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Naomi O'Leary captures the scene on a flight #HomeToVote
Naomi O'Leary captures the scene on a train #HomeToVote
The Irish are headed to the polls today for a nationwide vote on same-sex marriage and thousands of Irish citizens have gone to extraordinary lengths to get home to vote. In fact, the #HomeToVote hashtag is trending worldwide and flat-out winning the internet today:
According to a Twitter spokeswoman, 48,000 tweets with the #HomeToVote hashtag were posted on the social media site in just 24 hours, "a significant volume of tweets from an Irish perspective".
Judging by the hashtag's popularity and the photos being tweeted, Ireland seems ready for equality. A few of the tweets trending:
Claire Sloan heads #HomeToVote
Irish ex-pats headed #HomeToVote
Irish woman headed #HomeToVote
Irish voters headed #HomeToVote
Irish voters headed #HometoVote
Judging by the enthusiasm and the effort, it appears the country may drain every Guinness beer on tap in celebration of equality. Well done, Ireland!
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Erik Sorto enjoying his first drink of beer with prosthetic arm
Erik Sorto enjoying his first 12 oz lift.
A gunshot wound 13 years ago left Erik Sorto paralyzed, unable to do even the simplest of tasks by himself. But now, thanks to the miracles of modern science, Erik Sorto's life is changing in a dramatic way. Scientists at the California Institute of Technology in Pasadena made in incredible breakthrough, allowing him to move his prosthetic arm with a mind-reading chip implanted in his brain. From BrainDecoder.com:
Robotic limbs are nowadays often controlled by electrodes implanted in the brain, aiming to harness the brain signals that are isolated from the body after a spinal injury. Previously, scientists had put microchips in the motor cortex, a part of the brain that directs voluntary physical activity. However, this led to motions that were delayed and jolting, not the smooth gestures associated with natural movement. This is because the motor cortex controls many different muscles, so for any one gesture, patients had to painstakingly focus on which muscles to activate for each specific component of the gesture. For example, when it comes to picking up a cup of water, one might have to concentrate about lifting one's arm, extending the arm, closing the hand around the cup, and so on.

But in the new experiment, reported in the May 22 issue of Science, Andersen and his colleagues decided to implant the electrodes in a different part of the brain, the posterior parietal cortex, or PPC, which is located on the top of the brain near the back. Research in monkeys and humans has shown that PPC controls the intent to move rather than the details of executing movements. The scientists hoped that this approach would allow the patient to produce more natural, fluid motions.

One of Erik's goals was to be able to pick up and drink a beer all on his own. This week he did just that. In the best 60 seconds you'll see today, watch this incredible achievement and see the pure joy in the face of Erik and the scientists:
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Mike Huckabee posing for a photo with Josh Duggar
Mike Huckabee poses with Josh Duggar
Proving once again that he is not a serious 2016 presidential candidate, this morning Mike Huckabee unleashed a tirade against the "blood thirsty media":
Screenshot of Mike Huckabee's rant against the
Of course, Mike Huckabee would know all about defending a teenager who makes poor choices. His own son, David Huckabee, was accused of cruelly torturing and killing a dog on a campout:
One issue likely to get attention is his handling of a sensitive family matter: allegations that one of his sons was involved in the hanging of a stray dog at a Boy Scout camp in 1998. The incident led to the dismissal of David Huckabee, then 17, from his job as a counselor at Camp Pioneer in Hatfield, Ark. It also prompted the local prosecuting attorney— bombarded with complaints generated by a national animal-rights group—to write a letter to the Arkansas state police seeking help investigating whether David and another teenager had violated state animal-cruelty laws. The state police never granted the request, and no charges were ever filed. But John Bailey, then the director of Arkansas's state police, tells NEWSWEEK that Governor Huckabee's chief of staff and personal lawyer both leaned on him to write a letter officially denying the local prosecutor's request. Bailey, a career officer who had been appointed chief by Huckabee's Democratic predecessor, said he viewed the lawyer's intervention as improper and terminated the conversation. Seven months later, he was called into Huckabee's office and fired. "I've lost confidence in your ability to do your job," Bailey says Huckabee told him. One reason Huckabee cited was "I couldn't get you to help me with my son when I had that problem," according to Bailey. "Without question, [Huckabee] was making a conscious attempt to keep the state police from investigating his son," says I. C. Smith, the former FBI chief in Little Rock, who worked closely with Bailey and called him a "courageous" and "very solid" professional.
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Brooke Halsey, director of the Tiburon Salmon Institute, sends 100,000 tagged young chinook salmon through a hose from a tanker truck to the "Merva W" in Tiburon, California April 9, 2014. Halsey was joined by the California Department of Fish and Wildlife in releasing the fish into Francisco Bay. REUTERS/Robert Galbraith  (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY FOOD ENVIRONMENT) - RTR3KLYY
Chinook salmon getting a lift upriver.
What do you do when your state is in a historic drought, with no end in sight and no way for salmon to swim up those dry riverbeds? You roll out the largest fish-lift in history:
For the first time, all five big government hatcheries in California’s Central Valley for fall-run Chinook California salmon — a species of concern under the federal Endangered Species Act — are going to truck their young, release-ready salmon down to the Bay, rather than release them into rivers to make the trip themselves.
Some 30 million young salmon need a lift to survive.
“It’s huge. This is a massive effort statewide on multiple systems,” said Stafford Lehr, chief of fisheries for the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, which since February has been rolling out four to eight 35,000-gallon tanker trucks filled with baby salmon on their freeway-drive to freedom.
Scientists and conservationists are doing all they can to preserve the Chinook salmon population. For the Coho salmon, it may be too late:
No salmon eggs were spotted in the shade of the world-famous redwood grove this past winter, and not a single baby coho could be found in the summer. The situation was so bad in August that 105 juvenile salmon had to be removed from the creek and brought to a hatchery.

“It’s a crisis in terms of this kind of intervention has never happened before” in Redwood Creek, said Laura Chariton, the director of the Watershed Alliance of Marin. “Historically these fish evolved in this watershed, so it could be the beginning of local extinction or extirpation.”

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Grocery Store Owner Photo
France taking dramatic steps to reduce waste.
In the United States, an estimated (and astounding) 430 billion pounds of edible food goes uneaten in a year, much of it coming from our grocery stores:
With consumers demanding large displays of unblemished, fresh produce, many retailers end up tossing a mountain of perfectly edible food. Despite efforts to cut down on all that waste, in the U.S., the consumer end of the food chain still accounts for the largest share. It comes down to shoppers demanding stocked shelves, buying too much and generally treating food as a renewable resource.
 

The problem isn't exclusive to the United States and other countries are trying to address the problem. This week, the French government took a key step:

France’s parliament has pledged to crack down on a national epidemic of food waste by passing a law banning supermarkets destroying unsold food, instead obliging them to give it to charities or put it to other uses such as animal feed.

The national assembly voted unanimously on Thursday evening in favour of the measure, proposed by the Socialist deputy Guillaume Garot, a former food minister. “It’s scandalous to see bleach being poured into supermarket dustbins along with edible foods,” he said.

Given the dire drought in California, a state which produces nearly all the fruits and vegetables in the U.S., perhaps it is time for our own government to get serious about food waste reduction and distribution—especially when a shocking 14.5% of Americans are considered "food insecure"—meaning they lack access to enough food for an active, healthy life for all household members.
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Tyler Kish describes his depression and counseling from Pastor Makela
Tyler Kish recalls Pastor Matt Makela's heartless counseling
Yesterday we covered Pastor Matt Makela, the anti-gay Michigan pastor who was outed on Grindr.

Today a young man and his mother have stepped forward with their own story about Pastor Matt Makela. Tyler Kish was a teenage boy struggling to come to terms with his sexuality and sought counsel from Pastor Makela. His advice nearly caused Tyler to commit suicide:

"If he was going to go to hell for being gay then he might as well go to hell by committing suicide," Jennifer Kish said, regarding what Makela told her son.
He didn't stop there:
Jennifer Kish said the pastor also became vocal on social media about how he felt her son being gay was wrong and that as a parent she shouldn't support him.
After listening to Tyler Kish, it seems Pastor Makela could've used some support and counseling of his own:
"Honestly feel very bad for him, because looking at it everything he was telling me, he was telling himself too, and I think that he was really kind of self destructing and hurting people around him," Tyler Kish said.

A hurt that could've changed this family's lives forever, but Tyler Kish said love conquers all and he has found it in his heart to forgive the person he once blamed for his darkest days.

See a heartfelt interview with Tyler and his mother, Jennifer Kish at WNEM.com. And hats off to Jennifer Kish for taking a stand and removing her son from Pastor Makela's hateful counseling.
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Joint of marijuana
Don't smoke that stinky bud in Pendleton, Oregon!
Beginning July 1, 2015, adults over the age of 21 will be able to legally possess, use and cultivate marijuana in Oregon, following similar efforts in Washington and Colorado. But, residents of one Oregon town think it's a stinky deal:
The City of Pendleton, Oregon changed their nuisance ordinance, the same one that deals with loud music or barking dogs, to include the smell of marijuana.

The ordinance now says that if you allow the smell of pot to spread from your property to another property, you can be fined up to $500.

Residents of Pendleton are split on the matter, but as of this week, it's a $500 gamble to smoke it or grow it near your neighbors.
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prison
One less voter for the 2016 election.
Thanks, Obama:
A judge has sentenced an Arizona woman to 3 ½ years in prison for running over her husband with an SUV because he didn’t vote in the 2012 presidential election.

Thirty-one-year-old Holly Nicole Solomon of Mesa pleaded guilty to assault charges stemming from injuries her husband suffered days after President Barack Obama was re-elected. She was sentenced on Thursday.

Authorities say Solomon was upset about Obama’s re-election and began arguing with her husband when she found out he didn’t vote.

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110-year-old fairground organ playing
Gorgeous, in all ways.
Old school craftsmanship meets vintage rock and roll in the video age. The result? Oddly amazing and perfect:
1905 81 key Marenghi Organ playing Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody.
Original Arrangement written by Alexey Rom.
Organ part of Bill Nunn's collection: skyrockfarm.com
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The statue of a scout stands in the entrance to Boy Scouts of America headquarters in Irving, Texas, February 5, 2013. Boy Scouts of America board members are holding a three-day meeting in which they will consider ending a controversial national ban on gay membership, sparking a flurry of lobbying from groups both for and against the change.  REUTERS/Tim Sharp (UNITED STATES - Tags: SOCIETY) - RTR3DDWY
The Boy Scouts may well earn that equality badge yet.
Boy Scouts of America President Robert Gates says the time has come:
The president of the Boy Scouts of America on Thursday called for an end to the group’s blanket ban on gay adult leaders, warning Scout executives that “we must deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be,” and that “any other alternative will be the end of us as a national movement.”
The remarks came after he spoke of shrinking membership and financial struggles. More from his prepared statement:
However, events during the past year have confronted us with the urgent challenges I did not foresee and which we cannot ignore. We cannot ignore growing internal challenges to our current membership policy, from some councils – like the greater New York council, the Denver area council, and others – in open defiance of the policy, to more and more councils taking a position in their mission statements and public documents contrary to national policy.

Nor can we ignore the social, political and juridicial changes taking place in our country – changes taking place over the past year no one anticipated. I remind you of the recent debates we have seen in places like Indiana and Arkansas over discrimination based on sexual orientation, not to mention the impending U.S. Supreme Court decision this summer on gay marriage.

I am not asking the national board for any action to change our current policy at this meeting. But I must speak as plainly and bluntly to you as I spoke to presidents when I was the Director of the CIA and Secretary of Defense. We must deal with the world as it is, not as we might wish it to be. The status quo in our movement's membership standards cannot be sustained.

A definite step in the right direction. Robert Gates and Scout leadership may earn that equality badge yet.
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Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon
Jay Nixon announces a mixed bag settlement with Aetna
First, the good news. Missouri Governor Jay Nixon announced a $4.5 million settlement with Aetna Insurance for not covering the diagnosis and treatment of autism:
The settlement – which includes Missouri’s largest fine ever for insurance law violations – also allows the Missouri Department of Insurance to suspend those companies from doing business in the state for up to one year, if they violate the agreement during a three-year monitoring period.

“The landmark law requiring insurance companies to cover autism spectrum disorders was a great victory for many thousands of Missouri kids and their families,” Gov. Nixon said, in announcing the agreement at the Burrell Autism Center in Springfield. “This agreement demonstrates that we will hold Aetna or any other insurance company responsible to the people of this state – particularly children with autism disorders – to provide the coverage the law requires.”

Great! But, missing from Governor Jay Nixon's press release was another rather important detail:
Missouri Gov. Jay Nixon announced Tuesday that insurer Aetna has agreed to pay $4.5 million for violations of state law that included paying for elective abortions when the women were not eligible under their policies, marking the largest insurance penalty in state history.

In documents outlining the agreement, the insurance company said it covered elective abortions for women who did not pay for additional insurance for those abortions. A 1983 Missouri law requires that women buy optional insurance for elective abortion coverage.

Say what? Yes, part of the huge fine levied against Aetna was for providing coverage above and beyond the stated policy. Let's repeat that - Aetna was fined for providing additional coverage for their clients. And what about this antiquated 1983 law that seems to punish women? Are men required to purchase additional coverage for their reproductive choices? Viagra or vasectomies? Either way, seems like this is just one more way the women of Missouri are getting seriously screwed. One might say–legitimately screwed.  
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Stanley Miller/Alton Kelley artwork
This well-known painting was among the stolen loot.
Not cool, man. Not cool:
More than $75,000 worth of Grateful Dead memorabilia has been stolen from an Illinois auction house, officials say.
The biggest prize for the thieves?
Among the stolen items was a hand painted 1966 Stanley Miller/Alton Kelley Family Dog painting of a skeleton with roses—an image that became a symbol for the Grateful Dead. The iconic piece was valued at an estimated $66,000.
The items were packed and ready for shipment when they vanished without a trace. Randy Donley, owner of Donley Auction House, just wants the items back:
"The intent is not to collect insurance, it’s to return the items and get the items safely returned," he said. “Our true desire is to get the items back.”
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