Castle Doctrine in the Kaarma Case

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The trial of (ironically named) Markus Kaarma has been filling up Montana news feeds since April 2014, when the incident occurred. As to be expected, certain media outlets are leading an attack on the “Castle Doctrine” regardless of the fact that Kaarma’s defense failed. It appears both he, and many critics of the law, have a poor understanding of its functionality.

Generally speaking, “stand your ground” laws state that victims of crime have no “duty to retreat” from a physical threat. You simply have the right to defend yourself, specifically inside your own home. Seems like common sense, right?

Various kinds of “Castle Doctrines” exist across the US, covering a range of behaviors. The self-defense law is most commonly applied in the South where murder rates are often many times higher than they are in Montana. Florida, for example, has tried scores of homicide cases under a “stand your ground” defense, awhile Montana has only had a few people who even attempted to claim protection under the law.

“Stand your ground” has nothing to do with plotting a murder in advance, which Kaarma appears to have been doing after spending days openly discussing his plans to kill kids who were trespassing in his garage.

Although Kaarma had planned this killing in advance (premeditated murder, not self-defense), Dede was a burglar. The unlucky thief has been sainted by Montana media, even though he was killed in the midst of committing a crime. The characters our liberal media selects for either demonization or victimhood often baffle me.

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Infant Beaten to Death on Christmas Day

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Presented without comment.

via KTVQ Billings

BILLINGS – An infant allegedly assaulted by his parents on Christmas died Saturday morning, according to the Billings Police Department.

Lt. Jeremy House said the baby died at 3:48 a.m. at Children’s Hospital in Denver.

The autopsy on the infant is being conducted this weekend in Colorado, House said.

The infant was in critical condition at St. Vincent Healthcare on Thursday and the child’s parents were taken into custody on suspicion of aggravated assault.

Brandon T. Edwards, 28, and Kayla Jean Edwards, 23, are being held at the Yellowstone County Jail without bond.

Research: Long Pepper Extract Cures Cancers

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The Windsor Star

A University of Windsor anti-cancer crusader may have discovered his most effective agent yet — a fruit that causes evil cells to commit suicide.

Dr. Siyaram Pandey, known for promising work on dandelion root extract, is thrilled with results from his initial research on long pepper fruit.

“It is very potent, which is surprising, actually,” said Pandey. “I wouldn’t be exaggerating to say it’s a little bit better than dandelion root extract.”

Pandey led a group of researchers, who published their long pepper paper in the November edition of the scholarly journal PLOS One. Pandey’s team included Pamela Ovadje, Dennis Ma, Phillip Tremblay, Alessia Roma and Matthew Steckle, as well as John Thor Arnason from the University of Ottawa.

. Dr. Siyaram Pandey, a professor at the University of Windsor conducts research on cancer-fighting agents. He displays a long pepper which has shown significant progress in killing cancer cells. (DAN JANISSE/The Windsor Star)

A compound from the long pepper fruit was first identified in the 1960s, but was then forgotten for decades until researchers at Howard University in Boston published a paper in 2011. The Bostonians screened 25,000 compounds for possible cancer-fighting properties and listed piper longum — or long pepper — at the top.

“So we asked the question, if they showed a single compound has activity from long pepper, why don’t we test the total extract from long pepper fruit?” asked Pandey. “We’re finding out that there are many more compounds present in the extract and they might be working in synergy against the cancer cells.”

The extract was produced with the help of alcohol, which was then evaporated away, leaving a powder that holds great promise. Clinical trials still need to be conducted, however, which Pandey says is the next hurdle: finding funding to go forward.

He’s proud, however, that the long pepper fruit research so far was all locally funded, thanks to donations from Seeds 4 Hope, Pajama Angels, the Knights of Columbus, and the family of Kevin Couvillion, who died in 2010 at the age of 26 after a three-year battle with myeloid leukemia.

Pandey has also attracted support in the past from the Toronto-based Jesse and Julie Rasch Foundation, which funds research into natural health products and their effectiveness in treating lymphoma.

The beauty of natural products is they aren’t as toxic as traditional cancer treatments, such as radiation or chemotherapy.

“One of the major struggles with cancer therapy is whatever we use to kill cancer cells also kills healthy cells, which is a very bad side effect,” Pandey said.

 Dr. Siyaram Pandey, a professor at the University of Windsor conducts research on cancer-fighting agents. Shown are long peppers which have shown promise in killing cancer cells. (DAN JANISSE/The Windsor Star)

The long pepper fruit extract, however, seems to do a remarkable thing: trick cancer cells into cutting off their own energy. It leads to cancer apoptosis. In other words, suicide. Best of all, healthy cells just continue on as happy as you please.

“It’s difficult to imagine that after 50 or 60 years of research we still don’t have a selective drug,” Pandey said. “So with the long pepper fruit, we are very excited. We feel the extract targets multiple things and forces the cell to commit suicide.”

 

Solar and Wind Winning On Price

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via New York Times

For the solar and wind industries in the United States, it has been a long-held dream: to produce energy at a cost equal to conventional sources like coal and natural gas.

That day appears to be dawning.

The cost of providing electricity from wind and solar power plants has plummeted over the last five years, so much so that in some markets renewable generation is now cheaper than coal or natural gas.

Utility executives say the trend has accelerated this year, with several companies signing contracts, known as power purchase agreements, for solar or wind at prices below that of natural gas, especially in the Great Plains and Southwest, where wind and sunlight are abundant.

Those prices were made possible by generous subsidies that could soon diminish or expire, but recent analyses show that even without those subsidies, alternative energies can often compete with traditional sources.

In Texas, Austin Energy signed a deal this spring for 20 years of output from a solar farm at less than 5 cents a kilowatt-hour. In September, the Grand River Dam Authority in Oklahoma announced its approval of a new agreement to buy power from a new wind farm expected to be completed next year. Grand River estimated the deal would save its customers roughly $50 million from the project.

And, also in Oklahoma, American Electric Power ended up tripling the amount of wind power it had originally sought after seeing how low the bids came in last year.

“Wind was on sale — it was a Blue Light Special,” said Jay Godfrey, managing director of renewable energy for the company. He noted that Oklahoma, unlike many states, did not require utilities to buy power from renewable sources.

“We were doing it because it made sense for our ratepayers,” he said.

According to a study by the investment banking firm Lazard, the cost of utility-scale solar energy is as low as 5.6 cents a kilowatt-hour, and wind is as low as 1.4 cents. In comparison, natural gas comes at 6.1 cents a kilowatt-hour on the low end and coal at 6.6 cents. Without subsidies, the firm’s analysis shows, solar costs about 7.2 cents a kilowatt-hour at the low end, with wind at 3.7 cents.

“It is really quite notable, when compared to where we were just five years ago, to see the decline in the cost of these technologies,” said Jonathan Mir, a managing director at Lazard, which has been comparing the economics of power generation technologies since 2008.

Mr. Mir noted there were hidden costs that needed to be taken into account for both renewable energy and fossil fuels. Solar and wind farms, for example, produce power intermittently — when the sun is shining or the wind is blowing — and that requires utilities to have power available on call from other sources that can respond to fluctuations in demand. Alternately, conventional power sources produce pollution, like carbon emissions, which face increasing restrictions and costs.

Asian Restaurants Replacing Waiters With Robots

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From Channel News Asia

Restaurant-goers in Singapore can expect to be served by autonomous flying robots – the world’s first commercial attempt – by the end of next year.

Infinium-Serve, the autonomous flying robotic waiters, will be first launched at one of Timbre Group’s five outlets in Singapore. Infinium Robotics CEO Woon Junyang estimated the project to cost a “low seven-figure sum” for the five outlets, subject to final negotiations and certain variables of the actual deployment of the robots.

Infinium Robotics signed a Memorandum of Understanding with Timbre Group on Oct 31. Both companies are seeking productivity-related government grants to help offset deployment costs.

Mr Woon said he is confident that such robotic solutions will help alleviate the Singapore’s labour crunch. Introducing this technology into restaurants would take away mundane tasks of serving food and drinks, and allow human waiters to focus on higher-value tasks such as getting feedback from customers, he said.

“This will result in an enhanced dining experience which will eventually lead to increased sales and revenue for the restaurants,” he added.

 

Saudis Fight US Oil Boom With Low Prices

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(Reuters) – Saudi Arabia’s oil minister told fellow OPEC members they must combat the U.S. shale oil boom, arguing against cutting crude output in order to depress prices and undermine the profitability of North American producers.

Ali al-Naimi won the argument at Thursday’s meeting, against the wishes of ministers from OPEC’s poorer members such as Venezuela, Iran and Algeria which had wanted to cut production to reverse a rapid fall in oil prices.

They were not prepared to offer big cuts themselves, and, choosing not to clash with the Saudis and their rich Gulf allies, ultimately yielded to Naimi’s pressure.

“Naimi spoke about market share rivalry with the United States. And those who wanted a cut understood that there was no option to achieve it because the Saudis want a market share battle,” said a source who was briefed by a non-Gulf OPEC minister after Thursday’s meeting.

Oil hit a fresh four-year low below $72 per barrel on Friday [O/R]. A boom in shale oil production and weaker growth in China and Europe have sent prices down by over a third since June.

“You think we were convinced? What else could we do?” said an OPEC delegate from a country that had argued for a cut.

Secretary General Abdullah al-Badri effectively confirmed OPEC was entering a battle for market share.

Asked on Thursday if the organization had a answer to rising U.S. production, he said: “We answered. We keep the same production. There is an answer here”.

OPEC agreed to maintain — a “rollover” in OPEC jargon — its ceiling of 30 million barrels per day, at least 1 million above its own estimate of demand for its oil in the first half of next year.

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Analysts said the decision not to cut output in the face of drastically falling prices was a strategic shift for OPEC.

“It is a brave new world. OPEC is clearly drawing a line in the sand at 30 million bpd. Time will tell who will be left standing,” said Yasser Elguindi of Medley Global Advisors.

The OPEC delegate from one of the countries that wanted a cut, said: “OPEC has lost credibility,” and added: “I don’t know how practical it is to try to kick shale out of the market.”

Several OPEC ministers who wanted a cut left the meeting room visibly frustrated and kept silent for several hours although when they spoke later they said they accepted the decision.

“We are together,” said Venezuelan Foreign Minister Rafael Ramirez when asked whether there was a price war within OPEC.

“OPEC is always fighting with the United States because the United States has declared it is always against OPEC… Shale oil is a disaster as a method of production, the fracking. But also it is too expensive. And there we are going to see what will happen with production,” he said.

A Gulf delegate said Naimi had reassured members that the oil price would recover as demand will ultimately pick up. But he insisted that if OPEC cut output it would lose market share.

“Reaching a final decision took a lot of time convincing the others,” said another delegate.

Several analysts and oil executives have suggested it would take many months to have an impact on U.S. oil production.

Even some Gulf delegates said they were not convinced Naimi’s gamble would work. One said: “If they are really after U.S. shale, how much would this rollover slow them (U.S. producers) down?”

Reuters

 

California Drought Threatens Western States

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via Billings Gazette

The worst drought in California’s history is a forewarning of problems for the entire West, including Montana and Wyoming.

“There’s every chance this phenomenon will increase in frequency and severity,” said Leon Szeptycki, executive director of Water in the West, a program of the Stanford Woods Institute for the Environment in California.

Water in the West is collaborating with other researchers to find ways to help the region deal with what is predicted will be an all-too-scarce resource in the future: water.

It’s already a pressing issue in the Eureka state, which has suffered through an epic drought this year that has dealt a significant blow to the state’s agricultural economy, dried up fisheries and caused political unrest as water managers have had to make difficult choices about how to allocate a scarce resource.

“I think there’s a huge amount of potential to solve the West’s water problems,” Szeptycki said. “For the big-picture stuff, the feds will have to take the lead, and they can help on the local level too, especially with data from the U.S. Geological Survey.”

In the past, storing spring runoff from mountain snowmelt in reservoirs seemed like the answer. Across the West, dams cropped up after the 1930s Dust Bowl.

In Montana, there are 3,500 inventoried dams and possibly as many as 10,000 stock ponds. Wyoming has more than 30,000 dams, and Gov. Matt Mead is eyeing the construction of more.

According to Szeptycki, though, California’s research has shown that construction of more reservoirs would only increase water storage by 1 percent, largely because there’s no water flowing from the once heavily snowed-in Sierra-Nevada Mountains. And with more precipitation falling as rain, instead of snow, the issue is further complicated.

Initially, dams were built to supply farmers with irrigation and stock water, but as the West’s population has grown, farmers in California are finding they are in competition with cities to purchase water on the open market for prices that have hit $1,000 to $2,000 an acre foot.

It’s estimated that 85 percent of the water used in California is for agriculture, despite the state’s large urban population. So water-saving measures by cities and citizens can only cut a small percentage of the overall water usage. But reducing water to agriculture means a huge hit the state that produces more than 60 percent of all U.S. fruit and tree nuts and 51 percent of vegetables, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

California farmers desperate for more water decided to drill wells, but now the aquifer is drying up, dropping by 100 feet in some places. Draining the groundwater has caused subsidence in some areas and even dried up some above-ground marshes and streams.

“We don’t have good data about water in the West,” Szeptycki said, “how much they’re irrigating and how much is available under different circumstances. So, California has been struggling to catch up with this lack of data.”

Other states, he noted, are probably just as ignorant and would be playing catch-up if hit with such a drought. Better to start building that baseline data now, Szeptycki said, since the long-term climate predictions for the West aren’t encouraging. History shows examples that over the last 1,000 years the West has suffered droughts that were much longer than anything that Euro-Americans have witnessed. Archaeologists speculate that drought led to the decline of once-great civilizations like the Anasazi of the Southwest.

“There’s every indication that this is the beginning of the problem,” Szeptycki said.

Recent research points to a 20 to 50 percent chance of drought lasting 35 years in the Southwest, with an 80 to 90 percent chance of a 10-year drought.