Members Of U.S. Army Special Forces Killed In Niger

In the Sahara nation of Niger, four U.S. Green Berets and at least one Nigerien soldier were killed this week, and two American troops were wounded in an ambush. The U.S. military Africa Command says its forces are in Niger training their local counterparts in counterterrorism, intelligence and security techniques.

The region remains menaced by extremist violence with militants linked to al-Qaida and the Islamic State operating in the area. Ofeibea Quist-Arcton monitors the region for NPR. And she reminds us of what happened near the border between Niger and Mali on Wednesday.

OFEIBEA QUIST-ARCTON, BYLINE: The U.S. military Africa Command, AFRICOM, says U.S. and Nigerien troops were on a routine joint patrol in the southwest of Niger near the border in Mali when they came under hostile fire. This is the first time ever that U.S. forces – and President Trump has said 600-plus are in Niger, training – first time U.S. forces have died in Niger.

SIEGEL: Now, U.S. special forces say they’re in Niger training the Nigerien army. But if U.S. troops were out on patrol in an area where there are hostile forces, are they in fact in a combat role in Niger?

QUIST-ARCTON: This is the question that many people are asking, Robert. You know, the military – the U.S. military says the troops are playing a train, advise and assist role with its partners like Niger, whether it’s in the Sahel or even the Horn of Africa.

But AFRICOM acknowledging that these troops in the southwest of Niger were carrying out this joint patrol with Nigerien forces makes that sort of training and assistance and intelligence-sharing maybe a little unclear about how broadly this assistance is defined. And you have the Sahel watchers saying Wednesday’s attack reveals how this training has kind of shifted gear almost into military operations.

SIEGEL: You speak of the Sahel, of the Sub-Saharan region. Give us a sense of this entire region. It isn’t only Niger that’s facing extremist attacks and violence, is it?

QUIST-ARCTON: It’s become hugely unstable. Probably Mali is the country that most people will have heard of in the Sahel. I mean, militants have intensified attacks on U.N. peacekeepers and Malian soldiers and civilians even though they were pushed back, these militants, after occupying northern Mali, including Timbuktu, and then pushed out by a French military intervention in 2003. And so this regional extremist threat continues, Robert.

And the U.S. and other Western powers in their counterterrorism efforts continue to strengthen their presence on the ground, and the extremists seem ready to take them on. Plus, of course, we have the threat of Boko Haram in – across the border in Nigeria spilling over into Niger, Cameroon, Chad and so on. So it’s a deeply unstable region. And, of course, Libya not so very far away.

SIEGEL: The Obama administration authorized the U.S. military to begin operating surveillance drones out of central Niger. Has that been effective? Do we know?

QUIST-ARCTON: Well, we’re told that for surveillance and so on, they are doing some good work. And a new $100 million base to boost the efforts by the allies in Niger to combat extremism should better protect its porous borders. But you have these attacks every so often that are deadly. And now American troops killed, as I said, Robert, for the first time.

SIEGEL: That’s NPR’s Ofeibea Quist-Arcton speaking to us from Accra in Ghana. Ofeibea, thanks.

QUIST-ARCTON: Always a pleasure. Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

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Proof junk food is like a drug: Researchers found sugary and fatty foods distract people twice as much as healthy snacks

Image: Proof junk food is like a drug: Researchers found sugary and fatty foods distract people twice as much as healthy snacks

(Natural News) When you’re hard at work and you get into that highly productive “zone,” it might feel like nothing can stop you. However, scientists have shown that junk food can snap you right out of focus – even if you only see it subliminally.

In the study, which was carried out by scientists at Johns Hopkins University, people were asked to work on a complex computer task that had nothing to do with food. They were instructed to find the answers as quickly as they could, classifying symbols into categories.

While they worked on the task, photos were flashed in the screen’s periphery for a mere 125 milliseconds, which is considered too fast for them to fully realize what they saw. They were shown a mix of pictures that included healthy foods; foods high in fat and calories; and non-food items like footballs, lava lamps, thumbtacks and bikes.

While all of these pictures distracted participants from the task, foods like candy, chocolate cake, hot dogs, potato chips, cheese and donuts were twice as distracting as the non-food pictures and those of healthy foods like salad, apples and carrots. Moreover, they discovered it’s not food in general that is distracting as the healthy foods were no more distracting to participants than the non-food items.

Afterward, they recreated the experiment but threw in a twist: A new group of participants ate two fun-sized candy bars before carrying out the same computer task. Interestingly, the participants who ate the candy beforehand did not find the high-calorie, high-fat food pictures to be any more distracting than those of healthy food and non-food pictures.

Now, the scientists would like to find out if eating less chocolate prior to the test or consuming other types of snacks would lead to the same effect. For example, they’d like to see how eating an apple ahead of the task would change distraction levels. They’d also like to investigate whether offering the participants money to perform the task quickly would prevent them from getting distracted to discern just how strong the pull of junk food is.

Don’t go grocery shopping on an empty stomach

According to lead author Corbin A. Cunningham, this finding supports the old adage about not going grocery shopping when you’re hungry as the highly distracting nature of unhealthy foods could lead you to make unwise decisions. He said that even when food is irrelevant and people are trying to concentrate, junk food has a tremendous ability to sneak in and steal our attention, unless we’ve just eaten some of it!

What gives junk food the power to distract us?

In explaining the phenomenon, Cunningham said that one of the reasons that junk food appears more tempting than healthier options is the biological desire to eat energy-dense foods because they tend to taste better. He also believes there could be a little bit of “wanting what you can’t have” at play.

“While it is hard to tell, I think some of the rewarding nature of high calorie foods might be that we know we should only occasionally indulge in them. Thus, they become more ‘rewarding’ than foods that we could eat as much as we want,” Cunningham said. Their findings were published in the Psychonomic Bulletin and Review.

The more we can learn about what drives people to eat junk food, the better off we’ll be as a recent study published by Lancet found that a fifth of all deaths around the world are caused by junk food, processed food, and otherwise toxic or harmful food, making it just as dangerous as smoking.

Sources include:

DailyMail.co.uk

Hub.JHU.edu

Natural.news

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200 dead at nuclear test site in North Korea, according to Japanese media

Image: 200 dead at nuclear test site in North Korea, according to Japanese media

(Natural News) A massive tunnel collapse at a nuclear test site in North Korea has resulted in the death of at least 200 people, according to an unverified report from the Japanese media.

Although there still isn’t any official confirmation that the tunnel collapse actually occurred, according to Japan’s TV Asahi, an unnamed North Korean ‘source’ claimed that up to 100 people were trapped in the tunnels before rescue teams went in after them, at which point the structure collapsed, raising the death toll to at least 200 people.

The date on which the incident occurred is also unknown. Although it is believed to have happened on October 10, South Korea’s Yonhap news agency said that it’s still unclear when exactly the tunnel collapsed. Yonhap reported that the disaster occurred as a result of North Korea’s sixth nuclear test, which was conducted at the same site.

Not long before the tunnel collapsed, Seoul warned North Korea that one more nuclear detonation could be the straw that breaks the camel’s back, so to speak, with enough force to destroy its mountain test site once and for all and potentially even trigger a radiation leak. Despite these continued warnings, it is unlikely that Kim Jong-Un will stop testing nuclear missiles any time soon. (Related: Here is what war with North Korea would actually look like.)

In addition to warnings from South Korea, including the country’s weather agency chief Nam Jae-Cheol, U.S. experts have also stated that further nuclear testing could result in more tragedies in the future. Five of North Korea’s recent missile tests have been carried out under Mount Mantap, but after three small earthquakes that occurred near the site of the blasts, the region is now said to be suffering from “Tired Mountain Syndrome.”

While there is no way to tell how much more destruction will occur as a result of North Korea’s nuclear tests, the fact remains that both natural and manmade structures will continue to weaken as these tests go on.

At this point, the fact that Kim Jong-Un is a crazed, unstable warmonger isn’t exactly up for debate. For several months now, the North Korean regime has been making numerous threats against the United States, claiming that they will not hesitate to use their military capabilities if it reaches that point. (Related: Analysts confirms that North Korea’s nuclear missiles can now reach New York City, Boston, and Los Angeles.)

As President Trump prepares for his much anticipated tour across several parts of Asia next week, Trump is already receiving stern warnings from people like Anita Kumar, a reporter for McClatchy News to “watch what language he uses” out of fear that the North Korean regime may be provoked. Kumar’s warning comes on the heels of claims made by experts who have suggested that North Korea could conduct its 23rd missile test this year during President Trump’s time in Asia between November 3 and November 14.

“What experts are telling me, though, is that there might be a missile test by North Korea while President Trump is traveling,” she said. “That’s going to put him on the spot while he’s in China or South Korea. So that would be huge. He’d have to decide then and there how to react.”

While it is certainly a possibility that North Korea could intentionally conduct another nuclear test that coincides with Trump’s Asia tour, many would argue President Trump’s tough rhetoric is something that Americans should get behind instead of constantly discouraging it. Of course, it will anger the North Koreans, but the most important thing that the United States can do in the face of this enemy is stand strong and show the world that we are not the same passive country that we were for eight years under Barack Obama. America needs to show her teeth, and thankfully, our commander-in-chief seems to agree.

Sources include:

Dailymail.co.uk

Express.co.uk

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STUDY: 43 PERCENT OF AMERICANS SAY SUPPORTING FIRST AMENDMENT IS RACIST

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A study released Tuesday states 43 percent of Americans believe supporting someone’s right to make offensive statements is equivalent to holding those same views.

Released by the Cato Institute, the survey found a stark political and racial divide among Americans in regards to the First Amendment and free speech.

Unsurprisingly, Democrats and self-described liberals were most supportive of not only limiting speech but of using the government to enforce their views. Republicans also favored retaliating against free speech practices they felt were disrespectful.

The survey also found that conservatives are much more likely to censor their viewpoints due to the current political climate.

While 76 percent of “strong conservatives” felt the need to self-censor, only 30 percent of “strong liberals” felt the same.

Other findings included majority liberal support for using violence against anyone deemed a Nazi and large support among Republicans for revoking the citizenship of anyone who burns the American flag.

Comments regarding immigrants, the police and transgender people were also discussed. The vast majority of leftists also believe hate speech is an “act of violence.”

Read the full report here

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PRINCE WILLIAM WARNS THAT THERE ARE TOO MANY PEOPLE IN THE WORLD

Rapidly growing human populations risk having a “terrible impact” on the world, the Duke of Cambridge has warned.

Rapidly growing human populations risk having a “terrible impact” on the world, the Duke of Cambridge has warned.

The Duke said that as a result, wildlife was being put under “enormous pressure” and called for the issue to be addressed with renewed vigour.

His concerns echo those of his grandfather, the Duke of Edinburgh, who in 2011 advocated “voluntary family limitation” as a means of solving overpopulation, which he described as the biggest challenge in conservation.

His grandson, royal patron of the Tusk Trust, told the charity’s gala dinner in London that measures needed to be taken to save certain animal populations.

“In my lifetime, we have seen global wildlife populations decline by over half,” he said.

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French Feminist-Anarchist Group Take Credit For Torching Several Police Officers’ Vehicles

On October 26th several vehicles belonging to police officers were set on fire in the French commune of Meylan and now a radical leftist anarcho-feminist group has claimed responsibility saying it is “revenge” for “sexism.”

The group released a statement this week saying that they purposely set the vehicles on fire and made sure to “make a joke to the firemen” by sealing off the entrance to the police car park so they would not be able to deal with the blaze. Around 10 litres of petrol was used to ignite the vehicles which were totally destroyed L’Express reports.

“We do not want to stay in the position of victims in which society would like to place us by recognizing us as girls,” the group said.

The letter explained that the group targetted the personal property of the officers rather than their police cars because they wanted to, “attack the individuals who wear the uniforms, rather than their function,” as police.

 

The fire ultimately destroyed four cars and a motorcycle and the uncontrolled fire blackened a nearby residential building, though the fire did not spread to it.

Jean-Yves Coquillat, the public prosecutor in Grenoble, commented on the incident saying it was, “not far from a tragedy,” and said he found it worrying that the individual police officers were targetted by the group. He added that the incident was just the latest of a series of similar incidents that have occurred this year in the area.

PICS: Leftist Torch German Police Vehicles in Hamburg Anti-G20 Protest

Left-extremist violence is on the rise across Europe and is often directed toward law enforcement. The largest example of leftist violence was the Hamburg G20 in which left-extremist Antifa members destroyed property, looted shops and injured hundreds of police in rioting that lasted for several days.

Right-wing supporters and politicians have also been repeated targets of alt-left violence as well. Recently a social house project of the hipster-right Identitarian youth movement was targetted by left-extremists who threw a hundred bricks at the building, drilled a hole in the door and sprayed butyric acid in the building.

The alt-left have even called for violence toward mainstream journalists in Canada saying that only “approved” media, those who will not show the faces behind their masks, will be allowed to film their protests.

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Texas city demands Hurricane Harvey victims not boycott Israel

A fireplace sits in the middle of a trash pile in front of a flood damaged home on September 5, 2017, in Houston, Texas. (Getty Images)
A fireplace sits in the middle of a trash pile in front of a flood damaged home on September 5, 2017, in Houston, Texas. (Getty Images)

Residents of one city in the US state of Texas are being asked to sign a loyalty oath to Israel if they want to receive funds for Hurricane Harvey relief, an approach that civil liberties experts say is illegal.

The city of Dickinson, a suburb of Houston, is requiring residents to sign a no-boycott pledge in order to receive disaster aid to recover from Harvey, a devastating hurricane that made landfall in August.

David Olson, an attorney for Dickinson, said city officials are following a Texas law that prohibits state agencies from contracting with or investing in companies that boycott Israel.

The so-called Anti-BDS (Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions) law was signed in May by Texas Governor Gregg Abbott and took effect on September 1.

It was not immediately clear why citizens applying for disaster relief would be subject to a law that applies to state agencies and businesses.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) sharply criticized the provision on Friday, calling it a violation of free speech rights.

“The First Amendment protects Americans’ right to boycott, and the government cannot condition hurricane relief or any other public benefit on a commitment to refrain from protected political expression,” ACLU of Texas Legal Director Andre Segura said in a statement.

“Dickinson’s requirement is an egregious violation of the First Amendment, reminiscent of McCarthy-era loyalty oaths requiring Americans to disavow membership in the Communist party and other forms of ‘subversive’ activity.”

The ACLU has pushed back on anti-BDS measures, filing a lawsuit earlier this month challenging anti-BDS legislation in Kansas.

The BDS movement was initiated in 2005 by over 170 Palestinian organizations to initiate “various forms of boycott against Israel until it meets its obligations under international law.”

Thousands of volunteers worldwide have joined the BDS to help promote the Palestinian cause, including scores of international trade unions, NGOs, scientific institutions, academic societies, business associations and cultural figures.

The BDS campaign is also gaining momentum on US college campuses and churches.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and his subordinates have called the BDS campaign a new form of terrorism against the Israeli regime.

Supporters of the movement, including a growing number of American Jews, have called such criticism a fear-mongering and divisive tactic meant to prevent legitimate debate about the Israeli occupation of Palestinian lands.

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Mennonite Math Teacher Sues Kansas For Not Hiring Her Because She Boycotts Israel

Issam Rimawi/Getty Images
Palestinians stage a protest against Israel’s separation wall.  

WASHINGTON ― A Mennonite curriculum coach in Kansas sued the state Wednesday for barring her from working as a state-contracted teacher trainer after she refused to certify she does not boycott Israel.

Esther Koontz made it to the final stages of the hiring process and had signed up to lead several trainings when the Kansas State Department of Education told her she could not get paid if she didn’t sign the anti-boycott document. The American Civil Liberties Union, which is representing Koontz, claims the state requirement that contractors not participate in boycotts of Israel violates her right to free speech and equal protection,

The lawsuit is the first major legal challenge to legislation aimed at halting the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement against Israel. In the past three years, more than a dozen states have passed laws that restrict contracts with people or entities that boycott goods and services from Israel or the occupied Palestinian territories. On the national level, a bill before Congress would make it a felony for Americans to boycott Israel, punishable by a fine of up to $1 million and up to 20 years in prison, The Intercept reported in July.

As these laws pop up across the country, BDS has become an increasingly divisive issue. Supporters say it is a nonviolent way to oppose Israel’s decades-long occupation of the Palestinian territories; critics say it is an anti-Semitic attempt to delegitimize Israel. The ACLU, which has long spoken out against anti-BDS legislation, argues that the measure passed in Kansas punishes individuals “based on their protected political beliefs and associations.”

Koontz is a member of the Mennonite Church USA, a Christian denomination that passed a resolution in July, “Seeking Peace in Israel and Palestine,” that calls on members to avoid “the purchase of products associated with acts of violence or policies of military occupation, including items produced in settlements.”

Around the same time the Mennonite Church passed its resolution, Kansas enacted HB 2409, a law that prohibits the state from entering into a contract with a person or a company unless they submit written certification that they are not currently engaged in a boycott of Israel or Israeli-controlled territories.

“It’s brazenly unconstitutional,” said Lara Friedman, president of the Foundation for Middle East Peace, who closely monitors anti-BDS laws on the state and national level.

Months before the Kansas bill went into effect, the veteran math teacher was selected to be a teacher trainer in the Kansas State Department of Education’s Math and Science Partnerships program, a job she planned to take on in addition to her regular duties as a curriculum coach in Wichita. She had completed the required coursework to become qualified as a trainer and signed up to perform three trainings, the complaint said.

But on July 10, days after HB 2409 went into effect, she was told she needed to fill out another form before she could get paid by the Kansas Department of Education. The form was titled: “Certification Individual or Company Not Currently Engaged in a Boycott of Israel.”

Koontz responded the following month.  “As a matter of conscience I am not able to sign this Boycott of Israel waiver. Will I still be able to train for KSDE this year and get paid?” she asked program consultant Melissa Fast.

“Unfortunately, the state will not allow me to pay you if it is not signed. I am sorry.” Fast wrote back.

Koontz has continued working as a curriculum coach at a public school in Wichita, but she cannot work as a teacher trainer, a job she had hoped would allow her to share her expertise, advance her career and earn additional income, said Brian Hauss, one of her lawyers at the ACLU.

The case was filed in the U.S. District Court for the District of Kansas, and Randall D. Watson, the state’s education commissioner, is listed as the defendant. Watson’s office referred all questions to the Office of the Kansas Attorney General, which said only that “it is reviewing the lawsuit.”

The ACLU has asked the court to declare that requiring Kansas state contractors to affirm they do not participate in the Israel BDS movement violates the First and 14th Amendments. The group has also asked the court to block the state from enforcing the measure until the case is over and to award Koontz “her costs and reasonable attorneys’ fees.

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Being anti-Israel is anti-Texas, says Gov. Greg Abbott

AUSTIN – Gov. Greg Abbott made a strong statement in support of Israel with his first public bill-signing ceremony Tuesday, putting his name to a measure to prevent state contracts with companies that boycott it.

“You can always count on Texas,” Abbott said at the Jewish Community Center here to sign the bill into law. “Any anti-Israel policy is an anti-Texas policy. Texas is not going to do business with any company that boycotts Israel.”

House Bill 89, which got bipartisan legislative support, would prevent government contracts and restrict specific state investments with companies

Being anti-Israel is anti-Texas, says Gov. Greg Abbott

AUSTIN – Gov. Greg Abbott made a strong statement in support of Israel with his first public bill-signing ceremony Tuesday, putting his name to a measure to prevent state contracts with companies that boycott it.

“You can always count on Texas,” Abbott said at the Jewish Community Center here to sign the bill into law. “Any anti-Israel policy is an anti-Texas policy. Texas is not going to do business with any company that boycotts Israel.”

House Bill 89, which got bipartisan legislative support, would prevent government contracts and restrict specific state investments with companies that boycott Israel.

Joining Abbott were the bill’s author and sponsor, Rep. Phil King, R-Weatherford, and Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe; along with Sens. Paul Bettencourt, R-Houston; Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels; and Don Huffines, R-Dallas.

Abbott has long been an advocate for Israel, a position in line with conservative Republicans and evangelical Christian voters. On Tuesday, he cited Israel’s cultural and economic connections to Texas, and called it an “essential international ally.”

He recalled meeting with Benjamin Netanyahu on a trip last year to Israel, saying the prime minister told him when his son visited Texas, he reported, “Texans are just like us.”

 “That’s exactly what my wife and I spoke about when we departed Israel,” Abbott said. ““We said people in Israel are just like Texans.”

 

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Texas city refuses to give people hurricane aid unless they pledge not to boycott Israel

A Texas city devastated by flooding after Hurricane Harvey is forcing recipients of financial aid to sign a pledge not to boycott Israel.

The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) said the clause on Dickinson city council’s application form for relief funding violated free speech rights and was “reminiscent of McCarthy-era loyalty oaths” requiring Americans to disavow Communism.

The city, 30 miles from Houston, was one of the areas hardest hit by Harvey. This week Dickinson authorities began accepting applications from individuals and businesses for grants from money donated for hurricane aid.

The form includes a clause headlined “verification not to boycott Israel”. It states: “By executing this Agreement below, the Applicant verifies that the Applicant: (1) does not boycott Israel; and (2) will not boycott Israel during the term of this Agreement.”

The city’s attorney said he was following state law introduced in May which prohibits public bodies giving contracts to companies that boycott Israel.

But Andre Segura, the ACLU’s legal director for Texas, said: “The First Amendment protects Americans’ right to boycott, and the government cannot condition hurricane relief or any other public benefit on a commitment to refrain from protected political expression.

“Dickinson’s requirement is an egregious violation of the First Amendment, reminiscent of McCarthy-era loyalty oaths requiring Americans to disavow membership in the Communist party and other forms of ‘subversive’ activity.”

The ACLU said previous Supreme Court decisions had established the government could not require individuals to indicate political beliefs to obtain employment, contracts or benefits.

It said Dickinson’s application form was “unconstitutional”.

The city’s attorney, David Olsen, said the anti-boycott clause was required due to state law. He told ABC 13 the requirement would remain “until someone tells them differently”.

Texas governor Greg Abbott signed legislation requiring all state contractors to pledge not to boycott Israel earlier this year.

“As Israel’s number one trading partner in the United States, Texas is proud to reaffirm its support for the people of Israel and we will continue to build on our historic partnership,” he said in May. “Anti-Israel policies are anti-Texas policies, and we will not tolerate such actions against an important ally.”

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