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Golden Oxen

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World's No. 1 pesticide brings honeybees to their knees, say scientists


A new study from Harvard implicates two neonicotinoid pesticides, imidacloprid and clothianidin, in the ongoing plague of honeybee Colony Collapse Disorder. Imidacloprid is the most widely used pesticide in the world, and both are approved by the EPA.
 
A honeybee gathers pollen from a vibrant bluebonnet flower Monday, April 7, 2014, at a home in Wichita Falls, Texas.
(AP Photo/Wichita Falls Times Record News, Torin Halsey )

A team of Harvard biologists has come closer to cracking the mystery of honeybee Colony Collapse Disorder (CCD), eight years after its appearance.

CCD persists in transforming bee colonies around the world into ghost towns: by the end of each winter, some colonies wind up littered with dead bees and emptied of many more, with no signs of renewal.

"One of the defining symptomatic observations of CCD colonies is the emptiness of hives in which the amount of dead bees found inside the hives do not account for the total numbers of bees present prior to winter when they were alive," states the report, published May 9 in the Bulletin of Insectology.

The exact mechanism behind these collapses remains dauntingly unclear, but they have been linked with pathogen infestation, malnutrition, and pesticide exposure. This week's report strongly indicates that two neonicotinoid insecticides that are widely used on crops can decimate honeybee colonies' winter survival rates, whether or not mites or parasites are present.

The two chemicals, imidacloprid and clothianidin, both block insects' central nervous systems, killing them by paralysis. Imidacloprid is the world's most widely-used insecticide, and has been registered for use in the US since the 1994; clothianidin was registered in 2003 by the US Environmental Protection Agency, which found that it had passed honeybee-specific toxicity tests.

These scientists studied the health of 18 bee colonies in central Massachusetts over a six-month period spanning the winter of 2012-2013. Six of the colonies were fed sugar spiked with sub-lethal doses of imidacloprid, six had theirs laced with clothianidin, and six less-unfortunate control colonies ate clean sugar, starting in October.

All of the colonies went about their apian routines in good form throughout the fall. But by late January, six of the 12 poisoned colonies experienced collapses with CCD-like symptoms, like en-masse disappearance and the presence of un-hatched young. Of the six control hives, only one failed to survive the winter, seemingly due to an infestation by Nosema Ceranae parasites.

"The honey bee clusters in the six surviving neonicotinoid treated colonies were very small, and were either without queen bees or had no brood," reports the study, suggesting the poisons harm the animals' abilities to raise and train new young. In contrast, the five surviving control hives replenished their populations quickly, as the winter gave way to spring.

According to the report, these results "reinforce the conclusion that sublethal exposure to neonicotinoids is likely the main culprit for the occurrence of CCD."

The finding raises a large question for further study: Why do honeybees, who don't normally abandon their hives during winter, do so when poisoned by neonicotinoids?

The finding may point to "the impairment of honey bee neurological functions, specifically memory, cognition, or behavior, as the results from the chronic sublethal neonicotinoid exposure," suggest the authors. "Although the failure to initiate brood rearing and the vanishing of the worker caste in the neonicotinoid-treated colonies might be governed by completely different mechanisms, they suggest the possible involvement of cascading events prior to the occurrence of CCD."

The study comes amid a busy spring season for honey bee research. Last month a team of Kenyan biologists found that African honey bees seem be impervious to the pests, Varroa and Nosema, which plague honey bee populations in Europe, Asia, and the United States.

And earlier this week Brazilian scientists identified two substances in honeybees' brains, that appear to vary as the insects move through space and time, guiding their age-related division of labor.


http://www.csmonitor.com/Science/2014/0509/World-s-No.-1-pesticide-brings-honeybees-to-their-knees-say-scientists  :-\


Golden Oxen

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Internet access may be taxed for first time

 The Internet Tax Freedom Act of 1998 will expire on Nov. 1, which means US's internet access and usage could soon be taxed for the first time. How will this affect your internet access bills?

     

  Hands type on a computer keyboard in Los Angeles.The Internet Tax Freedom Act of 1998 will expire on Nov. 1, which means Americans may be taxed for their internet usage.
(Damian Dovarganes/AP/File)

 The Internet Tax Freedom Act of 1998 is set to expire on Nov. 1, which means internet access and usage in the US could soon be taxed for the first time. Combined with efforts to standardize a sales tax on online purchases, these new taxes could mean a big hit on consumers. Congress could act to eliminate one or both taxes, but it is unlikely they will make any unpopular moves so close to the midterm elections.

Fortunately for Internet users, extension of the Internet Tax Freedom Act enjoys broad bipartisan support in Congress. However, according to the Wall Street Journal, these tax cuts are likely to get bundled with other internet taxes — specifically, state-level sales taxes on out-of-state online retailers (a Supreme Court decision had previously prohibited taxing online retailers without a presence in the state). And while the ITFA has bipartisan support, collecting sales taxes over the internet does not, especially in the Republican-controlled House. Combining the bills could force the issue of the sales tax by tacking it on to more widely supported legislation, but it could leave both issues stalled
Perhaps the biggest problem is the timing: the ITFA's Nov. 1 deadline is just before the midterm elections on Nov. 4. Just before election day, no one's going to want to make an unpopular move like supporting internet sales taxes — and internet access taxes, which consumers are less aware of than extra fees tacked on to everyday purchases, might just slip through in the confusion.

So how much will this cost the consumer? The Journal estimates an average $50 to $75 extra a year tacked on to internet access bills. But even if the ITFA does expire, we're unlikely to see new taxes appearing on Nov. 2. Some states may need to pass additional legislation before they could implement any kind of internet access tax.

Whether we see new internet access taxes, more internet sales taxes, or neither is still up in the air — there's plenty of time for Congress to act before the ITFA expires. As to whether they will, however, is something we're all going to have to wait and see.

Elizabeth Harper is a contributing writer for Dealnews.com, where this story first appeared: http://dealnews.com/features/Will-Your-Internet-Access-And-Emails-Be-Taxed-/1050159.html

Golden Oxen

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Supreme Court vacates police-immunity ruling in suit over multiple Tasering


The Supreme Court ordered the New Orleans-based Fifth Circuit to reexamine a case involving a suit against a police officer for repeatedly Tasering a handcuffed arrestee who was lying on the ground.

   

   Former Winnfield Police Officer Scott Nugent (c.) walks with his attorneys Phillip Terrell (l.), and George Higgins in the Winn Parish Courthouse in Winnfield, La., Oct. 22, 2010. Mr. Nugent deployed an electronic Taser device eight times against a handcuffed arrestee who was lying on the ground.
(Billy Gunn/The Daily Town Talk/AP/File)

 By Warren Richey, Staff writer / May 19, 2014 at 2:37 pm EDT

The US Supreme Court ordered a federal appeals court Monday to reexamine a case involving the alleged use of excessive force by a police officer in Louisiana who deployed an electronic “Taser” device eight times against a handcuffed arrestee who was lying on the ground.

The suspect, who later died, had reportedly refused to obey a police command to stand up and walk to the patrol car. The police officer was fired for using “unnecessary force,” but was found not guilty of manslaughter.

A panel of the New Orleans-based Fifth US Circuit Court of Appeals subsequently ruled that the officer was entitled to qualified immunity and could not be sued for allegedly violating the rights of the handcuffed prisoner.

The appeals court said that it was not clearly established in American law that such conduct by a police officer would violate the Fourth Amendment’s protection against unreasonable searches and seizures.

In a summary order on Monday, the high court vacated that Fifth Circuit decision and sent the case back with instructions that the appeals court comply with a Supreme Court decision issued two weeks ago in a case called Tolan v. Cotton.

That case was also from the Fifth Circuit and also involved allegations of excessive use of force by police. In the Tolan opinion, the Supreme Court said the Fifth Circuit had not given proper weight to evidence offered by those suing the police.

In essence, the high court said the Fifth Circuit improperly sided with the account offered by the police officer. Instead, judges at the summary judgment stage of litigation must view the evidence in a light most favorable to the alleged victim of the excessive force, the Supreme Court said.

The high court order requires the Fifth Circuit to reconsider whether the young son of the deceased arrestee can sue the Taser-wielding police officer in federal court for civil damages. The appeals court must decide whether the case should proceed to a trial.

The January 2008 incident took place in Winnfield, La.

The arrested man, Baron Pikes, was wanted on two outstanding warrants, one for crack **** possession, the other for possessing an open beer bottle. He was subjected to 50,000-volt electric shocks at least eight times within a 14-minute period. Later, at the police station, Mr. Pikes repeatedly fell from his chair to the floor, began foaming at the mouth, and lost consciousness. Eventually, police called an ambulance.

Paramedics were unable to revive him and he was declared dead at the hospital.

The police officer, Scott Nugent, was fired from the Winnfield Police Department for using what the police chief characterized as “unnecessary force and violence.”

Mr. Nugent was charged with manslaughter in Pikes’ death. Nugent’s defense lawyer claimed that Pikes died from a pre-existing physical condition. The coroner’s report said Pikes died of heart failure following the electric shocks. A jury found Officer Nugent not guilty.

Lawyers filed a civil suit on behalf of Pikes’ son, claiming the police officer used excessive force that resulted in Pikes’ death.

Nugent’s lawyer argued that the civil lawsuit must be thrown out because Nugent had been acting in an official capacity as a police officer and was entitled to qualified immunity from such litigation.

The federal judge disagreed and allowed the case to move forward toward a trial. A panel of the Fifth Circuit reversed that decision.

The appeals court said Pikes’ lawyers had failed to prove that it was clearly established in 2008 that a restrained suspect in police custody had a constitutional right to be free from repeated 50,000-volt shocks for failing to comply with a police command to stand up and walk to the patrol car.

“The Fifth Circuit’s decision in this case creates a clear conflict with the decisions of other circuits,” Michael Vatis, a lawyer with the New York firm Steptoe & Johnson, wrote in his brief urging the high court to take up the case.

“Those circuits have held that even as of January 2008, it was clearly established that the use of an electronic control weapon or an analogous (or even lesser) use of force on a suspect who was already within an officer’s control and posed no flight or safety risk was unconstitutional, even if the person failed to comply with an officer’s commands,” he said.

Five federal appeals courts – the Philadelphia-based Third Circuit, the Richmond-based Fourth, the Cincinnati-based Sixth, the Chicago-based Seventh, and the St. Louis-based Eighth – have ruled that the use of a Taser on a restrained subject who refuses to obey an officer’s command is excessive force, according to a friend-of-the-court brief filed on behalf of experts in police accountability and the use of force.

“The Fifth Circuit’s decision creates considerable uncertainty regarding whether it is clearly established that such Taser use constitutes excessive force,” Pablo Quinones, of the New York law firm Reed Smith, wrote in the experts’ brief.

“While Tasers may be appropriate in some circumstances, their use by law enforcement to force compliance by non-threatening persons undermines public confidence and trust in law enforcement and erodes the Fourth Amendment ‘right of the people to be secure in their persons … against unreasonable searches and seizures,’ ” Mr. Quinones said.

In his brief urging the court to allow the Fifth Circuit’s decision to stand, Nugent’s lawyer, Randall Keiser of Alexandria, La., said there were no court decisions directly addressing the facts presented in the Nugent-Pikes case.

He added that the very fact that a split exists among the circuit courts on the issue “necessarily means that qualified immunity was properly granted.”

“This Court has explained on at least three occasions that qualified immunity should be granted where a circuit split on the relevant issue exists, because if judges thus disagree on a constitutional question, it is unfair to subject police to money damages for picking the losing side of the controversy,” Mr. Keiser wrote.

Vatis replied in his own brief: “If the Court were to allow this decision to stand, officers in the future could repeatedly electroshock fully restrained arrestees who pose no flight or safety risk, just to force them to get up, and they would be protected by qualified immunity because of the circuit split that the Fifth Circuit has created.”

The Police Executive Research Forum established guidelines in 2005 for police use of electronic control weapons. The policy says that such weapons “should only be used against persons who are actively resisting or exhibiting active aggression, or to prevent individuals from harming themselves or others.”

“When used properly, electronic control weapons can serve legitimate law enforcement purposes, and can reduce the need for lethal force,” Vatis wrote in his brief. “But they are also dangerous and potentially lethal: since 2001, over 540 people have died after being shocked by police Tasers.”

The case was Thomas v. Nugent (13-862).

http://www.csmonitor.com/USA/Justice/2014/0519/Supreme-Court-vacates-police-immunity-ruling-in-suit-over-multiple-Tasering


Golden Oxen

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By Ben Blanchard

BEIJING (Reuters) - China deployed its vast security apparatus on Wednesday to snuff out commemoration of the suppression of pro-democracy protests around Tiananmen Square 25 years ago, flooding the streets with police as censors scrubbed the Internet clean of any mention of the crackdown.

Several governments including the United States urged China to account for what happened on June 4, 1989, comments that riled China, which has said the protest movement was "counter-revolutionary". Exiled Tibetan spiritual leader the Dalai Lama used the anniversary to call on China to embrace democracy.

China has never released a death toll for the crackdown, but estimates from human rights groups and witnesses range from several hundred to several thousand.

Troops shot their way into central Beijing after demonstrators had clogged Tiananmen Square in Beijing for about six weeks. There were also protests in many other cities.

Taking no chances on Wednesday, police, soldiers and plainclothes security personnel enveloped Tiananmen Square, checking identity cards and rummaging through bags looking for any hint that people might try and sneak onto the square to commemorate the day.

Police escorted a Reuters reporter off the square, which was thronged with tourists, saying it was closed to foreign media. Police also detained another Reuters journalist for trying to report on the anniversary in one of Beijing's university districts, releasing him after a few hours.

Public discussion of the crackdown is off-limits in China. Many young people are unaware of what happened because of years of government efforts to banish memories of the People's Liberation Army shooting its own citizens.

"They have covered up history. They don't want people to know the truth of what they did," veteran activist Hu Jia told Reuters from his home in Beijing, where he said police were present to prevent him from leaving.

"Nobody would have confidence in them if they knew what they did... They should have fallen because of what they did," he added, speaking by mobile telephone.

While the anniversary has never been publicly marked in mainland China, more than 150,000 people are expected to gather on Wednesday evening in Hong Kong for a candlelight vigil.

A large number of mainland Chinese are expected to join the event in the former British territory, which returned to Chinese rule in 1997 but remains a free-wheeling, capitalist hub. The vigil has been held in Hong Kong every year since 1989.

PROTESTS QUICKLY SPIRALLED


China's Foreign Ministry on Tuesday defended the crackdown, saying the government had chosen the correct path for the sake of the people.

The protests began in April 1989 as a demonstration by university students in Beijing to mourn the death of Hu Yaobang, the reformist Communist Party chief who had been ousted by paramount leader Deng Xiaoping. The protests grew into broader demands for an end to corruption as well as calls for democracy.

Many Chinese would balk at the idea of mass revolution today. China is now the world's second biggest economy, with most Chinese enjoying individual and economic freedoms never accorded them before.

"I don't think it can happen again," said a Beijing resident who gave his family name as Xu. "China's system is certainly different from the West. The population is huge, 1.4 billion people. If you want to govern it well, it's not easy."

But Wu'er Kaixi, a leading figure in the pro-democracy movement of 1989, said Chinese people could rise up once more against the Communist Party in anger at anything from endemic graft to the country's badly polluted air, water and soil.

"Yes, you gave us economic freedom, but you are jumping in and looting us, robbing us of our future, corrupting the culture, our values and the environment," Wu'er Kaixi told Reuters ahead of the anniversary from Taiwan, where he works at an investment firm.

"All this has been clearly and widely expressed by Chinese people in the last two decades. This discontent will emerge into one thing one day: a revolution. I am sure the Communist Party is very well aware of this."

INTERNATIONAL CRITICISM


Rights group Amnesty International has said at least 66 people had been detained in the period leading up to the anniversary.

That includes prominent human rights lawyer Pu Zhiqiang and four other activists who were detained last month after attending a private meeting at an apartment in Beijing to discuss the crackdown, prompting concern in the United States and Europe.

The White House said in a statement that the United States continued to honour the memories of those who gave their lives on June 4, and called for a full accounting of what happened. [ID:nL3N0OL1RF] In democratic Taiwan, which China claims as its own, President Ma Ying-jeou said China should ensure that a "tragedy" like June 4 never happened again.

"If Chinese authorities can tolerate differences, not only can that raise the height and the legitimacy of those in power, but also send a clear message to Taiwan that political reform in China is serious," Ma said in a statement.

Japan, engaged in a bitter territorial dispute with China, used the anniversary to urge Beijing to respect human rights and the rule of law. United Nations human rights chief Navi Pillay on Tuesday called on China to reveal the truth about what had happened 25 years ago.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei expressed anger at the comments from the United States and the United Nations, saying they interfered in China's internal affairs.

In a daily news briefing, he also said the Dalai Lama had "ulterior motives" for his Tiananmen comments. The run-up to the anniversary has been marked by tighter controls on the Internet, including disruption of Google services, and tougher than normal censorship of the popular Twitter-like microblogging service Weibo.

"This is the 1,008th post that I've had scrubbed today," complained one Weibo user, attaching a screen shot of a message received from censors telling him that his post reading "It's been 25 years since that event" had been deleted.

(Additional reporting by Michael Martina and Joseph Campbell, Faith Hung and Michael Gold in TAIPEI, James Pomfret in HONG KONG, and Kaori Kaneko in TOKYO; Editing by Dean Yates)

© Thomson Reuters 2014. All rights reserved. Users may download and print extracts of content from this website for their own personal and non-commercial use only. Republication or redistribution of Thomson Reuters content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent of Thomson Reuters. Thomson Reuters and its logo are registered trademarks or trademarks of the Thomson Reuters group of companies around the world.

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www.reuters.com/article/2014/06/04/us-china-tiananmen-idUSKBN0EF0DV20140604

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  Video capturing the heartbreaking moment when a two-year-old toddler got out of her father’s car and walked towards gun-wielding police when her hands raised spread like wildfire on social media. Immediate reactions to the footage berated the police for “holding the gun at the baby.” #Tallahassee Police were forced to release bodycam footage of the incident in a bid to calm public fears that police brutality had reached a new low.

                                            [embed=425,349]<iframe width="560" height="315" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/YVY6fVDRKlY" frameborder="0" allow="accelerometer; autoplay; encrypted-media; gyroscope; picture-in-picture" allowfullscreen></iframe>[/embed]