Society's Child


Mutilated cow carcasses litter Swedish coast

© Adrien Dubuisson
The cow in this picture is not one of those mentioned in the story.
Five dead cows have drifted onto Swedish shores in the past week, several with their feet bound and ears cut off, leaving police in southern Sweden mystified.

On Tuesday, police launched an investigation into the origin and deaths of five dead cows that washed ashore during the past week.

"This is a highly unusual case," Jimmy Modén, spokesman for the Skåne Police Department, told The Local. "The first report came on New Year's Eve, and then another on January 4th, and then a third cow was reported on the 5th. Yesterday we received a call about yet another."

The first cow was found in Gislöv harbour, and since then bodies have washed up in Smygehamn, Beddingestrand, and Falsterbo, stretching over 56 kilometres of the southern Swedish coast.

"I was out looking for amber stones on Falsterbo beach when I saw that there was a dead cow there," Mikael Lönnström told newspaper Expressen. "It looked very fresh. The stomach looked a little swollen. The whole thing was very strange."


UK Jury sides with Met over police shooting that sparked summer riots

© Rex Features
Mark Duggan.
The family of Mark Duggan, whose death in Tottenham sparked the 2011 riots across England, were left devastated as an inquest jury decided he was not holding a gun when shot by police, but nevertheless found the marksman's decision to open fire was lawful.

The jury rushed out of court to a secure room as the friends and family of the dead 29-year-old heard the verdict, which was greeted angrily by relatives and supporters in north London.

On Wednesday night speaking outside Tottenham police station, Pam Duggan, Mark's mother, said she did not accept the verdict. "They [the police] know that they have killed my son."

The lawful killing verdict was a surprise to some even on the police side, and more so as before announcing the decision, the jury had announced by an eight-to-two majority that they were sure Duggan did not have a gun in his hand when shot.

That had seemed to be the issue at the heart of the inquest.

The jury delivered a narrative verdict, answering a series of questions. It had appeared that the six days of deliberations were going to produce a disaster for the Metropolitan police when the jury found law enforcement had not done enough to gather and react to intelligence Duggan may be seeking to acquire a gun.

Instead the jury announced that by an eight-to-two majority they believed the firearms officer had acted lawfully in gunning Duggan down.

The officer, known as V53, testified he was sure he had seen a gun in Duggan's right hand and believed the suspect was preparing to use it. As the verdict was announced, Pam Duggan broke down in court and his brother shouted swearwords at the jury.

Light Sabers

U.S.-India strip-search saga: India tells U.S. to close embassy club

© REUTERS/Anindito Mukherjee
A private security guard stands outside the U.S. embassy in New Delhi December 18, 2013. India announced retaliatory measures against the United States on Wednesday, including revising work conditions of Indians employed in U.S. consulates and a freeze on duty-free alcohol, in an escalating row over the arrest of a diplomat in New York. The move came a day after police removed security barricades from the U.S. embassy in New Delhi in reprisal against the arrest. Heavy machinery dragged away concrete barriers that restricted traffic movement around the embassy.
India ordered the United States on Wednesday to close down an embassy club for expatriate Americans in New Delhi, escalating a diplomatic row between the two nations that has brought fault lines in their ties out in the open.

Furious at the arrest, handcuffing and strip search of its deputy consul in New York last month, India initially reacted by curtailing privileges offered to U.S. diplomats. The officer, Devyani Khobragade, was accused by prosecutors of underpaying her nanny and lying on a visa application,

Still festering nearly a month on, the row has started to affect the wider relationship between the world's two largest democracies, with one high-level visit by a senior U.S. official already postponed and a visit scheduled for next week by U.S. Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz looking doubtful.

Both sides have said the relationship is important and will not be allowed to deteriorate - Washington needs New Delhi on its side as U.S. troops pull out of Afghanistan and it engages with China. Millions of Indians have made the United States their home and bilateral trade is worth about $100 billion a year.

But the row over Khobragade, which should not have been more than an easily resolved irritant, is just not going away and has plunged the two countries into a crisis described by Indian media as the worst since New Delhi tested a nuclear device in 1998.

Fireball 5

Another mysterious and fatal explosion at a chemical plant, this time killing 5 at a Mitsubishi Materials factory in Japan

© Google Images
A powerful blast has struck a chemical factory in central Japan, killing at least five and leaving 17 injured, reports local press. Japanese police say the explosion was triggered by a chemical reaction inside the plant.

The incident happened at a chemical plant owned by Mitsubishi in Yokkaichi, Mie Prefecture. The factory produces silicon materials for the international firm.

"There was some explosion triggered by some sort of chemical reaction during plant operations," said a police spokesman in Mie, central Japan to AFP.

Japanese Broadcaster NHK reported that at least five people had died in the blast at the Mitsubishi Materials Corp chemicals plant. The local fire department said they could not confirm any casualties, but did tell Reuters that 17 people had been injured, five of them seriously.


U.S. jobless workers enter free fall

© Unknown

The pickup truck will probably be the first thing to go.

It's the first new car that Jeremy Botta has ever bought, using his savings from working for more than 14 years at the same auto repair shop. "I bent over backwards - I worked almost a 100 hours a week on my salary to turn that store around," said Botta, 37, who was laid off in April after the shop changed owners.

Unemployment insurance has allowed Botta to keep up with his car and mortgage payments. But on Dec. 28, he became one of the 1.3 million unemployed Americans to lose their emergency federal benefits when Congress declined to extend the program.

Democrats and a few Republicans have vowed to revisit the issue when the Senate returns on Monday with a vote scheduled for a three-month extension. President Obama will also urge a benefit extension this week.

In the meantime, unemployed workers like Botta are already making contingency plans to get by without the jobless aid. And economists warn that the loss of aid will discourage some to stop looking for work altogether.

"If it comes down to it, I'll have to sell the house," says Botta, who bought the place in Bend, Ore., just months before he suddenly lost his job, which netted him as much as $60,000 in a good year. Having already raided his retirement savings, Botta thinks he'll need to take three or four part-time jobs, working 60 to 70 hours a week just to get by without the unemployment checks.


Parking violation turns into police assault caught on video - lawsuit

© RT
A Nebraska family filed suit Monday against dozens of police officers alleging that they turned a parking violation into a rough arrest and violating the family's constitutional rights by breaking into a nearby home and confiscating video of the incident.

Four Omaha police officers initially responded to a complaint on March 21, 2013 that Octavius Johnson had parked his truck in the wrong area of the street. A video of the incident recorded from an upstairs window shows police throwing Johnson to the ground and punching him multiple times as a number of other officers rush to the scene.

"He went around my neck, threw me to the ground, choked me out to the point where I couldn't breathe or speak," Johnson told KPTM-TV in Nebraska. "The officer told me to stop resisting, punched me in the face and said 'do you want to die today.'"

Another officer pushes Octavius' brother Juaquez, who is filming the arrest on a camera phone, away from the scene. Juaqeuz then escapes the officer's grasp and sprints into a neighbor's home and is chased by a handful of police, who eventually confiscated his phone.

That video - which is thought to have been destroyed - has never been made public. Yet the video captured from upstairs quickly went viral after the incident, inspiring community demonstrations and eventually the dismissal of the four officers caught on film. Criminal charges were brought against two of those patrolmen for either tampering with evidence or being an accessory.


Local police refuse to participate in 'voluntary' traffic checkpoints

© AFP Photo / Saul Loeb
The US government's use of traffic checkpoints to gather drunk and drugged driving information from motorists has come under fire recently, so much so that some police agencies are withdrawing their participation.

These checkpoints, established by a subcontractor for the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, are co-manned by off-duty, uniformed officers and intended to ask people about their driving habits. Although participation is voluntary, the presence of uniformed officers has pushed many Americans to complain they feel compelled to comply with requests.

Fueled by mistrust of the government due to the burgeoning National Security Agency surveillance scandal, the fact that some checkpoint workers collect blood, saliva, and breath samples has only amplified concerns.

As RT reported in mid-2013, police in Ohio were criticized for setting up fake checkpoints in order to randomly stop cars and search them for drugs. Since it's illegal for police to stop and search vehicles without probable cause, the sham checkpoint system has been criticized as unconstitutional. The American Civil Liberties Union is investigating the issue and considering taking legal actions.

Meanwhile, police and checkpoint workers in Reading, Pennsylvania raised eyebrows in December when reports began surfacing that they were asking drivers to provide DNA samples as part of the NHTSA survey. One resident said he was never told what the sample would be used for and had to refuse to hand one over multiple times before he was finally allowed to go.

Light Saber

TEDx speaker gives priceless talk about how TED talks are worthless

With all due respect to Lizzie Velasquez, the vast majority of TED and TEDx talks are complete bullshit, and it's high time someone called them out on it.

Benjamin Bratton, Associate Professor of Visual Arts at the University of California, San Diego, has a huge problem with TED, and he isn't afraid to tell them so right to their face.

At a recent TEDx event in San Diego, Bratton delivered a talk called "What's Wrong with TED Talks?"

"The first reason is over-simplification," Bratton says at the start of his speech. "To be clear, I have nothing against the idea of interesting people who do smart things explaining their work doing in a way that everyone can understand, but TED goes way beyond that."

Gold Coins

Predatory Capitalism: Betting-shop machines sucking cash out of communities

© Alamy
In a spin … virtual roulette is among a number of hi-tech games available in betting shops.
Midway through our chat, Abbas Marasli rolls off the sofa, yanks up his shirt and shows me a six-inch scar running up his chest. It is seven months old; a permanent reminder of a double heart bypass. Abbas is only 46, but could easily be mistaken as 10 years older. The father of three has lost two businesses, racked up tens of thousands in additional debts, been shunned by brothers and sisters, and gone through a divorce. The root cause of all this stress and misery, he says, is a machine that's spreading across high streets.

Until last spring, Abbas was addicted to betting terminals. That phrase used to mean fruit machines: clunky things with a lever and a coin slot and loud music. Not any more. Games terminals are now highly sophisticated devices for sucking up customers' cash. Walk into a bookie today and you'll be offered virtual roulette or blackjack, the chance to bet £100 every 20 seconds and easy payment by credit card.

It was virtual roulette that Abbas discovered about eight years ago. It soon swallowed up his life. On his way to work, he'd duck into a bookies. Any breaks would be spent running into a William Hill or a Ladbroke's; likewise on the way home. By the end of one day, he could have spent his week's wages, then borrowed from friends and family. He once lost £2,000 in 10 minutes; burned through £10,000 of savings in two days. After a bad streak, he'd attack the terminals or bash his head against a wall. At night, "these machines would be in my dreams".

He describes all this sat under a photo of a daughter's wedding. How did his family manage? "No holidays, no social life." They'd borrow cash from relatives just to buy groceries. Abbas's wife divorced him, only taking him back after he'd undergone therapy for addiction. After she smilingly hands out cups of tea, I'm told she's still on pills for depression.


Recreational pot sales in Colorado surpass $5 million in first week

© Reuters / Rick Wilking

Cheri Hackett, co-owner of BotanaCare, carries bags of the company's sample packs of marijuana in Northglenn, Colorado
The state of Colorado has survived its first week with legal weed, and the verdict is in: people really like marijuana.

Owners of the 37 just-launched dispensaries across Colorado tell the Huffington Post that they've already generated a combined total of roughly $5 million in sales since it became legal there on January 1 for adults to purchase and use marijuana for recreational reasons.

Some of the larger dispensaries unloaded as much as 60 pounds of pot each from their shelves during that first week, HuffPo's Matt Ferner reported on Wednesday, and combined sales on the first of the year alone totaled over $1 million.

"Every day that we've been in business since Jan. 1 has been better than my best day of business ever," Andy Williams, owner of Denver's Medicine Man dispensary, told the website.

Voters in Colorado approved a measure legalizing medicinal marijuana back in 2000, and dispensaries across the state had until just recently been barred from selling to those without a doctor's prescription. Denver's 3D Cannabis Center told the Colorado Springs Gazette that they averaged 25 clients a day in medical marijuana sales before the state's new law went into effect, but on Jan. 1 they served around 450 customers and before long were forced to close down in order to restock.