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Tuesday, January 23, 2018


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Wife stages her own funeral

By: Sarah Kaplan

Noela Rukundo sat in a car outside her home, watching as the last few mourners filed out. They were leaving a funeral — her funeral.

Finally, she spotted the man she’d been waiting for. She stepped out of her car, and her husband put his hands on his head in horror.

“Is it my eyes?” she recalled him saying. “Is it a ghost?”

“Surprise! I’m still alive!” she replied.

Far from being elated, the man looked terrified. Five days ago, he had ordered a team of hit men to kill Rukundo, his partner of 10 years. And they did — well, they told him they did. They even got him to pay an extra few thousand dollars for carrying out the crime.

Now here was his wife, standing before him. In an interview with the BBC Thursday, Rukundo recalled how he touched her shoulder to find it unnervingly solid. He jumped. Then he started screaming.

“I’m sorry for everything,” he wailed.

But it was far too late for apologies; Rukundo called the police. The husband, Balenga Kalala, ultimately pleaded guilty and was sentenced to nine years in prison for incitement to murder, according to the Australian Broadcasting Corporation (the ABC).

The happy ending — or, as happy as can be expected to a saga in which a man tries to have his wife killed — was made possible by three unusually principled hit men, a helpful pastor and one incredibly gutsy woman: Rukundo herself.

Here is how she pulled it off.

Rukundo’s ordeal began almost exactly a year ago, when she flew from her home in Melbourne with her husband, Kalala, to attend a funeral in her native Burundi. Her stepmother had died and the service left her saddened and stressed. She retreated to her hotel room in Bujumbura, the capital, early in the evening; despondent after the events of the day, she lay down in bed. Then her husband called.

“He told me to go outside for fresh air,” she told the BBC.

But the minute Rukundo stepped out of her hotel, a man charged forward, pointing a gun right at her.

“Don’t scream,” she recalled him saying. “If you start screaming, I will shoot you. They’re going to catch me, but you? You will already be dead.”

Rukundo, terrified, did as she was told. She was ushered into a car and blindfolded so she couldn’t see where she was being taken. After 30 or 40 minutes, the car came to a stop, and Rukundo was pushed into a building and tied to a chair.

She could hear male voices, she told the ABC. One asked her, “You woman, what did you do for this man to pay us to kill you?”

“What are you talking about?” Rukundo demanded.

“Balenga sent us to kill you.”

They were lying. She told them so. And they laughed.

“You’re a fool,” they told her.

There was the sound of a dial tone, and a male voice coming through a speakerphone. It was her husband’s voice.

“Kill her,” he said.

And Rukundo fainted.

Rukundo had met her husband 11 years earlier, right after she arrived in Australia from Burundi, according to the BBC. He was a recent refugee from the Democratic Republic of Congo, and they had the same social worker at the resettlement agency that helped them get on their feet. Since Kalala already knew English, their social worker often recruited him to translate for Rukundo, who spoke Swahili.

They fell in love, moved in together in the Melbourne suburb of Kings Park, and had three children (Rukundo also had five kids from a previous relationship). She learned more about her husband’s past — he had fled a rebel army that had ransacked his village, killing his wife and young son. She also learned more about his character.

“I knew he was a violent man,” Rukundo told the BBC. “But I didn’t believe he can kill me.”

But, it appeared, he could.

Rukundo came to in the strange building somewhere near Bujumbura. The kidnappers were still there, she told the ABC.

They weren’t going to kill her, the men then explained — they didn’t believe in killing women, and they knew her brother. But they would keep her husband’s money and tell him that she was dead. After two days, they set her free on the side of a road, but not before giving her a mobile phone, recordings of their phone conversations with Kalala, and receipts for the $7,000 in Australian dollars they allegedly received in payment, according to Australia’s The Age.

“We just want you to go back, to tell other stupid women like you what happened,” Rukundo said she was told before the gang members drove away.

Shaken, but alive and doggedly determined, Rukundo began plotting her next move. She sought help from the Kenyan and Belgian embassies to return to Australia, according to The Age. Then she called the pastor of her church in Melbourne, she told the BBC, and explained to him what had happened. Without alerting Kalala, the pastor helped her get back home to her neighbourhood near Melbourne.

Meanwhile, her husband had told everyone she had died in a tragic accident and the entire community mourned her at her funeral at the family home. On the night of Feb. 22, 2015, just as the widower Kalala waved goodbye to neighbours who had come to comfort him, Rukundo approached him, the very man whose voice she’d heard over the phone five days earlier, ordering that she be killed.

“I felt like somebody who had risen again,” she told the BBC.

Though Kalala initially denied all involvement, Rukundo got him to confess to the crime during a phone conversation that was secretly recorded by police, according to The Age.

“Sometimes Devil can come into someone, to do something, but after they do it they start thinking, ‘Why I did that thing?’ later,” he said, as he begged her to forgive him.

Kalala eventually pleaded guilty to the scheme. He was sentenced to nine years in prison by a judge in Melbourne.

“Had Ms Rukundo’s kidnappers completed the job, eight children would have lost their mother,” Chief Justice Marilyn Warren said, according to the ABC. “It was premeditated and motivated by unfounded jealousy, anger and a desire to punish Ms. Rukundo.”

Rukundo said that Kalala tried to kill her because he thought she was going to leave him for another man — an accusation she denies.

But her trials are not yet over. Rukundo told the ABC she’s gotten backlash from Melbourne’s Congolese community for reporting Kalala to the police. Someone left threatening messages for her, and she returned home one day to find her back door broken. She now has eight children to raise alone, and has asked the Department of Human Services to help her find a new place to live.

And lying in bed at night, Kalala’s voice still comes to her: “Kill her, kill her,” she told the BBC. “Every night, I see what was happening in those two days with the kidnappers.”

Despite all that, “I will stand up like a strong woman,” she said. “My situation, my past life? That is gone. I’m starting a new life now.”

Washington Post

$12.8B rebuild of Ontario nuclear plant

TORONTO — The proposed $12.8-billion refurbishment of four nuclear reactors at the Darlington generating station is an ill-advised make-work project that will end up soaking taxpayers, a retired nuclear scientist says.

Darlington nuclear facility

In a letter to Ontario‘s energy minister, obtained by The Canadian Press, Frank Greening warns of the formidable technical hazards he says will undermine rosy projections for the project.

“I am quite mystified that you would consider the refurbishment of Darlington to be some sort of solution to Ontario’s economic woes, when in fact the premature failures of (nuclear reactors) are a major cause of Ontario’s economic problems,” writes Greening, a frequent critic of the industry.

“Spending billions of dollars trying to patch up Darlington’s four dilapidated reactors will simply continue the bleeding.”

Earlier this month, the province’s publicly owned generating giant, Ontario Power Generation, announced plans to start refurbishing Darlington — situated east of Toronto on Lake Ontario — this fall. The project aims to extend the life of the CANDU reactors, scheduled for permanent shutdown in 2020, by 30 years.

The government projects the rebuild will create up to 11,800 jobs a year at the height of construction and generate $14.9 billion in economic and spinoff benefits.

Greening argues the units are in need of rebuilding prematurely because their pressure tubes and feeder pipes will soon fail fitness tests. He also warns the reactors’ massive steam generators, which are not part of the proposed project, have had a less than stellar track record and will more than likely need replacement.

“Replacing these steam generators is fraught with very serious problems, both technical and economic, that could prevent the continued operation of Darlington beyond 2030,” says Greening, a senior scientist with OPG until he retired in 2000.

“The decision to proceed with the refurbishment of Darlington could prove to be a disastrous mistake if it is discovered that steam generator replacement is in fact needed in the next 10 to 15 years.”

Environmental groups also argue such projects always run massively over budget and have cost taxpayers untold billions in the past and refurbishment is simply not worth the potential radiation risk to public safety.

The Ontario cabinet has so far given the green light to refurbish one of Darlington’s reactors. OPG would need separate approvals for each of the other three units. The government said that process would allow it to call off the project at each stage if things are going awry.

Energy Minister Bob Chiarelli, who argues the province needs Darlington’s power, referred questions about Greening’s criticism to Ontario Power Generation.

OPG spokesman Bill McKinlay said Wednesday the federal nuclear regulator noted Greening’s concerns before giving the project its stamp of approval.

“We’ve been preparing since 2009 and we’re ready to deliver the job safely, on time and on budget,” McKinlay said. “We expect it will provide 30-plus years of clean, reliable base-load power at a cost lower than other alternatives.”

Greening, however, argues the project is an attempt to put a “dying industry on life support” at the taxpayer’s expense.

“The inconvenient truth is that, after less than 25 years of operation, Darlington NGS is a mess,” he says.

“Its feeder pipes are falling apart and its pressure tubes are ready to crack. Darlington is another failed CANDU station desperately in need of a fix.”

The performance of four other refurbished CANDUs in Ontario, he argues, has fallen well short of what a new reactor typically delivers.

“This reveals the uncomfortable truth: A refurbished CANDU reactor is no substitute for a new one.”

Credit: Canada press

Schematic Diagram of a CANDU reactor: The prim...
Schematic Diagram of a CANDU reactor: The primary heavy-water loop is in yellow and orange, the secondary light-water loop in blue and red. The cool heavy water moderator in the calandria can be seen in pink, along with partially inserted adjuster rods. { (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Increases prices in weak Canadian Dollar

Canada’s weak dollar and California drought blamed for price increase

The humble cauliflower wasn’t always a topic of dinner party conversation.

But the price of this cruciferous vegetable — elevated in recent years from the lowly veggie platter to high-end restaurant menus — has tripled in price since the fall.

It sold in some grocery stores for $7.99 this week. And people have noticed.

“Everyone is talking about the sticker shock,” said Sylvain Charlebois, food policy expert and professor of marketing and consumer studies at the University of Guelph.

The price has tripled in the GTA: at many Loblaws locations, Whole Foods and at independent grocer Fiesta Farms, a non-organic cauliflower costs $6.99. At downtown specialty shop Fresh & Wild, it sold out at $8.99.

Canada’s currency crisis is “probably the No. 1 driver” of increased food costs, he said. “Most of these products are off-season here in Canada and need to be imported and bought with American dollars.”

This week, the value of Canada’s loonie dipped below 70 cents U.S., for the first time in almost 13 years.

The ongoing drought in California, where most cauliflowers for sale in Ontario are grown this time of year, has also affected farming. The weather phenomenon El Niño has brought the parched U.S. state some relief in the form of powerful rain, but that has yet to affect prices.

Cold weather in the late fall also complicated matters, leading demand to outstrip supply so severely that U.S. produce consulting company Produce Alliance declared correcting the shortage would take an “act of God” in a December report.

“It’s just like a big, total disaster,” said Louie Collins, who has been in the business for four decades. He works as a supervisor at importer Stronach & Sons Inc., which regularly imports California-grown Dole cauliflower to sell at the Ontario Food Terminal. “This year it seems to be a little bit of everything.”

In a normal year, a case of 12 cauliflower cost around $22, but over the past two months a case of 12 heads of cauliflower nearly tripled to $64, Collins said.

That’s more than $5 per vegetable. He said two weeks ago, the cost of a case rose to around $74, but prices were on the way down. (At one Metro location Wednesday afternoon the price had dropped from $6.99 to $4.99.) Stronach’s markup is around 15 per cent, which, along with the retail markup, is passed onto the consumer.

So everyone is buying less.

Customers are wondering what ever happened to the cauliflower at Toronto restaurant Fat Pasha, where it was served roasted, drizzled with tahini sauce and sprinkled with pomegranate seeds. It quickly became a favourite among diners and critics, but was removed from the menu late last year as the price became prohibitive.

“For us to serve it the way we want to serve it, it would cost 40-plus dollars and I just couldn’t see the value … it’s such a shame,” said owner Anthony Rose.

“We’re hoping to bring it back to the menu as soon as we can, but that’s probably not until spring or the summer.”

While the increasing cost of food, including staples and other produce, has made headlines in the past few years, Charlebois said consumers should wait out the latest price spike and purchase alternatives such as frozen vegetables, especially in winter.

“If you see cauliflower at $8, you should not buy the cauliflower at $8,” he said.



English: cauliflower
English: cauliflower (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Credits: thestar.com

Govt crackdown on homeschooling due to ‘terrorism’ threat

The government has announced proposals to ban homeschooling in the UK.

A review is currently being launched by Nicky Morgan after education officials claimed that many parents who homeschool their kids could potentially be “poisoning their minds” with extremist and terrorist ideologies.

The government is currently using terrorism as a reason to crackdown on parents who educate their kids at home.

A senior government source said: “There has always been the freedom in this country for people to educate their children at home. Many people do it very well. But we need to know where the children are and to be certain that they are safe. For every parent doing a brilliant job, there may be someone filling their child’s mind with poison. We just don’t know. We don’t have reliable figures.”

The move comes after claims by Ofsted’s chief schools inspector, Sir Michael Wilshaw, who has alleged that there is a “serious and growing threat” to the safety of children posed by unregistered schools and educational facilities.

A Department for Education spokesman said: “We have provided Ofsted with extra inspectors to eradicate extremism in education. We are working with them to address their concerns about home education being exploited, while safeguarding the rights of parents to determine how and where to educate their children.”

Currently, there is no obligation for a parent to register or inform anyone of their intent to homeschool their children if those children have not been offered a place at school. However, the government is looking into whether this should be changed.

The last Labour government had already tried to launch such a review, but it did not go ahead after failing to win enough Conservative support.

It appears, that all of that is set to change. This new announcement of a review into homeschooling comes after Nicky Morgan announced a crackdown on unregistered schools and “weekend madrassas” after some were claimed to be promoting extremist tendencies. However, not everyone agrees with the plans.

Conservative MP Graham Stuart, who chairs the all-party parliamentary group on home education, told the Independent: “The home is used by parents to inculcate ideas into their children’s heads all the time. Just because there is a problem does not mean there can be a solution.

“If the next step is a formal register I would resist that strongly. The legal duty to educate a child rests with the parents, not the state. That is a long-standing settlement in this country.”
However, Labour’s shadow Education Secretary, Lucy Powell supported the plans.
She claimed: “We urgently need robust local oversight and accountability of all local schooling, regardless of type, so that communities can work together to improve standards and stop children from ending up in harm’s way.”



Campbell Soup To Disclose GMO Ingredients On Labels

In a move that will set the major food company apart from its competitors, Campbell Soup Company will label all ingredients that are genetically engineered on its products’ labels.

The New York Times reports that the major food industry, which produces brands like Pepperidge Farm, Prego, Plum Organics and V8 (in addition to its namesake soups), is stepping outside of the norm by choosing to label any genetically modified organisms used in its foods.

The monumental step is an important one, as presently, 92% of American consumers desire to know if GMO’s are in the food they are purchasing and eating. This pressure has spurred Campbell to take a risk – one that is being applauded by many activists.

The big food corporation is also calling for federal action to make mandatory a uniform labeling system of foods that contains such ingredients.

Said Denise Morrison, chief executive of Campbell:

“We’re optimistic that a federal solution can be reached in a reasonable amount of time, but if that’s not the case, we’re preparing to label all our products across the portfolio.

…We’ve always believed consumers have a right to know what’s in their food […], and transparency is a critical part of our purpose.”


This is a huge contrast from most other major food corporations, which are seeking to supersede any state’s legislation with a voluntary federal solution (such as in Vermont).

Beginning in July, however, the state of Vermont will require disclosure of genetically engineered ingredients. To comply, Campbell and other companies are already in the process of creating labels that disclose the GMO ingredients used in their products.

Credit: Campbell Soup Company

Credit: Campbell Soup Company

A sampling of the company’s new label for SpaghettiO’s can be seen to the right.

It’s sparsely worded and does not specify which individual ingredients are genetically altered, but simple states: “Partially produced with genetic engineering. For more information about G.M.O. ingredients, visit WhatsinMyFood.com.”

The change in labeling is now expected to take 12 to 18 months.

Even in states that have not made it mandatory to label GMOs, a shift in the food industry is being witnessed. Grocery stores like Kroger and Safeway have highlighted organic and ‘natural’ sections to meet consumers’ demands. In addition, food providers such as Chipotle, Ben & Jerry’s, General Mills, and even Hershey’s are taking the initiative to eliminate genetically modified ingredients in at least some of their products.

But no companies have gone as far as Campbell. You can bet this will shake up the food industry even more, in a very positive way.

In a press release, the company stated:

“- Campbell’s will be launching several lines of organic kid’s soups, and removing MSG from all their kid’s soups.  In August 2015, the company will introduce Campbell’s Organic soup for kids in three chicken noodle varieties.  The soups will be non-GMO and certified Organic.

– Pepperidge Farm will be launching several organic wheat versions of their popular Goldfish Crackers.  Look for organic wheat versions of regular, cheddar, and parmesan in the coming year.  They still need to remove GMOs and go completely organic with the rest of their ingredients.

– Increasing organics across other food lines, and increasing the number of organic products offered by Plum.”

About 75% of Campbell’s products — in addition to its namesake soups, Campbell also makes brands like Pepperidge Farm, Bolthouse Farms, Arnott’s, V8, Swanson, Pace, Prego, among others — use ingredients made from corn, canola, sugar beets, or soybeans. Almost all of the farmers producing those crops in the U.S. use GMO seed.

So for a company like Campbell, there’s no way it can simply stop using GMO ingredients and still produce the quantity of product that its customers demand. In fact, the company has no intention to make such a change because it maintains that GMOs have been repeatedly proven safe and that they may be needed to meet the increased demand for food around the globe.

Campbell cites that figure — from a survey conducted by our colleagues at Consumer Reports — as evidence that American consumers have a desire for more transparency from the companies that produce their food.

“We are operating with a ‘Consumer First’ mindset,” says Morrison. “We put the consumer at the center of everything we do. That’s how we’ve built trust for nearly 150 years. We have always believed that consumers have the right to know what’s in their food.”

Campbell has fought state-level GMO labeling requirements in California and Oregon, arguing that labeling regulations that vary from state to state create a patchwork that is too complex and costly for large food producers to deal with. Instead, it believes that a national GMO labeling standard would be best for everyone.

“We now believe that proposing a mandatory national solution is necessary,” says Morrison. “Printing a clear and simple statement on the label is the best solution for consumers and for Campbell.”

Campbell currently labels its products sold in Vermont like the soup can shown above. Below the ingredients list, it includes a disclosure stating something like “Partially Produced With Genetic Engineering,” directing consumers to its whatsinmyfood.com site for more information, including a list of the various GMO ingredients it uses across its range of products.

The company tells the NY Times that it will be working with the FDA and other regulators to craft the language for standard, nationwide GMO label for its products.

Jean Halloran, Director of Food Policy Initiatives for Consumers Union, applauded today’s announcement.

“Campbell Soup has taken an immense step forward today. Their decision to disclose which of its ingredients are genetically engineered will give consumers the information they want and deserve, even going beyond what’s required in Vermont’s labeling law,” says Halloran.

A similar sentiment was voiced by Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal.

“Campbell’s decision to add GMO labeling to their products is a courageous, commendable act of pro-consumer leadership,” said Blumenthal in a statement. “This commonsense decision by Campbell’s – and all of Campbell’s brands, including the iconic Connecticut company Pepperidge Farm – will enable consumers to make informed decisions about the food they and their families eat.”

Campbell joined other major food companies in fighting efforts to impose mandatory labeling in California and Washington State, spending more than $1 million, according to the Environmental Working Group. It is also a member of the Grocery Manufacturers Association, a trade group that has spent millions trying to get a bill passed in Congress that would make labeling voluntary and pre-empt state labeling efforts.

“We will withdraw from any coalition that doesn’t support mandatory labeling,” Ms. Morrison said. “We were involved in fighting the state ballots in California and Washington out of concern over a state-by-state patchwork, yet we didn’t participate in the fights in any other state beyond those. Any money we did spend after that was in support of seeking a federal solution.”

Credits: http://www.nytimes.com/2016/01/08/business/campbell-labels-will-disclose-gmo-ingredients.html

Winter December solstice

Illumination of Earth by Sun at the northern s...
Illumination of Earth by Sun at the northern solstice. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The December solstice is the Winter Solstice in the Northern Hemisphere and the Summer Solstice in the Southern Hemisphere. The day has astronomical, cultural and religious significance.

In the Northern Hemisphere, the December Solstice is the Winter Solstice and the shortest day of the year.

Although winter is the season of dormancy, darkness and cold, the December Solstice marks the “turning of the Sun” and the days slowly get longer. Celebrations of the lighter days to come and nature’s continuing cycle have been common thorughout cultures and history with feasts, festivals and holidays around the December Solstice.

The December solstice is on either December 20, 21, 22 or 23.

The North Pole is tilted furthest from the Sun.

December solstice illustration

It is the winter solstice in the Northern Hemisphere, where it is the shortest day of the year.

In the Southern Hemisphere, it is the summer solstice and the longest day of the year.




Midnight Sun or Polar Night

Being the longest day of the year, also means that people in the areas south of the Antarctic Circle towards the South Pole will see the Midnight Sun, i.e. have 24 hours of daylight, during this time of the year.

Sunrise & Sunrise Worldwide

For people in the Northern Hemisphere, the December solstice marks the exact opposite, the day of the year with fewest hours of daylight. North of the Arctic Circle towards the North Pole there is no direct sunlight at all during this time of the year.

Credits: https://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/december-solstice.html


An Act of Kindness for the Holidays Surprise tip from church to a Pizza delivery guy

A pizzeria owner in Windsor, Ont., was shocked by the sizable tip he received when he delivered a pie to a local church this week.

An act of kindness for the Christmas holiday’s for a local business man.

Bob Ristovski, who owns the small downtown diner Bob O’s Pizza, received a $1,697 tip from the congregation at Celebration of Praise International church Wednesday night.

The moment was captured on video and posted to YouTube.

“It was shocking, and it was an overwhelming experience and it was one of the best experiences of my life,” said Ristovski.

Mel Freeman, the church’s pastor, also appears in the video, microphone in hand, describing what was happening to Bob Ristovski and the congregation.

In a telephone interview, Freeman said a member of his church suggested that the congregation take part in a “random act of kindness.”

The pastor liked the idea.

“We took advantage of the opportunity to really be a blessing to somebody here this Christmas season,” Freeman said.

That led to the moment on Wednesday night, when he, his wife and other members of their church sprung the surprise on the unsuspecting Ristovski.

Freeman said the church put a bunch of pizzeria names in a hat, before one was selected randomly by a member of the congregation.

The name that was pulled was Bob O’s Pizza, a small independent pizzeria opened by Ristovski more than a year ago.

A pizza was ordered and the stage for surprise was set at an evening holiday service held by the church Wednesday.

“When Bob came in, he didn’t know what was going on,” Freeman said. “We brought him up to the front of the church, introduced myself to him and then we let him know this is what we want to do.”

‘Just overwhelmed’

Ristvoski said that when he arrived with the pizza, he was brought inside and led to the front of the congregation.

“From then on, I was basically just overwhelmed with everything,” said Ristovski, who told CBC News that he had not met Freeman before that night.

In the video, Freeman talks about the church, the belief of its membership and its intent to give him a tip.

“We said, ‘Let’s bless somebody,'” Freeman says to Ristovski in the three-minute, 41-second video.

When Ristovski is told the tip totals $1,697, collected by the congregation. He ends up hugging Freeman and appears at a loss for words as the congregation roars.

“I’m speechless,” he says on the video.

The video ends with Ristovski blowing kisses to the crowd before walking off camera.

A day later, when asked to describe how he was feeling, Ristovski said very much the same thing.

“I’m still in awe about it,” said Ristovski.

Both Freeman and Ristovski insist the act of kindness is random and the video is genuine, and that neither had met before.

Credits: http://www.cbc.ca/news/canada/windsor/pizza-delivery-big-tip-1.3371176


Teacher adopts ‘holy terror’ student

(NEWSER) – Cruz Riojas came from a troubled home: He was reportedly beaten by his stepfather, lived in a decrepit one-room lean-to with six other family members, and wore the same clothes to school every day, according to the Lubbock Avalanche-Journal.

He also caused trouble in school and was known as a “holy terror,” says Linda Hooper, a teacher who first encountered Cruz in the early ’80s, when he was 12 years old.

But then an amazing thing happened: He started spending more time with Hooper, who would give him tasks to do around the classroom. He eventually began coming for visits at her home, where she lived with her husband and four daughters, often running the nearly eight miles between their two houses to get away from his stepfather.

After an incident with his stepfather in 1983, Cruz’s mother asked if he could stay with the Hoopers for a few days till everything blew over. “He never left” after that,” Hooper says. “I had him from then on.”

He became a part of the Hooper family, taking on a paper route to make money and doing better in school, placing out of special education classes by the time he graduated. More than a decade later, he was still part of the Hooper family—but he wanted to make it official by asking the Hoopers to adopt him right before his 30th birthday.

Credit: http://www.usatoday.com

Therapy Dog Refuses to Give Up on Hospice Patient

After seeing how this dog comforts a dying woman, you’ll understand why her boss says JJ the golden retriever is one of the most intuitive therapy dogs she’s ever worked with.

Nurse Tracy Calhoun says the four-year-old pup began its career of comforting people after the awful mudslides in Oso, Washington last year, and now works three days a week in an Oregon hospice.

The loving pup won over thousands of fans after the video below showed her insisting that an elderly hospice patient continue petting her head.

“I was very insistent to have her touch me, more so than usual,” Calhoun, writing in JJ’s voice, posted to the dog’s Facebook page. “We fell asleep later with her hand splayed on my head, both of us snoring.”

The lady had barely moved for days before JJ came into the room, and she passed away the following day.

It was almost as if the golden pooch was urging her to have one last enjoyable experience.

JJ is a member of Project Canine and HOPE: Animal-Assisted Crisis Response, a pair of groups in the Pacific Northwest that connect service and therapy dogs with people who need them.

Credit: http://www.goodnewsnetwork.org/

‘Steer Clear of Creating GMO Babies,’ Scientists and Ethicists Say

‘Proceed with caution, but steer clear of creating GMO babies’ was the general message sent Thursday by the dozen scientists and ethicists who organized the International Summit on Human Gene Editing in Washington, D.C.

The experts said at the end of 3 days of deliberation and presentations that not all gene therapy should move forward, and the world is not ready for “germline” editing that permanently changes an embryo so that the edit could be passed along to future children.

 The meeting, sponsored by the national science academies of the U.S., Britain and China, is merely intended for idea swapping and passing along general guidance on gene editing. None of the scientists or ethicists has the authority to make anyone do anything.

“Intensive basic and preclinical research is clearly needed and should proceed, subject to appropriate legal and ethical rules and oversight, on technologies for editing genetic sequences in human cells; the potential benefits and risks of proposed clinical uses, and understanding the biology of human embryos and germline cells,” the final statement reads.

“If, in the process of research, early human embryos or germline cells undergo gene editing, the modified cells should not be used to establish a pregnancy.”

Proponents of gene editing technologies say germline editing could be used to end genetic diseases “and, ultimately, to alter the course of evolution,” says Jennifer Doudna of the University of California, Berkeley, wrote in an editorial in the journal Nature. The geneticist proposed the summit and served on its 12-person committee.

But opponents fear the technology, known as CRISPR, could stack the deck against those who may not have access to the treatments. It could allow scientists to create “designer” children for parents, including kids with a specific eye or hair color, intelligence level or artistic ability. In a bizarre and frightening world, parents could even theoretically make glow-in-the-dark babies or little ones who only need a few hours of sleep per night to function.

It’s not hard to imagine how governments – or even terrorist organization, with the right funding and support – could misuse such powerful technology.

CRISPR is cheap, easy and powerful, which is either wonderful or terrible, depending what side you’re on. It’s also incredibly powerful and not fully understood. A mistake could introduce a devastating mutation into the human race that is permanent, especially since non-experts could easily get their hands on the technology.

The Center for Genetics and Society (CGS) and the activist group Friends of the Earth had called for a global ban on editing human embryos, but the committee said a complete ban would be impractical, and urged the international community instead to set global norms including shared regulations and an ongoing forum “to discourage unacceptable activities while advancing human health and welfare.”

The 10 scientists and 2 ethicists agreed that there is no reason to stop the use of gene editing to try and correct immune deficiencies and other diseases. Such gene therapy is already being tested on some patients.


The creation of genetically modified embryos is what makes the committee cringe.

Until researchers have a firmer grasp on CRISPR technology, and until these universal regulations can be set, the committee warned that the scientific community should keep its hands off germline editing for now.

“It would be irresponsible to proceed with any clinical use of germline editing unless and until (i) the relevant safety and efficacy issues have been resolved, based on appropriate understanding and balancing of risks, potential benefits, and alternatives, and (ii) there is broad societal consensus about the appropriateness of the proposed application.”

The U.S. National Institutes of Health (NIH) has said it won’t finance germline editing in human embryos due to safety and ethical issues. For now, any researchers who wish to work with embryos will have to find their own funding, even if the embryos are not intended for implantation.

The White House has also said that “altering the human germline for clinical purposes is a line that should not be crossed at this time.”


[1] Los Angeles Times

[2] Scientific American

[3] NBC News

[4] Slate

About Julie Fidler:
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Julie Fidler is a freelance writer, legal blogger, and the author of Adventures in Holy Matrimony: For Better or the Absolute Worst. She lives in Pennsylvania with her husband and two ridiculously spoiled cats. She occasionally pontificates on her blog.


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