Inflation Is Back: Biggest Increase In 4 Years

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Inflation Is Back: Biggest Increase In 4 Years

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NEW YORK — Inflation is on the rise and driving the biggest price increases seen in four years.

Inflation rose .6 percent in January, the highest one-month increase since February 2013, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics’ Consumer Price Index. Over the previous 12 months, prices were up 2.5 percent.

“Consumer prices have gained momentum in recent months,” Chris Christopher, an economist at IHS Global Insight, told CNBC. “This is not the best thing in the world for lower-income households living paycheck to paycheck.”

The price of gasoline has helped drive the increase. The gas index increased 7.8 percent in January and the overall energy index was up 4.0 percent.

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Among other highlights in the report:

  • Transportation prices rose by 2.2 percent.
  • Clothing prices rose by 1.4 percent.
  • Prices for nondurable consumer goods increased by 1.2 percent.
  • Prices for commodities (raw materials) increased by one percent.
  • Prices for all consumer goods increased by .6 percent.
  • Medical care prices increased by 3.2 percent.

The speed at which inflation is growing has more than doubled in the last year, rising from .3 percent to .7 percent, Market Mad House reported. Steen Jakobsen of Denmark’s Saxo Bank believes inflation could be much higher by the end of the year. He predicted that prices for Bitcoin, which many investors use to protect their assets from inflation, might increase by 165 percent by the end of 2017.

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Warren Buffett Just Sold $900 Million In Walmart Stock – What Does He Know That We Don’t?

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Warren Buffett Just Sold $900 Million In Walmart Stock – What Does He Know That We Don't?

NEW YORK — America’s most successful investor is among those who think the nation is on the verge of a “retail apocalypse” that might devastate hundreds of communities.

Warren Buffett has sold almost all of his Walmart stock, which was worth $900 million, Business Insider reported. Buffett had been a major investor in the world’s largest retailer.

Buffett seems to be among those who believe that traditional brick and mortar retailers cannot compete with Amazon. He started selling his Walmart shares last year after calling the ecommerce giant “a big, big force” that “has already disrupted plenty of people, and it will disrupt more.”

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Buffett has been investing in Amazon since 2003, when he bought $98.3 million worth of that company’s junk bonds.

Traders tend to watch Buffett’s financial moves. Twelve years ago he predicted the problems Sears and Kmart are now having. Sears, the owner of Kmart, is in the process of closing 196 stores because of massive losses. In 2005, Buffett told University of Kansas students that Sears’ acquisition of Kmart would fail.

He also predicted the problems that many department store operators are having. Macy’s is planning to close 68 stores, and retail analysts expect J.C. Penney to start closing stores soon because of poor sales.

Walmart eliminated 7,000 accounting and invoicing positions in its stores last year and will lay off around 1,000 people at its headquarters in Bentonville, Ark., this year.

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A Russian Spy Ship, Armed With Missiles, Sailed Just 30 Miles Off The U.S. Coast This Week

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A Russian Spy Ship, Armed With Missiles, Sailed Just 30 Miles Off The U.S. Coast This Week

WASHINGTON — A Russian spy ship armed with surface-to-air missiles patrolled just 30 miles off the coast of Groton, Conn., Tuesday morning, just days after Russian warplanes buzzed a U.S. warship in the Black Sea.

Such moves were common during the Cold War but have occurred more frequently in recent years.

The spy ship was a SSV-175 Viktor Leonov and was in international waters; the U.S. territory is at 12 nautical miles.

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Even more ominous was the buzzing of the destroyer USS Porter in the Black Sea by four Russian warplanes on Feb. 10. The planes, which included three SU-24 attack jets, came in “low and fast” and passed within 200 yards of the Porter, a military official told Fox News.

“There were several incidents involving multiple Russian aircraft,” Navy Captain Danny Hernandez, a spokesman for the European Command, told The Washington Free Beacon. “They were assessed by the commanding officer as unsafe and unprofessional.”

But Russia’s most aggressive move came at home, where it deployed nuclear-armed SSC-X-8 cruise missiles, in direct violation of the 1987 Intermediate Range Nuclear Forces Treaty or INF Treaty, The New York Times reported.

A cruise missile can easily evade most defenses by flying low to the ground. After President Ronald Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev signed the INF Treaty, the U.S. and the USSR destroyed most of their cruise missiles.

That action might indicate that Russian President Vladimir Putin feels he is no longer bound by Soviet-era treaties.

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Gov’t Pressures Doctors To Ask: ‘Do You Own A Gun?’

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Gov’t Pressures Doctors To Ask: ‘Do You Own A Gun?’

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BOSTON — Your doctor might ask if you own a gun and lecture you on firearm safety if the state attorney general and the Massachusetts Medical Society get their way.

“Gun violence is a major public health threat and physicians can play a key role in curbing the violence by educating patients about the risks of gun ownership and encouraging our colleagues to talk to their patients,” James Gessner, the president of the Massachusetts Medical Society, told reporters Monday. “We are honored to work with the Attorney General and law enforcement officials in efforts to make gun ownership safer and reduce deaths and injuries attributable to guns.”

Gessner and Massachusetts Attorney General Maura Healey, a Democrat, unveiled an initiative designed to have doctors ask patients about gun ownership. It is part of a partnership between Healey’s office and the Massachusetts Medical Society.

“While the vast majority of gun owners are responsible and deeply committed to gun safety, this remains a public health issue, and conversations between patients and health care providers are critically important to preventing gun-related injury and death,” Healey said.

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Gov’t Pressures Doctors To Ask: ‘Do You Own A Gun?’

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The program has the support of two groups representing the states’ police chiefs.

“Many households in our country have guns, but they can cause harm if not handled properly,” said Chief James DiGianvittorio, president of the Massachusetts Chiefs of Police Association. “We require the bearer of a license to carry a permit to take required safety course, however, many times other family members have no formal training. This program will at the very least open the door to conversations between physicians and patients on the risk factors associated with firearms-related injuries.”

Under the proposed policy, doctors would not report gun owners to cops. Instead, they would simply talk to them about gun safety.

“That’s why Boston Medical Center is so pleased to participate in the development of this training to help physicians talk to their patients about the safe handling and storage of guns. As a health care community, we are fully committed to ending gun violence in Massachusetts, starting in every home, and in every doctor’s visit,” said Kate Walsh, the president and CEO of Boston Medical Center.

The first step in the program will be to distribute pamphlets telling doctors about gun safety, a press release from Healey’s office stated.

“Most medical professionals believe that they can have an important role in preventing gun-related injury and death, and yet screening and counseling about guns remain uncommon,” Healey said.

The goal, she said, is to prevent gun-related accidents, self-harm and violence.

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An American City Banned Gun Ranges. Guess Which One?

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An American City Banned Gun Ranges. Guess Which One?

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WASHINTON — Second Amendment advocates won a major victory in Chicago last month when the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals struck down a city ordinance that restricted shooting ranges to industrial areas.

The city earlier had passed an outright ban on gun ranges, but that was struck down in 2010.

Chicago officials defended their new law by arguing that gun ranges attract gun thieves, cause airborne lead contamination and carry a risk of fire. The court disagreed.

“The city has provided no evidentiary support for these claims, nor has it established that limiting shooting ranges to manufacturing districts and distancing them from the multiple and various uses listed in the buffer-zone rule has any connection to reducing these risks,” the court ruled in its opinion.

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The court also ruled that a provision that prevented anyone under 18 from entering a shooting range was unconstitutional.

“The City’s primary defense of the age-18 limitation is to argue that minors have no Second Amendment rights at all,” the opinion in Rhonda Ezell v. City of Chicago stated. “To support this sweeping claim, the City points to some nineteenth-century state laws prohibiting firearm possession by minors and prohibiting firearm sales to minors.

“… Banning anyone under age 18 from entering a firing range prevents older adolescents and teens from accessing adult-supervised firearm instruction in the controlled setting of a range. There’s zero historical evidence that firearm training for this age group is categorically unprotected. At least the City hasn’t identified any, and we’ve found none ourselves.”

Earlier Case

The Ezell case arose after the Supreme Court struck down Chicago ordinances banning shooting ranges and criminalizing handguns in a 2010 case called McDonald v. City of Chicago. The city tried to do an end-run around that ruling with a complicated scheme of zoning regulations designed to make it unprofitable to run a shooting range.

Among other things, the regulations specified that ranges could only be in areas zoned for manufacturing and had to be a specific distance from homes, schools and places of worship. That meant ranges could only be constructed in 2.2 percent of the city, virtually making it impossible to open a new shooting range.

“This severely limits Chicagoans’ Second Amendment right to maintain proficiency in firearm use via target practice at a range,” the Seventh Circuit ruled.

The case is attracting attention because Diane Sykes, who wrote the majority opinion, was on President Trump’s short list for U.S. Supreme Court candidates, the Associated Press reported.

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6th-Graders Taught Islam; Told It ‘Is A Religion Of Peace’; Parents Upset At School Officials

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6th-Graders Taught That Islam ‘Is A Religion Of Peace’; Parents Upset At School Officials

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SUMMERVILLE, S.C. — Some parents of middle school students in a South Carolina school are upset with a social studies curriculum that requires sixth-graders to learn the Five Pillars of Islam and affirm that Islam “is a religion of peace.”

“Allah: There is no god but Him, the Living, the Eternal One. Neither slumber nor sleep overtakes him,” was one of the passages listed on a fill-in-the-blanks worksheet, EAGnews.org reported.

The local TV station, WCSC, also covered the controversy at Alston Middle School in Summerville.

The lessons are part of a class called the Survey of Civilization.

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One fill-in-the-blank question included the statement “Islam is a religion of _____.” The correct answer was “peace.”

Among other fill-in-the-blanks:

  • “If I believe in Islam, I am called a _____.” (Muslim.)
  • “In the Islamic religion, we call God _____. (Allah.)
  • “I feel ___ that a few people of my religion committed terrorist acts. I do not believe in terrorists’ idea of a ‘holy war.’” (Bad.)

The Five Pillars of Islam are a basic expression of the Islamic faith. They include reciting the Muslim profession of faith, daily prayers (Salat), alms giving (Zakat), fasting during Ramadan, and a pilgrimage to Mecca.

A group of parents want the lessons stopped.

“Our concern is that if they need permission to teach sexual education, they should be getting permission to teach religious values,” an unidentified mother told WCSC.

The school is defending the lesson.

“Worksheets on all these features of a civilization are used as teaching tools, including all religions involved,” Patricia Raynor, a spokeswoman for the Dorchester District II Schools, said. “One of the next civilizations beings studied in the course will be ancient Rome that will include the study of Christianity. South Carolina curriculum standards specify the material covered in this study of civilizations. This curriculum is taught in all school districts in South Carolina.”

There have been complaints about similar curriculum in other school districts. In 2015, Pastor Greg Locke of Global Mission Bible Church alleged that students in Mt. Juliet, Tenn., were being subjected to “Islamic indoctrination.”

Among other things, Locke said that students were tested on Islam on the 14th anniversary of the Sept. 11 terror attacks, EAGnews.org reported.

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Gorsuch Once Sided With A Student Arrested For Making Fake Burps. His Dissent Was Epic.

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A Student Was Arrested For Fake Burp Sounds ... And Gorsuch Sided With Him

WASHINGTON — President Trump’s first U.S. Supreme Court nominee, federal appeals court judge Neil Gorsuch, has received high marks from conservatives and now is being applauded for demonstrating common sense in a 2016 ruling.

Gorsuch was the lone dissenter in a case that dealt with a 13-year-old boy who was arrested at a New Mexico school for making fake burb noises. Although two justices on the 10th Circuit ruled that the school was within its rights to do what it did, Gorsuch dissented and said the arrest never should have been made.

According to the court’s decision, the teacher reported that the student had “generated several fake burps, which made the other students laugh and hampered class proceedings.” She put him in the hallways, but he then “leaned into the classroom entranceway and continued to burp and laugh,” according to the teacher.

The teacher contacted a school police officer, who arrested the boy on interfering with the educational process.

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The mother sued, arguing the police officer had used excessive force and had made an unlawful arrest. Gorsuch sided with the mom.

“If a seventh grader starts trading fake burps for laughs in gym class, what’s a teacher to do?” he asked in his dissent. “Order extra laps? Detention? A trip to the principal’s office? Maybe. But then again, maybe that’s too old school. Maybe today you call a police officer. And maybe today the officer decides that, instead of just escorting the now compliant thirteen year old to the principal’s office, an arrest would be a better idea. So out come the handcuffs and off goes the child to juvenile detention. My colleagues suggest the law permits exactly this option and they offer ninety-four pages explaining why they think that’s so. Respectfully, I remain unpersuaded.”

Other courts, Gorsuch wrote, also ruled that it takes more than childish antics to spark an arrest.

“The simple fact is the New Mexico Court of Appeals long ago alerted law enforcement that the statutory language on which the officer relied for the arrest in this case does not criminalize ‘noise[s] or diversion[s]’ that merely ‘disturb the peace or good order’ of individual classes. … Instead, the court explained, the law requires ‘a more substantial, more physical invasion’ of the school’s operations — proof that the student more ‘substantially interfered’ with the ‘actual functioning’ of the school. … What’s more, other state courts have interpreted similar statutes similarly. They’ve sustained criminal convictions for students who created substantial disorders across an entire school. But they’ve also refused to hold students criminally liable for classroom antics that ‘momentarily divert[ed] attention from the planned classroom activity” and ‘require[d] some intervention by a school official.’”

The case is A.M. v. Holmes.

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Mom Arrested, Loses Children Because They’re Homeschooled

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Mom Arrested, Loses Children Because They're Homeschooled

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BUFFALO, N.Y. — A single mother claims she was arrested and lost custody of her children after she opted to homeschool them, even though she turned in the proper paperwork.

The controversy began in December when Kiarre Harris filed paperwork with the Buffalo (N.Y.) Public Schools, notifying officials that she would be homeschooling. She was concerned her two children – in elementary school – were in a failing system.

“I spoke directly to the homeschool coordinator and she told me from this point on my children were officially un-enrolled from school,” Harris told 7 Eyewitness News in Buffalo.

But a week later, someone from Child Protective Services (CPS) called and asked why her children were not in school.

“I told them that my kids were homeschooled now and that I could furnish the documents if they need to see them,” said Harris, who showed the documents to 7 Eyewitness News. The district stamped the paperwork on Dec. 7, indicating the district had received it.

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She thought everything was OK, but less than a month later, CPS, accompanied by police, showed up at her home.

“They said, ‘It’s too late now to show these papers. The judge has already made the order. We have to take your children.’”

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Harris demanded to see the judge’s order and told CPS officials and police that she would not allow them to take her children. She was then arrested for obstructing justice. The court summons was for child neglect.

She hasn’t seen her children in three weeks, the TV station reported.

Buffalo Councilman Ulysees O. Wingo Sr. called her arrest “utterly unacceptable.”

“Someone, somewhere messed up, and that someone needs to face the music,” he said at the council meeting Tuesday. “… Did anyone from the school reach out to the mother? We don’t know. It’s very important for us to look at the details and get all of the details.”

Franklin Redd, a representative of the District Parent Coordinating Council, said none of it “should have happened.” DPCC is the independent parent organization for Buffalo Public Schools.

“Someone along the way, anywhere in the process after Dec. 7, should have simply said, ‘Wait a minute, CPS should not be in here,’ the principal should have been circled back to and (told) these students were unenrolled,” Redd told the TV station.

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Californians Are Stockpiling Ammo; Sales Skyrocketing; Buyers Fear Shortage

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Californians Are Stockpiling Ammo; Sales Skyrocketing; Buyers Fear Shortage

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SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Ammunition sales in California have exploded ahead of the state’s rigid new gun control laws – and they won’t take effect for at least a year.

“In the last quarter, we saw a 33 percent [rise] in our ammunition sales and that’s projected to go up,” Monique Hall of Poway Weapons and Gear Range told San Diego’s CW6 TV.

On Jan. 1, 2018, a new law will take effect that restricts online ammunition purchases by requiring that all ammo sales or transfers be shipped through a licensed dealer. Ammunition purchased from out-of-state companies also will have to go through a California dealer.

Then, on July 1, 2019, a new law will take effect requiring background checks for all ammunition purchases.

The concern among gun owners: Ammo will be scarce and more expensive, as people stockpile it and stores get out of the ammo business.

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“We’re selling a lot more ammunition right now,” Patrick Jones, owner of Jones’ Fort gun store in Redding, told The Sacramento Bee. “And we will continue to do so up until the time the registration kicks in.”

All total, about a dozen new gun-related laws are taking effect in California, either this year or in 2018 or 2019. Confusion over which law takes effect when has impacted sales.

“I’ve definitely been picking up a little more than I typically would,” target shooter Mark Ball told The Bee. “I do worry about – not so much about supply but prices. The fact California has these extra rules in place, what’s that going to be like?”

The new laws impose a $1 fee on each ammunition purchase to cover the cost of the background checks, and buyers will need an ammo license, which could cost as much as $50 under the law. (The price has yet to be finalized.)

Another fear is that large retailers like Walmart will stop selling ammunition in California, simply wanting to avoid the hassle, The Bee reported. It stopped selling guns in 2003 for a similar reason.

If large retailers get out of the ammunition business, prices likely would skyrocket due to a lack of competition. And if smaller stores decide not to sell ammo, it could force gun owners to drive long distances to buy it.

“It definitely makes it difficult for a guy or gal up, say, in the Susanville area, or Alturas, or someplace remote like that to get to a big-box store, and then especially if your big-box store is in Reno and you’ve got to cross the state line,” David Bess, the chief of enforcement at California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife, told the newspaper.

Bess, too, is stocking up.

“I was just over at a place the other day, and I was in there with my boys,” he said. “I saw some (ammunition I needed), and I said, ‘Hey, grab as much of that stuff as they’ll allow us to buy.”

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Conservative Legend Warns: War ‘Quite Possible’ If Trump Doesn’t Stop Rattling ‘Saber’

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Conservative Legend Warns: War ‘Quite Possible’ If Trump Doesn’t Stop Rattling 'Saber'

WASHINGTON — President Trump’s administration is making a mistake in its interaction with Iran and potentially setting the stage for war, famed conservative pundit Patrick J. Buchanan is warning.

“[The] White House statement makes a collision with Iran almost unavoidable; and a war with Iran quite possible,” Buchanan wrote at WorldNetDaily, referencing a statement by National Security Advisor Michael T. Flynn on Feb. 1.

Following Iran’s ballistic missile test launch, Flynn said during a White House press briefing he was “officially putting Iran on notice,” claiming Iran was violating a U.N. Security Council resolution.

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Flynn did not elaborate.

“Iran is playing with fire” Trump tweeted on Feb. 3, and “they don’t appreciate how kind President Obama was to them. Not me!”

Wrote Buchanan, “A 2015 U.N. resolution ‘called upon’ Iran not to test nuclear-capable missiles. It did not forbid Iran from testing conventional missiles, which Tehran insists this was.”

Buchanan – a strong backer of Trump during the election – also was troubled by U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson’s comments about China’s building of artificial islands in what an international court called international waters.

“We’re going to have to send China a clear signal that first, the island-building stops, and second, your access to those islands is also not going to be allowed,” Tillerson said during his U.S. Senate confirmation hearing.

Buchanan predicted that the words and actions by the White House could lead to conflict.

“High among the reasons that many supported Trump was his understanding that George W. Bush blundered horribly in launching an unprovoked and unnecessary war on Iraq,” Buchanan wrote at WorldNetDaily.

“Unlike the other candidates, Trump seemed to recognize this. It was thought he would disengage us from these wars, not rattle a saber at an Iran that is three times the size of Iraq and has as its primary weapons supplier and partner Vladimir Putin’s Russia.

“… Neither the Ayatollah Khamenei nor Trump appears to be in a mood to back away, especially now that the president has made the threat public.”

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His Driver’s License Had A Tear. So Police Fined Him $465

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His Driver’s License Had A Tear. So Police Fined Him $465

Image source: Dave Balay

An Alberta man is facing a $465 fine because there was a crack in his driver’s license.

An Edmonton police officer delivered the ticket and fine to Dave Balay during a routine traffic stop that was so shocking that Balay soon took to social media.

Like any responsible citizen, Balay gave the officer his driver’s license, car registration and insurance card after being pulled over on Feb. 1. The officer said Balay’s car matched the description of one that had been reported as swerving. Balay doesn’t drink and wasn’t worried about what might happen.

But minutes later, Balay got a very nasty surprise.

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“He came back, and the younger policeman said he was going to give me a ticket for my driver’s license being mutilated,” Balay told the CBC. “I said, ‘Mutilated? I didn’t even know there was such a thing.’ Then he gave me a ticket for $465.”

His Driver’s License Had A Tear. So Police Fined Him $465

Image source: Dave Balay

Under the current exchange rate, $465 in Canadian currency equals about $357 in U.S. currency. Balay was particularly upset because of the size of the crack.

“Maybe not even quite an inch long,” Balay said.

The driver was so surprised that he didn’t even get angry.

“I think I outright laughed, and said, ‘Seriously? Four-hundred-and-sixty-five bucks for this crack?’ [The officer] said, ‘It’s a mutilated license,” Balay said.

Edmonton Police claim that they actually gave Balay a break. A department press release noted that he could have been charged with careless driving. That offense carries a fine of $543 in Canadian currency and a potential of six demerit points on a license.

Balay’s predicament has gained him a lot of attention. A video he posted on Facebook was shared 7,000 times and attracted 400,000 views.

Balay said he’s not going to pay the fine and hopes the prosecutor will be lenient.

“I don’t have $465,” he said. “I’m on unemployment insurance and I do some part-time substitute teaching, supply teacher. It’s a week’s wage. … Common sense would say I would just go and get a new one and not get charged with anything. I’ll even pay for the cost of replacing the license myself.”

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Supreme Court Nominee Neil Gorsuch: 5 Things You Need To Know

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Supreme Court Nominee Neil Gorsuch: 5 Things You Need To Know

WASHINGTON — President Trump moved quickly to fill the vacancy on the U.S. Supreme Court left by Justice Antonin Scalia’s death, and in nominating Neil Gorsuch – currently a judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 10th Circuit in Denver – Trump instantly appeased his base.

But who is Gorsuch, and what can we expect from him?

1. Gorsuch is a life-long conservative. He co-founded a magazine and a newspaper while attending Columbia University in the mid-1980s. The publications were designed to promote conservativism and combat liberal views on campus. Gorsuch has contributed $3,050 to Republican candidates and causes in the past, according to a biography prepared by the Alliance for Justice. Gorsuch is so conservative that CNBC writer Jake Novak described him as a “Scalia clone.”

2. Gorsuch is highly qualified for the job. He studied law at Harvard and earned a doctorate at England’s Oxford University. At Oxford, Gorsuch studied under John Finnis, one the world’s top legal philosophers. He clerked for two different Supreme Court Justices: the late Byron White and current Justice Anthony Kennedy. Before being nominated to the federal bench in 2007, Gorsuch served as principal deputy to the associate attorney general during the George W. Bush administration.

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3. He might be on the Supreme Court for a very long time. Gorsuch is just 49 years old and would have a lifetime appointment. The oldest active Supreme Court Justice is Ruth Bader Ginsburg, who is 83.

4. Gun-control advocates are afraid of Gorsuch. “Neil Gorsuch’s record on gun-related cases indicates some willingness to make it easier for felons to own guns – something that puts our families and communities at risk,” Shannon Watts of Moms Demand Action for Gun Sense in America told The Guardian.

5. The National Rifle Association (NRA) strongly supports Gorsuch.

“We will be activating our members and tens of millions of supporters throughout the country in support of Judge Gorsuch,” Chris Cox, the NRA’s chief lobbyist, said in a statement.

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It’s An Off-Grid ‘Hobbit Home’ Built Inside A 700-Year-Old Cave

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Man Builds Off-Grid ‘Hobbit Home’ In 700-Year-Old Cave

Turning a cave into a modern home is not easy or cheap, as homeowner Angelo Mastropietro discovered.

He invested £162,000 ($204,000) – and lots of physical labor — to transform an abandoned cave into a state-of-the-art off-grid home. But he says it was worth it.

“In the end I had spent somewhere around 1,000 hours basically breaking rock, cutting burrowing rock,” Mastropietro said. “… Somewhere about 70 or 80 tons of rubble that I excavated out of this rock house by hand.”

The finished home has wi-fi, forced air central heating and a wood stove. There’s an 80-foot terrace around the house, as well as modern windows.

Mastropietro’s house, located in the Wyre Forest in Worcestershire, England, is one of the oldest rock homes in Europe, Britain’s Daily Mail reported. Families lived in the caves for 800 years until the 1940s.

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The cave is located in 50-foot-high sandstone cliffs that reportedly inspired J.R.R. Tolkien to write The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.

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Mastropietro stumbled upon the cave during a bike ride in 1999. Eleven years later, in 2010, he purchased it for £62,000 ($78,000) and went to work.

Transforming a cave into a home is far from easy. It took Mastropietro 11 days just to cut a door through five feet of rock. He also had to drill a 262-foot deep well through stone to get water. Other modern touches include ventilation channels cut into the floor, and skylights.

The most incredible aspect of the project: Mastropietro is battling multiple sclerosis (MS), which left him temporarily paralyzed in 2007. That disease forced Mastropietro to change his life; he quit his job as head of a successful recruitment company and returned to his native Worcestershire from Australia and bought the cave.

“I have literally been paralyzed before and it does put the fear of God into you really,” Mastropietro told the newspaper.

“I love a challenge,” Mastropietro said of his reason for taking on the project. “Coincidentally, my surname actually means master of the stones, so you know maybe it’s in my blood.”

The cave home, he says, is good for his health.

“MS was triggered by health and lifestyle and that was the catalyst I needed to remind me that I needed to be mindful of my health and be respectful of my lifestyle,” Mastropietro added. “I wanted to be in a place where I had a happier and healthier life.”

He hopes to live in the cave full-time sometime in the near future.

His cave home was featured on a popular British TV show, Grand Designs.

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China Warns: War With U.S. Now A ‘Practical Reality’

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China Warns: War With U.S. Now A ‘Practical Reality’

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The People’s Republic of China is stepping up its military preparations for a possible war with the United States.

An official commentary from the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) in a Chinese newspaper states that chances of war are “more real” because of Donald J. Trump’s presidency.

The fear in Beijing is that disputes over the South China Sea and arguments over Taiwan might lead to military conflict. China is in the midst of a major military buildup and also opposes a proposed U.S. missile defense system in South Korea. China is building artificial islands in the South China Sea, which it claims is not international waters despite what an international court ruled in 2016.

“‘A war within the president’s term’ or ‘war breaking out tonight’ are not just slogans, they are becoming a practical reality,” a PLA press release in January stated.

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China’s navy even is conducting exercises on the high seas in response to statements by incoming Secretary of State Rex Tillerson, The China Morning Post reported.

“There are flowers around the gate of China’s Ministry of Commerce, but there are also big sticks hidden inside the door — they both await Americans,” a Jan. 5 editorial in the Chinese Global Times warned. That paper is part of the People’s Daily, which is the official newspaper of China’s ruling Communist Party.

Tillerson, during his confirmation hearing before senators, issued a warning to China about the artificial islands.

“Building islands and then putting military assets on those islands is akin to Russia’s taking of Crimea. It’s taking of territory that others lay claim to,” Tillerson said. “We’re going to have to send China a clear signal that first, the island-building stops, and second, your access to those islands also is not going to be allowed.”

A commentary in the People’s Daily in January said that China would conduct military exercises in the South China Sea no matter what other countries say.

Do you believe war with China is growing more likely? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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LAPD Chief Will Defy Trump Immigration Order – ‘This Is Not Our Job’

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Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck, right, says he'd rather lose federal funds than enforce President Obama's immigration orders. Image source: Wikipedia

Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck, right, says he’d rather lose federal funds than enforce President Obama’s immigration orders. Image source: Wikipedia

 

LOS ANGELES — The chief of police in America’s second largest city has vowed not to cooperate with President Trump’s immigration policies.

“That is not our job, nor will I make it our job,” Los Angeles Police Chief Charlie Beck told The Los Angeles Times.

Beck has promised not to cooperate with the Trump administration even if it means a loss of federal funds for his department. Beck’s position is that threatening deportation will make crime worse by deterring those people from cooperating with police during criminal investigations.

“In the mid-1990s, when the state cracked down [on] illegal immigration, all we did was drive people underground,” Beck said.

There are around 500,000 illegal immigrants living in Los Angeles, Beck estimated.

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The Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) has a formal policy of not cooperating with federal immigration law enforcement efforts that dates back to 1979, Beck pointed out. The policy even has a name: Special Order 40.

“When you create a shadow population … that fears any interaction” with police, he said, “then you create a whole population of victims, because they become prey for human predators who extort them or abuse them because they know they won’t contact the police.”

Another problem Beck faces is that 47 percent of his police force is Latino, and many of them have “blended families” – that is, some relatives who are legal and others who are not, he told The Times.

“To think the fabric of Los Angeles is going to change [through a legal edict],” Beck said, “denies our history.”

“We couldn’t deport 500,000 people if we wanted to, and if we did, it would be at the expense of public safety,” Beck said.

The solution to the illegal immigration problem, Beck said, is to help boost Mexico’s economy.

“We have a very rich country with a lot of opportunity that is immediately adjacent to a poorer country with less opportunity,” he said.

Do you agree or disagree with the police chief? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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Frustrated Man Pays DMV Bill With 300,000 Pennies

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Frustrated Man Pays DMV Bill With 300,000 Pennies

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LEBANON, Va. — It cost Nick Stafford $1,005 to pay a sales tax of around $3,000 on two new cars – but he says it was worth it.

That’s because Stafford paid the Virginia Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) with 300,000 pennies that weighed a total of 1,600 pounds.

The pennies filled five wheelbarrows, which Stafford rolled into the DMV office in Lebanon, Va., this month. He also paid 11 people around $10 an hour to help him with his stunt by breaking open rolls of pennies. Stafford’s full costs of $1,005 included the wheelbarrows, the laborers, and three lawsuits he filed.

“If they were going to inconvenience me, then I was going to inconvenience them,” Stafford said.

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Stafford was upset with the DMV because its employees would not give him the phone numbers to nine local offices. When he called with the request, Stafford’s call was repeatedly rerouted to a call center in Richmond.

Stafford simply wanted to know which of his four houses he should list when licensing his son’s new car, the Bristol Herald Courier reported. He called the Lebanon DMV but was routed to Richmond. After he filed a Freedom of Information Act to get the Lebanon DMV number and called it, he was told the number was not for public use. Frustrated, he kept calling the number until employees answered his question.

Stafford then decided he wanted the phone numbers of nine other DMV offices, and he filed suit to obtain them. The suit was dismissed by the judge when the state gave Stafford the phone numbers.

“The phone numbers are irrelevant to me,” Stafford said. “I don’t need them. I told the judge ‘I think I proved my point here.’”

“I think the backbone to our republic and our democracy is open government and transparency in government and it shocks me that a lot of people don’t know the power of FOIA,” he added.

Have you ever wanted to pay the government in pennies? Share your thoughts on his stunt in the section below:

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Newborn Seized After ‘Off-Grid’ Parents Refuse Social Security Number

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Newborn Seized After Parents Refuse Social Security Number

HEFLIN, Ala. — A couple is charging that social workers took their newborn the day after he was born because of their alternative lifestyle and religious beliefs.

“They said our view was dangerous,” Christian Holm said of social workers for the Cleburne County, Ala., Department of Human Resources (DHR). “We were just trying to follow the Bible as close as we could and speak for Jesus.”

Holm and his wife, Danielle, have no house and live off the grid. They gave away their possessions and decided to enjoy life by hiking and camping out. When the two wanted to see the country, they put their car in storage and walked from Alabama to New Hampshire and back.

They were camping out at Cheaha State Park in northeastern Alabama in October when Danielle went into labor. She went to the Regional Medical Center in Anniston, Ala., to give birth, and DHR social workers came to her room and started quizzing the couple about their lifestyle and where they lived.

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Christian said state officials opposed their religious beliefs about “man’s creation destroying God’s creation” and also had concerns that the couple didn’t want to give the baby a Social Security number, according to The Anniston Star.

Police and social workers took the baby and did not tell the couple where they could find it, The Star reported.

“They took the baby, said, ‘He’s ours and this is the court date. Be there.’” Danielle told the newspaper.

Two months later the baby still had not been returned and the Holms were still waiting for their day in court. A hearing in the case had been scheduled for Dec. 20, but it was cancelled after Judge Melody Walker recused herself, The Star reported.

The Holms have attracted a group of supporters in Anniston who picketed the courthouse after the hearing was cancelled. Supporters have organized under the tagline “#freebabyholm.”

Newborn Seized After Parents Refuse Social Security Number“You can see when you talk to them directly that they are very loving and caring people,” Jonathan Payton, a friend and supporter of the Holms, told The Star. “That’s what really hit home.”

Christine Holm posted on Facebook Jan. 15 that the couple is getting a single two-hour visit a week with the baby.

“They say well you can have another ISP and arrange more visits,” he wrote. “What? Another organized coercion and conversion meeting just to have more visits? This is nothing but psychological control tactics to force submission at the expense of our little baby boy. Where is his so-called attorney to protect his rights?”

On social media, the public is divided.

“The Indians did it hundreds of years ago and had plenty more than we do now these days, why couldn’t they [also do it?],” one woman named Sherry wrote.

But others argued that modern society is different.

“The Indians lived in groups and took care of each other, food and shelter,” a man named Vince wrote. “The couple needs a plan to take care of this baby, it can’t live like they do, it needs special care, shots and meds. … Moving from place to place, out in the weather isn’t the best for anyone.”

Do you believe the baby should have been seized? Share your thoughts in the section below:

Not Since 1953 Has The Doomsday Clock Been This Close To Midnight

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Not Since 1953 Has The Doomsday Clock Been This Close To Midnight

WASHINGTON — The world is 30 seconds closer to doomsday, according to a new report by The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

Scientists moved the hands of the famous Doomsday Clock ahead by half a minute Thursday, asserting the world is “more dangerous today than it was last year.” I

That means the world is just two and half minutes away from Armageddon and as close to midnight as it has been since 1953 at the height of the Cold War, when it was two minutes until midnight. Since ’53, the clock has varied between three minutes and 17 minutes until midnight.

This is the 70th anniversary of the Doomsday Clock.

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“The probability of global catastrophe is very high, and the actions needed to reduce the risks of disaster must be taken very soon,” a statement from the Bulletin’s Science and Security Board reads. “In 2017, we find the danger to be even greater, the need for action more urgent. It is two and a half minutes to midnight, the Clock is ticking, global danger looms.

The Doomsday Clock was created in 1947 as an indicator of how close the planet was to nuclear war. Today it gauges a variety of threats, including climate change, biological weapons and cyber weapons.

“Over the course of 2016, the global security landscape darkened as the international community failed to come effectively to grips with humanity’s most pressing existential threats, nuclear weapons and climate change,” the scientists said in the report.

The board was critical of President Trump, asserting in its report that even though he just took office, “the president’s intemperate statements, lack of openness to expert advice, and questionable cabinet nominations have already made a bad international security situation worse.

Physicist Lawrence Krauss said much of the world’s security depends on Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin getting along.

“President Trump and President Putin, who claim great respect for each other, can choose to act together as statesmen, or act as petulant children, risking our future,” Krauss said.

Do you believe the world is closer to doomsday than it has been since 1953?

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Student Threw A Paper Airplane. He Now Faces 30 Days In Jail.

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Student Threw A Paper Airplane. He Now Faces 30 Days In Jail

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ANDERSON, S.C. — A high school student was charged with assault and battery for throwing a paper airplane in class. If he is convicted of the charge, David Michael Elliott, 17, could be sentenced to 30 days in jail.

Elliott was arrested, booked into the Georgetown County Detention Center in South Carolina, and released on a $1,087.50 bond on Jan. 10, The South Strand News reported.

He was arrested and charged after throwing a paper airplane that struck teacher Edward McIver in the eye during class at Andrews High in Georgetown, S.C.

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“That’s the law enforcement side,” Andrews High School Principal Michelle Greene said. “That is a violation of school policy, but if law enforcement … deem it necessary to get a warrant for it, then that’s what happens. The school does not interfere with law enforcement business, and they don’t interfere with ours.”

School resource officer and Georgetown County Sheriff’s Deputy Paul Glover decided to charge Elliott with third-degree assault and battery, a misdemeanor, after the 17-year-old said he was trying to hit McIver in the head with the paper plane. McIver instead was hit in the eye, which appeared very red, The South Strand News reported. McIver recently had had ocular surgery.

“If any employee believes a crime has taken place, we report it,” said Alan Walters, the director of Safety and Risk Management for the Georgetown County School District. “Law enforcement makes a decision if a crime occurred or not and, if it did, whether they choose to file charges or not.”

The teacher apparently told Glover that he and the student had had past confrontations and “something needs to be done.”

Do you believe the student should have been charged? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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Trump Orders Construction Of Border Wall – ‘We Are Going To Restore The Rule Of Law’

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Trump Orders Construction Of Border Wall – ‘We Are Going To Restore The Rule Of Law’

WASHINGTON — President Trump is making good on his promise to build a wall along the United States/Mexico border and to get tougher on illegal immigration.

Trump signed executive orders Wednesday ordering the building of a wall along the border and also calling for 5,000 additional border patrol agents and 10,000 new Immigration and Customs Enforcement officers. The latter is contingent upon congressional funding, but the wall may not require it. That’s because a 2006 law – signed by President George W. Bush — funded a wall that was never completed after Democrats took control of Congress.

“We are going to restore the rule of law in the United States,” Trump said in an address to the Department of Homeland Security. “Beginning today the United States gets control of its borders.”

The wall will cost a lot — $15 billion total, or $3 million to $10 million a mile, NPR reported. The Washington Post’s estimate was even higher: $20 billion.

“A nation without borders is not a nation,” he said.

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Trump still plans on having the Mexican government pay for the wall by reimbursing the U.S.

“All it is, is we’ll be reimbursed at a later date from whatever transaction we make from Mexico,” Trump told ABC News. “I’m just telling you there will be a payment. It will be in a form, perhaps a complicated form. What I’m doing is good for the United States. It’s also going to be good for Mexico. We want to have a very stable, very solid Mexico.”

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Trump contends the wall will benefit Mexico by cutting down on the number of people from Central America crossing through that country. Some of the wall’s costs might be covered by redirecting foreign aid money that is going to Mexico, CNN reported.

Construction on the wall, Trump added, will likely begin within months.

“Certainly, planning is starting immediately,” he said.

Around one-third of the US-Mexico border is already blocked by a fence.

The wall was just one of several actions on immigration in two executive orders Trump signed. Other actions included:

  • Withholding federal funds from “sanctuary cities” where local governments refuse to support enforcement of federal immigration laws.
  • Stepping up prosecutions of people accused of committing crimes along the border.
  • Increasing detention of illegal immigrants.
  • Forcing other countries to take back criminal aliens by withholding U.S. Visas to their citizens.
  • Giving ICE more power to arrest, detain and deport illegal immigrants.

“The recent surge of illegal immigration at the southern border with Mexico has placed a significant strain on Federal resources and overwhelmed agencies charged with border security and immigration enforcement, as well as the local communities into which many of the aliens are placed,” one of the executive orders reads. “Transnational criminal organizations operate sophisticated drug- and human-trafficking networks and smuggling operations on both sides of the southern border, contributing to a significant increase in violent crime and United States deaths from dangerous drugs.  Among those who illegally enter are those who seek to harm Americans through acts of terror or criminal conduct.  Continued illegal immigration presents a clear and present danger to the interests of the United States.”

Read the executive orders here and here.

Do you agree with Trump’s actions? Share your thought in the section below:

50 Percent Of Silicon Valley Billionaires Are Prepping For ‘The Apocalypse’

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50 Percent Of Silicon Valley Billionaires Are Prepping For ‘The Apocalypse’

There is a new fad in Silicon Valley and Wall Street: Some of America’s richest and smartest people have become survivalists.

“Anyone who’s in this community knows people who are worried that America is heading toward something like the Russian Revolution,” hedge fund investor Robert H. Dugger told The New Yorker’s Evan Osnos.

Osnos profiled a wide variety of wealthy people who believe American civilization is about to crack up.

“When society loses a healthy founding myth, it descends into chaos,” Facebook Executive Antonio García Martínez said. Martínez put his money where his mouth is: He bought five acres on an island in the Pacific Northwest for a survival retreat, stockpiled thousands of rounds of ammo and installed generators and solar panels.

“All these dudes think that one guy alone could somehow withstand the roving mob,” he said. “No, you’re going to need to form a local militia. You just need so many things to actually ride out the apocalypse.”

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Martínez was surprised by how many of his colleagues shared his fears and interest in prepping.

50 Percent Of Silicon Valley Billionaires Are Prepping For ‘The Apocalypse’

Image source: Pixabay.com

“It runs the gamut, from a lot of people stocking up on Bitcoin and cryptocurrency, to figuring out how to get second passports if they need it, to having vacation homes in other countries that could be escape havens,” Venture capitalist Tim Chang said of Silicon Valley survivalists.

One unnamed investment executive told Osnos, “I keep a helicopter gassed up all the time, and I have an underground bunker with an air-filtration system. A lot of my friends do the guns and the motorcycles and the gold coins. That’s not too rare anymore.”

Marvin Liao, a former Yahoo executive, admitted to stockpiling food and water and studying archery for self-defense. Reddit CEO and cofounder Steve Huffman got laser eye surgery to eliminate the need for glasses during survival.

“If the world ends—and not even if the world ends, but if we have trouble—getting contacts or glasses is going to be a huge pain in the a–,” Huffman said.

Former Reddit CEO Yishan Wong told Osnos that “most people just assume improbable events don’t happen,” but “technical people tend to view risk very mathematically.”

“The tech preppers do not necessarily think a collapse is likely,” Wong said “They consider it a remote event, but one with a very severe downside, so, given how much money they have, spending a fraction of their net worth to hedge against this . . . is a logical thing to do.”

Apocalypse Insurance

Around 50 percent of Silicon Valley billionaires have some sort of “apocalypse insurance,” LinkedIn cofounder Reid Hoffman said. The insurance can range from an elaborate bunker to a farm in New Zealand.

“I’ve heard this theme from a bunch of people,” Hoffman said. “Is the country going to turn against the wealthy? Is it going to turn against technological innovation? Is it going to turn into civil disorder?”

Like everyday preppers, wealthy survivalists face the stigma of being labeled crazy. Yet more and more of them are going public.

“They don’t put tinfoil on your head if you’re the President and you go to Camp David,” Tyler Allen, a Florida real-estate developer, said. “But they do put tinfoil on your head if you have the means and you take steps to protect your family should a problem occur.”

Allen recently paid $3 million for a “survival condo” in a hardened missile silo in Kansas.

Some of America’s best-informed people have become survivalists. Everyone else needs to ask: What do they know?

What is your reaction? Share it in the section below:

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Clever Californians Discover Way To Get Around New Gun Ban

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Clever Californians Discover Way To Get Around New Gun Ban

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Enterprising gunsmiths already have figured out how to get around California’s new gun control law that bans “bullet button” rifles.

When the law was signed last year, Darin Prince, the inventor of the original bullet button, said he had come up with a workaround he called the Patriot Mag Release, Vice reported. He also called it “bullet button reloaded.” Others quickly copied Prince’s idea and their inventions are now sold online.

The new workaround became necessary when California Gov. Jerry Brown signed Assembly Bill 1664, which banned so-called assault weapons that have bullet buttons.

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“We have had the Patriot Mag Release in the wings for many years, and it has a full utility patent (United States Patent and Trademark Office – Patent # 9,182,186),” Prince wrote on Facebook. “This new Patriot Mag Release system will allow you to only drop the magazine on a rifle when the action has been disassembled. Complying with both bills signed.”

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Despite Prince’s assurances, it is not fully clear if the Patriot Mag Release is legal in California, Vice noted. Incoming California Attorney General Xavier Becerra has not released an opinion on whether the new devices are legal.

What do you think? Would you buy such a workaround if you lived in California? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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The 10 States Americans Fled From In 2016

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The 10 States Americans Fled From In 2016

Americans are migrating to rural regions and small towns and abandoning highly urbanized areas and the rustbelt.

Data from United Van Lines’ 40th Annual Movers Survey shows Americans mostly prefer the country and the West to the big city and the East.

The biggest trend United found was a continued migration out of the Northeast; four of the 10 “outbound” states – that is, states that Americans are fleeing — are in that region. New Jersey ranks No. 1, with 63 percent of United Van Lines traffic being outbound.

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Residents in 2016 also wanted out of New York (63 percent), Connecticut (60) and Pennsylvania (56).

The top inbound state was South Dakota (68 percent of moves being inbound). Following is United Van Lines’ list for top inbound states for 2016:

  1. South Dakota
  2. Vermont
  3. Oregon
  4. Idaho
  5. South Carolina
  6. Washington
  7. District of Columbia
  8. North Carolina
  9. Nevada
  10. Arizona

Following is United Van Lines’ list for top outbound states for 2016:

  1. New Jersey
  2. Illinois
  3. New York
  4. Connecticut
  5. Kansas
  6. Kentucky
  7. West Virginia
  8. Ohio
  9. Utah
  10. Pennsylvania

United Van Lines has tracked migration patterns of Americans since 1977. The 2016 study included the 48 contiguous states.

Which states surprised you? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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How To Grow Potatoes Indoors, Using Straw

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How To Grow Potatoes Indoors, Using Straw & A Garbage Bag

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Did you know that you can grow potatoes in a container with just a little bit of soil and a whole bunch of straw? You bet you can. Using straw has a couple of huge benefits: the container remains light and easy to move around, and it’s easy to harvest early potatoes without disturbing the plant and the rest of the tubers.

Preparing The Seed Potatoes

One of the most important steps is choosing the correct variety of seed potatoes. Late-season cultivars work best because they will continue to set tubers as the plants grow taller, unlike early-season potatoes, which set tubers only once. There are a lot of fantastic late-maturing varieties to choose from. Kennebec and German Butterball are popular late-season varieties, but you also can switch it up and try cultivars like Russian Blue or All Blue (which have blue flesh) or the Purple Peruvian, which is a purple-fleshed fingerling variety. Whichever kind you choose, it’s best to use seed potatoes. If you saved potatoes from last year’s crop for seed, you’re ahead of the game. If you don’t have your own seed, buy them from a reputable seed company to ensure that your own potato crop is disease-free. It’s not recommended to plant store-bought table potatoes.

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When planting a potato, the most important part is the eye — the indentation on the surface of the potato skin where sprouts pop up. Larger potatoes have a number of eyes. While you can plant a whole potato of any size, it’s more cost-effective and productive to cut larger ones up, leaving one to two eyes on each piece. It’s possible to start potato plants from potato peels that have eyes, but for best results keep each cut piece to roughly the size of an ice cube or small egg.

If you plant freshly cut potatoes, they may rot. It’s best to let the cut parts “scab over” before planting. Just spread the cut pieces out and allow them to sit for a day or two. The flesh of the potato should dry up a bit. If they turn black or start to mold, you should cut up new seed pieces.

Preparing The Container For Planting

Tall containers work best for this project. Use things like tall tote boxes, garbage cans, bushel baskets, and five-gallon pails. Extremely soft bags probably won’t work since the straw won’t support the sides very well, but sturdy grow bags should do just fine.

Start with about an inch of small gravel at the bottom of the container. Cover that with about four inches of container soil that has been amended with a little bit of compost. Water the soil and let it drain before planting. It should be moist but not soaking wet.

How To Grow Potatoes Indoors, Using Straw & A Garbage Bag

Image source: Pixabay.com

Once you’re ready to plant, place your seed pieces on the soil, with the eye/sprout facing upwards. Aim for about eight inches between each seed piece. The seed pieces only need to be covered with about a half inch of soil. Once the soil is in place, cover it with about six inches of weed-free straw. Do not pack the straw in. Keep it loose.

The Growing Stage

While you wait for your potato plants to grow tall enough to poke out of the straw, keep the sunlight and moisture levels regulated. The container is nice and light, and easy to move around so that it gets as much sun as possible. The straw acts as mulch and keeps your soil from drying out. It’s important to not overwater potato plants or they will rot. Just stick your hand in through the straw to see how dry the soil is, and water right through the straw as needed.

It should take about three weeks for your potato plants to start showing. Once they start peeking through, add about another four inches of straw. This encourages the plants to keep growing taller, and as they grow taller, they will set out more tubers. Once the plants poke through this second layer, you can add another four to six inches of straw.

Harvesting

You can start checking for new or baby potatoes about eight weeks after planting. Potatoes are super-easy to locate and harvest when you grow them this way. Just stick your hand into the loose straw and gently feel around for potatoes that are large enough to pull out. If you are helping yourself to potatoes as the plant keeps producing, there probably won’t be a lot left when the plant dies back. But once the plant starts turning yellow and withering, it’s time to finish the harvest.

Potatoes are not fussy plants. They are generally easy to grow and it’s fun to try the different varieties. Growing them in a container with straw makes it easy to enjoy fresh homegrown food in the depths of winter. Wouldn’t fresh baby potatoes, steamed, and served with butter and dill, hit the spot right about now? I think so!

Have you ever grown potatoes indoors? Share your tips in the section below:

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Court Applauds Homeschool Mom, But OKs Criminal Charges Anyway

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Court Applauds Homeschool Mom, But OKs Criminal Charges Anyway

Image source: Flickr / Creative Commons

 

CLEVELAND — A legal group representing a homeschool mom is filing an appeal after an Ohio magistrate and then a judge convicted her of a misdemeanor after she failed to file the proper paperwork.

“Can a mother whose son is not missing any school, learning eagerly, and even excelling academically still be considered criminally reckless when it comes to his education?” attorney Jim Mason of the Home School Legal Defense Association wrote at the HSLDA website.

The magistrate praised homeschool mom Valerie Bradley for “being so successful with the education aspect” of her homeschool program but then sentenced her to 180 days in jail for contributing to the delinquency of a minor. A common pleas judge changed the charge to failing to send her son to school and removed the jail sentence, but HSLDA said all charges should be dropped.

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As Off the Grid News reported in October, the controversy began shortly after Bradley and her husband, David, started homeschooling their son in January 2015.

“That summer the Bradleys received a form letter from school officials requesting that by August 1 they file a notice of intent for the coming year, as well as a student end-of-year assessment,” Mason wrote. “A short time later, Mrs. Bradley spoke with a school employee who told her, correctly, that there is no deadline for the student assessment.”

By late October, the Bradleys had filed their notice of intent, which the school system deemed too late.

“It was then that the state filed a criminal complaint against Mrs. Bradley, alleging that the delay in filing her homeschool paperwork had contributed to the delinquency of her child,” Mason wrote. “

But Valerie Bradley had been teaching her son the entire time and noted in court he was “doing better than when he was in public school.” In fact, on his end-of-year assessment, he scored in the 97th percentile.

HSDLA is appealing the judge’s ruling in an attempt to get the conviction overturned.

“In our brief, HSLDA is asking for the chance to demonstrate how state officials bungled Mrs. Bradley’s case in three fundamental areas: homeschool law, the procedure for dealing with truancy, and the determination of when a parent is reckless,” Mason wrote.

The Aug. 1 deadline is not in state law and is completely arbitrary, HSLDA says.

Further, Mason asserted, she was not acting recklessly, which is legally defined as acting “with indifference toward a known and obvious risk” to a child.

“Mrs. Bradley acted precisely as the legislature intended parents should act when questioned about truancy: promptly and decisively. That should have been the end of the matter,” Mason wrote.

Which side do you think was right? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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Here’s How Crooks Steal Your Credit Card At The Gas Pump

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Here’s How Crooks Steal Your Credit Card At The Gas Pump

Image source: Pixabay.com

 

Jan. 19, 2017

Crooks can steal your credit or debit card number anywhere you swipe your card. A simple gadget called a skimmer can let bad guys steal numbers from hundreds of people without the card owners even knowing it.

A skimmer is a device placed over a card reader. When you swipe your card, it reads the numbers but lets you complete the transaction normally. Some skimmers collect data for criminals to pick up later, while others transmit it to the bad guys via Bluetooth or a wireless phone call.

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The Northport, Ala., Police Department sent out a Tweet Jan. 13 with a short video of a skimmer and the warning, “Always tug on the credit card reader at the gas pumps, you never know when someone has slipped a reader on there.”

Crooks can steal your credit or debit card numbers at:

  • Gas pumps. This is the most common location for skimming, because people are often in a hurry to fill the tank. The Minnesota Commerce Commission found nine skimmers on pumps in the Minneapolis area during a sweep in April 2016, the local CBS affiliate reported.
  • Skimmers have been found on regular and self-service checkout lines at several supermarkets, including Safeway. The Consumerist reported that one looked like a normal card reader and even stole pin numbers. Skimmers also were found at the self-checkout lanes at Walmart stores in Virginia and Kentucky in April 2016, security expert Brian Krebs reported.
  • Train stations. In November 2014, police found skimmers on ticket machines at three Denver-area light rail stations.
  • Skimmers have been popping up on ATMs for several years now, Krebbs reported. Crooks also place false pin readers on ATMs to steal your data.

How To Spot A Skimmer

Here are some tips for spotting a skimmer and protecting your accounts:

  1. Grab the card reader, pull it hard and jiggle it around. If it is loose, it might be a skimmer, the Northport, Ala., Police Department said. Always tug on readers at gas pumps and ticket machines.
  2. Look for hidden cameras and cover the hand that is entering data. Thieves sometimes place cameras in discrete locations to steal PIN numbers. Any pinhole or clear area near the PIN reader might contain one.
  3. Look for signs of damage to the machine. This might include a recently drilled hole or spray paint.
  4. If you have a chip card, use the chip reader when available. It is more secure.
  5. Check your account balance regularly, online. Report any suspicious activity immediately.
  6. Call the police if you think you have found a skimmer.
  7. Use other methods of payment, such as cash or phone payment apps like Apple Pay and Walmart Pay. Payment apps can be more secure than cards.

Thieves want your credit and debit card numbers — and they’ll do anything to get them.

Have you ever spotted a skimmer or had someone steal your credit card data? Share your advice in the section below:

You’re Being Watched: 7 Sneaky Ways The Government Is Tracking Your Every Move. Read More Here.

Here’s How Crooks Steal Your Credit Card At The Gas Pump

Here’s How Crooks Steal Your Credit Card At The Gas Pump

Image source: Pixabay.com

 

Jan. 19, 2017

Crooks can steal your credit or debit card number anywhere you swipe your card. A simple gadget called a skimmer can let bad guys steal numbers from hundreds of people without the card owners even knowing it.

A skimmer is a device placed over a card reader. When you swipe your card, it reads the numbers but lets you complete the transaction normally. Some skimmers collect data for criminals to pick up later, while others transmit it to the bad guys via Bluetooth or a wireless phone call.

Discover How To Become Invisible In Today’s Surveillance State!

The Northport, Ala., Police Department sent out a Tweet Jan. 13 with a short video of a skimmer and the warning, “Always tug on the credit card reader at the gas pumps, you never know when someone has slipped a reader on there.”

Crooks can steal your credit or debit card numbers at:

  • Gas pumps. This is the most common location for skimming, because people are often in a hurry to fill the tank. The Minnesota Commerce Commission found nine skimmers on pumps in the Minneapolis area during a sweep in April 2016, the local CBS affiliate reported.
  • Skimmers have been found on regular and self-service checkout lines at several supermarkets, including Safeway. The Consumerist reported that one looked like a normal card reader and even stole pin numbers. Skimmers also were found at the self-checkout lanes at Walmart stores in Virginia and Kentucky in April 2016, security expert Brian Krebs reported.
  • Train stations. In November 2014, police found skimmers on ticket machines at three Denver-area light rail stations.
  • Skimmers have been popping up on ATMs for several years now, Krebbs reported. Crooks also place false pin readers on ATMs to steal your data.

How To Spot A Skimmer

Here are some tips for spotting a skimmer and protecting your accounts:

  1. Grab the card reader, pull it hard and jiggle it around. If it is loose, it might be a skimmer, the Northport, Ala., Police Department said. Always tug on readers at gas pumps and ticket machines.
  2. Look for hidden cameras and cover the hand that is entering data. Thieves sometimes place cameras in discrete locations to steal PIN numbers. Any pinhole or clear area near the PIN reader might contain one.
  3. Look for signs of damage to the machine. This might include a recently drilled hole or spray paint.
  4. If you have a chip card, use the chip reader when available. It is more secure.
  5. Check your account balance regularly, online. Report any suspicious activity immediately.
  6. Call the police if you think you have found a skimmer.
  7. Use other methods of payment, such as cash or phone payment apps like Apple Pay and Walmart Pay. Payment apps can be more secure than cards.

Thieves want your credit and debit card numbers — and they’ll do anything to get them.

Have you ever spotted a skimmer or had someone steal your credit card data? Share your advice in the section below:

You’re Being Watched: 7 Sneaky Ways The Government Is Tracking Your Every Move. Read More Here.

An Armed Citizen Just Saved The Life Of A State Trooper

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An Armed Citizen Just Saved The Life Of A State Trooper

PHOENIX — Even veteran cops sometimes need help from armed citizens. Arizona State Trooper Edward Andersson might have been beaten to death if a gun-wielding motorist had not come to his aid.

“My trooper would not be alive without his assistance,” Colonel Frank Milstead, the director of the Arizona Department of Public Safety (DPS), said of an unidentified California resident.

The man was driving west on Interstate 10 on Jan. 12 when he saw a man slamming Andersson’s head into the pavement. Andersson had just been ambushed and shot by the man, Leonard Pennelas-Escobar.

The driver stopped and asked Andersson if he needed help. He said yes, and the driver then got his gun from the vehicle and shot Pennelas-Escobar. He then used Andersson’s radio to call for help, The Arizona Republic reported. The attacker died on the scene. Andersson was taken to a hospital in Goodyear, Ariz., by helicopter.

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Officials are still trying to determine why the man attacked Andersson.

It all started when Andersson saw a rollover wreck and stopped at around 4 a.m. That wreck resulted in a woman being ejected and dying. He had just put out flares when the suspect shot him and began beating him, The Republic reported.

Before the driver stopped to help, the suspect was “getting the better of” Andersson and slamming his head into the pavement, AP said.

Andersson is a 27-year veteran of the DPS.

“He’s incredibly fortunate to be here with us today,” Milstead said of Andersson.

Andersson has been released from the hospital.

“Thanks for the thoughts and prayers this morning for our Trooper that was shot,” Milstead tweeted, “looks like he will be okay after some recovery.”

The interstate had to be closed for 10 hours and traffic diverted while DPS investigated the shooting, The Republic reported.

Pennelas-Escobar was a former member of the Mexican federal police and was in the U.S. illegally, Milstead said. Pennelas-Escobar also used illegal drugs, he said.

What is your reaction? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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This New Creepy Website Knows Everything About Your Family – And It’s Free

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This New ‘Creepy’ Website Knows Everything About Your Family – And It’s FreeAnyone who knows your name can discover your home address and the addresses of every member of your extended family thanks to a new free genealogy website, FamilyTreeNow.com.

In less than five seconds, FamilyTreeNow.com accurately listed my age, my birthdate and eight of the last nine addresses where I received mail. It also accurately listed the names, birthdates and addresses of my parents and my brother – all tied to my name.

Disturbingly, FamilyTreeNow.com is totally free and does not even require registration. It gets all of its data from public records.

Nor is it just relatives who might be listed at FamilyTreeNow.com. Washington Post reporter Abby Ohlheiser discovered that the names of a former roommate and her ex-boyfriend were listed as “associates.”

“The site listed my 3- and 5-year-olds as ‘possible associates,’” Anna Brittain, a writer from Birmingham, Ala., told The Post. She said FamilyTreeNow “scared me to death.”

Discover How To Become Invisible In Today’s Surveillance State!

Ohlheiser’s description of FamilyTreeNow as “creepy” seems very accurate. There are other similar sites that scan public records available online, but most of them charge a fee for searches and require registration.

Who Is Behind FamilyTreeNow?

Ohlheiser  was not able to determine who was behind FamilyTreeNow.com. She located a company called Family Tree Now LLC, but was unable to find anyone willing to talk.

Opting out of FamilyTreeNow is fairly easy. All you have to do is follow these steps.

  1. Visit FamilyTreeNow.com/optout.
  2. Click on the “I’m not a robot” captcha at the bottom of the page.
  3. Click “begin.”
  4. Run a search for yourself by entering your name, state and city and age.
  5. Read the record carefully to make sure it is you.
  6. Click the big red “opt out” button.
  7. Visit the site 48 hours later to make sure the information has been deleted.

There is another low-tech way to keep your home address off of sites like FamilyTreeNow. Simply get a mailing address other than your home, such as a P.O. Box.

What is your reaction to FamilyTreeNow.com? Share your thoughts in the section below:

You’re Being Watched: 7 Sneaky Ways The Government Is Tracking Your Every Move. Read More Here.

She Corrected A Student’s Spelling. Then The School Fired Her

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She Corrected A Student’s Spelling. Then The School Fired Her

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FREDERICK, Md. — A school employee in Maryland apparently was fired after correcting a student’s spelling on Twitter.

Katie Nash lost her job as “web experience coordinator” at the Frederick County Public Schools after telling a student how to spell “tomorrow,” The Frederick Post-News reported.

On Jan. 5 and with bad weather threatening, a student directed a Tweet at the school system that read, “close school tamarrow PLEASE.”

Nash, who ran the school Twitter account, responded, “But then how would you learn how to spell ‘tomorrow?’ :)”

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Her response was certainly popular on Twitter, generating 1,000 likes and leading to the hashtag #KatiefromFCPS going viral.

Viral Tweet Gets Mom Fired

Even though the unidentified student did not mind the response, Nash’s superiors told her not to send out more Tweets. But she kept Tweeting calendar updates.

Then on Jan. 13, Nash was told she was being terminated from her $44,066-a-year job. Michael Doerrer, a spokesman for the Frederick Public Schools, would not say why she was terminated.

Nash is now tweeting from her personal account, @KatieNash. The mother of two is not ashamed of what she did.

“It was really positive and great to see so many students engaged with their school system,” Nash said. “I wouldn’t change a thing.”

She’s received lots of support on social media, with people inundating the @FCPSMaryland feed with words of criticism for the school. One wrote, “Rehire this lady if you want to save your reputation.” Another wrote, “No wonder kids today have so much trouble with grammar and spelling.” Still another wrote, “Will you explain why u fired someone for a spellcheck tweet? Story not going away. National laughingstock.”

Which side do you take – the school’s side or Katie’s side? Share your opinion in the section below:

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Surprise! Police Support Gun Rights Even MORE Than Americans Do, Poll Finds

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Surprise! Police Support Gun Rights, Survey Says

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WASHINGTON — Cops are more supportive of Second Amendment rights and more opposed to gun control than average Americans are, according to a new poll by the Pew Research Center.

Pew’s “Behind the Badge” survey on police and public views was released Jan. 11 and found that the majority of law enforcement officers strongly support the Second Amendment, with 74 percent saying it is more important to protect the rights of citizen to own guns than it is to control gun ownership. Among the general population, only 53 percent support gun rights over gun control.

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Police even support the rights of Americans to own so-called assault rifles, with only 32 percent favoring a ban on them, compared to 64 percent of Americans who answered that way.

The survey did find that police favor some gun control measures. A full 95 percent of police support laws preventing the mentally ill from purchasing guns, and 88 percent favor background checks on people who buy firearms at gun shows or from individuals. Those numbers are similar to the beliefs of the general public.

On the question of whether a national database should be created to track gun sales, 61 percent of police and 71 percent of the general public support such an idea.

What is your reaction to police mostly backing gun rights? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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Your Fingerprints Now Can Be Stolen From Selfie Pictures?

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Your Fingerprints Now Can Be Stolen From Selfie Pictures?

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WASHINGTON — Your fingerprints might be a major threat to your privacy.

That’s because the images taken by smartphone cameras are so full of detail that it is now possible to copy fingerprints from them, Professor Isao Echizen of Japan’s National Institute of Informatics told The Sankei Shimbun newspaper.

“Just by casually making a peace sign in front of a camera, fingerprints can become widely available,” Echizen said.

Discover How To Become Invisible In Today’s Surveillance State!

The problem: An increasing number of new technologies, including iPhones, use fingerprints to unlock phones. Echizen said fingerprints can be stolen from pictures taken from up to 10 feet away – in other words, ever selfie you’ve taken where your fingerprints could be seen. Many people post such pictures on social media.

“Fingerprint data can be recreated if fingerprints are in focus with strong lighting in a picture,” Echizen told Yomiuri TV.

Even worse, the professor said that advanced technology is not needed to steal fingerprints.

As Digital Trends reported, “The problem is compounded by photos being shared and stored online, creating a gallery of fingerprints for thieves to exploit. The professor points out that unlike a stolen password, which can be quickly changed, your fingerprints are with you forever.”

Echizen’s find has other privacy problems: Cops might be able to identify and locate protestors via a news photograph. All they would need to do is run the fingerprints from the picture through the database.

What is your reaction? Share it in the section below:

You’re Being Watched: 7 Sneaky Ways The Government Is Tracking Your Every Move. Read More Here.

Man Receives $128 Ticket For Warming Car IN HIS DRIVEWAY

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Man Receives $128 Ticket For Warming Car IN HIS DRIVEWAY

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ROSEVILLE, Mich. — Police this month gave a Michigan man a $128 ticket for something millions of people do every day – leaving his car running to warm up the interior on a cold day.

“This is purely a public safety issue,” Roseville, Mich., Police Chief James Berlin told a local TV station, Fox 8. “You see it all the time. People hop in a running car and steal them. Something bad happens when that occurs.”

Nick Taylor violated a Roseville ordinance against leaving keys in an empty car — even though it was a frigid morning, WDIV-4 reported. He left the vehicle running outside his girlfriend’s house on a very frigid morning.

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“Unattended car,” Taylor wrote on Facebook. “I’ve done this every day for seven years. Every person warms up their car. We live in Michigan.”

Taylor posted a picture of the ticket on Facebook. It had received more than 13,000 shares, 5,000 comments and 5,100 likes as of Jan. 10.

The ticket read, in part, “vehicle parked in drive … with keys in ignition. Motor running. No one around.”

One commenter on Facebook wrote that “everyone in a cold state would be getting tickets” if such a law existed everywhere and was enforced.

Another wrote, “I lived in Michigan for 40 years and now Wisconsin for 2. I always start my car on cold days before leaving. It’s only common sense. So one is supposed to stay in car when it is 21 below zero, freeze their butts off before car warms up, which could take up to 30 minutes?”

Still another wrote, “Frostbite or hypothermia could set in if people stay with the car before it is warmed up cause some take longer and in [negative-degree] degree weather it’s not practical or safe for people, either.”

But some people on Facebook supported the police. One person wrote, “He’s the idiot not the cop and for a number of reasons: Theft – he will not be covered on his insurance. Warming up the car is actually harmful to the engine and will shorten engine life. Waste of fuel. Pollution. And it is ILLEGAL.”

What do you think? Should the man have gotten a ticket? Share your thoughts in the section below:

Tired Of Losing Freedoms — And Looking For Another Country? Read More Here.

The Most Isolated, Amazing, Off-Grid House In The World?

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The Most Isolated, Amazing, Off-Grid Home In The World?

The ultimate off-grid home also might be the world’s most isolated. It is a hunting lodge located on the island of Elliðaey, which is in the North Atlantic off the southern coast of Iceland.

The house has a 110-acre island to itself, with the only things being a few trees, grass, puffin birds, and a rocky coast that belongs on a postcard.

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Despite its’ remoteness, the house on Elliðaey is sort of famous as the center of a couple of urban legends. The strangest of those stores is that the island is the home or retreat of Iceland’s most famous resident — the eccentric alternative punk and rock singer, Björk.

The Most Isolated, Amazing, Off-Grid Home In The World?

A popular online legend is that the Icelandic government gave Elliðaey to Björk for her service to the nation. That is not true, though. Björk did once own an isolated home in Selfoss, which is on the southern tip of Iceland.

Also false is a story that the lodge belongs to an eccentric billionaire. Instead, the lodge belongs to a local hunting club. The club’s members use it to hunt puffin. The home even has a sauna.

The Most Isolated, Amazing, Off-Grid Home In The World?

 

Although no one lives in the home permanently, that was not always the case. Descendants of the Vikings actually lived on the island for around 300 years, settling there sometime in the 17th century. They left by the 1930s.

Despite its remote location, Elliðaey is not a practical survival location. Except for puffins, there is little food on the island.

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Elliðaey is part of the Vestmannaeyjar or Westman archipelago.

The Most Isolated, Amazing, Off-Grid Home In The World?

Iceland is an island nation in the North Atlantic that is home to the world’s oldest parliament, a fishing fleet and a number of Internet data centers for processing bitcoin and other cryptocurrencies. The data centers are powered by Iceland’s most abundant resource: electricity generated by geothermal steam.

Iceland is perhaps best known as the location of several volcanoes. One of them, Eyjafjallajokull, disrupted air travel in the Atlantic with a huge dust cloud in 2010. The British tabloid The Sun reported that Eyjafjallajokull is rumbling again and might erupt this summer.

Would you want to visit or live in the lodge on Elliðaey? Share your thoughts in the section below:

CPS Seized Her Kids. She Got Them Back – And $700,000, Too

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CPS Seized Her Kids. She Got Them Back – And $700,000, Too

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RIVERSIDE, Calif. — Officials in Riverside County, Calif., have agreed to pay a family $700,000 as part of a federal civil rights lawsuit that was filed after Child Protective Services (CPS) seized a seven-year-old boy and a four-year-old girl.

“CPS just took my children,” Vanessa Wilson told Home School Legal Defense Association (HSDLA) attorneys back in April 2013 after CPS investigator Francisca Russo alleged that the mom was not properly tending to the diabetes needs of her four-year-old daughter.

CPS, with the backing of police, seized both kids.

The son was in state custody for 29 days, the daughter for 50 days.

The controversy began after Wilson took her daughter to the hospital when she experienced flu-like symptoms and lethargy. It was at the hospital that doctors told her that her daughter was diabetic. The daughter was discharged five days later in the care of the mom.

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Wilson followed the treatment plan for her daughter, but three months later a case worker showed up at her door, accompanied by other CPS workers and a police officer. The case worker asked Wilson to administer a blood glucose meter test to the daughter, which the mom did. The reading of 261 was “within the acceptable blood glucose range” that the doctor had given Wilson, according to the lawsuit. And it was “significantly less” than the reading of 435 when the daughter was first administered to the hospital. But that didn’t matter to Russo.

“On her own authority, without asking a doctor about the readings and without seeking a court order, [Russo] took the girl into custody,” HSLDA said in a news release. “After learning that Vanessa homeschooled her seven-year-old son, Ms. Russo asked him a few math questions, asked him to recite the ABC’s, and to read from a book—all while the deputy would not let his visibly distraught mom come to him.

Other doctors, including the girl’s own physician, said her condition was fine.

“Russo made these determinations without any appropriate medical training, degree, or license,” the complaint stated. “… Russo made these determinations without consulting Daughter’s pediatrician, Dr. Swanston, or any other medical professional who possessed appropriate medical training, degree, or license to opine as to the normal blood sugar range of a four-year-old child with new-onset type 1 juvenile diabetes.”

The kids were returned after HSLDA uncovered evidence that CPS had hidden evidence from the courts and them. That evidence convinced a prosecutor to drop the legal case against Wilson.

HSLDA then filed a lawsuit, which included a video deposition of Russo.

“There was simply no better way to reproduce or accurately represent the investigator’s facial expressions, body language, or pregnant pauses,” HSLDA reported in a news release. “Watching her squirm while she tried to explain that a pediatric endocrinologist with 30 years’ experience was wrong—and that she was right—was considerably more effective than reading a transcript.”

Riverside County initially offered only $10,000, but during mediation – and after the video deposition was seen by everyone – agreed to a $700,000 settlement.

“Each of the children have an investment of $100,000 that they can start drawing on when they turn 18,” according to HSLDA. “Vanessa invested part of her money in a new traveling home so that she and the kids can cross the country visiting friends and family; learning while on an unforgettable adventure. Money can’t bring back the lost 50 days, or cure the trauma that all three are still dealing with from the unjustified seizure and separation. But Vanessa is doing her best.”

HSLDA said it acknowledges that CPS investigators “have an important and difficult job” – but asserts they must be held accountable.

“There are rules they have to follow for the safety and protection of those they investigate,” HSLDA said in its release. “And sadly, the CPS system is so wrapped in confidentiality that abuses by officials rarely come to light—except in civil-rights lawsuits like this one.”

What is your reaction? Share it in the section below:

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Smart Homesteaders Save Tons Of Money This Way (So Why Doesn’t Everyone Do It?)

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The Overlooked Way Smart Homesteaders Save Tons Of MoneyMost of the meat, dairy and egg production in this country comes from monocultures — confinement operations raising only one type of animal. This is said to be “efficient,” and maybe it does make it easier to maximize short-term profits. But polycultures — farms that raise many types of animals and plants — are more resource-efficient and more practical for homesteaders looking to raise healthy food in healthy soil.

Often, waste products from the garden or the animals can supply the needs of other parts of the farm system. Called “farm symbiosis,” this can save lots of money on the homestead – and reduce our waste, too.

I’ll start with the model I know best, the farm I’ve worked for the last 16 years. We grow a big garden and a small orchard as well as goats, chickens, rabbits and pigs. These are all raised in separate spaces, but they use each other’s waste products.

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The garden is mostly fertilized with compost, which is rich and quick to break down because it contains plenty of animal manure. Our other main fertilizer is rabbit manure, which we apply directly to the garden beds. Rabbit droppings provide a rich slow-release source of nitrogen and phosphorus, and they don’t burn plants the way other uncomposted manures might. The garden also helps to feed the animals who feed it.

The Overlooked Way Smart Homesteaders Save Tons Of MoneyWhen we have to pick bugs off the garden plants we collect them in a jar and feed them to our hens, who benefit from the protein boost. A substantial part of our rabbits’ diet comes from the garden. We grow carrots, radishes, turnips and kale for them. They also eat cover crops like clover, buckwheat and oats that we plant to keep the soil sheltered and active between crops, as well as nutritious weeds like dandelions, comfrey, purslane, pigweed, chicory, chickweed and prickly lettuce, which we have to clear out of the garden beds anyway.

We keep two goats for milk. During the winter we get just enough milk for our daily use. During the growing season we have a lot more than we need, and sometimes more than we can give away to neighbors. Excess milk goes to the pig. So does some of the vitamin- and protein-rich whey from our cheesemaking. The chickens drink the rest of the whey.

We raise rabbits for meat (and manure, of course). They eat small amounts of store-bought whole grains and large amounts of roots and greens from our garden and pastures. When we butcher rabbits, the offal goes to feed our chickens.

We raise one pig each year as our other meat source. The pig eats milk and whey, spoiled apples from the orchard, and cracked eggs from the chickens as well as store-bought grain. We don’t butcher our own pig, but we ask to have jowls and all organs sent to us; we don’t eat these ourselves but we cook them up and feed them to the chickens.

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The Overlooked Way Smart Homesteaders Save Tons Of MoneyThe chickens get extra protein from all the other animals, as described. They also have constant access to a pile which we start with half-finished compost and weeds from the garden. They tear these up, add nitrogen-rich manure, scratch it in, and produce very rich compost.

Other farmers combine several types of livestock in the same space, although not necessarily at the same time. Joel Salatin has popularized a rotational pasturing system. First, cows are rotated intensively through small segments of the pasture using portable fencing. Then, chickens or turkeys are moved across the same pasture in tractors. The birds break up the cowpats so they’re more of an effective fertilizer. They also eat parasites and eggs which might otherwise re-infest the cattle on their next visit; this provides protein for the chickens as well as protection for the cows.

Grazing multiple species in the same space at the same time also can improve land and animal health. Cows tend to prefer grasses and clover, sheep forbs and weeds, and goats brush and browse. Grazing all three animals on mixed pasture ensures that the different types of plants are eaten back at roughly the same rate so that nothing gets crowded out. (You may sill have to manually remove those plants that nobody wants to eat, like thistle and horse-nettle.)

By raising several different kinds of livestock as well as gardening, homesteaders can greatly reduce the waste we produce and the purchased inputs we need.

What do you raise? How have you learned to generate resources and reuse waste? Write your tips in the section below:

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Now Big Government Is Coming Down On … Raw Camel’s Milk

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Now Big Government Is Coming Down ... On Raw Camel’s Milk

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SPRINGFIELD, Mo. — Shipping raw camel’s milk across state lines is apparently a crime in the United States, and the U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) threatened a Missouri farmer because he did just that.

Sam Hostetler can sell raw camel’s milk to his neighbors in Southwest Missouri but he cannot ship it to out-of-state customers.

“We can sell all we want in Missouri and nobody cares,” Hostetler, who is Amish, told The Springfield News-Leader.

Raw camel’s milk isn’t cheap and sells for upwards of $8 a pint, although people who buy it in bulk get it a discount.

“There’s a lot of people in this country that will drive a ways and pay good money for raw milk,” Hostetler said.

Like raw cow’s milk, raw camel’s milk is valued because some people think it is healthier than regular milk. People in Saudi Arabia have been drinking camel’s milk for centuries, and true believers, like Walid Abdul-Wahab of a company called Desert Farms, believe it is a super food.

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“It has three times the amount of vitamin C, almost 10 times the amount of iron and almost half the amount of fat,” Abdul-Wahab told CNBC. Desert Farms has around 100,000 customers.

Another reason that people drink camel’s milk: They are unable to digest cow’s milk.

“The response that we get from most consumers is that they haven’t been able to drink milk for the last 10 years until they discovered camel’s milk,” Abdul-Wahab told CNBC.

Despite that, Hostetler received a letter in December from the FDA telling him that distributing raw camel’s milk across state lines was a violation of federal law, Food Safety News reported.

“Such distribution is a violation of the Public Health Service Act,” the letter stated.

Hostetler complied with their wishes. He can still sell it in Missouri — as long as it is directly to customers.

“They told us we gotta quit, so we’re gonna quit,” Hostetler said of the FDA.

What is your reaction? Do you believe the farmer should be able to sell raw camel’s milk across state lines? Share your thoughts in the section below:

Tired Of Losing Freedoms — And Looking For Another Country? Read More Here.

Self-Driving Cars Already Are Deciding Who Lives & Dies

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Self-Driving Cars Already Are Deciding Who Lives & Dies

Image source: Wikimedia

 

DENVER — Computer algorithms that control self-driving cars are already making life-and-death decisions for human beings — so say ethicists and technology experts interviewed by Business Insider.

For example, an autonomous vehicle would decide who lives and who dies if it swerved to avoid a pedestrian but, by doing that, put its on-board passengers in danger. Or, it could keep its passengers safe by running over the pedestrian. The decision would be made by the computers and sensors in the vehicle – and by extension, the computer programmers.

“On one hand, the algorithms that control the car may have an explicit set of rules to make moral tradeoffs,” Iyad Rahwan, a scientist at MIT, told Business Insider.  “On the other hand, the decision made by a car in the case of unavoidable harm may emerge from the interaction of various software components, none of which has explicit programming to handle moral tradeoffs.”

Rahwan added, “Every time the car makes a complex maneuver, it is implicitly making trade-off in terms of risks to different parties.”

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Self-Driving Cars Already Are Deciding Who Lives & Dies

Image source: Wikimedia

Google X founder Sebastian Thrun in 2014 said the company’s automated car would hit the smallest object in the road if it could not find a clear path.

“If it happens that there is a situation where the car couldn’t escape, it would go for the smaller thing,” he said.

Self-driving vehicles might be cruising through your community, making life-and-death decisions, without you realizing it. Prominent examples include:

  • Uber subsidiary Otto Motors and Anheuser-Busch tested a self-driving semi-truck in Colorado on October 20. The truck drove for 120 miles on one of America’s busiest highways, Interstate 25, and passed right through the city of Denver. The truck delivered a full load of Budweiser to a store in Colorado Springs.
  • Uber tested self-driving cars on the streets of San Francisco, even though it lacked the proper permits. The cars picked up paying passengers, and YouTube footage showed one running a red light. After the state of California cracked down, Uber moved the test and the cars to Arizona. Uber has been testing a fleet of self-driving cars in Pittsburgh for more than a year.
  • Google conducted a secret test of its self-driving car in which a blind man rode alone. The vehicle had no steering wheel or pedals and there was no driver. The test was conducted in October 2015 but Google’s parent Alphabet (NYSE: GOOG) kept it secret until December 2016, The Washington Post
  • Ford is planning to start selling the world’s first fully autonomous vehicle by 2021 – less than four years away. “Starting in 2021, if you want to get around the city without the hassle of driving or parking, Ford’s new fully autonomous vehicle will be there for you,” Ford CEO Mark Fields told reporters in August.
  • Elon Musk’s Tesla is already selling Model S Series sedans equipped with a self-driving feature called autopilot. One death has already been blamed on autopilot,.

“The public has a right to know when a robot car is barreling down the street whether it’s prioritizing the life of the passenger, the driver, or the pedestrian, and what factors it takes into consideration,” Wayne Simpson of Consumer Watchdog told the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration (NHTSA) in November testimony. “If these questions are not answered in full light of day … corporations will program these cars to limit their own liability, not to conform with social mores, ethical customs, or the rule of law.”

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Man Charged For Driving Under Influence … Of Caffeine

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Man Charged For Driving Under Influence … Of Caffeine

Image source: Pixabay.com

FAIRFIELD, Calif. – A California man was charged with driving under the influence, even though the only “drug” detected in his blood was caffeine.

The Solano County (Calif.) District Attorney’s office sought for more than 16 months to prosecute Joseph Schwab after having sent his blood samples to two different labs and turning up nothing — except the stuff found in many sodas.

“There are no studies that demonstrate that driving is impaired by caffeine, and they don’t do the studies, because no one cares about caffeine,” forensic toxicologist and expert witness Jeffrey Zehnder told The Guardian. “It’s really stupid.”

Said Schwab’s attorney, Stacey Barrett, “I’ve never seen this before. I’ve never even heard of it.”

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Schwab’s troubles began on Aug. 5, 2015, when an agent from California’s Department of Alcoholic Beverage Control, not a police officer, pulled him over. The agent alleged Schwab had cut her off and was driving erratically. She also said his pupils were dilated. A breathalyzer test for alcohol showed a level of 0.00 percent.

After he was arrested, Schwab’s blood was drawn and sent to a laboratory, which came back negative for illegal drugs. It then was sent to a lab in Pennsylvania for testing. The only substance that lab was able to detect in Schwab’s blood was caffeine.

Eventually, the district attorney dropped the DUI charge – although the office said the reckless driving charge would remain.

“After further consideration, without a confirmatory test of the specific drug in the defendant’s system that impaired his ability to drive, we do not believe we can prove the charge beyond a reasonable doubt,” District Attorney Krishna Abrams said in a late December news release.

Abrams maintains that Schwab had something in his system – even though two lab tests detected nothing

“Do we wish that it could test for more drugs?” Abrams said. “Absolutely, because then we would know what was in his system.”

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The Russians Hacked A U.S. Power Grid During The Holidays, And Few Noticed

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The Russians Hacked A U.S. Power Grid During The Holidays, And Few Noticed

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BURLINGTON, Vt. — Malware used by Russian hackers has been detected in a Vermont power company’s computer, and at least one cybersecurity expert says the incident is not “happenstance.”

The concern is that hackers could take down the power grid, either regionally or nationally, with the click of a mouse. Ted Koppel’s 2015 book Lights Out warned that a major cyberattack could leave the power grid down for weeks or months.

“We have been monitoring RIS (Russian civilian and military intelligence Services) activities for some time and what we know is that the Vermont utility hack is part of a sophisticated and ongoing advanced persistent threat campaign by Russian cyber operatives to profile vulnerabilities in the U.S. power grid,” Darin Anderson, the chief executive of the trade group CyberTECH, told The San Diego Tribune.

The unidentified malware was detected in a laptop at the Burlington Electric Department on Dec. 29 following an alert by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS), according to a press release by the utility department. The same malware code has been used by a group of hackers called Grizzly Steppe.

Grizzly Steppe was one of the groups accused of hacking the Democratic National Committee during the presidential campaign.

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“We acted quickly to scan all computers in our system for the malware signature,” said Mike Kanarick, director of customer care, community engagement and communications with the Burlington Electric Department. “We detected the malware in a single Burlington Electric Department laptop not connected to our organization’s grid systems. We took immediate action to isolate the laptop and alerted federal officials of this finding.”

The Russians Hacked A U.S. Power Grid During The Holidays, And Few Noticed

Image source: Pixabay.com

The code was found just days after suspected Russian hackers managed to shut off one-fifth of the power in Ukraine’s capital city of Kiev.

Todd O’Boyle, chief technology officer of the security firm Percipient Networks in Wakefield, Mass., told the Tribune that “organizations don’t just get targeted based upon happenstance.”

“If this was the Russians, they are there for a reason,” he said. “They want something. Maybe it’s how to build better power grids. Maybe it’s preparing for a catastrophic attack. Maybe the target is a hopping point to their real destination.”

Intelligence officials are so concerned about Russian hacking that they alerted executives from the financial, utility, transportation and other essential industries, The Washington Post reported. The hope was to help industry IT experts detect malware.

“As a security practitioner, one of the top concerns I have is a successful attack against our critical infrastructure such as power grids, water systems, transportation systems, etc.,” Gary Davis of the California-based Intel Security, told the Tribune. “Homeland Security has identified 16 critical infrastructure sectors. A successful attack on any one could have substantial and long-term consequences.”

“We’ve already seen successful cyber-attacks in some developing countries and the closer connected devices come in mass to critical infrastructure the greater the chance of a successful attack,” David said. “In fact, reading the article reminds me of a discussion I had with the United Nations earlier this year. After a presentation I had given there about the threat landscape especially as it relates to the Internet of Things or IoT, a couple of its representatives pulled me aside and told me that several of its member nations biggest concern is that a teenager could take down the country’s critical infrastructure.”

Mark Weatherford, the chief cybersecurity analyst for vArmour, told the newspaper that “if you did a 100-percent sampling of utilities, you would probably find a lot of this activity.”

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He Built An Underground House For $50

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He Built An Underground House For $50

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As someone who lived for more than three decades in an underground house he designed and built for $50 and then later expanded for $500, Mike Oehler has a mission.

Now in his 70s, Oehler wants to convince other people of the advantages of living underground. In an interview with video journalist Kirsten Dirksen, Oehler shared his passion for underground living as he showed her around the homes he has built in Northern Idaho.

Mostly walking barefoot, which he called a lifelong habit, Oehler revealed the aboveground home he first built in 1968 after purchasing his property as a young San Franciscan involved in the back-to-the-land movement. After spending his first winter “freezing to death” in a cabin in the woods, however, he decided to use the earth as insulation.

In creating his first attempts, he fell into some of the mistakes others often make in designing an underground home — most of them centering on not having enough windows or with using basement types of windows only.

“An underground home has no more in common with a basement than a penthouse apartment has with a dark, dusty attic,” Oehler stressed. Explaining that an underground house can have many windows, he proved his point by showing Dirksen the many creative ways he incorporated patchworks of mostly used windows in his homes.

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‘We want a house that has windows on all four sides,” he explained. “Not everywhere on all four sides but enough so that each room has light coming in from two directions. That is very important.”

As he learned more and more about what worked and what doesn’t work in underground home design, Oehler began to find his own comfort zone. He called his inexpensive low-tech approach to building “PSP” for post/shoring/polyethylene, and he is particularly proud of what he calls his “uphill patio.” The uphill patio is a terraced space that allows for light, gardening space, outdoor grilling and water run-off.

Throughout the interview, Oehler mentioned the many advantages of living in an underground home, or what he prefers to call an earth-insulated home. Among the benefits:

  • Less property tax.
  • Warm in winter and cool in summer.
  • Serves as fall-out shelter with radiation protection.
  • No foundation needed.
  • Low maintenance.
  • Sound proof.
  • Increased growing space.
  • Fire-resistant.
  • Environmentally sound.
  • Weather resistant

Probably the most striking thing about Oehler’s designs is that they do not have the feeling of being underground. In fact, largely because of their use of natural light, the homes seem traditional from certain perspectives.

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“With an earth-integrated house, you are working with the earth, not overwhelming it,” Oehler said, adding that some Native American tribes saw the advantages of living underground centuries ago.

He finds home sites “by instinct.”

“I will sleep at the site for a while to get a feel for the space,” he said. Although he cannot do the construction of the homes he designs any longer due to health reasons, Oehler said his home sites are all hand dug. He enjoys digging and finds it to be good exercise.

One downside of his underground home in Northern Idaho? It is attractive to bears. Oehler has had more than one very close encounter with a bear who thought Oehler’s abode looked appealing.

Although Oehler thinks the soil in Northern Idaho – with its mixture of sand, silt and clay — is ideally suited to underground homes, he said you can build an underground home anywhere.

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Is Amazon Echo Now A Police Surveillance Device?

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Is Amazon Echo Now A Police Surveillance Device?

BENTONVILLE, Ark. – Amazon’s Echo and Echo Dot were popular Christmas gifts in 2016, but some privacy advocates are warning they could be used by law enforcement to gather data about you and your family.

Prosecutors in Benton County, Arkansas, have issued a search warrant to Amazon for data from an Echo device belonging to murder suspect James Andrew Bates.

So far, Amazon is refusing to cooperate.

“Amazon will not release customer information without a valid and binding legal demand properly served on us,” a press release from the online retail giant states. “Amazon objects to overbroad or otherwise inappropriate demands as a matter of course.”

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Echo and Echo Dot are digital assistants that answer questions from owners who use voice commands to “wake up” the devices. One typical word is “Alexa.” The devices are tied to Amazon’s computer cloud. Supposedly, the only information within the home that is stored is what is said following the word prompt.

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Investigators want the Echo data in order to get more information about the mysterious death of Victor Collins, who was found dead in Bates’ bathtub in Bentonville, Ark., last November. Amazon might have recordings of sounds from Bates’ home, the search warrant alleges.

Attorney Kimberly Weber is representing Bates and opposes the use of the data in court.

“You have an expectation of privacy in your home, and I have a big problem that law enforcement can use the technology that advances our quality of life against us,” Weber said, according to The Information.

Bates had a number of such gadgets in his home, including a smart water meter that shows he used 140 gallons of water from 1 a.m. to 3 a.m., police say.

Police seized Bates’ Echo but allege that there is more information stored in the cloud.

Boundaries Needed?

Echo also allows a person to control home automation devices, such as lights and the thermostat. Additionally, a person can request news and information from Echo.

Lynn Terwoerds, executive director of the Executive Women’s Forum on Information Security and Risk Management, told USA Today that devices like Echo would not benefit police.

“The myth we must fight against with Echo is that it’s constantly listening in on you — it’s not,” she said. “I understand that law enforcement would have an interest in any information that could help in a murder investigation, but it can be argued that this data would be of very limited use as compared to individual privacy rights,” she said.

Marc Rotenberg, president of the Electronic Privacy Information Center (EPIC), said that to protect privacy, “there should be clear legal standards established for law enforcement access.”

“And manufacturers should adopt techniques for data minimization and data deletion,” Rotenberg said. “Devices that retain data will be the targets not only of law enforcement officials but also criminal hackers.”

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Cops Raid Wrong House & Then Post Innocent Family’s Pic On Snapchat

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Cops Raid Wrong House & Then Post Innocent Family’s Pic On Snapchat

NEW YORK — Police raided the wrong house, handcuffed an innocent family, and then put their pictures on Snapchat with a Christmas “greeting.”

“Merry Christmas it’s NYPD (New York Police Department)” one of the captions accompanying a picture of the family read.

The Santiago family’s Brooklyn home was raided on the morning of Dec. 22 and everyone put in handcuffs, WABC-TV reported. As the police conducted the investigation, Kimberly Santiago noticed that one of them was using his phone.

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“We thought he was texting on his phone,” she said. “Because the whole three hours we were sitting here, he was the one standing there. We saw him on his phone, but we didn’t think an officer would do that.”

The unidentified officer has been suspended without pay as an investigation is conducted to see if department policy was violated.

No one was arrested, and the police left.

“If he did that to [us], picture how many other families he’s done that to,” Santiago said.

Snapchat is a popular social media service that had 150 million users as of June 2016.

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Mom Walks 26 Miles In Snow To Rescue Family; This Is What Kept Her Alive …

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Mom Walks 26 Miles In Snow To Rescue Family; This Is What Kept Her Alive …

Photographer: Thomas Quine. Flickr Creative Commons https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

PHOENIX — Karen Klein now knows the high price of not carrying survival supplies such as winter clothes, boots and food in her car. The mother walked 26 miles over a stretch of 36 hours in the snow with no snow boots and no cell service – and with only a small bag of cheerios to eat.

Klein’s ordeal began with a family vacation and ended with what authorities are calling a “Christmas miracle.” Klein, her husband and 10-year-old son became lost when their GPS device told them to take a Forest Service road near the North Rim of the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Their car, though, soon got stuck in the mud. Klein, a triathlete, volunteered to go and find help because her husband had recently been in an accident, NBC News reported.

The Kleins did not realize that the area was closed for the winter. When they found roads closed, the family followed GPS directions on a detour that got them lost.

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“It was decided that there is a main road up ahead, and I have professional and recreational experience, a lifelong (experience) in the outdoors, so I said, ‘I’ll just go, I’ll just walk up to the main road, I can do this, I’m a runner,”’ she said.

Her hope was to flag down a passing vehicle for help, but the main road was closed for the winter. So she continued her trek, drinking melted snow and eating aspen and evergreen twigs.

At one point she pulled a muscle and then lost a shoe. She couldn’t move her leg and had to “physically pick it up and put it forward.”

“I could only move it 10 steps at a time,” she said.

Her desire to save her family kept her alive. She said she told herself, “I can’t leave my son without a mom. I’m can’t leave my husband without a wife. I’m not letting my parents bury me.”

She eventually broke into an empty residence where rescuers found her. During her walk, she refused to fall asleep, afraid she would die.

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“I kept myself awake. I just talked to myself and rocked back to stay warm,” she said.

She does have some frostbitten toes but has not lost any yet, NBC News reported.

“In the grand scheme of things,” she said, “I keep thinking: ‘You know what? It’s a few toes. Don’t worry about it.’”

Ironically, her husband and son already had been rescued. After Klein did not come back soon, her husband and son walked in the opposite direction until they got enough cell service to call for help.

Klein said she and her husband could have done a better job in planning.

“As far as places being closed, we just didn’t realize that these roads were closed and these visitor centers were closed,” Klein said. “We didn’t investigate that deeply.”

Klein is now recovering at a hospital in Utah.

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We’ve Been Warned: Russia ‘Has Figured Out How To Crash A Power Grid With A Click’

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We’ve Been Warned: Russia ‘Has Figured Out How To Crash A Power Grid With A Click’

Photographer: Dan Nguyen. Flickr / Creative Commons / https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

KIEV, Ukraine — Experts believe that Russian hackers took down a portion of Ukraine’s power grid again earlier this month, and the same experts say similar attacks would be easier and do more damage in the United States.

“It’s very concerning that these same actors, using similar capabilities and tradecraft, are preparing and are getting access to these business networks, getting access to portions of the power grid,” Rob Lee, a former cyberwarfare officer for the U.S. military, told CBS News.

Some power companies in the U.S. have weaker security than the Ukraine, Lee said.

A distribution station that supplies one-fifth of the power to Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, suddenly shut down without warning early Dec. 18, Reuters reported.

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The hackers used a simple method to infiltrate the power grid: sending emails with infected attachments to employees. That allowed them to steal their logins and cut the circuit breakers at about 60 substations.

“It was illogical and chaotic,” Vasyl Pemchuk, the electric control center manager in Kiev, told CBS. “It seemed like something in a Hollywood movie.”

Lee thinks it could take days or even weeks to restart the U.S. power grid after such an attack.

“We can’t just look at the Ukraine attack and go ‘oh we’re safe against that attack,’” Lee said. “Even if we just lose a portion, right? If we have New York City or Washington, D.C., go down for a day, two days, a week, what does life look like at that point?”

Pemchuk said workers watched their computers being taken over by hackers and could do nothing except film it all with their smart phones.

CBS reported that “Russia has figured out how to crash a power grid with a click.”

Ukrainian security officials believe their nation’s infrastructure has been under cyberattack from Russia for months. The Ukraine is currently locked in civil war with Russian-backed separatists.

On Dec. 23, 2015, hackers cut off power to half the homes in the Ivano-Frankivsk region of the Ukraine.

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Underground ‘Survival Condos’ For The Rich Sell Out: $3 Million; Self-Reliant For 5 Years

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Image source: SurvivalCondo.com

Image source: SurvivalCondo.com

TOPEKA, Kan. — The demand for luxury survival shelters for the rich is exploding – so much that underground survival condos in an old missile silo have sold out.

An unspecified number of buyers paid $1.5 and $3 million each for the condos, developer Larry Hall told CNET. The project was so successful that Hall is now constructing new survival condo facilities and taking contracts for them.

The customers are not “typical ‘survival nuts’ as portrayed in the media,” Hall said in a press release, but rather they are “successful, educated and well-to-do individuals who simply want peace of mind in the event of a natural or manmade disaster.”

The condominiums are located in one of the most hardened structures ever built: an Atlas Missile Silo at a secret location in Kansas, according to the website. The silo was built in 1960 by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to withstand a direct nuclear strike.

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It has nine and a half foot-thick epoxy-hardened concrete walls and a $2 million concrete dome cap that can withstand winds of up to 500 miles per hour, according to the website.

The facility is designed to be self-sufficient for up to five years during a disaster.

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Underground ‘Survival Condos’ For The Rich Sell Out: $3 Million; Self-Reliant For 5 Years

Image source: SurvivalCondo.com

“We believe that given the present worldwide economic conditions, historical disaster evidence, and the obvious signs of global climate changes, that it is prudent to have a ‘disaster plan and shelter’ in place should a need for it occur,” the website says.

One unidentified buyer told CNET that the price is not as outrageous as it first sounds.

“The same quality of condo in New York would have cost me the same, if not more per square foot and you get peace of mind with this,” the buyer said.

Although the facility is designed to withstand a nuclear blast, the greater concern for clients is the “breakdown of society and total civil unrest,” the company said in a press release.

“In the event of a major disaster, economic collapse or whatever the future may hold, there is one common concern that Larry and his tenants share, and that is the ability to protect themselves and their families when the government is no longer able to do so,” the press release said.

Each unit is from 900 to 1,800 square feet.

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Some of the amenities that will help the wealthy survive doomsday include:

  • A swimming pool and spa.
  • A rock climbing wall.
  • A dog park.
  • Organic hydroponic food production.
  • Aquaculture food production.
  • A general store.
  • An indoor shooting range.
  • A movie theater.
  • Classroom and library.
  • Minor surgery center.
  • Bar and lounge.
  • A dog park so your best friend can survive, too.
  • Complete gym, with spa and workout facility.

So, how will the rich make it to their condos during a disaster if they live in another state? The company has plans for that, too, but the information is only for buyers.

“We have three contingency plans in place to ensure that you have passage to the facility in the case of any emergency. These plans will be discussed with potential buyers only,” the company’s website states.

The silos aren’t the only luxury condos in America. Another company, Trident Lakes, is selling its own underground survival condos in Texas.

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Californians Rush To Buy Guns Before Ban Takes Effect

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Californians Rush To Buy Guns Before Ban Takes Effect

Gun Store / Flickr Creative Commons

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — Sales of semiautomatic rifles have doubled and sales of handguns have spiked 40 percent in the Golden State ahead of a strict gun control law that will take effect Jan. 1.

Californians will not be able to buy certain weapons, including popular styles of the AR-15, after Dec. 31. The new state law will bans rifles with “bullet buttons.”

Another law that will go into effect bans magazines with more than 10 rounds. It also requires background checks for ammunition purchases.

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The last day someone can buy an AR-15 because of California’s 10-day waiting period is Dec. 21, according to a memo from the state’s Bureau of Firearms.

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“Do I need the weapon I just purchased? No. Did I purchase it anyway? Yes. That’s the bottom line: They took the choice away from responsible adults,” one man told Fox News.

Apparently, strict gun control measures are very good for business.

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Obama Warned Putin About Cyber Attack On Power Grid; Believed Russians Had Practiced ‘Dry Run’

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Obama Warned Putin About Cyber Attack On Power Grid; Believed Russians Had Practiced 'Dry Run'

Image source: NASA

WASHINGTON — The White House was so concerned about Russia interfering with the election or even attacking the power grid that it used the so-called red phone system to place a call to the Kremlin on Oct. 31, warning the Russians and President Vladimir Putin about repercussions.

That’s according to NBC News, which quoted two unidentified senior intelligence officials – both non-partisan career officers

“[President Obama and White House officials] believed the widespread attack on the Internet on Oct. 21 blocking millions of Americans from popular websites was a possible dry run for a massive attack by the Russians on Election Day — maybe even pulling down the electrical grid. It spooked the White House,” NBC News Correspondent Cynthia McFadden said in a Dec. 19 report.

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The red phone system was created during the Cold War to prevent misunderstandings between the two nations. Today, it employs a secured satellite link and is rarely used.

“It’s extremely unusual, and doing so sends a signal unto itself, so it’s a dramatic step to pick that phone up and use it” former NATO head and retired Admiral James Stavridis told NBC News.

The Oct. 21 denial of service attack took down the websites of several major companies, including Amazon, PayPal, Twitter and Netflix. When the White Made the call on Halloween morning, it believed the Oct. 21 attack had originated from Russia.

“Back in October it was viewed by some as a possible dry run for a massive attack on Election Day,” McFadden said.

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According to the intelligence officials, the White House told Russia: “International law, including the law for armed conflict, applies to actions in cyberspace. We hold Russia to those standards.”

One senior advisor urged Obama to warn Russia that any meddling in the election would be viewed as an act of war, although he chose not to be that specific, NBC News reported.

This was the second time Obama warned Putin about hacking. He pulled Putin aside at the G20 Summit in Hangzhou, China, in September and issued a similar warning.

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Another Country Just Banned Most Cash; 77 Percent Of Bills Instantly Worthless

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Another Country Just Banned Most Cash; 77 Percent Of Bills Instantly Worthless

Image source: Wikimedia

Deadly rioting and looting erupted across a South American country over the weekend after its president declared the nation’s largest banknote worthless.

The violence began in Venezuela when people realized that Central Bank Venezuela (BCV) had no replacements for the worthless money.

“The BCV is not giving any bills or coins but a receipt saying you deposited your 100 bills,” opposition lawmaker Jose Guerra tweeted on Dec. 17.

The riots began after President Nicholas Maduro declared that the 100 bolivar note was no longer legal tender, The Latin American Herald Tribune reported. Maduro said the note had to go because it was being used by “mafias.”

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In December, India’s prime minister made 84 percent of the cash in circulation worthless when he declared that the two largest bills in circulation — the 500 and 1,000 rupee notes — were no longer legal tender.

Venezuela: 77 Percent of Money Instantly Worthless

The 100 bolivar note in Venezuela accounted for 77 percent of the cash in circulation in Venezuela, The South China Morning Post reported. Since most Venezuelans pay for everything in cash, it meant they had no means of buying food.

New coins and bills were scheduled to be available but they never arrived. By Friday rioting had broken out in the city of Ciudad Bolivar and three mining towns, Bloomberg reported. In the town of El Callao, 115 businesses were looted and a 15-year old boy was killed. That forced the governor of Bolivar to call out the national guard.

Citizens had to use smaller bills, which are hard to use and often unavailable. The government has been paying pension benefits in 50 and 20 bolivar notes, but many people cannot find those.

“We are victims of an international sabotage so the bills, which are ready, cannot be shipped to Venezuela,” Maduro told his supporters at a rally on Saturday. The president blamed a supposed conspiracy against his nation for keeping three planes hauling the money from reaching Venezuela.

After the riots, Maduro reversed course and said the 100 bolivar bill would stay in use until Jan. 2, Bloomberg reported.

What is your reaction? Do you think this could happen in the U.S.? Share your thoughts in the section below:

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7 Simple Ways To Minimize Veterinary Costs For Livestock

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7 Simple Ways To Minimize Veterinary Costs For Livestock

Image source: Pixabay.com

It is no secret that health care is expensive. If you have animals of any kind, then you know that this fact is not limited to health care for humans, as a visit to or from a veterinarian can cost a lot of money.

For homesteaders operating on a shoestring budget, an unplanned livestock vet visit—or even a planned one—can be an undue burden on the finances. The price of treating animals not only can increase the overall cost of meat and dairy, but also can take earmarked money away from crucial projects elsewhere on the farmstead.

While it is unlikely that any farmer can completely avoid veterinary expenditures, the good news is that there are steps which can help mitigate them. Most of these cost-control methods are inexpensive or even free, and are simple to implement.

1. Prevention is key. The best way to avoid paying medical costs is to avoid incurring sickness and injuries. Watch out for broken fences, protruding hardware, and rickety milk stands. Keep adversarial animals separated. Ensure feed quality and maintain sanitation. Use prevention techniques such as practicing diligent biosecurity, testing for communicable diseases, and quarantining questionable animals. It is always easier and cheaper to keep animals safe and healthy than it is to treat them after they become ill or get hurt.

2. Develop a network of like-minded livestock owners. Build a community of neighbors, relatives and fellow homesteaders. Include the people who sold your animals to you. There are often also breed clubs and show groups. Don’t be shy about asking at the feed or farm store—many workers there have a lot of experience with livestock.

Look for online resources, such as trusted go-to websites which are recommended by others. Also, try public resources such as your state’s cooperative extension or universities.

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Social media is a great connection, too. I belong to several different regional groups—one strictly for goats, another for general livestock, and a third for farming and homesteading. I also follow national groups that are specific to my breed of goat. All of these offer a wealth of information, education and advice.

If you can ask someone in your network, they might be able to help you monitor and treat the animal on your own instead of paying for treatment. If nothing else, they may be able to rule out a few possibilities up front.

Image source: Pixabay.com

Image source: Pixabay.com

It pays to know when to contact your veterinarian early instead of waiting until things get worse, and a network can help you make that call. I once described my goat’s eye symptoms to a local farmer and she urged me to call the vet immediately—it sounded like pinkeye and the animal could lose the eye if not treated quickly. I followed her advice, and was glad I did.

3. Barter for services (once you have your network in place and have built mutual trust). Dairy goat owners in my area are always ready to help with disbudding, offer advice about parasite prevention, and even show up at two in the morning to assist with a difficult birth—and they expect the same in return.

I’ve driven 15 miles in a snowstorm to help with a friend’s injured goat, and spent an hour on social media walking a stranger through the process of shipping blood test samples off to a laboratory. On the other end of things, I’ve had a dairy farmer drop what he was doing to help me save a dying calf, and a friend diagnose a case of shipping fever on the phone and advise me what to do next.

4. Keep medications and supplies on hand. Having things like bloat relief, blood stop powder, antibiotics and thermometers in your home supply kit will help you deal with emergencies as they arise. If your livestock network gives you solid treatment advice, you need the supplies to follow through. Consider, too, that crises often strike at the worst possible times—on Christmas morning, or in the wee hours during a hurricane. Livestock veterinarians show up anytime, but after-hours care typically comes at a premium. Even if you administer only enough medication and care to tide the animal over to office hours, you can save a bundle.

When you hear of another homesteader wrestling with an animal emergency, take stock of your own supplies that might be helpful and make the offer. In return, they might have what you need someday. I’ve loaned out my microscope and fecal float supplies to a local sheep farm scrambling to control disease, and when one of my goats had a dangerously low temperature, my shepherd friends were quick to suggest and deliver a warm thick coat.

5. Do a lot of procedures yourself. You can learn to administer shots, trim hooves, apply topical medication, neuter, disbud, draw blood, and examine fecal samples. The thought of doing all of that might be intimidating, but not to worry. Acquire the necessary skills for treatments like you would anything else—one step at a time. Learn the easiest thing first, ask people in your network to help with a few others, and call the veterinarian for the rest.

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Pick up additional skills by tagging along with people in your network, signing up for classes and demonstrations at fairs and agricultural events, volunteering or apprenticing, and consulting your cooperative extension experts.

7 Simple Ways To Minimize Veterinary Costs For Livestock

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6. Know your animals. Not all individuals behave like the textbooks say they will. For example, self-isolating behavior in goats is usually a signal that something is wrong. However, I once had a goat that was just naturally stand-offish and would routinely stand with her face in the corner for no reason. A vet who was on site for other reasons noticed the goat’s behavior and asked about her. Because I knew what was normal for that goat, I was able to assure the veterinarian that it was nothing out of the ordinary. Conversely, an animal might display behavior characteristic of its species or breed but atypical for that individual, alerting you to keep an eye on it.

7. When you do have to call the vet, be ready. Before you make that first call, be prepared with the answers to the questions they are likely to ask. Take the animal’s temperature, notice if it’s eating and drinking and eliminating normally, and have a list of what medications and procedures have already been given. This will make the vet’s job easier, and he or she might be able to give you advice over the phone instead of seeing the animal – thus saving you money.

If the animal does have to be seen, make sure it is ready when the veterinarian arrives. I am always astounded at the television reality show where the vet shows up and has to chase a cow around the pasture before he can treat it. In my region they charge by the minute, and the clock starts ticking the minute they pull into the driveway. I always have the animal caught up, penned, or crated ahead of time.

I expect that most veterinarians do not want to waste your money or their time any more than you do. It has been my experience that they appreciate having clients who are knowledgeable and capable, with whom they can work as a team and trust to follow instructions.

By following these guidelines, you can develop a good working rapport with your veterinarian, ensure that your animals receive excellent attention, and keep your homesteading operation running smoothly. And best of all, in a world where many costs are skyrocketing, you can save money on health care for your animals.

What advice would you add for lowering veterinary costs? Share your tips in the section below:

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A Town’s Entire Police Department Just Quit – ‘The Community Will Suffer’

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A Town’s Entire Police Department Just Quit – ‘The Community Will Suffer’

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INDIANAPOLIS — There no longer are any cops on the streets of Bunker Hill, Ind., because the town’s entire police force quit.

Town Marshal Michael Thomison and all four of his unpaid reserve deputies submitted their letters of resignation, leaving the town of 888 people without local law enforcement, The Kokomo Tribune reported. The resignations stemmed from a dispute between Thomison and the town council.

Thomison sent the council a letter accusing its members of asking him to “be involved in illegal, unethical and immoral things over time.” Among his concerns: the council requesting background checks on city officials when it was not necessary, and also asking for confidential information.

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“The town has refused to educate themselves on how to run a town, they continue to carry out their personal agendas to either run off the police department or make it so that it is impossible to work with or for them,” Thomison told The Kokomo Tribune.

Thomison also expressed frustration that there is not enough body armor for all of the deputies.

“The community will suffer, but I can’t continue to stay there when the support’s not there for the department or the reserve deputies,” he said.

The town released a statement, reading, “The resignation of the entire police force has come as a shock to the council. It has never been the goal to dismantle or otherwise endanger the town police department or officers.”

This is not the first time an entire police department has walked out. All four members of the force in Green Mountain Falls, Colo., quit in April because of a dispute with the town council, Fox 31 reported.

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9 Reasons The U.S. Economy Remains In Big, Big Trouble

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Dec., 16, 2016

9 Reasons The U.S. Economy Remains In Big, Big Trouble

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NEW YORK — Despite all the optimism generated by the election and recent stock market rally, there remain many signs the U.S. economy is in big trouble.

In fact, there are several good reasons to believe that a downturn or even a major economic crisis is right around the corner. Here are nine reasons why the United States might be on the verge of a major economic crisis.

1. The strong U.S. dollar. It may be hard to believe, but a strong dollar can create major problems for the U.S. economy. The dollar is at an eight-year high against the Chinese yuan (six yuan to one dollar), which makes Chinese goods cheaper on the world market than American. This increases the price of U.S. exports, such as agricultural goods. Some U.S. manufacturers may have to cut production and eliminate jobs because of lower exports. Another effect is that there will be less investment in the U.S., because investors can buy more in other nations with cheaper money.

2. Higher interest rates. Much of the recent economy recovery has been fueled by lower interest rates, but rates are suddenly climbing back. The rate on a 30-year fixed mortgage was 3.54 percent in September and 4.13 percent in November. Higher interest rates means fewer mortgages, less new construction and fewer jobs. It also means less business activity because it will be more expensive for businesses to borrow money. That can translate into fewer jobs and less demand for raw materials.

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3. Inflation. The rate of inflation in the US doubled between July and October. Inflation was .8 percent in July but rose to 1.6 percent by the end of October, the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported. One factor driving inflation is the strong U.S. dollar. Inflation can affect interest rates because the Federal Reserve might raise them in order to stop inflation.

4. A new real estate bubble. Average home prices in the U.S. hit a record high of $191,780 in September, the Corelogic Case Shiller 20 City Home Price indicates. Prices have not been that high seen since July 2006, right before the beginning of the financial crisis. The situation is worse in certain cities such as Seattle and Denver. Home prices in Seattle have increased by 11 percent over the past year, creating a serious housing shortage.

5. Technological unemployment. Large numbers of jobs are being lost to digital processes, automation and robots. Walmart, America’s largest private employer, is eliminating 7,000 accounting positions in its stores. Those employees used to count cash and process invoices in the back office. Now the cash will be counted by machines and the invoices will be processed by a computer at Walmart’s head office. Many other employers will follow suit as robots and computer algorithms do more jobs such as driving trucks cheaper. For example, Uber recently tested a semi-tractor that drives itself.

9 Reasons The U.S. Economy Remains In Big, Big Trouble

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6. The student loan crisis. Americans owe $1.2 trillion on student loans, but payments are only being made on 40 percent of those obligations. News reports indicate that many younger people are putting off buying things like homes and cars because they need all their money to pay off loans. Others are even forgoing marriage and children because of the debt.

7. Wage and income stagnation. Household incomes for at least 50 percent of the U.S. population (around 117 million people) have not increased since 1980, the Washington Center for Equitable Growth reported.

8. The mass closing of stores. Macy’s has plans to shutter 100 of its department stores. Sears, which owns Kmart, closed 80 Kmart stores in July and has plans to shut down another 64. Walgreens might close up to 500 stores. There is speculation that Sears Holdings might declare bankruptcy or shut down completely next year. That company operates 1,687 Sears and Kmart stores.

9. The public pension crisis. State and local governments owe workers and retirees $4.798 trillion in pension obligations but have only $3.7 trillion in assets to cover that bill. To make up the $1.91 trillion they will either have to cut pension benefits or government services.

Americans had better be ready for economic turmoil.

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CPS Investigates Homeschool Family’s ‘Messy’ House, Threatens Legal Action

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CPS Investigates Homeschool Family’s ‘Messy’ House, Threatens Legal Action

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A homeschool family was almost forced to send their special-needs daughter to public school because someone thought their house was messy.

An anonymous tipster told Montana’s Child & Family Services that the family’s home was messy, leading to a visit from a case worker who found that the house actually was clean, the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA) reported.

But even though there wasn’t a mess, the family’s troubles were far from over.

The case worker came back a week later and began asking questions about the parents’ 9-year-old daughter.

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“The family was aware of their daughter’s unique challenges,” HSLDA reported. “They had already had her evaluated by a private psychologist, who determined that her needs were being met in her current home environment, and they were working closely with an ophthalmologist to care for her vision.”

A month later, the case worker returned and asked the girl to read, which she did. The case worker then decided that she should be tested in a public school – and he threatened legal action if the family did not go along.

The state only backed off after HSDLA attorney Dan Beasley wrote to the specialist about what is required under Montana law.

“[Beasley[ explained that the family was in compliance with Montana law and that they were under no legal obligation to access services through the public school,” HSLDA reported. “The specialist quickly responded with an email clarifying that he was not trying to force services on the family, but he wanted to make sure they were aware of the free services available through the school district. He also had some questions about the legal requirements for homeschooling.”

Beasley then replied back to the case worker, and the family has not heard from the case worker since.

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Scotland Wanted 1 Million Government Chaperones For EVERY CHILD. But Common Sense Won.

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Scotland Wanted 1 Million Government Chaperones For EVERY CHILD. But Common Sense Won.

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LONDON — Advocates of parental rights won a major victory in the United Kingdom when a controversial “chaperoning” law was struck down – and they won again when a court ordered the government to pay the legal bill.

As previously reported by Off The Grid News, the Scottish law would have appointed a government-approved guardian to every child in Scotland. The British Supreme Court rejected the law this summer, and then last month told the Scottish government it was responsible for a £250,000 legal bill from the No to Named Persons (NO2NP) campaign, which had filed suit against the law. The £250,000 bill is equal to around $315,000 in the U.S.

Scotland’s government would have violated the rights of parents and children by assigning a “named person” (an official such as a teacher or social worker) to monitor every child, the British Supreme Court ruled. The court also found that the scheme would have violated the European Convention on Human Rights by sharing sensitive and private information about family life with the government without consent.

The chaperone-for-every-child law was passed in 2014 and was set to go into effect this year, with around 1 million children and minors receiving guardians.

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“The first thing that a totalitarian regime tries to do is to get to the children, to distance them from the subversive, varied influences of their families, and indoctrinate them in their rulers’ view of the world,” Lord Patrick Stewart Hodge, a Supreme Court Justice, wrote in his ruling. “Within limits, families must be left to bring up their children in their own way.”

Scotland Wanted 1 Million Government Chaperones For EVERY CHILD. But Common Sense Won.

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“Secondly, those provisions may in practice result in disproportionate interference with those rights, with limited safeguards available to individuals affected,” Hodge wrote. “As presently drafted, they are at risk of placing those tasked with delivering the scheme on the ground in breach of important regulations protecting privacy and confidentiality.”

Child Protection or Big Brother?

As part of its “The Getting it Right for Every Child Strategy,” the Scottish government wanted to assign a named person to monitor the welfare of every child in Scotland. The person could have been a teacher, social worker or an employee of Britain’s National Health Service.

Advocates claimed the scheme would have made it easier for social services to help children and family.

“Giving a health visitor or teacher formal responsibility for collating information is a key part of the early warning system we need to make sure every child in Scotland is protected,” Barnardo’s, a charity that backed the scheme, told the BBC.

Critics dubbed it the “state snooper” law.

“The Big Brother scheme is history,” Simon Calvert, the spokesman for No to Named Persons, told The Telegraph. “It’s wonderful news for mums, dads and children all across Scotland who no longer have to worry about this unjustified invasion of their private lives. To many of them the Named Person scheme felt like a legal battering ram to gain access to their homes. The court has taken sides with ordinary families and put the Scottish Government back in its place.”

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Police Stun Community: Yes, We Spread Fake News

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Police Stun Community: Yes, We Spread Fake News

SANTA MARIA, Calif. — Believing what you read or see in the news is becoming harder every day. In Santa Maria, Calif., even the police are spreading fake news stories.

Police officials this month acknowledged they deliberately lied to the local media and citizens with a fake news release about two prisoners, TV station KEYT reported. On Feb. 23, the Santa Maria Police sent out and tweeted about a news release that said Jose Santos Melendez and Jose Marino Melendez had been arrested for identity theft and turned over to Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) for deportation.

“We never arrested them for that charge,” Santa Maria Police Chief Ralph Martin admitted. “We never turned them over to ICE. They were always in our protective custody.”

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The men’s names reportedly appeared on a hit list compiled by MS-13, a notorious street gang based in El Salvador. Martin said police learned of an MS-13 plot to kill the two men during an investigation of the gang’s activities.

Did Lies Save Lives?

“This was a split second [decision],” Martin said. “They were en route to go murder two people and our detectives got there and took them into protective custody just minutes before the other people got there. We saved two people’s lives and the gang members that were targeting them backed off.”

Newspapers and TV stations in the area – including KEYT and The Santa Maria Times – posted the information contained in the fake news release, as if it were fact.

“We were trailing MS-13 and watching them target two people over in Guadalupe, (Calif.),” Martin told The Times. “We had a moral and legal obligation to go in and save those people before they got shot and killed.”

The MS-13 gangsters behind the alleged murder plot are now in jail.

Media and Gangsters Fooled

No one in the media was aware of the deception until a reporter for the Santa Maria Sun spotted it in court records. The ploy apparently worked.

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“As the suspects continued to look for their victims the following day, they were overheard in their phone conversations saying that the guys they were looking for were arrested, turned over to ICE and probably got deported,” Martin said. “What that did was save those two people’s lives. We had them in protective custody the whole time.”

ICE was not involved with the fake news release.

“We had nothing to do with this,” Virginia Kice, a regional communications director for ICE, told The Santa Maria Times. “I want to be sure that your readers understand that. I understand the dilemma that the Police Department was facing; two people’s lives were in danger. As a former reporter and now a public affairs person of 30 years standing, I was very concerned about corroborating information that we knew to be false. We did not corroborate that claim.”

Said Martin, “If the circumstances came up and there was something similar, I would definitely do it again.”

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He Was Carrying $32,100 To Buy A Truck When Police Stopped Him. You Know How It Ended.

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Photographer: Scott Davidson. License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

Photographer: Scott Davidson. License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/

TOPEKA, Kan. — A non-profit organization hopes that a Kansas case will help change civil forfeiture laws throughout the nation.

The DKT Liberty Project is alleging that the Kansas State Patrol illegally seized $32,100 in cash from a man who was set to use it to buy a truck.

State troopers took the cash after they searched Salvador Franco Jr.’s car without a warrant at a rest area on I-70 near Ellsworth, Kansas, in March, attorney David B. Smith told the Salina Journal. Smith is challenging the forfeiture of the money in federal court in an attempt to end the practice.

“It’s really a bad case — that’s why we took it,” Smith said.

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Special U.S. Attorney Colin Wood, though, said in a response filed in court that the cash was drug money and that the girlfriend had pictures of marijuana on her phone.

“Complaints have been upheld on less,” Wood wrote.

The DKT Liberty Project, though, says Franco is innocent.

“We do this because we think the civil forfeiture laws have gone way wrong, and we want to push back,” said A.C. Bushnell, the project’s program director.

Civil forfeiture is a practice in which prosecutors use a civil lawsuit to seize money or property. Such a suit enables the government to take money or property without a criminal conviction or even criminal charges. Franco has not been charged.

Franco and his girlfriend, Liliana Ramirez, allege that a trooper deliberately cued or directed a drug-sniffing dog to find his cash, which was hidden under the rear seat.

Smith says the money was placed there simply because Franco thought it would be the safest place to store it en route from Nevada to St. Louis, where he visited a cousin who recently had a baby. Franco wanted to get a discount on a pickup truck from a dealership and had seen ads for it, Smith added. Many dealers require cash from out-of-state customers, Smith said.

Franco ended up not purchasing the truck and headed back home, Smith said. That’s when he was encountered by police at the rest area for not having a front license plate. Kansas law, though, does not require a front license plate.

“Finally, the handler rapped on the back bumper of the car and the dog allegedly alerted,” Smith wrote in his motion to dismiss the case. “This cuing of the dog was observed by both Franco and Ramirez. Franco angrily remonstrated with the dog handler, to no avail.”

Troopers also cursed at the two, shouted at them and called them derogatory names, Smith alleged.

“They’re probably embarrassed because the whole thing was illegal,” Smith said. “Basically, the officer involved didn’t respect any of their constitutional rights. He seized the money and threatened to keep the money — until they signed a form giving up their rights to it. Efforts to reform our forfeiture laws are driven by horror stories like this one.”

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Rogue, Anti-Trump Elector Warns: I’m Not The Only One

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Rogue, Anti-Trump Elector Warns: I’m Not The Only One

Photographer: Gage Skidmore/Flickr. License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

DALLAS — The lone Republican elector who has pledged to vote for someone other than Donald Trump in the electoral college says he won’t be the only one to abandon the GOP president-elect.

“At this point there are people who have reached out to me. Again, it wouldn’t be my place to name who they are,” he told the ABC Powerhouse Politics Podcast. “I am confident in saying, at this point … I don’t think I will be the only one voting for someone other than Donald Trump who is carrying a Republican elector seat.”

The Dallas resident did not identify the other rogue electors or say how many there are. The Electoral College is scheduled to vote Dec. 19. Suprun is one of 306 electors won by Trump, with 270 needed to secure the nomination. All total, 37 would have to abandon Trump for him to fall short; if no candidate got 270 votes the election then would be tossed into the House of Representatives.

Suprun has become something of a celebrity among Trump’s opponents after he penned a New York Times op-ed explaining his vote against Trump.

He said there’s more than one reason he opposes Trump.

“It’s been the buildup,” Suprun said of Trump. “It’s not one raindrop that’s caused the flood. It’s been the undercutting of the Constitution, the undercutting of the First Amendment, the attacks on people critical of him and the attacks on the election itself. You can’t claim 3 million illegal votes without evidence.

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“I was told if we elected Donald Trump he would transform his personality into being presidential. He isn’t,” Suprun said. “I wanted him to be presidential, but since the election he hasn’t grown into our institution; he’s attacked them. I am here to elect a president, not a king.”

Suprun said he has heard from other Republican electors that share his opinion of Trump.

“As electors come forward, and I have had conversations with other Republican electors in particular, I think we will start discussing names specifically and see who meets the test that we could all get behind,” Suprun said.

Suprun received support and pushback in the comments section of his Times article.

“Whatever Mr. Trump’s shortcomings may be, he won the election,” one person named Fred wrote. “Any other candidate chosen by a rogue electoral college would have no legitimacy. The election of the next President (or any subsequent President) should not turn on the judgment of 538 people who are unknown to most of us.”

Another commenter, Rick Harris, wrote, “I do not believe that your vote is endowed with a superior value to that of the 60 million American’s who voted. It invites anarchy rather than enhances Democracy. If the American people, voting in their respective states, cannot act to maintain the individual freedoms granted in the Bill of Right, the 14th and 15th Amendments, as well as the need for honest in political discourse, it is sorrowful. But your electoral vote, however cast, will not change the fact that voters were prepared to reject the conventions that usually abide during American elections. Now we, as well as they, will have to live and react to that decision.”

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Students Are So Afraid Of Trump That L.A. Launches ‘Emotional Support’ Hotline — Children ‘Scared And Crying’

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Students Are So Scared Of Trump That L.A. Launches 'Emotional Support' Hotline -- Children 'Scared And Crying'

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Students in Los Angeles are so afraid of Donald Trump that the school district has set up a hotline and support centers to deal with their anxieties.

“Although it has been nearly a month since the presidential election, many of our students still have questions and concerns about potential impact on them and their families,” Los Angeles Unified School District Superintendent Michelle King said in a recorded phone call to families. “As part of our commitment to providing a safe and positive learning environment, we are providing additional resources for our families.”

The resources include Extended Support Sites and a hotline designed to offer, among other things, “emotional support,” The Los Angeles Times reported. The centers and the hotline will provide access to “outside resources.”

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Many Latino students are afraid that President-elect Trump will deport them. Around 74 percent of the students in the Los Angeles district are Latino.

“No other time in history have we had to have school counselors on duty more because of the person who is supposed to be president,” parent Jenny Jerome told The Times. “I’ve seen kids acting really scared and crying.

The district’s board has voted to make Los Angeles schools safe zones for students who are in the United States illegally, The Times reported. That vote affirmed an earlier resolution not to cooperate with federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents, the newspaper reported.

“I’m not here to deport anyone,” history teacher Noemi Morales told a class at Van Nuys Middle School. “I’m on your side. I’m your advocate. I’m fighting for you.”

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98 Minutes In Line At An ATM – Others Completely Out Of Cash

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98 Minutes In Line At An ATM – Others Completely Out Of Cash

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EAST DELHI — India’s ban on its most popular forms of cash has led to empty ATMs in many locations – and long lines in others.

CNBC writer Neelabh Chaturvedi had to stand in line for 98 minutes just to get cash from a machine on Dec. 1.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi on Nov. 8 declared that the two largest bills in circulation — the 500 and 1,000 rupee notes — were no longer legal tender. A full 86 percent of the cash in India, the world’s second largest, was suddenly worthless.

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The first two ATMS Chaturvedi went to in East Delhi were not even working. The third machine was working but there was a line of 35 people because it was the only place in the neighborhood to get cash.

“One person I spoke to had spent the entire day trying to get cash to meet expenses,” she wrote. “A labourer for a company setting up the trackworks for an extension of the Delhi Metro, he told me he first went to a bank branch to deposit cash but left in frustration after a couple of hours of fruitless waiting. He then went to an ATM, where he lined up for just over an hour, only to find that cash ran out when he was third in line to get 2,000 rupees. This was his third stop. Another waited anxiously only to find out when he reached the ATM that his card had been locked.”

There is a daily of limit of 2,500 rupees ($73.37) for withdrawals.

Modi’s move was designed to curb tax evasion and force India to move to a cashless society. Most Indians still pay the old-fashioned way. The prime minister is trying to stop that through a policy called demonetization, in which cash is suddenly declared worthless.

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The $1.3 Trillion Economic ‘Time Bomb’ That Could Turn America Into Greece

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The $1.3 Trillion Economic ‘Time Bomb’ That Could Turn America Into Greece

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NEW YORK — There is a ticking financial time bomb that could devastate America’s economy and leave governments unable to provide basic services – and most investors and Americans don’t even realize it.

The bomb is underfunded government pensions, which at the moment total $1.3 trillion, an amount that governments simply cannot pay, according to an investigation by Real Vision TV.

“We’re seeing this surge of people trying to retire early and take the money, because they see it’s not going to be there.” Federal Reserve Advisor Danielle DiMartino Booth told Real Vision TV. “And if that dynamic and that belief spreads — forget all the other problems. The pension fund — underfunding is Ground Zero.”

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The worst-case scenario would be rioting and civil unrest like that which occurred in Greece six years ago, Real Vision TV reported in an article at MSN.com. Some communities are already beginning to feel the pinch as governments cut services like police and schools in order to meet pension obligations.

America’s Pension Crisis

The $1.3 Trillion Economic ‘Time Bomb’ That Could Turn America Into Greece

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The $1.3 trillion pension deficit includes state and municipal obligations and assumes an 8 percent promised return and funds compounding at 3 percent

“The average state pension in the last fiscal year returned something south of 1 percent. You cannot fill that gap with a bulldozer, impossible,” DiMartino Booth said. “Anyone who knows their compounding tables knows you don’t make that up. You don’t get that back unless you get some miracle.”

One problem is an aging population.

“The Baby Boomers are no longer an actuarial theory,” she said. “They’re a reality. The checks are being written.”

The Hoover Institute, a research body, found that governments owe $4.798 trillion in pensions but they only have $3.7 trillion to cover the obligations. Although those figures differ slightly from Real Vision TV’s data, the theme remains the same: Unpaid pensions could wreck the economy.

‘Riot In The Streets’

“Where’s the money going to come from?” DiMartino Booth asked. “And the answer is, for now, they cut services. I worry about the ambulance not getting there in time. I worry about firefighters being cut to the bone and policemen.”

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This is already happening in San Jose, California, where the city council had to declare a state of emergency because there were not enough cops to patrol the streets. The department is so short-staffed that officers are being forced to work mandatory overtime. Around 485 officers have left San Jose’s department since 2012 because of changes to pensions, but the city might be forced to cancel the police academy because of a budget shortfall, The San Jose Mercury News reported. Cops are working so much overtime that they are sleeping in vehicles in the police station parking lot, and Chief Eddie Garcia was forced to reassign detectives to patrol duty.

Elsewhere, in Illinois, pension plans were running a $111 billion shortfall in 2015, The Chicago Tribune reported.

“If the actuaries are going to force the checks to be written and reduce the rate of returned assumptions to anything remotely related to reality, then we won’t be laughing anymore looking in the rearview mirror at the riots in the streets of Athens a few years back,” DiMartino Booth warned.

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California Warns Citizens: Better Buy Your Guns Before Jan. 1

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California Warns Citizens: Better Buy Your Guns Before Jan. 1

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LOS ANGELES — Many popular guns, including specific semiautomatic rifles and pistols, will disappear from California gun stores on New Year’s Day 2017, the California Department of Justice Bureau of Firearms is warning gun owners.

The bureau recently sent out a notice to firearms dealers detailing which weapons will be banned beginning Jan. 1.

It is based on a new law – S.B. 880/A.B. 1135 – that bans “bullet button” firearms and redefines what is an “assault” weapon. The law allows persons with such guns to keep them, but only if they are registered.

The National Rifle Association is telling California gun owners that because of the 10-day waiting period, the purchasing “process must be started no later than December 21st.”

The Bureau of Firearms is warning dealers and gun owners that there will be no exceptions. Its memo says “URGENT AND TIME SENSITIVE.”

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“Effective January 1, 2017, ‘Bullet Button’ firearms will be considered assault weapons,” the memo reads. “… The dealer will NOT be able to deliver the firearm after December 31, 2016, regardless of the circumstances.”

The law was signed by Governor Jerry Brown during the summer. At the time, Amy Hunter, a California spokesperson for the NRA, told The Los Angeles Times that Brown had “signed a draconian gun control package that turns California’s law-abiding gun owners into second-class citizens.”

The law was passed in the wake of the December 2015 San Bernardino mass shooting.

“The governor and Legislature exploited a terrorist attack to push these measures through even though the state’s already restrictive laws did nothing to stop the attack in San Bernardino,” Hunter said.

Here are the features that will make a gun illegal to sale in California on January 1, 2017, according to the Bureau of Firearms:

Rifles

A semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that does not have a fixed magazine but has any of the following

  • A pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon.
  • A thumbhole stock.
  • A folding or telescoping stock.
  • A grenade launcher or flare launcher.
  • A flash suppressor.
  • A forward pistol grip.

A semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that has a fixed magazine with the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds.

A semiautomatic, centerfire rifle that has an overall length of less than 30 inches.

Pistols

A semiautomatic pistol that does not have a fixed magazine but has any one of the following:

  • A threaded barrel, capable of holding a flash suppressor, forward handgrip or silencer.
  • A second handgrip.
  • A shroud that is attached to, or partially or completely encircles, the barrel that allows the bearer to fire the weapon without burning the bearer’s hand, except a slide that encloses the barrel.
  • The capacity to accept a detachable magazine at some location outside of the pistol’s grip.

A semiautomatic pistol with a fixed magazine that has the capacity to accept more than 10 rounds.

Shotguns

A semiautomatic shotgun that has both of the following:

  • A folding stock or telescoping stock.
  • A pistol grip that protrudes conspicuously beneath the action of the weapon, thumbhole stock, or vertical handgrip.

A semiautomatic shotgun that has the ability to accept a detachable magazine.

Any shotgun with a revolving cylinder.

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10 Unordinary Uses For Oatmeal That Make Off-Grid Life Easier

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10 Unordinary Uses For Oatmeal That Make Off-Grid Life Easier

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There is nothing like eating a bowl of oatmeal on a winter morning to warm you and fuel you for the day. In fact, a container of old-fashioned or whole oats is probably a staple on your pantry shelf all year long.

However, did you know you could use oatmeal for a wide variety of other uses than just for eating? Here are 10 uses for oatmeal you may not have tried. (Please note that these uses are intended for whole oats and not for instant oatmeal, which usually has added flavors and sugars.)

1. Absorb odors.

Oatmeal can neutralize unwanted odors in your home as well as baking soda can. Place a bowl of oats in the fridge or sprinkle some in your teenager’s smelly sneakers overnight.

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You even can add some oatmeal to your kitty litter box.

2. Clean cast iron.

Use oatmeal to help remove grease and stubborn small food particles from your cast iron pots and pans. Simply sprinkle about two tablespoons of oats in the pan. Then add a little water and scrub with a stiff brush or a dishcloth. Rinse well and dry.

3. Thicken soups and stews.

Skip the extra flour or cream and try adding oats to thicken your next batch of soup. Add the oats, one tablespoon at a time, until your each your desired consistency. In addition to a creamier, thicker texture, you will add healthy fiber to your meal.

4. Replace flour.

You can use oats as a substitute for flour in baking recipes for breads, cookies and pancakes. You’ll have twice the fiber but far fewer calories. (Measurements may vary. Quaker Oats has a helpful substation chart here.)

5. Soothe minor burns and skin irritations.

10 Unordinary Uses For Oatmeal That Make Off-Grid Life Easier

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Oatmeal can come to the rescue for pain relief from sunburn, poison oak, poison ivy and other minor burns. Mix a half cup of oatmeal and a quarter cup of water and let it sit in the bowl for about 60 seconds. Then gently apply the paste on the burn for about five minutes.

6. Clean oil spills.

You can absorb oil spills in your garage or in your kitchen with plain oatmeal. Sprinkle enough oats over the affected area to cover the oil completely. Let it sit for 30 minutes and then sweep away the mess.

7. Remove sap from skin.

Oatmeal works wonders at removing sticky tree sap from your skin. Just rub some oatmeal into your sticky hands before washing them with soap and water. Oatmeal works as an abrasive, helping to remove the sap as you wash. Plus, it is gentle on your skin.

8. Make a dry shampoo.

Make a DIY dry shampoo that is inexpensive and gentle on your hair. Massage one tablespoon of ground oats into your scalp. Let them sit for about five minutes before brushing them out.

9. Soothe your dog’s irritated skin.

Is your dog itchy? Try massaging some dry oats into his coat to soothe irritated skin. Let the oats sit for about five minutes and then brush the oats out.

You also can grind oats into a fine powder and add them to your dog’s bathwater. (This works well for humans too!)

10. Make modeling clay.

There is something just so soothing about working with clay. Now you can make your own fresh-smelling modeling clay with oatmeal. Combine one cup of rolled oats, two-thirds cup of all-purpose flour and one-half cup of water. You will create a substance that stays moist for hours but will harden overnight.

So now, you have 10 good reasons to stock up on oatmeal the next time you see it on sale.

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7 Mass Shootings That Were Stopped By Lawful Gun Owners

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7 U.S. Mass Shootings That Were Stopped By Lawful Gun Owners

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WASHINGTON — There is growing evidence that armed citizens can prevent mass shootings, despite what the mainstream media may promote as conventional wisdom.

Legal gun owners have prevented tragedies all over the country, law professor and Washington Post writer Eugene Volokh discovered. His list was published last year but has received renewed attention thanks to radio host Dana Loesch, who brought up the subject during a recent interview on Fox News and then tweeted out a series of news stories.

Using the lists by both Volokh and Loesch, and Off The Grid News’ own research, following are seven instances in which mass shootings were stopped by lawful gun owners.

1. Aaron Guyton was able to save both innocent bystanders and the shooter himself with a gun. On March 25, 2012, Jesse Gates kicked open the door at the South Side Free Will Baptist Church in Boiling Springs, South Carolina, during services. Gates had a shotgun in his hands. Guyton, who had a concealed weapons permit, pulled a gun. That action enabled worshippers and Pastor Henry Guyton to tackle and disarm Gates.

2. An unidentified Uber driver was able to stop Everardo Custodio, who was firing into a crowd of people on North Milwaukee Avenue in Chicago in April 2015, The Chicago Tribune reported. The driver stopped his car, pulled out a pistol and fired several shots, injuring Custodio. No other injuries were reported and no charges were made against the driver when police learned he had a concealed carry permit.

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3. An unidentified man saved the lives of several people inside the Farah Barber Shop in West Philadelphia, Pa., by shooting a 40-year-old gunman on March 22, 2015, police told NBC 10. Several people, including children, were inside the shop when the man took out a gun and opened fire. Fortunately, a passer-by pulled out his gun, ran into the shop and shot the gunman before he could kill anyone.

7 U.S. Mass Shootings That Were Stopped By Lawful Gun Owners

Image source: Wikimedia.com

“The person who responded was a legal gun permit carrier,” Philadelphia Police Captain Frank Llewellyn told NBC 10. “He responded and I guess he saved a lot of people in there.”

4. Psychologist Dr. Lee Silverman may have saved many lives at Mercy Fitzgerald Hospital in Darby, Pa., because he brought a gun to work in July 2014. Silverman was working at his desk when he saw mental patient Richard Plotts shoot caseworker Barbara Hunt in the face. Silverman pulled out his gun and shot Plotts. Silverman might have saved many lives — including his own. Police found 39 bullets in Plotts’ pockets and they think he intended to use them.

“If the doctor did not have a firearm, (and) the doctor did not utilize the firearm, he’d be dead today, and I believe that other people in that facility would also be dead,” said Delaware County District Attorney Jack Whelan.

5. Nick Meli may have saved hundreds of lives at the Clackamas Mall outside of Portland, Ore., on Dec. 11, 2012. Jacob Taylor Roberts came into the mall wearing a hockey mask and firing a stolen AR-15. Meli, who had a concealed carry permit, pulled out a Glock 22 pistol and aimed it at Roberts. That caused Roberts to take cover and then kill himself. Meli’s action likely saved many lives; police found 128 rounds of ammunition on his body.

6. An armed likely prevented a shooting rampage at Bonnie’s Food and Spirits, a bar in Plymouth, Pa., in September 2012. William Allabaugh shot a man in the head after being asked to leave the establishment. Mark Kytor stopped Allabaugh by drawing his gun and shooting him. Kytor may have saved many lives because police found an extra clip of ammunition in Allabaugh’s pants, The Citizens Voice reported.

7. A customer at a Conyers, Ga., liquor store in May, 2015, shot a suspect who already had killed two people, preventing the gunman from killing even more people. The customer was Todd C. Scott, 44. “I believe that if Mr. Scott did not return fire at the suspect then more of those customers would have hit by a gun,” said Rockdale County Sheriff Eric Levett. “It didn’t appear that he cared who he shot or where he was shooting until someone was shooting back at him. So in my opinion he saved other lives in that store.”

So, yes, guns can save lives and armed citizens can prevent mass shootings.

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College Student Slays U.S. Justice Department & Gets His $11,000 Back … Plus Interest

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College Student Sues & Beats U.S. Justice Department; Gets His $11,000 Back … Plus Interest

Image source: Institute for Justice

CINCINNATI — A college student whose life savings was seized because police said they smelled marijuana on his luggage is getting all of his cash back – plus interest — after nearly two years of a legal fight.

Police stopped Clarke and took the money from a checked bag while he was waiting to board a plane at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport in February 2014. He was never charged with a crime, but police nevertheless said they had the legal power to keep the $11,000 under civil forfeiture laws – claiming it was proceeds from drug trafficking.

Clarke had intended to use the money to pay for furniture and living expenses at college. The cash came from odd jobs, financial aid and veterans’ benefits Clarke receives because his mother is a wounded vet. He was flying back to Florida from a visit to relatives in Ohio at the time of the seizure.

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The Institute for Justice sued the government on his behalf and announced Nov. 29 that the U.S. Justice Department had agreed to return all of the money, plus interest.

“Charles is very pleased that he will get his life savings back and that the whole ordeal is now behind him,” said Institute for Justice Attorney Darpana Sheth. “Civil forfeiture is wrong. It allows law enforcement to seize and keep property without ever charging someone with a crime. Even worse, it encourages law enforcement to seize as much money and property as possible by allowing agencies to keep the proceeds for themselves.”

At the time of the lawsuit, Clarkes said it was tough “to make ends meet” after the money was seized.

“I had to borrow money from family, and I was embarrassed,” he said. “No one should have to go through the nightmare I went through simply because they choose to carry their hard-earned cash.”

Under civil forfeiture, law enforcement can take money without a charge or conviction. Although few Americans travel with large amounts of cash, some do.

“Charles did not put all of his money in the bank because he preferred to use cash and his bank had few physical branches,” the Institute for Justice said in a press release. “He traveled with the cash because he and his mother were moving and Charles did not want the money to get lost while he spent time in Cincinnati.”

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Britain Orders Companies To Hand Over The Browsing History Of Every Citizen

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Britain Orders Companies To Give It The Browsing History Of Every Citizen

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The British government will be able to track the phone calls and Internet use of every citizen and hack into almost any computer thanks to a new law that critics have dubbed the “Snooper’s Charter.”

“The UK has just legalized the most extreme surveillance in the history of western democracy,” U.S. whistleblower Edward Snowden tweeted. “It goes further than many autocracies.”

Parliament authorized mass surveillance, bulk collection of data, warrantless searches and other extreme measures when it passed the Investigatory Powers Act on Nov. 17. It now needs only the queen’s approval, or royal assent, which is a mere formality. It requires phone and Internet companies to keep records of every call made and website visited, respectively, for the previous 12 months.

The data can be legally accessed by not only police and intelligence departments but also by government agencies such as fire officials, food regulators and tax inspectors. All total, 48 government organizations will be able to see the data, all without a warrant.

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“At a time of heightened security threat, it is essential our law enforcement, security and intelligence services have the powers they need to keep people safe,” Home Secretary Amber Rudd said, according to The Telegraph. “The Internet presents new opportunities for terrorists and we must ensure we have the capabilities to confront this challenge. But it is also right that these powers are subject to strict safeguards and rigorous oversight.”

The new law gives intelligence organizations GCHQ and MI5 legal power to hack into electronic devices. It also allows the government to force Internet companies to remove encryption – which could weaken the security of financial transactions.

“The UK now has a surveillance law that is more suited to a dictatorship than a democracy,” Jim Killock, the executive director of Open Rights Group, told The Guardian. “The state has unprecedented powers to monitor and analyze UK citizens’ communications regardless of whether we are suspected of any criminal activity.”

Said Renate Samson of Big Brother Watch, “The passing of the investigatory powers bill has fundamentally changed the face of surveillance in this country. None of us online are now guaranteed the right to communicate privately and, most importantly, securely.”

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The Left Has Discovered A ‘Surprisingly Easy Way’ To ‘Dump Trump’ — And They Claim It Would Work

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The Left Discovered A 'Surprisingly Easy Way' To 'Dump Trump' -- And They Claim It Would Work

Photo by Gage Skidmore. License: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0/

 

WASHINGTON — It would be far easier to remove a President Trump from office than most Americans think – at least, that’s what his critics say.

All it would take is for the vice president and a majority of the members of the cabinet to declare the president mentally or physically unfit, according to liberal commentator Keith Olbermann, who made the case in a new video as part of his GQ “The Resistance” series.

“Section four of the 25th Amendment to our Constitution provides the means to vice president-elect Pence and Trump’s cabinet office to remove him from office as soon as the inauguration is over,” Olbermann said.

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“No hearings, no doctors, no conferences, no impeachment. The vice president and merely most of the cabinet write to the Speaker Paul Ryan and the Senate President Pro Tempore Orrin Hatch and they say the president’s unable to do the job and the vice president becomes president,” Olbermann said.

Technically, Olbermann is right, although Republicans so far are extremely loyal to Trump. Olbermann’s theory also shows how desperate the Left is to deny Trump the presidency. First, a group of Democrat electors launched an effort to persuade Republican electors to abandon Trump in the electoral college. Then, Jill Stein of the Green Party sought a series of recounts.

The relevant portion of the 25th Amendment states:

“Whenever the Vice President and a majority of either the principal officers of the executive departments or of such other body as Congress may by law provide, transmit to the President pro tempore of the Senate and the Speaker of the House of Representatives their written declaration that the President is unable to discharge the powers and duties of his office, the Vice President shall immediately assume the powers and duties of the office as Acting President.”

The amendment does not require a medical or psychological examination of the president. The amendment allows the president to resume office by sending his or her own letter to the speaker and the president pro tempore. If the cabinet and vice president refused to go along, then a vote by a two-thirds majority of both houses of Congress would be required to remove Trump.

The 25th Amendment was ratified in 1967.

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Despite Trump’s Win, Gun Control Quietly Expanded This Month

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Yes, Trump Won, But Gun Control Still Quietly Expanded This Month

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WASHINGTON — Gun control expanded dramatically in three states this month while the nation’s attention was diverted by the presidential election.

California now requires background checks for ammunition purchases and bans magazines larger than 10 rounds. In Washington state, judges can now strip citizens of their Second Amendment rights with a court order. And Nevada now requires background checks on all gun sales, including those made by private citizens, though online transactions, and at gun shows.

“It was a repudiation of the National Rifle Association (NRA) and the gun lobby,” Lt. Governor Gavin Newsom, the sponsor of California’s Proposition 63, told The Los Angeles Times.

Proposition 63 also requires ammunition sales be made through licensed vendors and makes it a crime if a lost or stolen gun is not reported to police. The California Police Chiefs Association (CPCA) opposed Prop 63, partially because of the reporting requirement.

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“Penalizing the failure to report lost and stolen firearms actually can deter individuals to report for fear of penalty, which has already been proven to be the case in many areas where local governments have enacted similar ordinances,” Ken Corney, the president of CPCA, wrote in a letter to the citizens of California.

Said Craig DeLuz of the Stop Prop 63 Committee, “Prop. 63 is another attempt by Newsom and his one percent, elitist friends to attack law-abiding Californians. They want to replace the ‘War on Drugs’ with ‘The War on law-abiding gun owners’ so they can continue locking up young black and Latino men.”

Newsom and his allies raised more than $4.5 million to support Proposition 63, while opponents only collected $868,000.

Around 71 percent of Washington state’s population voted for Initiative 1591, The Seattle Times reported.

The measure allows law enforcement officers, family members and others to ask a judge to issue an “extreme risk protection order” if they believe someone is a danger to themselves or others. The gun/guns would be confiscated without warning and without the person having a chance to make his or her case.

Around 50.45 percent of Nevada voters supported Question 1, which expands background checks to gun shows, online purchases and private sales.

There was one major defeat for gun controllers: 52 percent of Maine’s residents voted no on an expansion of background checks.

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Trump Elector Receiving Death Threats — ‘You’re A Hateful Bigot, I Hope You Die’

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Trump Elector Receiving Death Threats; Here’s How He Responds To Them

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WASHINGTON — The presidential transition is getting uglier – and dangerous.

A Republican member of the electoral college from Michigan says he is receiving death threats from Clinton supporters for his pledged support to President-elect Donald Trump.

“You have people saying ‘You’re a hateful bigot, I hope you die,’” the elector, Michael Banerian, told The Detroit News. “I’ve had people talk about shoving a gun in my mouth and blowing my brains out. And I’ve received dozens and dozens of those emails. Even the non-threatening-my-life emails are very aggressive.”

The Detroit News has confirmed one of the death threats against Banerian, who is 22 and is the youth vice chair of the Michigan Republican Party. He will vote in the electoral college Dec. 19.

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“They disturb me,” Banerian said of the threats. “But I wouldn’t say I’m afraid.”

The threats won’t change how he votes, he told the newspaper.

“Even if I could, I wouldn’t be remotely interested in changing my vote,” he told the newspaper. “The people of Michigan spoke, and it’s our job to deliver that message.”

Michigan electors are not allowed to change their votes; if they do vote for a different candidate, a different elector will step in and cast a vote for the pledged candidate.

Banerian even penned a column under the headline, “In face of death threats, I’m still voting for Trump.”

“There seems to be some confusion among many as to how our election system actually works,” he wrote. “Let’s start here: there is no such thing as a national popular vote. Elections are held at the state level, not the federal level, with each state choosing a statewide popular vote to determine the winner of its electoral votes. To say that Hillary Clinton won the popular vote is a null argument; taking the results of each individual state (which all have different election laws) and combining them into a singular ‘national popular vote’ means nothing.”

Green Party Presidential Candidate Jill Stein has raised $4 million to fund a recount in Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin. Additionally, around 4.3 million people have signed a Change.org petition urging Trump electors to vote for Clinton.

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Wealthy Preppers Building Huge Underground Neighborhood; 1,600 Residents; Sustainable For 200 Years

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Wealthy Preppers Building Huge Underground Neighborhood; 1,600 Residents; Sustainable For 200 Years

Image source: KERA

DALLAS — Survival is certainly not what it used to be, as a $300 million five-star luxury resort fortress for millionaires is being planned in Texas.

Trident Lakes will give wealthy preppers all the comforts of home, including an 18-hole golf course, a shooting range, driving range, shops, polo fields, jogging trails, stables, restaurants and helipads.

The development will consist of 400 underground condominiums that will serve as survival bunkers for the rich, The Herald Democrat reported. The amenities, including lagoons, will be located on the surface while the rich hide underground.

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“It’s not just a hole in the ground to hide in; it’s going to be one of the most plush resorts in all of Texas, if not America,” Trident Lakes spokesperson Richie Whitt said.

The gated community will be surrounded by a 12-foot wall complete with watchtowers to keep less-affluent survivors out. Three different floorplans for condominiums are available, according to The Herald Democrat.

There also will be underground tunnel system connecting the condos. The tunnels will contain communal greenhouses, an air purification system and airlock — presumably to protect it from gas attack or fallout from a nuclear weapon.

“Part of the beauty of Trident Lakes and part of the reason it’s going to exist and be popular is the anonymity of it,” Whitt told the newspaper. “We wouldn’t give away the names, but I can tell you you’re going to recognize a lot of the names that move into this place. You’re going to say, ‘Wow, that person actually makes their vacation home, their second home, in Fannin County.’”

Trident Lakes is located off of Highway 56 between Sherman and Paris, Texas, northeast of Dallas. The site is in Fannin County, near the small town of Ector.

The location is close enough to Dallas to make it easy for wealthy oilmen and celebrities to reach. Yet it is far enough away to survive an attack on the big city

“If a country says I’m going to bomb America, they’re probably not going to have a bullseye over Fannin County,” Whitt noted.

Whitt did not reveal the cost of a condo at Trident Lakes. He and Trident Lakes CEO Jim O’Connor said the survival condominiums would be between 900 and 3,600 square feet in size. Trident Lakes would house about 1,600 people, if enough people buy condos.

The community also will have its own off-grid sources of food, water and energy, The Houston Chronicle reported. There are also plans for a DNA vault.

“We’ve evolved it into long-term sustainability instead of a survival community,” O’Connor said. “The concept is to build a community that will last two centuries or longer. That means we’re looking at designs that include earth structures that won’t be exposed to the elements.”

The development is being billed as a “lavish country-club” community that is “part private resort, part safe haven.”

If all goes as planned, the first wealthy residents will start moving into Trident Lakes in 2018.

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The Man Who’s Been Right 6 Of 7 Years Just Predicted A ‘Colder-Than-Normal’ Winter

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The Man Who's Been Right 6 of 7 Years Just Predicted A ‘Colder-Than-Normal’ WinterResidents of the Northeast and Midwest can expect a very rough winter with extreme cold temperatures and lots of snow, according to climatologist Judah L. Cohen, whose unconventional model of forecasting is well-known in the meteorological world.

The Man Who's Been Right 6 of 7 Years Just Predicted A ‘Colder-Than-Normal’ Winter

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Cohen theorizes that an October that features heavy snow in Eurasia is a predictor of a rough winter for the Eastern U.S., The Washington Post reported. Other forecasters look to temperatures in the Pacific Ocean for long-term winter forecasts.

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“I would say that the predictors that we follow are strongly indicating a colder-than-normal winter,” Cohen, of the Atmospheric and Environmental Research, wrote in an email to The Post.

This year the “advance of snow cover in Eurasia (south of 60 degrees north latitude) was the fastest on record going back to 1998” – an indicator of a brutal snow in the Eastern U.S., he said. The snow coverage was the fourth highest on record.

“I think the most impressive cold will be across Eurasia,” Cohens aid. “But here in the U.S., extensive Eurasian snow cover favors colder-than-normal temperatures in the Eastern U.S. more than it does in the Western U.S.”

The meteorological community remains skeptical to Cohen’s forecast, but he says his forecasting for the U.S. has been correct in six of the past seven years.

“That is an impressive track record for climate prediction,” he said. “But I am happy for the community to be skeptical of our ideas and create a void that I am willing to fill.”

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117 Million Americans Are In Police Facial Recognition Databases – And Don’t Even Know It

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117 Million Americans Are In Police Facial Recognition Databases – And Don’t Know It

Photographer: Kevin Case

WASHINGTON — The faces of 117 million Americans — around one-third of the nation’s population — are on file in law enforcement databases, used regularly by facial recognition software to check against images of suspected criminals.

And most Americans don’t even know it.

The data is part of a new report from the Center on Privacy & Technology at Georgetown Law School.

“Law enforcement face recognition is unregulated and in many instances out of control,” according to the report, dubbed “The Perpetual Line-Up.”

Researchers at Georgetown made 100 records requests to police departments as part of what the report called “the most comprehensive survey to date of law enforcement face recognition.” The investigation lasted a full year.

Facial or face recognition software consists of sophisticated algorithms that carefully examine the faces within photos, supposedly spotting the targeted person out of millions of possibilities.

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What the report discovered was both shocking and disturbing. At least 26 states – and perhaps as many as 30 – allow law enforcement to “run or request searches against their databases of driver’s license and ID photos.” Roughly one in two American adults had his or her ID photo searched this way.

Some technology lets officers in the field use face recognition to search databases of driver’s license photos.

The practice, the report said, is largely unregulated.

“No state has passed a law comprehensively regulating police face recognition. We are not aware of any agency that requires warrants for searches or limits them to serious crimes,” the report said

117 Million Americans Are In Police Facial Recognition Databases – And Don’t Know It

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The lack of regulation on the practice has “consequences,” the report said.

“The Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office system runs 8,000 monthly searches on the faces of seven million Florida drivers—without requiring that officers have even a reasonable suspicion before running a search,” the report said.

And it could get worse. Major police departments, the report said, are “exploring real-time face recognition on live surveillance camera video” which would allow police to “continuously scan the faces of pedestrians walking by a street surveillance camera.”

One problem with facial recognition software, the report said, is that it could stifle free speech.

“There is also a history of FBI and police surveillance of civil rights protests,” the report said. “Of the 52 agencies that we found to use (or have used) face recognition, we found only one, the Ohio Bureau of Criminal Investigation, whose face recognition use policy expressly prohibits its officers from using face recognition to track individuals engaging in political, religious, or other protected free speech.”

Facial recognition also is not as accurate as fingerprinting. One major software company boasts a 95 percent accuracy rate but “disclaims liability for failing to meet that threshold.”

Regulation, the report said, is needed.

“Such laws should require the FBI or the police to have a reasonable suspicion of criminal conduct prior to a face recognition search,” the report said. “… Mug shots, not driver’s license and ID photos, should be the default photo databases for face recognition, and they should be periodically scrubbed to eliminate the innocent. Except for identity theft and fraud cases, searches of license and ID photos should require a court order issued upon a showing of probable cause.”

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Newborn Seized Because Mom Opposed Vaccination (And, Yes, She’s Suing)

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Newborn Seized Because Mom Opposed Vaccination (And, Yes, She’s Suing)

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PHILADELPHIA — A case that might dramatically expand parental rights has been appealed to one of the highest courts in the land.

If the U.S. Third Circuit Court of Appeals rules in favor of Jodi and Scott Ferris, it might restrict the power of social workers and medical professionals to take children and make decisions for families.

A lower court ruled against the couple earlier this year without giving them the trial their Home School Legal Defense Association attorneys had requested. In October, the case was appealed to the Third Circuit.

In 2010, a social worker and police officers seized Jodi Ferris’ newborn baby at the Hershey Medical Center in Hershey, Pa., just hours after birth, allegedly because the mom refused to let the baby get a vaccination and because she preferred natural childbirth over hospital delivery.

The workers reportedly kept the baby girl for around 48 hours and only let Ferris see the infant every few hours. The baby was eventually returned to Ferris and her husband, Scott, but only after a court order.

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“That afternoon a social worker and two police officers came to the hospital and took our baby and kicked us out of the hospital,” Ferris said in an HSLDA podcast.

Ferris thinks the infant was taken from her because she refused to let the child be vaccinated for Hepatitis B, according to The Minot Daily News. The baby was born in an ambulance in the medical center parking lot after Ferris was rushed there in premature labor. Ferris had wanted to give birth at home but couldn’t because her midwife could not arrive in time.

Jodi also said she thinks her belief in alternative medical care and natural child birth caused staff to take action against her.

“I think the hospital staff took our wanting information as a challenge to their authority,” Jodi Ferris said. “One nurse told us that she took our questions as a personal attack against her qualifications as a nurse.

“The hospital’s attitude was we’re the experts so just do what we tell you. It bothers me that the doctors and the hospital were offended by our questions and used the so-called emergency removal to override our decisions just because they disagreed with us.”

The HSDLA filed a civil rights complaint against doctors at the medical center and a social worker in federal court in March 2012, claiming that the couple’s Fourth and Fourteenth Amendment rights were violated.

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The World’s 2nd Largest Country Just Banned Almost All Cash

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The World’s 2nd Largest Country Just Banned Almost All Cash

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As the world was distracted by the U.S. presidential election last week, India’s prime minister made 84 percent of the cash in circulation worthless.

Narendra Modi on Nov. 8 declared that the two largest bills in circulation — the 500 and 1,000 rupee notes — were no longer legal tender.

Citizens in the world’s second most populous nation had no advance warning; Modi simply went on television and told them that the two bills would become worthless at midnight. Indian is the world’s seventh largest economy.

The move wiped out the value of 22 billion banknotes worth $278 billion, The Australian’s Greg Bearup estimated. Those bills composed 84 percent of the cash in circulation in India.

India citizens can take the notes to banks and deposit them, but any deposit of over $500 will have to be explained, Bearup reported. Those who cannot justify the deposit will have to pay a 200 percent penalty on it.

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“In effect, it would cost them more than the value of the deposit,” Bearup wrote. “They may as well throw the money out the window, and this is happening.”

Killing Cash

Modi is trying to kill India’s cash economy with the move and force the nation’s people to put their money in banks. Most Indians do most of their business in cash, which is hard to track and tax.

By getting rid of large bills, Modi is hoping to discourage corruption, organized crime and terrorism. As Bearup noted, the move is aimed primarily at tax dodgers and crooked businessmen. Bearup reported on investors who build steel rooms in their rooms and fill them with rupees.

The world should pay close attention to what is happening in India, because Modi is simply implementing a proposal made by mainstream economists. Earlier this year Kenneth S. Rogoff, the former chief economist of the International Monetary Fund, published a book called The Curse of Cash. In it he recommended that governments stop printing paper money and only issue coins. Rogoff believes that cash is bad because it facilitates crime, corruption, illegal immigration, terrorism and tax evasion.

In May the European Union announced that it would stop printing its largest bill, the 500 Euro note. CNN reported that the action was taken because the bill “could facilitate criminal activities.”

“There is a pervasive and increasing conviction in the world of public opinion that high denomination banknotes are used for criminal purposes,” European Central Bank President Mario Draghi told a journalist a few months earlier.

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School District Pressures Homeschoolers To Teach Common Core

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School Districts Pressures Homeschoolers To Teach Common Core

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TWENTYNINE PALMS, Calif. — A California school district recently sent a letter to homeschooling parents implying that they must use the controversial Common Core curriculum in order to comply with state law.

The letter originated from the Morongo Unified School District’s child welfare and attendance coordinator.

“This is to inform you,” the letter said, “ … Education Code § 48290 directs us to make an investigation of compliance with California private school education requirements should we receive a complaint ….”

It added: “In California, the State Board of Education decides on the standards for all students …. These standards are called the Common Core State Standards.”

The letter was made public by the Home School Legal Defense Association (HSLDA). It suggested that parents enroll their children in independent study programs and online instruction “available through state charter and private schools.”

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HSLDA President Mike Smith wrote a letter to the school district, saying it had mangled state law.

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“This school district is implying: ‘We determine whether your teachers are qualified, whether your attendance records are adequate, and whether you’re teaching the correct subjects,’” Smith wrote. “But they don’t have the authority to evaluate private school programs.”

According to HSLDA, the California Board of Education “does not set education standards for students in home-based private schools or campus-based private schools.”

“State law restricts the authority of public school districts to oversee private schools—including those conducted by parents teaching at home. Once parents properly set up the private school in their home, the district’s authority ends,” according to HSLDA.

While it is true that school districts have the authority to investigate reports of truancy, “their investigation is limited to confirming enrollment and verifying that a private school affidavit was filed with the California Department of Education,” HSLSA said.

The Morongo Unified School District is located in San Bernardino County. east of Los Angeles. It is based in the town of 29 Palms in the Yucca Valley, just north of Palm Springs.

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Hail Mary: 4 Million Sign Petition Begging Electors To Flip, Pick Clinton

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Hail Mary: 4 Million Sign Petition Begging Electors To Flip, Pick Clinton

Millions of Americans fear a Donald Trump presidency so much that they’ve signed a petition asking the electoral college electors to choose Hillary Clinton, despite the fact that Trump won more electoral college votes on Election Day.

As of Tuesday, more than 4 million Americans – including Lady Gaga – had signed the petition at Change.org.

The electors are scheduled to cast their votes on Dec. 19.

“We are calling on the Electors to ignore their states’ votes and cast their ballots for Secretary Clinton,” the petition states. “Why? Mr. Trump is unfit to serve. His scapegoating of so many Americans, and his impulsivity, bullying, lying, admitted history of sexual assault, and utter lack of experience make him a danger to the Republic.”

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Trump won at least 290 electoral votes to Clinton’s 232. Michigan has yet to be called, but Trump is leading there, too. The state has 16 electoral votes. Assuming Trump wins Michigan and gets to 306 electoral votes, then at least 38 electors committed to Trump would have to change their minds and flip to Clinton to place her at the 270 majority threshold – a highly unlikely scenario.

The petition notes that “if they all vote the way their states voted, Donald Trump will win.”

“However, they can vote for Hillary Clinton if they choose. Even in states where that is not allowed, their vote would still be counted, they would simply pay a small fine – which we can be sure Clinton supporters will be glad to pay!”

The chance of electors going against voters’ wishes is so remote that Vox writer Andrew Prokrop dismissed the notion as a “silly fantasy.” The petition was started by Elijah Berg of North Carolina.

“Hillary won the popular vote,” the petition reads. “The only reason Trump ‘won’ is because of the Electoral College,” the petition says “But the Electoral College can actually give the White House to either candidate. So why not use this most undemocratic of our institutions to ensure a democratic result?”

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Police Raided Legal Business, Seized $324,000, Forced 35 To Lose Jobs — But Never Charged Anyone

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Police Raided Legal Business, Seized $324,000, Forced 35 To Lose Jobs -- But Never Charged Anyone

Image source: Institute for Justice

James Slatic was never charged with a crime, but he now has to go to court to get his legal business, his inventory and his $324,000 in cash back from the San Diego County district attorney’s office.

To make matters worse, 35 employees at Slatic’s company, Med-West Distribution, lost their jobs, their health insurance and their retirement accounts due to the seizure.

“It’s the dirty little secret of the American justice system,” Slatic told The San Diego Union-Tribune. “They can come in and take all your money and property just on the say-so of a police officer. Once they do that, you have to go to court and prove why your money is not guilty.”

Med-West, a medical marijuana business, paid federal and state taxes and was licensed by San Diego County to distribute marijuana and cannabis products. Medicinal marijuana is legal in California. The company even had a website. But in January, San Diego police and agents from the U.S. Drug Enforcement Agency raided the business and seized everything, even though it did not charge anyone. The district attorney then used asset forfeiture to seize the bank accounts of Slatic, his wife and their two teenage daughters.

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Without any money, the business folded.

“I’m a 57-year-old entrepreneur and businessman,” Slatic told the newspaper. “You always think the laws are designed to protect middle-class gray-haired guys supplying jobs, then one day you wake up with 28 helmeted SWAT guys with automatic weapons breaking down your front door with a sledge hammer.”

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He added, “I have a drawer full of business tax certificates. We weren’t some clandestine operation. We were across the street from a Mercedes-Benz dealership.”

According to The Union-Tribune, San Diego police Detective Mark Carlson cited state law that “doesn’t allow manufacture of a controlled substance using a process of chemical extraction.” Slatic, though, countered that his business refined the oils but didn’t extract them.

“Based upon my review of Wells Fargo documents and documents provided by Schools First and North Island Credit Union, James Slatic has transferred significant funds from his concentrated cannabis extraction business to his wife Annette Slatic, who in turn has deposited some of these funds, at least $210,200 into her Wells Fargo accounts,” Carlson wrote.

Slatic is represented by the Institute for Justice.

“This case is not about crime fighting,” Institute for Justice attorney Wesley Hottot said. “This case is about policing for profit, and it illustrates the abusive power of civil forfeiture at its worst.”

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The Institute for Justice argued in its legal motion: “Writing a check to one’s wife is hardly suspicious and the government has made no effort to show why it is suspicious in this case.”

A court hearing is scheduled for Nov. 14.

“The equipment that Carlson describes — a rotary evaporator — can only be used for refinement,” the motion said. “Indeed it is impossible to use a rotary evaporator to extract cannabis oil from raw marijuana, as expert testimony at the hearing will show.”

Authorities in San Diego County have collected more than $11 million in civil asset forfeiture over the past three years, The Union-Tribune reported. The district attorney’s office received $2.4 million of that money which it used for training, rewards, memorials and grants to nonprofit groups.

“One of the insidious things about civil forfeiture is it costs a lot of money to fight for your money back,” Hottot said. “The Slatics can’t afford to continue paying for attorneys. The only reason they are able to challenge this now is that they found pro bono counsel.”

Medical marijuana is legal in California “whether the District Attorney likes it or not,” the Institute for Justice asserts on its website.

“While civil forfeiture can be complicated, the Slatics’ legal argument is simple: James committed no crime; therefore, the government cannot connect the Slatics’ money to a crime. All of the family’s money must be returned under the California Constitution and the U.S. Constitution,” the Institute for Justice argues.

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Single Mother Of 6 Sells Food On Facebook … And Now Faces 1 Year In Jail

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Single Mother Of 6 Sells Food On Facebook … And Now Faces 1 Year In Jail

Image source: Mariza Ruelas

STOCKTON, Calif. — A single mother could be jailed for up to a year because she shared homemade meals through a Facebook food group.

Mariza Ruelas of Stockton was charged after a year-long investigation by county inspectors that ended with an undercover sting operation.

“It was just unreal that they were saying you could face up to a year in jail,” Reulas, a mother of six, told Fox 40 in Sacramento.

Reulas and others in the Stockton, California-area had been trading food, organizing potlucks and sharing recipes on the 209 Food Spot Facebook page for several years. Not all of the exchanges involved money, but some did.

“Somebody would be like, ‘Oh I don’t have anything to trade you but I would love to buy a plate,’” Reulas said.

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Members of the 209 Food Spot page did not realize that San Joaquin County health inspectors were monitoring their activity.

In October 2015, an undercover investigator ordered a ceviche – a seafood dish — from Reulas. A few months later the mother of six received a summons for selling food and engaging in business without a permit – each a misdemeanor. The district attorney offered Reulas a plea deal that included three years of probation, a $235 fine and 80 hours of community service. She refused, saying she could not afford the fine and that she had only sold items once or twice a month. In fact, she and her children even cooked food for the homeless.

“The purpose wasn’t to sell food,” Ruelas told The Washington Post. “We wanted to bring something positive to our community.”

“They took the time to be investigating for over a year now. But they can’t solve all these unsolved murders?”

She “didn’t see any harm” in what she was doing.

“There wasn’t anybody selling it daily,” she said. “A lot of times, they were just getting back what they put into the ingredients.”

Reulas was not the only member of the food group to be charged, but the others accepted the plea.

Stockton has been dealing with a rise in violent crimes, including murders and robberies, over the past year, The Stockton Record reported.

San Joaquin County deputy district attorney Kelly McDaniel defended the investigation, saying the Facebook group was putting the public at danger and undercutting legal businesses, Fox 40 reported.

“I don’t write the laws, I enforce them. And the legislature has felt that this is a crime,” McDaniel said.

Ruelas, though, said it was not about making money.

“People are assuming that I was taking from other businesses,” Ruelas told The Washington Post. “It’s not something that I was trying to make a business out of.”

Reulas is worried about what will happen to her children if she goes to jail. She said her 17-year-old daughter, Mariyah, doesn’t like to hear her talk to reporters or attorneys. Her other children, including 6-year-old Justice, are also scared.

“He always asks … ‘Are you going to come back?’” Reulas said.

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Survey Of Convicts Confirms Everything You Suspected About Gun Control

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Survey Of Convicts Confirms Everything You Suspected About Gun Control

Image source: Wikimedia

HOUSTON — Convicted murderers were well aware of gun laws they used to commit their crimes but still had no problem getting their hands on weapons, according to a survey of Texas inmates by a Houston television station.

KTRK in Houston sent surveys to every prisoner in Harris County who used a gun to kill someone since 2014.

Incredibly, 63 percent of the guns were stolen, 25 percent were bought illegally off the street, and 13 percent were bought in stores. Ninety percent of those who had a gun were legally prohibited from buying one.

“The convicted killers … were all well aware of the gun laws,” the ABC 13 report found. “Many were previously convicted and knew they wouldn’t pass federally mandated background checks. Others suggested they would never put a family member in a position to buy a gun for them since the penalty for that so-called ‘straw purchase’ is severe.”

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Tod Oberg, a reporter at ABC 13, interviewed some of the prisoners in-person.

“I can buy a gun today,” said Rodney Rachal, who is serving a life sentence for murder.

“How fast?” Oberg asked.

“As fast as I can follow the traffic to the drug dealers, they’ll have some for sale,” Rachal said.

Prisoner Cedric Jones said he regrets his crime – and says the only thing that could have saved him was a job. He sold drugs to make money for his family

“By me having felonies, it’s hard getting a job,” Jones, who was a convict at age 19, told the TV station. “I did try to get a job a couple of times. I tried to go to school for fixing motorcycles because I had felonies. So, what am I supposed to do? Let my kids starve?”

If he had had a regular 9-to-5 job, Jones said, his life “would be completely different.”

“I would love to have a job,” he said. “… I probably wouldn’t be in jail. Having a job would have changed it a lot.”

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You Might Stockpile Some Gas After Learning The Age Of America’s Pipelines

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Yikes -- 60 Percent Of America’s Gas Pipelines Are HOW OLD?

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The United States is in danger of even more devastating gasoline shortages like the one that crippled the South in September thanks to an aging pipeline infrastructure that is decades old.

More than 60 percent of America’s pipelines that carry gasoline, diesel and other hazardous liquids were built prior to 1970, meaning they are nearly 50 years old, according to a report in The Wall Street Journal.

Stations ran out of fuel, gas prices skyrocketed and governors declared states of emergency after a break in the Colonial Pipeline in September. The same pipeline exploded this week, meaning another gas shortage could be on the way.

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Cities all over the country are in danger of repeating that scenario due to aging pipelines, The Journal reported. An investigation by the newspaper found that the majority of the pipelines that carry the nation’s fuel are aging and wearing out.

Older pipelines are more vulnerable to corrosion and other maintenance problems that cause disruptions in fuel delivery. The Colonial Pipeline is 52 years old and began operation in 1965, when Lyndon Johnson was in the White House.

“Clearly, operators don’t have a complete handle on how to operate these older pipelines,” Carl Weimer of the Pipeline Safety Trust told The Journal.

There are about 200,000 miles of pipelines in the U.S., according to WABE radio in Atlanta. Fifteen percent of those pipelines were build prior to 1950.

The Colonial Pipeline carries 100 million gallons of fuel each day to the East Coast and South and serves 50 million residents.

Colonial Pipeline’s Dave Doudna said the region could use another pipeline, but it would be costly – more than a billion dollars — and face opposition.

“The permitting process takes a long time, the cost to build is expensive. And what you end up finding is that customers aren’t willing, or have not been willing to commit, [to pay for it] for a period of 10 to 15 years,” he told The Journal. “I would say a lot of it is the regulatory environment we’re living in today.”

Protests against the Dakota Access Pipeline in North Dakota led to violent clashes between sheriff’s deputies and Native American protestors last week, NPR reported. More than 100 people have been arrested.

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FBI Destroys Doors & Windows In Wrong-House Raid – And Then Refuses To Pay For Damages

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FBI Destroys Doors & Windows In Wrong-House Raid – And Then Refuses To Pay For Damages

Image source: Screen capture, WFTV

A sheriff’s SWAT team and the FBI apparently ransacked a Florida family’s home in a wrong-house raid – and then refused to pay for the damages until contacted by the media.

After smashing windows, battering doors and trashing Oscar Capps’ home, deputies arrested a man who was in the next-door house.

“We don’t even know the gentleman’s name that they arrested,” Capps’ wife, Cathy Rhude, told WFTV.

Neither Rhude nor Capps were arrested.

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“They told me they had it as my address, that they had a federal warrant to go inside my house, and I told them, ‘I’ll let you in. I don’t have a problem letting you in,’” Capps said.

The Orange County (Florida) Sheriff’s SWAT team, working under direction of the FBI, crashed into his home at around 6 a.m. on a Thursday morning in late October, breaking down doors and shattering windows. They also damaged a new $3,000 floor. About 40 law enforcement personnel were involved.

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At first, the FBI told the family and the TV station it would not pay for the damages.

“They are saying there is nothing they are going to do for me,” Capps said. “They are going to send somebody out to board up the windows and put a door on. So where do I go from here?”

Said Rhude, “I’m really upset, I have a 7-year-old kid. He needs doors, he needs windows. They’re not replacing anything. This is the correct address they have. Prove it to me that this is the correct address.”

The FBI sent Capps a claim form for damages after WFTV contacted the agency. Still, the agency deflected any blame.

“The FBI had a valid arrest and search warrant for 2835 Cleburne Road,” an FBI email sent to WFTV reporter Jeff Levkulich said. “At the time of serving the warrant, the person of interest was located next door.”

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Fear Of Hillary Win Sparks Rush To Buy One Specific Gun; Sales Up 550 Percent (!)

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Fear Of Hillary Victory Sparks HUGE Gun-Buying Surge

Image source: Flickr/Gage Skidmore

PHOENIX – The fear of an Election Day win by Democrat Hillary Clinton has sparked a rush to gun stores around the country, and one shop in Arizona says he has seen a 550 percent increase in sales on one particular rifle.

Veerchart Murphy, the owner of Ammo AZ in Phoenix, told AZFamily.com that sales of AR-15s are “outpacing every other thing in my store right now.”

“There are people coming in, buying three, five, six at a time. I had a pregnant mother in here bringing her three little toddlers with her,” Murphy said. “She bought six AR-15s with the premise that she was going to keep a few for her own family, but the fact that after Nov. 8, rifles are gonna be a lot more valuable.”

He sold three times more AR-15s in October than September and said he’s seen a 550 percent increase in sales over last year, the TV station reported.

Meanwhile, a survey by the supply chain analysts at Elementum indicates that fears of a Clinton victory are driving Americans to the gun store. Although Republican Donald Trump has surged in the past week, Clinton still leads in the RealClearPolitics.com national average by nearly 2 points.

“The top item Americans say they are likely to buy because of the election is a gun,” an Elementum press release obtained by The Washington Examiner states.

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A Harris Poll commissioned by Elementum found that 16 percent of Americans are more likely to buy a gun because of the election. The same consumers are delaying other big purchases such as cars and houses until after the election, the survey found.

The figure is higher among certain segments of the population, including Southerners, Generation Xers (persons 35-44) and women, Elementum discovered. Around 19 percent of Southerners, 23 percent of Generation X members and 24 percent of women are more likely to buy a gun because of the election.

Beretta and Gander Mountain are each having pre-election sales, The Examiner reported. A Nevada store last month also held a pre-election sale, warning that “prices will skyrocket after Crooked Hillary gets in.”

Sales at Sharp Shooters Knife & Gun increased by 400 percent after Barack Obama’s victory in 2012, The Lubbock Avalanche Journal reported.

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Your Suspicions About GMO Crops Were Just Confirmed By A NYT Report

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Your Suspicions About GMO Crops Were Just Confirmed By A NYT Report

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An analysis of data by The Times shows that crop yields did not increase and herbicide and insecticide use did not shrink in the 20 years since GMO seeds were introduced in North America. In fact, herbicide use has increased.

“An analysis by The Times using United Nations data showed that the United States and Canada have gained no discernible advantage in yields — food per acre — when measured against Western Europe, a region with comparably modernized agricultural producers like France and Germany,” an October 29 Times article stated.

Times researchers compared data from Europe, where genetic modification was rejected, with that from Canada and the United States, where they are widely used. The data goes back 20 years and indicates that GM technology did not deliver on some of the promises that its promoters made.

In fact, herbicide use has increased by 21 percent in the U.S. while it has decreased by 36 percent in France’s, Europe’s largest agriculture producer. GMO seeds have led to a decrease of about 33 percent in insecticide and fungicide use in the U.S., but France has seen an even larger decrease — 65 percent – without using genetically modified crops.

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As the weather begins to warm, you’ll want to switch over to more heat-tolerant greens. Consider lettuce varieties such as Red Butterworth and Larissa or spinach varieties such as Tyee or Emu.

For greens that you intend to grow indoors, choose varieties that are suited to an indoor environment such as Tom Thumb
“Currently available G.M. crops would not lead to major yield gains in Europe,” Matin Qaim, a researcher at Georg-August University in Gottingen, Germany, told The Times. “I don’t consider this to be the miracle type of technology that we couldn’t live without.”

David Bellinger, a professor at the Harvard University School of Public Health, has been highly critical of America’s use of pesticides.

“These chemicals are largely unknown,” Bellinger told The Times. “We do natural experiments on a population, and wait until it shows up as bad.”

Monsanto said The Times had cherry-picked data.

“Every farmer is a smart businessperson, and a farmer is not going to pay for a technology if they don’t think it provides a major benefit,” Monsanto’s Robert T. Fraley told the newspaper. “Biotech tools have clearly driven yield increases enormously.”

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Gas Shortage Eminent As America’s Largest Pipeline Explodes

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Gas Shortage Eminent As America’s Largest Pipeline Explodes

Image source: Instagram / Alabaster Fire Department

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. – A gas shortage could be merely days away for much of the United States after a pipeline that supplies gasoline for 50 million Americans exploded.

The Colonial Pipeline caught fire Monday afternoon in Shelby County, Ala., after a trackhoe hit the pipeline, causing a spark and an explosion. One member of the pipeline crew was killed while five others were injured.

The pipeline runs from Texas to New Jersey and is a primary source of gas for much of the Southeast and East Coast. When the same pipeline ruptured in September, a panic ensued and many stations ran out of gas, while other stations placed a $10 limit on purchases. It wasn’t uncommon to wait an hour or more to get gas, as Off The Grid News previously reported.

Monday’s incident was yet another reminder of the fragility of America’s infrastructure and way of life; without gas, much of the country would grind to a halt.

Colonial Pipeline Company said Tuesday it expects the pipeline to be down at least for the rest of the week and added that the explosion was related to repairs it was making from the September leak. By volume, it is the largest pipeline in the U.S., transporting more than 105 million gallons of fuel each day.

Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley declared a state of emergency Tuesday, lifting regulations on the amount of hours a day truckers can transport gasoline. But multiple states are expected to be affected.

“I would urge motorists not to panic and say, let me fill up the tank now. They need to resist the urge to fill their tank because that’s going to make it that much more difficult for everyone in the days ahead,” Patrick DeHaan of GasBuddy.com told Reuters.

AAA sent out a Tweet stating, “Drivers in the southeast and along the east coast may soon see price increases at the pump.”

Tamra Johnson, a spokeswoman for AAA, told AP, “We can actually start seeing some supply outages in the coming days if they don’t put a plan in place.”

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Homeschool Families Targeted In District’s ‘Operation Round Up’

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Homeschool Families Targeted in 'Operation Round Up'

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A public school official in Florida has urged citizens to fight truancy by reporting any children they suspect might not be in school or being educated — including homeschool families.

It is all part of an “anti-truancy” initiative called Operation Round Up, in which residents of Jackson County, Florida, are urged to be on the lookout for children not in school and to report them to school officials or to police.

A truancy report can lead to a home check by sheriff’s deputies or police and possibly the arrest of the parents, TV station WJHG reported.

The policy of the Jackson County School District is to send law enforcement to the homes of suspected truants.

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“Sometimes if these citizens don’t call me, I have no way of knowing,” Shirl Williams, director of student services for the school system, told the TV station. “So if it’s a nosy neighbor, be a nosy neighbor. Just call me and let me check out the situation.”

Williams acknowledged that homeschool children can be mistaken for truants but urged citizens to report them so school authorities can investigate.

“Sometimes the community will see them around town and they think, ‘Hey, they’re not being educated.’ Sometimes the community is right,” Williams said.

Home School Legal Defense Association attorney TJ Schmidt wrote Williams and the Jackson County superintendent, saying that while truancy is a problem, homeschoolers should not be targeted.

“Your statements suggest that everyone should report children they think aren’t being educated,” the letter read. “In our opinion, this is a threatening practice, and will instill a spirit of suspicion and hostility against homeschoolers in the community.”

Schmidt wrote to Williams after a parent saw her on TV and complained to HSDLA.

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Someone Is Practicing For A ‘Global Blackout’ Of The Internet, Expert Says

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Someone Is Practicing For A ‘Global Blackout’ Of The Internet, Expert Says

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The cyberattack that disrupted a number of major websites including Amazon, PayPal, Twitter and Netflix on Oct. 21 certainly was no accident. In fact, a renowned security guru thinks someone is learning how to take down the Internet.

That expert predicted several weeks earlier that it would happen.

“Over the past year or two, someone has been probing the defenses of the companies that run critical pieces of the Internet,” Bruce Schneier wrote on September 13. “These probes take the form of precisely calibrated attacks designed to determine exactly how well these companies can defend themselves, and what would be required to take them down.”

Internet infrastructure companies noticed a big upswing in attacks in recent months, Schneier wrote. Those attacks, in fact, were similar to the one that knocked out the company Dyn, which provides critical services to Amazon and the other companies that went down. On Oct. 21, hackers launched a massive distributed denial of service (DDOS) attack on Dyn, overwhelming the system and causing it to crash.

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Someone Is Practicing For A ‘Global Blackout’ Of The Internet, Expert Says

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“If you want to take a network off the Internet, the easiest way to do it is with a distributed denial-of-service attack (DDoS),” Schneier wrote on his blog and at LawFareBlog.com. “… Basically it means blasting so much data at the site that it’s overwhelmed. These attacks are not new: hackers do this to sites they don’t like, and criminals have done it as a method of extortion. There is an entire industry, with an arsenal of technologies, devoted to DDoS defense. But largely it’s a matter of bandwidth. If the attacker has a bigger fire hose of data than the defender has, the attacker wins.”

Recently, “some of the major companies that provide the basic infrastructure that makes the Internet work” have seen an increase of such attacks, wrote Schneier, who is chief technology officer of IBM subsidiary Resilient Systems Inc., a fellow at Harvard Law School’s Berkman Center for Internet and Society, and a board member at the Electronic Frontier Foundation.

“These attacks are significantly larger than the ones they’re used to seeing,” Schneier wrote. “They last longer. They’re more sophisticated. And they look like probing. One week, the attack would start at a particular level of attack and slowly ramp up before stopping. The next week, it would start at that higher point and continue. And so on, along those lines, as if the attacker were looking for the exact point of failure.”

The attacks, in fact, are so strong that the “companies have to use everything they’ve got to defend themselves.”

“They can’t hold anything back. They’re forced to demonstrate their defense capabilities for the attacker,” Schneier wrote.

One of those companies is Verisign, which is the registrar for many popular websites.

“If it goes down, there’s a global blackout of all websites and e-mail addresses in the most common top-level domains,” he wrote, referencing .com and net.

Verisign’s latest public report said that attacks have “continued to become more frequent, persistent, and complex.”

Who is doing the attacking? Schneier believes it is a nation.

“It feels like a nation’s military cybercommand trying to calibrate its weaponry in the case of cyberwar,” he wrote. “It reminds me of the U.S.’s Cold War program of flying high-altitude planes over the Soviet Union to force their air-defense systems to turn on, to map their capabilities. … The data I see suggests China, an assessment shared by the people I spoke with. On the other hand, it’s possible to disguise the country of origin for these sorts of attacks.

“The NSA, which has more surveillance in the Internet backbone than everyone else combined, probably has a better idea, but unless the U.S. decides to make an international incident over this, we won’t see any attribution.”

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Her Home Is An Elaborate Treehouse. Now The County Wants It Destroyed.

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Her Home Is An Elaborate Treehouse. Now The County Wants It Destroyed.

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MIAMI, Florida — A Miami woman is battling the local government to save the popular treehouse where she has lived for 10 years.

Shawnee Chasser lives in a two-story open-air treehouse — on a lot near Miami’s Biscayne Gardens neighborhood — that features such amenities as running water, a stove, a refrigerator, a computer and a TV, but code inspectors with Miami-Dade County want it torn down, saying it was constructed illegally and is unsafe.

Prior to her current treehouse, she lived in one for 15 years at another location in the area.

“Every visit from Code Enforcement and the Department of Regulatory and Economic Resources, has been scary for me,” Chasser wrote on her GoFundMe page. “They both add about five new fines, each time they come.”

The battle between Chasser and the local government has received local media attention for several weeks but is now making national headlines. Before it’s over, she could face $10,000 in fines.

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“Shawnee’s treehouse is a peaceful, harmless structure that hurts nobody,” Ari Bargil, an attorney with the Institute for Justice, told CBS News. “The county’s only concern should be whether her treehouse is safe.  Instead, they are imposing an ill-fitting regulatory framework on her, and thus essentially fining her for being different.”

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The grandmother, a self-described hippie, went unnoticed until a year ago, when a former tenant reported her to code inspectors. She owns a cottage on the property that she rents out – an apparent violation. Her land is about half an acre of woods.

Chasser has slept in a tree since 1992, when she discovered she was uncomfortable sleeping indoors with air conditioning. She first lived in a treehouse in the Little Haiti neighborhood of Miami before moving to one on her son’s property. After Chasser’s son died in 2009, she inherited the property.

“I’m not leaving,” Chasser told CBS Miami. “I haven’t slept indoors in 25 years. It’s just who I am. I don’t want them telling me what my happiness is because I don’t fit in one of their boxes.”

Local government officials, though, don’t seem ready to back down.

“They’re creating a campground out there. You just can’t go into a residential property and start charging outsiders to come in. We’ve got neighbors who we’ve got to protect their rights also,” code enforcement division director Ricardo Roig told The Miami Herald. “It’s just a combination of situations that haven’t been well thought out.”

Chasser sells Shawnee’s Greenthumb Popcorn through her website and through Whole Foods stores in Florida.

“I’m not taking down anything,” Chasser told The Herald. “I’ll chain myself to that treehouse.”

Chasser is trying to raise $50,000 for her battle with the county. As of October 26, 2016, $5,872 had been collected. To help her in her legal fight, visit her GoFundMe page.

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