Sunday, June 23, 2013

Israeli killed by guard at Jewish holy site in Jerusalem

JERUSALEM (Reuters) - A security guard shot and killed a Jewish Israeli man on Friday at one of Judaism's holiest sites in Jerusalem, the Western Wall, which was immediately shut to visitors, police said.

The guard opened fire after the man, in an adjacent restroom, was heard shouting "Allahu Akbar," Arabic for "God is greatest", police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld said.

Rosenfeld said the guard opened fire with his pistol because he suspected the man was a Palestinian militant. The victim turned out to be an Israeli Jew in his 40s.

"The fact he shouted Allahu Akbar, that seems to be why the security guard drew his weapon and fired a number of shots at him," he said.

"We are looking into what (the dead man's)... motives were," Rosenfeld added.

The incident occurred as hundreds gathered for prayer in one of Jerusalem's most sensitive areas. The Western Wall is one of Judaism's holiest sites, where thousands worship each week.

The plaza where the wall is located is next to the Temple Mount, revered by Jews as the place where two biblical temples stood, and the site of Islam's third holiest mosque, al-Aqsa.

(Writing by Allyn Fisher-Ilan; Editing by John Stonestreet)


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Saturday, June 22, 2013

Jon Stewart appears on Egyptian satirical TV show

CAIRO (AP) ? Jon Stewart took the guest's seat Friday on Egypt's top satirical TV show, modeled after his own program "The Daily Show."

Stewart was brought to the set wearing a black hood and introduced by host Bassem Youssef as a captured foreign spy.

Stewart, wearing a scruffy beard, spoke briefly in Arabic as the studio audience gave him a raucous welcome.

"Please sit down, I am a simple man who does not like to be fussed over," he said in Arabic to laughter.

Youssef, host of the show "Al-Bernameg" and one of Egypt's most popular TV presenters, has been questioned by prosecutors on accusations of blasphemy and insulting the president. Stewart defended his counterpart and friend in one of his monologues after Youssef was interrogated earlier this year, and Youssef has appeared as a guest on the popular New York-based show.

Stewart, who is on a summer-long break from anchoring the Comedy Central fake newscast is in the Middle East making his first movie. He expressed admiration for Youssef in Friday's episode, which was recorded earlier this week during a visit to Cairo.

"Satire is a settled law. If your regime is not strong enough to handle a joke, then you have no regime," Stewart said, adding that Youssef "is showing that satire can be relevant."

True to form, Youssef began the weekly show with a series of jokes about Islamist President Mohammed Morsi's appearance and address at a rally last weekend hosted by his hard-line Islamist backers.

The president, Egypt's first freely elected leader, announced at the rally a complete break of diplomatic relations with the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad.

Youssef, however, criticized Morsi for remaining silent and wearing a stone face while one of the rally's organizers denounced as non-believers opposition protesters planning massive, anti-government demonstrations on June 30, the anniversary of the start of the president's term.

Stewart said he was overwhelmed with the generosity of Egyptians but took a jab at Cairo's horrendous traffic. "I flew in three days ago and I have just arrived to do the show," he joked.

Youssef ? known as Egypt's Jon Stewart ? was interrogated in April for allegedly insulting Islam and the country's leader. His questioning drew criticism from Washington and rights advocates. A trained heart surgeon, Youssef catapulted to fame when his video blogs mocking politics received hundreds of thousands of hits shortly after the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime leader Hosni Mubarak.

Unlike other local TV presenters, Youssef uses satire to mock fiery comments made by ultraconservative clerics and politicians, garnering him a legion of fans among the country's revolutionaries and liberals. He has 1.4 million fans on Facebook and nearly 850,000 followers on Twitter.

During his hiatus, Stewart will be directing and producing "Rosewater" from his own script, based on a memoir by Maziar Bahari. This Iranian journalist was falsely accused of being a spy and imprisoned by the Iranian government in 2009 while covering Iran's presidential election.


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Daycare may benefit kids of depressed mothers

By Genevra Pittman

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - Children of depressed mothers are less likely to have emotional problems if they attend daycare, a new Canadian study suggests.

Researchers have known that depressed women are more likely to have kids who also develop depression and anxiety disorders, and that those problems can extend through the teenage years.

"It's interesting to think of this as a possible type of intervention and a way of supporting mothers in general, but especially mothers who are at risk," said Catherine Herba, from the University of Quebec at Montreal.

The researchers followed close to 1,800 children born in Quebec in 1997-1998 and their mothers through the child's fifth birthday.

Women were regularly surveyed about their depression symptoms and reported on their child's emotional problems and separation anxiety, as well as the type of childcare they used.

About 19 percent of mothers had depression symptoms during the study period. And as previous research has suggested, their children were almost twice as likely to develop emotional problems and separation anxiety before age five, Herba's team wrote in JAMA Psychiatry.

However, being in childcare seemed to mitigate that effect. The association was particularly strong for group-based childcare, as opposed to care provided by a relative or babysitter.

Among children with depressed mothers, attending daycare was tied to a 79 percent reduced risk of developing emotional problems, compared to kids who stayed home with their moms.

Across the study, between nine and 31 percent of preschoolers had emotional problems depending on whether their mothers were depressed and where they received care.

How many hours a week kids spent in childcare did not seem as important as the type of care itself, the researchers found. They said the structured setting of group-based care, having care provided by a trained professional and spending time with children of a similar age may all be benefits to that type of childcare.

"Center-based care can really serve as a buffer for children of depressed mothers," said Catherine Ayoub, who has studied Early Head Start programs at Harvard Medical School in Boston.

"As those mothers are paying some attention to their own depressive symptoms, as they're struggling with depression, the children can be buffered from the effects of depression on their development," Ayoub, who wasn't involved in the new study, told Reuters Health.

Her research has suggested programs that reach out to both children and mothers themselves can be especially beneficial for families over the long run.

Ayoub, also from the Brazelton Touchpoints Center, said women should know that they can still be good mothers if they are depressed, and also that there are many ways to treat depression - so they can get better.

"Yes, you may be depressed, but you also can really move toward resilience," she said. "It's okay to find the best possible care for your child that's also a way to take care of yourself."

Herba said that doctors should be looking for new mothers who are depressed and speak to them about the potential benefits of using childcare and getting help for themselves.

"It's quite important that we give good support to these mothers and try to facilitate this as much as possible," she said.

SOURCE: JAMA Psychiatry, online June 19, 2013.


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French actor Depardieu banned for drunk driving

PARIS (Reuters) - French actor Gerard Depardieu was banned from driving for six months on Friday, after he was found to be three times over the alcohol limit when he fell from his scooter last year.

The 64-year-old star of films such as Green Card and Cyrano de Bergerac was not in the Paris court to hear its decision to suspend his driving license and fine him 4,000 euros ($5,300). Drink-driving can be punishable by up to two years' jail.

The flamboyant actor, who owns a vineyard in the Loire valley, injured his elbow but nobody else when he fell from the scooter in the capital in mid-afternoon last November.

With top roles in more than 100 movies, one of the country's best-known actors has made the headlines on many occasions for reasons other than his film career.

The scooter fall came a few months after a car driver filed a suit against Depardieu for assault and battery following an altercation in Paris.

The year before, Depardieu outraged passengers by urinating in the aisle of an Air France flight as it prepared to take off.

Depardieu criticized the left-wing government last year over high taxes and took President Vladimir Putin up on an offer of a Russian passport.

He has appeared in ketchup advertisements in Russia, which has a flat tax rate of 13 percent on income, compared with more than 40 percent in France where the government plans a supertax of 75 percent on incomes above 1 million euros.

Depardieu said his decision to take Russian nationality and plan to open a restaurant in the city of Saransk were not motivated by tax concerns. He is considering shooting a film in Chechnya, where he was seen this year embracing strongman leader Ramzan Kadyrov.

Commenting on Friday's court ruling, Depardieu's lawyer, Eric de Caumont, said: "Naturally we are disappointed to the extent that we had sought an acquittal." ($1 = 0.7590 euros)

(Reporting by Marine Pennetier; Writing by Brian Love; Editing by Robin Pomeroy)


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Administrator opens probe of spill claims lawyer

NEW ORLEANS (AP) ? For months, BP has complained that a Louisiana attorney who is administering its settlement with tens of thousands of Gulf Coast businesses and residents has made decisions that expose the company to what could be billions of dollars in fictitious claims arising from the 2010 oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Now the court-appointed administrator himself is investigating allegations that could provide the London-based oil giant with fodder for its argument that it hasn't gotten a fair shake from the claims-processing team.

Lafayette-based lawyer Patrick Juneau confirmed Friday that he has opened an internal investigation of alleged misconduct by one of his staff attorneys, Lionel H. Sutton III.

Sutton resigned Friday morning, Juneau spokesman Nick Gagliano told The Associated Press.

A report outlining the allegations, a copy of which was obtained by the AP, accuses Sutton of "writing polices" that benefited himself and other plaintiffs' lawyers. It does not elaborate.

Prepared by Juneau's office, the report also says a "confidential source" who contacted Juneau's security chief accused Sutton of trying to influence a claim filed by a New Orleans-based law firm. The same firm allegedly paid Sutton a portion of settlement proceeds for claims he had referred to it before he went to work for Juneau.

Juneau provided the report to U.S. District Judge Carl Barbier during a meeting in his chambers Thursday. The administrator has pledged to thoroughly investigate the claims involving Sutton, who started working for his office in November 2012, according to the report.

Both BP and claimants "rightfully expect fairness and objectivity from this claims process," Juneau wrote.

"Our goal is to operate in an efficient, transparent and fair manner. All allegations are taken seriously and investigated thoroughly."

But in its own statement Friday, BP said only a "comprehensive and independent investigation will ensure the integrity of the claims process."

Sutton acknowledged in an email late Thursday that he had been told he was suspended "pending an investigation of an anonymous allegation against me."

"I have not been made aware of the substance of the allegation or the status of the investigation," Sutton wrote. "Once this is resolved, I would be happy to discuss it all with you."

According to the report, Sutton denied the allegations when Juneau discussed them with him.

"Sutton advised Juneau that he did not retain any interest in the claims or clients and the allegations were 100 percent incorrect," the report says.

But the report also cites passages from a string of email exchanges in which Sutton allegedly asks about his cut of nearly $500,000 in settlement payments to an individual who had filed several seafood-related claims.

In response to a lawyer who emailed him in January 2013 and asked him about his fee, Sutton allegedly responded, "They sent you the check for my fee. The total fee on (the claimant) was 10k (+ or -). They sent you 5 for me and kept the other 5."

Jonathan Andry, a lawyer at the firm that allegedly paid Sutton, didn't immediately respond to messages left at his office and with his answering service.

BP attorney Mark Holstein, in a letter to the judge Friday, said it's possible no further investigation into the matter would have happened had the company not pushed the issue with Juneau by requesting a meeting this week.

"It is undisputed that the CSSP first became aware of the Sutton allegations at the end of May 2013, yet it appears that Mr. Sutton's emails were not locked down, searched and reviewed for almost three weeks..." he wrote, referring to the Court Supervised Settlement Program.

Juneau's office determined that "the Andry Law Group/Andry Lerner L.L.C., had 675 claimants, businesses or individuals that had at least completed a claims form and/or registration form" with the claims database, the report said.

The report indicates that Juneau's security head, David Welker, notified the FBI's New Orleans division about the lawyer's alleged misconduct. Welker until recently was the special agent in charge of the FBI office in New Orleans.

An FBI spokeswoman in New Orleans declined to comment Thursday.

Before the allegations even surfaced, BP PLC had sued to block what could be billions of dollars in settlement payouts to businesses over the spill. The company has accused Juneau of trying to rewrite the terms of the deal and asserts that he has made decisions that expose the company to fictitious losses that were never contemplated in the settlement.

Barbier, who is overseeing the massive settlement, appointed Juneau last year and has upheld his decisions for calculating payments. BP has appealed, and the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals is scheduled to hear the case in July.

It's unclear how much influence Sutton had over the process of evaluating and paying scores of claims spawned by the deadly Deepwater Horizon disaster, which killed 11 rig workers and led to the nation's offshore oil spill.

The report prepared by Juneau's office Thursday doesn't elaborate on the allegation from the confidential source that Sutton was "writing policies within the (settlement program) that ultimately may benefit his friends who are attorneys and himself."

But the revelation could strengthen BP's position as it forges ahead with a high-stakes challenge to Juneau's interpretation of the settlement terms.

"If I'm Judge Barbier, I've got to worry about this," said Howard Erichson, a Fordham University law professor specializing in complex litigation. "Any claims settlement relies on a reliable claims process. If the integrity of the claims process is challenged, the judge is going to take that very seriously."

The spill began in April 2010 after the BP-leased drilling rig Deepwater Horizon exploded off the Louisiana coast. Roughly 200 million gallons of crude oil were released from the Macondo well a mile under the Gulf surface. Marshes, fisheries and beaches from Louisiana to Florida were fouled by the oil until a cap was placed over the blown-out well in July 2010.

BP set up a compensation fund for individuals and businesses affected by the spill and committed $20 billion. The claims fund initially was handled by lawyer Kenneth Feinberg but Juneau took over the processing of claims after the settlement was reached last year.

Juneau's office announced in May that it has determined more than $3 billion in claims are eligible for payment through the settlement agreement. More than 162,000 claims were filed and more than $2 billion had been paid to claimants as of May 6.


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Box Office: Brad Pitt's 'World War Z' Earns Solid $3.6M on Thursday

By Brent Lang

LOS ANGELES ( - So much for bad buzz, because "World War Z" is not the box-office disaster that some observers had gleefully speculated it would be.

The zombie thriller grossed a solid $3.6 million in late night showings Thursday night, according to studio estimates. The Brad Pitt-led cast of thousands racked up those numbers in 2,600 screens. It expands to more than 3,600 screens on Friday and is projected to generate roughly $50 million over the weekend.

The midnight numbers fall short of those generated by blockbusters like "Man of Steel" and "Iron Man 3," but they compare favorably with "The Great Gatsby," which earned $3.25 million in its late night showings on its way to a $50 million opening.

Despite the hot start, "World War Z" is not expected to be the weekend's top film. That honor will likely go to "Monsters University." The 3D prequel to 2001's "Monsters Inc." is projected to matriculate with around $70 million. If tracking holds, that will give Pixar its 14th consecutive first place opening.

Still it's a remarkable turn around for the $190 million-budgeted "World War Z," which had been plagued with reports of cost-overruns and expensive re-shoots, including an 11th hour decision to cook up a new ending.

The global backdrop of the zombie pandemic film appeared to be paying off as well. "World War Z" grossed a total of $5.7 million internationally on Thursday from territories like Korea, Argentina and Australia.

"World War Z" finds Pitt as a United Nations bureaucrat racing around the world in the hopes of stopping a virus that's turning the population into flesh-eating members of the undead. Reviews have been decent with the film earning a respectable 68 percent "fresh" rating on the critics aggregator Rotten Tomatoes.


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The Pros And Cons Of Your Android Gaming Options - Game Informer

Amid the constant debates on mobile gaming takeover come a new wave of options for those looking to take their casual game pursuits further. After Nvidia?s announcement of the price drop of the Shield, we?ve decided to offer a roundup of the top Android based handhelds coming your way this summer and beyond.

The real challenge for any of these systems is whether or not they will be worth purchasing when all of the games can be played on phones and tablets already. But those looking for other options to play their Android favorites are in the right place.

Price: Free through this month with a $6.99 subscription per month for one year. To be priced at $129 later after initial offer has passed.
Release Date: Anticipated Winter 2013

-Offers not only Android support, but also iOS games.
-More than 500 games are included free with the monthly subscription. The games are accessed through streaming rather than through purchase and download.

-The hardware specifics have not been released yet, making it harder to convince prospective owners to preorder with no real information on what the GamePop is capable of.
-Sure, the GamePop itself looks pretty sleek, but what?s the controller like? No information has been given on it yet, but the trailer reveals you can use your Android phone or iPhone as a controller as well.

Price: $79.99
Release Date: July 9, 2013

-1 GB DDR3 RAM, 8 GB Flash memory (expandable up to 32 GB)
-Android Jelly Bean 4.2-Connect easily through a wireless dock, meaning no struggling with hard-to-reach TV HDMI ports.
-Offers the ability to stream Netflix through your television. (Then again, what doesn?t?)

-According to Ben Reeves, in his hands-on experience with the GameStick, the controller is boxy and uncomfortable to use for long periods of time. Which defeats the purpose of playing mobile games on your TV.
-You will have to re-purchase any previously purchased games specifically for the GameStick, as it does not use the Google Play store. Whether or not the low entry price point of the GameStick makes up for that is up for debate.

MOJO by Mad Catz
Price: Not yet announced
Release Date: Anticipated Winter 2013

-Details are scarce on the MOJO, but the mini console itself is portable and the controller is virtually an Xbox 360 copy from the looks of it.
-MOJO will have full Google Play store and Amazon Appstore support, meaning you won't have to re-purchase any games.?

Nvidia Shield
Price: $299
Release Date: June 27, 2013

-2 GB RAM, 16 GB Flash memory
-Super powerful Tegra 4 processor.
-Take the TV out of the equation. The Nvidia Shield includes a 5-inch, 720p screen mounted to the controller.
-Offers the ability to play PC games by accessing your compatible gaming computer when both it and the Shield are on WiFi.
-Android games are available through Google Play and Nvidia Tegrazone.?
-Initial impressions have been positive.?

-$299. Really? Still too expensive for most, even after the aforementioned price drop. And that?s $299 on top of the cost of whatever price a compatible gaming PC would be to access that feature.

Price: $99.99
Release Date: June 25, 2013

-1 GB RAM, 8 GB of Flash memory
-Ouya offers app support in addition to new games created by developers of all sizes. This means the Ouya will have more purpose than just another way to play Android titles.
-Every title is free to demo before purchase.
-The developer kit is available to every customer, meaning emulators and other innovations are a high possibility.
-Controller design looks practical and comfortable.?

-Tegra 3 is a little weak in comparison to Nvidia Shield.
-The growth of the Ouya may be weak when it comes to larger publishers due to the open nature of the hardware.?

Wikipad 7
Price: $249
Release Date: Available now.

-1 GB RAM, 16 GB memory (expandable up to 32 GB)
-Offers more value because it still functions as a tablet in addition to a gaming device.
-Loaded up with Android Jelly Bean 4.1 right out of the box.
-Quad core CPU for high-speed needs.?

-The price point is on the high end at $249. For $50 more, the Nvidia Shield offers a stronger processor and the ability to play PC titles. While it's not a bad price point for a tablet, there are plenty of other options when it comes to gaming on the go.


Will you be swayed to purchase any of these devices? Or will you be sticking with your phones and consoles? Speak your mind in the comments below.


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Attack of the Clones


Instagram CEO Kevin Systrom announced a new video function for the app on Thursday.

Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

I?ve sat through three big, super-secret, well-orchestrated Facebook press events in the last year. Or at least I think there were just three; they all kind of blend together, and there might have been one or two I didn?t attend due to previously scheduled dental work. But of the ones I remember, there was the time Facebook unveiled a new search engine. Another time, it redesigned the news feed. Oh, and then this one time, like two months ago, it launched a home screen app for Android phones. That event was in a big new auditorium at Facebook?s headquarters. I remember the housemade sushi being particularly delicious that day.

So they had another one of these things today. Small auditorium, couches, fancy coffee, ambient music?real intimate-like. (These guys are professionals.) As some had speculated, the event marked the launch of a new feature on Instagram, which Facebook purchased last year. The new feature is video. It?s neat: Now you can record video on Instagram. I wish I could say more, but that?s kind of it. When you update the app on your phone, you?ll find a Record button. To do video, hold that button down. You can capture multiple clips, but the total length of your video is capped at 15 seconds long. Why 15 seconds? Because Vine, the near-identical video app that Twitter launched in January, lets you record 6 seconds total, and Facebook wanted to do something 150 percent better.*

That?s a joke, but I worry it?s one Facebook takes seriously. In the past, I?ve praised Facebook?s talent for quickly, deftly stealing other people?s good ideas. It copied subscriptions from Twitter, automatic groups from Google Plus, check-ins from Foursquare, and created versions of Snapchat and (before purchasing it) Instagram. Nobody should be surprised that Facebook has now cloned Vine, too.

And there?s nothing wrong with this. I?ve always believed that in tech, ideas matter less than execution. Apple didn?t invent the tablet, Google didn?t invent the search engine, and Facebook didn?t invent the social network. They all just did those things better than others. And if Instagram can do short, viral videos better than Vine?because it has a bigger audience already, or because it offer slight improvements like effects filters and image stabilization?then being second shouldn?t stop it.

On the other hand: Jesus, was this a sad day for Silicon Valley. Kevin Systrom, Instagram?s co-founder, is one of the smartest tech product guys in the business. I don?t doubt he?s proud of the fine work his team has done adding video to Instagram. But the bombastic naivet? with which he and Mark Zuckerberg announced an obvious, already-invented feature upgrade this morning brought me close to weeping for the state of innovation in today?s tech industry. ?We?re just getting started,? Zuckerberg declared at kick-off, as if adding a Record button to a popular video app was the first step in creating a working cold fusion reactor. ?This changes everything!? Systrom said after showing off the image stabilizer. His delivery was so stilted there were moments when I wondered if he believed anything he was saying. Systrom?s mouth was approximating Steve Jobsian reality-distortion poetry, but his eyes, I swear, were blinking out a hostage?s coded plea: ?Get me out of here. Please.?

When Zuckerberg bought Instagram, he famously promised to let Systrom keep control of the popular app. By all accounts he?s kept his promise?the Instagram team stands apart at Facebook, aside from infinite server resources and lavish, big-company perks. Systrom?s loyalty to his team is great for Instagram?s users. But I wonder if it?s a good thing for Facebook, for innovation in the Valley, and for Systrom himself. Instagram is a rapidly growing community, but it is also a dead end for innovation. Its entire premise is to make an easy process?snapping and sharing images?even easier to do. That?s a fine goal, but at some point it will have refined that process to its essence. The fact that Instagram?s huge new feature is something that someone else has already done well suggests we?ve already reached Instagram?s cul-de-sac. Contra Zuckerberg, Instagram isn?t just getting started. Its work here is done. Now it needs to be passed off to a caretaker, not an inventor.

And Systrom ought to turn his mind to something else. No, I don?t know what. It would be nice if, rather than just come up with new interfaces to solve small, well-worn problems, more folks in the tech industry were thinking about bigger issues?ways to conserve energy, to make us healthier, to improve our political systems. I?m not trying to be a downer or calling for Systrom to do something he doesn?t want to do. But can he at least do something no one has done before?

It?s not just Systrom, and it?s not just Facebook. Instead of invention, many in tech have fallen into the comfortable groove of reinvention. At its developer conference, one of Apple?s big announcements was a music-streaming service meant to catch up with Google, whose music streaming service?announced at its developer conference?was pretty much like Pandora or Rdio or Rhapsody. Last year Apple?s big thing was a mapping app, which?at best?will one day be as good as Google?s map app. Google recently announced a version of Evernote; meanwhile, at least a half dozen startups are looking to create RSS readers. And soon, I promise you, Yahoo will hold a big event to tell us how it?s completely, thoroughly reinvented email.

Yes, some people are doing big new things. Google Glass is a novel, risky innovation. Google Fiber, too. And Elon Musk?who runs Tesla when he?s not running SpaceX?can?t help but think big. But more often, the actually new stuff feels like the exception rather than the norm. These days, the sad status quo means slapping a new icon on a mobile app and proclaiming it to be the second coming.

Correction, June 20, 2013: This article originally misstated?in a joking reference?how much better than Vine that Facebook aimed to make Instagram. By increasing video length from 6 seconds to 15 seconds, Facebook makes Instagram 150 percent better, not 250 percent better. (Return to the corrected sentence.)


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Are Jessica Alba?s Trendy Diapers Really the Poop?

Baby with diaper. Safe or unsafe diaper?

Photo by iStockphoto/Thinkstock

Super-absorbent diapers are a fantastic invention, saving parents hours upon hours of time, laundry loads, and stinky clean-ups. (Just ask your grandparents.) But they?re also the source of much controversy and angst. Baby Dry or Cruisers? Eco-friendly or regular? Pull-ups or unassembled? To make matters more complicated, now there?s Honest, a diaper and baby product company founded by actress Jessica Alba in 2012, which claims that it makes ?safer? diapers. Cue immediate feelings of parental paranoia: Wait, safer diapers? Are other diapers dangerous? To help you answer those questions, the Honest website devotes a page to describing just how scary traditional diapers really are, with questions about diaper companies like, ?What are they trying to hide?? (Answer: ?From what we gleaned, a lot.?)

Honest diapers carry a hefty price tag?a bundle of 276 of their size 1 diapers and 280 wipes costs $79.95, but $66.98 will buy you the same number of Huggies size 1 diapers, along with 448 Huggies wipes, on And tests conducted by BabyGearLab, a pediatrician-run baby gear review and comparison site, suggest that Honest diapers don?t work nearly as well as other diapers do. Yet progressive parents everywhere are going gaga over Honest. Are regular old diapers really that risky?and Honest ones so much less so?to warrant shelling out the extra cash for a leaky product?

Probably not. Research suggests that diapers, regardless of brand, are very safe. Yes, some children will be allergic to certain diaper components, which I?ll get into below, and for them, brands like Honest and Seventh Generation could be preferable. And yes, companies don?t always openly disclose ingredients on diaper boxes. But industry scientists describe many diaper ingredients (and diaper safety testing protocols) in the scientific literature. And many vocal parents and media outlets have misconstrued the small body of research on diaper ingredients to make diapers seem far more dangerous than they probably are. There?s no question that Honest diapers, as well as those made by Seventh Generation, Earth?s Best and several other ?green? companies, are better for the environment than traditional diapers because their cores aren?t bleached with chlorine (a process that pollutes and requires a lot of energy) and because they use some plant-based materials in place of petroleum-based chemicals. But if you?re buying Honest because you think those other diapers will sicken your child, you?re probably being duped. (I reached out to the Honest company several times to get their take on the matter, but despite the promise of an interview, they would not arrange one in time for my deadline, which is kind of funny given that one of the company?s eight core principles is to provide ?incredible service.?)

One of the common claims about traditional diapers is that the chlorine they use leaves traces of byproducts called dioxins behind on the diaper, which could increase your child?s risk of cancer. It?s true that dioxins are carcinogens, and it?s also true that dioxins can be found on diapers. But to put things in perspective, a 2002 study that analyzed dioxin levels in four types of diapers didn?t find the most potent known dioxin (2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin) in any of the diapers tested. The researchers did, however, find other dioxins in both the cloth and the disposable diapers, at similar levels?yet overall, the levels were 30,000 to 2.2 million times lower than the amounts infants and toddlers get from food or breast milk. (The study found dioxins in tampons, too, at higher levels than in diapers, but still at far lower levels than what we get from food.) So your baby might be exposed to dioxins from diapers, but he?ll get them from cloth diapers too?and overall, they contribute only a minuscule amount to our total daily exposure.

Another diaper concern has been over the beads of super-absorbent material that have been used in diapers since the 1980s to make them wonderfully pee-absorbent. This polymer, sodium polyacrylate, absorbs 300 times its weight in tap water via osmosis?quite a marvel of modern chemistry. Some websites claim that sodium polyacrylate can cause skin irritation, but according to the chemical?s material safety data sheet, that?s only if you?re exposed to the dust of the chemical during the manufacturing process, and the irritation is a direct result of the chemical?s drying power. Some of the fear of sodium polyacrylate arose because it was removed from tampons in the 1980s after links to toxic shock syndrome, but most experts believe that it wasn?t the chemical that was the problem?it was the fact that women were wearing tampons for days at a time, creating a moist, warm breeding ground for bacteria (eww). Note that Honest diapers contain this polymer, too.


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Friday, June 21, 2013

Protesters in Lebanon clash with police

BEIRUT (AP) ? Lebanese demonstrators have clashed with police in downtown Beirut during a protest against the extension of parliament's term earlier this month.

Last month, the 128-member parliament extended its term by a year and a half, skipping scheduled elections because of deteriorating security conditions in the country related to the war in Syria.

The demonstrators say the extension was unconstitutional and are calling for the government to hold parliamentary elections originally scheduled for June.

Police used riot batons to beat back protesters who were throwing bottles and trying to break through their lines to reach the parliament building Thursday. A small group of protesters later set up tents near parliament for an open-ended sit-in.

Sectarian clashes tied to Syria's war have broken out with increasing regularity in Lebanon.


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'World War Z': The Reviews Are In!

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Judge: NY pair in X-ray plot should stay jailed

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) ? A federal magistrate has ruled that two New York men accused of trying to build a portable X-ray weapon to sicken Muslims and enemies of Israel are a threat and should remain jailed.

U.S. Magistrate Christian Hummel on Thursday afternoon ordered 49-year-old Glendon Scott Crawford and 54-year-old Eric J. Feight held without bail until a preliminary hearing in July.

Lawyers for the men had argued they didn't pose a threat to the community, had no criminal history and should be allowed to return to their jobs. Neither man spoke at the short hearing in federal court in Albany.

The men were charged this week with conspiracy to support terrorism. Police say they wanted to build a remote-controlled machine that could secretly bombard people with enough radiation to eventually kill them.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

Radiation scientists say the portable X-ray weapon two upstate New York men are accused of trying to build to secretly sicken Muslims and enemies of Israel isn't feasible.

An indictment unsealed this week charges 49-year-old Glendon Scott Crawford and 54-year-old Eric J. Feight with conspiracy to support terrorism. Authorities allege they built a remote-control switch they planned to attach to a truck-mounted, industrial X-ray machine to secretly radiate people who would get sick or die days later.

However, radiation safety experts at the University of Rochester and University of New Mexico said victims would have to face prolonged exposure from radiation at close range.

"There is no instant death ray. ... It's not feasible. It's the stuff of comic books," said Dr. Frederic Mis, radiation safety officer at the University of Rochester Medical Center, after reading the criminal complaint describing their alleged plan. "That's going to be the interesting thing for the court to face because their designs would not have worked."

Mis said prolonged X-ray exposure does kill tissue, with skin ulcerations appearing from a week to months later. "What we worry about in radiology primarily is skin damage," he said.

For safety, they advise staff to limit entering or performing diagnostics in an X-ray area, Mis said. There are accounts of Russians fatally injecting or feeding radiation to victims, and even planting it in a chair a victim repeatedly sat in, he said, noting the possibility the designers here could have hurt themselves or accidentally someone else.

"What if they find someone sleeping on a park bench? What if they backed up the van, opened the door, and turned the device on for eight hours?" Mis said. "Even these guys might stumble upon somebody and hurt somebody."

Dr. Fred Mettler, former chairman of the Department of Radiology at the University of New Mexico, was unfamiliar with the specifics of Crawford's plans but said it's unlikely such a device could work. Radiation can be narrowly beamed, as it is in some cancer treatments, but the accelerators require huge amounts of electricity, are not easily portable and any target would have to remain still for a long time, he said.

"I don't know of any of these that you can use like a gun to aim at someone on the street," said Mettler, also U.S. representative on the United Nations' Scientific Committee on the Effects of Atomic Radiation,

Crawford and Feight face detention hearings Thursday. Prosecutors want them held until trial, saying they might flee and still pose a danger to the community. Court-appointed defense attorneys have declined to comment.

The investigation by the FBI in Albany and police agencies began in April 2012 after authorities received information that Crawford had approached local Jewish organizations to help fund a weapon to use against enemies of Israel, authorities said.

Crawford, an industrial mechanic for General Electric in Schenectady, knew Feight, an outside GE contractor with mechanical and engineering skills, through work, they said. Feight designed, built and tested the remote control, which they planned to use to operate an industrial X-ray system mounted on a truck.

Undercover investigators gave Feight $1,000 to build the control device and showed the men pictures of industrial X-ray machines they said they could obtain. They planned to provide access to an actual X-ray system to assembly with the remote control Tuesday, the day they were arrested.


Associated Press writer Rik Stevens in Albany contributed to this report.


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Thursday, June 20, 2013

Fishermen complain police rained on their parade

Fisherman are frustrated that they were denied access to Mala Wharf on Saturday morning while the Na Kamehameha Commemorative Pa'u Parade proceeded down nearby Front Street in Lahaina.

Longtime fisherman Wilson Keahi said that he and others were stopped by police from getting to the wharf - even though there was no parade or traffic on the street in front of them.

"They just won't let anyone to go in to go fishing. This is not right," Keahi said Tuesday.

He added that the officers manning the traffic posts "were very rude," and that fishermen from as far away as Haiku had to turn around and go home because all access areas to Mala Wharf were closed off for several hours.

Parade and event coordinator Daryl Fujiwara said Tuesday that he hadn't heard about the complaints until The Maui News contacted him.

He said that the road closure, which is not new to the parade, does extend further than the parade route. The parade Saturday stretched from Kenui to Shaw streets. He estimated that the road closure lasted from about 8:45 to about 11:45 a.m. or noon.

Even though the parade began at Kenui Street on the northern end of Front Street and proceeded south, horse units and others staged along Ala Moana Street next to the wharf, Fujiwara said. He added that the road was closed to ensure the safety of everyone in the area and that the closures extended farther than the parade route and the staging area so that vehicles could be safely turned away.

Off-duty police officers man the posts and have discretion on monitoring traffic in the area, Fujiwara said.

Asked if there could be any changes made so that fisherman could access the wharf during next year's parade, Fujiwara said: "Honestly, I can't say that."

Roadways around the area need to be closed for safety reasons, he said. He suggested that fishermen head down to the wharf before or after the parade time. Once people are in the wharf area, they are not chased out.

"It's just that small window we need for safety," Fujiwara said.

A reason for the fishermen's complaints could have been that the parade lasted longer than usual, Fujiwara said. But he could not explain why the parade lasted longer. There were the usual number of entries of vehicles, floats and marching groups - 54 - and spectators were around 5,000, about the same as last year, he said.

Harry Reardon, owner of Harry's Boat Yard in the Mala Wharf area, said that he was already down at the wharf when access to the area was shut off. He said he received numerous calls from boat owners, who have boats in his boatyard, saying they couldn't get down to Mala Wharf.

This was the first time boaters didn't have access during the parade, Reardon said.

Fishermen said they were told the closure would last three hours. Some said that, if they waited, it would have been too late to launch their boats.

Keahi said there were boaters from Wailuku, Haiku and even one fisherman from Oahu who wanted access to Mala Wharf. Many of the boaters had to throw away their supplies, such as ice, he said.

Keahi, an Oahu fisherman, wanted to catch nabeta (a deep water parrotfish) for his father and father-in-law for Father's Day on Sunday, Keahi said.

He added that a boy he was to take fishing was very disappointed.

"He cried all day. He couldn't go fishing. That was sad," he said.

* Melissa Tanji can be reached at


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