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Militants: 35 hostages dead in Algerian copter attack

© AP Photo/BP
In this undated image released Wednesday Jan. 16, 2013, by BP petroleum company, showing the Amenas natural gas field in the eastern central region of Algeria, where Islamist militants raided and took hostages Wednesday Jan. 16, 2013.
Islamic militants have told a Mauritanian news outlet that that 35 hostages were killed but seven are still alive after Algerian military helicopters strafed a gas complex deep in the Sahara.

The spokesman for the Masked Brigade, which claimed responsibility for the attack Wednesday on the Algerian gas plant, said Thursday the survivors included three Belgians, two Americans, a Briton and a Japanese citizen.

Eye 1

Somali official: African Union troops killed 7 civilians

© Somalia Report
African Union troops mistakenly opened fire on a religious school while pursuing militants, killing five children and two adults, a Somali legislator said Thursday.

Dahir Amin Jesow, who visited the scene of the attack at Leggo village, said all five children were less than 10 years old.


Poll: Majority of Americans want Supreme Court to uphold right to abortion

Sixty-three percent of Americans would rather not see the US Supreme Court overturn its historic 1973 ruling on abortion, according to a Pew Research Center opinion poll released Wednesday.

Only 29 percent want to see the Roe vs Wade decision upended, according to the poll released six days before its the 40th anniversary, said Pew in a statement.

"These opinions are little changed from surveys conducted 10 and 20 years ago," the research institute said.


Oregon sheriff writes Biden to say he won't enforce new gun laws

An Oregon sheriff wrote Vice President Joe Biden announcing his refusal to enforce any new gun safety legislation placing restriction on semi-automatic weaponry, saying they would "infringe upon the liberties of responsible citizens who have broken no laws."

According to KOIN-TV, Linn County Sheriff Tim Mueller said he is unsure Biden will actually read the letter, in which he accuses lawmakers of "attempting to exploit the deaths of innocent victims by advocating for laws that would prevent honest, law abiding Americans from possessing certain firearms and ammunition magazines."

Biden has spent most of the past month researching possible gun laws, in the wake of the Dec. 14 mass shooting at a Connecticut elementary school. President Barack Obama is expected to announce new legislation based on Biden's recommendations on Wednesday.

Che Guevara

Aaron Swartz, America's Mohamed Bouazizi: We're in the midst of a revolution, which side are you on?

The United States is ripe for a revolution. People are pissed, and rightfully so. The only question that remains is if the restructuring will be peaceful, like what we saw happen in Iceland, or will it be violent, like what we see happening in Greece and Spain.

As Chris Hedges has implied on multiple occasions, the revolution is well on its way:
"I have seen my share of revolts, insurgencies and revolutions, from the guerrilla conflicts in the 1980s in Central America to the civil wars in Algeria, the Sudan and Yemen, to the Palestinian uprising to the revolutions in East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Romania as well as the wars in the former Yugoslavia. George Orwell wrote that all tyrannies rule through fraud and force, but that once the fraud is exposed they must rely exclusively on force. We have now entered the era of naked force. The vast million-person bureaucracy of the internal security and surveillance state will not be used to stop terrorism but to try and stop us."

"All of that has been used to essentially, in this reconfiguration of American society... into an oligarchic state, a neofeudalistic state - you criminalize dissent, because they know very well what's coming, as they reduce roughly two-thirds of this country to subsistence level."

Bad Guys

Obama EPA Shut Down Weatherford, TX Shale Gas Water Contamination Study

fracking water
© ShutterStock | Aaron Amat
The Associated Press has a breaking investigative story out today revealing that the Obama Administration's Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) censored a smoking gun scientific report in March 2012 that it had contracted out to a scientist who conducted field data on 32 water samples in Weatherford, TX.

That report, according to the AP, would have explicitly linked methane migration to hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") in Weatherford, a city with 25,000+ citizens located in the heart of the Barnett Shale geologic formation 30 minutes from Dallas.

It was authored by Geoffrey Thyne, a geologist formerly on the faculty of the Colorado School of Mines and University of Wyoming before departing from the latter for a job in the private sector working for Interralogic Inc. in Ft Collins, CO.

This isn't the first time Thyne's scientific research has been shoved aside, either. Thyne wrote two landmark studies on groundwater contamination in Garfield County, CO, the first showing that it existed, the second confirming that the contamination was directly linked to fracking in the area.

It's the second study that got him in trouble.

"Thyne says he was told to cease his research by higher-ups. He didn't," The Checks and Balances Project explained. "And when it came to renew his contract, Thyne was cut loose."


Maher to Handler: Romney was a 'cold, robotic tax cheat from a polygamy cult'

Tuesday night on E!, the Entertainment Network's Chelsea Lately, host Chelsea Handler talked to Bill Maher of HBO's Real Time with Bill Maher about his $1 million dollar donation to to the pro-Obama super PAC known as Priorities USA Action and why he supported the president against former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney (R).

Handler began by welcoming Maher to the show and asking him why he was giggling before the interview even began.

"That's because I'm always worried I'm going to be too dirty or inappropriate for this show," he replied, "and you can't be too dirty or inappropriate."

"You can't," Handler replied. "It's really sad. It's very base."

The discussion quickly moved to politics. Handler asked Maher if he'd been certain that Obama would prevail on Election Night.

Red Flag

U.S. citizens among hostages seized in Algeria as France battles Islamists in neighboring Mali

© Jerome Delay / AP
Islamist extremists grab more territory in Mali: French military forces step up their campaign, launching airstrikes for the first time in the central part of the country.
Islamist guerrillas seized a number of hostages, including Americans, in a brazen attack early Wednesday on a remote gas-production facility in Algeria, and the United States vowed to take all necessary steps to deal with what it called a "terrorist act."

Algeria's official news agency said two people were killed, including a British national, and six were wounded, two of them foreigners, in the attack by what authorities described as a homegrown Algerian terrorist group. There were conflicting accounts of the number of people taken hostage. The agency, Algerie Presse Service, said Algerian troops quickly surrounded the site.

In Rome, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said U.S. officials believe that Americans are among the hostages in Algeria but that they are still trying to determine how many.

"By all indications, this is a terrorist act," he told reporters after meeting with Italian leaders Wednesday as part of a week-long European trip. "It is a very serious matter when Americans are taken hostage along with others.... I want to assure the American people that the United States will take all necessary and proper steps that are required to deal with this situation."


Obama proposes more police officers in schools as part of gun control reforms

© Photograph: Larry Downing/REUTERS
Among the 23 executive orders proposed by President Obama on Wednesday: encouraging more policy officers in schools.
One of the 23 executive orders proposed by President Obama on Wednesday as part of his package of reforms to curb gun violence is generating controversy: the idea of encouraging more police officers in schools.

The White House is planning to provide incentives to schools to hire several hundred more "school resource officers". These are specially trained police officers that work in schools and are given the task of deterring crime and advancing "community policing objectives".

The White House accepts that not all schools would want to take on police officers, preferring perhaps to hire counsellors instead, but it has instructed the department of justice to give top priority this year to grant applications from police departments across the country for the school scheme. The federal government will also provide a pot of $150m to fund a new school safety programme that will pay for the police officers and reimburse schools who invest in "safety equipment".


Germany to send transport planes to Mali

Germany has said it is sending two transport planes to Mali to help shore up an initial battle against Islamist insurgents. French ground troops already in Mali were set to engage directly with the rebels Wednesday.

The German government on Wednesday pledged two Transall military transport planes to fly troops of the 15-nation west African grouping ECOWAS to the Malian capital Bamako.

Defense Minister Thomas de Maiziere said the two C-160 planes would depart once technical details had been resolved.

"Germany will provide logistical support based on the situation on the ground," de Maiziere told reporters at a hastily-called press conference in Berlin.