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  • Alabama Law Would Punish Women Who Have Abortions With 99 Years In Prison

    APRIL 5, 2019 BY MICHAEL STONE

    In an attack on a woman’s right to choose, Alabama lawmakers plan to end all abortion in the state and severely punish any woman who has an abortion with up to 99 years in prison.

    ABC News reports:

    Alabama lawmakers introduced legislation Tuesday that would make performing an abortion at any stage of pregnancy a felony unless the mother’s health is in jeopardy.

    The Alabama bill, HB314… would ban all abortions, even those using prescription drugs, as soon as a woman is “known to be pregnant.” It does allow for ending a pregnancy when the fetus has a “lethal anomaly” or to avoid a “serious health risk” to the mother, but there are no exceptions for rape and incest. Any attempt to end a healthy pregnancy would be a felony.

    The Independent reports:

    Alabama is proposing a law that would make carrying out an abortion at any stage of the pregnancy punishable by 10 to 99 years in jail.

    The strict abortion ban, which has been branded a “death sentence for women”, would even criminalise performing abortions in cases of rape and incest.

    The bill, introduced earlier this week by conservative Christian Republicans desperate to force women to give birth at any cost, would allow for abortions only when there is “a serious health risk to the unborn child’s mother.”

    Taking a page from conservative Christian anti-abortion propaganda, the over-the-top legislation even goes so far as to equate safe and legal abortion to genocide. The bill states:

    More than 50 million babies have been aborted in the United States since the Roe decision in 1973, more than three times the number who were killed in German death camps, Chinese purges, Stalin’s gulags, Cambodian killing fields, and the Rwandan genocide combined.

    Commenting on the new legislation, the bill’s sponsor, Rep. Terri Collins, said:

    It simply criminalizes abortion Hopefully, it takes it all the way to the Supreme Court to overturn (Roe versus Wade.)

    Calling the proposed law a “death sentence for women across this state,” Staci Fox, president and CEO of Planned Parenthood Southeast, said:

    These bans are blatantly unconstitutional and lawmakers know it — they just don’t care. Alabamians are just pawns in this political game to challenge access to safe, legal abortion nationally.

    Collins is right. Alabama is just the latest state controlled by conservative Christian Republicans trying to ban abortion. For example, Kentucky, Mississippi, Georgia and South Carolina are all currently considering similar legislation. The ultimate goal is to challenge the 1973 US Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion.

    Bottom line: In a blatant attack on a woman’s right to choose, a new Alabama law would make abortion punishable by up to 99 years in prison.

    The Republican War on Women continues.

    Alabama Law Would Punish Women Who Have Abortions With 99 Years In Prison (Image via YouTube)
    Alabama Law Would Punish Women Who Have Abortions With 99 Years In Prison (Image via YouTube)



  • Something on Mars Is Producing Gas Usually Made by Living Things on Earth

    Mars emits methane, a European orbiter has confirmed. But scientists can’t say yet whether the source is geological or biological.A view of Mars taken by the European Space Agency’s Mars Express spacecraft in 2016.CreditESA/DLR/FU Berlin/Justin Cowart

    Kenneth Chang

    By Kenneth Chang

    Methane gas periodically wafts into the atmosphere of Mars; that notion, once considered implausible and perplexing, is now widely accepted by planetary scientists.

    Why the methane is there is still a bewildering mystery. It may even point to present-day Martian microbes living in the rocks below the surface.

    In Nature Geoscience on Monday, scientists working with the European Space Agency’s Mars Express orbiter reported that in the summer of 2013, the spacecraft detected methane within Gale Crater, a 96-mile-wide depression near the Martian equator.

    That is noteworthy, because NASA’s Curiosity rover has been exploring that region since 2011, and in the summer of 2013 it, too, measured a marked rise of methane in the air that lasted at least two months.

    “Our finding constitutes the first independent confirmation of a methane detection,” said Marco Giuranna, a scientist at the National Institute for Astrophysics in Italy, in an email. Dr. Giuranna is principal investigator for the Mars Express instrument that made the measurements.A view of the Gale Crater on Mars, taken by NASA’s Mars Odyssey.CreditNASA/JPL-Caltech/ASU

    The presence of methane is significant because the gas decays quickly. Calculations indicate that sunlight and chemical reactions in the thin Martian atmosphere would break up the molecules within a few hundred years, so any methane detected must have been created recently.

    It might have been created by a geological process known as serpentinization, which requires both heat and liquid water. Or it could be a product of life — specifically methanogens, microbes that release methane as a waste product. Methanogens thrive in places lacking oxygen, such as rocks deep underground and the digestive tracts of animals.

    Even if the source of the methane turns out to be geological, the hydrothermal systems that produce the emissions would still be prime locations to search for signs of life.

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    A decade and a half ago, three teams of scientists reported that they had detected methane in the Martian atmosphere. Two used observations from Earth, and the third used data from Mars Express. All of the measurements were at the edge of the instruments’ capabilities.

    Two years later, the methane seemed to have disappeared. If that finding was accurate, it suggested not only that something was creating methane on Mars, but that something else was quickly destroying it.

    The Curiosity mission initially cast more doubt on the methane claims, as it detected very little of the gas, about 0.7 parts per billion. Then in 2013, the levels jumped by a factor of 10. The following January, levels fell back to below 1 part per billion. The methane disappeared so quickly, and the usual levels are so low, that scientists are now trying to explain how methane could have been destroyed so quickly.

    In the new research, the scientists looked at passes that Mars Express made over Gale Crater during the first 20 months of Curiosity’s mission. For all but one of the orbiter’s observations, no methane was detected. But on June 16, 2013, the instrument measured about 15 parts per billion of methane. A day earlier, Curiosity had also measured elevated methane.

    “It reaffirms the hypothesis that Mars is presently active,” said Sushil Atreya, a planetary scientist at the University of Michigan and a member of the Curiosity science team.

    The Mars Express findings also point to a possible source of the methane, about 300 miles east of Gale. In that region, ice must exist just below the surface. “That methane could be released episodically along faults that break through the permafrost due to partial melting of ice,” Dr. Giuranna said.

    If true, that could be a tempting site for a future spacecraft to untangle the methane mystery.

    Dr. Atreya is less certain of that conclusion, which involves assumptions about Martian weather. The Curiosity scientists thought the methane originated within Gale, to the north of the rover.

    newer European Mars spacecraft, the Trace Gas Orbiter, with a more sophisticated methane detector, has been in orbit since 2017, but no results have been reported yet.

    “I think the game is afoot,” said Michael J. Mumma, a scientist at NASA’s Goddard Space Flight Center in Greenbelt, Md. He led ground-based observations that identified methane plumes in the Martian atmosphere in 2003. “The story is continuing to evolve, and evolving rapidly now.”


  • His ‘swatting’ prank call caused a man’s death. Now he’ll serve 20 years in prison

    Ryan W. Miller, USA TODAYPublished 3:17 p.m. ET March 30, 2019 | Updated 4:33 p.m. ET March 30, 2019

    Police in Los Angeles have arrested a man they suspect made a hoax emergency call that resulted in a SWAT police officer fatally shooting a man at the door of his own home in Kansas, a law enforcement official said Saturday.

    A California man was sentenced to 20 years in prison for making a hoax 911 call that resulted in an innocent Kansas man’s death.

    Tyler Barriss, 26, had pleaded guilty to multiple charges stemming from the “swatting” call – a practice where an individual makes a phony call to 911 to force police to respond with SWAT teams.

    “Swatting is no prank,” U.S. Attorney Stephen McAllister said in a statement. “Sending police and emergency responders rushing to anyone’s home based on utterly false information as some kind of joke shows an incredible disregard for the safety of other people.”

    The 20-year sentence, handed out Friday, is believed to be the longest ever in a “swatting” hoax case, the U.S. Attorney’s Office for the District of Kansas said in a statement.

    In December 2017, Barriss made a 911 call reporting a fake hostage situation after he had gotten into an argument with another gamer playing “Call of Duty,” police said. Barriss gave an address he thought to be the other gamer’s, authorities said.

    But that call led to Wichita police surrounding the home of Andrew Finch, 28, who had no connection to the situation.

    “When officers arrived, they believed a man was inside who had killed his own father and was holding family members hostage,” the U.S. Attorney’s Office said in its statement. “The man who came outside to face police, however, had done nothing wrong and did not know about the swatting call.

    Authorities say Finch dropped his hands unexpectedly and that’s when police fired at him. Finch later died at a hospital. The officer who shot him would not face charges, prosecutors said last April.

    “I hope that this prosecution and lengthy sentence sends a strong message that will put an end to the juvenile and reckless practice of ‘swatting’ within the gaming community, as well as in any other context,” McAllister said Friday.

    Barriss has also pleaded guilty to charges in Washington, D.C., for making hoax bomb threat calls to the FBI and FCC as well as in the Central District of California for more fake bomb threats and phony emergency calls.

    Two other men, Casey Viner, 19, of Ohio, and Shane Gaskill, 20, of Kansas, await trial for charges in connection with the Wichita case. Prosecutors say Viner allegedly asked Barriss to “swat” Gaskill, who then allegedly gave out an address that wasn’t his.

    “I also hope that today’s result helps bring some peace to the Finch family and some closure to the Wichita community,” McAllister added.

    Contributing: Brett Molina and Cydney Henderson

    Follow USA TODAY’s Ryan Miller on Twitter @RyanW_Miller.


  • Dwyane Wade Gets Criticized for Bad Parenting, After Video of Son Strutting Down the Runway

    Posted On : March 29, 2019  

    Dwayne Wade via Instagram

    Dwayne Wade Is Taking Some Heat

    Miami Heat point guard Dwyane Wade is accustomed to being in the media but this time it’s his son that folks are talking about. On Saturday, March 16th, Wade held a fashion show called “A Night on the Runwade” in Miami—a fundraiser benefiting the Wade Family Foundation and the Overtown Youth Center. Some of Wade’s fellow Miami Heat teammates showed their support, and of course, wife Gabrielle Union was in attendance.

    MadameNoire reports one of the models who turned heads on the runway included Wade’s 11-year-old son, Zion.  Zion strutted his stuff, even twirling at one point as Union screamed in excitement. Wade would later have a proud papa moment, sharing the clip of Zion’s walk in his InstaStories with the caption, “Killing sh-t.”

    Dwayne Wade, and wife Gabrielle Union, Instagram

    After watching the video many people made comments in reference to the Zions manner and then criticized the 37-year-old for encouraging his son. Comments erupted like this one from a man on Twitter which said, “Fathers please don’t allow your children to bend and conform to societal pressures”.  However, apparently, Wade had no issue in how Zion walked the runway.


  • Facebook crumbles around its lonely king

    Published: Mar 22, 2019 7:00 a.m. ET

    Shareholders gave Mark Zuckerberg all the power, and now watch as top executives walk away from his iron-fisted rule

    Author photo

    By

    THERESEPOLETTI

    COLUMNIST 

    Mark Zuckerberg seems increasingly alone at the top of Facebook Inc., with executives streaming out the doors as he promises a new direction that seems antithetical to all he has said about the company’s plans for years.

    He can, of course, do what he wants, because the company is truly a Mark Zuckerberg production, and because he has always had what Silicon Valley founders crave: founder control of his company. As more executives depart, Facebook appears to be heading further under Zuckerberg’s total rule.

    Facebook FB, -1.05% has suffered seemingly endless controversies, including the most recent, hosting a live stream of mass shootings in two mosques in New Zealand. Facebook was alerted by the police in Christchurch to remove the video, which was not found by any of Facebook’s AI engines or humans searching for violent content, contrary to Zuckerberg’s explanation to Congress a year agoabout how its systems are getting better at finding harmful content. Facebook said in a blog post this week that in the first 24 hours of the shootings, it removed about 1.5 million videos of the attack globally, with more than 1.2 million of those videos blocked at upload.

    The massacres happened two days after a massive outage and a day after a top executive left amid reported unhappiness with Zuckerberg’s new direction, outlined in a manifesto that was long on words while being short on detail. It appears Zuckerberg has dug himself into a foxhole, where he is following his inner instincts and intuition for the company he started up with his roommates at Harvard 15 years ago. Needham & Co. analyst Laura Martin, citing recent events plus a looming threat of regulation, said the combined risks are creating a negative network effect for Facebook.

    Investors who may be unhappy with the continued chaos know their hands are tied even if they don’t agree with how Zuckerberg is ruling over his kingdom. Zuckerberg still controls about 60% of Facebook’s votes. The departure of a key lieutenant — longtime product chief Chris Cox — on top of the loss of the founders of Instagram and WhatsApp, signal growing internal turmoil, with a CEO more alone at the top.

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    Read more about Silicon Valley’s poor corporate governance through its embrace of founder control

    “There have been some significant high-level departures that have raised a lot of concerns,” said Jonas Kron, who leads shareholder advocacy efforts at Trillium Asset Management, an employee-owned investment-management firm based in Boston. “Then you top it off with New Zealand, and a 12-hour outage, it’s sort of hard to keep up.”

    Last October, Trillium submitted a shareholder proposal with the backing of several state treasurers, representing about 5 million shares, asking Facebook’s board to appoint an independent chairman.

    “There is a lot going on, and the company would greatly benefit from having Mark Zuckerberg focus on management and execution, and have an independent board chair focusing on the board and relations with investors and board oversight,” he said.

    Throughout the many crises that the company has endured following the U.S. elections in 2016, Zuckerberg has appeared to listen to no one but possibly Chief Operating Officer Sheryl Sandberg. The New York Times reported late last year that Zuckerberg and Sandberg ignored repeated warning signs of some of the many problems that have bedeviled Facebook.

    There have been anecdotal reports about some Facebook employees looking for new jobs or not feeling comfortable giving dissenting opinions amid Zuckerberg’s tight control. In January, CNBC reported on the company’s cult-like culture and how the fear among some employees to give honest feedback may have contributed to the scandals that have enveloped the company.

    Two weeks ago, Zuckerberg surprised investors and users with a more-than-3,000-word pledge to improve privacy, admitting, in the understatement of the year, that Facebook “does not have a strong reputation for privacy.” Facebook now plans to work on a single encrypted-messaging platform, a move that Cox obviously disagreed with by his resignation.

    Cox was not the only key executive to depart in the past few months. Last fall, co-founders of both WhatsApp and Instagram left in disagreements over the directions Zuckerberg wanted to take their platforms, a few years after their acquisitions by Facebook. He had initially promised to leave the companies alone, running them as subsidiaries. In Martin’s note, in which the Needham analyst also downgraded the stock to a hold, she highlighted 11 senior executive departures over the past several months.

    “A Negative Network Effect suggests that departures will continue, and since we believe that people are a key competitive advantage of FAANG companies, this implies accelerating value destruction until senior executive turnover ends,” Martin wrote. ‘We prefer to move to the sidelines until we see senior employee turnover stabilize.”

    The pressure to produce continued revenue growth as well as generate revenue at its other properties, Instagram and WhatsApp, even as user growth at Facebook declines, have led Zuckerberg to make some severe decisions. Those decisions could just lead to more controversies, however.

    After his privacy manifesto, which talked about encrypting all messages, many worried that Facebook would be increasingly used for more evil means, and that the company would not be able to police abuses on its network or to help law enforcement. Roger McNamee, an early Facebook investor and co-founder of Elevation Partners, believes that even with encryption of messages, the company’s core business model remains intact. Messaging is “a tiny fraction of the data and metadata that matters,” for Facebook’s business model, he said, because it can continue to glean information about its users for targeted advertising through newsfeed and story activity.

    “The manifesto leaves FB’s business model unchanged. That is not acceptable,” McNamee said in an email. “The business model amplifies hate speech, disinformation, and conspiracy theories, with increasingly severe consequences, such as the terrorism in New Zealand.”

    Read about McNamee’s new book, which talks about the problems at Facebook and his solutions

    Whether Zuckerberg’s decisions and instincts are correct or not, Facebook investors have to trust him. Because he still has voting control, the company’s board and its investors just have to agree or vote with their feet, since they don’t technically have any real say. Some day, Zuckerberg may end up as a poster child for the concept of the gradual elimination of founder control and dual-class shares, a proposal that some officials at the Securities and Exchange Commission support, which would put some sort of time limit on founder control of a company.

    Jonas of Trillium believes that is an imperfect solution.

    “The better approach is just not to have dual-class at all,” he said. “One share, one vote.”

    But while more investors are speaking out against dual-class stock and founder control in public companies, the concept is becoming even more popular as a new wave of major IPOs starts to hit U.S. markets. Ride-hailing app developer Lyft’s prospectus revealed it is going to go public with dual-class stock, with its two founders, Logan Green and John Zimmer, expected to have control. That’s after rival Uber Technology Inc.’s well-documented problems with its controlling co-founder, Travis Kalanick. A D.A. Davidson analyst wrote in a note this week that Lyft gained riders after the spate of scandals at Uber, ranging from a culture of widespread sexual harassment to software used to deceive regulators, that ultimately led to Kalanick’s ouster.

    At Facebook’s next annual meeting, likely to be held in May, shareholders will have an opportunity to voice their displeasure with some of Zuckerberg’s recent decisions and his reign in general. But with Zuckerberg’s control and the votes stacked against them, why would they even bother?

    “The goal is to give investors the opportunity to express an opinion about whether an independent board chair is a good idea or not and to give the board that information,” Jonas said. “If a majority of outside shareholders agree to that, even if its only 40%, that’s an opinion that I think everyone would agree should be taken seriously.”

    Investors need to remember that at founder-controlled companies, when the going gets tough, they don’t really have much say. They can try to send messages to management and the board, through things like shareholder resolutions, but the founder/controlling shareholder always has the final say.


  • Kill the Aircraft Carriers: How China Plans to Win a Naval War Against America

    History tells them so. by Kyle Mizokami

     

      

    China is in the unique position of both seeing the value of carriers and building its own fleet while at the same time devoting a lot of time and resources to the subject of sinking them. The United States may soon find itself in the same position.

    More than twenty years ago, a military confrontation in East Asia pushed the United States and China uncomfortably close to conflict. Largely unknown in America, the event made a lasting impression on China, especially Chinese military planners. The Third Taiwan Crisis, as historians call it, was China’s introduction to the power and flexibility of the aircraft carrier, something it obsesses about to this day.

    (This first appeared several years ago.)

    The crisis began in 1995. Taiwan’s first-ever democratic elections for president were set for 1996, a major event that Beijing naturally opposed. The sitting president, Lee Teng-hui of the Kuomintang party, was invited to the United States to speak at his alma mater, Cornell University. Lee was already disliked by Beijing for his emphasis on “Taiwanization,” which favored home rule and established a separate Taiwanese identity away from mainland China. Now he was being asked to speak at Cornell on Taiwan’s democratization, and Beijing was furious.

    The Clinton administration was reluctant to grant Lee a visa—he had been denied one for a similar talk at Cornell the year before—but near-unanimous support from Congress forced the White House’s hand. Lee was granted a visa and visited Cornell in June. The Xinhua state news agency  warned, “The issue of Taiwan is as explosive as a barrel of gunpowder. It is extremely dangerous to warm it up, no matter whether the warming is done by the United States or by Lee Teng-hui. This wanton wound inflicted upon China will help the Chinese people more clearly realize what kind of a country the United States is.”

    In August 1995, China announced a series of missiles exercises in the East China Sea. Although the exercises weren’t unusual, their announcement was, and there was speculation that this was the beginning of an intimidation campaign by China, both as retaliation against the Cornell visit and intimidation of Taiwan’s electorate ahead of the next year’s elections. The exercises involved the People’s Liberation Army’s Second Artillery Corps (now the PLA Rocket Forces) and the redeployment of Chinese F-7 fighters (China’s version of the MiG-21 Fishbed fighter) 250 miles from Taiwan. Also, in a move that would sound very familiar in 2017, up to one hundred Chinese civilian fishing boats  entered territorial waters  around the Taiwanese island of Matsu, just off the coast of the mainland.

    According to Globalsecurity.org , redeployments of Chinese long-range missile forces continued into 1996, and the Chinese military actually prepared for military action. China drew up contingency plans for thirty days of missile strikes against Taiwan, one strike a day, shortly after the March 1996 presidential elections. These strikes were not carried out, but preparations were likely detected by U.S. intelligence.

    In March 1996, China announced its fourth major military exercises since the Cornell visit. The country’s military announced a series of missile test zones off the Chinese coastline, which also put the missiles in the approximate direction of Taiwan. In reality, China fired three missiles, two of which splashed down just thirty miles from the Taiwanese capital of Taipei and one of which splashed down thirty-five miles from Kaohsiung. Together, the two cities handled most of the country’s commercial shipping traffic. For an export-driven country like Taiwan, the missile launches seemed like an ominous shot across the country’s economic bow.

    American forces were already operating in the area. The USS  Bunker Hill , a Ticonderoga-class Aegis cruiser, was stationed off southern Taiwan to monitor Chinese missile tests with its SPY-1 radar system. The Japan-based USS  Independence, along with the destroyers  Hewitt and O’Brien and frigate  McClusky, took up position on the eastern side of the island.

    After the missile tests, the carrier USS  Nimitz left the Persian Gulf region and raced back to the western Pacific. This was an even more powerful carrier battle group, consisting of the Aegis cruiser  Port Royal , guided missile destroyers  Oldendorf and Callaghan (which would later be transferred to the Taiwanese Navy), guided missile frigate USS  Ford, and nuclear attack submarine USS  PortsmouthNimitz and its escorts took up station in the Philippine Sea, ready to assist  Independence. Contrary to popular belief,  neither carrier actually entered the Taiwan Strait .

    The People’s Liberation Army, unable to do anything about the American aircraft carriers, was utterly humiliated. China, which was just beginning to show the consequences of rapid economic expansion, still did not have a military capable of posing a credible threat to American ships just a short distance from of its coastline.

    While we might never know the discussions that later took place, we know what has happened since. Just two years later a Chinese businessman purchased the hulk of the unfinished Russian aircraft carrier  Riga, with the stated intention of turning it into a resort and casino. We know this ship today as China’s first aircraft carrier,  Liaoning, after it was transferred to the PLA Navy and underwent a fifteen-year refurbishment. At least one other carrier is under construction, and the ultimate goal may be as many as five Chinese carriers.

    At the same time, the Second Artillery Corps leveraged its expertise in long-range rockets to create the DF-21D antiship ballistic missile. The DF-21 has obvious applications against large capital ships, such as aircraft carriers, and in a future crisis could force the U.S. Navy to operate eight to nine hundred miles off Taiwan and the rest of the so-called “First Island Chain.”

    The Third Taiwan Crisis was a brutal lesson for a China that had long prepared to fight wars inside of its own borders. Still, the PLA Navy deserves credit for learning from the incident and now, twenty-two years later, it is quite possible that China could seriously damage or even sink an American carrier. Also unlike the United States, China is in the unique position of both seeing the value of carriers and building its own fleet while at the same time devoting a lot of time and resources to the subject of sinking them. The United States may soon find itself in the same position.

    Kyle Mizokami is a defense and national-security writer based in San Francisco who has appeared in the  DiplomatForeign Policy War is Boring  and the  Daily Beast . In 2009, he cofounded the defense and security blog  Japan Security Watch . You can follow him on Twitter:  @KyleMizokami.