- Signs of the Times Archive for Tue, 18 Dec 2007 -

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U.S. News
One Nation, Under a One Party System: Bill Clinton, 'George H.W. Bush will help President Hillary'

2007-12-18 17:10:00

Former President Bill Clinton said Monday that the first thing his wife Hillary will do when she reaches the White House is dispatch him and his predecessor, President George H.W. Bush, on an around-the-world mission to repair the damage done to America's reputation by the current president - Bush's son, George W. Bush.

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New Jersey Governor Signs Bill Ending Executions

Jeremy W. Peters
New York Times
2007-12-18 15:46:00

Few other issues have prompted the kind of intensity and conviction that Gov. Jon S. Corzine shows when he talks about preventing even one more execution.

On Monday, those sentiments were on full display as he signed a bill repealing New Jersey's death penalty and then commuted the death sentences of eight death row inmates to life in prison with no chance of parole, making the state the first in a generation to abolish capital punishment.

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Retired theologian rattles roots of religion

David Yonke
The Blade
2007-12-18 10:29:00

For a genteel, erudite, and personable cleric, Episcopal Bishop John Shelby Spong sure has a way of getting under people's skin.

The 76-year-old retired bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Newark is a theologian who believes the Bible is "time-bound and time-warped" by the first-century Jewish culture in which it was written. He is on a mission to change the way people look at the Bible and at Jesus, stating that he wants to "break Jesus out of the boundaries of antiquity and explain it in the 21st century."

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'Brave New World' author Aldous Huxley's widow, writer Laura Archera Huxley, dies at 96

Robert Jablon
Associated Press
2007-12-18 09:53:00

Laura Archera Huxley, the widow of "Brave New World" author Aldous Huxley who preserved his legacy for nearly half a century while authoring her own books and continuing his exploration of human potential, has died. She was 96.

Aldous Huxley, British novelist, and his bride of eight days, Laura, are pictured in their home in the Hollywood section of Los Angeles on March 27, 1956. They married in Yuma, Ariz. Huxley's widow, who preserved his legacy for nearly half a century after his death while authoring her own books and continuing his exploration of human potential, has died. She was 96. She died from cancer on Thursday night, Dec. 13, 2007, at her Hollywood Hills home, said Karen Pfeiffer, her legal ward

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Conservative Student Admits Faking Attack

Winnie Hu
New York Times
2007-12-18 09:28:00

A Princeton University junior who claimed to have been beaten by two men in black ski caps for his conservative views admitted on Monday that he made up the attack, according to Princeton Township police officials.

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The wonders of privatization! Thousands lack power 8 days after storm

Sean Murphy
Associated Press
2007-12-18 00:36:00

OKLAHOMA CITY - More than 100,000 homes and businesses remained without power Monday, more than a week after an ice storm battered Oklahoma, and the emergency has outlasted the ability of many residents to pay for it.

Some depleted their funds stocking up on food before the storm that went bad after the power went out, while others used money to stay in a hotel, thinking power would be restored within a day or two.

Comment: The product of a capitalist system, where basic infrastructure is privatized out, and all the money is spent on endless war campaigns in the name of "freedom and democracy". Words that ring very hollow when the pink colored glasses have been removed.

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House passes $516 billion spending bill

Andrew Taylor
Associated Press
2007-12-18 00:25:00

WASHINGTON - The House Monday approved a $516 billion measure funding 14 Cabinet agencies and funding for troops in Afghanistan, setting the stage for a year-end budget deal with the White House.

President Bush has signaled he'll ultimately sign the measure - assuming up to $40 billion more is provided by the Senate for the Iraq war - despite opposition from GOP conservatives.

Comment: Endless money from "both" sides of politics for endless wars, but no money for health, education or infrastructure.

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White House told to detail Christian leader visits

Randall Mikkelsen
2007-12-18 00:18:00

WASHINGTON - A U.S. judge ordered the Secret Service on Monday to disclose records of visits by nine prominent conservative Christian leaders to the White House and Vice President Dick Cheney's residence.

The ruling, in response to a legal watchdog group's suit, could shed light on the influence leaders like James Dobson of Focus on the Family have had on President George W. Bush's administration. It may also affect legal efforts to force the release of visiting records of convicted lobbyist Jack Abramoff and other similar cases.

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NY couple in slavery case found guilty

2007-12-18 00:15:00

NEW YORK - A wealthy New York couple were found guilty on Monday of forced labor charges after being accused of keeping two Indonesian women as slaves in a dramatic verdict that resulted in the wife fainting.

Indian-born Varsha Mahender Sabhnani, 35, and Mahender Murlidhar Sabhnani, 51, were convicted of charges including forced labor, harboring illegal residents and conspiracy in what prosecutors dubbed a "case of modern-day slavery."

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Senate postpones consideration of spy bill

Thomas Ferraro
2007-12-18 00:06:00

WASHINGTON - Senate Democratic leader Harry Reid, facing stiff opposition, on Monday abruptly postponed until next month consideration of a measure to give immunity to telephone companies that participated in President George W. Bush's warrantless domestic spying program.

"Everyone feels it would be to the best interest of the Senate that we take a look at this when we come back after the first of the year," Reid, facing a pile of unfinished work, said on the Senate floor.

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Ohio Elections Official Calls Voting Machines Flawed

Bob Driehaus
New York Times
2007-12-15 19:14:00

All five voting systems used in Ohio, a state whose electoral votes narrowly swung two elections toward President Bush, have critical flaws that could undermine the integrity of the 2008 general election, a report commissioned by the state's top elections official has found.

"It was worse than I anticipated," the official, Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner, said of the report. "I had hoped that perhaps one system would test superior to the others."

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Border Patrol Fires Tear Gas Into Mexico

Elliot Spagat
Associated Press
2007-12-17 15:31:00

New Procedure: Target Areas Rather than Individuals

SAN DIEGO - The Border Patrol says its agents were attacked nearly 1,000 times during a one-year period along the Mexican border, typically by assailants hurling rocks, bottles and bricks. Now the agency is responding with tear gas and powerful, pepper-spray weapons, including firing into Mexico.

The counteroffensive has drawn complaints that innocent families are being caught in the crossfire.

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UK & Euro-Asian News
China faces acute problem of ageing society

RIA Novosti
2007-12-18 14:38:00

Chinese population authorities announced that 21.4% of the world's elderly people live in China and their number is set to rise 3.2% annually, national media said on Tuesday.

According to the data of the China National Committee on Aging (CNCA), the number of people above 60 has increased by 18.3%, to 149 million in 2006. Elderly people make up 11.3% of the country's population and the figure will rise to 248 million in 2020, and to 437 billion, or a quarter of the Chinese population, in 2050.

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Three men convicted of abusing 136 boys in east Siberia

RIA Novosti
2007-12-18 14:22:00

A court in Krasnoyarsk, east Siberia, has sentenced three men to between 9-15 years in prison for sexually abusing young boys in a trial that lasted more than a year, a court spokesperson said on Tuesday.

"The defendants in the case, unprecedented for the city, are three men, two of whom have children of their own," Irina Rukosuyeva said, adding their victims were young boys from problem families.

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UK: Millions more ID records go missing from a "secure facility" in the US

Philip Webster
The Times
2007-12-18 14:05:00

The records of more than three million British learner drivers have gone missing from a "secure facility" in the US, an embarrassed Government admitted last night.

Labour's dismal autumn hit another low as, minutes after ministers admitted that they still did not know the whereabouts of two discs holding sensitive information on 25 million people, they were forced to confess they had lost the details of all candidates for the driving theory test between 2004 and 2007.

Opposition politicians raised questions last night over whether the Government could safely go ahead with plans to place the records of 50 million health service patients on an electronic database, its "spy-in-the-sky" scheme to monitor every journey by 33 million vehicles, and national ID cards.

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Left Bank girl and Right Bank boy: Now Sarkozy goes public with new amour

Angelique Chrisafis
2007-12-18 13:01:00

· President criticised for use of celebrity media
· Private life overshadows political difficulties

Nicolas Sarkozy, who is dating Carla Bruni, a musician and former model.

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Ukraine parliament backs Timoshenko as PM

2007-12-18 12:40:00


Ukraine's parliament voted on Tuesday for the appointment of Yulia Timoshenko as Prime Minister. Timoshenko won with 226 out of 450 votes.

The ex-head of the Ukrainian Security Council and deputy from the Our Ukraine-People's Self-Defence bloc, Ivan Plyushch, abstained from voting.

Deputy Ivan Spodarenko was absent.

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Russian general says Pentagon is seeking direct confrontation with Moscow

Associated Press
2007-12-15 08:39:00

Russia's top military officer on Saturday accused the United States of seeking direct confrontation with Moscow and warned again that U.S. plans to deploy missile defenses in Europe would destabilize the continent.

Gen. Yuri Baluyevsky spoke at a joint news conference along with Deputy Foreign Minister Sergei Kislyak, who repeated that Russia would not increase troop levels on its western border even after suspending participation in a key arms treaty.

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Greece: Mother exploited children as sex slaves and authorities knew for years

2007-12-18 05:53:00

Authorities had received several complaints over the past four years regarding the abuse of three children, whose alleged exploitation as sex slaves by their mother came to light last Friday, but took inadequate action to protect them, it was revealed yesterday.

At least three people reported their concerns regarding the two brothers, aged 8 and 9, and the 11-year-old sister - one four years ago, the next eight months ago and the latest in October, sources told Kathimerini.

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Around the World
Vietnam, India to strengthen defense cooperation

2007-12-18 18:02:00

Vietnam and India have agreed to negotiate to sign an agreement on their defense cooperation, local newspaper Vietnam News reported Tuesday.

During the meeting between Vietnamese Prime Minister Nguyen TanDung and visiting Indian Defense Minister Shri AK Antony here Monday, the two sides also discussed issues on fostering the bilateral cooperation on navies and air defense forces, and training.

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Castro hints might step down

RIA Novosti
2007-12-18 14:32:00

Ailing Cuban leader Fidel Castro, who has not been seen in public since summer 2006, suggested he might step down, Spanish news agency EFE said on Tuesday.

Debates as to whether the 81-year-old leader would resume the leadership have continued since Castro temporarily handed over power to his brother Raul in July 2006, after undergoing intestinal surgery.

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Angola: Actors gunned down while filming crime caper

2007-12-18 14:00:00

Two actors were shot dead and another three were wounded while filming a crime drama in the Angolan capital Luanda on Monday when police mistook them for armed robbers, their director said.

According to Radical Ribeiro, a director for the Banda Mulundi production company, the tragedy happened as a crowd of onlookers were watching a scene being filmed in the crime-ridden suburb of Sambila.

"We saw the (police) pick-up speeding towards us. It looked empty but then suddenly it stopped and people appeared on the back and without asking any questions they started shooting at everybody at close range," a stunned Ribeiro told reporters.

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World food stocks dwindling rapidly, UN warns

Elisabeth Rosenthal
International Herald Tribune
2007-12-17 08:48:00

In an "unforeseen and unprecedented" shift, the world food supply is dwindling rapidly and food prices are soaring to historic levels, the top food and agriculture official of the United Nations warned Monday.

The changes created "a very serious risk that fewer people will be able to get food," particularly in the developing world, said Jacques Diouf, head of the UN Food and Agriculture Organization.

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The Biggest Global Warming Crime in History

Cahal Milmo
2007-12-17 23:26:00

The Canadian wilderness is set to be invaded by BP in an oil exploration project dubbed 'the biggest global warming crime' in history.

BP, the British oil giant that pledged to move "Beyond Petroleum" by finding cleaner ways to produce fossil fuels, is being accused of abandoning its "green sheen" by investing nearly £1.5bn to extract oil from the Canadian wilderness using methods which environmentalists say are part of the "biggest global warming crime" in history.

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Big Brother
UK Police Taser innocent man eight times

Robert Booth
The Guardian
2007-12-18 14:22:00

Police fired a 50,000-volt Taser into the head of a 45-year-old company director who later proved to be unarmed and innocent. Daniel Sylvester, the owner of an east London security firm employing 65 staff to guard council offices, pubs and nightclubs, was driving home on October 20 when he was stopped by armed police because of "firearms related intelligence".

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10-Year-Old Girl Arrested At School for Cutting Food with Knife

2007-12-18 09:36:00

A 10-year old Ocala girl brought her lunch to school and a small kitchen knife to cut it. She now faces a felony charge after being arrested. The school and the sheriff's office disagree on the reason for the arrest.

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Police brutality up 25% since 9-11

Kevin Johnson
USA Today
2007-12-18 09:31:00

Federal prosecutors are targeting a rising number of law enforcement officers for alleged brutality, Justice Department statistics show. The heightened prosecutions come as the nation's largest police union fears that agencies are dropping standards to fill thousands of vacancies and "scrimping" on training.

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Phone and Email Data-Mining Used in War on Drugs, Too

Ryan Singel
2007-12-18 07:04:00

Do not let it be said that the Bush administration forgot the War on Drugs while waging the War on Terror.

The Drug Enforcement Agency, for one, continued and expanded the data mining records of phone calls and emails from the United States to Latin American countries in order to catch smugglers, according to the New York Times. The program began under President Clinton in he 1990s and expanded under President Bush.

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Minneapolis police apologize for raid that led to man defending his family from SWAT team

David Chanen
Minneapolis Star Tribune
2007-12-18 06:55:00

Sunday's high-risk search by Minneapolis police of a house on the city's North Side was to be one of the last pieces in a long-term investigation focused on violent gang members.

But minutes after a SWAT team entered the house about 12:30 a.m., things went awry. The homeowner, a father of six, thinking the intruders were burglars, fired at them through a bedroom wall. He hit two officers, one in the back and one in the head, but both were uninjured because they were wearing protective armor. Police shot back, but did not hit him.

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France: Group Bombs Seven Speed Cameras

2007-12-14 06:47:00

An anti-speed camera group demands that the French government lower taxes or it will continue destroying its revenue machines.

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Israel: New law allows authorities access to cell phone, Internet info

2007-12-18 04:26:00

Amendment to criminal law passes second, third readings; will allow police access to private information such as cell phone location, IP address, SIM card info. Bill carried with 35 for, 5 against.

The Communication Information bill passed its second and third readings in the Knesset on Monday. The motion was carried with a majority of 35 voting for and 5 voting against.

The bill amends the criminal law and is expected to grant the police the authority to more effectively fight crime, by allowing them access to technical communication information including previously held privileged, such as IP addresses, cell phone location and SIM card details.

The one reservation included in the bill pertains to the immunity of people with so-called "sensitive professions", meaning lawyers, doctors, religious leaders and others.

The new law defines three manners in which the police may access privileged information: Using a court order; in emergency situations, a police officer with the rank of chief superintendent or higher may authorize access; or through an information database set to be transferred to the police.

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White House Repeats Veto Threat On Domestic Spying Bill

Corey Boles
Dow Jones Newswires
2007-12-17 10:38:00

The White House repeated its threat to veto legislation renewing the Bush administration's warrantless wiretapping program unless the measure includes retroactive immunity for phone companies that allegedly participated in the program.

The Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act is scheduled to come to the Senate floor for debate and possible vote Monday.

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Axis of Evil
Mazuz to Winograd: IDF acted in accordance with international law

2007-12-18 14:42:00

"The most legislated war in the history of Israel, maybe the world" - this is how Atorney General Menachem Mazuz characterized the Second Lebanon War. On Tuesday afternoon, the Winograd Commission published Mazuz's testimony before the investigative body, which mostly addresses the questions of legality and morality in relation to the rules of war.

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French Author investigated for Outing 9-11 Secrets

Verena Von Derschau
Associated Press
2007-12-07 07:24:00

A French anti-terrorist judge has filed preliminary charges against an investigative journalist and author accused of publishing defense secrets, judicial officials said Friday.

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Flashback: The War on Liberals

David Neiwert
2003-08-25 08:59:00

©Robin Loznak
ANTIGREEN FERVOR: John Stokes, a Kalispell, Mont., radio host, lit a green swastika on fire at an 'anti-Earth Day' rally he helped organize.

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Middle East Madness
Turkey carries out ground raid into Iraq

Yahya BarZanji
Associated Press
2007-12-18 17:23:00

Turkey sent hundreds of troops about 1 1/2 miles into northern Iraq early Tuesday in an operation against Kurdish rebels but then withdrew them later in the day, Kurdish officials said.

The raid came two days after Turkey carried out airstrikes against rebel positions in the Iraqi Kurdish region of northern Iraq, and Turkey claimed it inflicted a "heavy blow" to the rebels.

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Israeli airstrikes in Gaza kill at least 13 Palestinians

Ilene R. Prusher
The Christian Science Monitor
2007-12-18 14:30:00

At least 13 Palestinians were killed in Israeli airstrikes in the Gaza Strip, intensifying tensions that many analysts say may presage a larger-scale Israeli ground offensive in Gaza.

The strikes targeted Islamic Jihad, which has stepped up its launches of low-grade Qassam rockets into Israel in recent weeks. One of those killed was Majid el-Harazin, a commander of Islamic Jihad's military arm, in Gaza City Monday evening. Later, Israeli strikes killed Karim Dahduh, who Israel says led rocket production for Islamic Jihad

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U.S. Helps Turkey Hit Rebel Kurds In Iraq

Ann Scott Tyson and Robin Wright
Washington Post
2007-12-18 12:24:00

The United States is providing Turkey with real-time intelligence that has helped the Turkish military target a series of attacks this month against Kurdish separatists holed up in northern Iraq, including a large airstrike on Sunday, according to Pentagon officials.

©Murad Sezer - Associated Press
Turkish military veterans wearing scarves reading "Martyrs never die! The nation will never be divided!" take part in a protest at the U.S. Consulate in Istanbul ahead of a visit by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in November.

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Student tells of Gaza siege hell

Paddy McGuffin
This is Bradford
2007-12-18 09:49:00

Bradford University student Khaled al-Mudallal is delighted to be back after spending six months trapped in Gaza by an Israeli siege - but he faces only a few weeks before his first catch-up exams.

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Turkish army sends soldiers into Iraq

Yahya Barzanji
Associated Press
2007-12-18 07:41:00

KIRKUK, Iraq - The Turkish army sent soldiers about 1.5 miles into northern Iraq in an overnight operation on Tuesday, Kurdish officials said. A Turkish official said the troops seeking Kurdish rebels were still in Iraq by midmorning.

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Blackwater in Baghdad: "It was a horror movie"

Jennifer Daskal
2007-12-18 07:17:00

New testimony from witnesses and victims provides the most in-depth, harrowing account to date of the U.S. security firm's deadly rampage in Iraq.

L-R: The car of one of the victims; the injured arm of another of the victims; Ahmed Haythem and his mother, Mohasin, who were both killed in the shooting spree.

For Khalaf, a 38-year-old Iraqi, Sept. 16 started like many other sunny summer workdays. He donned his police uniform -- a white shirt, navy trousers and hat -- and headed to Baghdad's busy Nissour Square. By 7 a.m. he was out in the street, directing the flow of traffic coming from the multi-laned Yarmouk access road into the square. When he spotted four large all-terrain vehicles with guns mounted on top, he did what he always did. He stopped traffic and cleared the area for what he knew, from the tell-tale sign of the two accompanying helicopters, to be a security firm's convoy.

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Troop pullouts to leave only US in Iraq

Simon Lauder
ABC News (Australia)
2007-12-18 07:14:00

Nearly five years into the occupation of Iraq, the 'coalition of the willing' is about to lose two of its key supporters.

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UK has left behind murder and chaos, says Basra police chief

Mona Mahmoud, Maggie O'Kane and Ian Black
The Guardian
2007-12-18 07:09:00

Blunt assessment delivered as British hand over security to Iraqis

(Warning: The film below contains graphic images which some viewers may find distressing)

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IDF kills at least 10 Islamic Jihad militants in Gaza, W. Bank

Yuval Azoulay
2007-12-18 04:00:00

The Israel Defense Forces launched an assault on the radical Islamic Jihad organization Monday night, killing nine of the group's men in the Gaza Strip, and another top commander in the West Bank overnight.

Early Tuesday, an Israel Defense Forces air-to-ground missile killed three Islamic Jihad gunmen, including a senior commander, as they emerged from morning prayers at a northern Gaza mosque.

Comment: Behold the IDF cowards!

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Saudi king pardons rape victim

Andrew Hammond
2007-12-18 00:21:00

RIYADH - Saudi Arabia's King Abdullah has pardoned the victim of a gang-rape whose sentencing to 200 lashes caused an international outcry, officials said on Monday.

The victim's husband welcomed the news. "I'm happy and my wife is happy and it will of course help lift some of her psychological and social suffering," he told Reuters. "We thank the king for his generous attention and fatherly spirit."

Comment: After all the publicity surrounding this case the King will appear like the good guy.

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Iran Receives Nuclear Fuel in Blow to U.S.

Helene Cooper
New York Times
2007-12-18 19:21:00

The United States lost a years-long battle when Russia delivered nuclear fuel on Monday for an Iranian power plant that is at the center of an international dispute over Iran's nuclear program. Iran, for its part, rejected the idea that the delivery might mean it no longer needed to do its own uranium enrichment to make fuel, citing work on a second power plant.

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Videos: Ordinary Palestinians pay the price of Israeli sanctions

Sabbah's Blog
2007-12-17 19:23:00

First from Gaza. It's the ordinary Palestinians that are being harmed by Israel's decision to cut back fuel supplies to the Gaza Strip:

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Iraq sees need for foreign troops for 10 years

Peter Graff
2007-12-17 05:02:00

Iraq will need foreign troops to help defend it for another 10 years, but will not accept U.S. bases indefinitely, government spokesman Ali al-Dabbagh said.

"Of course we need international support. We have security problems. For 10 years our army will not be able to defend Iraq," Dabbagh told the state-run al-Iraqiya television in an interview broadcast late on Sunday.

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Can a Democracy Be Racist?

DesertPeace Blog
2007-12-17 19:05:00

Sixty years of being denied access to certain aspects of society or being treated without full dignity has become a way of life for an entire segment of the population. An attitude of 'there is nothing we can do about it' is not prevalent among the majority, but it does exist.

Acceptance of this wrong is as wrong as the problem itself. It is manifested most noticeably through the racial profiling practiced in Israel, again, most noticeably in public places where security checks are carried out. People entering shopping malls are checked for munitions or anything else questionable.

The same procedure is carried out at most other public places such as theatres, restraints and especially at the airports. Fine.... BUT..... why would an Arab have to go through a more thorough check than anyone else? Why does this person have to be singled out and humiliated publicly? Has he committed a crime? Does he look suspicious? Or, is it simply because he is an Arab?

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Where Dignity is Denied - An Inside-Out Crisis in Gaza

Laray Polk
2007-12-17 18:47:00

Prior to 1948, there were approximately 80,000 people living in the Gaza Strip. In places like the town of Deir el-Balah, families have continuously lived in ancestral homes. The extravagant height of the palm and date trees in backyards and city streets is a testament to the continuity and lineage of native Gazans. The old families of Gaza have a sense of place that is somewhat different than other Palestinians; they were not forced out of their homes and villages as the majority of Palestinians had been in 1948. And the Gazans have had the benefit of the sea on the western side; the tradition of fishing has been passed on from generation to generation. Presently, all access to the sea for fishermen is denied. The fishing boats remain grounded while the people in Gaza Strip slowly starve.

In 1948, the Gaza Strip absorbed an influx of more than 200,000 Palestinian refugees. With each passing year, the number has grown. The land mass of Gaza is approximately 146 square miles. The current population of Gaza works out to an approximate ratio of 9,000 people per square mile.

Gaza Strip is sealed on all sides and the people are trapped inside. Internally, the intra-Palestinian clashes continue in the streets. Externally, the Israeli army tanks routinely roll far into Gaza. The attacks also come from the air and the sea.

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The Loan Gunmen
Monetary rescue helicopters getting bigger

Gillian Tett
Financial Times
2007-12-18 21:15:00

The monetary helicopters are getting bigger. When the European Central Bank conducted an auction Tuesday, it initially expected to inject €180.5bn ($260bn) of funding into the markets, based on its past benchmarks of what banks usually need.

In the event, however, 390 institutions demanded €348.6bn of funds. That is almost four times bigger than the funds dropped by the ECB helicopter into the markets back on August 9, when it first intervened (unsuccessfully) to stop the money market woes. Indeed, Tuesday's drop equates to an average of almost €1bn, per bank.

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Investors stunned by European Central Bank's €350bn

Ralph Atkins, Dave Shellock and Gillian Tett
Financial Times
2007-12-18 21:09:00

Short-term market interest rates in the eurozone plunged at their fastest rate for more than a decade on Tuesday after the European Central Bank stunned investors by pumping a record €348.6bn worth of funds into the markets.

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US: Housing Construction Hits 16-Year Low

Martin Crutsinger
Associated Press
2007-12-18 09:05:00

Housing construction fell in November and single-family activity dropped to the lowest level in more than 16 years as a severe housing slump showed no signs of a turnaround.

The Commerce Department reported that construction of new homes and apartments dropped by 3.7 percent last month to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.187 million units.

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Hypocritical Greenspan Urges U.S. to Help Those Facing Foreclosure

Josheph B. Treaster
The New York Times
2007-12-17 08:58:00

Alan Greenspan, former chairman of the Federal Reserve, said Sunday that the government should provide direct financial assistance to homeowners who are threatened by foreclosure in the worsening credit crisis.

In an interview on "This Week" on ABC, Mr. Greenspan said that helping homeowners directly would create "a short-term fiscal problem" for the government, but that doing so would be more effective than solutions like freezing mortgage rates.

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Staring Into the Abyss: The Coming Collapse of the Modern Day Banking System

Mike Whitney
2007-12-17 18:15:00

Stocks fell sharply last week on news of accelerating inflation which will limit the Federal Reserves ability to continue cutting interest rates. On Tuesday the Dow Jones Industrials tumbled 294 points following the Fed's announcement of a quarter point cut to the Fed Funds rate. On Friday, the Dow dipped another 178 points when government figures showed consumer prices had risen 0.8 per cent last month after a 0.3 per cent gain in October. The stock market is now lurching downward into a "primary bear market". There has been a steady deterioration in retail sales, commercial real estate, and the transports. The financial industry is going through a major retrenchment, losing more than 25 per cent in aggregate capitalization since July. The real estate market is collapsing. California Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger announced on Friday that he will declare a "fiscal emergency" in January and ask for more power to deal with the $14 billion budget shortfall from the meltdown in subprime lending.

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The Living Planet
Darwin's Surprise; Why are evolutionary biologists bringing back extinct deadly viruses?

Michael Specter
New Yorker
2007-12-18 07:42:00

©New Yorker
Disabled retroviruses-fossils of molecular battles that raged for generations-make up eight per cent of the human genome.

Thierry Heidmann's office, adjacent to the laboratory he runs at the Institut Gustave Roussy, on the southern edge of Paris, could pass for a museum of genetic catastrophe. Files devoted to the world's most horrifying infectious diseases fill the cabinets and line the shelves. There are thick folders for smallpox, Ebola virus, and various forms of influenza. SARS is accounted for, as are more obscure pathogens, such as feline leukemia virus, Mason-Pfizer monkey virus, and simian foamy virus, which is endemic in African apes. H.I.V., the best-known and most insidious of the viruses at work today, has its own shelf of files. The lab's beakers, vials, and refrigerators, secured behind locked doors with double-paned windows, all teem with viruses. Heidmann, a meaty, middle-aged man with wild eyebrows and a beard heavily flecked with gray, has devoted his career to learning what viruses might tell us about AIDS and various forms of cancer. "This knowledge will help us treat terrible diseases," he told me, nodding briefly toward his lab. "Viruses can provide answers to questions we have never even asked."

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Health & Wellness
Kinesiology: Researchers hope to provide chronic fatigue syndrome answers

University of Calgary
2007-12-18 15:08:00

New kinesiology research hopes to provide definitive test for CFS.

One of the most difficult things for people suffering from Chronic Fatigue Syndrome (CFS) is that many believe the condition to be a psychological, not physical affliction.

New research by the Faculty of Kinesiology hopes to measure one of the syndrome's most obvious symptoms - information that could help doctors in the diagnosis CFS.

"Diagnosis of the syndrome, generally follows eliminating every other possible cause, which leads some to speculate that the condition isn't real," says Dr. Brian MacIntosh. "One thing we know is that CFS sufferers feel profound fatigue and worsening of other symptoms following even moderate physical activity. Using our expertise in the field of exercise physiology we believe we can measure this post exertion malaise and say with certainty if an individual has recovered from exercise or if that activity is making them even more fatigued."

MacIntosh, who is the Faculty of Kinesiology's Associate Dean of Graduate Studies, is an expert in the area of muscle fatigue. Much of his research has centered on high-performance athletes in peak physical condition, however he says that this research fits in well with his overall area of interest.

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Two die in bird flu outbreak in Pakistan

RIA Novosti
2007-12-18 14:40:00

The World Health Organization (WHO) is closely monitoring a recent outbreak of bird flu among humans in northwest Pakistan that left two dead, the UN press center said.

The WHO website reported that eight people in Pakistan were suspected of suffering from the virus, stating: "the cases were detected following a series of culling operations in response to outbreaks of H5N1 in poultry. One of the cases has now recovered and a further two suspected cases have since died."

Pakistan's health ministry initially said that six people had tested positive for the virus and that steps were being taken to prevent any spread.

The outbreak is reported to have started in an area to the north of the capital Islamabad and all the suspected victims - four brothers and two cousins- had been slaughtering chickens. Two of the brothers died.

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Cell Phone Use Increases Likelihood of Mouth Cancer

News Inferno
2007-12-17 14:08:00

Cell phone use raises the risk of mouth cancer, a new study has found. Five years of heavy use increased the chances of developing a tumor by around 50 percent compared with people who had never used a mobile phone, scientists found. The study is the latest to link cell phone use to a serious disease, and raises concerns that mobile phones could be interfering with the body in ways that scientists simply do not yet understand.

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Tamiflu Study in Japan Yields Few Answers

News Inferno
2007-12-17 14:01:00

A Tamiflu study done in Japan has not eased doubts about the flu drug's safety and possible side effects. Over half of all influenza patients in Japan exhibiting abnormal behaviors had taken the drug Tamiflu; however, it is still not clear if there was a causal link between the drug Tamiflu and their actions, a government report showed on Monday. Japan is investigating whether there is any link between Tamiflu, made by Roche Holding AG, and neuropsychiatric problems after more than 100 people, mostly young people, exhibited erratic behaviors after taking the drug, such as jumping from buildings. There have been a total of eight cases of death after abnormal or possibly abnormal behavior. The Health Ministry report indicated that of the 137 patients who had shown abnormal behavior, 82 had taken Tamiflu, while 52 had not.

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Flashback: Tamiflu Linked to 'Abnormal Behavior' in Children, Label Changes Sought

News Inferno
2007-11-26 08:44:00

Tamiflu, a drug used to treat the flu, has been linked to abnormal behavior and other brain side effects in more than 50 children in the United States, and tomorrow a Food & Drug Administration (FDA) advisory panel will meet to discuss what should be done about these dangerous Tamiflu side effects. Last Friday, a report prepared by FDA staffers recommended that new warnings be placed on the label of Tamiflu regarding such side effects. The FDA report also recommended new warnings for Relenza, another anti-flu drug.

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How moods affect our health

Anastasia Stephens
The Independent
2007-12-11 08:24:00

Having an argument

As your irritation mounts, you can feel your blood pressure rising. And that's exactly what is happening to your body when you have an argument. The effects, it seems, can be lasting. In the week after the irritating incident, you just need to think about the argument and your blood pressure will rise again, according to research published in the International Journal of Psychophysiology. So if you've recently experienced a dispute, a seething irritation or a simple frustration, you could be best off forgetting about it.

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Flashback: Got the flu? Blame the sun

Margaret Munro
Chicago Sun Times
2001-03-03 07:57:00

VANCOUVER, British Columbia Influenza epidemics are more likely to sweep the globe when the sun develops spots and sends its excess energy barreling toward Earth, according to Canadian researchers.

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Too Much Fructose Could Leave Dieters Sugar Shocked

Science Daily
2007-12-18 01:51:00

Here's one tip for how to eat at the holidays: Don't take your cues from Santa. The sugary cookies and fat-laden fruitcakes the mythical North Pole resident eats are a no-no. But you don't have to go no-carb to stay fit at the holidays, either, University of Florida researchers say.

In fact, many dieters may actually be cutting out the wrong foods altogether, according to findings from a UF paper published recently in the European Journal of Nutrition. Dieters should focus on limiting the amount of fructose they eat instead of cutting out starchy foods such as bread, rice and potatoes, report the researchers, who propose using new dietary guidelines based on fructose to gauge how healthy foods are.

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Corporate Potluck or How the ADA can also be bought

Jacob Wheeler
In These Times
2007-12-18 00:21:00

For three days early this fall, the Pennsylvania Convention Center was home to corporate entities such as PepsiCo, Hershey's, Taco Bell, Crisco and McDonald's. They weren't there to count calories but to rub bellies with members of the American Dietetic Association, who had gathered in Philadelphia for the annual Food & Nutrition Conference & Expo.

PepsiCo cares about you. The company's "Health and Wellness" website pictures a smiling family in tennis shoes and workout clothes enjoying a brisk walk. All are consuming Pepsi products. Dad is drinking a can of Pepsi. Grandma is toting a bag of Lay's potato chips. Aside from the questionable workout, we're left to wonder: When did Pepsi become an advocate for health?

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Science & Technology
Tunguska disaster: Smaller asteroids may pose greater danger than previously believed

Sandia National Laboratories
2007-12-18 15:02:00

The stunning amount of forest devastation at Tunguska a century ago in Siberia may have been caused by an asteroid only a fraction as large as previously published estimates, Sandia National Laboratories supercomputer simulations suggest.

"The asteroid that caused the extensive damage was much smaller than we had thought," says Sandia principal investigator Mark Boslough of the impact that occurred June 30, 1908. "That such a small object can do this kind of destruction suggests that smaller asteroids are something to consider. Their smaller size indicates such collisions are not as improbable as we had believed."

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We Have Ze Key: New Vista Random Numbers Include NSA Backdoor

Bruce Schneier
Wired News
2007-12-18 06:22:00

Schneier is reporting that Microsoft has added the new Dual_EC-DRBG random-number generator to Vista SP1. This random-number generator is the same one discussed earlier that may have a secret NSA backdoor built into it.

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Comet does not make it to rendezvous with Deap Impact

David Shiga
New Scientist
2007-12-17 03:35:00

A comet targeted for a flyby with NASA's Deep Impact spacecraft cannot be found, forcing mission planners to send the probe to a different comet. The comet may have evaded telescopes simply because its predicted orbit was incorrect, or, more intriguingly, it might have disintegrated completely.

©Illustration: JPL/NASA
The Epoxi mission was diverted to comet Hartley 2, after its original target comet, 85P/Boethin, could not be found

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International Space Updates - December 2007

Daily Tech
2007-12-15 03:05:00

Radarsat-2 launches; Epoxi will look at a different satellite; and the ISS crew will conduct a spacewalk

Radarsat-2 gets ready for launch

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A Gizmo That Saves Lives

Jim Gogek
Terra Daily
2007-12-18 01:33:00

Javier Rodriguez Molina in Calit2's Circuits Lab at UCSD.

When Javier Rodriguez Molina visited the Atocha Train Station Memorial in Madrid last summer, the Barcelona native felt a great sadness for the victims of the 11 March 2004 Madrid train bombings. But he also felt some hope that his advanced emergency technology work at University of California, San Diego can some day save lives in similar disasters.

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New Property Found In Ancient Mineral Lodestone

Jade Boyd
Space Mart
2007-12-18 01:24:00

Magnetite is a particular mineral of iron oxide. Its atoms are arranged in a crystal structure with four oxygen atoms for every three of iron, and their arrangement gives the mineral its characteristic magnetic and electrical properties.

Using the latest methods for nanofabrication, a team led by Rice University physicists has discovered a surprising new electronic property in one of the earliest-known and most-studied magnetic minerals on Earth -- lodestone, also known as magnetite. By changing the voltage in their experiment, researchers were able to get magnetite at temperatures colder than minus 250 degrees Fahrenheit to revert from an insulator to a conductor.

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Researchers Reveal The Biology Of Shivering

Terra Daily
2007-12-18 01:15:00


Researchers at Oregon Health and Science University's Neurological Sciences Institute have uncovered the system that tells the body when to perform one of its most basic defenses against the cold: shivering. The scientists have discovered the brain's wiring system, which takes temperature information from the skin and determines when a person should start shivering. Their findings are published in the advance online edition of the journal Nature Neuroscience.

"Shivering, which is actually heat production in skeletal muscles, requires quite a bit of energy and is usually the last strategy the body uses to maintain its internal temperature to survive in a severe cold environment.

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Rowan University Professor Seeing Red (Planet)

Mars Daily
2007-12-18 00:57:00


'Tis the season for Rowan University physics and astronomy associate professor David Klassen. "Mars season" that is. December 24 marks the Mars opposition-the point at which Earth and Mars pass each other in their orbits. Visions of the planet will be dancing in Klassen's telescope in the coming days because Mars appears three to five times bigger in the sky during the opposition-quite a seasonal treat for observers of the planet.

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Caught on tape: Death star galaxy

Seth Borenstein
Associated Press
2007-12-18 00:50:00

WASHINGTON - The latest act of senseless violence caught on tape is cosmic in scope: A black hole in a "death star galaxy" blasting a neighboring galaxy with a deadly jet of radiation and energy.

A fleet of space and ground telescopes have captured images of this cosmic violence, which people have never witnessed before, according to a new study released Monday by NASA.

This composite photo provided by NASA shows A powerful jet from a supermassive black hole is blasting a nearby galaxy in the system known as 3C321, according to new results from NASA. This galactic violence, never seen before, could have a profound effect on any planets in the path of the jet and trigger a burst of star formation in the wake of its destruction.

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Catastrophic Impacts Made Life Flourish

Dave Mosher
2007-12-17 21:28:00

Space rocks are blamed for a lot of rough times on Earth, from the die-off of most marine animals some 250 million years ago to the disappearance of the dinosaurs 65 million years in the past.

A new theory, however, suggests that catastrophic meteorite impacts are linked to an explosion in biodiversity about 470 million years ago, during the Ordovician Period. Within a few million years, the number of trilobite species and scores of other creatures on Earth jumped at least three to four times.

Birger Schmitz, a geologist at the University of Lund in Sweden who worked for more than 10 years to help gather evidence backing up the claim, is the first to admit that his group's findings are hard to swallow.

"It seems completely at odds with anyone's expectations," Schmitz said, "but you have to remember, for example, that it was at first difficult for many scientists to accept asteroid explanations for the disappearance of the dinosaurs."

Schmitz and his colleagues detail their findings in the Dec. 16 advance issue of the journal Nature Geoscience.

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Is A New Solar Cycle Beginning

Dr. Tony Phillips
2007-12-17 21:08:00

The solar physics community is abuzz this week. No, there haven't been any great eruptions or solar storms. The source of the excitement is a modest knot of magnetism that popped over the sun's eastern limb on Dec. 11th, pictured below in a pair of images from the orbiting Solar and Heliospheric Observatory (SOHO). It may not look like much, but "this patch of magnetism could be a sign of the next solar cycle," says solar physicist David Hathaway of the Marshall Space Flight Center.

For more than a year, the sun has been experiencing a lull in activity, marking the end of Solar Cycle 23, which peaked with many furious storms in 2000--2003. "Solar minimum is upon us," he says.

The big question now is, when will the next solar cycle begin? It could be starting now.
From SOHO, a UV-wavelength image of the sun and a map showing positive (white) and negative (black) magnetic polarities. The new high-latitude active region is magnetically reversed, marking it as a harbinger of a new solar cycle.

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Synthetic DNA on the Brink of Yielding New Life Forms

Rick Weiss
Washington Post
2007-12-17 18:51:00

It has been 50 years since scientists first created DNA in a test tube, stitching ordinary chemical ingredients together to make life's most extraordinary molecule. Until recently, however, even the most sophisticated laboratories could make only small snippets of DNA -- an extra gene or two to be inserted into corn plants, for example, to help the plants ward off insects or tolerate drought.

Now researchers are poised to cross a dramatic barrier: the creation of life forms driven by completely artificial DNA.

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Disgraced cloning scientist seeks comeback

Agence France-Presse
2007-12-17 12:27:00

Disgraced South Korean cloning scientist Hwang Woo-Suk is part of a team seeking government approval to resume research into stem cells, officials said Monday.

A research lab opened by Hwang in 2006 on December 13 submitted a request that it be allowed to begin a new embryonic stem cell research project, the health ministry said.

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Our Haunted Planet
Japan government spokesman says UFOs do exist

2007-12-18 12:47:00


Tokyo - Yes, UFOs do exist, Japan's top government spokesman said on Tuesday.

The comment by chief cabinet secretary Nobutaka Machimura drew laughter from reporters at his regular briefing on government policy.

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Unsolved Mysteries

Art Champoux
UFO Digest
2007-12-18 11:50:00


As most of you know me through my ramblings in the enigmatic world of UFOs, spirit beings, religion and my personal encounters with MIBS, and the world of the paranormal, let me introduce my first meeting with the TV show, Unsolved Mysteries.

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Don't Panic! Lighten Up!
Wolf served hamburger in Italian bar

RIA Novosti
2007-12-18 14:36:00

A hungry wolf descended from the mountains in Aquila, central Italy, and went to a local bar searching for food, the Italian ANSA new agency said on Tuesday.

The adventurous wolf entered the packed Cantaflura bar in Italy's Villetta Barrea province on Monday evening. The bar owner said that the wolf behaved very calmly, paying little attention to the other guests.

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Sweden: Heraldic lion castrated after complaints from female soldiers

United Press International
2007-12-18 05:56:00

STOCKHOLM - Protests from women soldiers prompted Swedish military leaders to amputate the penis of a heraldic lion on the Nordic Battlegroup's coat of arms.

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