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The Six Best Moments of the GOP Debate

Mother Jones - February 6, 2016 - 10:17pm

With a few days to go before the New Hampshire primary, the seven top Republican contenders—Carly Fiorina and Jim Gilmore didn't make the cut— met for a debate at St. Anselm College. Donald Trump,who skipped the last debate because Fox wouldn't remove moderator Megyn Kelly from the lineup, seemed more subdued than in past performances, though he received a loud round of boos when he tried to silence Jeb Bush during an exchange over eminent domain. (More on that below.) Tonight was all about the revenge of the governors—particularly Chris Christie and Jeb Bush, who put in some of their strongest appearances. Things didn't go so well, however, for Sens. Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz, who received a drubbing from their opponents. Here's a recap of the debate's best moments.

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Hillary Clinton’s Secret Weapon Is Bernie Sanders’ Colleagues

Mother Jones - February 6, 2016 - 9:35pm

Sen Al Franken (D-Minn.) opened for Hillary Clinton Saturday night in Portsmouth with one very important message: she's good enough, she's smart enough, and doggone it, she's a Paul Wellstone progressive.

Clinton's final pitch to New Hampshire voters is as much about the people she surrounds herself with as it is the former secretary of state herself. On Friday, four woman senators were there to co-opt Bernie Sanders by arguing that the "revolution" America needs is electing the first woman. Stefany Shaheen, daughter of the New Hampshire senator, warmed up the crowd in Portsmouth by name-dropping celebrity backers Lena Dunham, Gloria Steinem, Abby Wambach—proof she's not only experienced, but maybe cool. Franken was there to follow-up on a subject of intense debate over the last week—what it means to be a progressive.

"Let my clarify something: why they let a guy up here," Franken began, flanked by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen, Gov. Maggie Hassan, and the former secretary of state. He didn't waste any time invoking the legacy of the late Minnesota senator, a progressive icon who died in a plane crash in 2002 shortly before the midterm elections:

I'm Al Franken, I'm a Senator from Minnesota, and I hold the seat that Paul Wellstone once held. And I can point to someone on this stage whom I wouldn't be senator from Minnesota [without], and that is Hillary Clinton. My first election was kind of close. I won by 312 votes. Hillary Clinton came twice for me, once in October and then I got a call from her the Sunday before the election, she said "I'm coming out." And we did a big rally in Duluth and got more than 312 votes at that rally, I gotta tell you. I'm a Paul Wellstone progressive. And let me tell you what that means: Paul said, "We all do better when we all do better." Now if I knew what a haiku was, I'd say that was a haiku. But evidently I'm told it isn't. But Paul knew that we all do better when we all do better.

He launched into a personal story of growing up middle-class in Minnesota. And then he returned again to why they let the guy up there.

"Sen. Shaheen, my colleague, and I, like the only other [Senate] Democrats who have endorsed in this race, have endorsed Hillary Clinton for a reason," he said. "Because this is serious stuff. This is serious stuff. This is Sherrod Brown. This is Cory Booker. This is Tammy Baldwin. We are progressives. And we know what it takes to get things done."

None of these endorsers will shift many votes on their own (notwithstanding Franken's claims of Clinton in Duluth), but it's a death by a thousand cuts strategy. And with Sanders boasting just two members of Congress on his side, Clinton is all too happy to tell voters that the candidates they've worked so hard to get elected in the past—the Baldwins and Frankens of the world—are with her.

North Korea Launched Its Rocket And Japan Didn't Shoot It Down

VICE News - February 6, 2016 - 8:10pm

As recently promised, North Korea launched a long-range rocket on Sunday carrying what it has said is a satellite. The move, which was condemned in advance by North Korea's allies and perceived enemies alike, is in defiance of United Nations sanctions barring it from using ballistic missile technology.

North Korea initially gave a February 8-25 time frame for the launch, but changed that to February 7-14 on Saturday. The move comes ahead of celebrations on February 14 and 16 that honor the late ruler Kim Jong-il, father of current leader Kim Jong-un.

The rocket was launched on a southward trajectory, as planned, passing over Japan's southern Okinawa islands. Japan had said it would shoot down parts of the rocket that entered its airspace, but that did not happen, public broadcaster NHK said. The rocket's first stage booster successfully separated, South Korea's Yonhap reported.

Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe called the launch "absolutely unacceptable," while China's official Xinhua news agency said the move will worsen tensions on the Korean peninsula.

Last month, North Korea tested a nuclear device for the fourth time, although the US and other governments have expressed doubt over the North's claim that it successfully detonated a hydrogen bomb.

North Korea is believed to be working on miniaturizing a nuclear warhead to mount on a missile. It has shown off two versions of a ballistic missile resembling a type that could reach the US West Coast, but there is no evidence the missiles have been tested.

The Kim regime says it has the sovereign right to pursue a space program, but it is barred under UN Security Council resolutions from using ballistic missile technology.

It last launched a long-range rocket in December 2012, sending into orbit an object it described as a communications satellite.

US National Security Advisor Susan E. Rice issued a statement calling the test a "destabilizing and provocative action" that will "undermine peace and security in the broader region."

"We condemn today's launch and North Korea's determination to prioritize its missile and nuclear weapons programs over the well-being of its people," Rice said. ? "The United States is fully committed to the security of our allies in the region, and we will take all necessary steps to defend ourselves and our allies and respond to North Korean provocations. We call upon the international community to stand together and demonstrate to North Korea that its reckless actions must have serious consequences."

Follow VICE News on Twitter: @vicenews

Watch the Most Awkward Debate Kickoff Ever

Mother Jones - February 6, 2016 - 8:03pm

The beginning of the Republican primary debate in New Hampshire Thursday night may go down as the most awkward in memory.

It all started when Ben Carson failed to walk onstage when his name was called, causing a bottleneck in the wings that the other candidates had to walk around. Then Donald Trump apparently didn't hear his name and stood by Carson while other candidates walked by the two of them. On top of it all, the ABC News moderators forgot about John Kasich, leaving an empty podium on stage and one Ohio governor hovering off to the side.

Just watch this video, because a debate kickoff this awkward doesn't happen often.

Someone in New Hampshire Is Leaving These Anti-Immigration Fliers on Cars

Mother Jones - February 6, 2016 - 7:50pm

At some point during Hillary Clinton's rally in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, on Saturday night, I got a note on my car. Thankfully it was not a parking ticket—closer inspection revealed that it was single-page double-sided leaflet hitting both Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders for their position on immigration. It accuses Sanders of choosing "to value current and future Hispanic votes over progressive principles" by supporting a path to citizenship for undocumented immigrants. And it asks Clinton, "Should the President of the United States primarily represent the interests of American families or the interests of families of other countries who have entered the United States illegally?"

Fliers on windshields is standard practice in the final days before a big vote, through official or unofficial channels—or from random freelancers. This one had no name on it. Is it yours? Let us know:


Here Is Today's French Fiscal Horsepower History Lesson

Mother Jones - February 6, 2016 - 7:35pm

No one is going to care about this post. Too bad. I feel like writing, and on a weekend you take what you can get.

Anyway, I was musing the other day about the fact that I've always owned foreign cars. Partly this is just chance, partly the fact that I live in California, and, I suppose, partly because my parents always owned foreign cars. The first one was purchased around the time of my birth, and we kids called it the bye-bye, for reasons I presumably don't have to explain. It was, as it happens, a Renault. But which Renault?

I did a bit of lazy googling last night, but nothing looked quite right. Then this morning, I noticed one of those Fiat 500s that J-Lo hawks on TV, and thought that it looked a little like the old Renault. Except I was sure the Renault had vents in the rear.

But wait. Rear vents means a rear engine. So I googled that, and instantly got a million hits for the 4CV, which was clearly the old bye-bye. My mother confirmed this telephonically a bit later. And that got me curious. Citroën, of course, produced the iconic 2CV, which first came off the assembly line at about the same time. What's with that? What's the appeal of __CV to postwar French auto manufacturers?

The answer turned out to be pretty funky. CV stands for chevaux vapeur, or horsepower. But the 4CV is not a 4-horsepower car. CV, it turns out, is used to mean tax horsepower. After World War II, France (along with other European countries) wanted to encourage people to buy low-power cars, so they put a tax on horsepower. But just taxing horsepower would have been too simple. Instead, they used a formula that took into account the number of cylinders, the piston bore, and the stroke. Here's the formula for the 4CV:

These numbers were undoubtedly carefully engineered to produce the highest result that would round down to 4. In fact, the 4CV had a whopping 17 horsepower, and could get to 60 mph in just under 40 seconds. Ours had a few wee problems chugging along at 6,000 feet in Flagstaff on the way to Denver in 1960, but what can you expect for 17 horsepower?

So that's your history lesson for the day. Apparently the French tax the horsepower of cars to this day, though the formula has changed over time. According to Wikipedia, "Since 1998 the taxable power is calculated from the sum of a CO2 emission figure (over 45), and the maximum power output of the engine in kilowatts (over 40) to the power of 1.6." The power of 1.6? I guess they still love a little pointless complexity in France.

Hillary Clinton Says the Best Way to Rein in Lobbyists Is to Shame Them

Mother Jones - February 6, 2016 - 6:43pm

Asked at a town hall meeting at New Hampshire's Henniker College how to handle the increasing role of moneyed interests in Washington, Hillary Clinton told supporters that lobbyists should be exposed and publicly called out.

"Maybe use social media? Maybe make a concerted effort to really call these people out all the time, get some social pressure on them, get people to know their names," Clinton suggested, pointing, with obvious relish, to how the New York Daily News has taken to calling the National Rifle Association president Wayne LaPierre "Jihadi Wayne" for his refusal to support blocking individuals on the "no fly list" from getting gun permits.

"We've got to try new tactics, we've got to go after them and we have got to have tougher laws," Clinton said.

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Chris Christie Says It Took a Natural Disaster for Him to See He Could be President

Mother Jones - February 6, 2016 - 3:27pm

In a Bedford, New Hampshire, warehouse filled with several hundred supporters, Chris Christie on Saturday morning said that four years ago he was asked to run for president—begged to run for president—by associates, politicos, and funders. But, he recounted, he resisted these calls. Why? "I knew, in my heart, I was not ready to run for president," Christie told the crowd. But the Christie boosters back then persisted. Don't worry if you don't have the experience yet, he said they told him, just get into the White House and then figure out what to do. But Christie said to his supporters that was not his way: "The politically popular thing to do when you see an opening is to run for it." But he hung tough and told all these acolytes that he did not yet have the chops to be commander in chief. Then came his big break: Superstorm Sandy.

In a speech mainly focused on dismissing his rivals as untested and not prepared to be president—he called Trump an "entertainer-in-chief" and mocked one-term senators, such as Marco Rubio, for knowing how to haggle over amendments but not how to manage real-life crises—Christie repeatedly proclaimed that he was a true leader and that he knew he could handle whatever the world throws his way. That's why he would be a great commander in chief. And the reason he realized this now—after his moment of doubt four years ago—is that, as governor, he guided New Jersey through that awful storm.

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As North Korea Prepares To Launch A Rocket, Everyone Else Prepares To Freak Out About It

VICE News - February 6, 2016 - 3:10pm

North Korea has announced that it intends to launch a observation satellite into orbit sometime in the next week, exercising what it declares to be its national right to pursue a space program. Pyongyang told two United Nations agencies this week of its plans to launch the Kwangmyongsong ("Bright Star") satellite, which it says will have a four-year lifespan.

The country initially said the launch would occur sometime between February 8 and February 25, a window that coincided with the country's upcoming celebrations to honor the late ruler Kim Jong-il's birthday on February 16. On Saturday, however, the range was changed to February 7-14, reportedly because the rocket is ready and weather conditions are favorable. February 14 is also "Generalissimo Day" in North Korea, a public holiday that celebrates Kim Jong-il.

An analysis of satellite images by experts at the Johns Hopkins-affiliated site 38 North indicates that final preparations are already underway at the launch site. South Korea, Japan, and the United States have rushed to condemn the impending launch.

Even though Kim Jong-un's regime maintains that its rockets are part of a peaceful scientific endeavor, North Korea's neighbors and adversaries believe the opposite. North Korea's efforts at a space program are viewed internationally as a cover for the development and testing of intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs. Under UN resolution 1718, passed in 2006, North Korea is banned not just from pursuing a nuclear program, but from conducting such launches because of the potential dual-use application.

Defiant of this ban, Pyongyang successfully put a satellite into orbit in 2012, after a few previous failed attempts. According to South Korean intelligence officials, the 2012 launch was actually a test of a missile that could hit targets on the West Coast of the United States. And though analysts say that North Korea still has a ways to go to before it can operationally deploy an ICBM, the new announcement of a proposed satellite launch is still a major incident in the making.

North Korea is known for both self-glorification and subterfuge, so separating fact from fiction in its behavior and declarations is something of a challenge. Pyongyang's assertions about launches, tests, and missiles always have to be taken with skepticism, like the recent claim that it tested a hydrogen bomb. Last May, the regime said it successfully tested its first submarine-launched missile, which the government floridly declared to be a "world-level strategic weapon capable of striking and wiping out in any waters the hostile forces infringing upon sovereignty and dignity." Experts later concluded that photographs of the event released by the regime were doctored.

Watch the VICE News documentary Launching Balloons into North Korea: Propaganda Over Pyongyang:

Both the Japanese and South Korean defense ministries have announced the deployment of missile defense systems, promising to shoot out of the sky any missile pieces that enter their airspace.

"If North Korea goes ahead and launches the rocket, it would clearly violate UN Security Council resolutions and pose a serious provocation," Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe said in parliament after the news broke. "The reality is that it is a launch of a ballistic missile."

South Korea went a step further, promising unspecified but harsh consequences. "We warn that if North Korea proceeds with a long-range missile launch," stated South Korean presidential official Cho Tae-Yang, "the international society will ensure that the North pays searing consequences for it."

The US was quick to pour cold water on the Kim regime's exultant assertions that it tested a hydrogen bomb in January, its fourth nuclear test and the first since 2013, but has been campaigning for a sanctions package to punish the flagrant violation of UN resolutions. This follow-up provocation renews the effort.

Even China, North Korea's largest trading partner, voiced concern, positioning itself against any moves that might bring instability to the Korean peninsula. On Wednesday, Chinese spokesman Lu Kang urged Pyongyang not to do anything that would increase tensions with South Korea, but managed to place a bit of blame at Washington's feet. Lu argued that the launch and recent nuclear testing were the consequence of "constant outcry for pressure and sanctions."

Lu also condemned the "pursuit of selfish gains," though it was not clear if he meant the US, North Korea, or both.

Though Lu characterized North Korea's behavior as a slap in the face for the US, the North Korean announcement is also seen as an indignity for China. The impending launch was announced while Beijing's special representative for Korean-peninsular affairs was visiting Pyongyang. The launch window also coincides with China's Spring Festival to mark the Lunar New Year. North Korea has done this a few times before, sparking an international crisis during its ally's celebrations, a habit that appears to show a growing disrespect for Beijing.

Russia also spoke out against Pyongyang's plans and requested that the rocket launch be cancelled. North Korea is one of the few current areas of general agreement between the White House and the Kremlin.

This cascade of reaction is the latest act in a cyclical series of provocations and backlashes that have characterized North Korean relations with the rest of the world over the last decade. South Korea, Japan, the United States, and even China are all eyeing Pyongyang's effort toward nuclear and ballistic missile capabilities with worry — and so far, the one thing North Korea has succeeded in doing is pushing the buttons of its neighbors and regional powers, amid increasing tensions on the Korean peninsula.

Follow Torie Rose DeGhett on Twitter: @trdeghett

Jeb Bush on Trump: "He Needs Therapy"

Mother Jones - February 6, 2016 - 3:05pm

"A steady hand." Jeb Bush has used that phrase repeatedly throughout the campaign, as he attempts to convince voters that he's the tried and tested choice for president—the anti-Donald Trump. Bush made that case again today, ahead of Saturday's Republican debate, at a crowded town hall meeting in Bedford, New Hampshire. Dressed casually in a black fleece and seeming at ease as he heads toward a primary that could either finish off his sputtering campaign or give it the momentum to fight on, Bush waxed wonkishly on everything from corporate inversions to student debt to mental health policy. But he also sharpened his attacks on Trump and Ted Cruz, the GOP front-runners who, he argues, can't be trusted to steer the ship of state.

"I'm not a psychiatrist or a psychologist, but the guy needs therapy," Bush said of Trump. And he derided Cruz for talking "about carpet bombing as though that is a policy."

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In Photos: Thousands Of Medical Workers Protest Pay Cuts And Longer Hours In London

VICE News - February 6, 2016 - 2:25pm

Thousands of the UK's junior doctors — medical practitioners who work during their postgraduate training — took to the streets in London on Saturday to protest against new contracts that they say will push them past the breaking point.

Celebrities, including, fashion designer Vivienne Westwood and actress Vanessa Redgrave, were joined by nurses, cancer survivors, and a medical negligence lawyer at the protest. Healthcare workers say proposed pay cuts and longer hours will result in junior doctors making more mistakes while they care for patients.

The march began with a rally in Waterloo Place in St. James, before participants walked to Downing Street and delivered a scroll with hundreds of signatures to the Prime Minister David Cameron's residence. The demonstrators carried colored placards for those who couldn't be in attendance, with blue representing doctors who were working, and red symbolizing those who had emigrated in search of better conditions.

"Never before in my medical career have I been aware of such unity among doctors, nurses, and every other healthcare professional in this country," Laura Gavaghan said from the stage. "We are not just doctors fighting for doctors, we are doctors who are patients. We are doctors who have families that use the NHS. We will give birth, we will die, we will all need somebody."

Demonstrators included people from all across the healthcare industry, many of whom had brought their children. (Photo by Sally Hayden/VICE News)

When Redgrave took the stage, she said doctors and nurses at West London's Hammersmith Hospital saved her life last April. "Don't give in because you'll win," she said.

Westwood, the 74-year-old fashion star, designed a t-shirt for the campaign, which Redgrave and many other demonstrators were wearing.

"You do have the support of public opinion," she told the crowd. "We need more doctors, not less doctors. Doctors who get enough sleep so they can give their best care to patients." 

Vivienne Westwood talks to junior doctors before making a speech from the stage. (Photo by Sally Hayden/VICE News)

Another speaker said the British government was trying to turn the National Health Service (NHS) into a private, American-style system, something that would have repercussions for decades and cause people to be denied access to care.

The NHS choir was also in attendance, singing the song that was a Christmas hit last year.

An oncologist and member of the choir who gave her name as G Anandappa told VICE News that morale among doctors is low at the moment.

"It's being enforced on us," said Anandappa, who works at London Royal Marsden, a hospital that specializes in cancer treatment. "We're working really hard, working beyond our scheduled times anyway, going in at weekends, really trying to keep things running, and if they ask us to do extra work on top of that I think that would break us."

Laura Gavaghan speaking on stage at Waterloo Place, before the march to Downing Street. (Photo by Sally Hayden/VICE News)

She said doctors feel like they've been left out of the decision-making process, though she added that there's still ample opportunity to speak to them about the changes. "We're part of the solution and somehow we've been made the problem," Anandappa said.

Charline Roslee, a 37-year-old junior doctor from Basingstoke, said she had already worked 70 hours this week. She asked: "Is it fair to be providing acute lifesaving care to patients when we're tired?"

Roslee said many young physicians in her field of orthopedics have emigrated because of the conditions under which they are expected to work. "My juniors me they're leaving, and I can't blame them," she said.

Actress Vanessa Redgrave showing her support for the junior doctors. (Photo by Sally Hayden/VICE News)

Roslee explained that she became a doctor because she realized the importance of healthcare workers while she was sick as a child. Financially, though, she says she may be forced to leave the UK, and that her life outside work has suffered from the strains of her workplace. "My family think I'm mad for keeping going," she said.

A lot of the ire was directed at British Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt, with the marchers chanting "Hunt must go," and "Trust us, not Hunt."

The protest Saturday was the third of its kind, and a 24-hour walkout is still planned for this Wednesday, when only emergency treatment will be provided in hospitals across the UK.

The march followed a route from Waterloo Place to British Prime Minister David Cameron's residence at Downing Street. (Photo by Sally Hayden/VICE News)

Thousands of healthcare professionals joined the march — the third time junior doctors have taken to the streets. (Photo by Sally Hayden/VICE News)

Protesters wore surgical masks — thousands were brought for the occasion. (Photo by Sally Hayden/VICE News)

The demonstration ended with three minutes of silence outside Downing Street. (Photo by Sally Hayden/VICE News)

Hundreds sat on the road outside Downing Street, central London, while wearing surgical masks. (Photo by Sally Hayden/VICE News)

Follow Sally Hayden on Twitter: @sallyhayd

Presidential Candidates Are Putting A National Spotlight On New Hampshire's Heroin Problem

VICE News - February 6, 2016 - 1:20pm

If you walk past Serenity Place in downtown Manchester, New Hampshire, it might not be obvious that the dingy building is on the front lines in the state's battle against addiction. But inside, you'll find the largest substance treatment facility in the city, with about 30 beds for both men and women undergoing various detox and recovery programs. Those beds are "always full," says Stephanie Bergeron, Serenity Place's director of development.

Manchester is the epicenter of the so-called "heroin epidemic" that has swept across New Hampshire and much of the Northeast in recent years. There were about 400 deaths in New Hampshire last year from opioid-related overdoses, up from 193 just two years before. In Manchester alone, 69 people died from overdoses last year, and there have been 17 overdoses in the city since last Friday, four of which were fatal, according to the chief of police Nick Willard.

As New Hampshire gears up to hold the nation's first primary vote on Tuesday, the state's drug crisis is being thrust into the national spotlight. Nearly all of the presidential candidates have brought up the subject — specifically heroin addiction — during the frenzied campaigning in the state over the past year.

Carly Fiorina has been one of the earliest and most vocal candidates to speak on the subject. On Friday, she was involved in a roundtable discussion at the HOPE for New Hampshire Recovery, a rehab center in Manchester located just a few blocks down the street from Serenity Place.

"We need to start recognizing addiction as a disease," Fiorina told a room of about two dozen New Hampshire residents, including several recovering addicts. "We have to cover it, we have to treat it."

She went on to discuss how her daughter struggled with alcohol and prescription opioid abuse before her death from an overdose, emphasizing how that experience made the issue deeply personal. Heads emphatically nodded across the room in agreement throughout her speech.

People affected by substance abuse are a sizable constituency in New Hampshire, and candidates have taken note.

"There's 23 million people in recovery across the country," said a recovering addict at Fiorina's event who gave his name as Brian. He was apparently referencing survey data released in 2012 that showed 10 percent of Americans 18 and older consider themselves to be in recovery from drug or alcohol abuse problems.

"And they're all voting," Brian added. "They're voting on whoever talks about this issue and relates to this issue the best."

His message came through loud and clear at the recovery center, where the walls were plastered with signs that read "Recovery Voices Count," and "We Recover And We Vote."

The number of people admitted to state-funded treatment programs has increased by 90 percent for heroin addiction in the last 10 years and 500 percent for prescription opioids, according to the New Hampshire Department of Health and Human Services. New Hampshire has one of the highest rates of substance use by young people in the country, and ranks second-to-last among all US states in terms of access to substance abuse treatment.

Watch the VICE News documentary Cold Turkey: New Hampshire's Prison Detox:

Drug abuse ranked as the single most important issue to New Hampshire voters in the 2016 presidential election, according to an October 2015 survey by the University of New Hampshire. Terry Cote, a Manchester resident who came to see Fiorina at HOPE for New Hampshire Recovery, said the issue is "so huge" in the community that it's the focus of many primary voters.

"We're just losing too many people," Cote said. "We're losing the next generation right now and it's scary." Cote said she planned to support Fiorina after hearing her speak on the issue.

Fiorina, however, is hardly the only candidate to speak openly about a personal connection to addiction. Jeb Bush has frequently discussed his own daughter's struggle with addiction and the felony charge she faced for illegally possessing prescription pills. While making an emotional plea for drug reform here last October, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie recalled his mother's smoking addiction and memory of a friend who became addicted to the prescription painkiller Percocet.

"It would be cruel for a politician to know that a state has a problem and come here and not even try to do anything about it," says Kate Recupero, a student at Manchester Community College who also came to see Fiorina speak. She described losing two family members to substance abuse, and said she will vote for a candidate that will push for treatment and recovery over criminal punishment for addicts.

At Serenity Place, Bergeron said the fact that candidates from both parties are discussing substance abuse and addiction is a notable change from previous election cycles.

"The way is being addressed now, compared to four years ago, is light years apart," said Bergeron. Not only are candidates talking openly about addiction, she added, they are describing it as a medical issue instead of a criminal one.

Both the Republican and Democratic candidates have called for solutions to New Hampshire's drug crisis. Hillary Clinton proposed a $10 billion plan to combat drug addiction by increasing federal funding for local drug treatment programs "so we can end the era of mass incarceration," she wrote in an op-ed in September.

Christie has called the drug war a "failure," and has been an outspoken advocate for reform. Fiorina also called for criminal justice reform on Friday, though she did not elaborate on what specific changes she would support.

'We're just losing too many people. We're losing the next generation right now and it's scary.'

New Hampshire might have become the face of the heroin epidemic in this current election, but surging drug addiction has hardly been limited to the Granite State. The national rate of heroin-related deaths nearly quadrupled between 2002 and 2013, according to the Centers for Disease Control. In 2014, more than 47,000 people died from heroin and opiod drug overdoses, an all-time record. Drug overdoses now kill more people in the US than car accidents or HIV/AIDS during the height of the crisis in the 1980s.

Much of the current rise in heroin use has been attributed to the increase in prescriptions for painkillers like OxyContin. As the pills became more expensive and harder to obtain, many moved over to heroin as a cheaper alternative, explained Bergeron. Serenity Place's female inpatient program currently has 16 beds, 14 of which are occupied by recovering heroin addicts, she said.

Though a number of candidates have vowed to take a progressive approach to fighting drug addiction, many New Hampshire residents have lived through enough election cycles to be wary of what politicians say in their stump speeches during primary season.

"Heroin has become a hot topic," said Dominic Donahue, the clinical director at Serenity Place. He has 25 years of experience in the field of addiction and recovery, and said that after the primary is over, he expects the attention to "dwindle in the media, yet we'll still be here dealing with it."

Heroin has been around for decades, but what makes this current epidemic so shocking, Donahue and Bergeron say, is that it is now affecting communities that are white, suburban, and relatively wealthy.

Ultimately, New Hampshire voters will have to wait until after a new president is elected in November to see if the big talk on addiction by the candidates translates to meaningful action.

"We're happy that they're listening to the citizens of New Hampshire and that this conversation is happening," Bergeron said "But we're fearful that once they leave on the 10th, are we going to be left in the dust?"

Follow Olivia Becker on Twitter: @obecker928

Man Stoned To Death By Angry Protesters As Haiti's Political Crisis Intensifies

VICE News - February 6, 2016 - 12:06pm

Haitian President Michel Martelly is expected to leave office on Sunday, and with no candidate ready to take his place, the political uncertainty has pushed the Caribbean nation to the brink of chaos. 

Angry demonstrators have been clashing with security forces in Port-au-Prince, and a gang of protesters in the capital reportedly stoned a man to death on Friday. Witnesses say that the mob targeted the man because he was wearing military-style clothing, and they thought he was a member of one of the vilified paramilitary groups that operated under Haitian dictators Franois "Papa Doc" Duvalier and his son Jean-Claude "Baby Doc" Duvalier in past decades.

A runoff election to determine a successor for Martelly was indefinitely postponed in December after irregularities in the first round of voting sparked accusations of an "electoral coup." Martelly's favorite candidate, a banana exporter named Jovenel Moise, swept a third of the vote, while his political rival Jude Celestin won just a quarter. Celestin denounced the early results as a "ridiculous farce."

An independent investigation of the electoral proceedings found that the first round of voting was indeed flawed, and called into question the registration of more than 900,000 party agents who were given access to any polling station of their choosing. Last week, Martelly said he would not "leave the country in limbo," but later backtracked.

"On February 7, I'll leave without any regret, any envy and without any desire to remain in power," the president told reporters at an event celebrating the new Department of Interior headquarters.

Martelly, a musician known as "Sweet Micky," came into power in 2011 after the earthquake that devastated the country the previous year. The disaster, which killed more than 200,000 people and displaced at least 1 million others, turned the world's attention to the country's systemic poverty, fragile infrastructure, and tenuous hold on peace.

Since the 30-year dictatorship of the Duvalier family was overthrown in the late 1980's, Haiti has not been able to establish a stable democracy, and its political system has been marred by military coups and rampant electoral fraud. Martelly has essentially ruled by decree since January 2015, and the country has failed to hold local or parliamentary elections.

"Realistically speaking, we may be looking at some sort of temporary solution until there is a handover to a new elected president," US Haiti Special Coordinator Kenneth Merten told Reuters. "Our fear is that we go into a situation that is open-ended."

"In our analysis, that is a dangerous place to go," Merten added.

A power vacuum is the last thing that Haiti needs. The leader of a failed coup attempt in Haiti, Guy Philippe, who is wanted by the United States for smuggling cocaine, went as far as to call for civil war. Philippe said he would not recognize any interim government after Martelly leaves office unless it is representative of Haiti's provinces. He urged his supporters to do the same.

"We are ready for war," Philippe said. "We will divide the country."

A mission from the Organization of American States is reportedly trying to broker a solution, and Jocelerme Privert, the president of the Haitian Senate, said Thursday that the country's National Assembly will "take all necessary measures to fill the vacancy of the presidency."

Follow Tess Owen on Twitter: @misstessowen

A Nice Paragraph About Why Humans Are So Damn Paranoid

Mother Jones - February 6, 2016 - 11:39am

I'm reading Sapiens right now, a history of early mankind published last year by historian Yuval Noah Harari. I haven't gotten very far into it, so I don't know if his idiosyncratic theories will end up being persuasive. Still, it's the kind of learned but big-think book I tend to like regardless of how well it holds up. I wish more deeply accomplished people were willing to write stuff like this.

That said, here's a nice excerpt about the dangers of moving to the top of the food chain too fast:

[It was] only in the last 100,000 years—with the rise of Homo sapiens—that man jumped to the top of the food chain....Other animals at the top of the pyramid, such as lions and sharks, evolved into the position very gradually, over millions of years. This enabled the ecosystem to develop checks and balances that prevent lions and sharks from wreaking too much havoc.

....In contrast, humankind ascended to the top so quickly that the ecosystem was not given time to adjust. Moreover, humans themselves failed to adjust. Most top predators of the planet are majestic creatures. Millions of years of dominion have filled them with self-confidence. Sapiens by contrast is more like a banana republic dictator. Having so recently been one of the underdogs of the savannah, we are full of fears and anxieties over our position, which makes us doubly cruel and dangerous. Many historical calamities, from deadly wars to ecological catastrophes, have resulted from this over-hasty jump.

This is just another way of saying that human intelligence evolved too fast for human emotions and morals to keep up. Either way, though, it sure rings true. Just take a look at the current presidential race. If any country should feel self-confident and safe, it's the United States. But boy howdy, we sure don't, do we?

Investigation Casts Doubt On Soap Opera Star's Marriage To Mexican President

VICE News - February 6, 2016 - 10:30am

On November 27, 2010, Mexican telenovela star Anglica Rivera swept into the cathedral of the city of Toluca in a white dress and long veil. She was heading to the altar with then-governor and current Mexican president Enrique Pea Nieto. Outside, the crowds cheered from behind barriers.

That wedding helped cement the aura of success around the good-looking young governor. He seemed, with a beautiful actress by his side, destined to win the country's next presidential election, which he duly did in July 2012.

Now a joint-investigation by the news team of crusading Mexican journalist Carmen Aristegui and respected weekly magazine Proceso has found evidence that the religious union between Pea Nieto and Rivera was only possible because leading church figures allegedly lied to help her annul her previous marriage. It even hints that the wedding between the then-presidential hopeful and the actress may have actually been staged.

The investigation, published on Saturday by Aristegui Noticias and Proceso, is primarily based on documents that link the wedding to the destruction of the career of a priest once known as the "Father of the Stars" — while he was dying of cancer.

The story begins on December 2, 2004, when Rivera married the father of her three children and longtime partner, telenovela producer Jos Alberto Castro Alva, in the Church de Nuestra Seora de Ftima in Mexico City. Nine days later, Rivera and Castro held another ceremony to celebrate their union on a beach in the resort city of Acapulco.

The couple divorced in 2008, shortly before Rivera became the girlfriend of Pea Nieto, then the governor of the state of Mexico, whose wife had died suddenly the previous year.

At the time, Pea Nieto's bid to become president was gathering steam with the help of a large amount of positive coverage on Mexico's main TV network Televisa. Rivera was one of the network's most popular stars. The couple met when she was contracted to promote his administration in political advertising.

Talk of a possible marriage filled the gossip columns and TV programs, giving Pea Nieto even more media coverage than before, and helping him broaden his appeal.

But there was a problem.

There could be no fairytale church wedding unless Rivera was able to get the church authorities to annul her first marriage to Castro.

The Aristegui investigation claims that Rivera managed this within a remarkably short time with the help of lies and irregularities. The investigation implicates high-level figures in the church with close ties to the political elite, particularly the Archbishop of Mexico City Norberto Rivera.

According to an excerpt from the annulment resolution — dated May 19, 2009, and published the following month alongside an interview with the actress in the society magazine Quien — the Tribunal of the Archdiocese of Mexico declared her marriage to Castro "null and invalid" because of "defects of canonical form." The resolution said Rivera is consequently "free and can, for that reason, enter into canonical marriage, if she wants to."

The Aristegui Noticias/Proceso investigation says that the tribunal ruled that the marriage was invalid because Jos Luis Salinas — one of the two priests involved — tricked Rivera into getting married in the church, and then pretended that the ceremony on the beach that he officiated was the real wedding, when it was not.

"Neither the bride nor three of the witnesses who signed was absolutely valid and not so easy to be annulled," he wrote to the governor in the letter that is published in the investigation. "The implications of all of this are very serious and, for that reason, very important to take into account."

The wedding went ahead, and, two years later, Pea Nieto became the president of Mexico.

Pea Nieto speaking at a summit in Brussels in June 2015. (Photo via Presidencia de Mxico)

The president's marriage, however, soon began to create problems for his administration. In November 2014, an earlier investigation headed by Aristegui revealed that a favored government contractor had built a multi-million dollar mansion for the presidential couple.

The president has never full addressed the allegations of conflict of interest and corruption associated with the so-called White House. Instead he said that the massive modernist home, that was specifically designed to cater to his new family, had nothing really to do with him as it was being bought by Rivera.

An official government investigation last year, led by a direct appointee of the president, found he had done nothing wrong. The probe did not investigate the First Lady on the grounds that she was not a member of the government and so could not grant favors that could have benefited the contractor.

Earlier on in the scandal Rivera uploaded a video on YouTube in which she angrily insisted that she was purchasing the property thanks to her earnings during a lifetime of hard work as a soap opera star for Televisa.

A few months after the White House scandal broke, Aristegui lost her job as anchor of the country's most popular morning radio news show. She accused the government of pressuring the radio station to fire her. Both the radio station and the president's office denied the allegation.

With her latest investigation into the president's wedding, the crusading journalist has proved she remains a thorn in the president's side.

The investigation even hints that the religious ceremony in the cathedral officiated by a bishop was not actually a real wedding ceremony at all.

The arrival of the couple's guests at the cathedral — particularly the Televisa celebrities — was widely covered in the media, as was the couple's emergence afterward and Rivera's tossing of her bouquet into the assembled crowd.

The few images available of the ceremony itself show the cathedral empty except for a few pews at the front.

A video that was later released shows the actress and the then-governor walking up the aisle and sitting in front of the altar. Pena Nieto is also seen putting a ring on Rivera and the couple are shown signing something.

Aristegui's investigation notes that the video does not show the couple "saying their holy marriage vows."

Aristegui and Proceso also claim that they have tried and failed to find an official certificate of the church marriage in Toluca. They have found the document for Rivera's first marriage.

Proceso magazine and portal Aristegui News say they asked the presidential office to confirm the legal status of the marriage between Enrique Pea Nieto and Angelica Rivera. The presidential office, they say, declined to comment.

Presidential spokesman Paolo Carreo told VICE News that there would not be an official government statement forthcoming.

Follow Nathaniel Janowitz on Twitter:@ngjanowitz

Yep, the "Top Secret" Emails Were All About Drones

Mother Jones - February 6, 2016 - 10:01am

So just what was in those "top secret" emails that Hillary Clinton received on her personal email server while she was Secretary of State? The New York Times reports what everyone has already figured out: they were about drones. What's more, the question of whether they contain anything that's actually sensitive is mostly just a spat between CIA and State:

Some of the nation’s intelligence agencies raised alarms last spring as the State Department began releasing emails from Hillary Clinton’s private server, saying that a number of the messages contained information that should be classified “top secret.”

The diplomats saw things differently and pushed back at the spies. In the months since, a battle has played out between the State Department and the intelligence agencies.

....Several officials said that at least one of the emails contained oblique references to C.I.A. operatives. One of the messages has been given a designation of “HCS-O” — indicating that the information was derived from human intelligence sources...The government officials said that discussions in an email thread about a New York Times article — the officials did not say which article — contained sensitive information about the intelligence surrounding the C.I.A.’s drone activities, particularly in Pakistan.

The whole piece is worth reading for the details, but the bottom line is pretty simple: there's no there there. At most, there's a minuscule amount of slightly questionable reporting that was sent via email—a common practice since pretty much forever. Mostly, though, it seems to be a case of the CIA trying to bully State and win some kind of obscure pissing contest over whether they're sufficiently careful with the nation's secrets.

Release them all. Redact a few sentences here and there if you absolutely have to. It's simply ridiculous to have nebulous but serious charges like these hanging like a cloud over the presidential race with Hillary Clinton unable to defend herself in any way. Release them and let the chips fall where they may.

A Ferguson City Councilman Died — And The Vote To Replace Him Is Split Along Racial Lines

VICE News - February 6, 2016 - 10:00am

Ferguson's City Hall reached overflow capacity this week as dozens of the St. Louis suburb's citizens gathered to hear the City Council discuss two controversial topics that encapsulate the community's lingering concerns about race and policing in the aftermath of the protests that followed the killing of unarmed black teenager Michael Brown.

A meeting on February 2 was called to solicit input from residents about whether the city should accept an agreement with US Department of Justice, which stemmed from an investigation that found the police department and municipal courts committed civil rights violations. The proposed deal, which could cost the city $1.5 million annually for the next several years, would require Ferguson police officers to wear body cameras and undergo additional training regarding use of force, among other changes. 

But there was another reason for the full house at City Hall. A longtime city council member died of a heart attack last month, leaving a vacant seat on the city's governing body. The debate about who ought to be appointed to the position has divided the council along racial lines, with three black council members calling for the job to go to Laverne Mitchom, who is black, and two white members throwing their support behind Robert Chabot, who is white.

Though the three-fifths majority support for Mitchom would seemingly be enough to end the discussion, Ferguson's city attorney has said it takes a minimum of four votes to make the appointment. If the council can't reach an agreement to fill the vacancy within 30 days, embattled Ferguson Mayor James Knowles III, who is white, can make the decision unilaterally.

The split has been viewed as an indicator of the degree to which racial tensions still exist in the city, but the city council members are doing their best to play down the situation, suggesting the dispute is more about politics than race.

Ferguson councilman Mark Byrne said he nominated Chabot, the white candidate, because he wanted to honor the wishes of voters who elected Brian Fletcher, a former mayor of Ferguson from 2005 to 2011 who died on January 10.

Despite health problems, Fletcher ran for office after the protests that followed the Michael Brown shooting in August 2014. He also founded the "I Love Ferguson" organization, which sold clothing with the logo to help support local businesses that were damaged when the protests escalated into riots.

Watch the VICE News dispatch State of Emergency - Ferguson, Missouri:

"He ran on the platform of this is a great city and don't let the press or anyone else tell us that this isn't a great city," said Byrne of Fletcher, who was white.

By electing Fletcher, Byrne believes voters indicated they wanted someone with experience in public office. Chabot is a local school board member and served on Fletcher's "I Love Ferguson" committee. Mitchom has not served in public office or on any local committees, Byrne said.

"I called ended up being on racial lines, but there was absolutely nothing racial in terms of anyone's vote."

But while Byrne used Fletcher's name to justify nominating someone with experience, Councilwoman Ella Jones took the opposite approach. She said that Fletcher had "talked about how it is important to put people in positions not because they know everything, but because they have an opportunity to learn and to grow." She described Mitchom as "teachable and willing to learn."

Before Jones and another black candidate, Wesley Bell, were elected in April 2015, the council only had one black member in a majority-black city. Bell also supports Mitchom to fill the vacant seat — but he claims it has nothing to do with the color of her skin.

"I don't think race played a factor in at all," Bell said. "And I would just say that this council has been very unified throughout the entire year that I have been on it. Most of our votes have been unanimous, so I think it is unfair to characterize one disagreement as some kind of divide."

Whatever the intentions of the council members, after the initial vote to appoint Mitchom on January 26 was not accepted, race quickly became the focus of the conversation. The ACLU of Missouri has since sent a letter to Ferguson City Attorney Stephanie Karr imploring her to install Mitchom, and stating that her ruling about the four-vote minimum misinterpreted the city's charter and rulings in past cases.

"The community will benefit from a decision by Ferguson to follow the law without the necessity of a court order requiring it to do so," the ACLU letter stated.

'If there is one thing that we are 100 percent united in, it's that we don't want the mayor to decide.'

Karr's ruling has also drawn the ire of community activists. At the recent packed meeting, several protesters stood outside, including one who knocked on the door of City Hall with a sign that read "Stop the Karr-uption."

"I am calling on all of council to put an end to this mess, to stand up against prejudice and hatred and emphatically appoint the candidate the majority of council endorsed last week," said Emily Davis, a resident who is active in local politics.

Byrne is emphatic that the council will reach a consensus before the 30-day deadline that allows the mayor to intervene.

"If there is one thing that we are 100 percent united in, it's that we don't want the mayor to decide," said Byrne. "We want to decide this on our own."

The vote is expected to take place February 9 at a meeting where the city will also decide on the proposed agreement with the Justice Department. The city will also hold another hearing for public comment on February 6, this time at a larger venue. A spokesperson for the city said it is not certain that the appointment will take place before the vote on the Justice Department agreement, which some residents oppose because the high costs could force Ferguson to dissolve and become an unincorporated part of St. Louis County.

As for the City Council issue, some residents said they were disappointed in the nomination of Chabot because he was already serving on the school board.

"We have a city of 20,000 people, but it's almost like we have a city of 20 people to where we need to recycle the same person to be on the council," said Cassandra Butler, who has lived in Ferguson for more than 30 years.

Outside the recent meeting, John Knowles, a postal carrier and the cousin of the current mayor, said the city should hold a special election. Knowles previously ran for the City Council, and served on the school board until he resigned amid allegations of improper spending. He said he knew Chabot, but had "never heard of" Mitchom.

Butler, who was standing nearby, interjected. "You have seen her," she said.

Knowles replied that he probably knew more people by their first name then anyone in town, but didn't know Mitchom. He asked where she lived.

Butler replied, "Ferguson, Ward 2."

Follow VICE News on Twitter: @vicenews

At Least 14 Dead And 100 Missing After Quake Topples Apartment Tower In Taiwan

VICE News - February 6, 2016 - 9:40am

At least 14 people are dead and more than 100 are still missing after a powerful earthquake shook southern Taiwan on Saturday morning, causing a high-rise building in the city of Tainan to collapse and crumple onto its side.

As the sun started to set on Saturday evening in the southern city of Tainan, rescuers in orange, red, and yellow jumpsuits were still digging through the rubble of the Wei-Guan Golden Dragon Building. Authorities say hundreds have been injured, and the dead include a 10-year-old girl and a newborn baby. Most of the victims were residents of the apartment building, who were sleeping when the 6.4 magnitude earthquake rattled the southern part of the island nation.

Video footage from a beauty shop's surveillance camera showed the walls trembling 20 minutes before the earthquake struck in full force. 

"My home completely turned into debris," one Tainan resident told the BBC. "I didn't know what was happening. I was really frightened as I have never seen such an earthquake." 

The Wei-Guan Golden Dragon Building is a 17-floor structure that has 256 regular tenants, but authorities fear the number of people affected may be far more. The start of the festivities marking the Lunar New Year — an important family holiday — had just begun, meaning many of the building's residents may have been hosting friends and relatives. There is also a center for new mothers and newborn babies in the building.


— Jonah Blank (@JonahBlank) February 5, 2016

Mayhem due to

This Mental Illness Makes Mirrors Lie And Drives Patients To Suicide

VICE News - February 6, 2016 - 8:40am

This story is part of a partnership betweenMedPage Todayand VICE News.

If Minnie Iris hadn't gone to her doctor and insisted that she had body dysmorphic disorder, it's possible she wouldn't be alive today.

The disorder, a mental illness in which patients become obsessed with perceived flaws in their appearances, isn't well understood even among some psychiatrists. But it results in symptoms that mirror obsessive compulsive disorder, and those who have it may be more likely to commit suicide than people with any other mental illness.

"Oh, well, are you sure?" Iris recalled her doctor asking her. "I think you've just got general depression."

Body dysmorphic disorder, or BDD, could affect up to an estimated 2 percent of the population in varying degrees, according to the Body Dysmorphic Disorder Foundation, though the Anxiety and Depression Association of America says it may be closer to 1 percent. In Western cultures, men and women are equally likely to have moderate to severe cases of it.

"BDD is a pretty tough illness to treat, and the reason is that they have pretty severe obsessive thoughts. They're preoccupied about imagined body defects and have a lot of complicated rituals," said Dr. Eric Hollander, of the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and Montefiore Medical Center, who did not treat Iris.

Behaviors include "mirror-checking, camouflaging and having cosmetic surgery over and over again," Hollander said. BDD is often compared to OCD, but BDD patients have higher rates of depression and suicide.

Not all psychiatrists are trained in how to spot and treat BDD which means many people who have it don't have access to treatment, said Dr. Katharine Phillips, of the Warren Alpert Medical School of Brown University, who specializes in BDD and has authored several studies on the subject.

Hoping to find new ways to bring treatment to patients via the internet, researchers in Sweden just conducted the largest study of body dysmorphic patients ever, consisting of 94 patients. Study author Dr. Christian Rck, of Karolinska Institutet in Stockholm, and colleagues found that receiving therapist-led, web-based cognitive behavioral therapy for 12 weeks was associated with a reduction in BDD symptoms compared with online supportive therapy, reported in the medical journal The BMJ. "BDD is quite a common disorder, and it's very hard to get any help for it," Rck told VICE News. "I think by using the internet … we could reach many patients who otherwise would be left untreated."

Iris, said symptoms of the mental illness started when she was 11 years old, when she was bullying for being one of the only Asian students and fixated on creases in her neck, but back then no one knew what BDD was.

"I believed I was ugly," she said. "I believed it was the truth, and then I just had really low self esteem."

'A lot of people in general public think it's a vanity-based issue, that it's not a serious thing. It actually has the highest suicide rate of any mental illness.'

Although she struggled with an eating disorder and became irrationally concerned about other perceived physical flaws, she was able to function until she was about 38. That was the year Iris's mother died, and the year her hair started falling out from the stress.

But Iris didn't only fixate on the hair loss, which kept her from seeking new employment once she finished sorting her late mother's estate, which became her full time job. She also became anxious about her aging skin. She started to feel monstrous when she spotted herself in the mirror, so she avoided her reflection even in things like train windows. Then, she started to think about killing herself.

"I had a lot of suicidal thoughts, and I did start to feel that if I don't get help for this, it's likely I'll end up taking my own life," she said. "A lot of people in general public think it's a vanity-based issue, that it's not a serious thing. It actually has the highest suicide rate of any mental illness."

Iris began searching the internet for answers, when she stumbled across a video about BDD.

"I thought, 'Oh my god, this is exactly what I have,'" she said. "It was quite a bit of a realization that this is an identifiable problem and you can get treatment for it."

Once she convinced her general practitioner that she had something more than depression, she was officially diagnosed with BDD by a specialist and started cognitive behavioral therapy, which involves facing the fears associated with the illness and learning to move past them.

While she was sick, Iris ritualistically retouched her make-up and said self-deprecating things about her appearance to get reassurances from friends that she looked fine. Although these were "safety" behaviors that she felt she needed to do, she learned in therapy that they were actually making the problem worse.

"These very safety behaviors making me feel safe are things keeping me trapped within the illness," she said.

Today, Iris is a trustee with the BDD Foundation. Although the foundation is in the United Kingdom, she said she hears from Americans who struggle to find treatment and information as well.

Compared to other mental illnesses, like schizophrenia and bipolar disorder, "it's quite striking how little treatment is offered to these patients right now," said Rck, the lead study author of the most recent BDD study.

For Iris, everything changed once she got into therapy specifically designed for BDD. But she had to drive three hours to get to the hospital where a support group met. And because of the limitations of government health care in the UK, she's needed to seek private BDD treatment as well.

Today, Iris, 48, is going through her second round of cognitive behavioral therapy for BDD and hopes to one day go back to work as an artist and find a loving, healthy relationship again. (She was married, but has been single through the most severe BDD symptoms.)

"But the biggest one is to learn to accept myself," she said of her goals for the future. "To love myself. That's a real big one."

Follow Sydney Lupkin on Twitter: @slupkin

Photo via Flickr

A Murder In Ethiopia Shows The Rastafarian Promised Land Is Far From Heavenly

VICE News - February 6, 2016 - 8:15am

It's been nearly 60 years since Haile Selassie, the last emperor of Ethiopia, granted 500 acres of rural land to a newly burgeoning religion whose followers had begun worshipping him as a Messiah. The first Rastafarians arrived in the decades after 1948 when the area in Shashamane, southern Ethiopia, was bequeathed to them.

More than half a century and two Ethiopian revolutions later, repatriation — returning to the continent their ancestors were forced to leave as slaves — is still recognized as deeply important by Rastafarians across the world. For those who make the journey across the globe to begin a new life in the country considered their Zion, however, the reality can be far from heavenly.

Shortly after VICE News visited Shashamane, the town where hundreds of Rastafarians still reside on the land that Selassie designated to them, an elder Rastafari man was murdered in his home, in what appears to be motivated by land tensions of the sort that are characterizing the country.

Clifton Simeon — or "Brother Grimes" — was 60, unmarried, and living alone when he was attacked.

On November 11, 2015, a friend arrived at his home to bring Simeon dinner. Instead, he discovered Simeon's dead body — bloodied, with bruises on his head, and cuts on his neck.

Simeon had been in Shashamane less than five years. A Trinidadian, he lived in America before deciding to make the journey to Ethiopia, his promised land and spiritual home.

The killing has shaken up the Rastafarian community, acting as a violent reminder of the unease that simmers between the self-declared pilgrims and some of the local, mostly impoverished Ethiopians who remain bewildered by or even resentful of their presence.

The Twelve Tribes of Israel headquarters. (Photo by Sally Hayden/VICE News)

Shashamane is 155 miles south of the Ethiopian capital Addis Ababa. Traveling down brown dirt roads on the drive, you pass partially erected buildings. Ethiopia feels like a country under construction. Chinese, Saudi, and Indian money is pouring in. Ethiopia was predicted to have the world's fastest growing economy in the four years up to 2017, but it remains one of the poorest countries on earth. It's also the second most populous in Africa, with close to 100 million inhabitants.

Like the capital, Shashamane has the atmosphere of somewhere being renovated. Fields further out from the center are filling up with cement structures. Stacks of stones lie in front of half-completed houses. Almost everyone in the town seems to be looking for a money-making scheme or an escape route — except the Rastafarians.

There are around 800 of them from about 20 different countries including Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Guadeloupe and Martinique, and France. Many of those countries don't have a diplomatic presence in Ethiopia and the new settlers are barred from claiming citizenship, even if their children are born there.

Their area of the town is easily distinguished. It's colorful — the Ethiopian and Rastafari colors of red, black, green, and gold are everywhere.

Meanwhile, Lonely Planet's guidebook on Ethiopia highlights Shashamane as one of the places a visitor needs to be most vigilant for thieves. The town is a crossroads — a transit point where buses head out in every direction, including to Addis Ababa.

When VICE News met Rastafarian and banana artist Bandi Payne he was pacing inside his small gallery. He had been robbed the night before. He showed off his art distractedly, directing the occasional complaint at a friend. The thieves were local Ethiopian youths, he said. They break in regularly.

Rastafarian banana artist Bandi Payne at his home and art gallery in Shashamane (Photo by Sally Hayden/VICE News)

After hearing of Simeon's death in November, VICE News contacted the Jamaica Rastafarian Development Community (JRDC), an NGO run by Rastafarians which operates in Shashamane. A spokesperson confirmed it: "Greetings, We are sad to report the news of Brother Clifton's demise on November 10, 2015. We pray for justice. May his soul rest in peace."

Reports of the murder spread swiftly through the Rastafarian community.

"The American man who was assassinated?" Alex, one of the owners of Shashamane's Zion Train Lodge, queried in response to VICE News asking him about Simeon. "I know what you're talking about. We've heard a lot about it."

Alex said thieves wanted to steal Simeon's belongings and take his property. The situation "wasn't new," Alex said, adding he had heard Simeon had written of threats in a notebook.

Sister Lorna, a neighbor and friend of Simeon's, also spoke about what had happened. She originally met him when they were both living in New York.

"He was found dead at his home and a lot of his stuff was stolen," she said. "The police have apprehended several people and the prosecutor is putting a case together. She said the trial had been put off for a few weeks.

"There seems to have been another motivation, like the person who he got the land from apparently needed more money or needed to get the land back or whatever."

Lorna said the attackers were local Ethiopians. "We're still trying to come to terms with what has happened because now everybody feels a little vulnerable."

"There really wasn't any tension between our community and their community, but this has created a little," she continued. "We feel vulnerable now. And usually in Ethiopia it's petty robbery, they do these things when you're not at home, but it's very unusual for somebody to rob you while you're there and even kill you... So it's a little jarring to all of us."

VICE News heard locals refer to Rastafarians disparagingly as 'monkeys,' while saying they disapproved of their lack of work ethic

Saturday would have been musician and notable Rastafarian Bob Marley's 71st birthday. Over the weekend, hundreds will descend on Shashamane for two days of festivals, with 14 artists playing, a bazaar, DJs, and drumming sessions. "Peace, love, unity, and a good cause," one advertisement reads.

Friday was also set to be the beginning of the murder trial, which was delayed during a wait for the autopsy report that was completed last week. Four suspects face charges for involvement in the killing.

Several people who spoke to VICE News about Shashamane's legal system gave scathing indictments, but Lorna seemed quite calm about the upcoming proceedings.

Nearly three months after the death, Lorna also said tensions were no longer as high, though the community remained "bewildered" and upset. "It's basically back to where it was — which is fairly peaceful, until something happens."

Banana art depicting Haile Selassie, the last emperor of Ethiopia. (Photo by Sally Hayden/VICE News)

Many Rastafarians are now taking action to increase securities around them, such as hiring watchmen to guard their property, or getting dogs. "Lots of prayers for safety he has been the tenant of the government."

Follow Sally Hayden on Twitter: @sallyhayd


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