day.

“When sitting for prolonged periods, any movement might be good,” Janet Cade, of the University of Leeds, tells me. “So although it might not be possible to sit less during the day due to work commitments, if people fidget at their desk it could be beneficial.”

As for the mechanism, it’s likely that fidgeting rouses the metabolism just enough to offset the effects that long hours of sedentariness can have. “Although our study was not able to study potential mechanisms, fidgeting might have beneficial effects through a role in offsetting the negative effects of sitting,” says Cade. “We know that sitting for long periods has an adverse effect on metabolism, in particular, glucose metabolism. Also, sitting reduces energy expenditure and potentially increases energy intakes.”

Of course, some caveats exist. One is that the study couldn’t demonstrate a causal relationship – there may be other factors at play. The other is that the study was based on self-report, which can be inconsistent. “We are not saying that the results are ’cause and effect,’” says Cade, “but we have shown a strong association between sitting, fidgeting and mortality. Our measure of fidgeting was self-report and so subject to reporting bias. People might not know how much they fidget.”

Fidgeting is definitely not a cure for the effects of sitting for so many hours each day, which so many of us do. But it’s an interesting idea – that what’s been considered an undesirable trait in kids and adults alike may actually be good for us. And that even small amounts of activity throughout the day can have a cumulative effect on our health.

“Our results support the suggestion that it’s best to avoid sitting still for long periods of time,” says Cade, “and even fidgeting may offer enough of a break to make a difference.”

So as you sit to read this, do your body a favor: Fidget around a bit. If anyone tells you it’s rude or annoying, just tell them you’re stealthily getting active, and possibly expanding your lifespan.

 

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(washington post) – OPM says 5.6 million fingerprints stolen in cyberattack, five times as many as previously thought

By Andrea Peterson

Workers arrive at the Office of Personnel Management in Washington. (James Lawler Duggan/Reuters)

One of the scariest parts of the massive cybersecurity breaches at the Office of Personnel Management just got worse: The agency now says 5.6 million people’s fingerprints were stolen as part of the hacks.

That’s more than five times the 1.1 million government officials estimated when the cyberattacks were initially disclosed over the summer. The total number of those believed to be caught up in the breaches, which included the theft of the Social Security numbers and addresses of more than 21 million former and current government employees, remains the same.

OPM and the Department of Defense were reviewing the theft of background investigation records when they identified additional fingerprint data that had been exposed, OPM said in a statement.

Breaches involving biometric data like fingerprints are particularly concerning to privacy experts because of their permanence: Unlike passwords and even Social Security numbers, fingerprints cannot be changed. So those affected by this breach may find themselves grappling with the fallout for years.

“The fact that the number [of fingerprints breached] just increased by a factor of five is pretty mind-boggling,” said Joseph Lorenzo Hall, the chief technologist at the Center for Democracy & Technology. “I’m surprised they didn’t have structures in place to determine the number of fingerprints compromised earlier during the investigation.”

Lawmakers, too, were upset about the latest revelation. “OPM keeps getting it wrong,” said Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah). ” I have zero confidence in OPM’s competence and ability to manage this crisis.”

As fingerprints increasingly replace passwords as a day-to-day security measure for unlocking your iPhone or even your home, security experts have grown concerned about how hackers might leverage them.

But federal experts believe the potential for “misuse” of the stolen fingerprints is currently limited, according to OPM, but that could “could change over time as technology evolves.” It also said an interagency working group including experts from law enforcement and the intelligence community will review ways that the fingerprint data could be abused and try to develop ways to prevent that from happening.
“If, in the future, new means are developed to misuse the fingerprint data, the government will provide additional information to individuals whose fingerprints may have been stolen in this breach,” OPM said.

OPM says it is still in the process of notifying everyone caught up in the breach. But they will be offered free identity theft and fraud protection services, the agency said.

China is widely suspected of being behind the breaches, perhaps as part of move to build a massive database on Americans. But U.S. government officials have so far declined to publicly blame the nation for the cyberattacks. Chinese President Xi Jinping is currently visiting the U.S. and described China as a strong defender of cybersecurity and a victim of hacking itself during a speech in Seattle on Tuesday.

The hacks sparked an outcry on Capitol Hill where lawmakers criticized the government’s response and said the agency should have done more to protect the information in the first place. Some called for the firing of OPM director Katherine Archuleta, who eventually resigned in July.

One lawmaker criticized OPM for releasing the new information during the Pope’s visit to Washington: “Today’s blatant news dump is the clearest sign yet that the administration still acts like the OPM hack is a PR crisis instead of a national security threat,” said Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) in a statement.

OPM spokesman Sam Schumach said the additional batch of compromised fingerprints wasn’t identified until very recently and that the agency spent the past several days analyzing the data.

“Yesterday, we began informing members of Congress, as well as the OPM Inspector General, of these newly identified archived records, and disclosed that this would change the fingerprint number previously reported,” he said in an e-mailed statement. The agency was able to confirm the new total population Wednesday morning and subsequently informed the public, Schumach said.
Andrea Peterson covers technology policy for The Washington Post, with an emphasis on cybersecurity, consumer privacy, transparency, surveillance and open government.

 

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(ESPN) – Baseball loses a legend in Yogi Berra

 

Baseball lost a legend early Tuesday morning as Hall of Fame Yankees catcher Yogi Berra died at the age of 90. He passed away 69 years to the day after his major league debut on Sept. 22, 1946, when he hit a home run in his second career plate appearance in Game 1 of a doubleheader against the Athletics.

World Series excellence

Berra, who played his entire 19-season career with the Yankees, holds multiple World Series records, including most games played (75), most at-bats (259) and most hits (71). Elias Sports Bureau research shows he’s the only player in major league history to win 10 World Series titles, and he caught the only perfect game in postseason history, which was thrown by Don Larsen in the 1956 World Series.

The postseason accomplishments don’t stop there for Berra. He hit the first pinch-hit home run in World Series history, in 1947 off the Dodgers’ Ralph Branca, and he’s the only player to hit two home runs in a winner-take-all World Series game (1956 Game 7 against the Dodgers).

One of the best catchers ever

Berra’s playing career with the Yankees included three MVP awards, tied for the most by a catcher in major league history. He is one of three Yankees players with three MVP awards, along with fellow Hall of Famers Mickey Mantle and Joe DiMaggio.

He made 18 All-Star Game appearances, which is more than any other catcher in history and second-most by a Yankees player behind Mantle’s 20.

Berra hit 358 home runs in his career, fourth most by a player whose primary position was catcher, and advanced metrics paint Berra in a positive light, too. His 56.1 wins above replacement are tied with Mike Piazza for fifth most by a catcher in major league history.

He did not strike out often, recording 414 strikeouts over the course of his career and never more than 38 in one season. He had five seasons in which his home run total was higher than his strikeout total.

Berra the manager

After his playing career, Berra became a manager for the Yankees in 1964, leading them to a 99-63 record and a World Series appearance. Berra went on to manage the New York Mets, leading them to a World Series appearance in 1973, making him the only manager to lead both the Yankees and Mets to a World Series appearance.

Hall of Fame connections

According to the Elias Sports Bureau, Berra played with seven Hall of Famers: DiMaggio, Mantle, Whitey Ford, Johnny Mize, Phil Rizzuto, Enos Slaughter and Warren Spahn.

He managed five Hall of Famers (not including Mantle and Ford): Rickey Henderson, Willie Mays, Phil Niekro, Tom Seaver and Dave Winfield.

 

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The safety of the LHC | CERN press office

The Large Hadron Collider (LHC) can achieve an energy that no other particle accelerators have reached before, but Nature routinely produces higher energies in cosmic-ray collisions. Concerns about the safety of whatever may be created in such high-energy particle collisions have been addressed for many years. In the light of new experimental data and theoretical understanding, the LHC Safety Assessment Group (LSAG) has updated a review of the analysis made in 2003 by the LHC Safety Study Group, a group of independent scientists.

LSAG reaffirms and extends the conclusions of the 2003 report that LHC collisions present no danger and that there are no reasons for concern. Whatever the LHC will do, Nature has already done many times over during the lifetime of the Earth and other astronomical bodies. The LSAG report has been reviewed and endorsed by CERN’s Scientific Policy Committee, a group of external scientists that advises CERN’s governing body, its Council.

The following summarizes the main arguments given in the LSAG report. Anyone interested in more details is encouraged to consult it directly, and the technical scientific papers to which it refers.

Cosmic rays

The LHC, like other particle accelerators, recreates the natural phenomena of cosmic rays under controlled laboratory conditions, enabling them to be studied in more detail. Cosmic rays are particles produced in outer space, some of which are accelerated to energies far exceeding those of the LHC. The energy and the rate at which they reach the Earth’s atmosphere have been measured in experiments for some 70 years. Over the past billions of years, Nature has already generated on Earth as many collisions as about a million LHC experiments – and the planet still exists. Astronomers observe an enormous number of larger astronomical bodies throughout the Universe, all of which are also struck by cosmic rays. The Universe as a whole conducts more than 10 million million LHC-like experiments per second. The possibility of any dangerous consequences contradicts what astronomers see – stars and galaxies still exist.

Microscopic black holes

Nature forms black holes when certain stars, much larger than our Sun, collapse on themselves at the end of their lives. They concentrate a very large amount of matter in a very small space. Speculations about microscopic black holes at the LHC refer to particles produced in the collisions of pairs of protons, each of which has an energy comparable to that of a mosquito in flight. Astronomical black holes are much heavier than anything that could be produced at the LHC.

According to the well-established properties of gravity, described by Einstein’s relativity, it is impossible for microscopic black holes to be produced at the LHC. There are, however, some speculative theories that predict the production of such particles at the LHC. All these theories predict that these particles would disintegrate immediately. Black holes, therefore, would have no time to start accreting matter and to cause macroscopic effects.

Although theory predicts that microscopic black holes decay rapidly, even hypothetical stable black holes can be shown to be harmless by studying the consequences of their production by cosmic rays. Whilst collisions at the LHC differ from cosmic-ray collisions with astronomical bodies like the Earth in that new particles produced in LHC collisions tend to move more slowly than those produced by cosmic rays, one can still demonstrate their safety. The specific reasons for this depend whether the black holes are electrically charged, or neutral. Many stable black holes would be expected to be electrically charged, since they are created by charged particles. In this case they would interact with ordinary matter and be stopped while traversing the Earth or Sun, whether produced by cosmic rays or the LHC. The fact that the Earth and Sun are still here rules out the possibility that cosmic rays or the LHC could produce dangerous charged microscopic black holes. If stable microscopic black holes had no electric charge, their interactions with the Earth would be very weak. Those produced by cosmic rays would pass harmlessly through the Earth into space, whereas those produced by the LHC could remain on Earth. However, there are much larger and denser astronomical bodies than the Earth in the Universe. Black holes produced in cosmic-ray collisions with bodies such as neutron stars and white dwarf stars would be brought to rest. The continued existence of such dense bodies, as well as the Earth, rules out the possibility of the LHC producing any dangerous black holes.

Strangelets

Strangelet is the term given to a hypothetical microscopic lump of ‘strange matter’ containing almost equal numbers of particles called up, down and strange quarks. According to most theoretical work, strangelets should change to ordinary matter within a thousand-millionth of a second. But could strangelets coalesce with ordinary matter and change it to strange matter? This question was first raised before the start up of the Relativistic Heavy Ion Collider, RHIC, in 2000 in the United States. A study at the time showed that there was no cause for concern, and RHIC has now run for eight years, searching for strangelets without detecting any. At times, the LHC will run with beams of heavy nuclei, just as RHIC does. The LHC’s beams will have more energy than RHIC, but this makes it even less likely that strangelets could form. It is difficult for strange matter to stick together in the high temperatures produced by such colliders, rather as ice does not form in hot water. In addition, quarks will be more dilute at the LHC than at RHIC, making it more difficult to assemble strange matter. Strangelet production at the LHC is therefore less likely than at RHIC, and experience there has already validated the arguments that strangelets cannot be produced.

The analysis of the first LHC data from heavy ion collisions has now confirmed the key ingredients used in the LSAG report to evaluate the upper limit on the production of hypothetical strangelets. For more details see this addendum to the LSAG report: Implications of LHC heavy ion data for multi-strange baryon production (2011)

Vacuum bubbles

There have been speculations that the Universe is not in its most stable configuration, and that perturbations caused by the LHC could tip it into a more stable state, called a vacuum bubble, in which we could not exist. If the LHC could do this, then so could cosmic-ray collisions. Since such vacuum bubbles have not been produced anywhere in the visible Universe, they will not be made by the LHC.

Magnetic monopoles

Magnetic monopoles are hypothetical particles with a single magnetic charge, either a north pole or a south pole. Some speculative theories suggest that, if they do exist, magnetic monopoles could cause protons to decay. These theories also say that such monopoles would be too heavy to be produced at the LHC. Nevertheless, if the magnetic monopoles were light enough to appear at the LHC, cosmic rays striking the Earth’s atmosphere would already be making them, and the Earth would very effectively stop and trap them. The continued existence of the Earth and other astronomical bodies therefore rules out dangerous proton-eating magnetic monopoles light enough to be produced at the LHC.

Other aspects of LHC safety:

Concern has recently been expressed that a ‘runaway fusion reaction’ might be created in the LHC carbon beam dump. The safety of the LHC beam dump had previously been reviewed by the relevant regulatory authorities of the CERN host states, France and Switzerland. The specific concerns expressed more recently have been addressed in a technical memorandum by Assmann et al. As they point out, fusion reactions can be maintained only in material compressed by some external pressure, such as that provided by gravity inside a star, a fission explosion in a thermonuclear device, a magnetic field in a Tokamak, or by continuing isotropic laser or particle beams in the case of inertial fusion. In the case of the LHC beam dump, it is struck once by the beam coming from a single direction. There is no countervailing pressure, so the dump material is not compressed, and no fusion is possible.

Concern has been expressed that a ‘runaway fusion reaction’ might be created in a nitrogen tank inside the LHC tunnel. There are no such nitrogen tanks. Moreover, the arguments in the previous paragraph prove that no fusion would be possible even if there were.

Finally, concern has also been expressed that the LHC beam might somehow trigger a ‘Bose-Nova’ in the liquid helium used to cool the LHC magnets. A study(link is external) by Fairbairn and McElrath has clearly shown there is no possibility of the LHC beam triggering a fusion reaction in helium.

We recall that ‘Bose-Novae’ are known to be related to chemical reactions that release an infinitesimal amount of energy by nuclear standards. We also recall that helium is one of the most stable elements known, and that liquid helium has been used in many previous particle accelerators without mishap. The facts that helium is chemically inert and has no nuclear spin imply that no ‘Bose-Nova’ can be triggered in the superfluid helium used in the LHC.

Comments on the papers by Giddings and Mangano, and by LSAG

The papers by Giddings and Mangano(link is external) and LSAG(link is external) demonstrating the safety of the LHC have been studied, reviewed and endorsed by leading experts from the CERN Member States, Japan, Russia and the United States, working in astrophysics, cosmology, general relativity, mathematics, particle physics and risk analysis, including several Nobel Laureates in Physics. They all agree that the LHC is safe.

The paper(link is external) by Giddings and Mangano has been peer-reviewed by anonymous experts in astrophysics and particle physics and published(link is external) in the professional scientific journal Physical Review D. The American Physical Society chose to highlight this as one of the most significant papers it has published recently, commissioning acommentary(link is external) by Prof. Peskin from the Stanford Linear Accelerator Laboratory in which he endorses its conclusions. The Executive Committee of the Division of Particles and Fields of the American Physical Society has issued a statement(link is external) endorsing the LSAG report.

The LSAG report has been published(link is external) by the UK Institute of Physics in its publication Journal of Physics G. The conclusions of the LSAG report were endorsed in a press release

The conclusions of LSAG have also been endorsed(link is external) by the Particle and Nuclear Physics Section (KET) of the German Physical Society. A translation into German of the complete LSAG report may be found on the KET website, as well as here. (A translation into French of the complete LSAG report is also available.)

Thus, the conclusion that LHC collisions are completely safe has been endorsed by the three respected professional societies of physicists that have reviewed it, which rank among the most highly respected professional societies in the world.

World-renowned experts in astrophysics, cosmology, general relativity, mathematics, particle physics and risk analysis, including several Nobel Laureates in Physics, have also expressed clear individual opinions that LHC collisions are not dangerous:

“To think that LHC particle collisions at high energies can lead to dangerous black holes is rubbish. Such rumors were spread by unqualified people seeking sensation or publicity.

Academician Vitaly Ginzburg, Nobel Laureate in Physics, Lebedev Institute, Moscow, and Russian Academy of Sciences

“The operation of the LHC is safe, not only in the old sense of that word, but in the more general sense that our most qualified scientists have thoroughly considered and analyzed the risks involved in the operation of the LHC. [Any concerns] are merely hypothetical and speculative, and contradicted by much evidence and scientific analysis.

Prof. Sheldon Glashow, Nobel Laureate in Physics, Boston University,

Prof. Frank Wilczek, Nobel Laureate in Physics, Massachusetts Institute of Technology,

Prof. Richard Wilson, Mallinckrodt Professor of Physics, Harvard University

“The world will not come to an end when the LHC turns on. The LHC is absolutely safe. … Collisions releasing greater energy occur millions of times a day in the earth’s atmosphere and nothing terrible happens.

Prof. Steven Hawking, Lucasian Professor of Mathematics, Cambridge University

“Nature has already done this experiment. … Cosmic rays have hit the moon with more energy and have not produced a black hole that has swallowed up the moon. The universe doesn’t go around popping off huge black holes.

Prof. Edward Kolb, Astrophysicist, University of Chicago

“I certainly have no worries at all about the purported possibility of LHC producing microscopic black holes capable of eating up the Earth. There is no scientific basis whatever for such wild speculations.”

Prof. Sir Roger Penrose, Former Rouse Ball Professor of Mathematics, Oxford University

“There is no risk [in LHC collisions, and] the LSAG report is excellent.

Prof. Lord Martin Rees, UK Astronomer Royal and President of the Royal Society of London

“Those who have doubts about LHC safety should read LSAG report where all possible risks were considered. We can be sure that particle collisions at the LHC  cannot lead to a catastrophic consequences.

Academician V.A. Rubakov, Institute for Nuclear Research, Moscow, and Russian Academy of Sciences

“We fully endorse the conclusions of the LSAG report: there is no basis for any concerns about the consequences of new particles or forms of matter that could possibly be produced at the LHC.

R. Aleksan et al., the 20 external members of the CERN Scientific Policy Committee, including Prof. Gerard ‘t Hooft, Nobel Laureate in Physics.

The overwhelming majority of physicists agree that microscopic black holes would be unstable, as predicted by basic principles of quantum mechanics. As discussed in the LSAG report(link is external), if microscopic black holes can be produced by the collisions of quarks and/or gluons inside protons, they must also be able to decay back into quarks and/or gluons. Moreover, quantum mechanics predicts specifically that they should decay via Hawking radiation.

Nevertheless, a few papers have suggested that microscopic black holes might be stable. The paper(link is external) by Giddings and Mangano and the LSAG report(link is external) analyzed very conservatively the hypothetical case of stable microscopic black holes and concluded that even in this case there would be no conceivable danger. Another analysis(link is external) with similar conclusions has been documented by Dr. Koch, Prof. Bleicher and Prof. Stoecker of Frankfurt University and GSI, Darmstadt, who conclude:

“We discussed the logically possible black hole evolution paths. Then we discussed every single outcome of those paths and showed that none of the physically sensible paths can lead to a black hole disaster at the LHC.”

Professor Roessler (who has a medical degree and was formerly a chaos theorist in Tuebingen) also raised doubts on the existence of Hawking radiation. His ideas have been refuted by Profs. Nicolai (Director at the Max Planck Institute for Gravitational Physics – Albert-Einstein-Institut – in Potsdam) and Giulini, whose report(link is external) (see herefor the English translation, and here for further statements) point to his failure to understand general relativity and the Schwarzschild metric, and his reliance on an alternative theory of gravity that was disproven in 1915. Their verdict:

“[Roessler’s] argument is not valid; the argument is not self-consistent.”

The paper of Prof. Roessler has also been criticized by Prof. Bruhn of the Darmstadt University of Technology, who concludes(link is external) that:

“Roessler’s misinterpretation of the Schwarzschild metric [renders] his further considerations … null and void. These are not papers that could be taken into account when problems of black holes are discussed.”

A hypothetical scenario for possibly dangerous metastable black holes has recently been proposed(link is external) by Dr. Plaga. The conclusions of this work have been shown to be inconsistent in a second paper(link is external) by Giddings and Mangano, where it is also stated that the safety of this class of metastable black hole scenarios is already established by their original work(link is external).

 

Source: The safety of the LHC | CERN press office

(bloomberg) – Volkswagen Drops 23% After Admitting Diesel Emissions Cheat

Volkswagen AG lost almost a quarter of its market value after it admitted to cheating on U.S. air pollution tests for years, putting pressure on Chief Executive Officer Martin Winterkorn to repair the reputation of the world’s biggest carmaker.

Top supervisory board members will convene on Wednesday, according to two people with knowledge of the plans, who asked not to be named because the meeting is private. Volkswagen plunged as much as 23 percent to 125.40 euros in Frankfurt, wiping out about 15.6 billion euros ($17.6 billion) in market value. The stock closed at 132.2 euros, its lowest in more than three years.

VW said it’s cooperating with regulators probing gaps between emissions on the road and lab tests on some diesel models. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, the company insisted for a year that discrepancies were mere technical glitches. Winterkorn, who has led VW since 2007, was forced to halt sales of the cars on Sunday and issue a public apology, saying he’s “deeply sorry” for breaking the public’s trust and that VW would do “everything necessary in order to reverse the damage this has caused.”

Contract Renewal

Winterkorn, whose contract renewal is scheduled for a supervisory board vote on Friday, now faces a serious challenge to his leadership, said Arndt Ellinghorst, a London-based analyst for Evercore ISI.

“This latest saga may help catalyze further management changes at VW,” Ellinghorst wrote in a note Monday.

The U.S. charges are “grave” and must be clarified swiftly, saidStephan Weil, prime minister of the German state of Lower Saxony, which owns 20 percent of Volkswagen’s voting shares. “Possible consequences can be decided after that.”

The European Commission also said it’s taking VW’s cheating seriously and is in contact with U.S. regulators and the company about details of the case.

German competitors BMW AG and Daimler AG said on Monday they aren’t aware of a similar U.S. probe into their cars. Shares of both slipped the most in almost a month.

$18 Billion

Diesel and VW’s reputation for German engineering were cornerstones of Winterkorn’s effort to catch up in the U.S. market. The violations, which affect nearly half a million vehicles, could result in as much as $18 billion in fines, based on the cost per violation and the number of cars. Criminal prosecution is also possible.

“If this ends up having been structural fraud, the top management in Wolfsburg may have to bear the consequences,” said Sascha Gommel, a Frankfurt-based analyst for Commerzbank AG, whose share rating is under review.

The Wolfsburg, Germany-based company admitted to fitting some of its U.S. diesel vehicles with software that turns on full pollution controls only when the car is undergoing official emissions testing, the EPA said Friday. Affected are diesel versions of the VW Jetta, Golf, Beetle and Passat and the Audi A3.

Analysts at Kepler Cheuvreux cut their recommendation on Volkswagen stock to hold from buy, reducing their target price 27 percent to 185 euros. Volkswagen faces not only a short-term drop in sales and a hit to its reputation but also the longer-term risk of litigation in the U.S., the analysts wrote in a note on Monday.

The crisis is unlikely to trigger an immediate downgrade of the company’s debt rating, Fitch Ratings said on Monday. It may come under pressure if the situation deepens, Fitch said.

40-Fold Excess

During normal driving, the cars with the software — known as a “defeat device” — would pollute 10 times to 40 times the legal limits, the EPA estimated. The discrepancy emerged after the International Council on Clean Transportation commissionedreal-world emissions tests of diesel vehicles including a Jetta and Passat, then compared them to lab results.

Volkswagen has struggled in the U.S. for years. Sales of VW-brand cars in the country dropped 10 percent last year to 366,970; the company aimed to almost double annual Audi and VW brand sales to 1 million vehicles by 2018.

“VW’s U.S. sales target for 2018 had been ambitious as is,” saidKlaus Breitenbach, a Frankfurt-based analyst for Baader Bank AG. “Now I believe it is no longer reachable.”

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(bloomberg) – FBI Said to Recover Personal E-Mails From Hillary Clinton Server

Democratic Presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton attends the Congressional Black Caucus (CBC) Foundation’s 45th Annual Legislative Conference in Washington, DC, on September 19, 2015. JIM WATSON/AFP/Getty Images

 

The FBI has recovered personal and work-related e-mails from the private computer server used by Hillary Clinton during her time as secretary of state, according to a person familiar with the investigation.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation’s success at salvaging personal e-mails that Clinton said had been deleted raises the possibility that the Democratic presidential candidate’s correspondence eventually could become public. The disclosure of such e-mails would likely fan the controversy over Clinton’s use of a private e-mail system for official business.

The FBI is investigating how and why classified information ended up on Clinton’s server. The probe probably will take at least several more months, according to the person, who described the matter on condition of anonymity because the investigation is continuing and deals with sensitive information.

A review by Clinton and her aides determined that about half of the 60,000 e-mails she exchanged during her four-year tenure as secretary of state were of a personal nature, the presidential candidate has said.

Those e-mails, she said, mostly dealt with planning for Chelsea’s wedding, yoga routines and condolence messages.

Clinton said the personal e-mails were deleted from the server and her staff turned over paper copies of the remaining work-related e-mails in December to the State Department for processing and archiving. The FBI obtained Clinton’s server from the Colorado-based company managing it.

Recover E-Mails

Outside computer specialists have said the FBI has the technical capability to recover deleted e-mails. The exact number of personal e-mails recovered by the FBI could not be learned.

Once the e-mails have been extracted, a group of agents has been separating personal correspondence and passing along work-related messages to agents leading the investigation, the person said.

Since the existence of the e-mail system became public in March, Clinton has seen her standing in polls slide, particularly in regards to questions about her trustworthiness. She also has been heavily criticized by congressional Republicans who have raised questions over whether the private server jeopardized the security of sensitive data.

Internal government watchdogs have determined that classified information ended up on the system. Their findings sparked the FBI inquiry.

Clinton’s attorney, David Kendall, did not respond to phone calls or e-mails seeking comment. Nick Merrill, a spokesman, said, “We’ve cooperated to date and will continue to do so, including answering any questions about this that anyone including the public may have.”

Iowa Caucuses

The bureau’s probe is expected to last at least several more months, according to the person. That timeline would push any final determination closer to the Democratic presidential primary calendar, which kicks off Feb. 1 with the Iowa caucuses.

A bureau spokeswoman, Carol Cratty, declined to discuss any aspect of the investigation. Emily Pierce, a spokeswoman for the Justice Department, also declined to comment.

Clinton is not accused of any wrongdoing. She has said she is confident that material in her e-mails wasn’t marked as classified when it was sent and received through her server. For anyone who mishandled such information, prosecutors must prove that they knowingly did so to charge them with a crime.

The former secretary of state has said she decided to use a private e-mail address — hrod17@clintonemail.com — to conduct all of her electronic correspondence as a matter of convenience, to avoid the need to carry two devices, one personal and one professional. She served from 2009 through 2013 as the nation’s top diplomat.

E-Mails Posted

As the result of public information lawsuits, the State Department has posted almost 8,000 of those work-related e-mails on its website. The State Department has determined that dozens of the e-mails contained classified information.

Many of the work-related e-mails contain schedules, press clippings, staffing updates, speech notes, and requests to aides for tech support. Some e-mails are simply requests to speak with people over secure phone lines.

In 2013, the Clintons turned the private server over to a Colorado-based technology company to manage. The firm, Platte River Networks, installed the device in a New Jersey data center and managed and maintained it.

Andy Boian, a spokesman for the Platte River, said the FBI last month asked the company to hand over the server. Platte River asked the Clintons what it should do, and within 24 hours a representative for the Clintons told the company to provide the device to agents, Boian said.

There has been some question as to whether Clinton deleted her messages or took the more thorough and technical step of “wiping” the server. Boian said Tuesday that Platte River had “no knowledge of it being wiped.”

Clinton’s use of a private e-mail system is being examined by congressional committees that have the power to subpoena the FBI to obtain the messages. The e-mails also may be sought under public-information laws.

The FBI isn’t likely to hand over any such messages until its investigation has been completed. Even then, public records laws provide exceptions protecting personal information.

 

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(artvoice.com) – Reverse Engineering Ahmed Mohamed’s Clock… and Ourselves.

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I have something in common with Ahmed Mohamed: as a youngster, I was also an electronics enthusiast. At his age and even earlier, I frequently took apart electronic devices – anything from my own toys, to broken things around the house, and even that dirty garbage-picked black and white TV my parents dragged home that they knew I’d have a blast playing with (I did.) I’d try and troubleshoot, repair, or sometimes just disassemble things and salvage components for future projects. I’d try and imagine how all those bits and pieces, lengths of wires, mazes of conductive circuit board traces all came together to produce an image, or a sound, or some other useful function. I wanted to know how it all worked.

Without dating myself – fast forward a bunch of years, and I’m the same way. I’ve even picked up an engineering degree over the course of those years. I don’t have to only imagine how things work anymore, I have a pretty good understanding now. When shopping for electronic devices, my first instinct is to see if there’s a way to build one myself (and, I frequently do!) When something of mine breaks, I don’t send it back, I take it as a personal challenge to get it working again. If I fail, I still salvage useful parts – they might come in handy to fix something else later. This aspect of myself – being both methodical, and curious – hasn’t changed a bit over the years.

High resolution police photo of Ahmed's clock. Click to enlarge.

So, this story about a 14 year old boy in Texas that was arrested on suspicion of creating a bomb hoax (who, apparently just wanted to show off his latest electronics project to his teachers) that has blown up (no pun intended) all over the news and social media, caught my attention immediately. Not because of his race, or his religion, the seeming absurdity of the situation, the emotionally charged photo of a young boy in a NASA t-shirt being led off in hand cuffs, the hash tags, the presidential response… no, none of that. I’m an electronics geek. I was interested in the clock! I wanted to figure out what he had come up with.

I found the highest resolution photograph of the clock I could. Instantly, I was disappointed. Somewhere in all of this – there has indeed been a hoax. Ahmed Mohamed didn’t invent his own alarm clock. He didn’t even build a clock. Now, before I go on and get accused of attacking a 14 year old kid who’s already been through enough, let me explain my purpose. I don’t want to just dissect the clock. I want to dissect our reaction as a society to the situation. Part of that is the knee-jerk responses we’re all so quick to make without facts. So, before you scroll down and leave me angry comments, please continue to the end (or not – prove my point, and miss the point, entirely!)

For starters, one glance at the printed circuit board in the photo, and I knew we were looking at mid-to-late 1970s vintage electronics. Surely you’ve seen a modern circuit board, with metallic traces leading all over to the various components like an electronic spider’s web. You’ll notice right away the highly accurate spacing, straightness of the lines, consistency of the patterns. That’s because we design things on computers nowadays, and computers assist in routing these lines. Take a look at the board in Ahmed’s clock. It almost looks hand-drawn, right? That’s because it probably was. Computer aided design was in its infancy in the 70s. This is how simple, low cost items (like an alarm clock) were designed. Today, even a budding beginner is going to get some computer aided assistance – in fact they’ll probably start there, learning by simulating designs before building them. You can even simulate or lay out a board with free apps on your phone or tablet. A modern hobbyist usually wouldn’t be bothered with the outdated design techniques. There’s also silk screening on the board. An “M” logo, “C-94” (probably, a part number – C might even stand for “clock”), and what looks like an American flag. More about that in a minute. Point for now being, a hobbyist wouldn’t silk screen logos and part numbers on their home made creation. It’s pretty safe to say already we’re looking at ’70s tech, mass produced in a factory.

So I turned to eBay, searching for vintage alarm clocks. It only took a minute to locate Ahmed’s clock. See this eBay listing, up at the time of this writing. Amhed’s clock was invented, and built, by Micronta, a Radio Shack subsidary. Catalog number 63 765.

Image property of eBay seller curiosities_curios

The shape and design is a dead give away. The large screen. The buttons on the front laid out horizontally would have been on a separate board – a large snooze button, four control buttons, and two switches to turn the alarm on and off, and choose two brightness levels. A second board inside would have contained the actual “brains” of the unit. The clock features a 9v battery back-up, and a switch on the rear allows the owner to choose between 12 and 24 hour time. (Features like a battery back-up, and a 24 hour time selection seems awful superfluous for a hobby project, don’t you think?) Oh, and about that “M” logo on the circuit board mentioned above? Micronta.

clock5

clock6For one last bit of confirmation, I located the pencil box Ahmed used for his project. During this video interview he again claims it was his “invention” and that he “made” the device – but the important thing at the moment, at 1:13, we see him showing the pencil box on his computer screen. Here it is on Amazon, where it’s clearly labeled as being 8.25 inches wide. Our eBay seller also conveniently took a photo of the clock next to a ruler to show it’s scale – about 8 inches wide. The dimensions all line up perfectly.

So there you have it folks, Ahmed Mohamed did not invent, nor build a clock. He took apart an existing clock, and transplanted the guts into a pencil box, and claimed it was his own creation. It all seems really fishy to me.

If we accept the story about “inventing” an alarm clock is made up, as I think I’ve made a pretty good case for, it’s fair to wonder what other parts of the story might be made up, not reported factually by the media, or at least, exaggerated.

I refer back again to this YouTube video interview with Ahmed. He explains that he closed up the box with a piece of cord because he didn’t want it to look suspicious. I’m curious, why would “looking suspicious” have even crossed his mind before this whole event unfolded, if he was truly showing off a hobby project, something so innocuous as an alarm clock. Why did he choose a pencil box, one that looks like a miniature briefcase no less, as an enclosure for a clock? It’s awful hard to see the clock with the case closed. On the other hand, with the case open, it’s awful dangerous to have an exposed power transformer sitting near the snooze button (unless, perhaps his invention was to stop serial-snooze-button pressers by giving them a dangerous electrical shock!)

So again, I’m pointing all this out – about the specifics of the clock – not to pick on the poor kid. I’m picking on us, our culture, and our media. I don’t even care about the clock itself at this point.

If we stop and think – was it really such a ridiculous reaction from the teacher and the police in the first place? How many school shootings and incidents of violence have we had, where we hear afterwards “this could have been prevented, if only we paid more attention to the signs!” Teachers are taught to be suspicious and vigilant. Ahmed wasn’t accused of making a bomb – he was accused of making a look-alike, a hoax. And be honest with yourself, a big red digital display with a bunch of loose wires in a brief-case looking box is awful like a Hollywood-style representation of a bomb. Everyone jumped to play the race and religion cards and try and paint the teachers and police as idiots and bigots, but in my mind, they were probably acting responsibly and erring on the side of caution to protect the rest of their students, just in case. “This wouldn’t have happened if Ahmed were white,” they say. We’re supposed to be sensitive to school violence, but apparently religious and racial sensitivity trumps that. At least we have another clue about how the sensitivity and moral outrage pecking order lies.

Because, is it possible, that maybe, just maybe, this was actually a hoax bomb? A silly prank that was taken the wrong way? That the media then ran with, and everyone else got carried away? Maybe there wasn’t even any racial or religious bias on the parts of the teachers and police.

I don’t know any of these things. But I’m intellectually mature enough to admit I don’t know, and to also be OK with that. I don’t feel a need to take the first exit to conclusionville. But I do like to find facts where I can, and prefer to let them lead me to conclusions, rather than a knee jerk judgement based on a headline or sound bite.

I think the whole event – and our collective response, with everybody up to the President chiming in, says a whole lot about us. We don’t care that none of us were there and knows what happened, we jump to conclusions and assume we’re experts. We care about the story, but we don’t care about the actual facts. Headlines and click-bait are far more interesting than thinking for ourselves. We like to point out other any bit of perceived injustice or discrimination we can find – it’s practically a new national past-time. We like playing victim, and we like talking about victims – so much so we sometimes find victims where none really existed. We also like to find somebody to blame, even when there’s nobody at fault. We like to play social justice warrior on our Facebooks and Twitters, posting memes and headlines without digging in behind the sensationalism, winning bonus sensitivity points in the forms of likes and re-tweets. Once group-think kicks in, we rally around hash tags and start shouting moral outrage in a deafeningly loud national chorus. The media plays us like a fiddle, and we don’t even notice we’ve all been had.

As for me, I’m glad to apply the lessons I’ve learned as an electronics enthusiast to other aspects of life. There’s no emotion in troubleshooting a circuit, electricity doesn’t have morals. There’s just physics, and logic, and methodology. I think we could all benefit from applying a little more of that sort of thinking to these situations.

* Correction: A reader and commenter, Joe Donaldson, tracked down the clock in a Radio Shack catalog dated 1986. It’s likely that my guess of mid-to-late 70s was off by a bit, and it’s now obvious it was a model that was for sale in the mid 80s. Though it doesn’t really change the point, I want to post this correction here for accuracy sake and thank Joe for the heads up. (See the comment here, with link to the catalog page.)

(TIME) – Russia Has Added Dozens of Aircraft to Its Growing Military Presence in Syria: Reports

Vladimir Putin has reportedly added drones, attack helicopters and aircraft to its force in Syria in recent weeks

Russia rapidly increased its aerial attack capabilities in Syria over the weekend, U.S. officials told Agence France-Presse on Monday, including 28 combat planes that have been sighted at a new Russian air base in the Syrian province of Latakia.

The fleet includes 12 SU-24 attack aircraft, 12 SU-25 ground attack aircraft and four Flanker fighter jets, the officials told the news agency on condition of anonymity. An influx of new weaponry was also reported separately by the New York Times and CNN.

One of the officials told AFP of the additional presence of around 20 combat helicopters and said Russian forces are flying surveillance drones over the Middle Eastern nation’s airspace.

According to the Times, Russia’s military presence in Syria also includes at least three surface-to-air missiles, nine tanks and around 500 marines.

“The equipment and personnel just keep flowing in,” another official told the Times. “They were very busy over the weekend.”

Reports of the new aircraft emerged soon after U.S. Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter held talks with his Russian counterpart Sergei Shoigu on Friday. They discussed concerns that the two forces might inadvertently clash with each other as a U.S.-led coalition continues its air strikes against the Islamic State of Iraq and Greater Syria (ISIS) militant group.

The U.S. and other Western powers fundamentally differ with Moscow on the role of Syria’s President Bashar Assad, believing he must step down in order for his country to emerge from civil war. Russia, on the other hand, is one of the Assad regime’s most prominent allies and has defended its military assistance to the Syrian army.

U.S. State Department spokesperson John Kirby said during a press briefing on Monday that he was “not in a position to independently verify” the reports of Russian aircraft and drones.

“If Russia looks to play a constructive role against [ISIS], that’s one thing, but if what they’re doing is, in fact, propping up the Assad regime, then that’s an entirely different issue altogether,” Kirby added, “because it is the Assad regime that has been a magnet for extremists inside Syria.”

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(variety) – Jack Larson, Jimmy Olsen on ‘Adventures Of Superman’ TV Show, Dies at 87

Jack Larson dead Superman

COURTESY OF ABC

Jack Larson, best know for his role as reporter Jimmy Olsen on the first Superman TV show, died Sunday at his home in Brentwood, Calif. He was 87.

Larson played George Reeves’ (Clark Kent/Superman) wide-eyed coworker at The Daily Planet — a role he tried, in vain, to escape throughout his career — on “Adventures of Superman” in the 1950s.

Larson appeared on “Superman” for six seasons, beginning in 1951. The series came to a close following Reeves’ sudden death in 1959.

Larson was also a playwright; his works include 1966’s “The Candied House,” based on “Hansel and Gretel”; “Cherry, Larry, Sandy, Doris, Jean, Paul,” a comedy about being gay; 1968’s “Chuck”; and 1998’s “The Astronaut’s Tale.” Larson wrote librettos for operas, such as Virgil Thomson’s “Lord Byron.”

He produced several films written and/or directed by his longtime partner, James Bridges, who he met on the set of Ethel Barrymore’s final film, “Johnny Trouble,” in 1957. Larson produced “The Baby Maker” (1970), “Mike’s Murder” (1984) and “Perfect” (1985), among Bridges’ other movies, through their production company.

Larson also appeared in the 1991 series “Superboy” as “Old Jimmy Olsen” (an older version of Justin Whalin’s character), in an episode of ABC’s “Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman” and Bryan Singer’s “Superman Returns” in 2006.

FILED UNDER:

 

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pPwgG2wNn3Y

 

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(foxreno.com) – 28 years for salmonella: Peanut exec gets groundbreaking sentence

28 years for salmonella: Peanut exec gets groundbreaking sentence story image

(CNN) — Stewart Parnell once boasted processing the “finest” peanut products, but on Monday, the former company executive was effectively sentenced to life behind bars for knowingly shipping out deadly food.

A federal judge handed Parnell a 28-year prison sentence, the toughest penalty ever for a corporate executive in a food poisoning outbreak. Parnell is 61 and unless he wins an appeal, he will have to serve out most of his term.

His brother and food broker Michael Parnell received a 20-year sentence, and the plant’s quality assurance manager, Mary Wilkerson, was given five years.

A jury in south Georgia convicted Stewart Parnell a year ago on 72 counts of fraud, conspiracy and the introduction of adulterated food into interstate commerce. The former CEO of the now-defunct Peanut Corporation of America (PCA) was sentenced Monday at the same federal court in Albany, not far from the city of Blakely where his peanut processing plant once profited.

Parnell’s trial was groundbreaking: Never before had a corporate executive been convicted of federal felony charges related to food poisoning. Parnell was facing up to 803 years in prison, and even though his sentence fell far short of the maximum, food safety advocates hailed it as a big step forward.

“Honestly, I think the fact that he was prosecuted at all is a victory for consumers,” said Bill Marler, a food safety lawyer who represented several of the victims in the PCA outbreak.

“Although his sentence is less than the maximum, it is the longest sentence ever in a food poisoning case,” Marler said. “This sentence is going to send a stiff, cold wind through board rooms across the U.S.”

For Jeff Almer, Parnell’s sentencing brought relief. He had been seeking justice for his mother, Shirley Mae Almer, who died in late 2008 after eating salmonella-tainted peanut butter. Still, the day was filled with mixed emotions.

“I am satisfied there were convictions and now jail terms,” he said. “But less so in that all this could have been avoided.”

A deadly outbreak in 2008

The 2008 salmonella outbreak traced back to peanut butter paste manufactured by PCA killed nine people and sickened 714 others, some critically, across 46 states. It was the deadliest salmonella outbreak in recent years and resulted in one of the largest food recalls in American history — from Keebler crackers to Famous Amos cookies to the snack packets handed out on airlines.

Suddenly, one of America’s favorite foods had turned into a killer.

Parnell invoked the Fifth Amendment when called to testify before Congress and had never publicly spoken about the tragedy until Monday, when he expressed remorse in the courtroom. His family members also testified Monday on behalf of his character and asked for mercy.

His lawyer, Scott Austin, said Parnell was devastated by the 28-year sentence. Parnell has maintained all along that his company engaged in commercial fraud but that he was not aware of it.

But the loved ones of those who died asked that Parnell pay for his deeds.

Almer, who traveled with his sister from Minnesota to make his statement in court, blames Parnell for his mother’s death and had been waiting for this day in court. He said he has grown weary from constant talk of his mother’s death for almost seven years.

His grief and his anger toward PCA turned him into a food safety activist. Before Parnell’s sentencing, Almer and other family members of victims sent U.S. District Court Judge W. Louis Sands a letter asking for $500,000 in restitution that would go to food safety groups.

“We have lost our loved ones and have worked hard to help to prevent this from happening to others,” said the letter, which Almer shared with CNN. “Our request is not a selfish request; we only ask that you assign any monies to aid families who have suffered or are suffering from food borne illnesses.”

Carl Tobias, a University of Richmond law professor, said Parnell’s sentence will make corporate executives think twice before engaging in wrongful activities.

“I don’t have the impression that Parnell set out to kill people,” Tobias said. “He just ran his business in a way that caused a lot of injury and some deaths. The sentence was appropriate and maybe it should have been stiffer.”

Kevin Pollock, whose company Stericycle ExpertSOLUTIONS helps handle brand recalls, said various foods are recalled every year because of bacterial contaminations, which can lead to illness. The PCA case, he said, is historic in that a corporate executive was held accountable with a prison term for knowingly distributing tainted food.

“Manufacturers already pay attention, but they will take note that if they were to fail, there can be serious ramifications,” Pollock said.

Activists have been working for years to get tough with enacting and enforcing food safety laws.

The Food and Drug Administration estimates that every year, 48 million people — one out of six — suffer from food-borne illnesses. More than 100,000 people are hospitalized and about 3,000 die from infections the federal government says are largely preventable.

In early 2011, as a result of the campaign launched in the aftermath of the PCA outbreak, President Barack Obama signed the Food Safety Modernization Act, which the FDA called the most sweeping reform in food safety laws in 70 years.

For the first time, the law took aim at preventing food-borne illnesses rather than just responding to contamination that had already occurred. The new law gave the FDA the power to suspend a facility’s ability to sell food in American markets and detain food that may be contaminated.

Advocates: Stronger law, weak funding

The problem, say food safety advocates, is there is not yet adequate funding for the FDA to fully enforce the law.

Marler, the lawyer who has represented victims of all sorts of food-borne outbreaks, said he was relieved that his clients in the PCA case are seeing justice. But he said more needs to be done on the front end — before tragedy strikes.

“I’d rather Stewart Parnell never go to jail, [and] that the outbreak had never happened.”

At trial last year, prosecutors called 45 witnesses and presented more than 1,000 documents including months of emails, lab results and financial records to make their case that Parnell knew about the contamination, covered it up and ordered PCA to continue shipments of salmonella-tainted peanut paste used to manufacture a variety of products.

The prosecution’s blistering opening statement contained three now-infamous words Parnell wrote in a March 2007 email to a plant manager about contaminated products: “Just ship it.”

Defense statements and witnesses, which took all of 104 minutes, portrayed Parnell as a small-business owner who was scapegoated by the government. Defense attorneys argued that Parnell did not know about mismanagement at the plant and that he was the fall guy for other employees’ wrongdoing.

The prosecution was a rarity, Marler said, because the Department of Justice charged the Parnell brothers with felonies. Prior cases involved misdemeanors.

“Prosecutors took a risk and fortunately, the jury believed them,” Marler said. “The jury saw this for what it was. The emails and documents told a story of a company that was more interested in shipping out products than products that were safe.”

Most common food-borne illness

Salmonella is America’s most common cause of food-borne illness and sickens up to 1.4 million people every year.

A current outbreak of salmonella from cucumbers has infected 418 people in 31 states, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The Arizona Daily Star reported the death of a woman after eating a tainted cucumber.

In the PCA outbreak, former company employees described filthy conditions at the plant in southwest Georgia. Federal inspectors found roaches, rats, mold, dirt, accumulated grease and bird droppings during their raid. They also found a leaky roof.

Salmonella is often associated with meat, poultry, eggs and raw milk — products from animals that are carriers of the bacteria. It also thrives in the intestines of birds and can be found in fruits and vegetables and in ingredients made from them.

The presence of water in what is supposed to be a dry processing facility for peanuts is like adding gasoline to fire for salmonella, food safety experts say.

Health officials discovered similar poor conditions at PCA’s other processing plant in Plainview, Texas. The company filed for Chapter 7 bankruptcy protection shortly after it was shut down.

Two former plant managers worked out deals with the government in exchange for their testimony.

“The sentence that was handed down today means that executives will no longer be able to hide behind the corporate veil,” said U.S. Attorney Michael J. Moore of the Middle District of Georgia.

“The tragedy of this case is that at a peanut processing plant in Middle Georgia, protecting the public lost out to increasing of profits. This case was never just about shipping tainted peanut product; it was about making sure individual wrong doers were held accountable and the losses suffered by the victims and their families are never forgotten.”

By Moni Basu, CNN

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(breitbart) – GUTFELD: ‘MAYBE TRUMP IS THE RIGHT-WING OBAMA’

On Tuesday’s broadcast of “The Five,” Fox News Channel host Greg Gutfeld stated that GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump may be “the right-wing Obama,” but that maybe Trump can “speak to the America currently held captive by liberal media and entertainment.” Although he added Trump “must convince us that he’s actually more than just a pretty, red persona.”

Gutfeld said, after playing a montage of Trump’s speech in Dallas “so this is the historical first, Republican style. Forget the first female in Hillary, or the first African-American in Obama. No, this historical first is celebrity. Entertainment is the new black. Do this exercise, imagine some politician saying what Trump just said, he’d be toast. But Trump has a bubble of immunity. He says, I’m ‘an entertainer,’ declaring himself a member of a new identity group that affords a protection. True, it has some drawbacks. It’s creepy watching starry-eyed men in the media fawn over him, but who does that remind you of?” Gutfeld then played clips of various media figures praising President Obama.

He continued, “So maybe Trump is the right-wing Obama, attracting both fan boys, but impervious to gaffes. How did this happen? Why? To quote the late Andrew Breitbart, ‘Politics is downstream from culture,’ meaning culture influences politics, not the reverse. And may be that culture candidate. He’s the guy from TV, not DC. His impact flows downstream to politics, so it’s less a campaign, and more a comedic crusade appealing to the bored and fed up. The fact is, the right’s been apart from culture for so long, that maybe it takes a TV star to build that bridge, and speak to the America currently held captive by liberal media and entertainment. Trump’s got problems. He can be crass, repetitious. I wish he would say something deep for once about terrorism. I wish he would read more and riff less. He’s a gamble. One that must convince us that he’s actually more than just a pretty, red persona. Or not, he could win as is. Well, unless the Dems wise up and run Clooney.”

Gutfeld later added, that while he agreed Trump does appeal to frustration with DC, “he’s going to have to talk about actual issues and specifics.” And that he thought Trump’s Dallas speech was “very repetitious,” and that he wants “depth.”

Gutfeld also argued, “you’re having the most ideological component of the Republican Party supporting the least ideological candidate in history,” but that he’s [Gutfeld] “not ideological,” and that Trump is a “warts and all” candidate.

He further stated that “it’s hard to square off with an entertainer as a policy person or a politician, because you can’t say those things, and he can. It’s just like Barack Obama.”

Gutfeld concluded that Trump’s comments about Senator John McCain (R-AZ)  43%

 “drove me crazy,” and wondered “what does it say about us?” That Trump could survive it. Although he agreed that everyone who goes after Trump sees their popularity suffer.

(h/t Mediaite)

 

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