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Why Do You Gain Weight When You Exercise?

Why Do You Gain Weight When You Exercise?

By Mark Borigini, M.D.

You begin a rigorous exercise program because it could not hurt to lose a little weight and, as I tell my patients, such exercise can improve many things, including chronic pain. But then you find you are gaining weight. Is it time to raise the white flag and buy that cookies-of-the-month club subscription?

Obama Said to Plan Moves to Shield 5 Million Immigrants

Obama Said to Plan Moves to Shield 5 Million Immigrants

President Obama will ignore angry protests from Republicans and announce as soon as next week a broad overhaul of the nation’s immigration enforcement system that will protect up to five million undocumented immigrants from the threat of deportation and provide many of them with work permits, according to administration officials who have direct knowledge of the plan.

Asserting his authority as president to enforce the nation’s laws with discretion, Mr. Obama intends to order changes that will significantly refocus the activities of the government’s 12,000 immigration agents. One key piece of the order, officials said, will allow many parents of children who are American citizens or legal residents to obtain legal work documents and no longer worry about being discovered, separated from their families and sent away.

That part of Mr. Obama’s plan alone could affect as many as 3.3 million people who have been living in the United States illegally for at least five years, according to an analysis by the Migration Policy Institute, an immigration research organization in Washington. But the White House is also considering a stricter policy that would limit the benefits to people who have lived in the country for at least 10 years, or about 2.5 million people.

Extending protections to more undocumented immigrants who came to the United States as children, and to their parents, could affect an additional one million or more if they are included in the final plan that the president announces.

Mr. Obama’s actions will also expand opportunities for immigrants who have high-tech skills, shift extra security resources to the nation’s southern border, revamp a controversial immigration enforcement program called Secure Communities, and provide clearer guidance to the agencies that enforce immigration laws about who should be a low priority for deportation, especially those with strong family ties and no serious criminal history.

A new enforcement memorandum, which will direct the actions of Border Patrol agents and judges at the Department of Homeland Security, the Justice Department and other federal law enforcement and judicial agencies, will make clear that deportations should still proceed for convicted criminals, foreigners who pose national security risks and recent border crossers, officials said.

Report: 42 percent of new Medicaid signups are immigrants, their children

Report: 42 percent of new Medicaid signups are immigrants, their children

Report: 42 percent of new Medicaid signups are immigrants, their children

 By Susan Ferrechio

Immigrants and their U.S.-born children make up more than 40 percent of new Medicaid recipients at a cost of $4.6 billion, according to an analysis of government data.

The Center for Immigration Studies, a low-immigration advocacy group, released a report early Thursday that found both legal and illegal immigrants and their minor children made up 42 percent of Medicaid growth from 2011 to last year.

“The high rate and significant growth in Medicaid associated with immigrants is mainly the result of a legal immigration system that admits large numbers of immigrants with relatively low-levels of education, many of whom end up poor and uninsured,” the report says. "This fact, coupled with the extensive supports we provide to low-income residents, unavoidably creates very significant costs for taxpayers.”

U.S. Education: The Bad, Part II

U.S. Education: The Bad, Part II

By Azadeh Aalai, Ph.D.

Systemic racism continues to persist in educational institutions, to the detriment of minorities, and black Americans in particular.

Other problematic truths revealed in the report included the underperformance of blacks in comparison to their white counterparts in schools, inequities regarding test scores, dropout and graduation rates, and as already mentioned, rates of disciplines and suspensions (not only in preschool).

Perhaps an equally compelling truth is that over 50 years after the groundbreaking Brown versus Board of Education ruling that officially ended the legitimacy of segregation based on race in schools, today black and Hispanic kids are attending schools that are more segregated now than they were during the civil rights era. Philips (2010) reflects:

Schools remain highly unequal, both in terms of money, and qualified teachers and curriculum. Unequal education leads to a diminished access to colleges and future jobs. Non-white schools are segregated by poverty as well as race. These ‘chocolate’ low-income public schools are where most of the nation’s drop-outs occur, leading to large numbers of virtually unemployable young people of color struggling to survive in a very troubled economy.

The importance of being well educated in our society today cannot be overstated. It is a cliché, but ultimately one of the most basic truths—knowledge is power. Education has the power to be transformative, to pull communities out of poverty, to enlighten and motivate and compel and cure; the list of benefits that come from a quality education goes on and on. Moreover, in the face of the realities of trying to make a living in America today, being credentialed, having a degree—regardless of the underlying quality of the education it represents—is also essential.

How Obama Endangered Us All With Stuxnet

How Obama Endangered Us All With Stuxnet

The cybersabotage campaign on Iran’s nuclear facilities didn’t just damage centrifuges. It undermined digital security everywhere.

A few months after President Obama took office in 2009, he announced that securing the nation's critical infrastructure -- its power generators, its dams, its airports, and its trading floors -- was a top priority for his administration. Intruders had already probed the electrical grid, and Obama made it clear the status quo around unsecured systems was unacceptable. A year later, however, a sophisticated digital weapon was discovered on computers in Iran that was designed to attack a uranium enrichment plant near the town of Natanz. The virus, dubbed Stuxnet, would eventually be identified by journalists and security experts as a U.S.-engineered attack.  

Stuxnet was unprecedented in that it was the first malicious code found in the wild that was built not to steal data, but to physically destroy equipment controlled by the computers it infected—in this case, the cylindrical centrifuges Iran uses to enrich uranium gas.

Much has been said about Stuxnet in the years since its discovery. But little of that talk has focused on how use of the digital weapon undermined Obama’s stated priority of protecting critical infrastructure, placed that vulnerable infrastructure in the crosshairs of retaliatory attacks, and illuminated our country’s often-contradictory policies on cyberwarfare and critical infrastructure security.

Even less has been said about Stuxnet’s use of five so-called “zero-day” exploits to spread itself and the troubling security implications of the government's stockpile of zero-days -- malicious code designed to attack previously-unknown vulnerabilities in computer software.

Because a zero-day vulnerability is unknown, there is no patch available yet to fix it and no signatures available to detect exploit code built to attack it. Hackers and cyber criminals uncover these vulnerabilities and develop zero-day exploits to gain entry to susceptible systems and slip a virus or Trojan horse onto them, like a burglar using a crowbar to pry open a window and slip into a house. But organizations like the NSA and the U.S. military also use them to hack into systems for surveillance purposes, and even for sabotage, such as the case with the centrifuges in Iran.  

Generally when security researchers uncover zero-day vulnerabilities in software, they disclose them to the vendor to be fixed; to do otherwise would leave critical infrastructure systems and other computers open to attack from criminal hackers, corporate spies and foreign intelligence agencies. But when the NSA uncovers a zero-day vulnerability, it has traditionally kept the information secret in order to exploit the security hole in the systems of adversaries. In doing so, it leaves critical systems in the U.S—government computers and other systems that control the electric grid and the financial sector—vulnerable to attack.

It's a government model that relies on keeping everyone vulnerable so that a targeted few can be hacked—the equivalent of withholding vaccination from an entire population so that a select few can be infected with a strategic biological virus.

It's also a policy that pits the NSA’s offensive practices against the Department of Homeland Security's defensive ones, since it's the latter's job to help secure critical infrastructure. That’s more than just poor policy. It’s a combination that could someday lead to disaster.

FBI’s ‘suicide note’ to Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. revealed 50 years later

The full letter, kept at the National Archives in the Maryland suburbs of Washington, D.C.

Blake Griffin arrested after 'attacking fan for taking his picture'

Los Angeles Clippers star Blake Griffin is facing a misdemeanor battery charge stemming from a scuffle with a man at a Las Vegas Strip nightclub, according to court records obtained Wednesday

Blake Griffin arrested after 'attacking fan for taking his picture' outside Las Vegas nightclub

By Associated Press

Los Angeles Clippers star Blake Griffin is facing a misdemeanor battery charge stemming from a scuffle with a man at a Las Vegas Strip nightclub, according to court records obtained Wednesday.

The main claims Griffin grabbed him by the neck and slapped him after he took the NBA great's picture.  

The 25-year-old Griffin is due for arraignment December 8 before a Las Vegas justice of the peace on a charge that could get him up to a year in jail if he is convicted.

The criminal complaint was filed Friday, and a summons was issued for his arrest.

Hollywood is hurrying Obama off the stage—and getting ready for Hillary

No Kleenex in Tinseltown


Hollywood is hurrying Obama off the stage—and getting ready for a 2016 slugfest.

Here in the land of swimming pools and movie stars—and one of the Democratic Party’s most reliable A.T.M.s—the reaction of Hollywood’s big donors to the party’s crushing midterm losses has been a kind of Kubler-Ross progression of grief, with denial giving way not just to depression but a grim determination to give even more money to hold onto the White House in 2016.

“I think the mood out here is doubling down,” said one longtime political adviser to several prominent movie industry executives. “This raises the stakes for 2016. You’re talking about generational change on the Supreme Court alone, and all the Senate seats in states more favorable to us.”

By any estimate, residents of Zip Code 90210 and environs gave or raised millions of dollars to Democratic candidates in the last midterm electoral cycle, with entertainment figures like DreamWorks Animation’s c.e.o. Jeffrey Katzenberg leading the way. Katzenberg beat the bushes for Democratic candidates across the country, making a particular push for the failed Kentucky Senate campaign of Alison Lundergan Grimes—calling prospective donors early on a Sunday morning, one of them recalled, to make sure they had maxed out in giving to her campaign.

If the extent of the Democratic losses—from Capitol Hill to blue-state statehouses – came as a shock to donors here, the fact of them was hardly a surprise.

“In a post-Nate Silver world, a lot of Hollywood donors are very hip to the trend lines,” said Bill Carrick, a veteran Democratic strategist who works for Senators Diane Feinstein (D-Cal.) and Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and Mayor Eric Garcetti of Los Angeles. “And the obvious one is midterms are tougher for the Democrats for a whole lot of reasons than the presidential, and I think most people accept that and see a real opportunity for 2016.”

Or as another longtime California Democratic activist now serving in the Obama administration said, “From what I can tell, most people are licking their wounds by getting ready for Hillary.”

It’s long been the case that you’re nobody in Hollywood without a personal political consultant on retainer to help guide your giving and policy positions. An informal canvass by Politico of half a dozen of the most prominent and experienced such sherpas—all speaking not for attribution so as not to overshadow their bosses, who all declined to talk at all—revealed a broad consensus: Don’t get mad, get even.

The Republican Obsession With 'Restoring' America

The Republican Obsession With 'Restoring' America

Peter Beinart

Why so many conservatives have nostalgia for an era that wasn't all that golden

Next January, just in time for a potential presidential bid, Marco Rubio will publish a book. It’s called American Dreams: Restoring Economic Opportunity for Everyone.

Call me a killjoy, but I don’t think Senator Rubio can make good on his subtitle. Creating “economic opportunity for everyone” is hard enough in a country of 316 million. Restoring it is a metaphysical impossibility. To restore something, it must have existed before. And never in its history has America offered “economic opportunity for everyone,” not even in the Edenic days of President Reagan.

Why would Rubio make such an absurd promise? Because conservatives love the word “restore.” In 2007, when he was planning his own presidential bid, Mike Huckabee wrote a book subtitled 12 Steps to Restoring America’s Greatness. (It’s available for one cent on Amazon.) In 2010, Glenn Beck organized a rally on the National Mall entitled “Restoring Honor.” In 2012, Mitt Romney’s supporters established a Super PAC called, paradoxically, “Restore Our Future.” Later that year, the Republican platform promised the “Restoring of the American Dream” and the “Restoration of Constitutional Government.” This June, Ted Cruz pledged to “Restore the Great Confident Roar of America.”


When President Obama invokes America’s past, for instance, he’s less apt to celebrate previous eras than to celebrate the people in those eras who struggled to overcome its injustices. That’s why he talks so much about the civil-rights, women’s-rights, and labor movements. Conservatives, by contrast, want to conserve. Their problem is that they can’t call for conserving things as they are, since that would mean expressing satisfaction with Obama’s America. So they call for restoring the virtues that existed in some prelapsarian America: before the Progressive Era, before the New Deal, before the 1960s, or at least before Obama.

China Is Financing Putin’s Aggression

China Is Financing Putin’s Aggression

Russia’s economy is tanking, but Putin is sending long-range bombers on sorties in the Gulf of Mexico and combat troops into Ukraine—thanks to billions in new energy deals from Beijing.

President Obama may say China can be America’s “partner,” as he did Monday in Beijing, but the Chinese calculate their interests differently. The real partnership is between the Dragon and the Bear.

On Sunday in Beijing, on the sidelines of the Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation summit, Russia’s state-owned gas giant Gazprom signed a contract to sell gas from western Siberia to China’s own state energy giant, China National Petroleum Corp.

The Gazprom-CNPC deal is not the only major recent Russia-China energy deal. Last October, state-owned Rosneft, Russia’s biggest oil producer, gave CNPC an equity stake in an oil field in eastern Siberia. This May, Gazprom and CNPC inked a 30-year, $400 billion gas pact, another landmark arrangement in what AFP has described as a rapidly expanding “energy alliance.”

And this week CNPC agreed to buy 10 percent of Vankorneft, a Rosneft subsidiary, which operates the lucrative Vankor oil field. As the Financial Times noted in September, the deal “represents a stunning change in strategy.” In the past, Russia brought in a foreign energy company only if it needed technology. For Vankor, Russia has all the expertise it requires, as the field is already in production. In short, it looks as if Russian President Vladimir Putin sold a stake to China because he needed cash quickly.

At the moment, the Russian economy is deteriorating fast. Last year, Russia’s gross domestic product underperformed all expectations, growing only 1.3 percent. This year, the country will manage only 0.2 percent growth, according to the IMF. With the price of oil dropping to three-year lows and the Saudis apparently driving oil down, Russia’s economy is heading for a severe—and probably prolonged—contraction.

Debts Canceled by Bankruptcy Still Mar Consumer Credit Scores

Bernadette Gatling said she has lost job opportunities because employers viewed her credit report, which included voided debts.

Debts Canceled by Bankruptcy Still Mar Consumer Credit Scores

In the netherworld of consumer debt, there are zombies: bills that cannot be killed even by declaring personal bankruptcy.

Tens of thousands of Americans who went through bankruptcy are still haunted by debts long after — sometimes as long as a decade after — federal judges have extinguished the bills in court.

The problem, state and federal officials suspect, is that some of the nation’s biggest banks ignore bankruptcy court discharges, which render the debts void. Paying no heed to the courts, the banks keep the debts alive on credit reports, essentially forcing borrowers to make payments on bills that they do not legally owe.

The practice — a subtle but powerful tactic that effectively holds the credit report hostage until borrowers pay — potentially breathes new life into the pools of bad debt that are bought by financial firms.

Now lawyers with the United States Trustee Program, an arm of the Justice Department, are investigating JPMorgan Chase, Bank of America, Citigroup and Synchrony Financial, formerly known as GE Capital Retail Finance, suspecting the banks of violating federal bankruptcy law by ignoring the discharge injunction, say people briefed on the investigations.

The banks say that they comply with all federal laws in their collection and sale of debt.

Still, federal judges have started to raise alarms that some banks are threatening the foundations of bankruptcy.

Judge Robert D. Drain of the federal bankruptcy court in White Plains said in one opinion that debt buyers know that a bank “will refuse to correct the credit report to reflect the obligor’s bankruptcy discharge, which means that the debtor will feel significant added pressure to obtain a ‘clean’ report by paying the debt,” according to court documents.

For the debt buyers and the banks, the people briefed on the investigations said, it is a mutually beneficial arrangement: The banks typically send along any payments that they receive from borrowers to the debt buyers, which in turn, are more willing to buy portfolios of soured debts — including many that will wind up voided in bankruptcy — from the banks.

At the center of the investigation, the people briefed on it said, is the way banks report debts to the credit reporting agencies. Once a borrower voids a debt in bankruptcy, creditors are required to update credit reports to reflect that the debt is no longer owed, removing any notation of “past due” or “charged off.”

But the banks routinely fail to do that, according to the people briefed on the investigation, as well as interviews with more than three dozen borrowers who have discharged debts in bankruptcy and a review of bankruptcy records in seven states.

The errors are not clerical mistakes, but debt-collection tactics, current and former bankruptcy judges suspect. The banks refuse to fix the mistakes, the borrowers say, unless they pay for the purged debts. And many borrowers end up paying, given that they have so much at stake — the tarnished credit reports showing they still owe a debt can cost them a new loan, housing or a job. The Vogts, a couple in Denver, for example, paid JPMorgan $2,582 on a debt that was discharged in bankruptcy because they needed a clean credit report to get a mortgage.

There are many more who make payments on debts that they no longer legally owe, but never alert anyone because they do not realize the practice is illegal or cannot afford to litigate.

Did the Author of Obamacare Admit It’s Evil?

Did the Author of Obamacare Admit It’s Evil?

By Jonathan Chait

Earlier this week, the Daily Caller found videos of economist Jonathan Gruber, who helped write the Affordable Care Act, committing gaffes. Conservatives have responded with wild anger at what they take to be a confession that the hated law was designed to fool the public. Gruber “said that lack of transparency was a major part of getting ObamaCare passed, and that it was written in such a way as to take advantage of ‘the stupidity of the American voter,’” cries Fox News. The right-wing media is treating Gruber’s comments as a “scandal” and even proposing possible hearings in Congress. The furor over Gruber’s comments is based mostly on a simple misunderstanding, but there is enough truth in conservative claims about what he said to draw the mainstream media into the outrage.

2. The stupidity of the American voter. Here is where Gruber’s comment most rankles. “Stupidity” is unfair. Ignorance is a more accurate term. Very few people understand economics and public policy. This is especially true of Obamacare — most Americans are unaware of the law’s basic functions or even whether their state is participating.

Since people know so little about public policy in general and health-care policy in particular, they tend to have incoherent views. In health care and other areas, they want to enjoy generous benefits while paying low taxes and don’t know enough details to reconcile those irreconcilable preferences. Gruber’s error here is that, by describing this as “stupidity” rather than a “lack of knowledge,” he moves from lamenting an unfortunate problem both parties must work around to condescending to the public in an unattractive way.

Obama and Net Neutrality: he president we've been waiting for

obama computer

Obama's stand on net neutrality finally feels like the president we've been waiting for

Lawrence Lessig

It may have taken six years, but does the president’s sudden willingness to do the right thing finally signal a liberal, liberated, post-political Obama?

Barack Obama delivered on his promise to make a stand for a free and open internet: by declaring his support for network neutrality this week, he has finally put the weight of his administration behind a position he had originally – and strongly – campaigned for. Now, after six years of posturing, will he get something done?

Network neutrality is a regulatory commitment to preserving the architectural principles upon which the internet was founded, guaranteeing that no content or application could be discriminated against by a network owner. It was guaranteed because the technology of the internet didn’t have the capacity to do anything else – the ability to discriminate was not in its code.

But over the last decade, technologists have developed new code that makes it increasingly simple for network owners to pick and choose the content and applications they want to favor, or to block or slow the content and applications they oppose. And armed with these new anti-neutrality tools, it could be Comcast or AT&T that decides what the future of the internet will be, not the innovators and users who have built it so far. Without the rules of network neutrality, they would use the power their own code provides, as any corporation would, to maximize their profits, regardless of the effect on internet innovation.

The puzzle in the president’s move, however, has little to do with the substance. Network neutrality is the right policy. It cuts across the left and right among internet activists. But does the president’s willingness to take up this issue now signal a newly liberated, post-political Obama? Or is this the beginning of a fight for executive authority against a clunky and captured “independent” agency – the Federal Communications Commission?

Secret talks and a personal letter: how the US-China climate deal was done

john kerry xi jinping

Secret talks and a personal letter: how the US-China climate deal was done

Suzanne Goldenberg

The climate deal announced on Wednesday between the world’s two biggest carbon polluters was struck after a personal letter from Barack Obama, and nine months of intensive diplomacy. But American and Chinese officials had been in search of an agreement – through official meetings and back-channel negotiations – since the days when George Bush was president.

The plan unveiled in Beijing by Obama and his Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping, commits the two countries to ambitious cuts to greenhouse gas emissions after 2020, and could spur other big polluters to similar efforts.

After years of mistrust, the deal began to coalesce last spring after Obama sent a personal letter to Xi suggesting the two countries start to move in tandem to cut carbon pollution, the White House said.

The immediate inspiration for the letter arose from a visit to Beijing by John Kerry, the US secretary of state. Kerry, who had a strong environmental record when he was a senator, raised climate change to a top priority after taking over at State. He floated the idea of setting joint targets in his meetings with Chinese officials, a senior administration official said.

“The idea was first hatched in a bilateral visit that Secretary Kerry had in early February, where he broached it with the Chinese,” the official said. “And when the Chinese side seemed potentially receptive, we followed up with that letter from President Obama to President Xi.”

What came next was a flurry of diplomatic meetings – including a pivotal encounter on the sidelines of the United Nations climate summit in September between Obama and the Chinese vice-premier Zhang Gaoli, who has charge of climate and energy.


By early November, officials were parsing the language of an eventual announcement – a process that evidently went down to the wire, in the official’s account.

“We were here the week before last and had intensive discussions about what our respective targets would look like, and then finally were able to negotiate a text which was finalised late yesterday.”

By the time it reached that crunch point, however, US and Chinese officials had spent the better part of two years trying to overcome their mutual suspicion – and nearly a decade in on-off negotiations for a two-way climate deal.

After the disaster of the Copenhagen climate summit in 2009, when Obama was on the receiving end of a pointed diplomatic snub from Chinese officials, the two countries began to put in the hard work needed to repair the relationship.

As those familiar with United Nations climate negotiations recognised, there was no other way. China and America between them are responsible for 45% of global greenhouse gas emissions.

Unless they were serious about cutting carbon pollution, there was no hope of fighting climate change.

The primacy of the US-Chinese relationship was familiar to a number of highly placed officials in the Obama administration.

Beginning in late 2007, when George Bush was president, a group of leading Republicans and Democrats led two secretive missions to China to try to secure a bilateral climate agreement.

The initiative included John Holdren, now the White House science adviser, and culminated in a meeting at a luxury hotel at the Great Wall of China in July 2008.

It also produced a draft agreement in March 2009, two months after Obama took office, but it was never signed. Obama’s hopes of passing a climate law died in Congress.

After his re-election, however, Obama recommitted to fighting climate change, and again took up pursuit of the China deal.

“At the beginning of the second term the president recognised that he had to both take domestic action to have credibility but also to begin bilateral negotiations with China to actually bend down the global emissions curve,” said Paul Bledsoe, a climate change official under Bill Clinton. “From the moment of his re-election, this process began. This is essentially the culmination of two years of effort, recognising that until Chinese emissions begin to decline, global emissions cannot decline. That is just the reality of the problem.”

Western diets must be abandoned for vegetarianism or ....

Experts from Minnesota University claim that by 2050 plant-based diets will be replaced with ones high in refined sugars, fats, oils and meat, which will, in turn, increase greenhouse gas emissions by 80%. If left unchecked, this could also lead to an extra billion hectares of habitat being destroyed globally

Western diets must be abandoned for vegetarianism or greenhouse gases will rise by 80%

By Victoria Woollaston for MailOnline

A love of meat and sugary treats could be damaging the planet, as well as your health.

By 2050, experts predict that these so-called western diets, which are typically high in fats and oils, will cause greenhouse gas emissions to increase by 80 per cent.

If left unchecked, this could also lead to an extra billion hectares of habitat being destroyed to make way for the extra land needed for food production and agriculture.

‘Rising incomes and urbanisation are driving a global dietary transition in which traditional diets are replaced by diets higher in refined sugars, refined fats, oils and meats,’ explained ecologists Professor David Tilman and graduate student Matthew Clark from the University of Minnesota.

‘By 2050, these dietary trends will be a major contributor to an estimated 80 per cent increase in global agricultural greenhouse gas emissions from food production and to global land clearing.’

Why Innocent People Plead Guilty


Why Innocent People Plead Guilty

Jed S. Rakoff

The criminal justice system in the United States today bears little relationship to what the Founding Fathers contemplated, what the movies and television portray, or what the average American believes.

To the Founding Fathers, the critical element in the system was the jury trial, which served not only as a truth-seeking mechanism and a means of achieving fairness, but also as a shield against tyranny. As Thomas Jefferson famously said, “I consider [trial by jury] as the only anchor ever yet imagined by man, by which a government can be held to the principles of its constitution.”

The Sixth Amendment guarantees that “in all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury.” The Constitution further guarantees that at the trial, the accused will have the assistance of counsel, who can confront and cross-examine his accusers and present evidence on the accused’s behalf. He may be convicted only if an impartial jury of his peers is unanimously of the view that he is guilty beyond a reasonable doubt and so states, publicly, in its verdict.

The drama inherent in these guarantees is regularly portrayed in movies and television programs as an open battle played out in public before a judge and jury. But this is all a mirage. In actuality, our criminal justice system is almost exclusively a system of plea bargaining, negotiated behind closed doors and with no judicial oversight. The outcome is very largely determined by the prosecutor alone.

In 2013, while 8 percent of all federal criminal charges were dismissed (either because of a mistake in fact or law or because the defendant had decided to cooperate), more than 97 percent of the remainder were resolved through plea bargains, and fewer than 3 percent went to trial. The plea bargains largely determined the sentences imposed.

3 Essential Mindsets for Athletic Success

3 Essential Mindsets for Athletic Success

By Jim Taylor, Ph.D.

When I talk about mindset, I mean what is going on in your head just before you begin a competition, whether on the field, course, court, track, what-have-you. What happens in your mind during that oh-so-important period sets the stage for whether you perform to the best of your ability or crash and burn. I have found three mindsets that the best athletes use most.

In an interview after her first World Cup victory of this season, Mikaela Shiffrin, the 19-year-old alpine ski racing prodigy who has already won Olympic and World Championship gold medals, indicated how “I’m trying to take more of an aggressive mindset” that helped her overcome her pattern of relatively sluggish skiing in the first half of race runs.

When I talk about an aggressive mindset, I don’t mean that athletes should try to hurt their opponents. Rather, I think of aggressiveness as a mindset in which athletes are proactive, assertive, and forceful, for example, driving hard to the hoop in basketball, going for a risky shot in golf or tennis, or setting a fast pace in a marathon.

This aggressive mindset is often needed for athletes to shift from solid performance to exceptional performance because it allows them to take their performances to the next level, particularly for those who aren’t naturally aggressive in how they perform. For example, I worked with a top NFL draft pick at linebacker who was so gentle off the field that he wasn’t able to naturally “take it to” the offense while playing. For him to be successful in the NFL, he needed to adopt an aggressive mindset.

An aggressive mindset can be so valuable because many sports these days have become “combat sport,” meaning that opponents or competitive conditions are trying to literally or figuratively beat athletes. Athletes do battle not only with opposing teams and players, but also weather and field court, or course conditions. Only by assuming an aggressive mindset do some athletes have a chance to vanquish those enemies.

Pot smokers could lose IQ points, but their brains might also be compensating for that

UT Dallas study: Pot smokers could lose some IQ points, but their brains might also be compensating for that

By Robert Wilonsky

If you smoke marijuana regularly, a just-published study out of the University of Texas at Dallas has some possible good news and some possible bad news.

First, the bad: You might — might — be shaving a few points off of your IQ, especially if you started smoking in your teens. That said, the brain does appear capable of rewiring itself to make up for the drop. But, for how long …?

Maybe not for too long, and certainly not forever, says Dr. Francesca Filbey, an associate professor in the School of Behavioral and Brain Sciences at the University of Texas at Dallas and director of the Cognitive Neuroscience Research in Addictive Disorders at the Center for BrainHealth. Filbey authored the paper “Long-term effects of marijuana use on the brain” published this week in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, which used magnetic resonance imaging to measure the impact of “chronic marijuana use” among 48 people who smoked pot three times a day. Sixty-two non-users also took part in the study.

The UT Dallas study found that chronic marijuana users have smaller brain volume in what’s called the orbitofrontal cortex, the part of the brain said to impact everything from mood to addiction to decision-making. But the study also shows that the brain’s capable of rewiring itself to make up for that shrinkage, at least for a little while.

Heavy pot use causes “long-term effects on the brain, and these effects are complicated,” says Filbey. “We found the decrease in [brain] structure, but that was alongside increase in connectivity. There’s definitely a way the brain tries to compensate for changes due to marijuana use, and what’s just as interesting and surprising, these compensatory mechanisms, while that initially increased, after prolonged use that connectivity started to decline, suggesting the brain may be compensating but may not be able to do so after long-term use."
Why Wall Street Loves Hillary

Why Wall Street Loves Hillary

She's trying to sound populist, but the banks are ready to shower her campaign with cash.

An odd thing happened last month when, stumping just before the midterms, Hillary Clinton came in close proximity to the woman who has sometimes been described as the conscience of the Democratic Party. Speaking at the Park Plaza Hotel in Boston as she did her part to try to rescue the failing gubernatorial campaign of Martha Coakley in Massachusetts, Clinton paid deference to Senator Elizabeth Warren, the anti-Wall Street firebrand who has accused Clinton of pandering to the big banks, and who was sitting right there listening. “I love watching Elizabeth give it to those who deserve it,” Clinton said to cheers. But then, awkwardly, she appeared to try to out-Warren Warren—and perhaps build a bridge too far to the left—by uttering words she clearly did not believe: “Don’t let anyone tell you that it’s corporations and businesses that create jobs,” Clinton said, erroneously echoing a meme Warren made famous during an August 2011 speech at a home in Andover, Massachusetts. “You know that old theory, trickle-down economics? That has been tried, that has failed. It has failed rather spectacularly.”

The right went wild. See? Hillary Clinton has finally shown her hand. After having sat out the financial crisis and all the economic turmoil that has followed in the past six years—and with good reason, since for most of that time she was tending to the nation’s diplomacy as secretary of state—she is proving to be an anti-Wall Street populist too, and as much a socialist as her former boss, President Obama.

But here’s the strange thing: Down on Wall Street they don’t believe it for a minute. While the finance industry does genuinely hate Warren, the big bankers love Clinton, and by and large they badly want her to be president. Many of the rich and powerful in the financial industry—among them, Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein, Morgan Stanley CEO James Gorman, Tom Nides, a powerful vice chairman at Morgan Stanley, and the heads of JPMorganChase and Bank of America—consider Clinton a pragmatic problem-solver not prone to populist rhetoric. To them, she’s someone who gets the idea that we all benefit if Wall Street and American business thrive. What about her forays into fiery rhetoric? They dismiss it quickly as political maneuvers. None of them think she really means her populism.

Although Hillary Clinton has made no formal announcement of her candidacy, the consensus on Wall Street is that she is running—and running hard—and that her national organization is quickly falling into place behind the scenes. That all makes her attractive. Wall Street, above all, loves a winner, especially one who is not likely to tamper too radically with its vast money pot.

Eat Spinach, Lose Weight?

Eat Spinach, Lose Weight?

By Edward Abramson, Ph.D.

Eating spinach made Popeye strong but adding this spinach extract to your drink may help you curb cravings and lose weight.

Rosetta's probe, Philae, has successfully landed on its comet

Ahead of the landing, Rosetta took a number of images of Philae during its daring descent. This view shows the lander's consert antennae deployed. It also shows three lander feet and the Rolis descent camera boom

Rosetta's probe, Philae, has successfully landed on its comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. 

By Jonathan O'Callaghan and Ellie Zolfagharifard for MailOnline

After a daring seven-hour descent, the probe has made space history by becoming the first ever craft to land on a comet.

In an emotional speech, Esa director general Jean-Jacques Dordain said: 'It's a big step for human civilisation.'

Rosetta's probe, Philae, has successfully landed on its comet 67P/Churyumov-Gerasimenko. Pictured is the mission control team in Darmstadt, Germany celebrating immediately after the announcement 

Scientists hope data from the probe will help reveal how the solar system was first created 4.5 billion years ago.

The confirmation of the landing was relayed via Rosetta to Earth and picked up simultaneously by a ground station in Malargüe, Argentina and Madrid, Spain, before being confirmed in Darmstadt.

'After more than 10 years travelling through space, we're now making the best ever scientific analysis of one of the oldest remnants of our solar system,' added Alvaro Giménez, Esa's director of Science and Robotic Exploration.

'Decades of preparation have paved the way for today's success, ensuring that Rosetta continues to be a game-changer in cometary science and space exploration.'

Rosetta has chased comet 67P/Churyumov–Gerasimenko through space for more than ten years in what has been described as 'the sexiest, most fantastic mission ever'. 

After a four billion mile (6.5 billion km) journey, the probe this morning successfully released Philae from its grip to land on the comet.

'We are extremely relieved to be safely on the surface of the comet, especially given the extra challenge of the comet's unusual shape and unexpectedly hazardous surface,' says Stephan Ulamec, Philae Lander Manager at the DLR German Aerospace Center.

There are a number of things that could go wrong with the mission. For instance, Rosetta might not release Philae at the right spot if the thrusters are activated at the wrong time. Jets of gas spewing from the comet could also cause problems during the descent. Pictured is an overview of potential problems facing Philae

Gallup: Dems plunge to record low

Nancy Pelosi (left) and Harry Reid are pictured. | Getty

Gallup: Dems plunge to record low

Favorability for the Democrats has hit a record low as things go from bad to worse for the party after significant midterm losses, according to a new poll.

Only 36 percent had a favorable view of the Democratic party, a 6-percentage-point drop from before the midterms, the Gallup poll released Wednesday found. With the GOP standing with 42 percent favorability, it is the first time since 2011 the GOP has had a higher rating than the Democrats.

The favorability rating for Democrats is the party’s lowest since Gallup began asking the question in 1992.

“After the 2012 election, many political analysts focused on the GOP’s ‘image problem’,” the polling firm said. “Now, it is the Democrats who appear to have the more battered image. Their favorability rating has never been lower, and they are reeling from defeats that cost them control of the U.S. Senate and strengthened the Republican House majority to levels likely not seen in 90 years.

Ted Cruz is leading the charge against Obamacare. But no one's following.

Ted Cruz is shown. | Getty

An army of one

By David Nather

Ted Cruz is leading the charge against Obamacare. But no one's following.

Ted Cruz is still ready to use any means necessary to repeal Obamacare.

But even his fellow conservatives aren’t all jumping on board – a sign that the Republican repeal or bust movement is struggling while Obamacare continues to enroll millions of people with health insurance.

While Cruz wants to use a draconian budget measure to repeal Obamacare with just 51 votes in the Senate, he looks to be increasingly out on a limb. Utah Republican Mike Lee, a leader in the conservative movement, isn’t sold on the so-called budget reconciliation procedure to gut the law. Rand Paul says he’s for repeal but is hedging on exactly how to do it.

Mitch McConnell, who may enjoy a 54 vote Senate Republican majority by January, won’t commit to using the simple majority vote to kill Obamacare. And none of the Republican 2016 presidential candidates are pushing hard for the more radical Senate procedures to repeal the health care law.

Interviews with a wide range of key figures in the Senate and within the conservative movement show that while the party may be united rhetorically on repealing Obamacare, Republicans are surprisingly squishy on exactly how to do it.

The most popular response is to say, “yes, I’m for repeal,” but without saying how. Paul spokesman Brian Darling says the Kentucky senator “is committed one hundred percent to a full repeal,” but added that “using regular order or reconciliation or both is an inside the beltway fight.” And Steve Daines, the newly elected senator from Montana, said through a spokesman only that he “supports fully repealing Obamacare” and “will closely examine how to most effectively achieve that goal.”

Towering Ambition: Tallest Wood Office Building

Rendering of a seven-story office building planned for Minneapolis, which if built would be the tallest modern all-timber structure in the U.S.

Towering Ambition: Tallest Wood Office Building

How the Rosetta Probe Will Try to Land on a Comet

How the Rosetta Probe Will Try to Land on a Comet

Scientists are nearing the crucial moment when the Rosetta space probe attempts to land on a comet. Gautam Naik explains how this will be done.

The Dreadful Inconvenience of Salad

The Dreadful Inconvenience of Salad

If healthy food was as easy as junk food, would we eat more of it?

By Olga Khazan

A start-up will contribute an interesting answer to the million-dollar food-policy question: If healthy food was as easy as junk food, would we eat more of it?

At a drab community center on Chicago’s West side, there’s a room where families sit around idly. Unemployment is high here, and so is crime: Last month, East Garfield Park was ranked the seventh most violent out of 77 Chicago neighborhoods. The center offers everything from domestic-violence help, to financial assistance, to warmth during the long winter.

It also offers salads, which visitors can purchase from a futuristic-looking vending machine. The salads are made from high-end ingredients like blueberries, kale, fennel, and pineapple. Each one comes out in a plastic mason jar, its elements all glistening in neat layers, the way fossils might look if the Earth had been created by meticulous vegans. They cost $1.

The salad machine is the invention of 28-year-old entrepreneur Luke Saunders, who launched his company, Farmer’s Fridge, a year ago at a nearby warehouse. His goal is to offer workers a fast, healthy lunch option in areas where there’s a dearth of restaurants. Instead of popping into McDonald's out of desperation, they can simply grab salads from their buildings’ lobbies and eat them back at their desks.

Most of Saunders’s machines are installed at private office buildings, food courts, and convenience stores, where the salads cost upwards of $7. Eventually, he wants to drive down the price to the point where anyone can afford them.

As an entrepreneur with a new startup, Saunders is confronting any number of challenges. Among them is a question that has stumped many of America’s top food-policy experts for decades: If healthy food were more convenient, would more people eat it?

Before Saunders decided to feed leafy greens to the masses, he spent two years working at an industrial-lubricants business in New York. After his girlfriend (now wife) moved to Michigan for law school, he joined her in Ann Arbor, where he got a job selling metal finishings. His work took him through various industrial neighborhoods and far-flung food wastelands around the country. Nearly everywhere he went, he was surrounded by Burger Kings and KFCs, and yet, for him: “There was nothing to eat.”

It’s Legal to Buy Votes in America

Undo Citizens United? We’d Only Scratch the Surface. The problem runs far deeper, to an absurdly narrow legal definition of ‘corruption’ that throws democracy on the trash heap.

If you think Citizens United was the problem in this election, you’re wrong. It’s worse than that.

My state, North Carolina, was supposed to be the silver lining in the dark midterm cloud, the place where organized people beat organized money. “Moral Mondays” activists have been mobilizing against a Tea Party legislature for two years, and they sent organizers into every county in the state. Sure enough, early voting figures showed Democratic voters turning out in much larger numbers than in 2010, and polls showed Democratic incumbent Kay Hagan ahead. Instead, before midnight last Tuesday, the race went to Thom Tillis, the president of North Carolina’s senate and the face of two years of laws restricting voting and abortion rights, blocking Medicaid expansion, and cutting back environmental protection. It was the most expensive Senate race in history, topping $113 million, of which more than $80 million came from outside groups.

Organized money swamped organized people (in fairness not all outside money was right-wing). Each vote cost more $16. That’s approaching the $20 price tag for literal vote-buying in West Virginia when I was growing up there, though some people said you could also get a vote for a pint of whiskey.

Everyone says this is how things were bound to go after Citizens United declared corporations people. That’s why there’s a movement to pass an amendment repealing corporate personhood. Citizens United has become the symbol of money’s power in politics.

Sadly, repealing corporations’ constitutional personhood wouldn’t help much, and even overturning Citizens United wholesale wouldn’t be nearly enough. The Supreme Court has been hollowing the idea that democracy is a constitutional value for almost 40 years, and the damage we need to undo goes much further than changing a single case.

In 1976, the Court ruled that wealthy individuals, candidates, and campaigns could spend as much as they liked on elections. Citizens United extended that logic to corporations and unions—a significant change but not a huge one.

It’s unsettling how much sense Citizens United and the earlier cases make from within First Amendment law. Money is the universal means: it lets you do just about anything. If you have a right to do something that’s otherwise legal, such as have an abortion, the government can’t do an end-run around that right by making it a crime to pay for an abortion. In a market economy, having a right generally means being able to pay to exercise it.

Speech is a right that has no natural limit. As long as you can pay for more, your speech gets bigger and bigger. Other rights—abortion, intimacy—are like your appetite for dinner: they’re contained by certain inherent limits. Even Second Amendment gun rights, though guns are notoriously for sale, will only let you shoot what you can hold in your hands, even if you buy a thousand firearms. Spending millions on speech is more like raising your own militia.

Gumchew diplomacy: The president's unsightly habit

Gumchew diplomacy: The president's unsightly habit

Terrence McCoy

In June, President Obama’s physician dispatched the results of his third physical examination of the commander in chief. The doctor noted Obama was in “excellent” health except for one minor problem: his history of smoking. But Obama, the report found, was now “tobacco free,” buoyed by the “occasional use” of “Nicotine Gum.”

It’s difficult to find a larger advocate of gum-chewing than the president. Obama chews gum while ensconced in Air Force One watching football. He chews gum while in the throes of a campaign. He chews gum when presiding over World War II commemorations. And to the horror of conservatives, he chewed gum at the recent Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation conference in Beijing. Amid the gallantry of Vladimir Putin and the accusations of Australian Prime Minister Tony Abbott, there was Obama, chewing away.

It’s kind of his thing. And regardless of the criticism facing Obama over the habit, he’s obviously hooked.

For Obama, gum isn’t about vanity. His aides described his quest to kick cigarettes as a “lifelong struggle.” “I was one of these teenagers” who smoked, he said in 2009. “And so I know how difficult it can be to break this habit when it’s been with you for a long time.” And even as late as mid-2010, his medical team reported he was still smoking. Navy Capt. Jeffrey Kuhlman, the White House physician, recommended Obama stick with “smoking cessation efforts,” such as “the use of nicotine gum.”

Of course, not everyone is sympathetic — certainly not the French. “One thing: OBAMA was chewing gum almost uninterrupted,” one Twitter user bleated after Obama was caught chewing gum at a World War II ceremony. “How disrespectful!” Another added, “And #Obama welcomed the Queen with chewing gum in his mouth… #shocking #boor.”

The Chinese, too, weren’t so keen on the president’s jaw workouts. “This is the American manner and humor, but in traditional Chinese culture, it is immature and not serious behavior!” the Wall Street Journal quoted one blogger saying. Another said it spoke to something bigger: “No wonder he doesn’t get any support.”

Republicans seized on the gum-chewing as another example of Obama’s fecklessness. On Fox News, columnist Charles Krauthammer was particularly unforgiving, castigating Obama for chewing gum at this pivotal moment in history: “My mother used to say, ‘Don’t chew gum.’ And that was just in class. Look, the Chinese of all people have been extremely sensitive to the rituals, the decorum, the subtleties, the deference of diplomacy. This goes back 3,000 years! In China, chewing gum is a sign of disrespect.”

There is cause to dispute that assertion, given the wild popularity and eclectic nature of gum in China. (Taijixing Double-Deck Lunch Box Chewing Gum, anyone?) The economic gods have been kind to gum in the Middle Kingdom, where industry behemoth Wrigley controls 45 percent of the gum market. In 2005, the Asia Times even ran a graphic of Mao Zedong blowing a giant bubble above a Tiananmen Square covered in gum. Today, gum in China enjoys “dynamic growth,” the Wall Street journal found earlier this year.

Xi’s Rapid Rise in China Presents Challenges for U.S.

President Obama and President Xi Jinping drank a toast at a lunch banquet in the Great Hall of the People in Beijing on Wednesday. Credit Pool photo by Greg Baker

Xi’s Rapid Rise in China Presents Challenges for U.S.


President Xi Jinping has bold ambitions at home and abroad and sees China as a peer of the United States.

A pledge on Wednesday from President Xi Jinping of China to help fight climate change is expected to send a strong signal, analysts and policy advisers said, since meeting global emissions-reduction goals will require sustained efforts from Beijing in curbing the country’s addiction to coal and greatly bolstering sources of renewable energy.

At the same time, the experts said, there are many questions surrounding the plan, announced in Beijing alongside President Obama: Does it go far enough in helping check climate change, and how will China meet its stated targets?

Mr. Xi said China planned to have carbon dioxide emissions peak “around 2030” and to increase the share of renewable energy to 20 percent by that year.

Although those goals — and a corresponding pledge from Mr. Obama that the United States would emit 26 percent to 28 percent less carbon dioxide in 2025 than it did in 2005 — still need to be put into a formal agreement, the fact that America and China were able to announce solid numbers after months of negotiations sends a message that the world’s top two emitters of greenhouse gases are willing to work together on the issue, the experts said.

Tracking Isis, stalking the CIA: how anyone can be big brother online

The lobby of the CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia.

Tracking Isis, stalking the CIA: how anyone can be big brother online

Tom Fox-Brewster

There are a startling number of legal and free tools that let anyone set up NSA-esque operations – or just infiltrate the neighbour’s webcam

“Our choice isn’t between a world where either the good guys spy or the bad guys spy. It’s a choice of everybody gets to spy or nobody gets to spy.” So said the security luminary Bruce Schneier at BBC Future’s World-Changing Ideas Summit in October. He was considering a world in which the metadata zipping around us and the static information sitting on web servers across the globe is accessible to those with the means and the will to collect it all.

With so many cheap or free tools out there, it is easy for anyone to set up their own NSA-esque operations and collect all this data. Though breaching systems and taking data without authorisation is against the law, it is possible to do a decent amount of surveillance entirely legally using open-source intelligence (OSINT) tools. If people or organisations release data publicly, whether or not they mean to do so, users can collect it and store it in any way they see fit.

That is why, despite having a controversial conviction to his name under the Computer Misuse Act, Daniel Cuthbert, chief operating officer of security consultancy Sensepost, has been happily using OSINT tool Maltego (its open-source version is charmingly called Poortego) to track a number of people online.

Over a few days this summer, he was “stalking” a Twitter user who appeared to be working at the Central Intelligence Agency. Maltego allowed him to collect all social media messages sent out into the internet ether in the area around the CIA’s base in Langley, Virginia. He then picked up on the location of further tweets from the same user, which appeared to show her travelling between her own home and a friend or partner’s house. Not long after Cuthbert started mapping her influence, her account disappeared.


For those who want instant visual results, the Shodan search tool is a remarkable piece of work. Simple searches can reveal miraculous details. For instance, type “IP camera” into the search bar and more than 1.3m internet-connected IP cameras show up from across the world. Add “country:gb” and you’ll be shown more than 54,000 based in Great Britain. You could specify a manufacturer too, such as Samsung. That provides just 13 results. From there, it’s a matter of clicking on the IP addresses to see which ones allow you to view live footage either with or without a password (if you guess the password, even if it’s a default one such as “admin”, it will mean you are likely to have broken the Computer Misuse Act).

Either way, it is very easy to find poorly secured cameras - many have a username of “admin” and no password whatsoever, according to previous research. It is that straightforward: no coding skills required.

I ran a search for webcamXP, which bills itself as “the most popular webcam and network camera software for Windows”, and uncovered a large number of UK-based feeds without any authentication (see images below). One was inside a classroom at Lancaster University, which ironically has one of the top cyber security research teams across UK academia. I managed to view an entire seminar free of charge (though there was no sound and there was nothing useful to be gained other than looking at the morose faces of students awake before midday).

The university took down the feed soon after the Guardian disclosed its discovery.

Many showed footage from inside people’s living rooms. They are likely to be oblivious to the fact that anyone on the web can see into their lives, unless they simply do not care. As a pro-privacy writer, I am choosing not to publish images from inside people’s homes. But my searches made it apparent anyone can create their very own voyeuristic version of Gogglebox, all because people have neglected to put usernames and passwords on their CCTV cameras.

Even a search as simple as “default password” on Shodan will bring up reams of results, showing you exactly what login credentials are needed to access things like routers and web servers. It is startling how much insecure kit there is on the internet.

It is possible to take information found on Shodan and use it for even more malicious means such as data theft. For hackers, the search service provides a marvellous way to see how many vulnerable systems are open and ripe for compromise. Searching for systems running the now unsupported Windows XP (meaning it is vulnerable to many exploits - though you will need proper security skills to exploit them) brings up fruitful results - 54,000 machines in fact.

Navy SEAL Team Six Never Intended to Capture Bin Laden

Site: O'Neill also revealed that he and his fellow Navy SEALs did not think they would return alive after the raid on bin Laden's hideout (above)

Bin Laden shooter says the US government always planned on killing 9/11 mastermind.

Navy SEAL Team Six believed it was a suicide mission

By Wills Robinson for MailOnline

Robert O'Neill, the former Navy SEAL who claims he killed Osama bin Laden says the government had no intention of bringing back the al-Qaeda chief alive and Navy SEAL Team Six believed they were on a suicide mission.

'The more we trained on it the more we realized this is going to be a one-way mission,' said O'Neill in the first clips of his eagerly anticipated interview with Fox News which will air tonight on Veterans Day.

'We’re going to go and we’re not going to come back. We’re going to die when the house blows up, we’re going to die when he blows up, or we’re going to be there too long, we get arrested by the Pakistanis, and we’re going to spend the rest of our lives in a Pakistan prison.'

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