- Signs of the Times Archive for Tue, 25 Dec 2007 -

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SOTT Focus
Winter Solstice: From Chaos to Creation

Laura Knight-Jadczyk
2007-12-25 12:28:00

A Gift from SOTT's French Editors (Thanks to all of you! It was excellent wine!)

I'm sitting here at my desk, Christmas Dinner for 17 is over and done with and the leftovers are all covered and arranged on the kitchen table. The dishes are washed and put away, and everyone but me and Ark are watching the Christmas movies. We are enjoying a second glass of a fine French wine - a gift from SOTT's French Crew. So far, it has been a relaxing and pleasant experience except for the one time I had to go out for some last minute items for dinner and had to deal with what the rest of the world is doing for Christmas... it wasn't pretty, I tell you! I was so glad that I don't do that anymore.

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Best of the Web

No new articles.

U.S. News
The torture tape fingering Bush as a war criminal

Andrew Sullivan
The Sunday Times
2007-12-23 00:00:00

Almost all of the time, the Washington I know and live in is utterly unrelated to the Washington you see in the movies. The government is far more incompetent and amateur than the masterminds of Hollywood darkness.

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The Voting System is Broken--and So are the Political Parties

Mike Whitney
2007-12-24 08:26:00

Last Friday Ohio's top election official, Secretary of State Jennifer Brunner issued a report concluding that the voting systems that decided the 2004 election in Ohio were rife with "critical security failures". The perpetrators were so cocksure they could pull it off that the servers for the computation of the Ohio vote count were in the same basement in Chattanooga, Tennessee that houses servers for the Republican National Committee. The programmers who (worked) for Ken Blackwell, the Republican Secretary of State, were Republicans who did websites for the Bush administration.

So why do we keep throwing billions of dollars down a black hole just to maintain this pathetic charade that fools no one? This year every one of the leading candidates is a member of the Council on Foreign Relations. Every one of them is a "dual loyalist" with a globalist agenda. Every one of them accepts the new regime of curtailed civil liberties, endless war, and free trade. They're all part of the same corporate effluent that washed into Washington on a wave of special interest payola. They're all lacquer-hair phonies who've never had an original thought in their lives. Everything they think or say comes off a cue-card or teleprompter that flashes poll-tested, focus-group mumbo-jumbo. If a prospective candidate hasn't sworn his undying allegiance to the cabal of transnational corporations, or taken a blood-oath to defend the doctrine of unfettered self-aggrandizement, or pledged to carry out a bloodthirsty "economy-busting" global crusade; he is quickly banished to the wilderness. Just look at Ron Paul, who collected $6 million in donations in a matter of hours but still can't even get his picture in the papers. Why is that? It's because he hasn't sold his soul to the carpetbagging freebooters who run the system.

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Sickbag Alert! Parents Defend School's Use of Shock Therapy

Lesley Kaufman
The New York Times
2007-12-24 23:45:00

Nearly a year ago, New York made plans to ban the use of electric shocks as a punishment for bad behavior, a therapy used at a Massachusetts school where New York State had long sent some of its most challenging special education students.

But state officials trying to limit New York's association with the school, the Judge Rotenberg Educational Center in Canton, southwest of Boston, and its "aversive therapy" practices have found a large obstacle in their paths: parents of students who are given shocks.

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Flashback: Disabled kids said hurt in shock therapy

Michael Gormley
Associated Press
2006-06-15 12:00:00

ALBANY, N.Y. - A state report on a Massachusetts school for the disabled said electric shocks were administered to students - sometimes as they bathed - for offenses as minor as nagging, swearing and sloppy appearance.

"Various injuries to students have been reported" at the Judge Rotenberg Center, according to the report released Wednesday by the New York Education Department.

The school in Canton, Mass., receives $50 million a year from New York state to care for and educate about 150 youths because there is no space available in New York for the intensive treatment.

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UK & Euro-Asian News
Russian Air Force receives 4 modernized tactical bombers

RIA Novosti
2007-12-25 06:50:00

Aircraft manufacturer Sukhoi has completed the delivery of four upgraded Su-24M2 Fencer tactical bombers to an Air Force regiment based in Russia's Far East, the company said in a statement on Tuesday.

The aircraft have been modernized at a Novosibirsk-based aircraft-manufacturing plant, a subsidiary of the Sukhoi Aircraft Holding. Another six Su-24s are currently being modernized at the same plant.

"Four Su-24M2 frontline bombers have flown from the Novosibirsk-based Chkalov aircraft-manufacturing association to an airbase in Russia's Far East, where they will be deployed as part of an air regiment," the Sukhoi statement said.

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Britain Gives Rude Welcome to Innocent Gitmo Prisoners

Victoria Brittain
2007-12-25 01:17:00

To admit that they pose no threat would show how complacent the Brits have been in supporting the U.S.'s black prison network.

The release from Guantanamo Bay of three UK residents after more than four years detention without charge or trial, marks a welcome change of government attitude from the shameful refusal of responsibility for them during the Blair years. Home secretaries and foreign office ministers came and went, but all stoutly maintained, including in successive court cases where the government side was argued by top British lawyers, that these men's fate was not Britain's problem.

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Italian cement firm closes Sicily operation in Mafia protest

Agence France-Presse
2007-12-24 23:35:00

ROME - Italian construction materials giant Italcementi said on Monday that it would close its subsidiary in Sicily, Calcestruzzi, in protest at Mafia extortion.

Italcementi said in a statement that it was closing down in Sicily, a historic base for the Italian Mafia, "as a sign of a refusal to submit to, or to show any compliance with" the Mafia.

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Italy judge issues warrants in "Plan Condor" case

2007-12-24 23:26:00

ROME - An Italian judge on Monday issued arrest warrants for 140 Latin Americans suspected of involvement in a coordinated persecution of leftists and dissidents by Latin America's military rulers in the 1970s, Italian news agencies said.

Almost all of those on the list are living in Latin America and a number are already in custody there as part of investigations into the conspiracy known as "Plan Condor."

Read more about Operation Condor and the US involvement in it here.

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Around the World
Japan: Woman dragged along road in bag snatch horror

RIA Novosti
2007-12-25 08:52:00

Thieves in a car dragged a woman for 200 meters along the sidewalk as they tried to steal her handbag in Japan's second city of Osaka, police said.

"The woman who lives in Kyoto and works in nearby Osaka was returning home, when a white car approached her, and an unknown man leant out of the window and tried to snatch her handbag," a police report said.

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Burma is Not Back to Normal

Jill Jameson
2007-12-24 08:33:00

A small Buddhist Peace Fellowship delegation went to Burma to bear witness to the suffering of the people following the brutal crackdown by the Burmese military at the end of September on monks and the people of Burma. We wanted to communicate the support and solidarity of the international community with the people of Burma, and to be a voice for the voiceless by sharing with our communities on return. Our communities had expressed their concerns and given generously, and we offered the donations to various groups to let them know that the rest of the world deeply cares about Burma. We wanted to explore channels for future further support inside Burma, as well as finding ways to support the monks in exile.

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Castro has full mental faculties, brother says

2007-12-25 01:58:00

Convalescing Cuban leader Fidel Castro has gained weight, is exercising twice daily and is in full control of his mental faculties in a signal of his recovery, his brother Raul Castro said on Monday.

Fidel Castro, who took power in a 1959 revolution, handed over temporarily to Raul Castro in July 2006 after undergoing stomach surgery for an undisclosed illness, but he has not appeared in public for more than 16 months.

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South Korean cargo ship feared sunk, 14 missing

2007-12-24 23:45:00

SEOUL - A South Korean-flagged freighter is feared to have capsized off the country's southern coast early on Tuesday and 14 sailors are missing, a coast guard official said.

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Four French tourists gunned down in Mauritania: three arrested

Agence France-Presse
2007-12-24 23:37:00

NOUAKCHOTT -Three Mauritanians were arrested late Monday after gunmen shot dead four French tourists, including two children, and badly wounded a fifth in southern Mauritania, a security official told AFP.

The attack occurred at Aleg, 250 kilometres (150 miles) east of the capital, the security official said.

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Big Brother

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Axis of Evil
Repeated Warnings Unheeded On Contractors In Iraq

Steve Fainaru
The Washington Post
2007-12-25 17:34:00

The U.S. government disregarded numerous warnings over the past two years about the risks of using Blackwater Worldwide and other private security firms in Iraq, expanding their presence even after a series of shooting incidents showed that the firms were operating with little regulation or oversight, according to government officials, private security firms and documents.

The warnings were conveyed in letters and memorandums from defense and legal experts and in high-level discussions between U.S. and Iraqi officials. They reflected growing concern about the lack of control over the tens of thousands of private guards in Iraq, the largest private security force ever employed by the United States in wartime.

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CIA chief to drag White House into torture cover-up storm

Sarah Baxter
2007-12-23 17:15:00

THE CIA chief who ordered the destruction of secret videotapes recording the harsh interrogation of two top Al-Qaeda suspects has indicated he may seek immunity from prosecution in exchange for testifying before the House intelligence committee.

Jose Rodriguez, former head of the CIA's clandestine service, is determined not to become the fall guy in the controversy over the CIA's use of torture, according to intelligence sources.

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Washington's phobia of global treaties

Karl F. Inderfurth
Christian Science Monitor
2007-12-24 16:55:00

Why reject pacts to help the disabled or ban land mines?

Washington - Three quarters of the world's countries have signed an international agreement to ban antipersonnel landmines. The Ottawa Mine Ban Treaty - to never again use, produce, acquire, or export these so-called "hidden killers" of civilians - reached its 10th anniversary this month. But the United States is still not a signatory.

Unfortunately this "just say no" approach to international treaties has become a pattern for the US, especially under the Bush administration. This trend must change. The president's successor should make it a high priority for the US to rejoin the world and reassume the country's role as a globally respected leader.

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Olmert rules out peace with democratically elected Hamas in Gaza, will continue to build illegal settlements

Rory McCarthy
The Guardian
2007-12-25 09:40:00

The Israeli prime minister, Ehud Olmert, yesterday ruled out ceasefire negotiations with the Islamist movement Hamas and said his military was fighting a "true war" against armed groups in Gaza.

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A criminal conspiracy: White House, CIA hid torture tapes from 9-11 Commission

Joe Kay
World Socialist Web Site
2007-12-24 09:01:00

The CIA withheld videotapes of the abuse of suspected Al Qaeda members from the 9/11 Commission despite repeated requests for information on interrogations directed to top CIA and White House officials, according to the executive director of the commission. The CIA has acknowledged that in November 2005, more than a year after the requests were made, it destroyed tapes of CIA interrogations of two alleged Al Qaeda leaders, Abu Zubaydah and Abd al-Rahim al-Nashiri.

The history of the commission's interactions with the CIA on the issue is outlined in a memo from the executive director of the commission, Philip Zelikow, to the chairman, former Republican governor of New Jersey, Thomas Kean, and the vice chairman, former Democratic Congressman Lee Hamilton. The memo is dated December 13, 2007 and was released to the news media on Friday. (See "An analysis of the 9/11 Commission memo on interrogation tapes.")

Zelikow's account is a damning indictment of White House and CIA officials, and it comes from a prominent Republican with close ties to the intelligence establishment. (Zelikow served on the National Security Council in the administration of the senior George Bush and co-authored a book with current Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice). According to the memo, in 2003 and 2004 the commission made "repeated requests for very detailed information about the context" of the CIA interrogations, including those of the two individuals whose interrogations were recorded on the destroyed videotapes.

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Help! A Ceasefire!

Uri Avnery
2007-12-24 08:11:00

Forget the Qassams. Forget the mortar shells. They are nothing compared with what Hamas launched at us this week:

The chief of the Hamas government in the Gaza Strip, Ismail Haniyeh, has approached an Israeli newspaper and proposed a cease-fire. No more Qassams, no more mortars, no suicide bombings, no Israeli military incursions into the Strip, no "targeted liquidations" of leaders. A total cease-fire. And not only in the Gaza Strip, but in the West Bank, too.

The military leadership exploded in anger. Who does he think he is, that bastard? That he can stop us with such dirty tricks?

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Flashback: US plans for plague, flu and nuclear bomb attack

Roland Watson
The Times
2005-03-17 06:26:00

A nuclear bomb in a big city, plague released into an airport washroom and food stocks laced with anthrax are three of fifteen doomsday scenarios inadvertently published by American security chiefs yesterday.

The extraordinary list of nightmare disasters, most triggered by terrorists, is being used by the Department of Homeland Security to concentrate its resources in the areas of most likely attack.

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Middle East Madness
'Masked settlers beat Palestinian farmers'

Ali Waked
2007-12-25 10:47:00

Palestinian officials say farmers, youth assaulted by group of Israeli settlers wielding sticks, pepper gas in field near Nablus.

A group of masked Israeli settlers beat and injured four Palestinian farmers tending to their field in the West Bank on Tuesday, Palestinian officials reported.

''They parked on the road and we thought they were just hiking but suddenly they put on masks and they sprayed me in my eyes and beat me and I couldn't see who it was,'' said farmer Hussein Asida, 46.

50-year-old Hashem Hamed, who was working alongside Asida in the field, was moderately injured and evacuated to the nearby hospital in Nablus with a broken arm and badly injured pelvis. Hospital officials told Ynet he also sustained a serious head injury and required eight stitches.

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Sombre Christmas in Iraq

Linda Isam Haddad and Nihal Salem
Al Jazeera
2007-12-24 08:35:00

Iraqi Chaldean Christians held their first Catholic mass in seven months at St John
the Baptist church in Baghdad in November 2007

Rita and Maria Farid, two Iraqi Christians living in the central Baghdad district of Karrada, did not want to celebrate Christmas this year and only bought a tree at the last minute.

"Christmas is very difficult for us. It's a time for family and friends, and this year for the first time, our family is incomplete," Maria Farid said.

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Tears in Christ's face

Serge van Erkelens
2007-12-24 19:00:00

Where once was the way, and the truth, faithful life,
it all went astray, all is brute, filled with lies..

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Israel Upholds Use of Cluster Bombs

Josef Federman
Associated Press
2007-12-24 17:11:00

Israeli military prosecutors have decided not to take any legal action over Israel's use of cluster bombs during last year's war in Lebanon, the army said Monday, closing an investigation into a practice that has drawn heavy criticism from the U.N. and international human rights groups.

©Global Security

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Flashback: Red Cross ambulances destroyed in Israeli air strike

Suzanne Goldenberg
Guardian UK
2006-07-25 12:00:00

Tyre - The ambulance headlamps were on, the blue light overhead was flashing, and another light illuminated the Red Cross flag when the first Israeli missile hit, shearing off the right leg of the man on the stretcher inside. As he lay screaming beneath fire and smoke, patients and ambulance workers scrambled for safety, crawling over glass in the dark. Then another missile hit the second ambulance.

Red Cross ambulance targeted by Israeli missile

Even in a war which has turned the roads of south Lebanon into killing zones, Israel's rocket strike on two clearly marked Red Cross ambulances on Sunday night set a deadly new milestone.

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The Loan Gunmen

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The Living Planet
California: Warnings extended as Santa Ana winds knock out power

Molly Hennessy-Fiske and Larry Gordon
Los Angeles Times
2007-12-25 16:20:00

With hot, dry Santa Ana winds gusting up to 102 mph overnight, the National Weather Service extended high wind and red flag warnings across Southern California today and some Christmas celebrations were marred by power outages.

The high wind warning was extended for Ventura and portions of the Los Angeles County coast from Hollywood north to Leo Carrillo until 6 p.m. today, according to Stuart Seto, a weather specialist with the National Weather Service in Oxnard. Warnings were also extended in Orange, Riverside and San Bernardino counties until 7 p.m. tonight.

Red flag warnings, which signify heightened risk of wildfires, were extended in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, and Ventura Counties until 8 p.m. tonight, according to National Weather Service spokesmen.

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US: Snowstorm Sweeps Across the Midwest, Killing 19

Monica Davey
The New York Times
2007-12-25 16:16:00

Ice storms, then a thick layer of snow and finally a raging, blinding wind paralyzed parts of the nation's middle section over the weekend, stranding holiday travelers in roadside motels and shelters and leaving at least 19 people dead.

In eastern Iowa, eight state highways had to be shut down as high winds churned nearly 10 inches of snow that had fallen, said Dena Gray-Fisher, a spokeswoman for the state's Department of Transportation. Two state highways remained closed on Monday.

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New Jersey: Winter ignores calendar, just as autumn did

Jason Nark
The Daily Journal
2007-12-24 16:06:00

Winter clearly didn't pay attention to the calendar this year, and fall didn't follow the rules either.

Saturday was the winter solstice, the official start of the season, but winter booted autumn off the map right after Thanksgiving and things have been frigid ever since. In the first 19 days of December alone, the temperature was 3.1 degrees cooler than average and we've had about 1.6 inches of snow.

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Health & Wellness
Bird flu outbreak in south Russia spreads

RIA Novosti
2007-12-25 07:00:00

A fifth case of bird flu has been confirmed at a farm in the Rostov Region, south Russia, close to the site of previous outbreaks, the regional emergencies ministry said.

"The outbreak at two smallholdings was registered on Saturday, samples were taken and sent for analysis, they came back positive for bird flu," the ministry said.

All 79 birds on the smallholding have been culled. A quarantine zone has been introduced in the Tselinsky district near the site of the first case of the deadly virus.

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Nigeria court issues arrest warrant for Pfizer staff

Agence France-Presse
2007-12-25 06:52:00

A Nigerian state court Monday issued an arrest warrant for three Pfizer Inc. group staffers who allegedly defied a summons and failed to appear in court for hearings of a case against the US drugs company for an alleged illegal clinical trial.

Presiding judge Shehu Atiku said the three accused resident in Nigeria had been served summonses to appear before the court on November 6.

"But up till this moment none of them has appeared before this court either out of neglect, disrespect or contempt," the judge said before issuing the warrant.

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Flashback: Nigeria Takes On Pfizer over 'Killer Drug'

Hauke Goos
Der Spiegel
2007-11-20 06:47:00

The Nigerian government is taking on Pfizer, the world's biggest pharmaceutical company. It accuses the company of using a meningitis epidemic to test an unapproved drug on Nigerian children. Eleven children who participated in the tests died and others were left with disabilities.

©Der Spiegel
Anas Mohammed who was one of the children tested with Pfizer's meningitis epidemic experimental drug. He is now suffering brain damage.

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Tea drinking may not curb ovarian cancer risk

Joene Hendry
2007-12-25 02:20:00

©REUTERS/David Gray
A man prepares to drink a cup of tea from a traditional Chinese cup in Chengdu September 10, 2007.

Tea drinking, in general, does not appear to decrease the risk for ovarian cancer, according to combined data from nine studies.

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Coffee, tea linked to lower risk of kidney cancer

2007-12-25 02:14:00

©REUTERS/Osman Orsal
A waiter carries two cups of Turkish coffee at a coffee shop in Istanbul October 19, 2007.

Coffee and tea lovers may have a slightly reduced risk of developing kidney cancer, research hints.

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Science & Technology
Where and why humans made skates out of animal bones

2007-12-25 09:05:00

Archaeological evidence shows that bone skates (skates made of animal bones) are the oldest human powered means of transport, dating back to 3000 BC. Why people started skating on ice and where is not as clear, since ancient remains were found in several locations spread across Central and North Europe.

In a recent paper, published in the Biological Journal of the Linnean Society of London, Dr Formenti and Professor Minetti show substantial evidence supporting the hypothesis that the birth of ice skating took place in Southern Finland, where the number of lakes within 100 square kilometres is the highest in the world.

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Sleep chemical central to effectiveness of deep brain stimulation

University of Rochester Medical Center
2007-12-23 08:54:00

A brain chemical that makes us sleepy also appears to play a central role in the success of deep brain stimulation to ease symptoms in patients with Parkinson's disease and other brain disorders. The surprising finding is outlined in a paper published online Dec. 23 in Nature Medicine.

The work shows that adenosine, a brain chemical most widely known as the cause of drowsiness, is central to the effect of deep brain stimulation, or DBS. The technique is used to treat people affected by Parkinson's disease and who have severe tremor, and it's also being tested in people who have severe depression or obsessive-compulsive disorder.

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Researchers get embryonic stem cells from skin

Maggie Fox
2007-12-25 02:04:00

©REUTERS/Junying Yu/University of Wisconsin-Madison/Handout
A scientific team from the University of Wisconsin-Madison created genetic modifications in skin cells, pictured here in this undated handout, to induce the cells into what scientists call a pluripotent state - a condition that is essentially the same as that of embryonic stem cells.

A third team of researchers has found a way to convert an ordinary skin cell into valued embryonic-like stem cells, with the potential to grow batches of cells that can be directed to form any kind of tissue.

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Understanding American Capitalism, Its Consequences & Alternatives

Patrice Greanville
Cyrano's Journal
2007-12-24 22:55:00

This is an important book about a vast and important subject - economics - which, except for hermits and recluses living in the wilderness, affects just about everyone, every single day, in more ways than most people realize. Understanding economics - or rather, to be more precise, the political economy, a term I amplify later - is critical to any person wishing to make sense of the world, and essential to choosing rationally how to position oneself on the political map.

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Our Haunted Planet
Nevada: Strange light in the sky spotted in Sparks on Christmas Eve

2007-12-25 16:29:00

Officials are trying to determine what people saw streaking across the sky last evening above Spanish Springs north of Reno.

Washoe County sheriff's deputies and search and rescue team members think they may be looking for a meteorite.

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US: All over Central Oregon, folks spot fireball

Associated Press
2007-12-25 16:25:00

Could it have been Rudolph's nose, gleaming brightly? Or maybe just a meteorite in the making?

All across Central Oregon last night, there were reports of a fireball seen streaking to the ground.

Keith Clinton, who lives east of Bend says he saw a "large, bright green fireball descend out of the cloudless sky east of Bend."

Clinton says the fireball turned yellow and exploded about 10 degrees above the horizon, breaking into several pieces as it did.

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Don't Panic! Lighten Up!
Cards from heaven have dead man talking

Associated Press
2007-12-25 11:17:00

Ashland, Oregon - Even in death, Chet Fitch is a card. Fitch, known for his sense of humor, died in October at age 88 but gave his friends and family a start recently: Christmas cards, 34 of them, began arriving - written in his hand with a return address of "Heaven".

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Sacrificial sheep row splits up Egyptian couple

RIA Novosti
2007-12-25 06:48:00

A sacrificial sheep, or rather the absence of a sacrificial sheep, has caused the break up of a 16-year-old marriage in Egypt, national media said on Tuesday.

The woman asked a Cairo court to give her a divorce after the husband refused to buy a sheep for the Islamic festival of Eid al-Adha.

The woman, who has only been named as Khadidji, married her husband, Mohamed, when he was poor. However, when his fortunes saw an upturn, and he began to make a better living, she asked him to buy a sacrificial sheep. Mohamed refused.

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Is God's face in Leonardo da Vinci's work?

Aislinn Simpson
The Telegraph
2007-12-12 05:40:00

A new storm is brewing in the world of Leonardo da Vinci theorists after a mysterious group claimed it has used mirrors to uncover hidden biblical images in some of the great master's most famous works.

In recent years, art history scholars have unveiled Templar knights, Mary Magdalene, a child and a musical script hidden in the Italian's paintings.

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All I Want for Christmas Is a Shot of Paralyzing Toxins to the Forehead

Leslie Goldman
2007-12-25 00:52:00

Giving the gift of cosmetic change is now hotter than ever this holiday season!

Want to give the breast holiday present ever?

How about the gift that keeps on giving: Plastic surgery!

We've all heard about high schoolers begging for -- and getting -- nose jobs for graduation or sugar daddies funding their girlfriends' lunchtime lipo, but now, just in time for Christmas, you can give the one you love a BOTOX® Cosmetic (Botulinum Toxin Type A) gift card. Just wait until you see the (lack of) expression on her face when she unwraps what she thinks is a $50 Bed, Bath & Beyond gift certificate but is actually the pathway to three-to-six months of eternal youth.

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Kyrgyzstan touted as ideal delivery hub for Santa

2007-12-24 23:26:00

BISHKEK - Seeking a novel remedy to revive its rickety economy, the tiny ex-Soviet state of Kyrgyzstan has declared itself the new home of Santa Claus.

Citing Swedish engineering firm that determined the ideal spot for Santa's global toy delivery hub, officials in this predominantly Muslim country have quickly moved to capitalize on the finding.

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