Sunday, April 5, 2015

‘Disturbing’ Report Suggests Gov’t Agency Released Private Personnel Information on GOP Lawmaker | Investigator: Obama's DHS Cyber Army Targets Anti-Obama Sites - YouTube | Same-Sex Sinners? | Tortoise tries to mate with his partner but falls onto his back (of all places at Kiev Zoo - a new kind of special operations?!) | Sexually Assaulted at UVA |

The tortoise casanovca made painfully slow progress in getting into position with his mate in the first place

The tortoise casanovca made painfully slow progress in getting into position with his mate in the first place

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» Tortoise tries to mate with his partner but falls onto his back 
05/04/15 13:19 from the Mail online | News
The hilarious moment this tortoise tries and fails to mate with a female at Kiev Zoo in the Ukraine. The frisky fellow falls on his back after losing balance in the act and gets no second chance.

» Same-Sex Sinners?
05/04/15 01:00 from NYT > Columnists
What’s wrong and what’s righteous changes with time and with enlightenment, unless we resist it.

» Sexually Assaulted at UVA
05/04/15 01:00 from NYT > Contributors
After being attacked by a fellow student, I won my case before a university panel. But winning wasn’t really winning.

» Man dies of self-inflicted gunshot wound at Universal Studios
04/04/15 01:51 from L.A. Times - Commentary
A man died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound Friday afternoon near the Despicable Me Minion Mayhem ride at Universal Studios, authorities said.

» San Diego college student commits suicide by drowning
04/04/15 01:33 from L.A. Times - Commentary
 An 18-year-old college student from San Jose committed suicide by drowning in a lake in San Diego, according to the county medical examiner.

» Fresno's deputy police chief resigns amid drug dealing charges
04/04/15 01:30 from L.A. Times - Commentary
Fresno's deputy police chief, who is facing charges that he conspired to distribute drugs, resigned Friday.

» Republicans cower before big gay media
04/04/15 00:50 from RenewAmerica columns
(Cliff Kincaid) - Robert R. Reilly, author of the highly controversial (and suppressed) book, Making Gay Okay, says the capitulation of the Republicans to the homosexual lobby seemed to begin under President George W. Bush, when General ...

» And Now, Political Virgins
04/04/15 01:00 from NYT > Columnists
Lawmaking in Texas is back to being very, very personal.

Investigator: Obama's DHS Cyber Army Targets Anti-Obama Sites - YouTube

‘Disturbing’ Report Suggests Gov’t Agency Released Private Personnel Information on GOP Lawmaker

department of homeland security as obama's personal "army" - YouTube

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    1. Louie Gohmert Fears Obama Is Creating A Private ArmyAlready watched. - Duration: 4:52.

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    4. Investigator: Obama's DHS Cyber Army Targets Anti-Obama SitesAlready watched. - Duration: 14:47.

      • 2 years ago
      Doug Haggman: Obama's DHS Cyber Army Targets Anti-Obama Sites - 2/8/2013- - http://www.
    5. OBAMA SENDS MESSAGE to North Korea with massive US Military drill - Duration: 6:15.

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    7. Obama's "Civilian Security Force" Ready To Implement Martial Law According To CIA Whistleblower- Duration: 1:16:20.

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      We've watched as the Department of Homeland Security has beefed up to the point that SWAT teams under DHS authority from ...
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      'Like' if you like. Feel free to subscribe to my channel. Uploader: revmichellehopkins Uploaded: Aug 29, 2012 02:24 AM NEWS ...
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    10. U.S. Army Captain: Feds Gearing Up For War on Americans - Duration: 8:30.

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    11. America : DHS purchasing Drones, Tanks, Rifles and Ammo for War inside the U.S. (Mar 06, 2013) - Duration: 4:45.

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      • 2 years ago
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    14. Obama's DHS Purchases 2700 MRAP (Mine-Resistant Ambush Protected) Armored Tanks - Duration: 4:47.

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    15. 2014 Army briefing given by Lt. Col. Jack Rich in PA Christians as extremist groups. - Duration: 4:11.

      • 1 year ago
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obama's dhs cyber army targets anti-obama sites - Google Search

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    Feb 12, 2013 - Apparently, the Obama administration has The Department of Homeland Security targeting anti-Obama websites as potential threats. Hmmmm.
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    Investigator: Obama's DHS Cyber Army Targets Anti-Obama Sites - YouTube

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    Published on Feb 10, 2013
    Doug Haggman: Obama's DHS Cyber Army Targets Anti-Obama Sites - 2/8/2013- -

    Obama Civilian Security - YouTube

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    Uploaded on Jul 17, 2008
    Is Obama planning to have a Civilian Security Force in addition to the military?

    "We cannot continue to rely on our military in order to achieve the national security objectives we've set. We've got to have a civilian national security force that's just as powerful, just as strong, just as well-funded."

    The full video is still available here

    NESARA- REPUBLIC NOW - GALACTIC NEWS: U.S. Judge Has Figured Out Obama Using D.H.S. as His Private Army

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    Here is a judge who “get it.” He understands the Obama strategy. First and foremost, our active military only number about 1.5 million. We have the smallest military and military budget that we’ve had since pre-World War II days. Obama has not only gutted the military of bodies, he’s seen to it that the top command posts are filled with “yes men” by relieving the vast majority of our top ranked generals and admirals and sending them packing.
    I can’t seem to find an accurate count of active D.H.S. agents or “boots on the ground” if you will, however in dozens of my previous my posts I have documented where the D.H.S. in increasing in size and military hardware. Very scary thought. When a House Oversight committee chair cannot get access to information about who D.H.S. is taking their orders from, that becomes a concern to me. I think we can presume it’s Obama, because like EVERYTHINGelse with his administration, no one will answer any questions or cooperate. It fits his Modus Operandi to the tee. 
    Congressman Louie Gohmert, Vice Chair for the oversight committee recently said, “I want to know why are they using weapons to train, or why are they being taught to use syringes and health care items?” He also made inquiries about the 
    BILLIONS of hollow point bullets D.H.S. bought
    , but no one would answer him.
    During an appearance on the Janet Mefferd Show, Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-TX) warned that a provision within Obamacare could create an armed “secret security force”. That force goes by the name “Federal Protective Services” which is a “Federal Police Force.” NOTHING in the Constitution authorized a Federal Police Force. It appears Obama is setting up his own version of the S.S. No wonder Obamacare is so important to him. It gives him his own private army.WHAT does that have to do with healthcare?
    Please take note how Congressman Gohmert says everyone ought to be very weary of D.H.S. and the Justice Department.
    [Audio/Video below cannot be seen in Newsletter - have to go to Blog]
    It stopped being “conspiracy” LONG before Bob started talking about it, but that should remove ALL doubt. If it doesn’t, let me paint you a picture. Read the links below!
    The Obama administration’s Department of Homeland Security is brazenly violating U.S. law and participating in criminal conspiracies to smuggle illegal immigrants into the United States, 
    U.S. District Judge Andrew Hanen said in a December ruling
    . He also noted that the schemes were helping to fund Mexican drug cartels and jeopardizing the lives of children. According to Hanen, the apparent Obama administration policies in question are part of a trend and represent a “dangerous course of action,” costing taxpayers huge sums while enriching criminal syndicates.
    The stinging criticism and exposure of Obama’s Homeland Security apparatus and its lawless actions focused on a wide array of problems with the controversial human-trafficking machinations. Among other concerns, the judge said the administration was breaking the law; encouraging and rewarding criminals who continue violating the law; ensuring a steady stream of funds for dangerous Mexican drug cartels involved in human smuggling; endangering the lives of children; and much more. The court, Hanen wrote, is “quite concerned with the apparent policy of the Department of Homeland Security of completing mission of individuals who are violating the border security of the United States.”
    The judge’s comments, which have attracted headlines across the nation, focused on one case in particular — the subject of the order. The criminal conspiracy in question involved an illegal immigrant in the United States paying human smugglers to bring her 10-year-old child across the border. The hired trafficker was arrested during the operation. “Despite this setback, the goal of the conspiracy was successfully completed thanks to the actions of the United States Government,” the judge wrote, noting that the child was delivered to her mother in Virginia by Homeland Security. The administration did not arrest, prosecute, or deport the mother, despite the crimes, he added.
    “This DHS policy is a dangerous course of action,” the judge warned, echoing criticism from border groups and critics of the administration’s policies. “The DHS, instead of enforcing our border security laws, actually assisted the criminal conspiracy in achieving its illegal goals…. In summary, instead of enforcing the laws of the United States, the Government took direct steps to help the individuals who violated it. A private citizen would, and should, be prosecuted for this conduct.”
    Beyond the implications of the lawlessness, the judge also ripped the apparent “logic” behind the administration’s policy. Among other serious concerns, he said it would put many more children in serious danger by encouraging other actual or potential illegal immigrants to hire cartel-linked human smugglers. While he indicated his sympathy and understanding of prosecutorial discretion and keeping families together, the administration’s arguments to justify its actions, Hanen said, are “absurd and illogical.”
    “The DHS could reunite the parent and child by apprehending the parent who has committed not one, but at least two different crimes,” Judge Hanen wrote in the order. “It would be more efficient for the Government to arrest the individuals who are not only in the country illegally, but while in the country illegally are also fostering illegal conspiracies…. It would also be much cheaper to apprehend those co-conspirators and reunite them at the children’s location,” he added. “Yet, it neither prosecutes nor deports the wrongdoer.” In other words, the administration is “rewarding criminal conduct instead of enforcing the current laws.”
    Even more troubling, according to Hanen, is that the controversial and unlawful Homeland Security policies are encouraging other parents to “seriously jeopardize the safety of their children.” He argued that by facilitating and ensuring the success of the criminal conspiracies and human smugglers, many more illegal immigrants would see it as a win-win scenario. While the unaccompanied child in the case in question was transported in a car and ended up safe, the judge pointed out that many others smuggled across the border cross in far more dangerous ways — swimming across the Rio Grande River, for example. Deaths, he added, are not uncommon. In fact, as the court was waiting for the judgment before releasing the order, two drowned, two went missing, and a three-year-old toddler was abandoned in the same area.
    The judge also suggested, citing other recent cases in his court, that the troubling case that prompted his now widely publicized opinion was part a pattern — and even administration policy. “This is the fourth case with the same factual situation this Court has had in as many weeks,” wrote Judge Hanen, who serves on the U.S. District Court of the Southern District of Texas. “In all of the cases, human traffickers who smuggled minor children were apprehended short of delivering the children to their ultimate destination. In all cases, a parent, if not both parents, of the children was in this country illegally…. In each case, the DHS completed the criminal conspiracy, instead of enforcing the laws of the United States, by delivering the minors to the custody of the parent illegally living in the United States.”
    The court order, signed on December 13, emphasized that it should not be interpreted as commentary on the subject of “immigration reform,” which Obama and some members of Congress are pushing. However, Hanen said, the issues raised in the string of recent cases concern the court for several “unassailable reasons.” First, “and most importantly,” the illegal activities in question help fund drug cartels, which are a “very real danger for both citizens of this country and Mexico.” The government’s conduct, the judge wrote, is “inspiring” the cartels to continue funding “evil and illegal activities.” On top of that, Hanen continued, U.S. citizens are being forced by Homeland Security policy to “fund these evil ventures with their tax dollars.”
    Second of all, Homeland Security’s policy undermines the deterrent effect of U.S. law and inspires criminals to continue breaking it. “Even if their co-conspirators are unsuccessful, the Government will finish the job of the human traffickers — mission still accomplished,” he wrote. “It is no wonder these cases are proliferating.” In addition, the machinations are encouraging parents to turn over their children to strangers about whom “only one thing is truly known: they are criminals involved in a criminal conspiracy.”
    Finally, Hanen said, the policy is eroding the morale of U.S. Border Patrol agents who risk their lives to enforce the law — only to have Homeland Security deliberately undermine their efforts. The controversial policy of facilitating criminal conspiracies and human smuggling is also making matters worse, Hanen observed. According to figures cited in the document, there has been an 81-percent increase in unaccompanied children picked up at the border over a two-year period. That should “tell the DHS that their policy is failing,” the judge said. “If they persist in this policy, more children are going to be harmed, and the DHS will be partly responsible because it encourages this kind of Russian roulette.”
    Citing bogus justifications offered by authorities for their actions, Judge Hanen said there was “no explanation” for the unlawful behavior on the part of the administration. “The DHS has simply chosen not to enforce the United States’ border security laws,” he said. Furthermore, the judge continued, there is not even a semblance of legal justification for Homeland Security to turn a “blind eye” to criminal conduct — not to mention “to participate in and complete the mission of a criminal conspiracy or to encourage parents to put their minor children in perilous situations subject to the whims of evil individuals.” The administration’s actions, he added, are “both dangerous and unconscionable.”
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    Face The Nation 10-27-13 - YouTube

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    Published on Oct 27, 2013
    Bob Woodward warns of the "secret government."
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    Page 2

    The Last Great Stand » CBS Warns of Obama’s Secret Government on Face The Nation [Video]

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    If 2013 Was Hard on Obamacare, Just Wait for 2014
    Wasn't 2013 a wonderful year for Obamacare? Well, for a trip down memory lane, take a look at some of the posts below, and know that as bad as all of that seems, things are going to get CONSIDERABLY worse in 2014. Thank you President Obama and the Democratic Party for RAMMING this down our…

    FBI: Tycoon Was Extorted By Gay Porn Star

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    APRIL 3--A business tycoon gave a gay porn star $500,000 and a luxury automobile in hush money payments after being threatened with the exposure of details of his paid sexual liaisons with the accused extortionist and other X-rated performers, according to sources and court records.
    The alleged shakedown scheme resulted in the arrest last month of Teofil Brank, a 25-year-old Los Angeles man known professionally as “Jarec Wentworth.” A U.S. District Court judge has ordered Brank (seen at right) held without bail in advance of trial on the felony charge.
    Brank’s alleged victim--who is only identified by the initials “D.B.” in court filings--is Donald Burns, 51, a regular on the society circuit who made his fortune through the 1997 sale of a telecommunications firm he co-founded. The jet-setting Burns’s real estate portfolio includes waterfront estates in La JollaNantucket, and Palm Beach, where he lives a mile up N. Ocean Boulevard from Rush Limbaugh’s compound. 
    Burns did not return a message left today with his assistant seeking comment about the Brank case.
    In mid-February, after Brank threatened to post incriminating photos of Burns to Twitter--along with what a criminal complaint describes as “embarrassing information about the Victim’s sexual past--Burns wired $500,000 from a Goldman Sachs account into Brank’s bank account.
    The businessman also gave the porn star his Audi R8, which investigators valued at $180,000. Brank picked up the vehicle at Burns's La Jolla home, which he purchased in 2011 for $14.1 million.
    The six-figure payoff, however, did not sate Brank, according to prosecutors. In a series of text messages, the porn star demanded an additional $1 million for his silence. Brank also told Burns, “I want a condo here in LA. Bachelor pad.”
    Faced with the new demands, Burns contacted the FBI on March 3. In subsequent interviews with agents and prosecutors, Burns admitted paying Brank for sex, as well as arranging sexual encounters with other men. In text messages quoted in the felony complaint, Brank told Burns, “You lied to me and treated me like Shit,” adding that, “I only wanted to drive cars and Enjoy your company. I guess findin you boys is out of the picture.”
    Brank was arrested March 4 when he met with an undercover FBI agent posing as a “trusted friend” of Burns (pictured below). During the meeting at a Starbucks in El Segundo, the agent provided Brank with title to the Audi and claimed that the $1 million was in the trunk of his vehicle. When the duo left the Starbucks to retrieve the cash, Brank was arrested by FBI agents who were surveilling the meeting.
    During a court hearing last Friday, prosecutor Kimberly Jaimez told Judge John Walter that “D.B.”paid Brank “for sexual conduct” and also gave him up to $2000 for individual referrals to “other individuals who would have sexual contact.” Jaimez estimated that Brank made “less than ten” of these referrals to “D.B.”
    Jaimez said that Brank met “D.B.” in late-2013, when the victim “began considering investments in the homosexual pornography industry and in connection with that began having meetings and getting to know individuals in that industry.” When Walter asked if Brank and “D.B.” were “business associates,” Jaimez made the nature of their relationship clear. “Pay-for-sex operation,” she said.
    In reply to a question about the age of the sex partners referred to “D.B” by Brank, Jaimez told Walter that “D.B.” “informs us that all these boys were over the age of 18.” She added that FBI agents were investigating to confirm that the sex referrals did not involve minors.
    Since Brank’s arrest, Burns’s attorney has argued in court that the identification of the victim in the case should remain limited to the man’s initials. Brank’s lawyers have countered that “D.B.” does not deserve anonymity since, “by the government’s own admission,” he allegedly paid Brank for sex and to “procure sexual partners for himself.” Jaimez also disclosed that there is evidence that several Brank associates were involved in the extortion plot and, as a result, could face conspiracy charges.
    Additionally, Brank’s counsel contends that, “the government does not know whether any of the ‘boys’ with whom D.B. engaged in sexual activity were underage. This begs the fundamental question of why D.B. is not named as a fellow defendant given that he engaged in an interstate arrangement with Mr. Brank to pay for procurement of sexual partners.”
    A judge has, so far, agreed to keep “D.B.”’s name out of the public court record.
    The salacious nature of the case is likely of concern to Burns, who regularly attends charity galas and society events and sits on the board of a public company. He also heads an eponymous charitable foundation that donates to organizations in Nantucket and Palm Beach, where Burns maintains his principal residence, an oceanfront mansion. According to its 2013 tax return, the Donald A. Burns Foundation had assets totaling $10.1 million and it paid Burns $132,834 annually for his work as the group’s president. Over the last five years, the foundation has reported donations totaling $2.2 million
    Burns’s wealth appears principally derived from the 1997 sale of Telco Communications Group, a Virginia-based long-distance phone carrier. According to Securities and Exchange Commission filings, Burns--Telco’s founder and chief executive--received around $250 million in cash and stock when the deal closed.
    Burns has maintained a role in the telecommunications industry through positions with Magicjack Vocaltec Ltd., the publicly held company that produces the magicJack Internet phone device. Burns, chairman of the company's board of directors, reportedly provided part of the investment used to launch the firm, and he served as its chief executive for several years. According to an SEC filing, he currently owns Magicjack stock with a market value of $2.8 million.
    A registered Republican, Burns has donated to a variety of GOP candidates and committees, including Mitt Romney, Scott Brown, Jeb Bush, Rudolph Giuliani, and the Republican Party of San Diego. In 2004, Burns made a $1000 donation to a “swift boat” group opposing Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry, and he also gave money to the presidential campaigns of John Edwards and Ralph Nader. Last year, he made a maximum $2600 contribution to Richard Tisei, an openly gay, married Republican who lost a bid for a congressional seat in Massachusetts.
    Burns’s largest political donations came in 2008, when he contributed $400,000 to a group opposing a Florida ballot measure that called for amending the state constitution so as to define marriage solely as a union between a man and a woman. The measure, which passed with 62 percent of the vote, is the subject of ongoing litigation by gay marriage proponents. (14 pages)
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    FBI is changing, but must do so more quickly

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    There is good news and bad news about the FBI’s ability to protect the country from future catastrophic terror attacks. The good news is the agency has progressed admirably in the nearly 14 years since those hideous 9/11 attacks. The bad news is that much remains to be done.
    Those are the overarching conclusions reached by the most exhaustive public review ever conducted of the nation’s domestic law enforcement agency. The study, which took more than a year, was requested by Congress to gauge how the agency was implementing recommendations made by the 9/11 Commission in 2004.
    The report was produced by a commission that includes former Attorney General Ed Meese, former U.S. Rep. Tim Roemer and Georgetown University professor Bruce Hoffman.
    It praised the FBI’s progress in collaboration and sharing information with intelligence partners. More importantly, the report also said these changes “undoubtedly contributed to protecting the homeland against another catastrophic terrorist attack.”
    But it noted the FBI lagged in the key areas of analysis and development of informants. Reviewers examined the FBI’s response to five high-profiles terror plots since 2008 and noted that none was uncovered because of informants. It further asserts the FBI perhaps should have been more alert in two of those cases — the botched Times Square bombing in 2010 and the thwarted al-Qaida attack on New York’s subway system in 2009 and more aware of outbursts in a mosque made by one of the brothers who carried out the Boston Marathon bombing.
    It said the FBI must develop a “deep expertise in intelligence and national security” and it found that while progress had been made, the transformation “requires faster progress and deeper execution.”
    FBI Director James B. Comey last year created a new intelligence branch, which he labels one of his highest priorities. Clearly, the commission believes that should have been done long ago. It cites “passive resistors” inside the FBI who have slowed progress. Of course, that is the reaction to change in most large organizations. But fixing it at the FBI will require what the report calls “visionary leadership.”
    If all of that sounds like Monday morning quarterbacking, it is not. The report is written more as a constructive critique than as a slam. The commission acknowledges — as it should — that the FBI has been given a near impossible task, especially in a free society.
    We, too, recognize that the bad guys only have to “succeed” once to again create chaos and terror in our homeland. We also acknowledge that the likelihood of that happening someday remains high. This report says that to thwart such events the FBI must become more nimble and continue developing a culture of minute-by-minute vigilance. We couldn’t agree more.
    Read the whole story
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    FBI shows Patrick Cannon surveillance video to citizens class

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    FBI officials in Charlotte this week showed confidential surveillance videos from their investigation of former Mayor Patrick Cannon to the participants of an agency-run community workshop.
    Months after Cannon’s imprisonment on a corruption charge, federal authorities remain tight-lipped about the inquiry. But during a weekly installment of their annual “citizens academy,” FBI officials in Charlotte showed four pieces of undercover Cannon surveillance video to more than 20 program participants, including at least two reporters.
    Sarah-Blake Morgan, a WBTV reporter enrolled in the workshop, says the viewings were part of a segment on “public corruption” taught by two agents. John Strong, head of the FBI’s operations in North Carolina, was also on hand, she said.
    The videos appear to track key portions of an FBI affidavit released the day of Cannon’s arrest but provided more visual drama. Morgan said the footage showed Cannon taking money and, at times, urging undercover FBI agents to pay him more. The videos were shot at the SouthPark apartment where the FBI says Cannon took his first bribe in January 2013; in Las Vegas; and at the mayor’s office in the Government Center.
    Morgan and Time Warner Cable reporter Caroline Vandergriff said the FBI knew that media representatives were enrolled in the eight-week class.
    “I was surprised, very surprised that they showed this, more excited really,” Morgan said Friday. “This was like the (Cannon) affidavit that we read over and over, coming to life.”
    Likewise, Vandergriff said the videos left her “in disbelief.”
    “I couldn’t believe what we were watching. My jaw dropped. It was absolutely fascinating,” she said.
    Both journalists said the FBI did not insist on confidentiality or other restraints – besides asking them to use their discretion.
    “We were reminded that these agents were going to be way more candid than they would ever be if they were sitting with us as reporters,” said Vandergriff, who did not publish a story on the videos.Morgan’s story appeared Thursday afternoon.

    Cannon’s attorneys want answers

    Cannon’s attorneys, James Ferguson and Jake Sussman, said Friday that they were shocked that the FBI showed the footage, which they said appeared to be a “significant breach of protocol.”
    “The government often places extraordinary limitations on how defense attorneys are permitted to handle sensitive material, like the videos in question. How and why the FBI shared these videos with the public, including a reporter, are questions that need answers,” the Charlotte lawyers said in a statement.
    Friday, the FBI declined an Observer request to release the footage or answer questions about why it was shown. The agency said wider public viewings of the videos would jeopardize future FBI undercover operations as well as the identities of the agents who took part.
    “Our position with releasing this material has not changed. The Cannon investigation video will not be made available for viewing and will not be released,” said agency spokeswoman Julia Hanish. “The FBI’s Citizens Academy Program may include, at times, information that may not be made available for release to the general public.”
    John Strong of Charlotte, head of the agency’s North Carolina operations, did not return an Observer phone call to his office.
    The Observer also submitted a list of questions to the agency, including who made the decision to show the videos, whether agency leaders had discussed the viewings internally ahead of time, and whether the footage has been shown to other public groups before.
    Again, Hanish said the agency would not comment.
    Federal public records law exempts “information compiled for law enforcement purposes” that “would disclose techniques and procedures for law enforcement investigations or prosecutions.”
    Amanda Martin, an attorney for the N.C. Press Association, says the FBI maintains broad legal discretion “on what they want to disclose.”
    Last summer, Cannon pleaded guilty to accepting more than $50,000 in bribes from undercover FBI agents posing as real estate developers and is now serving a 44-month sentence.
    The investigation was overseen by the U.S. attorney’s office in Charlotte. A spokeswoman said Friday that prosecutors had no comment about the showing of the videos.
    Two clips were taped when Cannon and his wife traveled to Las Vegas at FBI expense to pitch a group of international investors. There, Cannon received a cash bribe and $1,000 in spending money for his wife, according to federal documents tied to the case. Another piece of footage captured Cannon in the mayor’s office taking a briefcase carrying $20,000 from an agent.
    In some of the clips, Cannon appears nervous when the money changes hands, Morgan said, while the Las Vegas footage features him repeatedly urging agents to funnel him more money.

    Interactive viewing

    Morgan said each piece of footage ran about three to four minutes. She said FBI agents appeared on camera rarely and for brief periods. Workshop participants also heard three taped phone conversations between Cannon and the agents.
    Both Morgan and Vandergriff said the class was highly interactive, with the agent instructors stopping the videos to make points or answer questions.
    During one exchange Wednesday night, Strong was asked why the Cannon videos had not been made public. Vandergriff said that Strong, special agent in charge for North Carolina, responded that academy members had been vetted, were trusted and would see the videos only once.
    If the footage was more widely circulated, Strong said it could be watched repeatedly, posing a greater threat to surveillance techniques and the identities of undercover agents, Vandergriff said.
    Morgan said the FBI knew she planned to report on the videos and did not try to stop her.Researcher Maria David contributed.
    According to the FBI’s website, its citizens academy “is a stimulating eight-week program that gives business, religious, civic, and community leaders an inside look at the FBI. It fosters a relationship and understanding between the FBI and its community.”
    FBI leaders and agents teach the classes. Participants must be at least 21, have no prior felony convictions, live within the FBI’s local jurisdiction, and undergo a six-week background check.
    Read the whole story
    · · · · ·

    Congressman Exposes DHS Buildup for CIVIL UNREST & Secret Police Force- "NOT A CONSPIRACY" - YouTube

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    Published on Nov 14, 2013
    obama dhs louie gohmert

    department of homeland security as obama's personal "army" - Google Search

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      Feb 7, 2013 - though Obama has never again repeated the terms “civilian national security force,” it is obvious that the Department of Homeland Security is ...

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      Mar 23, 2014 - Referring to members of D.H.S. Rep. Gohmert has gone as far as to say, “I want to know are they are they using weapons to train, or are they ...
    3. US Judge Has Figured Out Obama Using DHS as His ...

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      Jan 3, 2014 - I can't seem to find an accurate count of active D.H.S. agents or "boots on ... ON FACE THE NATION IS TALKING ABOUT OBAMA'S SECRET ARMY, YOU .... A private citizen would, and should, be prosecuted for this conduct.
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      13 Proofs That Dept. Of Homeland Security Has Become Obama's Standing Army -- Obama Calling For Creation Of Civilian Army. "We cannot continue to rely  ...
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      Jun 18, 2014 - Of Homeland Security Has Become Obama's Standing Army .... Relying on privatecontractors to maintain a license plate database allows the  ...
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      Nov 30, 2012 - Q: Did the Department of Homeland Security create a “standing army of government youth” known as FEMA ... Homeland Security Graduates First Corps Of Obama's Brown Shirts – Homeland Youth .... Obama's 'Private Army.
    9. Obama's DHS seizing local power

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      Sep 19, 2013 - Perhaps the DHS is the realization of Obama's call for a civilian ... TSA personnel and officers from approximately 100 commuter rail, .... Their other titles include “Fool Me Twice,” “RedArmy” and “The Manchurian President.”.
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    ‘Disturbing’ Report Suggests Gov’t Agency Released Private Personnel Information on GOP Lawmaker

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    Department of Homeland Security Secretary Jeh Johnson has apologized to Rep. Jason Chaffetz (R-Utah) after the GOP lawmaker’s personal information was leaked, possibly by Secret Service employees.
    Lawmakers have also asked DHS to fully investigate who disclosed the private personnel information showing that Chaffetz was formerly turned down for a job as a Secret Service agent in 2003. He told the Daily Beast he was likely turned down because was too old, then in his mid-30s, but he harbors no ill-will toward the agency due to his rejection.
    House Judiciary Committee member Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah questions acting Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014, during the committee's hearing on oversight of the Secret Service. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
    House Judiciary Committee member Rep. Jason Chaffetz, R-Utah questions acting Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 19, 2014, during the committee’s hearing on oversight of the Secret Service. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh)
    The Secret Service has been at the center of a number of security blunders — and Chaffetz has remained one of their toughest critics.
    Chaffetz said he found the release of the information “disconcerting to say the least.”
    “I won’t be intimidated, but I’m sure that’s what it’s intended to do,” he told the Washington Post.
    More from the Post report:
    The information about Chaffetz’s rejection has been circulated at Secret Service headquarters and in field offices, starting within days of a contentious March 24 hearing in which Chaffetz grilled Clancy, according to five current and former government officials who have been provided the details about Chaffetz’s background. These people requested anonymity to discuss internal Secret Service discussions.
    One official said that the materials included a copy of a parody poster that pictured Chaffetz leading a hearing on the Secret Service from the dais, with the headline “Got BQA from the Service in 2003” at the top and a line at the bottom that read “Elected to Congress in 2009.” In the Secret Service, “BQA” is an acronym meaning a “Better Qualified Applicant” was available.
    Secret Service Director Joseph Clancy also reportedly called to apologize to Chaffetz on Thursday. Further, Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.) told the Post that the “disturbing” allegations should be investigated.
    “If that’s true, I find it appalling,” Cummings responded. “There is absolutely no room for this kind of activity in the Secret Service.”
    Prior to the leaking of Chaffetz’s rejection, the Republican subpoenaed two Secret Service employees amid a House committee’s investigation into the agency’s security lapses.
    Read the whole story
    · · ·

    Al Franken Urges FBI to Crack Down on Revenge Porn

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    Sen. Al Franken is urging the FBI to more quickly and aggressively pursue and respond to reports of revenge porn, marking a rare burst of attention on a controversial topic about which Congress has typically been quiet.
    In a letter to FBI Director James Comey, the Minnesota Democrat asked for more information about the agency's authority to police against revenge porn, or the act of posting explicit sexual content online without the subject's consent, often for purposes of humiliation and extortion. Its popularity has ballooned in recent years, and victims are disproportionately women.
    "The digital age has brought many benefits for free speech, commercial activity, and the sharing of information, but new technologies can pose significant threats if bad actors are not held accountable to our nation's laws," Franken wrote in his letter. "As technologies rapidly advance, it is our responsibility to ensure that our nation's laws keep pace with those technologies. But it is also our responsibility to ensure that existing laws are strictly enforced."
    Franken—the top Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee's privacy, technology and the law panel—asked Comey to explain all the legal authorities at the FBI's disposal that can used to investigate and pursue revenge-porn cases. The privacy hawk also is requesting statistics on how those authorities, ranging from hacking and identity theft laws, have been used "to combat conduct of this nature."
    In addition, Franken wants information on any limitations within current law that may have impeded the FBI from carrying out investigations or making arrests. Franken, who asked for a response by May 8, is exploring whether legislation may be necessary to combat revenge porn, his office said.
    Lawmakers in Congress have been reticent to weigh in directly on revenge porn, despite the growth of the industry in recent years. Rep. Jackie Speier, a California Democrat, has for the past year been working on a bill that would criminalize revenge porn, but no bill has yet been introduced.
    Open-Internet advocates generally oppose legislation that would expand criminal penalties to allow authorities to go after operators of revenge-porn websites. At the heart of the debate is Section 230 of the Communications Decency Act, which generally protects websites such as YouTube from being legally liable for the third-party content. Exceptions are made for copyrighted material and content that violates certain federal criminal law, such as child porn, but websites still are able to avoid liability if they adopt reasonable takedown policies.
    Absent federal action, several states have passed revenge porn laws of their own that make the practice a crime.
    Franken applauded technology companies for becoming increasingly diligent in policing against revenge porn, citing recent steps taken by Twitter and reddit to make such content easier to flag and remove.
    "I am hopeful that these recent developments and the increased public attention to the problem will lead to a more concentrated federal effort to combat this growing threat to Americans' privacy and safety."
    Read the whole story
    · ·

    Details about FBI agents' deaths kept secret |

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    Special Agents Christopher Lorek and Stephen Shaw were hanging out of a helicopter off the coast of Virginia Beach in 2013 when their helo began to pitch.
    Without warning, it dropped toward the Atlantic Ocean. The pilot regained control, but not before Lorek and Shaw fell 150 feet to their deaths.
    The FBI changed its training procedures because of the May 17, 2013, incident. But documents obtained this week by The Virginian-Pilot following a nearly two-year fight through the Freedom of Information Act and a lawsuit do not reveal what changes the agency made.
    The 64 pages of heavily redacted documents also do not reveal the conclusions of the investigators on what caused the incident. It happened as Lorek and Shaw practiced sliding down a thick rope from a hovering helicopter, without harnesses or other tethers.
    The FBI said that, among other reasons, the deletions were justified because the information would disclose law enforcement techniques and procedures.
    "The FBI is committed to continuous improvement in every aspect of its operations, in particular safety," said Special Agent Ann Todd, an FBI spokeswoman, in a prepared statement after the release of the redacted documents. "The missions we train for carry a degree of unavoidable risk and danger, and we are constantly taking measures to improve the level of safety for all of our personnel."
    The Pilot continues to pursue its lawsuit in an effort to learn what the accident investigators determined.
    According to the unredacted portions of the documents, the training exercise in question involved members of the FBI's elite Hostage Rescue Team and members of the Tactical Helicopter Unit, both of which are based in Quantico. Several Hostage Rescue agents - so-called operators - were practicing how to "fast rope" to a waiting ship.
    A July 19, 2013, report noted that the maneuver - which lets operators quickly disembark from a hovering helicopter - is different from rappelling. It explained that the operators do not wear harnesses and cannot stop themselves mid-descent. The operators descend as quickly as possible with "their hands and feet only loosely gripping the rope."
    Lorek and Shaw were wearing tactical gear, safety equipment and weapons when they fell.
    The documents make repeated reference to the helicopter's weight and balance. They also note where operators could stand inside the helicopter while others descended the ropes.
    One document listed the following as the accident's probable cause: "[REDACTED] in a position over the left skid while the first HRT operator was descending on the rope resulting in the [REDACTED]."
    According to the report, the helicopter was in good working order the day of the training exercise and had no history of accidents. It also indicated Lorek, Shaw and the helicopter's pilots were qualified to participate in the training exercise. Both pilots passed voluntary drug tests.
    Rescue boats were in the area at the time of the accident, the report said.
    Shaw, who had no pulse when he was pulled from the water, was transported first by helicopter to Sentara Norfolk General Hospital. Lorek initially had a pulse but was dead upon arrival at the hospital.
    The state Medical Examiner's Office determined both men died from "blunt-force trauma due to a fall." It deemed the fall an accident.
    Investigators with the FBI's Serious Accident Review Team examined the Hostage Rescue Team's fast-roping lesson plan. They determined the team's standard operating procedures "validated, both expressly and by inference, movement and practices determined to be contrary to prescribed [REDACTED]," the July 19, 2013, report said.
    A separate document - dated March 20, 2014 - indicated a new training program had been created. Information regarding that program was redacted, though.
    Danny Coulson, a former deputy assistant director of the FBI who started the team 30 years ago and served as its first commander, described fast-roping as one of the most dangerous maneuvers a Hostage Rescue Team operator must master.
    "You are never going to make it entirely safe," he said Thursday, noting that helicopters are always subject to the elements. "It's inherently dangerous."
    But, Coulson said, there is no way the FBI can do away with it.
    "It's absolutely essential," he said, arguing that when agents need to use a helicopter to get to a site, they need to do it as quickly as possible.
    A helicopter door washed ashore the day after the deaths. Todd said at the time that the door came from a second helicopter "that was acting in a medevac capacity" during the training.
    The unredacted portion of the report does not reference the door.
    The Hostage Rescue Team is a domestic counterterrorism unit designed to handle hostage situations and criminal apprehensions. Team members are trained to descend from helicopters, scuba dive and use explosives to break down doors and walls. The team can deploy within four hours to anywhere in the United States.
    Unlike the SWAT teams that operate out of the FBI's field offices, agents assigned to the Hostage Rescue Team have no collateral duties.
    Lorek, 41, and Shaw, 40, were described in profiles posted on the FBI's website as loving, honorable men who had strived since childhood to join the FBI.
    The names of both men were enshrined last year in the FBI's Hall of Honor during National Police Week.
    "Chris and Stephen chose to be part of a team that assumes the greatest risk as part of their everyday job, a team that says, 'Yes, we will,' without any hesitation," former FBI Director Robert Mueller said during a memorial service, according to the website. "And though that kind of motivation - of service over self, even at the greatest cost - is difficult for some to comprehend, it is who they were, and it was in their very DNA, as it is with every member of HRT."
    Lorek's wife, Jennifer, was quoted in her husband's profile as saying he tried "to take everything to the next level."
    Voicing the way he thought, she said: "Okay, I got in the FBI, now what do I need to do? I need to be a special agent. Okay, now I'm a special agent, what do I need to do? I need to be on the SWAT team. Okay, now I'm on the SWAT team, what do I do next? I need to be on HRT. Now I'm on HRT, I need to be a sniper. I need to be the best shooter on HRT."
    Shaw's wife, Stella, praised her husband for always putting her and their kids first. In his profile, she said she "never really thought about him as being part of an elite unit even though he was."
    "More than anything, to me he was just Steve. He was just my husband, the father of my kids, my partner, and best friend," she said.
    The FBI released little information about the incident following the deaths of Lorek and Shaw, prompting The Pilot to submit a FOIA request on May 30, 2013, for "any reports or memos regarding the training accident."
    The FBI responded 13 months later with a blanket denial. A letter indicated that there were 29 pages of documents related to the incident in their files, but that none of them had to be released.
    The Pilot filed an appeal in July with the Department of Justice. It was denied in October, prompting the newspaper to file its lawsuit.
    In January, federal lawyers told The Pilot's attorney that the initial report of 29 documents was incorrect: There were actually more than 900 pages of documents involving the incident.
    Scott Daugherty, 757-446-2343,
    Documents | FBI crash reports
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    · · · · · ·

    FBI investigating suspected murder-suicide on Caribbean cruise ship

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    File photo of the MS Ryndam.
    File photo of the MS Ryndam.
    Image: AP/Press Association Images
    THE FBI HAS confirmed it is investigating the deaths of two people whose bodies were found on a Caribbean cruise ship docked in Puerto Rico.
    They died in what the shipping line called an apparent murder-suicide.
    The deceased man and woman, Americans thought to be around 50, were found on Thursday morning in their cabin, Puerto Rican media said, citing police.
    The FBI said it was investigating two people found dead on a Caribbean cruise ship docked in Puerto Rico, in what the shipping line called an apparent murder-suicide.
    FBI spokesman Moises Quinones told AFP that the agency was handling the investigation but could not confirm any other details.
    “At approximately 11:30 am local time, two guests onboard MS Ryndam were found deceased in their stateroom in what appears to be a murder-suicide,” cruise line Holland America said.
    “The cabin was immediately secured and the authorities were notified, including the FBI,” it added.
    We are terribly saddened by this tragic event and our thoughts and prayers are with the families and friends of these guests at this difficult time.
    The MS Ryndam, which can carry up to 1,260 passengers and 580 crew members, set sail on March 29 from Tampa, Florida in the United States, for a two-week tour of the Caribbean.

    Read: Paris supermarket hostages sue French media for revealing hiding place 

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    · · ·

    Bigotry, the Bible and the Lessons of Indiana

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    THE drama in Indiana last week and the larger debate over so-called religious freedom laws in other states portray homosexuality and devout Christianity as forces in fierce collision.
    They’re not — at least not in several prominent denominations, which have come to a new understanding of what the Bible does and doesn’t decree, of what people can and cannot divine in regard to God’s will.
    And homosexuality and Christianity don’t have to be in conflict in any church anywhere.
    That many Christians regard them as incompatible is understandable, an example not so much of hatred’s pull as of tradition’s sway. Beliefs ossified over centuries aren’t easily shaken.
    But in the end, the continued view of gays, lesbians and bisexuals as sinners is a decision. It’s a choice. It prioritizes scattered passages of ancient texts over all that has been learned since — as if time had stood still, as if the advances of science and knowledge meant nothing.
    It disregards the degree to which all writings reflect the biases and blind spots of their authors, cultures and eras.
    It ignores the extent to which interpretation is subjective, debatable.
    And it elevates unthinking obeisance above intelligent observance, above the evidence in front of you, because to look honestly at gay, lesbian and bisexual people is to see that we’re the same magnificent riddles as everyone else: no more or less flawed, no more or less dignified.
    Most parents of gay children realize this. So do most children of gay parents. It’s a truth less ambiguous than any Scripture, less complicated than any creed.
    So our debate about religious freedom should include a conversation about freeing religions and religious people from prejudices that they needn’t cling to and can indeed jettison, much as they’ve jettisoned other aspects of their faith’s history, rightly bowing to the enlightenments of modernity.
    “Human understanding of what is sinful has changed over time,” said David Gushee, an evangelical Christian who teaches Christian ethics at Mercer University. He openly challenges his faith’s censure of same-sex relationships, to which he no longer subscribes.
    For a very long time, he noted, “Many Christians thought slavery wasn’t sinful, until we finally concluded that it was. People thought contraception was sinful when it began to be developed, and now very few Protestants and not that many Catholics would say that.” They hold an evolved sense of right and wrong, even though, he added, “You could find scriptural support for the idea that all sex should be procreative.”
    Christians have also moved far beyond Scripture when it comes to gender roles.
    “In the United States, we have abandoned the idea that women are second-class, inferior and subordinate to men, but the Bible clearly teaches that,” said Jimmy Creech, a former United Methodist pastor who was removed from ministry in the church after he performed a same-sex marriage ceremony in 1999. “We have said: That’s a part of the culture and history of the Bible. That is not appropriate for us today.”
    And we could say the same about the idea that men and women in loving same-sex relationships are doing something wrong. In fact the United Church of Christ, the Episcopal Church and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) have said that. So have most American Catholics, in defiance of their church’s teaching.
    And it’s a vital message because of something that Indiana demonstrated anew: Religion is going to be the final holdout and most stubborn refuge for homophobia. It will give license to discrimination. It will cause gay and lesbian teenagers in fundamentalist households to agonize needlessly: Am I broken? Am I damned?
    “Conservative Christian religion is the last bulwark against full acceptance of L.G.B.T. people,” Gushee said.
    Polls back him up. A majority of Americans support marriage equality, including a majority of Catholics and most Jews. But a 2014 survey by the Public Religion Research Institute showed that while 62 percent of white mainline Protestants favor same-sex marriages, only 38 percent of black Protestants, 35 percent of Hispanic Protestants and 28 percent of white evangelical Protestants do.
    And as I’ve written before, these evangelical Protestants wield considerable power in the Republican primaries, thus speaking in a loud voice on the political stage. It’s no accident that none of the most prominent Republicans believed to be contending for the presidency favor same-sex marriage and that none of them joined the broad chorus of outrage over Indiana’s discriminatory religious freedom law. They had the Iowa caucuses and the South Carolina primary to worry about.
    Could this change? There’s a rapidly growing body of impressive, persuasive literature that looks at the very traditions and texts that inform many Christians’ denunciation of same-sex relationships and demonstrates how easily those points of reference can be understood in a different way.
    Gushee’s take on the topic, “Changing Our Mind,” was published late last year. It joined Jeff Chu’s “Does Jesus Really Love Me?” published in 2013, and “Bible, Gender, Sexuality: Reframing the Church’s Debate on Same-Sex Relationships,” by James Brownson, which was published in 2013.
    Then there’s the 2014 book “God and the Gay Christian,” by Matthew Vines, who has garnered significant attention and drawn large audiences for his eloquent take on what the New Testament — which is what evangelicals draw on and point to — really communicates.
    Evaluating its sparse invocations of homosexuality, he notes that there wasn’t any awareness back then that same-sex attraction could be a fundamental part of a person’s identity, or that same-sex intimacy could be an expression of love within the context of a nurturing relationship.
    “It was understood as a kind of excess, like drunkenness, that a person might engage in if they lost all control, not as a unique identity,” Vines told me, adding that Paul’s rejection of same-sex relations in Romans I was “akin to his rejection of drunkenness or his rejection of gluttony.”
    And Vines said that the New Testament, like the Old Testament, outlines bad and good behaviors that almost everyone deems archaic and irrelevant today. Why deem the descriptions of homosexual behavior any differently?
    Creech and Mitchell Gold, a prominent furniture maker and gay philanthropist, founded an advocacy group, Faith in America, which aims to mitigate the damage done to L.G.B.T. people by what it calls “religion-based bigotry.”
    Gold told me that church leaders must be made “to take homosexuality off the sin list.”
    His commandment is worthy — and warranted. All of us, no matter our religious traditions, should know better than to tell gay people that they’re an offense. And that’s precisely what the florists and bakers who want to turn them away are saying to them.
    Read the whole story
    · · · · ·

    Russian middle class watches relative prosperity fade away

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    Andrei Miller's sallow skin and gaunt visage betray a serious affliction as he sits outside an X-ray unit of Tver Regional Hospital, the tattooed fingers of his slender hands gripping a flimsy onion-skin appointment slip like a lifeline.
    The 42-year-old welder has been off work since just after New Year's Day, suffering from a lung disorder that impairs his breathing, clouds his eyesight and leaves him too weak to do more than limp from chair to chair.
    In the time that he has been on disability leave, the buying power of his 20,000-ruble salary has continued to slip; it's now worth about $330 a month, half what it was a year ago. His wife is on maternity leave from a day-care job that will earn them an additional $100 a month when she returns to work this spring, but the needs of their four children haven't yet adjusted to Russia's sudden economic downturn.
    "The girls are teenagers," he says of the two older children, a sense of panic rising as he contemplates his family's shaky financial status. "They need everything — coats, boots, money to go out with their friends. And now we are lucky if we can buy enough food."
    Miller spent 12 hours on trains and buses to get to his fluoroscopy appointment from his home in Bologoye, 150 miles by road from Tver and about halfway between Moscow and St. Petersburg. The main hospital in his hometown lacks the equipment to diagnose his respiratory problem, he said, and cutbacks in rural transportation service have lengthened what was already an all-day undertaking to get to Tver into costly two-day journeys.
    Like many Russians who climbed into an emerging middle class in recent years, Miller is watching his relative prosperity vanish. The plummet in global oil prices since last summer and Western sanctions imposed on Russia over its seizure of Ukrainian territory last year have cut deeply into the national budget, which depends on hydrocarbon exports for more than half of its revenue.
    For Miller, his worsening and still undiagnosed illness amplifies the distress felt by all but the wealthiest Russians. Many in provincial cities like Tver appear ready to ride out the hard times in the short term, fueled by a nationalist euphoria over President Vladimir Putin's defiant posture toward old Cold War adversaries. But those like Miller who have been confronted with the unexpected costs of infirmity are haunted by the prospect of never recovering the modest economic stability to which they had become accustomed.
    Fear for the future is rising in Russian provinces, though anger over declining living conditions seems to remain in check. Many Russians readily accept state-controlled media reports linking their hard times to a purported Saudi-U.S. conspiracy to suppress oil prices and bankrupt Russia.
    Living standards in Moscow have been less affected because of the capital city's concentration of well-heeled government officials and industry captains; the decline in the provinces is more palpable.
    Average income for Russian workers fell over the last year, as layoffs from bloated government payrolls have gradually boosted unemployment. Still low in comparison with most European countries at 5.5%, the jobless rate is nonetheless spreading misery among those who can least bear it.
    Independent economists, Russian and foreign alike, have been warning since the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union that the country needs to diversify its economy from its dependence on oil and gas sales. It is a lesson learned too little and too late in a country where private business growth is stunted by corruption, unpredictable property rights and access to financing dependent on political connections more than a borrower's ability to repay.
    Calls for deep investment of commodity sales income in transportation, technology, manufacturing and support for small businesses have been ignored to the economy's detriment.
    Kremlin budget drafters counted on an oil price of at least $70 a barrel for 2015, leaving the central coffers short of funds to be doled out to political allies in the provinces. Last year, regions got $70 billion more in subsidies from Moscow than they paid into the federal coffers. This year, local and regional governments and state-owned enterprises are struggling to comply with the Kremlin's order that they make across-the-board budget cuts of 10%, exempting only defense spending and some social services such as pensions and healthcare.
    In March, Russian Finance Minister Anton Siluanov said that the crash in oil prices would deprive the treasury of at least $180 billion this year, forcing the government to continue tapping its sovereign wealth fund and hard currency reserves. Last year, the government spent $88 billion to keep the banks liquid and the ruble from losing even more of its value than it did, the Finance Ministry has reported.
    Former Finance Minister Alexei Kudrin warned in late March that Russia would be mired in economic stagnation at least through 2018, and called on Putin to use his outsized popularity — he has a more than 80% approval rating according to Kremlin-allied pollsters — to carry out the costly and painful structural reforms.
    Kudrin earned the respect of his international colleagues during an 11-year stint as the Kremlin's chief economic architect, a term that ended with his 2011 resignation in protest of a defense modernization plan forecast to boost military spending by 44% through 2016.
    Withered by inflation that has doubled over the last year to 15%, the average Russian household income shrank to 31,200 rubles, or about $500, a month, according to statistics released by the Economic Development Ministry in March. That was an 8% drop in ruble income from the previous year, and a 50% plunge in the dollar value of the average salary.
    Food costs are expected to account for at least half of Russians' household spending by the end of this year, the business journal Vedomosti forecast last month.
    Miller, meanwhile, worries that his job will be cut at the military-industrial plant in Bologoye, despite reports that defense producers will be spared from the budget ax. Even if he continues to receive the Russian version of disability compensation, his family is already at the limit of what it can cut from the household budget.
    At this point, the seemingly negligible cost of commuting from home to the hospital here every couple of weeks has to be borrowed, embarrassingly, he says, from relatives who are scarcely better off than he is.
    On this visit, though, he counts himself lucky. Sympathetic nurses have found an empty hospital bed in which he can sleep for the night, after he missed by hours the last bus that would have begun his 12-hour journey home.
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    Former president Fidel Castro appears in public in Cuba

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    Former longtime Cuban president Fidel Castro has appeared in public for the first time in more than a year, official media reported.
    The Cubadebate website says Castro greeted a group of Venezuelans visiting the capital of Havana.
    Cubadebate on Friday published four images that show Castro sitting inside a vehicle, each with a different person stretching an arm through the window to shake his hand. Castro's face is largely obscured by a dark-colored baseball cap. He sports longish gray hair and a beard.
    The website said the encounter occurred Monday, but did not explain the delay in publishing the photos.
    Castro will turn 89 on Aug. 13. He was last seen in public at the inauguration of an artist's studio in January 2014.
    In February and March of this year, official Cuban media published photographs of Castro taken during private meetings with a Cuban student leader, with the Cuban agents who were freed from prison in December, and with Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro.
    Castro stepped aside temporarily as president due to serious illness in July 2006, and his brother Raul took over permanently in February 2008 after he was elected the country's new leader.
    Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times

    Andreas Lubitz suicide sparks MI5 alert over Britain's rogue 'insiders'

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    • Alert issued over rogue workers in nuclear, transport and public services
    • MI5 giving advice on risk posed by employees working in sensitive areas
    • Follows actions of pilot Andreas Lubitz who killed 150 people in the Alps
    • A BA pilot claims his airline does not carry out mental health checks
    Published: 19:09 EST, 4 April 2015 Updated: 07:49 EST, 5 April 2015
    MI5 has issued an alert over the threat posed by rogue workers in Britain’s nuclear, transport and public services after suicide pilot Andreas Lubitz killed 150 people in the Alps plane crash disaster.
    And concerns are so great that one security source has warned: ‘However much physical security you have, if someone is already in there, there’s nothing you can do to stop them committing an act of sabotage or terrorism.’
    MI5 is now giving advice on the risk posed by thousands of employees working in sensitive areas – known as ‘insiders’ – highlighted by the Germanwings disaster.
    Warning: MI5 has issued an alert over the threat posed by rogue workers in Britain’s nuclear, transport and public services after co-pilot Andreas Lubitz killed 150 people in the Alps plane crash disaster
    Co-pilot Andreas Lubitz, who was being treated for depression, was able to override a security system installed on flights following the 9/11 attacks as he flew the aircraft into the ground.
    Guidance issued by the Centre for the Protection of National Infrastructure (CPNI), a security agency accountable to the director general of MI5, recommends continuous psychological assessment of key employees, with the highest priority given to workers whose jobs pose the greatest risk to the public. 
    But a BA pilot, who has been with the company for several years and flies regularly around the world, claimed the airline did not carry out mental health checks.
    The pilot, who did not wish to be named, said: ‘British Airways is more interested in checking whether I have a hernia than mental health.
    ‘There is no testing regarding mental health.’
    A BA spokeswoman refused to discuss details of health checks carried out on pilots.
    The CPNI has identified a number of motives for employees becoming an insider threat, including theft, revenge, a hunger for notoriety, political or religious ideology and fear or coercion, where external pressure is exerted on a worker.
    Rescue workers and investigators work near debris at the crash site of the Germanwings Airbus A320
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    Rescue workers and investigators work near debris at the crash site of the Germanwings Airbus A320
    A CPNI study showed that three-quarters of insider acts were carried out by employees who had no malicious intent when joining the organisation, but whose loyalties changed after recruitment.
    Disturbingly, it also found that in many circumstances the workers had been in their organisation for some years before going rogue.
    Some of the more common insider acts include unauthorised disclosure of information – such as in the case of US whistleblower Edward Snowden – process corruption (where an employee illegitimately alters an internal process for their own ends) and corporate espionage.
    The security source said: ‘Years ago, the emphasis was on external security. Now ‘‘the insider’’ is the growing threat, as seen in the cases of Edward Snowden and Lubitz.
    ‘We advise companies to look closely at their personnel. The higher security clearance they gain over their time of employment, the closer they should be monitored.’

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    Delaware boys still in coma after Virgin Islands holiday poisoning

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    • Steve Esmond, his wife Theresa Divine and their two teenage sons fell seriously ill while staying at the Sirenusa Resort in St. John
    • Divine was released from hospital and is now in occupational therapy 
    • The family's lawyer said the boys are in 'rough shape' 
    • On Friday the US Environmental Protection Agency said preliminary tests showed there was 'a presence of methyl bromide in the unit 
    Published: 21:54 EST, 4 April 2015 Updated: 08:43 EST, 5 April 2015
    Two Delaware boys are in a coma and their father remains unable to move or talk two weeks after the family became sick from possible pesticide exposure during a vacation on the US Virgin Islands, officials say.
    Steve Esmond and his wife, Dr Theresa Devine, and their two teenage sons fell seriously ill during their stay at the Sirenusa Condominium Resort on the island of St. John.
    The family were airlifted to separate hospitals in Philadelphia suffering major respiratory trauma. Sean, 16, and Ryan, 14, were in critical condition. 
    Steve Esmond and his wife, Dr Theresa Devine, and their two teenage sons fell seriously ill during their stay at the Sirenusa Condominium Resort on the island of St. John
    James Maron, the family's lawyer, said the boys were in 'rough shape'. 
    'The family are all fighters,' he told WPBF News. 'They're fighting for everything right now. I understand it's a long recovery.' 
    Maron said Esmond, who is an administrator of the private Tatnall School in Wilmington, is conscious but unable to move. 
    Devine, a dentist, was treated and released from the hospital and is currently in occupational therapy. 
    The Tatnall school, where Sean was a star lacrosse player, posted on their Facebook page that they had the Middle School students write get wall cards for Esmond and his family.
    'The entire Tatnall community continues to direct its supportive energy toward the Esmonds and asks that everyone keep the family in their thoughts and prayers during this difficult time.'
    Tuition at the Tatnall school can range from $20,000 to $25,000 a year. 
    Sean, 16, (pictured) and his 14-year-old brother Ryan remain in comas two weeks after being hospitalized
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    James Maron, the family's lawyer, said the boys were in 'rough shape'
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    Sean, 16, (pictured) and his 14-year-old brother Ryan remain in comas two weeks after being hospitalized
    On Friday a spokesman from the US Environmental Protection agency said that the family may have fallen ill because of the presence of a pesticide at the rented villa. 
    Elias Rodriguez said preliminary tests showed there was 'a presence of methyl bromide in the unit where the family was staying'. 
    Methyl Bromide, which is odorless, can be fatal or cause serious damage to the central nervous system and respiratory system, according to the EPA. 
    It is acutely toxic, and only permitted to be used outdoors by certified professionals in the US. 
    Rodriguez said the investigation is 'ongoing' and the agency is still on the island for testing. 
    The family was staying at the $875-a-night  Sirenusa Condominium Resort on St. John in the US Virgin Islands
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    The family was staying at the $875-a-night Sirenusa Condominium Resort on St. John in the US Virgin Islands
    'We have been doing different types of air sampling and wipe sampling,' he said. 
    Sea Glass Vacations, which acts as a rental agent for several units at Sirenusa Condominium Resort, said the unit where the family was staying was not treated with a pesticide, but rather the unit immediately below their suite. 
    Maron said when paramedics arrived at the villa Esmond was found unconscious. 
    His sons and wife were having seizures. 
    The US Department of Justice has initiated a criminal investigation into the matter 
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    On Friday the US Environmental Protection agency said preliminary tests showed there was 'a presence of methyl bromide in the unit where the family was staying' 

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    Yemen's Houthis Ready for Talks: Senior Member

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    "We still stand by our position on dialogue and we demand its continuation despite everything that has happened, on the basis of respect and acknowledging the other," Sammad said.
    "We have no conditions except a halt to the aggression and sitting on the dialogue table within a specific time period ... and any international or regional parties that have no aggressive positions towards the Yemeni people can oversee the dialogue," Sammad said, without specifying who they might be.
    Sammad added that he wanted the dialogue sessions aired to the Yemeni people "so that they can know who is the obstructer.”
    Meanwhile, the Houthi rebels have gained ground in the southern city of Aden, despite airstrikes targeting the group's strongholds.
    The rebel forces reportedly advanced to near the port of Mualla, which is defended by militiamen of "popular committees" loyal to President Hadi.
    Residents reported hearing sporadic gunfire and blasts of rocket-propelled grenades.
    Summer Nasser, a human rights activist and blogger, told Al Jazeera that she had to leave her home in Aden because of the fighting. 
    "Conditions are devastating actually. We've heard shelling by Houthis on homes, civilians killed. There's no electricity, water. I feel like the humanitarian crisis in Aden is actually getting worse by the hour," she said. 
    Television footage purports to show coalition warships bombing Houthi ammunition supply lines and depots from sea.
    Aden, the last foothold of supporters of Hadi, has been shaken by more than a week of fierce clashes between the Shia rebels and Hadi loyalists.
    At least 185 dead and 1,282 wounded from the clashes have been counted in hospitals in Aden since March 26, the city's health department director al-Kheder Lassouar said on Saturday. The United Nations says more than 500 people have been killed in the past two weeks in Yemen and nearly 1,700 wounded.
    Saudi Arabia's King Salman was quoted as saying Monday that the kingdom was also ready for a political meeting of Yemeni parties, under the auspices of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC). Five out of the six GCC member states are part of the military coalition bombing which is bombing the Houthis.
    Houthi fighters seized the capital Sanaa six months ago and last month launched an offensive on the south, backed by army units loyal to longtime ruler Ali Abdullah Saleh.
    That prompted Saudi Arabia to launch a campaign of airstrikes on March 26 alongside regional Sunni Muslim Arab allies.
    The conflict has turned Yemen into another front in Sunni Muslim Saudi Arabia's proxy war with Shia rival Iran, a struggle which is also playing out in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq.
    Tehran denies Riyadh's charges that its arms the Houthis, and Sammad dismissed the accusations as rumors. "Even if there was Iranian support as is being said, it is not an excuse for this flagrant aggression," he said.
    Sammad denied the Houthis want control of the south, home to a long-running secessionist movement, and said they were focused on confronting the threat from Al-Qaeda.
    "The sons of the south will run their own affairs, and they will have the more prominent role in the coming political scene," he said.
    Al Jazeera and wire services 
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    Aggression, not just depression, led copilot to crash plane, experts say

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    Mental health experts say that it was aggression — not just depression — that would have driven 27-year-old Andreas Lubitz to deliberately crash a Germanwings airliner into a mountainside, the copilot breathing evenly as passengers screamed and the plane's frantic captain pounded helplessly on the cockpit door.
    Unless investigators recognize the toxic role of aggression and hostility in some patients' depression, they say, such troubled individuals will continue to elude detection — to the public's peril.
    Lubitz's history of depression, acknowledged by his employer in the days after the March 24 crash of the Airbus A320 with 150 people aboard, left many mental health professionals in the United States openly skeptical that Lubitz's psychological troubles stopped there. In the parade of garden-variety depressives they see, psychiatrists and psychologists often hear about the physical symptoms of mental distress: sleep problems, stomachaches, even changes in vision. They routinely see sadness, guilt and hostility.
    But a murder-suicide on this scale, they said, requires an explanation that goes beyond a simple diagnosis of depression.
    "We need to stop talking as if this was a suicidal guy with access to an airplane," said Dr. Jeff Victoroff, a neuropsychiatrist at USC's Keck School of Medicine and a leading researcher on aggression. "This was a murderous guy who probably had elements of a mood disorder and personality disorders."
    "People who have depression alone are much, much more likely to bring harm to themselves alone," said Dr. Steven E. Pitt, a forensic psychiatrist who consults with the Phoenix Police Department and conducted the Columbine Psychiatric Autopsy Project after the 1999 high school shootings in Colorado. "There has to be a maladaptive character defect, a character disorder here."
    Sketchy reports of Lubitz's behavior in the weeks before the crash have hinted at some of the emotional distortion and likely underlying mental illness that may have motivated him, several forensic psychiatrists said in interviews. Though a full diagnosis cannot come from such bits of information, they are piecing together Lubitz's history of depression, possibly heightened by an unraveling romantic relationship and a perceived threat to his career: vision problems.
    In the preliminary accounts of Lubitz's life before he killed himself and 149 others, they see a highly unstable and emotionally sensitive young adult who probably felt his world was coming apart.
    A well-designed personality inventory alone — the kind of detailed questionnaire used by many employers —probably would have flagged traits that diverged dramatically from the standard profile of a pilot: emotionally stable, resilient and self-disciplined. To have declared Lubitz "100% fit to fly," as Lufthansa Chief Executive Carsten Spohr initially did, "was like pronouncing the Titanic unsinkable just after it's hit the bottom of the ocean," Victoroff said.
    The German newspaper Bild reported last week that Lubitz, despite fearing for his job, had purchased two expensive cars in recent weeks. The paper reported that Lubitz tried to give one of the two cars to Kathrin Goldbach, his girlfriend of seven years, in a bid to cement their failing relationship. Another German press report cited a former girlfriend saying that Lubitz told her, "One day, I will do something that will change the whole system, and then all will know my name and remember it."
    Such details offer evidence of what mental health professionals call a "disordered personality" coming undone. With the right tools, they said, the danger he posed might have been identified and stopped.
    "This is a mass-murder/suicide," said Victoroff. "It appears to have been premeditated. And it was preventable."
    Lubitz's apparently intentional act bears little resemblance to virtually all of the roughly 41,000 suicides that took place in the U.S. in 2013, experts said. Rather, they say, it more closely — in all but the weapon used — resembled the acts of Seung-hui Cho and Adam Lanza, who carried out mass killings at Virginia Tech in 2007 and at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., in 2012.
    The perpetrators of these mass murders were intent on taking their own lives, according to the notes they left behind. Though as many as 90% of suicides are thought to be impulsive acts, the murder-suicide is virtually never impulsive, said Florida State University psychologist Thomas Joiner, author of "The Perversion of Virtue: Understanding Murder-Suicide."
    Joiner says murder-suicides, which he estimates claim the lives of 1,000 to 1,500 in the United States each year, are almost always the result of extensive rumination, planning and self-justification. In cases where the perpetrator expects the death toll to be high, he said, that is especially so.
    "Two things we're deeply afraid of in our bones: One is death, the other is killing, and these kinds of events combine those very scary thoughts into one act," he said. "That takes all the more planning. We're just not wired that way, and it's hard to overcome that wiring."
    Overwhelming that wiring requires a perpetrator to recast his actions as a means to more virtuous end, said Joiner, who cited mercy, justice, duty and glory as common justifications. By this reasoning, a jilted lover must kill himself and his beloved because he reasons she will be unhappy without him; a parent committing suicide must take her children with her, lest they be left alone; or a government's actions must be avenged.
    Those willing to kill others when taking their own lives are generally male and are extremely hostile, psychiatrists say. Most have a history of mental anguish that may extend back to childhood.
    In personality assessments and in sessions with mental health professionals, they also tend to exhibit callousness and narcissism. They often have an inflated view of themselves and their powers, and a powerful sense of entitlement.
    In manifestoes and personal accounts they leave behind, their sense of victimhood — and their vengeful drive to punish their tormentors — are common themes, experts say. And yet, they wish to be remembered for a grand and even glorious accomplishment.
    Much of that is evident only in hindsight.
    "Everyone wants us to believe this guy had a sign around his neck saying 'I'm depressed, I'm angry, and I'm ready to commit murder-suicide,' that it's that obvious," said Pitt. "The reality is that it's seldom that obvious.... These people, while troubled, can seemingly hold it together for a protracted period of time and not raise any substantive red flags till it's too late."
    But Pitt said the lessons of hindsight are increasingly informing the ability of forensic psychiatrists and psychologists to spot red flags.
    "How you tell the difference" between depressed and dangerous, said Pitt, "is where the art meets the science."
    But experts are also guided by an increasing body of science.
    Researchers are beginning to discern physical markers that suggest an individual's propensity to harm himself and others. Recent studies have linked low levels of the "feel good" neurotransmitter serotonin and the hormone oxytocin to a propensity for suicide as well as aggressive behavior.
    Neuroscientists have also identified a small number of differences in the structure and wiring of key brain regions that distinguish extremely violent offenders. Victoroff said such abnormalities in the brain's prefrontal cortex — the seat of planning, initiative, self-control and social judgment — and in connections between the prefrontal cortex and brain structures responsible for emotional regulation and threat response could be detected on a magnetic resonance imaging scan that could be conducted at any community hospital.
    Genetic science is also increasingly yielding clues about a propensity for aggression. In October, researchers canvassing a large prison population in Finland identified two sites on the genome that might serve as red flags for extremely violent behavior. One genetic variation they found was almost three times more common in prisoners convicted of 10 or more violent crimes than it was in a large comparison group of non-offenders.
    Collectively, experts predict that a panel of such biomarkers — augmented by a psychiatrist's examination and by personality inventories that can help detect subterfuge and distorted thinking — might someday be used to keep problematic employees from positions in which they hold others' lives in their hands.
    Though it's too late to conduct an MRI scan of Lubitz's brain, Victoroff said, a licked envelope or a hair left behind might reveal the presence of such a genetic red flag.
    Experts acknowledge that predicting whether an individual is on a path toward suicide, violent behavior — or both — is anything but simple. And efforts to do so are likely to draw resistance from employee, privacy and civil liberties advocates.
    Victoroff contends that such tools should be used where public safety is at stake.
    "We don't want to pull people out of their careers for minor personal quirks, or even having had an episode of depression," Victoroff said. "But the combination of problems this guy was exhibiting was too much."
    Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
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    Pro-Russian Rebels Kill 6 Troops in East Ukraine

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    At least six Ukrainian servicemen were killed in separatist attacks on Sunday in Ukraine's troubled eastern regions in a grim weekend marking the first anniversary of a rebellion against Kyiv's pro-Western rulers.
    Four Ukrainian soldiers died when their vehicle was hit by a shell fired by the Russian-backed rebels as it drove across a bridge in the government-held town of Schastye, 170 kilometers (105 miles) northeast of the big regional center of Donetsk, regional police said.
    In a separate incident less than an hour later, a landmine exploded under a military vehicle at Shyrokyne, east of the Sea of Azov city of Mariupol, killing two soldiers and injuring a third, a military spokesman said on the TV channel 112.
    The new casualties, which followed the deaths of three Ukrainian servicemen in a landmine explosion on Saturday, put further strain on a tenuous cease-fire struck two months ago.
    The conflict erupted a year ago this weekend when rebels opposed to a new pro-Western leadership in Kyiv and the ousting of a Moscow-backed president occupied state buildings in two big cities of Ukraine's Russian-speaking east, Donetsk and Luhansk.
    More than 6,000 civilians, rebels and Ukrainian servicemen have been killed since then in a crisis in which Kyiv has accused its former Soviet master of arming and supporting the rebels and the West - backing Ukraine - has brought economic and financial sanctions against Russia.
    The crisis has now reached stalemate with a cease-fire, brokered by Ukraine, Russia, Germany and France in mid-February still technically in force though deaths are reported almost daily among Ukrainian soldiers, civilians and rebels.
    But large swaths of the industrialized east, including the cities of Donetsk and Luhansk, are under the control of the rebels and Kyiv fears they could be preparing to try to take Mariupol, a city of a half-million people.
    Under an agreement reached in Minsk, Belarus, the warring sides have pulled back heavy military equipment to put their big guns out of range of each other and are working on extending the withdrawal to include tanks and smaller-caliber weapons.
    But the status of the separatist-controlled regions, remains disputed, and the rebels appear unlikely to allow Ukrainian elections to be held there later this year.
    Both sides accuse each other of violating the cease-fire agreed in Minsk despite the pull-back of heavy weapons.
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    Tortoise tries to mate with his partner but falls onto his back

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    • Pictures show the laugh out loud moment loved up tortoise takes a tumble
    • Photographed at Kiev Zoo, he falls flat on his back while trying to mate
    • There are no second chances for the reptile who is left all alone in the mud
    Published: 03:58 EST, 5 April 2015 Updated: 10:19 EST, 5 April 2015
    These hilarious images show the moment a frisky tortoise scupper his chances while trying to mate with a female.
    Clearly in the mood for love, the aroused reptile is seen beginning its painstakingly slow ascent on to the back of a female's shell.
    But instead of getting lucky, the blundering tortoise somehow manages to lose its balance, sending it toppling over onto its back.
    The moment things go south: The loved up male tortoise is seen here teetering before he falls on the ground
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    The moment things go south: The loved up male tortoise is seen here teetering before he falls on the ground
    Shell we just leave it then? He gets no second chances and after failing to impress his mate and she leaves
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    Shell we just leave it then? He gets no second chances and after failing to impress his mate and she leaves
    Talk about lying down on the job -the poor fella looked positively 'shell-shocked' as it found itself on its back unable to get up.
    The amusing moment was caught on camera, by Ukranian photographer, Vadym Shevchenko, 34, at Kiev Zoo.
    And it seems the female tortoise wasn't willing to wait around as she was pictured leaving the clumsy Casanova on its back, in the mud.

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    And to add insult to injury, he then had to spend a whole fifteen minutes desperately crawling across the grass of its enclosure before finally getting up.
    Vadym said: 'The tortoise seemed very eager to make his way over to the female, he was still incredibly slow but it was clear he had a purpose.
    'Watching the tortoise attempt to mount the female was almost painful to watch, it took him so long, but we were all sort of curious to see what would happen.
    The tortoise casanovca made painfully slow progress in getting into position with his mate in the first place
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    The tortoise casanovca made painfully slow progress in getting into position with his mate in the first place
    Photographer Vadym Shevchenko said the tortoise seemed very determined even if he was unsuccessful
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    Photographer Vadym Shevchenko said the tortoise seemed very determined even if he was unsuccessful
    'It looked about ready to start but then lost its balance when the female moved, which sent it it rolling onto its back, it really was very funny.
    'It landed in a patch of mud behind him and its arms and legs were kicking quite frantically.
    'The tortoise was wedged in the small patch of mud, I don't think it would been able to get back onto its feet without some help.
    Flat on his back, the tortoise lost his balance when the female moved away -  and he had to scrabble in the mud
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    Flat on his back, the tortoise lost his balance when the female moved away -  and he had to scrabble in the mud
    She wasn't too upset though and went to find some food, leaving her unfortunate partner flailing on the ground
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    She wasn't too upset though and went to find some food, leaving her unfortunate partner flailing on the ground
    'The female didn't seem to upset and she quickly moved off in search of food.
    'I felt pretty sorry for the little guy, it tried so hard but failed at the last hurdle.
    'It makes me wonder how they have stayed alive for so many millions of years.
    'Seeing its face struggling in the mud was priceless, I always laugh out loud when I look back at these photographs.' 

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    Despicable Me."I'm having a bad,bad day" - YouTube

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    Uploaded on Jun 11, 2011
    Despicable Me."I'm having a bad,bad day" :)

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