Inside the Mind of Amanda Feilding, Countess of Psychedelic Science

Amanda Feilding, Countess of Wemyss and March, also known as Lady Neidpath, sits cross-legged on a bench on a tiny island at the center of an artificial pond in her English country estate, a 15-minute drive outside of Oxford. At her feet is a tiny pure-white cloud of a dog, which traipses around chewing on the grass, only occasionally coughing it up.

Feilding is 75 years old. She wears a black skirt and knee-high boots and grips a tan shawl around her shoulders, on account of this being a gray November morning. From her ears hang jewelry that looks like green rock candy. Her light brown hair is frizzy but not altogether unkempt.

In the distance, peeking over a towering hedge, is her castle, built in the 1520s. “In the ’60s we called it Brainblood Hall,” she says in a posh accent that periodically turns sing-songy and high, à la Julia Child. “We always saw it as the masthead from where this change would happen.”

Feilding now lives in the castle in the English countryside where she was raised.

Ren Rox for WIRED

This change being the de-villainization of lysergic acid diethylamide, more commonly known as LSD. Feilding believes LSD has tremendous potential to treat maladies like anxiety and depression and addiction. The theory goes that the drug can manipulate blood flow in the brain to “reset” what you might consider to be the ego, allowing patients to reconceptualize their issues. Hence Brainblood Hall.

If LSD is having its renaissance, Feilding is its Michelangelo. She works 15 hours a day, seven days a week, to coordinate—and contribute to—research on one of the most highly controlled substances on Earth. And not with any old dumpy university she can find—we’re talking big names, like Imperial College London. Study by study, each following rigorous research standards, Feilding is building a case for making LSD a standard weapon in the clinical fight against mental illness. It's a path, though, that's fraught with scientific pitfalls—researchers are just beginning to understand how the human brain works, much less the mechanisms behind psychedelics.

The fact that psychedelics ended up as pariah drugs “is an example, in a way, of man's madness,” she says, toying with the edges of her shawl. “There are these incredible compounds that synergize amazingly well with the human body and can be used to have incredibly positive results. And what do we do? We criminalize it.”

To change that, she won’t just have to upend decades of draconian drug policies. She’ll have to convince a public that has, for a half-century, been told that LSD is a great evil, a drug that makes people put flowers in their hair and jump out of windows. And Feilding will have to use science to convince policymakers that her hunch is right, that LSD and other psychedelics can be a force for good.

Which would be hard for anyone to pull off, but Feilding faces the extra hurdle of not being a classically trained scientist. “Immediately if you say you left school at 16 and self-educated thereafter, people don’t believe you can do anything,” she says. “It's a funny thing.”

Typical 12th-Century Stuff

Feilding is a descendant of the Hapsburg family, a dynasty that rose to great power in the 12th century. I ask her how—typical 12th-century stuff? “Typical 12th-century stuff,” she laughs. “Duffing over someone”—a Britishism for giving a beating—“and, funny enough, someone did a family tree and the number of people, I keep meaning to underline them and put a little red star on the ones who had their heads cut off. There was really quite a lot of people having their heads cut off.”

Feilding’s branch of the Hapsburg family tree wasn’t so much the let’s-rule-the-world-and-make-lots-of-money kind of royalty. More of a stick-it-to-the-man vibe. “One was going to be executed around the Gunpowder Plot, and then his wife went to visit him and they swapped clothes,” she says. “He got out the day before his execution. I mean, they were all rather nice antiestablishment personalities.”

But they were not particularly doers, Feilding adds. And, generally speaking, to maintain a dynasty you have to at least care about cash flow. “If you spend 500 years kind of reading and doing interesting things and not making money, it tends to run out,” she says.

Accordingly, Feilding grew up in a manor her parents couldn’t afford to heat. Her father liked painting during the day, which meant he needed to do farming and chores around the castle at night. “Cutting all those wretched hedges, he had to do himself,” she says. “And he was diabetic and he’d always do them just before meal time and pass out. He was always passing out.”

Feilding adored her father and scrambled everywhere after him. “He never went by what an authority said. He always went with his own thoughts,” she says. “In a way he was quite a big guru to me. He was my main intellectual influence.”

It was a loving yet isolated family that lived in difficult postwar times. Few visitors made the trek over bumpy roads to the edge of a marshland to appreciate the castle’s wall-to-wall artworks and exquisite furniture and precariously low door frames—at least by modern standards of human height. So Feilding immersed herself in reading and, as always, chasing after her father. She had mystical experiences, like imagining she was flying down the castle’s spiral staircase. But with no hot water or heating in the mansion, winters were brutal. “I suppose we were vaguely called impoverished aristocracy,” she says.

Feilding grew up in a manor her parents couldn’t afford to heat.

Ren Rox for WIRED

At 16, Feilding was studying in a convent and wanted to pursue her interest in mysticism. The nuns declined her request and instead gave her books on art. She wouldn’t stand for this. So with her parents’ blessing, Feilding dropped out of high school and set off abroad to find her godfather, Bertie Moore, whom she had never met. She figured he could teach her about mysticism: He had been a spy catcher during the war, but at this point was a Buddhist monk living in Sri Lanka.

Feilding headed toward Sri Lanka and ended up in Syria. Stuck at the border without a passport, a group of drunk, big-deal Bedouins came to her rescue. “We got into this Cadillac and all the people were completely drunk,” she says. “They asked me if I could drive it”—indeed she could—“and we drove out into the desert and then we went to encampments and they all brought out their cushions and feasts.”

Feilding—photographed in 1970 with her pet pigeon, Birdie—began experimenting with LSD in the mid-1960s.

Amanda Feilding, Countess of Wemyss

She never made it to Sri Lanka to find Bertie, and after half a year abroad Feilding returned to the UK to study mysticism with Robert Charles Zaehner, the famous scholar, at All Souls College in Oxford. Before long she made her way to the swinging London of the Beatles, the Kinks, the mods, and the miniskirt. In 1965, Allen Ginsberg and Lawrence Ferlinghetti crashed on the floor of her flat after the Wholly Communion poetry happening at Royal Albert Hall.

Later that year, someone spiked the 22-year-old Feilding’s coffee with a massive dose of LSD. It nearly broke her. She retreated to the castle in the country to recuperate but returned to London a month later at the insistence of a friend.

This is when Feilding met the man who would shape her thinking on LSD and consciousness and mental health: the Dutch natural scientist Bart Huges. The two fell in love and began experimenting with LSD, leading them to think about it in a fundamentally different way. The counterculture at the time had embraced the drug as a way to expand consciousness. All well and good. But Feilding and Huges wanted to go deeper, to explore the use of LSD as a kind of medicine for the brain. Even after the spiked coffee incident, Feilding grew fascinated with the physiological underpinnings of the drug, as well as its potential.

“I thought that LSD had the power to change the world,” she says. “That was our work, understanding the ego and the deficiencies of humans and how one might heal and treat them with altered states of consciousness.” And not just with LSD, mind you, but also yoga and fasting, anything that would (in theory) manipulate blood flow in the brain. Including the ancient practice of drilling a hole in your skull.

Blood Oath

By the time Feilding discovered LSD, it had been around for decades—the Swiss chemist Albert Hofmann synthesized the drug in 1938. It wasn’t until five years later, though, that he would accidentally dose himself—he reckoned he absorbed the drug through his skin—and discover its profound effects on the mind. “In a dreamlike state,” he wrote to a colleague at the time, “with eyes closed (I found the daylight to be unpleasantly glaring), I perceived an uninterrupted stream of fantastic pictures, extraordinary shapes with intense, kaleidoscopic play of colors.”

Hofmann wrote in his autobiography that he recognized both the drug’s dangers and its potential in psychiatry—very, very well-supervised psychiatry. But because LSD produced “unfathomably uncanny, profound effects, so unlike the character of a recreational drug,” he never fathomed that it would turn into the phenomenon that it did. “The more its use as an inebriant was disseminated, bringing an upsurge in the number of untoward incidents caused by careless, medically unsupervised use,” he wrote, “the more LSD became a problem child for me.”

It also became a problem for the United States government. Even though early studies on LSD in the 1940s and ’50s hinted at its therapeutic potential—and, indeed, psychiatrists were already treating patients with it—the feds branded it a schedule 1 drug, the most tightly controlled category, and the world followed in its prohibition.

“LSD getting out put the research back 50 years,” Feilding says. “I think there was misuse of it, and there were accidents, but, my goodness me, there weren’t many.”

The drug’s dark ages, though, are now giving way to a new era of psychedelics research, thanks in large part to the efforts of the Beckley Foundation, a think tank that Feilding runs here in the Oxford countryside, as well as California’s Multidisciplinary Association for Psychedelic Studies, or MAPS. Both groups are not only pursuing the scientific research of psychedelics, but political action as well. That is, they advocate the worldwide relaxation of what they see as an unnecessarily restrictive grip on the use of potentially therapeutic drugs.

Potentially. The problem with a psychedelic like LSD is you can show what it does to people—namely, it makes them trip, sometimes very hard—but science knows little about how these drugs produce those effects. One recent study found that an LSD trip can last a good long while because when the drug binds to serotonin receptors, a lid closes over it, trapping the molecules. All well and good, but the bigger picture is still a mystery: What does LSD do to the brain to induce something users call ego dissolution, a sort of breaking down of the self?

Feilding advocates the worldwide relaxation of what she sees as an unnecessarily restrictive grip on the use of potentially therapeutic drugs.

Ren Rox for WIRED

Feilding believes the secret is the blood flow in what’s known as the default mode network, an interconnected group of structures in the brain. The thinking is that the DMN is what governs the ego, or the sense of self. “That’s where psychedelics come in and shake it up,” Feilding says, “reducing the blood supply to the default mode network,” thus releasing the ego’s grip on the brain.

In 2016 Feilding coauthored a paper with scientists at Imperial College London showing the first images of the brain on LSD. And indeed, it seems the drug dampens communication between the components of the DMN, in turn dampening the ego to produce that feeling of “oneness with the universe” that LSD is so famous for. Or so the theory goes.

But Feilding’s coauthor differs with her on the mechanism responsible for the effect. “I think blood flow is a little bit of a sideshow,” says Robin Carhart-Harris, a neuropsychopharmacologist at the Imperial College. “The brain doesn't fundamentally work through flowing blood. That’s part of it, but we know that the function is electrical, and so why don’t we measure the electrical signals?”

Which is not to say blood flow isn’t a piece of the puzzle. In that study, the measurement of blood flow worked as a complement to measurement of electrical signals, the bit that Carhart-Harris is really after. “In our forthcoming studies we've decided to drop the blood flow because of this concern that I have that it can take you off the scent,” Carhart-Harris says. “I think it’s a primitive view of how the brain works.”

But Feilding remains convinced that blood flow is the key to psychedelics. (Not that the electrical signals aren’t important. “I love neural patterns,” she says.) Recall that she works out of what in the ’60s she called Brainblood Hall. And blood is what drove her to undergo a bizarre and controversial procedure called a trepanation, in which you drill a hole in your skull to theoretically increase cerebral circulation. It’s an ancient practice that’s popped up across world cultures, usually for the treatment of headaches or head trauma. This, as you can imagine, is not backed by science.

Most people, though, wouldn’t perform the procedure on themselves. But in 1970, Feilding sat in front of a camera and drilled into the top of her forehead. “I share the film now,” she narrates in the film of the process, “in the hope that it may attract the attention of some doctor able and willing to start the essential research into the subject, without which it will not become an accepted practice, available in the national health to anyone who wants it.” (Feilding implores people to never perform their own trepanation.)

Five decades later, that research has yet to emerge, and trepanation is both unproven and dangerous, very much not a recommended practice among medical professionals. “I don't think it's a mad, scary thing,” Feilding says. “I think it's very likely to have a physiological base, which I'm going to research.”

Why now and not decades ago? “Trepanation is more taboo even than LSD, so I'm going from the base to the top of the taboo ranking,” she says with a laugh.

Three decades after her self-trenapation, a brain surgeon in Mexico performed another trepanation on Feilding. She admits the supposed effects it produces are subtle—a boost in energy, for example. “It could obviously be placebo,” she says. “How does one know? Placebo is so strong. But I noticed things like my dreams became less anxious.”

The decor of Feilding’s cavernous mansion includes a human skull drilled through with six holes.

Ren Rox for WIRED

Really, trepanation is her sidequest, another way to approach the manipulation of blood flow in the brain. LSD is Feilding’s calling. LSD unleashed—not in the acid-in-every-liquor-store kind of way but, rather, as part of a new era of psychedelic therapy.

Bad Brains

This is the future of therapy as Feilding sees it: You enter a clinic with your mind in a certain unwanted setting. Perhaps you’re ruminating over some kind of trauma. You meet with a therapist and do a relatively large dose of LSD, followed by smaller doses down the line, known as microdosing. (This has come into vogue of late, especially among Silicon Valley types who believe a minute dose of LSD makes them more creative without all the pesky hallucinations.)

“You need the peak experience to break through and change the setting,” Feilding says. “And then the microdose experience can give a little booster along the way and make it more energetic and vital and a bit more lively.”

Which sounds like something the authorities wouldn’t be so keen on. But medical officials in the UK and the US and elsewhere have actually been giving permission to study psychedelics of late. Still, the red tape is a nightmare, as are the costs. “There are three institutions in England which have a safe that can store psychoactive controlled substances,” Feilding says. “And then you’re meant to weigh them every week and have two people guarding the door. It's insane. But I think it's breaking down a little bit, and the more good results we can bring in, the better.”

In the States, too, research on psychedelics is humming along. The MAPS organization, for instance, is entering phase three of clinical trials—tests on humans comparing the drug to a placebo—using MDMA to treat PTSD.

What’s happening is the authorities in the US and UK seem to be coming around to the potential of psychedelics, probably because it’s too politically stupid not to. If MDMA does turn out to help treat PTSD, and indeed MAPS’ research so far suggests it does, opposing its use in therapy would be tantamount to opposing the mental well-being of veterans and active duty troops. (The thinking goes that MDMA lowers the fear response, allowing patients to reconceptualize their traumatizing memories under the supervision of a therapist.)

Again, doing this research is still a tremendous pain, but at least scientists can do it. “Before I was limited by not being able to get ethical approvals,” Feilding says. “But now theoretically it’s possible—with great trouble and vastly extra costs. I mean, they are more carefully controlled than nuclear weapons. It is mad.”

The Countess of Psychedelics

In the cavernous living room of Feilding’s mansion—near the giant fireplace, on top of a beautiful cabinet, next to a still-more-beautiful cabinet of tiny drawers atop the main cabinet—is a human skull drilled through with six holes. It’s the remains of an ancient human who for whatever reason went through multiple trepanations.

Feilding sits on a couch in front of the fireplace. An assistant comes in and asks if she wants hummus, and indeed she does, so the assistant returns with hummus. Feilding’s cook periodically pops in with updates on the imminence of dinner.

In the early days of Beckley, Feilding’s husband, the historian and earl Jamie Wemyss, who belongs to a wealthy Scottish family, helped pay the Beckley Foundation's bills until Feilding got better at fund-raising. But all the while Feilding has worried about money for the foundation. Governments aren’t exactly lining up to fund research into psychedelics. Neither are pharmaceutical companies. So she relies on private donors, but that’s never enough for the scope of what Feilding wants to do—studies, studies, more studies, to convince the scientific community and the public that there’s promise in psychedelics. “I can put up 10, 20, 30 thousand, but I can't put up hundreds of thousands,” she says.

Feilding has 50 years of experience using psychedelics. But she also thinks like a classically trained scientist.

Ren Rox for WIRED

Feilding occupies a strange niche as both a fund-raiser with specific policy goals and doer of science. She’s a co-author on all these papers that study psychedelics like psilocybin (the active ingredient in magic mushrooms) and LSD, but she sticks out. She's not a trained scientist. She doesn't have an undergraduate degree, much less a PhD. It’s not that she doesn’t belong, but she’s just not like everyone else.

And yet: People have this conception of science as being 100 percent objective and sober. It’s not. Any scientist, whether studying psychedelics or global warming, comes to the table with opinions and preconceived notions. Does Feilding have a more pronounced political agenda than most? She sure does—that’s what sets her apart from other researchers in the field, who’d rather focus all their attention on mechanisms of action and the like.

Feilding has 50 years of experience using psychedelics. But she also thinks like any of the classically trained scientists she authors papers with. “The real focus is not who is doing the study,” says Doblin of MAPS, “but how the study is being designed, and how sincere are the efforts to follow the gold standard scientific methodology.”

And Feilding’s studies are great, he adds. “They're the epitome of neuroscience research these days.”

Feilding comes from a long line of people who didn’t give a damn about societal norms. She sits next to the fireplace in a home her father tended at night, driving a tractor around in the darkness. Her ancestors plotted against the government. And now Feilding plots to upend not only the way humanity views psychedelics but how humanity treats mental disorders.

“We’re depriving millions of people of a better life by not making use cleverly of what has been known throughout history,” she says. “These are tools to heal, to treat, to get to another level.”

Maybe, though, the powers that be are willing to at least reconsider psychedelics. Maybe the hippies were on to something, and acid can change the world, but they just went about it all wrong. And maybe the breakthrough will one day come from a 16th-century mansion in the Oxford countryside, where the Countess of Wemyss and March toils.

Read more: https://www.wired.com/story/inside-the-mind-of-amanda-feilding-countess-of-psychedelic-science/

Senate recesses until Friday at 12:01 a.m., assuring shutdown

The U.S. Senate has recessed until Friday at 12:01 a.m. ET without approving a budget deal, which means a short government shutdown is assured. A last-minute maneuver by Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., delayed consideration of a bipartisan budget package to keep the government open past midnight.

Paul repeatedly objected to a quick vote on the deal struck by his fellow Kentucky Republican, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, and Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. Paul said he was asking for a recorded vote on reversing the bill’s spending increases. That effort could delay a final Senate vote until 1 a.m. Friday, past the deadline for keeping the government open.

“I ran for office because I was very critical of President Obama’s trillion-dollar deficits,” the Kentucky senator said. “Now we have Republicans hand in hand with Democrats offering us trillion-dollar deficits. I can’t in all honesty look the other way.”

At one point, an exasperated Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C., took to the Senate floor to lambaste Paul for what Tillis described as “theater.”

“We can right now provide certainty to people who expect government to be open or we can play this game until 1 a.m.,” said Tillis, who reminded Paul that “you have to convince 51 or 60 senators that your idea is good enough to support.”

“You can make a point all you want, but points are forgotten,” Tillis added. “There aren’t a whole of history books about great points in the U.S. Senate.”

Shortly after 10 p.m., Senate Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, made six separate unanimous consent requests to hold a vote on the budget. Each time, Paul objected. 

“I don’t know why we’re burning time here,” Cornyn said before accusing Paul of “effectively shutting down the government … for no real reason.”

“It makes no sense to me,” Cornyn added. “It will not accomplish anything.”

As Paul stood firm, the Trump administration announced it was preparing for a “lapse” in appropriations, suggesting that officials expected a short shutdown.

The massive budget deal, which includes a stopgap temporary measure to prevent a government shutdown, includes $300 billion for the military. The agreement also adds $89 billion in overdue disaster aid for hurricane-slammed Texas, Florida and Puerto Rico, a politically charged increase in the government’s borrowing cap and a grab bag of health and tax provisions.

The legislation is expected to pass the Senate, but still faces uncertainty in the House, where liberals, led by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, are protesting a lack of protections for illegal immigrants brought to the United States as children and the conservative House Freedom Caucus is lining up against provisions ending spending caps.

Late Thursday, House GOP leaders advised members to prepare for votes “very roughly between” 3 a.m. and 6 a.m. Friday.

President Trump has been urging Republicans and Democrats to support the Senate bill, tweeting that lawmakers must “must support our troops and support this bill.”

But the bill still faces opposition from members of both parties.

Pelosi — who on Wednesday spoke for eight straight hours on the chamber’s floor in opposition to the measure — said Thursday that she would oppose the bill.

Democrats like Pelosi are pushing for the bill to include provisions for “Dreamers” — immigrants brought illegally to the U.S. by their parents. Such protections are about to expire in early March, a result of President Trump ending the Obama-era Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals, or DACA, program.

Illinois Democratic Rep. Luis Gutierrez, the leader of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, said he also won’t support the bill and predicted other Democrats would also vote no.

“So today, they are going to bring over from the Senate a proposal, they are going to lift the caps and they’re going to say, let’s vote on our budget. Well, I say to everybody — don’t collude with this administration,” Gutierrez said. “Vote against the budget.”

The House Freedom Caucus, the chamber’s fiscally conservative wing, also opposes the bill out of concerns that it would lead to more government spending.

“The … caucus opposes the deal to raise spending caps on discretionary spending by nearly $300 billion over two years,” the roughly 30-member group said Wednesday. “We support funding for our military, but growing the size of government by 13 percent adds to the swamp instead of draining it. This is not what the American people sent us here to do.”

On Thursday, House Speaker Paul Ryan gave his full support to the bill to try to rally others in chamber to also vote yes — saying the military is at risk without the money, while acknowledging the deal includes partisan compromises and isn’t perfect.

“This is a bipartisan bill,” the Wisconsin Republican said. “On the net, this is a very good solution.”

Fox News’ Chad Pergram and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Alex Pappas is a politics reporter at FoxNews.com. Follow him on Twitter at @AlexPappas.

Read more: http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2018/02/09/senate-recesses-until-friday-at-12-01-m-assuring-shutdown.html

7 Things You Need To Know About The Pisces In Your Life

Rowan Chestnut / Unsplash

Let me be the first to admit that I am no astrologer. Ask me to explain why our birthdays affect our personalities, and I won’t be able too. Although there is some science to back up how the particular month you were born in affects your personality (read here & here), there’s just not as much to defend why your particular astrological sign does. Nevertheless, I’m a believer in greater cosmic power. I’ve read a fair share about my zodiac sign, and can conclude that I am 100% a Pisces.

So with it officially being the Pisces birthday month, I’d like to make sure that we all understand the fishes. Maybe it’s just me, but I’m under the impression that we tend to be brushed off as “complicated,” when really, we’re just a fragile, tolerant, and absolutely lovable sign. “Complicated” doesn’t quite do my fellow fishes and I justice, so here’s what it really feels like to be a Pisces, and to have one of us in your life.

1. We are sensitive and emotional. Please be gentle with us.

The Pisces sign is symbolized by two swimming fishes. According to astrology.com, the “water sign is extremely emotional, empathic, and extraordinarily sensitive.”

Out of all the Pisces that I have ever met, this statement holds true. I have not once come across a Pisces that isn’t sensitive. As the extremely intuitive fish that we are, we’re in touch with our feelings and the feelings of others. When there’s a shift in the current, or a change in the tide, we don’t just notice it—we feel it. We’re affected by the energy that surrounds us, as well as our environment. We’re ruled by emotions, and are the sign of heart over mind.

2.  We’re pretty fun and get along with basically everyone

Pisces are innately fun. Because of our perceptive nature, we can get along with anyone; blend into any crowd. We’re always open to new ideas, and we thrive off positive vibes. This makes us a fun friend to go out with, or to have around when you need a shoulder to cry on. We have an incredible ability to read people and relate to them.

3. We may seem a bit lost and indecisive

As fishes, we can sink or swim. Sometimes it takes a Pisces a while to focus and find the right direction. Because we are adaptable, we may aimlessly drift around for a while. To some we may appear lost or distracted, with our head in the clouds. All we really need, however, is someone or something to help ground us and our free spirit.

4. We’re the dreamers, and have vivid imaginations

Pisces are always dreaming. We have vivid imaginations, and we get easily swept away by our own thoughts and desires. To Pisces, the mystical world is more appealing than the real one. We like to escape reality. This is why many of pursue creative professions, allowing us to dream a bit deeper.

5. We need time to ourselves

As dreamers, we need “me time” to get lost in our own fantasies and restore our energy. We like spending time with ourselves just as much as with others, and we enjoy being fully absorbed in a great book or solo activity.

6. We are affectionate, vulnerable, and a little needy

Pisces love to love, and love to be loved. We fall hard, and wear our hearts on our sleeve. We can also be a bit needy, and are easily bruised (I repeat, we’re very sensitive).

7. You’ll find us by the water 

The water is our happy place, and we crave it as much as we need it. Take an unhappy Pisces to the beach, the pool, on a boat ride, or even run them a hot bath. You’ll see the difference.

And that’s a Pisces, in a nutshell. We’re a little complicated to the outside eye, but only in the best way possible. We feel deeply, dream deeply, love deeply. We’re an intense school of fish, and you would be mistaken to not want us around.

Happy Birthday Pisces!

Read more: https://thoughtcatalog.com/olivia-lipski/2018/02/7-things-you-need-to-know-about-the-pisces-in-your-life/

Orrin Hatch Calls Obamacare Supporters ‘The Stupidest, Dumbass People I’ve Ever Met’

Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-Utah) is apparently sick of people who support affordable health care.

On Thursday, the Republican politician called supporters of the Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare, “the stupidest, dumbass people I’ve ever met,” according to Salt Lake City station KSTU.

Hatch made the comments during a speech about the recent GOP tax overhaul that repealed the health care law’s individual mandate, according to The Hill.

The insult came after Hatch referred to “that wonderful bill called ‘Obamacare.’”

“Now, if you didn’t catch on, I was being very sarcastic,” he said.

Hatch then called the Affordable Care Act “the stupidest, dumbass bill that I’ve ever seen.”

He added:

“Now, some of you may have loved it. If you do, you are one of the stupidest, dumbass people I’ve ever met. This was one of them — and there are a lot of ’em up on Capitol Hill from time to time.”

Hatch’s comments came the same day the Kaiser Family Foundation released a poll saying the Affordable Care Act was popular with 54 percent of the population.

That’s the highest level of support since the law was enacted in 2010, according to The Hill.

Hatch spokesman Matt Whitlock tried to put a Band-Aid on the senator’s Obamacare insults.

“The comments were obviously made in jest, but what’s not a joke is the harm Obamacare has caused for countless Utahns,” Whitlock told KSTU.

In January, the 83-year-old Hatch announced he would retire from the Senate at the end of 2018. He has served in the office since 1977.

You can watch Hatch’s comments below:

Read more: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/orrin-hatch-obamacare-supporters-dumbasses_us_5a988eafe4b0a0ba4ad19ef4

Disgusting! NRA Spokeswoman Dana Loesch Says Many In Media ‘Love Mass Shootings’!

It’s that time of year. The end of February marks Spring when a young man’s fancy turns to love. And when shady lobbyists speak openly to their right-wing allies.

Yep, the National Rifle Association has descended on the Conservative Political Action Conference, the annual rally where all the worst Republicans can get together and talk about hating immigrants and the poor without fear of being disagreed with.

Loesch also went after the FBI, blaming them for “dropping the ball” on every mass shooting. Apparently she thinks the FBI are like car alarms that are just always there.

Basically, she’s just ready to blame anything or anyone but guns for mass shootings.

Her boss, NRA executive vice president and CEO Wayne LaPierre made a surprise drop-in where he went even further, saying Democrats, whom he called secret socialists, and the media wanted to “exploit tragedy for political gain”:

“They want to sweep right under the carpet the failure of school security, the failure of family, the failure of America’s mental health system, and even the unbelievable failure of the FBI.”

There it is again. They are going all-in against the FBI.

It’s almost as if they’re in an adversarial position because the FBI is investigating whether their organization funneled Russian funds to help the Trump campaign.

[Image via YouTube.]

Read more: http://perezhilton.com/2018-02-22-nra-dana-loesch-cpac-speech-media-love-mass-shootings

Veteran who served two tours in Afghanistan could be deported

(CNN)Miguel Perez Jr. discovered that two tours of duty in Afghanistan with the US Army and an accompanying case of PTSD are no shield from US immigration laws.

There are serious factors working against Perez: He was convicted on a felony drug charge and discharged from the Army for drug use; military service is no guarantee of citizenship; and he never applied for citizenship, despite being eligible to apply in 1994.
He said he fears deportation would do more than separate him from his family in the United States, including his two children born here. He thinks it could kill him.
    The substance-abuse and mental-health counseling he desperately needs would not be readily available in Mexico, he said. He also predicts that drug cartels would recruit him because of his combat experience and murder him if he didn’t cooperate.
    So he started a hunger strike Wednesday, not long after his latest setback in federal court.
    “If they are sentencing me to a certain death, and I am going to die, then why die in a place that I have not considered my home in a long time?” he asked.
    “There is a saying that goes, ‘I’d rather die like a man than live like a coward.’ In Mexico, I will have to live in fear, like a coward. No. I’d rather die right here, like a man fighting against something that makes no sense — this thing of deporting veterans does not make sense even if they try to justify with the law.”
    Though US Citizenship and Immigration Services has provisions for expediting troops’ naturalization process, a chief requirement is that the applicant must demonstrate “good moral character.”

    Veterans not immune from deportation

    Perez is not the first veteran of the US military to face deportation.
    In 2016, CNN interviewed several veterans in Tijuana, Mexico, after they were deported from the United States. Those veterans said they considered their homes to be the United States, not Mexico.
    Like some of those veterans, Perez mistakenly believed enlisting in the US military would automatically make him a US citizen, said his lawyer, Chris Bergin.
    In a statement, ICE said the agency “respects the service and sacrifice of those in military service, and is very deliberate in its review of cases involving US military veterans. Any action taken by ICE that may result in the removal of an alien with military service must be authorized by the senior leadership in a field office, following an evaluation by the office of chief counsel.”
    “ICE exercises prosecutorial discretion, when appropriate, on a case-by-case basis for members of the armed forces who have served our country. ICE specifically identifies service in the US military as a positive factor that is considered when deciding whether or not prosecutorial discretion should be exercised.”
    Between fiscal years 2002 and 2015, US Citizenship and Immigration Services naturalized more than 109,000 service members.

    Enlisted before 9/11

    Perez was born in Mexico and came to the United States at age 8 when his father, Miguel Perez Sr., a semi-pro soccer player, moved the family to Chicago because of a job offer, Perez said.
    His father, mother and his 47-year-old sister were born in Mexico but are now naturalized American citizens, he said. His 27-year-old sister and his daughter, 21, and son, 11, are American citizens because they were all born in the United States, he said. His daughter’s mother, who he divorced, and his son’s mother, to whom he was not married, are both citizens, Perez said.
    Perez said he played soccer as a kid, and when he was 12 his team won a state championship. He did well in math and science and started college after finishing high school.
    But Perez said he left college a few credits short of an associate’s degree and enlisted in the Army in 2001, several months before 9/11.
    Perez said he served in Afghanistan from October 2002-April 2003 and May 2003-October 2003, his lawyer said. Bergin added that Perez left the Army in 2004 with a general discharge after he was caught smoking marijuana on base.

    Post-Army problems

    After leaving the Army, Perez’s life went off the tracks. He attributed these problems to post-traumatic stress disorder, which was not immediately diagnosed.
    “I saw many horrible things, things I can only, until this day, speak about with a mental health specialist and even then after I say them, the nightmares start up again,” he said. “They are things that happened to me personally, that happened to others, and to Afghans themselves — 12-, 11-year-old kids split in half by 50-caliber bullets at our hands.
    “These are things that you never forget and sometimes when you try to forget, they come back at night.”
    He said he became addicted to drugs and drank heavily.
    “After the second tour, there was more alcohol and that was also when I tried some drugs,” he said. “But the addiction really started after I got back to Chicago, when I got back home, because I did not feel very sociable.”
    Perez also had legal problems, including a conviction in 1998 for possessing a small amount of marijuana, Bergin said.
    In 2007 he was charged with misdemeanor battery but the charge was dropped, Bergin said. At that time, he had already been diagnosed with PTSD at a veterans hospital, Bergin said.
    He was later arrested on a felony cocaine charge.

    Cocaine conviction

      These US military veterans were deported to Mexico

    Perez was convicted in February 2010 in Cook County, Illinois, on charges related to his delivery more than 2 pounds of cocaine to an undercover officer. He was sentenced to 15 years on a charge of manufacture or delivery, or possession with intent to manufacture or deliver a controlled substance, ICE spokesperson Nicole Alberico said.
    With that conviction, he lost his green card, Perez said.
    But prison had its benefits.
    “It was in prison that I was finally able to get the treatment I needed for my PTSD,” he said. “They had a lot of substance abuse programs, and now is when I finally feel like the person I used to be. I won’t say a new person, but like when I was younger.”
    He also finished his associate’s degree.
    Perez had served half his sentence when ICE began deportation proceedings, with a judge ordering his removal in March 2017. Perez said he was surprised to be sent to an ICE detention facility because he thought he already had citizenship.
    “Although he was a vet, he never applied for US citizenship for many years he was eligible,” a senior immigration official told CNN. “He became a permanent resident in 1989. This means he could have applied for citizenship as early as 1994.”
    During his time fighting deportation, Perez became closer to his parents, who often visited him. His mother, Esperanza Perez, came to court to show support for her son.
    Perez said he also started talking more to his children. On Saturday night he spoke with his son and they talked about Sunday’s Super Bowl and sports.
    Perez appealed the deportation order, but a three-judge panel of the 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals rejected his plea last week.
    He could be deported this month.

    Final appeals

    Perez’s lawyer, Bergin, filed an appeal to the full panel of the 7th US Circuit Court of Appeals, and will ask for a stay of deportation while the appeals process plays out.
    Bergin said the requests for a stay are based on two arguments: A medical finding says Perez needs immediate attention for PTSD, and an application for retroactive citizenship — based on the date of his enlistment in the military — is still being reviewed.
    Finally, supporters have petitioned Illinois Gov. Bruce Rauner for a pardon. A spokeswoman for the governor said the petition is under review.

    Fear of drug cartels

    Perez said the hunger strike is more than a symbolic gesture.
    “I am fasting because if my deportation is final and they send me back to Mexico, I will be separated from my kids, from my family, my community, my home — they are throwing me out, sentencing me to death,” he said.
    The drug cartels in Mexico are a real threat, he said.
    “When I was in prison, I was already getting offers, people who would say to me that if I was deported (the cartels) would send word back and all would be OK,” he said. “They would offer me the opportunity to make a lot of money and a lot of other things, but that was just a way to say, ‘You belong to us when you get back here.'”
    He said he’s paid the price for his drug case, and is angrier by the day about his deportation.
    “I went through the system and I accepted all of the consequences that came with declaring myself guilty of a crime, the way it should be,” Perez said. “And now they want to deport me with nothing, without thinking to themselves that I sacrificed my life fighting for this country.
    “It’s very sad and now I’m starting to get angry because those same people that authorize, that support the deportation of veterans, those are the same people that the rest of us fought to protect.”

    Read more: http://www.cnn.com/2018/02/04/us/ice-possible-deportation-veteran/index.html

    On Oregon’s “School Exclusion Day” Unvaccinated Children Will Be Banned From Attending School

    Today, February 21, it’s “School Exclusion Day” in Oregon. As noted by the state’s Health Authority, “parents must provide schools, child care facilities with kids’ vaccine records”. If their “records on file show missing immunizations”, their “children will not be able to attend school or child care” from this date forth.

    As spotted by Newsweek, today’s the day that, if you’re a child in Oregon and you don’t have a suite of vaccinations – including MMR, Polio, Hepatitis B, and more – you won’t be given an education, nor will you be allowed to risk the health and possibly lives of other schoolchildren. Similar enforecement initiatives are in operation in other states, from Texas to Illinois.

    Authorities explained that, in 2017, nearly 30,000 letters were sent to parents and guardians letting them know their children’s inoculations weren’t up to date. Ultimately, 4,646 children were kept out of educational facilities until things changed – and the state is hoping this year will feature a decrease in said numbers.

    There is a caveat here, though: vaccines in this regard aren’t entirely mandatory just yet, for both practical and morally defunct reasons. According to Oregonian state law, all children in any form of education, both public and private, preschools, and certified care facilities, must have up-to-date records or – and here’s the important bit – have an “exemption”.

    Generally speaking, these exemptions are medically based. In very few cases, certain children with severe allergies, weakened immune systems, or so on cannot have certain vaccinations, but thanks to the principle of herd immunity, if everyone else is vaccinated, they remain essentially protected from the disease in question.

    In some cases, nonmedical exemptions are also allowed for “personal, religious, or philosophical reasons”. Although these aren’t obtainable immediately upon request, they are given out – and according to a 2014 review on such matters, nonmedical exemptions are showing a rate increase across the nation.

    “Most exemptors questioned vaccine safety, although some exempted out of convenience,” the study noted.

    In 2016, one-in-10 children in communities all over the world weren’t given vaccines. A resurgence in anti-vaxxer sentiment – sometimes with the tacit support of certain government officials – in certain countries, along with a lack of resources and immunization coverage in others, has led to unnecessary headlines.

    The World Health Organization (WHO) this week noted that Europe has seen a huge uptick in measles cases, something the MMR vaccine’s use should be stamping out. After a record low in 2016, 2017 has seen a four-fold increase, which the WHO, per BBC News, has referred to as a “tragedy”.

    Largely in response to anti-vaxxer movements and unfounded vaccine distrust, governments around the world are introducing or expanding various forms of mandatory vaccination, from Australia to France to Italy. The focus is generally on school-aged children, and with that in mind, Oregon is no exception.

    As aforementioned, the Beaver State isn’t quite alone in this sense: all 50 US states have legislation that requires a range of vaccines to be given to students, with details on exemptions varying from state to state. As of 2017, 18 states allow “philosophical exemptions” for those who wish not to vaccinate their children.

    According to the WHO, immunization programs around the world prevent up to 3 million premature deaths every single year. Millions of children still require vaccinations, however, and most of them are in countries with “fragile humanitarian settings”.

    Simply having access to vaccines in such communities is a significant problem, but not in wealthy nations, where rejection is often a personal choice, not one borne out of access. Those seeking philosophical exemptions, then, clearly lack a grasp of how fortunate their circumstances are.

    Read more: http://www.iflscience.com/health-and-medicine/on-oregons-school-exclusion-day-unvaccinated-children-banned-attending-school/

    Teen school shooting survivors are sending a passionate message Washington can’t ignore.

    The adults have had their chance. Now it’s time to hear directly from kids about school shootings.

    After the 18th confirmed school shooting in 2018, it can be hard to find new ways to confront how the previously unthinkable has become a regular part of our lives.

    Lawmakers in Congress were already speaking of a “sense of resignation” following the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting on Feb. 14, after recent massacres like that in Las Vegas failed to generate legislative action.

    So the young survivors of Wednesday’s mass shooting took on that responsibility themselves, speaking out about the importance of gun safety.

    “Some of our policymakers and some people need … to look in the mirror and take some action; because ideas are great, but without action, ideas stay ideas and children die,” senior David Hogg, 17, said in an interview with CNN.

    This is the first time we’ve seen school shooting survivors respond directly to lawmakers on social media.

    And Hogg isn’t alone. After President Trump tweeted about the shootings, a number of fellow Douglas survivors took to Twitter to refute the idea that school shootings are purely a mental health issue.

    These aren’t kids used as political props. They are smart teens with real thoughts.

    Bringing kids into a political debate can be complicated, even when it’s for a message we agree with. But that’s not what happened here.

    The student survivors of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School took action on their own, sending a powerful message to lawmakers that they can no longer rest on the sidelines while children continue to die from gun violence.

    “I want to show these people exactly what’s going on when these children are facing bullets flying through classrooms and students are dying trying to get an education,” Hogg told CNN. “That’s not OK, and that’s not acceptable, and we need to fix that.”

    If the adults can’t take action, maybe they’ll listen to the survivors.

    The grownups have been locked in a gun safety stalemate that shows no sign of letting up. Even common-sense changes — like expanded background checks — that have near-universal support stall in Congress, thanks, in large part, to the powerful lobbying efforts of the National Rifle Association.

    It’s easy to ignore people on the other side of the political aisle.

    It’s not easy to ignore children who just watched their fellow classmates die while also facing down their own deaths.

    Image via CNN.

    Rep. Ted Deutch (D-FL) followed Hogg’s interview on CNN and said that Hogg and his classmate Kelsey Friend confronted him directly with a challenge:

    “When they were leaving, I went to tell them how brave I thought they were, and [Hogg] looked at me and he said, ‘We want action.'”

    Read more: http://www.upworthy.com/teen-school-shooting-survivors-are-sending-a-passionate-message-washington-can-t-ignore

    Snow falling as Siberian blast hits UK

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    Media captionHeavy snow and freezing winds are forecast for Tuesday

    Snow is falling across parts of the UK as very cold air sweeps in from Russia.

    Heavy snow is expected across southern and eastern England overnight on Monday – with warnings extending into the Midlands, Scotland and Wales on Tuesday morning.

    Many areas have been hit by freezing temperatures, with a wind chill making it feel like -15C in some places.

    Rail firms have warned of disruption, with many planning to run a reduced service overnight and on Tuesday.

    A snow emergency was declared in Kent and the council urged people not to contact it unless there is an emergency.

    Heavy snow is forecast for much of Yorkshire, Teesside, Durham and Newcastle in the early hours of Tuesday morning, which is likely to cause delays on the roads, the Met Office said.

    A warning is also in place for London and parts of the South East on Tuesday, with the possibility of delays and cancellations on travel networks as well as power cuts in rural areas.

    Snow warnings have been issued for the whole of Wales, with temperatures expected to fall to -5C, the Met Office says.

    The Met Office has both yellow warnings and more serious amber warnings – meaning there is a potential risk to life and property – for large parts of the UK for the rest of the week.

    Train disruption:

    Meanwhile, Heathrow and Gatwick airports say they are not expecting delays today, but urged anyone flying later in the week to check the status of their flight with airlines.

    Image copyright Ian Heard
    Image caption A frozen sea front at Weston-super-mare
    Image copyright John Gray
    Image caption A burst water pipe in Highworth, Wiltshire created this icy display.

    Weather warnings on Wednesday and Thursday’s will also cover Cornwall, Scotland and Northern Ireland.

    By Wednesday night, more than 20cm (8ins) of snow could have accumulated in some parts of eastern England and Northern Ireland, forecasters have warned.

    Scotland is expected to have between 5cm (2ins) 10and 10cm (4ins) of snow on Wednesday.

    The Met Office is predicting that some roads may become impassable and vehicles may be stranded.

    BBC Weather has warned of possibly hazardous conditions in southern England later in the week as a low pressure weather system moves up from the Bay of Biscay and hits the already “exceptionally cold air”.

    ‘Blizzard conditions’

    Alina Jenkins, from the BBC’s Weather service, said: “Any precipitation will turn readily to snow, and with bitterly cold strong to gale force easterly winds, blizzards are likely.”

    Met Office meteorologist Charlie Powell said: “Unusually for Britain, the snow is going to be quite dry, so it will blow around and gather in drifts and we could see some blizzard conditions.”

    He added that while he did not want to alarm people, the Met Office was urging people to be prepared for the so-called “beast from the East”.

    Parts of the UK will feel as cold as Norway and Iceland.

    Image copyright Andy Hughes
    Image caption Frozen sea at Porth Cwyfan bay on Anglesey
    Image copyright PA
    Image caption Icicles on a frozen waterfall in the Brecon Beacons

    Wet vs dry snow

    When surface temperatures are below freezing, snow is drier as it contains less water.

    This type of snow is powdery and does not stick together, the Met Office says.

    Wet snow however, is the result of slightly warmer, moist air, which causes the edge of snowflakes to melt and stick together.

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    Media captionBBC Weather explains why we can expect temperatures to plummet

    Public Health England have advised homes to be heated to at least 18C.

    Emergency shelters have been opened across the country as councils offer extra accommodation to the homeless during the freezing conditions.

    The offer of a hot shower, clean clothes, food and a bed can help save lives, homeless charity St Mungo’s said.

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    Media captionSnow is falling across London amid yellow weather warnings

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