Fire rips through 12-storey Manchester apartment building (PHOTOS, VIDEOS)

By ethan / December 30, 2017

A fire at a 12-storey residential building in the Northern Quarter of Manchester City Saturday evening triggered a major emergency response. Video from the scene shows firefighters swiftly bringing the blaze under control.

There were no fatalities at the Lighthouse building fire, though one person was hospitalized and is being treated for smoke inhalation. Some 12 fire engines were dispatched to tackle the blaze on Joiner Street.

The North West Ambulance Service sent at least seven ambulances and a hazardous area response team to the scene as a precautionary measure. Manchester Police setup a security cordon around High Street and Tib Street and advised the public to avoid the area.

“We still have 12 fire appliances tackling the blaze in the Northern Quarter over a number of floors. Firefighting in still ongoing and one casualty has been taken to hospital suffering smoke inhalation. Please avoid the area as roads are still shut,” Greater Manchester fire and rescue service tweeted. The fire, which is believed to have started on the ninth floor before spreading to the tenth a short time later, was quickly brought under control. Three apartments were damaged in the fire reports The Manchester Evening News.

The Lighthouse building is the tallest residential block in the Northern Quarter area of Manchester City and was constructed in 2008. Apartments in the building sell for over £175,000 reports The Mirror.  

Emergency services in the UK have been on edge since the Grenfell Tower disaster on June 14 which claimed the lives of 71 people. A total of 250 firefighters and 70 engines helped battle the West London inferno.

The official Grenfell Tower inquiry began on September 14. Investigators believe the building’s external cladding accelerated the deadly spread of the fire. The tragedy sparked outrage across the UK, with calls for updated building regulations and fire safety reforms.

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Niagara Falls ‘freezes’ as big chill grips Eastern US (PHOTOS, VIDEO)

By ethan / December 30, 2017

North America is currently experiencing a particularly severe and protracted cold snap resulting in major car accidents, a state of emergency, sharks freezing to death and even now Niagara Falls is experiencing the Arctic blast.

The waters of the majestic falls themselves has yet to succumb to the polar winds, but the surrounding area has been transformed into a winter wonderland as temperatures plummet across Canada and the US, dropping to -34 degrees Fahrenheit in parts and dropping further to -89 degrees (-67 Celsius) when windchill is factored in.

The weather has wreaked havoc on US roads, with Michigan alone reporting up to 30 crashes due to the recent icy conditions, including a major pile-up involving at least 40 vehicles reports WGN.  

An 83-year old woman died of exposure in South Dakota after her car broke down and she went to search for help. Three people also died in Lake Eerie after their car slid off an icy road into a canal reports the LA Times.

Polar winds from the Arctic are being blamed for the precipitous drop in temperatures over the past week.

Residents from as far south as Tennessee and South Carolina all the way to Maine in the northeastern US have been warned to exercise extreme caution during the big freeze. Maine Governor Paul LePage declared a state of emergency to allow heating oil providers to work beyond federal limits to ensure residents stay warm.  

In North Dakota, typically among the coldest states in the US each year, temperatures are expected to plunge to -30 F (-34.4 C) Saturday with a wind chill of about -50 F (-45.5 C) according to meteorologist Ken Simosko, as cited by The Mirror.

Even marine life is falling victim to the extreme cold with sharks reportedly dying from shock due to the drop in temperature.

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Doctor suspended for reusing disposable anal catheters on multiple patients

By ethan / December 30, 2017

A doctor accused of reusing single-use anal catheters on multiple patients has had his license to practice medicine temporarily suspended.

Middlesex County surgeon, Sanjiv K. Patankar, allegedly used only five catheters to carry out 82 anorectal procedures, according to documentary evidence cited in a statement from the New Jersey Attorney General’s Office.

The Committee of the State Board of Medical Examiners made the decision to temporarily suspend the doctor after hearing evidence from the State that claimed Patankar “washed and reused the small, flexible catheters inserted into patients’ rectums during medical procedures.”

It unanimously found that Patankar demonstrated a “fundamental lack of judgment” and placed patients in clear and imminent danger by reusing the catheters.

“It is appalling that a doctor would engage in such an unsanitary and dangerous practice,” said Attorney General Christopher S. Porrino. “Through his alleged conduct, Dr. Patankar has demonstrated a reckless disregard for public safety that placed countless patients at risk of communicable diseases.”

Patankar reused the catheters on patients undergoing “anorectal manometry” testing in his office between January 1 and November 30, 2017. An anorectal manometry is performed to evaluate patients with constipation, fecal incontinence, or other possible disorders that may involve the anorectal sphincter.

Anal catheters are plastic tubes that are inserted into the anus to collect stool samples. The tube inflates a small balloon to open the rectal cavity. The other end of the catheter is attached to a machine that measures pressure. The State argued that Patankar engaged in this “disturbing” practice as the testing equipment in his office was outdated and replacement catheters were on backorder.

Patankar instructed his medical assistants to wash the used catheters in soap and water, soak them in a bleach solution for 30 minutes, and then rinse and air dry them. Once the catheters were dry, they were put back in their original packaging so they could be reused.

Patankar’s license will remain temporarily suspended pending a full hearing in the Office of Administrative Law on the allegations against him.

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Black Lives Matter activist Erica Garner dies at 27

By ethan / December 30, 2017

Black Lives Matter campaigner Erica Garner, who came to prominence after her father, Eric, was killed in a police chokehold, has died at the age of 27.

The activist’s death was confirmed by her family on her official Twitter account, with Garner’s sister urging people to remember her as a “mother, daughter, sister and aunt.” Garner suffered “major brain damage” from a heart attack last weekend.

“Her heart was bigger than the world. It really really was. She cared when most people wouldn’t have. She was good. She only pursued right, no matter what. No one gave her justice,” she wrote.

Garner was hospitalized in critical condition earlier this month after suffering a heart attack. Her family confirmed this week that she had been declared brain dead after an asthma attack reportedly stressed Garner’s enlarged heart and triggered cardiac arrest.

She died at Woodhull Hospital of natural causes, according to the Reverend Al Sharpton, as reported by the New York Post. He added that her family did not remove her from life support.

Garner’s father, Eric, died in July 2014 after being placed in a chokehold by a New York Police Department officer. His last words were reportedly “I can’t breathe.”

Following her father’s death, Garner led marches in New York and elsewhere, drawing attention to the plight of African-Americans who’ve been victims of police brutality.

In December 2014, a grand jury decided not to indict the New York Police Department officer who put Eric Garner in a chokehold, Daniel Pantaleo. The city settled out of court with Garner’s family for $ 5.9 million in 2015 but the family insisted it was not a victory and renewed calls for federal charges in the case.

Garner gave birth to her second child in August, naming him after her late father. It was during the pregnancy that she was diagnosed with an enlarged heart and suffered her first heart attack shortly after the delivery.

During the 2016 US presidential campaign, Garner endorsed the bid of Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders to become the Democratic presidential candidate and slammed the Clinton campaign when leaked emails revealed they were discussing how to use her father’s death as political capital.

“These people will co-opt anything to push their agenda,” Garner said, calling out Clinton’s campaign team on Twitter.

READ MORE: ‘We have an Erica Garner problem’: Clinton campaign ripped for talk of Eric Garner’s death

Tributes have been pouring in from fellow human rights activists, with many leaving the message “Rest in power” to honor the political activist and mother of two.

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Russia’s Supreme Court turns down Navalny’s appeal against presidential bid rejection

By ethan / December 30, 2017

The appeal of Aleksey Navalny – an opposition activist aiming to run for president – against the decision of the Central Election Commission not to register him as a candidate, has been rejected by the Supreme Court of Russia.

The court decision was made public by Navalny’s lawyer, Ivan Zhdanov, on Saturday. Saying that the appeal had been rejected, he called for a “voters’ strike.” The latest decision will also be appealed, and a complaint will be submitted to the European Court of Human Rights, Zhdanov told Interfax.

Earlier this week, the Central Election Commission announced that the opposition activist cannot run in the 2018 presidential race because of the previous court rulings against him. Russian law forbids people with unserved lengthy prison sentences from running for office, members of the commission stated.

Navalny’s representatives say the rejection was unlawful, claiming that the constitution only prohibits those who are serving their sentences in prison from becoming candidates. Navalny was placed on a five-year probation period for his role in a $ 500,000 embezzlement scheme in 2014. Later, another year was added to that. The activist is also currently serving a five-year suspended sentence handed down in 2013 for a fraud scheme.

This year, the blogger turned opposition figure was found guilty of repeatedly violating the law by organizing unauthorized public events, meetings, or protests. For that, he was placed under administrative arrest for several days. Navalny claimed he had not broken any laws.

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‘Nigerian prince’ finally arrested: 67yo American behind 100s of scam emails

By ethan / December 30, 2017

The mastermind who claimed to be Nigerian royalty in order to conduct a well-known ‘phishing’ email scam has been arrested in Louisiana.

Michael Neu, 67, was arrested this week following an 18-month investigation by Slidell Police Department’s Financial Crimes Division. He has been charged with 269 counts of wire fraud and money laundering and is believed to have set up hundreds of scam email accounts costing unassuming citizens thousands of dollars.

The scam emails involve a well-known trope that is almost as old as the internet: A person claiming to be a Nigerian prince, or their representative, emails you requesting personal financial information in order to expedite the transfer of a massive inheritance of which you were hitherto unaware.

“So-called ‘Nigerian’ email scams are characterized by convincing sob stories, unfailingly polite language, and promises of a big payoff,” reports the Federal Trade Commission.

“Most people laugh at the thought of falling for such a fraud, but law enforcement officials report annual losses of millions of dollars to these schemes,” Slidell police said in a news release.

In an interesting twist to the tale, Neu did in fact wire money to co-conspirators in Nigeria. The investigation is ongoing and has been further complicated as multiple leads point to additional conspirators based outside of the US.

“If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Never give out personal information over the phone, through email, cash checks for other individuals, or wire large amounts of money to someone you don’t know. 99.9 percent of the time, it’s a scam,” Slidell Police Chief Randy Fandal said in a statement on the case.

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Ripple rockets past ethereum to become 2nd most valuable cryptocurrency after bitcoin

By ethan / December 30, 2017

Ripple has now gained almost 35,000% this year, overtaking ethereum on Saturday to become the world’s second-biggest virtual currency.

Ripple has had the biggest growth in value among notable digital tokens this year. It went from less than a cent ($ 0.006523) in January to $ 2.24 on Saturday, which represents a surge of almost 350 times in value.

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© Global Look Press

After Saturday’s jump, ripple’s market cap hit $ 86 billion at 12:00 GMT, leaving ethereum $ 20 billion behind.

While bitcoin and many other cryptocurrencies are known for being decentralized, ripple owners are known and the cryptocurrency is centralized.

The ripple cryptocurrency, XPR token, operates under parent company Ripple, a privately funded firm based in San Francisco, California.

According to its founders, ripple seeks to enable “secure, instantly and nearly free global financial transactions of any size with no chargebacks.”

The advantage of ripple, according to its backers, is that it is not just a cryptocurrency. It is also used as a digital protocol that acts as a bridge to other currencies and doesn’t discriminate against peers, whether they are using digital money, fiat currencies, or even mobile minutes.

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What’s killing the world’s bees? New study claims a surprising culprit

By ethan / December 30, 2017

Scientists have found what they believe to be the strongest factor leading to the worryingly steep decline of bumblebees… fungicides.

The discovery has now been added to the growing list of threats that could potentially lead to the extinction of the essential pollinators. The revelation that common fungicides are having the strongest impact on the insects came as a surprise, as they typically affect mold and mildew, but appear to be killing bees by making them more susceptible to the nosema parasite or by exacerbating the toxicity of other pesticides.

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© Kimimasa Mayama

The discovery was made during a landscape-scale study, published in the journal Proceedings of the Royal Society B, which used machine learning technology to analyze 24 different factors and how they impacted four bumblebee species.

The study collected ‘subjects’ from 284 sites across 40 US states and tested them against various factors like latitude, elevation, habitat type and damage, human population and pesticide use.

For context, about 75 percent of the world’s crops are fertilized by pollinators. The widespread decline of bees has been attributed to a number of factors including pesticides, destruction of their habitats, disease and climate change, but until now it was unclear which was the most decisive factor.

READ MORE: 1st bee species officially placed on endangered species list

The unexpected culprit behind bee decline means “people have not been looking in all the places they probably should,” according to lead author of the study, Cornell University’s Scott McArt.

We threw everything but the kitchen sink at this analysis and the ‘winner’ was fungicides,” McArt said to UMass. “It turns out that fungicide use is the best predictor of bumblebees getting sick and being lost from sites across the U.S.”

Read more

© Global Look Press

I was definitely surprised,” said McArt, to The Guardian, as “fungicides have been largely overlooked,” until now. Going forward, McArt says researchers will have to carry out “much more work on fungicides and their role in bee declines” if humanity is to make any progress in regenerating the dying species.

Common systemic pesticide sprays are used worldwide to manage landscapes, and are often found in nectar and pollen. Another recent study, published in same journal, found chemicals are causing severe nutritional stress on honey bees, affecting their survival rates by a whopping 50 percent.

The Canadian government recently failed to protect bees after rejecting a plea by environmentalists to completely ban the use of insecticides, instead opting to continue their use of neonicotinoids, promising to consider limiting the use of pesticides by March 2018.

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Utah art teacher fired for showing kids classical nude paintings

By ethan / December 30, 2017

Educational cards depicting Impressionist and Rococo nudes were accidentally shown to 6th graders, and now a Utah art teacher is fighting for his job back. A pornography complaint lodged against him was rejected by prosecutors.

Mateo Rueda plans to appeal his firing, claiming defamation of character over how Lincoln Elementary School handled it. The school, however, reportedly didn’t fire Rueda strictly over the nude paintings, but for how Rueda reacted once students were upset by them, according to the Herald Journal. 

The incident occurred on December 4, when students were instructed to study art postcards from the Cache County school’s library. ‘The Art Box’ collection had been a part of the library for years, before Rueda began teaching there, and he says he was unaware that several of the 100 cards contained nudity. 

Two of the controversial art pieces were Italian painter Amadeo Modigliani’s ‘Iris Tree’ (1916) and French artist Francois Boucher’s ‘Odalisque’ (1749). 

“I immediately took back from students the postcards I felt could make students feel uncomfortable,” he told the Herald Journal. “Then I explained to the whole class that art can sometimes show images that are not always comfortable to all, that art is better understood when placed in its proper context, that the human body is often portrayed in art, and that the images in the school collection are icons of art history and a patrimony of humanity.” 

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Courtesy of Kelly Masterton

That isn’t how parent Venessa Rose Pixton’s 11-year-old son relayed the event to her. Pixton told the newspaper that it wasn’t the paintings themselves so much that offended her, but how Rueda responded in the situation. 

“My son felt that Mr. Mateo belittled them,” Pixton told the newspaper. “He said Mr. Mateo even told the class ‘There’s nothing wrong with female nipples. You guys need to grow up and be mature about this.’” 

Rueda denied saying that, and he does have his supporters. Parent Kamee Jensen told the newspaper that her daughter never felt uncomfortable but was “very upset that her teacher was in trouble.” 

An unnamed school district official told the newspaper that the firing was based on his exchange with students after the artworks were discovered. Rueda’s termination wasn’t official until four days after the Monday, December 4 incident. First, he was given a one-day administrative absence, then upon returning Wednesday received a two-day suspension. 

That Friday, a Cache County Sheriff’s officer witnessed Lincoln Elementary School Principal Jeni Buist shredding all of the cards containing nudity, the newspaper reported. 

“In a Friday meeting, they gave me two choices: to resign, accepting their terms of my alleged wrongdoing (eliminating any possibility to voice my opinion in the future), or to be terminated with a scathing and defamatory letter. Frankly, neither option was agreeable to me,” Rueda wrote to the newspaper. 

Rueda, a Colombian who immigrated to earn a master’s degree in fine art at Utah State University six years ago, says his professional interactions in the Utah area are the true reflection of who he is, not this termination. 

“The terms of termination are belittling of my character, and to that end they are a defamation of character,” he wrote to the Herald Journal. “My intent when it comes to the hearing has [nothing] to do money or anything like that, but it has to do with exercising my right to be heard so that I can have a clean name, a clean reputation… This could be something that follows me for the rest of my life.”

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Losses from global disasters in 2017 exceeded $300bn

By ethan / December 30, 2017

Economic losses from natural and man-made disasters have soared by 63 percent in 2017 to an estimated $ 306 billion, according to a report from reinsurance firm Swiss Re.

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FILE PHOTO: Damaged homes and personal belongings by Hurricane Katrina, Slidell, Louisiana, US. © Robert King / Global Look Press

The company estimates, insured losses from natural and man-made disasters around the world was approximately $ 136 billion, up from $ 65 billion in 2016.

This is “well-above the annual average of the previous ten years, and the third highest since… records began in 1970,” Swiss Re said in its report.

The reinsurance firm said insured losses from disasters have exceeded $ 100 billion in a number of years.

“The insurance industry has demonstrated it can cope very well with such high losses,” said Martin Bertogg, Head of Catastrophe Perils at Swiss Re.

“However, significant protection gaps remain, and if the industry is able to extend its reach, many more people and businesses can become better equipped to withstand the fallout from disaster events,” he added.

According to Swiss Re, “Globally, more than 11,000 people have died or gone missing in disaster events in 2017.”

The US was hardest hit, including by hurricanes Harvey, Irma, and Maria, “which have made 2017 the second costliest hurricane season” after 2005, the company said.

The economic losses from the three hurricanes will be much higher given the significant flood damage – often uninsured – from hurricane Harvey in densely populated Houston, Texas, an extended power outage in Puerto Rico after hurricane Maria, and post-event loss amplification.

“There has been a lull in hurricane activity in the US for several years,” said Kurt Karl, Swiss Re’s Chief Economist. “Irrespective, there has been a significant rise in the number of residents and new homes in coastal communities since Katrina, Rita and Wilma in 2005, so when a hurricane strikes, the loss potential in some places is now much higher than it was previously.”

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