Sunday, January 31, 2016

False Report Over Migrant Rape

A 13-year-old Russian-German girl has admitted making up a story about being kidnapped and raped by migrants in a case that triggered an uproar in Germany and briefly embroiled Berlin police in a spat with the Kremlin, state prosecutors said.

The parents of the teenager, named only as Lisa, reported her missing on January 11 after she failed to appear at school.  She reappeared 30 hours later with injuries on her face, and told her parents she had been attacked by men of Middle Eastern or north African appearance. News of the incident spread on social media, sparking outrage among Berlin’s Russian-German community.

But when she was questioned by trained specialists three days later “she immediately admitted that the story of the rape was not true”, said the spokesman for the state prosecutor, Martin Steltner.  He said the teenager had been scared of going home after the school had contacted her parents over unnamed problems.  Further analysis of the teenager’s mobile phone records showed she had spent the night with a friend, who is not being treated as a suspect.

Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Monsanto: Bad For Your Wallet?

There is increasing evidence Monsanto’s core business is at risk of collapsing. Their recently announced plan to cut 16% of their global workforce is just the beginning. Monsanto not only faces declining revenues, they have accumulated unprecedented liabilities that may be passed on to investors and business partners. Whether or not you are passionate about environmental issues, environmental Jeff Smith believes there are eight solid business reasons to keep Monsanto out of your portfolios and 401k plans:

 1. Sales of Roundup herbicide and Roundup Ready genetically engineered corn, soy and cotton constitute 90% of Monsanto’s revenue.

2. The World Health Organization declared Roundup’s active ingredient, glyphosate, a probable human carcinogen. Since that announcement in March, 2015, several countries, cities, and retail chains worldwide have banned or severely limited the use of glyphosate products. As of October 2015, at least 700 personal injury non-Hodgkin lymphoma lawsuits were pending against Monsanto.

3. Monsanto’s liability may persist long into the future. Not only can glyphosate be detected for decades in many types of soil, Genetically-modified cells self-replicate in the gene pool and cannot every be fully eradicated.

4. Numerous livestock farmers who switch to non-GMO feed report improved livestock health and increased profits. If these claims are validated, Monsanto could lose its biggest GMO market and become liable for extraordinary cumulative losses from an entire industry.

5. Monsanto’s GMO products (designed to either kill insects or tolerate Roundup herbicide) are failing in the field; as of 2010, superbugs and superweeds are becoming resistant on over 300 million acres worldwide.

6. Consumer rejection of GMOs in the United States is prompting food brands to eliminate GMO ingredients and label products “non-GMO.” This same trend precipitated the elimination of GMOs in Europe in 1999 and is now approaching a tipping point in the US, as 58% of consumers are looking for non-GMO products.

7. Monsanto’s success has been propped up by enormous political clout, especially in the U.S. By nature, politics are unstable-- they shift with elections and current events. As the non-GMO movement gains momentum and product safety is questioned, political support may wane, further eroding Monsanto’s fortunes.

8. Monsanto’s negative reputation adds political and economic instability. Referred to as the “World’s Most Hated company,” their unpopularity was illustrated when hundreds of Moms Across America groups nationwide (and more than 2 million people in 52 countries internationally) took to the streets to “March Against Monsanto.”

Combining liabilities for human, animal, and environmental health, Monsanto’s legal exposure may far surpass the $206 billion Master Settlement Agreement between the tobacco industry and 46 US states in 1998. It may be wise to protect your investments and steer clear of financial entanglements with Monsanto.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Lousy at Business, Lousy at Threats

Donald Trump doesn't like the story about how he demonized "junk bonds" then turned right around and used them to finance one of the worst business deals of his life (it went bust).  He threatened to sue a reporter if he wrote it-- but of course, that didn't work.

According to the Wapo story, Trump testified before the Casino Control Commission in February 1988 to get permission to take over completion of the gargantuan Taj Mahal casino project in Atlantic City, New Jersey. He told the commission he didn’t need junk bonds to finance the venture because banks were practically throwing money at him.

Trump received the approvals he needed for the Taj, but the prime-rate loans never materialized. Determined to move forward, he turned to the very junk bonds he had derided in the hearing. He agreed to pay the bond lenders 14 percent interest, roughly 50 percent more than he had projected.

Six months after its grand opening in April 1990 as the largest casino-hotel in the world, Trump started defaulting on his payments. By July 1991, the Taj went belly up, filing for bankruptcy. 

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Lion Monster Killed In Idaho

A Idaho hunter who tracked down and killed a mountain lion that attacked a local dog has stumbled upon a bizarre biological mystery.

Fish and Game officials released a photo of the hideous corpse that can only be described as monstrous. The feline predator had another set of fully-formed teeth and whiskers growing out of the top of its head. Wildlife officials say they have never seen a deformity like that -- but it's possible the teeth could be the remnants of a conjoined twin that died in the womb and was absorbed into the other fetus-- but which then grew on their own after birth.

Another explanation is a so-called "teratoma" tumor. This type of abnormality, whose Greek name translates to "monster tumor," can grow teeth and hair. In humans, it can grow fingers and toes. Ugh.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Why ESPN Isn't About News Anymore

Al Jazeera is currently under attack for breaking the biggest sports story of the year. The network debuted an explosive documentary, “The Dark Side: The Secret World Of Sports Doping,” which links NFL star quarterback Peyton Manning to performance-enhancing human growth hormone.

Chief among the critics have been prominent voices in the traditional sports media, who have attacked the network’s credibility or, in the case of CBS’s Jim Nantz, refused to cover the story at all. ESPN’s Mike Ditka was even more pointed in his remarks, calling the story and the network itself “garbage.”

While Manning denies taking the performance-enhancing drugs, he has not denied that they were shipped to his wife. “Any medical treatments that my wife received -- that's her business,” Manning told ESPN. “That has nothing to do with me.”

The linchpin of the allegations against Manning are undercover recordings of a former worker at the Guyer Institute of Molecular Medicine in Indiana, where Manning was once treated. On the tapes, former pharmacy intern Charlie Sly says he shipped human growth hormone to Manning’s wife in Florida. “It would never be under Peyton's name; it would always be under her name,” Sly said.

Unsurprisingly, Sly recanted his story before the documentary came out, but Deborah Davies, the reporter behind the doping investigation, said Al-Jazeera had already confirmed the information with an additional anonymous source she called “utterly credible and well-placed.”

Al-Jazeera is no fly-by-night propaganda machine but one of the largest news organizations on the planet, with 80 bureaus around the world and a massive English-language viewership and readership. The network poached dozens of talented journalists from places like CBS, NBC, CNN and PBS when it launched Al-Jazeera America in 2013 and now offers an array of news programming alongside documentary investigations and miniseries. It has won dozens of awards for its investigative and documentary work, including an Emmy and two Peabody awards.

Pushback from the subject of any investigation is par for the course in journalism, but the documentary’s producer, Jeremy Young, sees the hostility toward Al-Jazeera from the sports media as a symptom of a greater problem.

 “What you have to understand is that a lot of the commentators -- especially from CBS, ESPN -- have big contracts with major sports leagues,” Young said. “It’s not easy for them to openly criticize [sports figures] because it could have potential ramifications for their bottom line.”

Indeed, days after Nantz slammed the Al-Jazeera report, the New York Daily News revealed that Nantz and Manning have both been represented by sports broadcasting agent Sandy Montag, who in turn helped Ari Fleischer, former press secretary to George W. Bush, set up his sports communications practice. Fleischer now represents Manning.

Davies said she sees this as a developing story and Al-Jazeera’s documentary as just the beginning. The New York Times reported further on the story by linking all the players Sly named to a fitness instructor in Florida. “What should now be happening is some kind of serious law enforcement investigation,” Davies said.


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