Daily Archives: April 7, 2018

My birds on the wire today

My birds on the wire today

My birds on the wire today

Brazil’s ex-President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva surrenders to federal police – CNN


Brazil’s ex-President Lula da Silva surrenders to federal police
By Marcia Reverdosa and Flora Charner, CNN

Updated at 6:36 PM ET, Sat April 7, 2018

Brazil’s Lula da Silva sentenced to prison
Brazil’s Lula da Silva sentenced to prison 01:31
Sao Bernardo do Campo, Brazil (CNN) — Former Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva turned himself over to federal authorities Saturday to begin serving a 12-year prison sentence for corruption.
Before Lula da Silva surrendered to police, his supporters prevented him from turning himself in by blocking his car.
Lula da Silva had been holed up since Friday in the steelworker’s union headquarters surrounded by many hundreds of supporters. As he tried to leave the compound Saturday through a gate, dozens of supporters surrounded the vehicle shouting “don’t surrender” and “no turning back,” which forced his vehicle to back away from the gate.
Thursday, a federal judge ordered Lula da Silva’s arrest after the Supreme Court ruled he must start serving the 12-year prison sentence. Lula da Silva, a former steelworker’s union leader, remained at the union headquarters Friday, defying an order to turn himself in to police by 5 p.m. in the southern city of Curitiba.
Lula da Silva, who governed Brazil from 2003 to 2011, was considered a front-runner in this October’s elections. But the court’s decision not to grant his request to remain free while appealing the conviction has cast doubt on his bid to regain power.
After the incident with his supporters, Lula walked himself outside the gates of the headquarters, got into another car and joined a police envoy. The convoy headed to to Sao Paolo airport where the former President was expected to board a flight to Curitiba.
“I believe in justice and know I am not above the law,” Lula da Silva, 72, said from a stage outside the steelworkers’ union headquarters earlier Saturday. “I will prove my innocence.”
The ex-leader greets supporters Saturday in Sao Bernardo do Campo.
The ex-leader greets supporters Saturday in Sao Bernardo do Campo.
The union building is in the city of Sao Bernardo do Campo in Sao Paulo state, more 260 miles to the north.
Speaking to supporters from a memorial for his late wife, Marisa Leticia Lula da Silva, he said his arrest is politically motivated and that “history will prove” that he is not guilty.
“I will turn myself into the authorities willingly,” Lula da Silva said. “If the crime I’m guilty of is bringing food and education to the poor, then I hope I’ll continue to be the biggest criminal in this country.”
Shortly before Friday’s deadline, Brazil’s Superior Court of Justice, the nation’s highest appellate court, rejected a habeas corpus request to delay the prison time.
“Their dream is for me not to run, their other dream is to see my picture in prison,” Lula da Silva said Saturday. “The more days I spend in jail, the more ‘Lulas’ will emerge in this country.”

Related Article: Judge orders arrest of ex-Brazil president Lula da Silva
In January, an appeals court unanimously upheld the corruption and money laundering charges against him, and he was handed the prison sentence. Lula da Silva was initially found guilty of the charges in July.
Lula da Silva has strongly denied any wrongdoing. His defense said he was a victim of political persecution.
His conviction stemmed from a wide-ranging corruption investigation into the state-run oil company Petrobras, dubbed “Operation Car Wash.” The accusations against him emerged after he left office in 2011.
Lula da Silva was accused of benefiting from the renovation of a triplex in a beach town near Sao Paulo by the construction company OAS. The charges were connected to 3.7 million reais’ worth of bribes ($1.1 million) received from OAS through the beachfront apartment. In return, Lula da Silva helped the builder acquire contracts from the oil company, prosecutors charged.
Universally known as Lula, Lula da Silva is a founding member of Brazil’s only socialist political party, Partido dos Trabalhadores, the Workers’ Party.
He won two terms as President. He was friends with the late Cuban leader Fidel Castro, who supported his political career, and attended Castro’s funeral.
Lula da Silva left office with a 90% approval rating but was questioned by police about the corruption allegations in March 2016.
Lula da Silva’s wife and six others also were charged. Marisa Leticia Lula da Silva, who died in February 2017, would have turned 68 on Saturday.
Journalist Marcia Reverdosa reported from Sao Bernardo do Campo, and CNN’s Flora Charner wrote in Atlanta. CNN’s Daniel Silva, Bard Wilkinson and Jamie Gray contributed to this report.

Faceblock campaign urges users to boycott Facebook for a day | Technology | The Guardian


Faceblock campain

Faceblock campain


Faceblock campaign urges users to boycott Facebook for a day

Direct action planned in protest against company’s involvement in Cambridge Analytica scandal

Nicola Slawson @nicola_slawson
Sat 7 Apr 2018 12.37 EDT Last modified on Sat 7 Apr 2018 13.12 EDT
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Facebook users are being urged to stop using the social media platform for one day in protest against the company’s involvement in the Cambridge Analytica scandal. The Faceblock campaign has been planned to coincide with Mark Zuckerberg’s appearance before US Congress on Wednesday, where the Facebook chief executive will be testifying about data privacy issues.

The international group of campaigners is asking people to take part in a day of online protest by refusing to use Facebook’s platforms and apps, including Messenger, WhatsApp and Instagram, for 24 hours.

Laura Ullman, spokeswoman for the campaign, said the group was concerned about data privacy and how the company had been regulated. “We wanted to organise some direct action where lots of people could say that they love Facebook but want to see it improved. By not using the platform for a day, it’s a virtual demonstration that is easy to do but will send a powerful message that we demand better,” she said.

Mark Zuckerberg
Mark Zuckerberg, the Facebook chief executive, will testify before Congress on Wednesday. Photograph: Stephen Lam/Reuters
“We chose the day as we want to show Zuckerberg and also the US government that we want change. It’s Facebook’s responsibility to manage their platform, but it’s also the responsibility of governments to ensure companies protect data and to regulate monopolies.”

Some users have said they are considering deleting their Facebook account completely, but Ullman said this was not feasible for everyone and that many still liked using Facebook and its other platforms. “Not everyone has the privilege to do so. Facebook has created a monopoly and in some countries the only point of entry to the internet is through Facebook. It is often the only source of news in some places,” she said.

Delete your account – a guide to life after Facebook
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“Facebook has also become a platform for community organising, so why should those people have to suffer because of bad policies of a company? Why should they have to give up their involvement in the community in order to take a stand against a company that has not been regulated properly, that’s had improper policies and that has abused the trust of its users?

“Individuals shouldn’t be forced to look out for themselves when the problem comes from the way the system is set up.”

People can participate in #faceblock by joining the Facebook event and sending their own messages to Zuckerberg and their governments, Ullman said.

Zuckerberg, who founded Facebook in 2004, will be testifying before the House energy and commerce committee, which is examining Facebook’s “use and protection of user data”. He has also agreed to testify before a joint hearing of the Senate judiciary and commerce committees on Tuesday.

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We increasingly need our readers to fund our fearless, independent, investigative reporting. Thank you to the many people who have already supported us financially – your contribution is what makes stories like this possible. Unlike many news organisations, we have not put up a paywall – we want to keep our journalism as open as we can.

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The puzzling case of two women who lost their hair after eating bitter squash | Ars Technica

The puzzling case of two women who lost their hair after eating bitter squash

A shear case of poisonous vegetables takes a hairy turn with a new symptom.

by Beth Mole – Apr 7, 2018 6:40am PDT

Various gourds, which may contain a harmful poison.
Getty | Bloomberg
For those who hate eating their vegetables, it’s easy to imagine that they’re actually toxic plants masquerading as food. But, as Ars has reported before, many of the common vegetables, fruits, spices, and other plant matter that we shovel in do in fact contain toxins—albeit at minor, generally harmless amounts.

This includes veggies in the Cucurbitaceae family also called cucurbits or gourds (see gallery of family members below), which contain a class of poisons called cucurbitacins. The toxic steroids are among the most bitter-tasting compounds biochemists have ever come across and, in the plants, they function as a defense against herbivores. Most domesticated varieties of gourds have had high levels of cucurbitacins bred out of them. But stressful growing conditions, such as droughts or high temperatures, can cause plants to boost production. Also, accidental cross-pollination with wild, bitter varieties can up toxin levels.

Jeremy Keith
Zucchini are often a culprit.

As such, consumers can occasionally come across super bitter gourds—and suffer what some researchers call toxic squash syndrome if they eat them. This may happen more often than people might think; a recent analysis in France tallied 353 cases between 2012 and 2016. Of those, more than 50 percent were due to squash consumed from a grocery store. That said, the Food and Drug Administration told me earlier that these cases are rare in the US.

When it does happen, toxic squash syndrome is usually marked by diarrhea (sometimes bloody), vomiting, and abdominal pain, which can sometimes lead to dehydration, low blood pressure, rapid heartbeat, headaches, and vertigo. If eaten in high enough levels, the poisons can lead to lethal fluid buildup in the lungs (pulmonary edema). But according to a recent case reported in JAMA Dermatology, there’s another puzzling symptom: hair loss.

Crop cropping
Doctor Philippe Assouly reported that two women in France were separately poisoned by toxic gourds, suffering standard gastrointestinal distress directly afterward. But days later, they experienced substantial hair loss, too.

The first woman got sick immediately after eating very bitter pumpkin soup, suffering nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea. Then a week later, she started losing chunks of hair from her scalp and pubic area. Her family had also had some of the soup and initially got sick, but they didn’t eat as much as she did and didn’t experience any hair loss.

Similarly, the second woman ate a meal with her family that included squash. While her family skipped the squash because it tasted bitter, the woman ate on—and experienced “severe vomiting” an hour later that lasted for hours. Three weeks later, she too lost large swaths of hair from her scalp, armpits, and pubic region.

Months later, some hair had regrown on both women. The hair that hadn’t fallen out showed signs of breakage and weakness.

Philippe Assouly
On close examination, broken distal ends of hair shafts are seen, representing acquired trichorrhexis nodosa following cucurbit poisoning.

Assouly didn’t speculate how cucurbitacins may have affected the hair loss, though he noted that other toxic plants can do so by shutting down cell division. Unfortunately, there’s little work on cucurbitacins in general to help figure it out. There are also 12 different categories of cucurbitacins that show up in various types of gourds, all likely to have their own cellular effects. In the 1960s, researchers tried to study certain cucurbitacins as possible drugs to treat cancer because they’re particularly good at killing tumor cells. But the work was largely abandoned when researchers found that the compounds were simply too toxic to be used for any medical benefit.

Assouly says that the timing and length of hair regrowth in the two women “does not seem to leave a doubt” that the bitter gourds were behind their hair loss.

“It seems important and useful to be aware of this toxic association of alopecia with a common plant,” he concludes. But it may be more important and useful to make people aware that if their pumpkin or squash dishes taste extremely bitter, then they shouldn’t eat them.

JAMA Dermatology, 2018. DOI:10.1001/jamadermatol.2017.6128 (About DOIs).

US to crack down on first time border offenders | News | DW

US to crack down on first time border offenders | News | DW
US President Donald Trump has vowed to end the “catch and release” system of leniency for first time border violators. The latest move comes after Trump deployed the National Guard to the Mexican border.

A U.S. Customs and Border Protection K-9 unit checks vehicles crossing into the United States from Mexico
US Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Friday ordered federal prosecutors take a more severe stance against first-time illegal border crossers.

First time offenders are normally deported back to Mexico shortly after being caught, but Sessions wants them to face harsher punishment.

Border arrests surged 37 percent from February to March this year, hitting 50,308. The figure is more than triple the same period last year, but is still below the periodic surges during former President Barack Obama’s second term and far lower than the 1990s and 2000s.

Sessions said “a crisis has erupted” on the border and called for a “zero-tolerance” policy.

He issued a more softly worded directive last year that addressed a larger number of border crimes.