Category Archives: entertainment

Mice’s aging brains reset to youthful state by cannabinoid

But we can’t ask the mice how wasted they were during the treatment.

THC is the molecule that gives marijuana its intoxicating impact, and it acts by altering the activity of the body’s internal cannabinoid signaling system. Previous studies have shown that the cannabinoid system slows down with age, making less of its signaling molecules and expressing less of the receptors they bind to. The researchers suspected that this drop might be linked to the decline in mental ability that also comes with age.

And that’s relatively easy to test, since you can just give the mice THC to activate their cannabinoid signaling network. So the researchers hooked up mice to a drip that fed them a constant supply of THC for four weeks.

Before we get to the results, we should ask if this is something anyone would want to do. The researchers used a dose of three milligrams per kilogram of body weight every day. That works out to 125µg/kg every hour. This study suggests that in humans, a single dose of twice that size (250µg/kg) is enough to decrease people’s performance on a driving task. So there’s a good chance that these mice are somewhat impaired during the treatment.

A possible indication of that impairment is that the authors waited five days after stopping the THC treatment to test the animals’ mental abilities.

The researchers performed the tests with mice in different age groups: two months, 12 months, and 18 months. That’s roughly young, middle-aged, and elderly for mice. The mice were subjected to tests of learning and memory. In both tests, the animals that had received THC showed no decline with age. All the treated mice consistently tested as if they were two months old.

Something similar was found when the authors looked at gene activity in the brain. As mice age, a variety of genes see their activity go up or down; a number of the genes here have been associated with aging’s effects on the brain in earlier studies. After four weeks of THC, however, these genes ended up being active at levels similar to those seen in two-month-old mice.

Oddly, however, in two-month-old, THC-treated mice, these genes had activity levels that looked similar to untreated older mice. That’s the sort of result that might be problematic, but the authors say those results are “interesting and deserve further investigation.”

They move along to show that this aspect of THC’s effects appear to depend on the cannabinoid signaling system, which really isn’t much of a surprise. They also find that its effects rely on a system that controls how DNA is packaged in cells (histone acetylases). Intriguingly, this DNA-packaging system had previously been implicated in age-related declines. Drugs that alter it were considered a treatment option before its numerous side effects became clear.

The authors suggest that since low-dose cannabis is well tolerated, it might be a better option. But before taking that suggestion seriously, we’d want to know whether you need the constant low-dose used in their experiment and, if so, whether that has effects that aren’t as bad as what it’s supposed to be treating.

Nature Medicine, 2017. DOI: 10.1038/nm.4311  (About DOIs).

Nearly 90,000 Afghans displaced in 2017, says UN

As fighting continues in many parts of Afghanistan, displacement has soared in recent months, says new UN report.

The ongoing conflict in Afghanistan has forced 88,481 people to leave their homes since the beginning of 2017, according to a United Nations report.

Can the Taliban be defeated?

Displacements occurred in 29 of the country’s 34 provinces, stated the report on Tuesday. It noted that the security situation across all regions had grown more volatile as clashes continue in a number of provinces.

North-eastern Kunduz and Badakhshan provinces have been witnessing especially fierce fighting as Taliban forces captured two districts within a week after the announcement of their spring offensive.

Since January, 34,881 individuals have been displaced in that region: “just under 40 percent of the total population displaced countrywide,” says the report.

In Kunduz, the UN estimates that, additionally, more than 30,000 individuals have been displaced by fighting in the district of Qala-e Zal, as well by fighting along the Kunduz-Khanabad highway in the past days alone.

Assessments to verify these reports are ongoing.

READ MORE: Is Afghanistan new battlefield for traditional rivals?

In 2016, more than 660,600 civilians fled their villages and homes. This year, the UN expects to see another 450,000 displaced persons inside the country. 

More than half a million Afghans fled conflict in the country last year, according to the UN. 

‘Shockingly high’ number of losses 

Earlier this month, the US government’s Special Inspector General for Afghanistan Reconstruction (SIGAR) said Afghan security forces were killed at a “shockingly high” rate during what has historically been a winter lull in fighting against the Taliban. 

In a report, SIGAR said 807 troops from the Afghan National Defence and Security Forces (ANDSF) died between January 1 and February 24. 

“Afghanistan remains in the grip of a deadly war. Casualties suffered by [ANDSF] in the fight against the Taliban and other insurgents continue to be shockingly high,” says the report, released on Monday.

Levels of violence have traditionally dipped over Afghanistan’s cold winter months, but this year the Taliban continued to battle government forces, most notably in an April 19 attack on a military base outside the northern city of Mazar-i-Sharif.

The massacre saw fighters armed with guns and suicide bombs slaughter at least 144 recruits, a US official told AFP news agency, though multiple sources have claimed the toll was higher still.

Afghanistan’s displaced face discrimination

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies

UK government subsidises coal sector with £356 million a year

Despite pledges to phase out coal, UK and several other EU countries still provide various tax benefits to the coal sector, according to a new report

What if virtual worlds become better than reality? Find out on 13th July in London. Book now

The coal sector benefits from £356 million in subsidies a year in the UK despite the Government’s pledge to phase out use of the highly-polluting fossil fuel, a report suggests.

The multimillion-pound support is part of £5.3 billion (€6.3 billion) given to the coal industry a year by 10 European countries which account for 84 per cent of the continent’s carbon dioxide emissions, the Overseas Development Institute (ODI) said.

In a new report, the international development think tank rated the UK poor on transparency and on phasing out subsidies for coal mining and coal-fired power.

The British government has said it will not undertake a fossil fuel subsidy peer review under a process by the G20 leading nations, because it denies the country provides any fossil fuel subsidies, the report said.

But the UK mining sector has various tax benefits and there is reduced VAT (tax) on fuel, including electricity from coal, the report said.

There are also subsidies paid to coal-fired power stations under schemes to ensure secure electricity supplies, which undermines the carbon price put in to push up the cost of highly-polluting power.

These schemes, the capacity market and supplementary balancing reserve, benefit coal plants to the tune of almost £200 million a year, the report estimates.

The government has committed to phasing out polluting coal-fired power plants by 2025, and Britain had its first full day without coal generating any electricity since the 19th century in April.

Elsewhere Germany accounted for more than £1.7 billion in subsidies (€2 billion), while across the 10 countries, just 14 per cent of money identified as subsidies was being paid to support a transition for communities and workers away from fossil fuels.

“European countries need to phase out coal if they are to meet the Paris climate agreement targets, fight air pollution and support a change to low-carbon energy systems,” said report author Shelagh Whitley, head of the climate and energy programme at ODI. “However as our research shows, governments are continuing to provide lifelines to coal by handing over new subsidies without which the coal industry would not be economically viable.”

“Governments in Europe must stick to their promise to shift to low-carbon and efficient energy systems and focus any remaining subsidies on supporting workers and communities to move away from fossil fuels,” Whitley said.


More on these topics:

G20-Gipfel: Massive Ausschreitungen bei G20-Treffen erwartet

Trump, Putin, Erdoğan – diese Namen wirken nach Angaben der Polizei anziehend auf gewaltbereite Linke. Man rechne mit bis zu 100.000 Demonstranten Anfang Juli in Hamburg.

Die Sicherheitsbehörden befürchten nach Informationen des Tagesspiegels beim G-20-Gipfel
in Hamburg massive Ausschreitungen deutscher und ausländischer

Vom 6. bis zum 8. Juli werde sich “das gesamte
linksextremistische/autonome Spektrum Hamburgs und ein Großteil der
gewaltbereiten linksextremistischen Klientel aus der Bundesrepublik in
Hamburg zusammenfinden, um mittels militanter Aktionen den gewaltsamen
Protest gegen den G-20-Gipfel
auf die Straße zu bringen”, heißt es in einer Analyse des
Lagezentrums der Hamburger Polizei vom 27. April. Es sei auch damit zu
rechnen, dass die Autonomen “durch Linksextremisten aus dem benachbarten
Ausland unterstützt werden”. Die Behörde verweist auf die Mobilisierung
radikaler Gruppierungen in Italien, Frankreich, den Niederlanden, der
Schweiz und Skandinavien.

Am 7. und 8. Juli trifft sich in Hamburg Bundeskanzlerin Angela Merkel mit 18 Staats- und Regierungschefs, darunter US-Präsident Donald Trump,
der russische Präsident Wladimir Putin und der türkische Staatschef
Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, sowie hochrangigen Vertretern der Europäischen
Union. Die Hamburger Polizei erwartet mindestens 6.000 Gipfelteilnehmer
und bis zu 100.000 Demonstranten. Die “Anwesenheit von Reizpersonen wie
Trump, Putin und Erdoğan wirke mobilisierungsverstärkend auf den
Protest”, schreibt die Behörde.

Als besonders
krawallträchtig gilt bereits ein Aufzug am 6. Juli in St. Pauli, den
Mitglieder einer Allianz autonomer Gruppen unter dem Motto “G20 Welcome
to Hell” angemeldet haben. Auch wenn das Bündnis nur 5.000 Teilnehmer
angekündigt hat, sei “eine Teilnahme von 7.000 bis 8.000 gewaltbereiten
Linksextremisten am Aufzug einzukalkulieren”, sagt die Polizei. Autonome
kündigen zudem zahlreiche weitere Aktionen an, darunter eine Blockade
des Hafens.

werden sich Linksextremisten auch an dem für den 8. Juli geplanten
Sternmarsch “G20 no welcome” mit 50.000 bis 100.000 Teilnehmern
beteiligen, den das links-bürgerliche “Bündnis gegen den G-20-Gipfel”
organisiert. Die Polizei  hält bei der Großdemonstration ebenfalls
Ausschreitungen für möglich. Erwartet wird zudem, dass militante
Linksextremisten während der Zeit des Gipfels “auch abseits sämtlicher
Versammlungen und Aufzüge die Auseinandersetzung mit Einsatzkräften oder
einem gegebenenfalls politischen Gegner suchen und Straftaten an
Reizobjekten begehen”. Mit Reizobjekten sind unter anderem Polizeiwachen
und Bankgebäude gemeint.

Nach Erkenntnissen der
Polizei empfindet die linke Szene “die Auswahl Hamburgs als
Austragungsort des Gipfels sowie das zu erwartende Polizeiaufgebot als
reine Provokation”. Deshalb sei davon auszugehen, “dass bewusst die
Konfrontation mit der Polizei gesucht und eine Eskalation provoziert
wird”. Folglich seien “auch schwere Gewaltstraftaten von militanten
Demonstrationsteilnehmern zum Nachteil der Polizei zu erwarten”.

Die Polizei hat in Hamburg, Berlin und weiteren Bundesländern bis Ende
April bereits 178 Straftaten mit Bezug zum G-20-Gipfel registriert, von
Schmierereien bis hin zu Brandstiftungen. Als “herausragende Straftat”
nennt die Behörde den Brandanschlag vom 26. November 2016 auf die
Hamburger Messehallen, in denen sich die Gipfelteilnehmer treffen
werden. Bei dem Angriff wurde der Eingangsbereich beschädigt. Am 17.
März brannte ein Fahrzeug der Polizei nahe dem Wohnhaus des Ersten
Bürgermeisters von Hamburg, Olaf Scholz (SPD). Zehn Tage später standen
vier Transporter der Hamburger Polizei in Flammen. In Berlin bekannten
sich Linksextremisten mit Hinweis auf den G-20-Gipfel zu Brandanschlägen
auf mehrere Fahrzeuge, darunter einen Wagen der französischen

Fraglich bleibt, ob Rechtsextremisten nach
Hamburg kommen. Die Splitterpartei “Pro Deutschland” hatte eine
Demonstration “Pro Trump” angekündigt, doch in der Szene regte sich
Widerstand. Nach einer Abstimmung im Internet sagten die Rechtsextremen 
den Aufzug im April ab.

Husband slept in same room as wife’s body for six days

Heartbroken widower Russell Davison says he wants to challenge attitudes towards death.

A man has revealed how he slept in the same room as his wife’s body for six days after she died.

Wendy Davison, 50, died at home in Derby last month after a 10-year battle with cervical cancer.

Russell Davison, who has been left “heartbroken”, said he did not want her body to go to a mortuary and he wanted to challenge attitudes towards dying.

It is legal to keep a body at home and Derbyshire Coroner’s Court confirmed Mrs Davison’s GP reported her death.

Mr Davison said: “Death seems to be such a taboo subject in our society, no-one seems to want to talk about it.

“I did not want her in the mortuary or handed over to a funeral director, I wanted us to take care of her ourselves at our family home, have her in our bedroom so I could sleep in the same room.”

Updates on this story and more from the East Midlands.

When Mrs Davison was diagnosed shortly after the couple’s joint 40th birthday party in 2006, they decided to take a “natural” approach to her healthcare.

“We were not prepared to hand her life over to doctors. We wanted to do our own research and do the very best job we could to keep Wendy alive,” he said.

He believes their approach, which included refusing chemotherapy and radiotherapy, extended Wendy’s life “by a very long time”.

In 2014, Mrs Davison was given six months to live, so the pair went travelling across Europe, where they had “the absolute time of our lives”.

But last September, they were forced to return home when her pain became too bad.

She received hospice care at the Royal Derby Hospital but they were determined she would not die there.

The pair decided she would be cared for at home by family and her body would remain there until her cremation.

She died on 21 April.

“Wendy died very peacefully, fully sedated, in no pain, in mine and Dylan’s arms with our ever faithful dog Elvis snuggled up right next to her too,” Mr Davison said.

He said it was a “beautiful and comforting experience” to have family and friends over to see her during that time.

Source: Cancer Research UK

Contentious trusts and probate lawyer, Jak Ward, from Derby-based Smith Partnership, said it is not an offence to keep a body at home until the funeral as long as a death is reported and registered.

“Historically people would die at home and the body would be kept until the funeral,” he said.

A celebration of Mrs Davison’s life is being held at Derbyshire County Cricket Club on Sunday.

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The Labour leader vows a “day of reckoning” for “tax cheats and greedy bankers” as he launches campaign.

Obama warned Trump about Flynn, former officials say

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Barack Obama warned Donald Trump against hiring Michael Flynn as national security adviser during an Oval Office meeting after the 2016 election, according to three former Obama administration…

Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates is sworn-in on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, May 8, 2017, prior to testifying before the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism hearing: “Russian Interference in the 2016 United States Election.”(AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

FILE – In this Feb. 10, 2017 file photo, then-National Security Adviser Michael Flynn sits in the East Room of the White House in Washington. President Barack Obama warned Donald Trump against hiring Michael Flynn as national security adviser during an Oval Office meeting in the days after the 2016 election, according to three former Obama administration officials. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster, File)

Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates, right, and former National Intelligence Director James Clapper, prepare to testify on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, May 8, 2017, before the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism hearing: “Russian Interference in the 2016 United States Election.” (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates testifing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, May 8, 2017, before the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism hearing: “Russian Interference in the 2016 United States Election.” (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

FILE – In this Nov. 10, 2016 file photo, President Barack Obama shakes hands with then-President-elect Donald Trump in the Oval Office of the White House in Washington. President Barack Obama warned Donald Trump against hiring Michael Flynn as national security adviser during an Oval Office meeting after the 2016 election, according to three former Obama administration officials. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, May 8, 2017, before the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism hearing: “Russian Interference in the 2016 United States Election.” (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington, Monday, May 8, 2017, before the Senate Judiciary subcommittee on Crime and Terrorism hearing: “Russian Interference in the 2016 United States Election.” (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Former acting attorney general Sally Yates told Congress on Monday that she warned the Trump administration that former national security adviser Michael Flynn “essentially could be blackmailed”. (May 8)

Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates says she believed Vice President Mike Pence was entitled to know that he was relaying untruthful information about the White House national security adviser. (May 8)

White House Spokesman Sean Spicer doubled down on President Trump’s tweet Monday that the Senate Judiciary Committee should ask former Acting Attorney General Sally Yates how classified information was leaked to the media. (May 8)

Former acting attorney general Sally Yates told Congress on Monday that she warned the Trump administration that former national security adviser Michael Flynn “essentially could be blackmailed”. (May 8)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Former acting Attorney General Sally Yates told Congress Monday she bluntly warned the Trump White House in January that new National Security Adviser Michael Flynn “essentially could be blackmailed” by the Russians because he apparently had lied to his bosses about his contacts with Moscow’s ambassador in Washington.

The testimony from Yates, an Obama administration holdover fired soon after for other reasons, marked her first public comments about the concerns she raised and filled in basic details about the chain of events that led to Flynn’s ouster in February.

Former acting attorney general Sally Yates told Congress on Monday that she warned the Trump administration that former national security adviser Michael Flynn “essentially could be blackmailed”. (May 8)

Her testimony, coupled with the revelation hours earlier that President Barack Obama himself had warned Donald Trump against hiring Flynn shortly after the November election, made clear that alarms about Flynn had reached the highest levels of the U.S. government months before. Flynn had been an adviser to Trump and an outspoken supporter of his presidential candidacy in the 2016 campaign.

Yates, appearing before a Senate panel investigating Russian interference in the election, described discussions with Don McGahn, the Trump White House counsel, in which she warned that Flynn apparently had misled the administration about his communications with Sergey Kislyak, the Russian ambassador.

White House officials, including Vice President Mike Pence, had insisted that Flynn had not discussed U.S.-imposed sanctions with Kislyak during the presidential transition period. But the White House asked Flynn to resign after news reports indicated he had misled officials about the nature of the calls.

“We felt like it was critical that we get this information to the White House, in part because the vice president was unknowingly making false statements to the public and because we believed that Gen. Flynn was compromised with respect to the Russians,” Yates said.

“To state the obvious,” she added later, “you don’t want your national security adviser compromised with the Russians.”

She said she had briefed the Trump White House so that they could take “the action that they deemed appropriate” and that she believed the Russians already had the same information about the calls.

Yates’ questioning by a Senate panel investigating Russian interference in the presidential election was just one portion of a politically charged day that began with combative tweets from Trump and continued with disclosures from Obama administration officials about a private Oval Office conversation between Obama and his successor.

Republican senators in the hearing repeatedly pressed Yates on an unrelated matter — her refusal to defend the Trump administration’s travel ban — and whether she was responsible for leaking classified information. She said she was not.

Trump shouldered into the conversation in the morning, tweeting that it was the Obama administration, not he, that had given Lt. Gen. Flynn “the highest security clearance” when he worked at the Pentagon. Trump made no mention of the fact that Flynn had been fired from his high position by the Obama administration in 2014.

General Flynn was given the highest security clearance by the Obama Administration – but the Fake News seldom likes talking about that.

Yates filled in new details of the events of Jan. 26, describing contacting McGahn in the morning and telling him she had something sensitive to discuss in person. Later that day, at the White House, she told him there was an alarming discrepancy between how Trump officials, including Pence, were characterizing Flynn’s contacts with Kislyak and what intelligence officials knew to be true based on recordings they’d reviewed.

The pair spoke several times over the next two days, with McGahn asking Yates how Flynn had fared during an interview with the FBI earlier that week — she did not answer — and why it was the concern of the Justice Department if White House officials had misled each other.

Yates herself, a longtime federal prosecutor, was fired by Trump on Jan. 30 after refusing to defend his travel ban. James Clapper, director of national intelligence under Obama, also testified Monday. He retired when Trump took office.

Separately Monday, former Obama officials said he had raised general concerns about Flynn with Trump and had told the incoming president there were better people for the national security post.

Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer said in response that if Obama “was seriously concerned” about Flynn’s connections to Russia or other foreign countries, he should have withheld Flynn’s security clearance. Flynn served under Obama as defense intelligence chief before Obama dismissed him.

Trump repeatedly has said he has no ties to Russia and isn’t aware of any involvement by his aides in any Russian interference in the election. He’s dismissed FBI and congressional investigations into his campaign’s possible ties to the election meddling as a “hoax” driven by Democrats bitter over losing the White House.

After the hearing Monday, Trump tweeted: “The Russia-Trump collusion story is a total hoax, when will this taxpayer funded charade end?”

The Associated Press reported last week that one sign taken as a warning by Obama officials about Flynn’s contacts with Kislyak was a request by a member of Trump’s own transition team made to national security officials in the Obama White House for the classified CIA profile of Kislyak.

The AP interviewed multiple former U.S. officials, most of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to discuss sensitive national security information.

Yates’ warning about Flynn capped weeks of concern among top Obama officials, former officials told the AP. Obama himself told one of his closest advisers that the FBI, which by then had been investigating Trump associates’ possible ties to Russia for about six months, seemed particularly focused on Flynn.

Yates had been scheduled to appear weeks ago before the House intelligence committee, but that hearing was canceled.

The subcommittee meeting Monday is one of multiple congressional probes into the Russia interference, along with House and Senate intelligence panels. All the committees are led by Republicans.


White House Correspondent Julie Pace contributed to this report.

Diesen Künstlern solltet ihr auf Instagram folgen

WIRED stellt die besten Künstler vor, denen ihr auf Instagram folgen solltet. Mit dabei: Rich McCor, Emma Lindström, Dennis McNett und Anne Bengard.

Immer mehr Künstler, bekannte wie aufsteigende, sind heute ganz selbstverständlich auf Instagram unterwegs. WIRED stellt elf von ihnen vor, die man kennen sollte. 

Ein Beitrag geteilt von Rich McCor (@paperboyo) am

Es gibt Motive und Sehenswürdigkeiten, die hat jeder schon gesehen. Der britische Fotograf Rich McCor lässt sie uns auf vollkommen neue Weise entdecken. Mit fein zurechtgeschnitten Schablonen aus schwarzem Papier macht er das Guggenheim-Museum zum Blumentopf und das Londoner Rathaus zur Schnecke. Dabei beweist McCor nicht nur Humor, sondern auch Ausdauer. Mindestens einmal in der Woche gibt es auf Instagram ein neues Foto.

Ein Beitrag geteilt von Ai Weiwei (@aiww) am

Ai Weiwei ist eine Institution. Der chinesische Künstler streamte schon sein Privatleben live ins Netz und pflasterte den Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin mit antiken Schemeln. Auf Instagram dokumentiert er diese und andere Werke. Darüber hinaus gibt Ai Weiwei Einblicke in sein Atelier und seinen Alltag, zeigt Selfies mit Fans und Aufnahmen von Situationen, die ihn einfach fasziniert haben.

Ein Beitrag geteilt von Emma Lindström (@lindstrom.emma) am

Die Gemälde der schwedischen Malerin Emma Lindström gleichen mal dem aufgeschäumten Wasser eines stürmischen Ozeans. Dann wieder lassen sie an Satellitenfotos der Erdoberfläche denken. Die junge Expressionistin stellt viele ihrer opulenten Bilder offen im Internet zur Schau, filmt ihren Schaffensprozess und lässt uns in Zeitrafferaufnahmen miterleben, wie ihre wilden Farbexplosionen entsteht.

Ein Beitrag geteilt von Dennis McNett (@wolfbat) am

Was Dennis McNett mit Skalpell und Schnitzeisen kreiert, ist schlicht beeindruckend. Der Künstler aus Philadelphia formt aus Holz filigrane Skulpturen von Kriegern, Tieren und mystischen Kreaturen, denen er mit feinen Farbstrichen Leben einhaucht. Allerdings finden sich McNetts Werke nicht nur auf Sockeln und an den Wänden von Galerien, sondern auch unter vielen Füßen. Er gilt als einer der besten Skateboard-Artists überhaupt.

Ein Beitrag geteilt von QueenAndrea! (@queenandreaone) am

Grelle Farben, elegant geschwungene Buchstaben und markige Sprüche. Die Grafikerin und Graffiti-Künstlerin Andrea von Bujdoss verschönert seit über 20 Jahren karge Häuserwände in New York. Aber nicht nur. Ihr von Popart und dem Neon-Look der 80er geprägter Stil hat ihr schon zu zahlreichen Ausstellungen verholfen. Auch bei Magazinen und Modemachern ist sie als Designerin gefragt.

Ein Beitrag geteilt von Art by Anne Bengard(@anne_bengard_art) am

Viele haben Anne Bengard und ihre blau-rosa Haare sicher schon gesehen. Sie taucht im Musikvideo zu Hengstin von Jennifer Rostock auf. Eigentlich ist Bengard für ihre imposanten Aquarellmalereien bekannt, die mit provokanten Fetisch-Fantasien und surrealen Popkultur-Visionen spielen. Auf Instagram zeigt die Künstlerin, wie sie arbeitet und sich selbst als farbenfrohes Kunstwerk inszeniert.

Ein Beitrag geteilt von Bruce Gilden (@bruce_gilden) am

Bruce Gilden hat sich einst mit Fotoreportagen einen Namen gemacht. Noch viel mehr wird er heute für seine unerbittlich intimen Portraits gefeiert, für die er mit seiner Leica-M so nah als möglich an seine Mitmenschen herantritt. Regelmäßig veröffentlicht Gilden sowohl aktuelle Schnappschüsse als auch Aufnahmen aus seinen legendären Fotoreihen auf Instagram. 

Ein Beitrag geteilt von _and_another_jasminsiddiqui (@hera_herakut) am

Jasmin Siddiqui ist wohl eher unter dem Namen Hera bekannt. Als eine Hälfte des Künstlerduos Herakut zaubert sie gemeinsam mit Falk „Akut“ Lehmann riesige Gemälde an Hauswände in Frankfurt, San Francisco oder auch im jordanischen Flüchtlingscamp Zaatari. Auch auf Leinwänden finden sich Siddiquis oft politischen Street-Art-Werke. Auf Instagram offenbart sie, wie, wo und in welchem Kontext diese entstehen.

Ein Beitrag geteilt von JR (@jr) am

Unter dem Kürzel JR hat der Franzose Jean René einige der größten Kunstwerke der Welt geschaffen – wortwörtlich. Der Fotograf und Street Artist beklebte Häuser in den Favelas von Rio mit riesigen Augenpaaren und verkleidete den New Yorker Time Square mit hunderten Portraits. Auf Instagram gibt es Eindrücke von diesen Werken, von JRs aktuellen Experimenten und von kleineren Kunstprojekten, die beispielsweise in Workshops mit geflüchteten Kindern entstehen.

Ein Beitrag geteilt von Olek (@oleknyc) am

Sich durch den Instagram-Account von Crocheted Olek zu klicken, ist eine surreale Erfahrung. Die aus Polen stammende New Yorkerin tut vor allem eines: Dinge um-häkeln. Seien es Menschen, Autos, Totenschädel, der Charging Bull auf der Wall Street oder ein ganzes Karussell: Olek verkleidet alles mit Wolle und Garn. Daneben zeigt sie ihren Alltag und fotografische Experimente.

Ein Beitrag geteilt von Subway Doodle (@subwaydoodle) am

New ‘snitch’ allegations rock federal biker case

Evidence shows defendant in biker gang trial, Aref Nagi, served as a police informant.

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The clubhouse of the Detroit Highwaymen on Michigan Avenue in southwest Detroit on April 27, 2017.(Photo: Paul Egan, Detroit Free Press)Buy Photo

When the U.S. Attorney’s Office indicted 91 alleged members and associates of Detroit’s Highwaymen Motorcycle Club on allegations of racketeering, drug trafficking, theft and murder for hire, a central thread in the case was gang leader Aref (Steve) Nagi’s attempts to root out suspected snitches.

Nagi’s preoccupation with informants inside the storied and homegrown motorcycle gang — whose violent history is credited with keeping the Hells Angels out of Detroit — was evident in his rambling, late-night phone conversations, which were secretly recorded by the FBI and introduced as evidence at the 2010 trial in federal court in Detroit.

And when the FBI raided the Highwaymen’s Michigan Avenue clubhouse in southwest Detroit in 2007, they discovered a photograph of one of their two confidential informants —with  the word “rat” scrawled in black marker across his face.

The case sent more than 30 Highwaymen to prison —- many, including Nagi, for lengthy sentences.

Read more:

But some of those convictions are now being challenged because of new revelations that Nagi himself — a former Highwaymen vice president and the lead defendant — had worked as a confidential informant for federal and local police agencies.

Convicted Highwayman Gary (Junior) Ball Jr., who from his federal prison cell used Michigan’s Freedom of Information Act to uncover Nagi’s hidden past, says Nagi and his Detroit attorney, James Thomas, led defense strategy meetings in the massive case. Among the concerns: Whether what he and other defendants thought were confidential disclosures made to attorneys may have been fed, through Nagi, to the FBI and prosecutors.

The Highwaymen, founded in Detroit in 1954, gained infamy in the 1970s when some members were convicted of bombing and raiding homes and clubhouses of rivals. The outlaw motorcycle gang, which at least until the indictments was Detroit’s largest, was seen by many as an outlaw among outlaws — banned from a federation of Detroit clubs founded by a former Outlaws president.

Records released by Troy Police Department under the Freedom of Information Act show Highwaymen leader Aref (Steve) Nagi had acted as a police informant. (Photo: Troy Police Department)

In a March 29 court filing, Assistant U.S. Attorney Andrew Goetz highlighted some of the Highwaymen lore, alleging the club had “terrorized southwest Detroit for decades” through drug dealings, beatings and theft and “got away with everything.” He described an incident in which several club members pulled up in front of an occupied southwest Detroit home and fired 15 rounds into it, as well as beatings administered with fists, beer bottles and chairs on occasions when club members encountered a suspected snitch, or someone who was significantly behind on his drug payments.

Ball, 51, who is serving a 30-year sentence and wants a new trial, has a May 17 hearing scheduled before U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds.

The hearing is to explore other irregularities Ball uncovered, such as the fact that his own defense attorney, Lawrence Shulman of Birmingham, without Ball’s knowledge, also represented a codefendant, Randy McDaniel, charged in connection with some of the same crimes as Ball. Court records show Shulman cut a deal for McDaniel in another federal case that resulted in his charges in the Highwaymen case being dropped.

The Shulman conflict alone, which Shulman denied existed in an e-mail to the Free Press, is grounds for Ball — convicted of racketeering, conspiracy to transport stolen vehicles, drug trafficking conspiracy, and conspiracy to obliterate vehicle identification numbers — to get a new trial, said Ball’s Alabama attorney, David Schoen.

But the Nagi revelations, he said, have the potential to also undo other convictions.

“The case is a mess,” Schoen said.

Attorney James Thomas  (Photo: KIMBERLY P. MITCHELL, Detroit Free Press)

Thomas, well-known in Detroit as the lead defense attorney in former Mayor Kwame Kilpatrick’s federal corruption case, vehemently denied Nagi ever acted as a police informant. He swore an affidavit to that effect in November.

Ball must have Nagi confused with some other Aref Nagi, Thomas insisted, pointing out that the Aref Nagi he represented, sometimes known as “Steve” or “Scarface,” has a birth date of Aug. 17, 1963.

That, however, is the same birth date as the Aref Nagi who, in 1992, arranged for delivery of 2 kilos of cocaine in a shopping center parking lot, then gave the signal for Troy police and the U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration to swoop in, according to records Ball obtained using the FOIA. Booking photos released by Troy Police also match Nagi’s image.

In the Highwaymen trial, “the defendants agreed to have Mr. Nagi’s defense attorney serve as a sort of defense team leader and Mr. Ball would have never agreed to the same had he known all relevant facts,” Schoen said in a court filing.

Attorney David Schoen (Photo: David Schoen)

Federal prosecutors, unlike Thomas, aren’t denying the truth of what Ball discovered, including Nagi’s past role as a police informant. But they are downplaying its significance, and Assistant U.S. Attorney Christopher Graveline told the Free Press on Wednesday he wasn’t even aware at the time of the Highwaymen trial of Nagi’s past role as an informant.

Nagi, who was convicted of racketeering, assault with a dangerous weapon, use of a firearm in committing a violent crime, conspiracy to transport stolen property, drug conspiracy and other charges, was sentenced to 37 years in prison, later reduced to 27 years on appeal. In 2016, Edmunds further cut Nagi’s sentence to 20 years, based on submissions from Thomas about his “exemplary” conduct in federal prison.

Nagi’s “conviction at trial and lengthy sentence should be enough proof of the fact that he did not cooperate,” Graveline said in an April 5 court filing.

“However, the government can aver that the case agent never interviewed Mr. Nagi as part of his investigation and both the undersigned and the case agent are unaware of any attempts by Nagi to cooperate, at any time, with law enforcement, in their investigation of the Detroit Highwaymen Outlaw Motorcycle Club.”

But Schoen said it’s important for Ball to know the full history of Nagi’s cooperation with federal and other police agencies, and who decided to conceal Nagi’s past from Ball, even if it turns out Nagi wasn’t a “spy in the camp” during the Highwaymen trial. At a minimum, he wants a chance to question Nagi and Thomas under oath.

“The overriding point is, the defendants are entitled to know this stuff,” and it was never disclosed, Schoen said.

Since Ball raised the issue, two other imprisoned Highwaymen — Leonard (Dad) Moore, who was dubbed the club’s “godfather” at trial, and former national president Joseph (Little Joe) Whiting — have filed court papers making similar arguments.

“Mr. Ball and Mr. Moore were constitutionally entitled to know that Nagi had been in the government’s employ as a cooperating witness,” Moore attorney Martin Beres said in a December filing.

While Nagi’s history has implications for the entire trial, attorney Shulman’s simultaneous representation of Ball and another Highwaymen defendant, McDaniel — which was concealed from Ball — is in some ways even more troubling, Schoen said.

Shulman was admonished — but not charged or disciplined — by the Michigan Attorney Grievance Commission in 2014 for not responding to Ball’s 2013 complaint alleging a conflict of interest.

But Shulman said the commission never made a determination that Ball’s conflict of interest allegation had merit.

Shulman, who first made an appearance as Ball’s attorney in June 2008, made his first appearance for McDaniel just a few weeks earlier, in March 2008, in a 2006 criminal case in Monroe County. Shulman also represented McDaniel beginning in 2009 in a separate drug case in front of a different federal judge in Detroit, and it was pursuant to the 2010 plea deal Shulman negotiated for McDaniel in that case that Edmunds dismissed McDaniel as a defendant in the Highwaymen case, in April 2011, records show.

Graveline told the Free Press he is limited in what he can say before the May 17 hearing, but he denied that McDaniel’s charge in the Highwaymen case was negotiated away as part of McDaniel’s plea deal in the other federal case. Instead, McDaniel’s guilty plea meant he was already facing more prison time than he would have received in the Highwaymen case, so he was dropped as a matter of efficiency, Graveline said. Shulman said that’s his understanding, also.

Shulman never made an appearance for McDaniel in the Highwaymen case, where McDaniel was represented by another attorney. Schoen and Ball believe that was to conceal his dual and conflicting representations. Schoen told the Free Press that McDaniel told him that Shulman in fact represented his interests in both cases. Shulman said that’s “simply not true.”

Schoen says prosecutors must have known, and Edmunds should have known, that Shulman was representing both Ball and McDaniel. Both had a duty to inform Ball, who was kept in the dark, Schoen said.

U.S. District Judge Nancy Edmunds. (Photo: U.S. District Court)

Ball and McDaniel weren’t just charged in the same wide-ranging case. Two of the charges Ball faced related to the same set of facts under which McDaniel was charged — the alleged theft of motorcycles in Myrtle Beach, S.C., in 2006, and their transport to Michigan to receive false registration titles.

In fact, evidence shows McDaniel was the go-to guy for changing vehicle registrations — an offense for which Ball was ultimately convicted, Schoen argues.

Ball and Schoen allege Shulman pulled his punches in cross-examining certain witnesses, not wanting to explore areas that would help Ball but implicate McDaniel.

“For Shulman, there was a clear risk to his other client’s (McDaniel’s) interests if he were to pursue plea negotiations with Mr. Ball or if he pursued certain lines of defense that would have well served Mr. Ball, but would have inculpated his other client (McDaniel) or undermined stories McDaniel had told the government in his cooperation,” Schoen said in a court filing.

Shulman told the Free Press there was no conflict. Ball knew he was representing McDaniel in the other cases and there was no need for Ball to sign a conflict waiver because no conflict existed, he said.

“I didn’t represent Mr. McDaniel in the Highwaymen case, and Mr. McDaniel was not indicted in that case until well after Mr. Ball was indicted,” Shulman said in an e-mail.

“McDaniel had another attorney appointed to represent him in the Highwaymen case. My cases with Mr. McDaniel were unrelated.”

Shulman said Ball’s 30-year sentence was excessive, and he wishes him well in getting a new trial, but “I went to the mat for him during trial and left it all on the floor.”

Prosecutors argue that the federal case in which Shulman represented McDaniel had nothing to do with the Highwaymen and McDaniel was never called as a witness against Ball. They also say in court filings that they had strong evidence against Ball on the drug conspiracy charges — including direct sales by Ball to a police informant — which had nothing to do with McDaniel.

“Despite his best efforts to conflate the lengthy timeline of this case and assume certain facts about his defense counsel, there was no conflict of interest in the defendant’s case,” Graveline said in a court filing.

But there’s more.

Ball’s first attorney in the case, Lee O’Brien of Troy, represented Ball from the start of proceedings in October 2006 until May 2008, after O’Brien himself was charged in the case, with making false statements.

Prosecutors knew O’Brien, who could not be reached, was under investigation and should have let Ball know he needed to get another attorney, Schoen argues.

“For O’Brien, who, according to investigative reports was suspected of being involved with illegal conduct with Mr. Ball, he risked being inculpated if he were to have Mr. Ball pursue plea negotiations,” he said.

Graveline said in a court filing that the 19 months during which O’Brien represented Ball were not a crucial state in the proceedings and Ball can only argue, quite speculatively, that O’Brien’s representation prevented a possible plea deal at that time. However, “of the 17 individuals charged in the original indictment, none of them resolved their cases between October 2006 and May 2008,” he said.

Contact Paul Egan: 517-372-8660 or Follow him on Twitter @paulegan4.

Loose Women strip ‘to empower others to be body confident’

They want to “shout from the rooftops that normal is perfectly fine”, says one of the TV panellists.

The stars of ITV’s Loose Women stripped down to their swimwear to show “normal is perfectly fine”, says one of the nine, Janet Street-Porter.

The photograph of them, taken by singer Bryan Adams, shows the panellists without filters or airbrushing.

Ms Street-Porter, 70, said they were “sick of pictures of women being photoshopped into ‘perfection'”.

Actresses Nadia Sawalha, 52, and Linda Robson, 59, and TV star Katie Price, 38, are among those who took part.

The image will be shown on billboards across the UK.

Presenter Saira Khan, who appeared on The Apprentice, says being Muslim meant she had been “brought up with the mentality to not draw attention to my body”.

She added: “I battled against my curves when I was younger as I didn’t want boys to notice me for being sexy – I was brought up to never bare my skin in front of men – it took me a long time not to feel guilty for wearing a dress or baring my arms.

“I want to say ‘this is NORMAL,’ particularly to women of colour. Forget the airbrushed images you see. This is what I REALLY look like. I’m sticking two fingers up.”

The women agreed to pose for Bryan Adams only if there was no airbrushing with the campaign slogan “Look, but you can’t retouch” emblazoned across the bottom of the image.

Despite the panellists giggling and smiling in the photograph, Ms Street-Porter wrote in the Mail that there was a serious message behind it.

“It’s time women started feeling empowered – regardless of whether or not their bodies conform to some spurious notion of perfection,” she added.

Ms Street-Porter said she wanted to “fly the flag for older women”, and warned all women not to be “brainwashed by the fake images”, adding: “Real women look like we do – we all just need to enjoy it more.”

Meanwhile, Nadia Sawalha said she was initially “panic stricken” about the idea of the photograph, but it was this attitude that spurred her on to practice what she preaches to her daughters.

“What the hell does it matter what we look like as long as we are smart, brave and kind?”

On being asked to be involved in the project, Bryan Adams said he thought it was an interesting brief.

He added: “They want to be natural, they don’t want any retouching, and they want it to be real, and I thought, “OK! that sounds really good!””

Social media giants are “shamefully far” from tackling illegal and dangerous content, say MPs.

Report: Facebook will nicht mehr für Propaganda missbraucht werden

Facebook will nicht nicht mehr als Propagandawerkzeug missbraucht werden – und veröffentlicht einen Bericht mit möglichen Gegenmaßnahmen.

Facebook will sich nicht mehr von politisch motivierten Kräften als Propagandawerkzeug missbrauchen lassen. In einem neuen Bericht kündigt das Unternehmen Maßnahmen gegen sogenannte Information Operations an, die massenhafte Verbreitung von Falschnachrichten über seine Social-Media-Plattform.

Erkenntnis ist ja bekanntlich der erste Schritt zur Besserung. Und erkannt hat Facebook das Problem durchaus: den Missbrauch seiner Plattform durch User, die die öffentliche politische Meinung manipulieren wollen. Bei den US-Präsidentschaftswahlen im vergangenen Jahr sollen Fake-Accounts, vor allem aus Russland, das Ergebnis beeinflusst haben. Doch das Dilemma ist kein allein amerikanisches. Im Vorfeld der aktuellen französischen Präsidentschaftswahlen löschte Facebook nach eigenen Angaben rund 30.000 unechte Profile. Und nun bestätigt das Unternehmen in einem neuen Report, dass es immer wieder von politisch motivierten Kräften als Propagandawerkzeug missbraucht wird – und erläutert mögliche Schritte, dagegen vorzugehen.

Der Social-Media-Konzern gibt der Misere einen Namen: Information Operations. Der Begriff umfasst sämtliche Operationen organisierter Gruppen, die die öffentliche Meinung verzerren und manipulieren wollen. Die Aktionen können laut Facebook verschiedene Methoden umfassen, etwa Falschmeldungen, gezielte Desinformationen oder den Einsatz von Fake-Accounts.

Dabei distanziert sich Facebook vom Terminus Fake News, weil dieser zu einem Sammelbegriff für zu viele verschiedene Arten von Veröffentlichungen geworden sei – von nachrichtlichen Artikel, die faktisch falsch sind, über Parodien, Memes, Gerüchte und Online-Missbrauch bis hin zu persönlichen Stellungnahmen. „Die inflationäre und falsche Verwendung des Begriffs Fake News kann problematisch sein, da wir ohne allgemein gültige Definition diese Themen gar nicht umfassend behandeln können“, schreiben die Verfasser des Facebook-Berichts.    

Information Operations, heißt es in dem Dokument, bestehen aus drei Teilen: dem gezielten Sammeln von Daten, der Erstellung von Content und dessen intensiver Verbreitung etwa durch Fake-Profile, das mehrfache Posten eines Kommentars oder die Erstellung von Astroturf-Gruppen. Diese dritte Stufe nennt Facebook auch False Amplification, falsche Verstärkung.  

Daten akquirierten Information-OperationsAkteure vor allem durch das Hacken von E-Mail- oder Social-Media-Accounts, heißt es. Um User davor zu bewahren, will Facebook individuell anpassbare Tools entwickeln, um die Sicherheits- und Privatsphäre-Einstellungen für seine Nutzer zu verbessern. Außerdem sollen potenzielle Phishing-Opfer benachrichtigt werden. Bei kommenden Wahlen oder ähnlichen politischen Ereignissen will das Unternehmen außerdem direkt mit Regierungen zusammenarbeiten und etwa Schulungen für Bürger anbieten.   

Ohne Social-Media-Portale wie Facebook und deren grundeigene Funktionsweise, Nachrichten potenziell milliardenfach online zu verbreiten, wäre die „falsche Verstärkung“ gar nicht erst so mächtig. Das hat wohl auch Facebook verstanden und will signalisieren, dass es Verantwortung übernimmt.

Allerdings geht es dabei weniger um den Kampf gegen von Maschinen erstellte Fake-Profile, die schnell von Algorithmen ausfindig gemacht werden können. Laut dem Facebook-Bericht werden die meisten  gefälschten Accounts von Menschen erstellt und verwaltet. Für manche Jungunternehmer in Mazedonien ist das ein lukratives Geschäft, wie Samantha Subramanian in der aktuellen WIRED-Ausgabe beschreibt.

Besonders in Astroturf-Gruppen, die eine Graswurzelbewegung vortäuschen sollen, ist es laut Facebook extrem schwierig, zwischen authentischen Einzelpersonen und Operation-Informations-Akteuren zu unterscheiden: „Anfänglich sind diese Gruppen wahrscheinlich voll von Fake-Accounts“, heißt es im Bericht, „doch nach einer Weile, wenn weitere Mitglieder hinzu kommen, können sie sich sogar selbst tragen.“

Um die Fakes dennoch ausfindig machen zu können und die False Amplification soweit wie möglich zu unterbinden, will das Unternehmen seine Regeln zur Sperrung von Accounts überarbeiten, entsprechende technische Systeme verbessern und updaten sowie den Fokus auf maschinelles Lernen legen, um seine Such-Algorithmen zu verbessern.