Month: October 2014

As if clowns weren’t scary enough

This year in France, during the month of October, people have been taking to the streets dressed as clowns armed with both fake and real weapons including baseball bats, firearms, and crowbars to scare pedestrians and sometimes assault individual people. While before it was isolated to one individual areas, police departments throughout France have made reports of these people who get a strange and almost creepy kick out of making other people wet themselves. While this isn’t a particularly outrages thing in certain circumstances, such as organized events meant to make you pee yourself, the fact that these clowns are seemingly unorganized with only the purpose of frightening people, it becomes a more serious matter. For instance, people with heart problems can be scared right into problems with their heart. At least at an organized scare fest, people know they are there to be scared, however a random civilian is not expecting a scare, could possibly be seriously injured or debilitated.

The new phenomena also raises the questions with people who take it too far. In Montpellier, a Mediterranean town, for instance, a man dressed as a clown was arrested for assaulting a person with an iron bar. While other tourists also made reports of people dressed as clowns making lewd statements and threatening them with violence. It makes you wonder how much of a game it is to some people. This is getting such widespread coverage lately due to an arrest of 14 teenagers on Saturday who congregated in an elementary school parking lot, in the midnight hours, dressed as clowns. Yes that was a real sentence, and yes it really did happen. Why? I don’t know, and I’m not sure if I want to know.

This dressing up in clown outfits has also given rise to something I also never thought I’d say, “Anti-Clown Vigilantes”. The movie world gets Spiderman and Batman as vigilantes, and we get really mad old people who are against clowns… I do however, agree with the issue that their pushing. The fact that even though it may be a “prank”. If you’re being a jerk in doing so it is no longer a prank, it’s just you being a jerk. This is something that for some reason, is hard for some people to understand, it’s not a very fine line between pranks and being plain obnoxious. Whatever the motive for this new trend may be, I’m not visiting France any time soon, and clowns are still incredibly creepy.

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Would you fake a coma for $65,000?

Last week a man who had been in a coma a day earlier was video recorded in a super market walking upright and fine. What scientific en devour allowed this man such a quick recovery? None. He faked it. Surprise. This scene sounds like something straight out of a terrible comedy film, a character pretending to have some kind of disability the entire movie is found out at the end due to some lack of thought on their part. However, this isn’t a movie, and it wasn’t some practical gag that was brought to an end before they could reveal themselves. This man conned an elderly neighbor out of 40,000 pounds, or roughly $65,000.While the motives aren’t clear, they must have be dire in order for a person to systematically manipulate and con another person out of half a very nice car. As many of these stories go, though, it was most likely just some ploy to have an easy life not having to work for anything. This whole thing started, however, in 2012 when the man in question, Alan Knight, was charged for theft. In order to get out of this court date he claimed he was a quadriplegic who had seizures that would leave him in a coma like state. From this picture, however, he must be an alien or Wolverine in order to regrow those limbs.

The next question you’re most likely thinking, is how was he able to get away with this for so long, and how was it finally found out? The answer to the first is actually the question, and the answer to the second is that video recording is a thing, and maybe more planning should have been put into his weekly visit to the super market. During his court visit for the alleged theft in 2012, prosecutors offered the video as evidence to his prior statements. After some quick glances, and softly spoken words your mother would not like to hear, Mr. Knight pleaded guilty not only to the theft charges, but also charges of making a false representation for gain.

The moral of the story here is not to question every person who claims to be a quadriplegic, but to realize that there are terrible people in this world who even make that a concern. I suppose we have to be grateful, though, at least this kind of thing isn’t so common that when it does happen it happens to be shown everywhere on a lot of major news networks outside the country it happened. At least everyone isn’t crappy!

People actually tour North Korea?

Today it was made apparent that North Korea will block any tourists from coming into the country due to Ebola. While this is surprising on its own, what surprises me more is the fact that North Korea had tourists before. I mean, it’s North Korea. While the now disappointed would be tourists are deciding which other dictatorship country to visit, North Korea will be barring their borders after the country expressed it’s concerns over the Ebola crisis happening in much of the world right now. In the report, however, North Korea didn’t make clear whether this ban would effect any of the government and working officials who commute to the North from the South. This was a big point the South brought up due to the scrapped peace talks from a couple weeks ago. This shows the determination the South has to make amends with the North in an effort to repair the strained tensions between the two nations. While the report did not detail how long the ban would be in effect, due to the quick changing nature of the North’s government and it’s reliance on forms of foreign aid, the ban may not be in effect long. This is good news if for some reason your summer plans were to visit North Korea, but not much of a concern for anyone else. Unfortunately for Koryo Tours, the main touring company of North Korea, their other three scheduled tours of North Korea for the rest of 2014 might not happen. While the company also handles touring of China as well, their expected to take a big hit if the tours do not come through due to the fact that the North Korean tours make up a good portion of their income. Not only do people apparently tour North Korea, but people pay good money to tour North Korea. Something about a ruthless dictatorship spreading propaganda throughout their country really interests some people I suppose.

What I found incredibly interesting about this story was the lengths the North has gone to to protect itself from the virus, despite it not appearing anywhere near East Asia, or that any projections have not predicted the virus might pop up anywhere near the area. This is not the first time the North has closed it’s borders over a potential health risk though, in 2003 the country also stopped anyone from passing due to the SARS virus, which in retrospect had a larger infectivity range.

Ecocide = Genocide?

Tomorrow, a campaign that will stretch the globe is set to be kicked off by a grass roots organization called End Ecocide on Earth in order to propose to the ICC, International  Criminal Court, to raise the punishment on ecocide to the same level as genocide or war crimes. If this was passed, the ICC would be able to prosecute companies and individuals that continue to damage the environment through water, air, and soil contamination. Crimes against nature that would previously require a $50 M payout, could now invoke criminal punishment and fines of a greater cause. This is not the first attempt to secure these rights, however, this is the latest in many attempts to set up these laws dating back to 1970, many being shot down and ‘forgotten’ likely due to lobbying by power companies. This time the results may be different though. There have been over 170,000 signatures to a proposal to create a law in the EU in the hopes that the law may be more welcomed, and passed.

Many laws against climate changing and ecological contamination have been finding their way to the surface recently as a result of increased education on the issue of ecological pollution. It took certain research that concluded on our current path, the Earth would be merely a pot of ecological waste in the coming generations if we do not see change now. The threat to the environment is not as far off as many have previously believed. Some estimations pinpoint that in 50 years parts of the Earth hit by the highest amount of ecological pollution such as the Niger river Delta will be uninhabitable for years to come. The people who live there and people who rely on the safe keeping of these environments are no longer alone in the stand against the pollution of them, the world is now behind them and there are a lot of us.

In the end, this kind of legislature can only be good for the planet, the next question is will the lobbying by major companies still be enough to make sure the plans are shot down and ‘forgotten’ as they have been before. With much more of the world knowledgeable on the problems of the environment and on the dangers of lobbying, however, this may not be as serious of a problem as it once was. Only time will tell if this and legislature like it will be enough to help the planet and ensure that it will be safe and prosperous not only for us, but for future generations that rely on the safekeeping of the planet.

Korean peace talks scrapped

Unfortunately earlier this week, peace talks between North and South Korea were scrapped after machine-gun fire and South Korean propaganda pamphlets were traded between the two countries yesterday. While the South Korean government denies sending any propaganda, activists who may or may not have been tied to the South’s government surely did. The activists sent balloons filled with the pamphlets across the border and were responded to by North Korean weapons firing in an effort to shoot them down, this escalated into a small skirmish in the area with reportedly no one being hit. Small exchanges of fire happen often between the two countries, with just last week North and South Korean boats fired on each other as a disputed sea territory line was crossed by both countries.

North Korean officials responded to the incident by calling for the South to decide how they wanted peace talks to go and to stop “The real culprits of this leaflet-launching commotion are the United States and the puppet regime”. While words have been strewn through out the years, this is the first that have been after the planned peace talks. It’s very unfortunate that the talks were scrapped as we may have saw finally some steps toward peace between the two countries, however I’m not surprised that the talks were scrapped especially after North Korea called 2015 the year of unification. Unifying Korea through diplomatic circumstances would be almost impossible given the two widely different government types and political leaders, so militarily would most likely be the only way.

North Korea continues to play the classic playground bully that it has played for the past few years, and I doubt any peace talks will become fleshed in the immediate or near future. However, both countries have still expressed a want to continue with peace talks, but they will surely not happen anytime soon, especially with skirmishes between the borders becoming much more common. Although the South Korean government had nothing to do with the launching of the leaflets, the North still wanted to make it apparent that it would not take any ‘attacks’ on it’s nation lightly, expressed in their quick decision to end the talks. I imagine it like child wanting a toy, but being told no by another person, then responding with ‘I didn’t want it anyway’. While I’m sure there are logical people in the North Korean government, they must not have been on the forefront of this decision.

A cure for Type 1?

Yesterday, researches are Harvard made a breakthrough in Type 1 Diabetes research that could mean an end to the disease as we know it. The research was headed by a professor at Harvard, Doug Melton, who began research into a cure for the disease when his own young son was diagnosed 23 years ago. In a breakthrough that is being hailed as near antibiotic level importance, the sheer fact that Prof. Melton dedicated 23 years of his life to developing this treatment is incredibly awe inspiring and gives me an outlook on life that is rare to get. The treatment involves using embryonic stem cells to create insulin producing cells in a person who’s pancreas, the organ that produces insulin, is no longer functional. While there are already treatments out there, such as manually inducing insulin through needles, many of them lack the accuracy that the pancreas has and can lead to further problems as serious as blindness and limb loss later in life.

While this is surely a major step in diabetes research, the implications in other fields that involve stem cells are also greatly benefited by this research. Perhaps in the next 10 to 15 years we may see a variety of diseases treated through the use of stem cells. Things that killed people in the past may be of little bother to fix in the future. This is old news though, the common cold was once a devastating killer, but now it is nothing more than a minor annoyance. The day that we see this kind of thinking with heart disease or organ failure will be a great one. Also, the fact that one man was willing to dedicate 23 years of his life to the research of one thing, shows the drive and willingness to help people of the scientists in today’s world.

It’s nice to see a story contrasting what is normally in the news. Instead of ISIS beheadings, seeing the drive and determination that seems to be a spread out trait in today’s age is incredible and always welcomed to see. It shows the stark contrast between different outlooks on life, that in one regard dedication to a good cause can do some good in a world that seems to be predominately decided by bad news. Without a doubt researches and professors that dedicate themselves will be at the forefront of medical and scientific research that can pave the way for a better future.

Air Strikes are not enough

Today Syrian Kurds came out and spoke about the effectiveness of the U.S. led coalition of airstrikes to halt ISIS’s encroachment into a key strategical city on the Turkish border. The Kurdish defenders are telling the Pentagon that there are simply too many ISIS fighters to be stopped by air assistance alone, and that they have adapted to the bombings. They describe that as soon as information comes in that a bombing run is being conducted, the militants scatter from their open positions into more fortified ones in order to reduce casualties, and wait until after the bombing stops. Many Kurdish forces have described the attackers as ants, scattering as a boot falls on them only to swarm the city once more. On top of this the city is being besieged from three different sides and the coalition of air bombers are not doing enough to spread their bombs evenly across the three fronts, even if one front is cleared substantially, the other two are still vulnerable to attack until the bombers can reload and head for another mission.

Because of this ineffectiveness of air forces, the Kurdish defenders are calling on the U.S. led coalition to consider sending ground troops or at least supplies in order to fight back the ISIS militants. The only problem here is many of the countries in the coalition would be unwilling to send soldiers to the area, including the U.S. and the UK. Adding onto this is the fact that many countries are also skeptical of sending weapons and supplies into the area for fear that they will fall into ISIS’s hands. Nothing is worse than a driven and armed military force, even if they are not trained well.

However unwilling to send ground forces into the area the coalition is, it may have to come down to it as it has been echoed in the past weeks that the threat ISIS posses was not only underestimated but also underrated. They are no longer a small grass roots terrorist organization that relies on homemade suicide bombs and soviet era weaponry, but they are increasing becoming a formidable enemy with weaponry and resources that would challenge many countries. If nothing substantial is done about them now in the future it may be too late or harder to do anything about them. This is a hard hit fact for Turkish citizens as if the militants are able to capture Kobani, they will be in a very strategic position to attack Turkey later down the road.