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Phoenix

3 Tibetan Herders Self-Immolate in Anti-Chinese Protest

In a fresh illustration of growing turmoil among ethnic Tibetans in Sichuan Province, three livestock herders have set themselves on fire to protest what they saw as political and religious repression at the hands of the Chinese authorities, according to a Tibetan rights group and an ethnic Tibetan living in Beijing.

The latest cases bring the total self-immolations by ethnic Tibetans over the past year to 19. They were also apparently the first by lay people, rather than current or former members of the clergy, suggesting that self-immolation may be gaining popularity as a form of dissent. The self-immolations took place Friday in a remote village in Seda County, once a center of Buddhist teaching, but reports did not surface until the weekend because the government had cut off Internet and telephone connections to the area, said Tsering Woeser, a Tibetan poet in Beijing.

She said that one of the three men had died and that the two others, believed to be about 30 and 60 years old, were severely injured.

The Chinese government has sealed off a number of counties in the region and intensified security in an attempt to curtail the largest outbreak of unrest among ethnic Tibetans since the 2008 riots in Tibet's capital, Lhasa, and elsewhere.

Dollar

US, Illinois: Perception Management: Cab driver admits giving cash to militant linked to al Qaeda

Image
© Unknown
The Chicago cabdriver charged with aiding Al-Qaeda.
A Chicago cab driver pleaded guilty on Monday to giving hundreds of dollars to a senior Pakistan-based al Qaeda operative implicated in militant plots in South Asia and Europe who was killed in a suspected U.S. drone strike in June.

Raja Lahrasib Khan, 58, a native of Pakistan who is a naturalized U.S. citizen, never posed any imminent domestic danger, authorities said at the time of his arrest in March 2010.

He remains in federal custody while awaiting sentencing, according to the U.S. Attorney's office in Chicago. His plea agreement calls for a term of between five and eight years in prison, and he must provide cooperation to the government.

Khan admitted that he met with Ilyas Kashmiri, an alleged leader of both al Qaeda and one of its Pakistan-based affiliates, in Pakistan in the early to mid-2000s and again in 2008.

Khan gave Kashmiri about 20,000 Pakistani rupees or approximately $200 to $250 in 2008, and directed another person to give Kashmiri the equivalent of $300 in 2009, prosecutors said.

Khan, apprehended through a government sting in March 2010, intended the money to be used to support attacks against India, but also knew that Kashmiri was working with al Qaeda, prosecutors said.

Kashmiri, said to be a former Pakistani military officer, reportedly was on a list Washington gave to Pakistan of [ALLEGED] militants the United States wanted captured or killed, a Pakistani official has said.

The U.S. State Department had offered a $5 million reward for information leading to his location, describing him as the commander of Harkat-ul Jihad Islami, a group with bases in Pakistan and Bangladesh.

The group is accused of launching several attacks in India and Pakistan, including a March 2006 suicide bombing of the U.S. consulate in Karachi, Pakistan. Four people, including a U.S. diplomat, were killed.

Comment: Wow, 550 dollars, that can get you a decent amount of Groceries, a nice change of clothes or maybe even a short one way trip across the Atlantic ocean. Will it change the balance of some (alleged, blamed, suspected, accused) war on terror™?

Look at that image, he's seething with pure ..err wait, that's a simple smile as he sports his great love for Home Box Office™ (HBO hat).

An admission of guilt, or an honest answer to a question?:

Lawyer: Did you Mr. Khan help out Kashmiri, a personal friend, with a few bucks back in 2008-9'ish?
Khan: Yes sir I did.
Lawyer, Judge, Jury: GUILTY! No further questions your-honor.


Cult

Vatican Official Defends Pope Benedict in Sex Abuse Scandal

Pope Benedict XVI
© Franco Origlia/Getty Images
Pope Benedict XVI
A top Roman Catholic official opened a conference on protecting children from sexual abuse Monday by defending Pope Benedict XVI, arguing that he deserved thanks for his efforts.

Cardinal William Levada said Benedict, before becoming pope, enacted many of the reforms that followed the eruption of the church's sex-abuse scandal a decade ago.

"But the pope has had to suffer attacks by the media over these past years in various parts of the world, when he should receive the gratitude of us all, in the church and outside it," Levada said in his opening address to the conference.

Levada leads the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican office charged with enforcing church law. Benedict held the same post before he became pope in 2005.

During that period, the office was charged with cleaning up after the revelations that church officials protected priests who were accused of molesting young parishioners, particularly in the United States and Europe. The scandal has led to criminal charges and expensive legal judgments in cases that are still working their way through the courts.

Stormtrooper

Norway Mass Killer Demands Medal at Court Hearing

 Anders Behring Breivik
© unknown
Anders Behring Breivik
The right-wing extremist who has admitted killing 77 people in Norway's worst peacetime massacre told a court Monday that he deserves a medal of honor for the bloodshed and demanded to be set free.

Anders Behring Breivik smirked as he was led in to the Oslo district court, handcuffed and dressed in a dark suit, for his last scheduled detention hearing before the trial starts in April. He stretched out his arms in what his lawyer Geir Lippestad called "some kind of right-wing extremist greeting."

Reading from prepared remarks, the 32-year-old Norwegian told the court that the July 22 massacre - carried out with a bomb, a rifle and a handgun - was a strike against "traitors" who he said are embracing immigration to promote "an Islamic colonization of Norway."

Eye 1

Canada: Bank of Montreal Breached Their Privacy, Customers Say


Two customers say the Bank of Montreal violated their privacy and trust by allowing sensitive financial information to get into the wrong hands, then failing to address their complaints.

"I was shaking and I was angry and I had tears in my eyes," said Loretta Albayate of Gibsons, B.C. "And I said, 'What's going on? Why does my ex-husband have all my banking information??"

Albayate said she was shocked when her ex-husband called to say the bank had sent her monthly account statements to his home. She later learned a BMO employee at her branch changed her mailing address to his - without her knowledge or consent.

"He had everything," Albayate said. "He made it clear he went through my information because he wanted to know what I was up to and what I was doing."

V

The Cancer in Occupy

The Black Bloc anarchists, who have been active on the streets in Oakland and other cities, are the cancer of the Occupy movement. The presence of Black Bloc anarchists - so named because they dress in black, obscure their faces, move as a unified mass, seek physical confrontations with police and destroy property - is a gift from heaven to the security and surveillance state. The Occupy encampments in various cities were shut down precisely because they were nonviolent. They were shut down because the state realized the potential of their broad appeal even to those within the systems of power. They were shut down because they articulated a truth about our economic and political system that cut across political and cultural lines. And they were shut down because they were places mothers and fathers with strollers felt safe.

Image
© Mr. Fish
Black Bloc adherents detest those of us on the organized left and seek, quite consciously, to take away our tools of empowerment. They confuse acts of petty vandalism and a repellent cynicism with revolution. The real enemies, they argue, are not the corporate capitalists, but their collaborators among the unions, workers' movements, radical intellectuals, environmental activists and populist movements such as the Zapatistas. Any group that seeks to rebuild social structures, especially through nonviolent acts of civil disobedience, rather than physically destroy, becomes, in the eyes of Black Bloc anarchists, the enemy. Black Bloc anarchists spend most of their fury not on the architects of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) or globalism, but on those, such as the Zapatistas, who respond to the problem. It is a grotesque inversion of value systems.

People

The ill-effects of Monsanto's Genetically Modified Seeds in India

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© Melvyn Calderon/Greenpeace HO/A.P. Images.
No thanks: An anti-Monsanto crop circle made by farmers and volunteers in the Philippines.
Monsanto's operation in India illustrates monopolization and manipulation of the market economy, tradition, technology, and misgovernance. The world's largest producer of genetically engineered seeds has been selling genetically modified (GM) in India for the last decade to benefit the Indian farmers, or so the company claims.

In a country of more than 550 million farmers who are largely poor and uneducated and the agriculture market rife with inefficient business practices, the Indian government sought to reform the market by eliminating subsidies and loans to the farmers.

The government reform did not help the farmers. With pressure from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund (IMF), the Indian government has "forced market liberalization on India which means the elimination of government subsidies and government-backed loans to farmers."

Stormtrooper

Egypt Soccer Violence: The Military's Political Game

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© n/a
Protesters chant anti-government slogans during protest condemning the death
of soccer fans at Port Said stadium, near the Interior Ministry in Cairo, Feb. 2
"Egyptians infuriated by the deaths of 74 people in soccer violence staged protests in central Cairo and clashed with the police forces, as the army-led government came under fire for failing to prevent the deadliest incident since the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak."

For the third day in a row, Deadly clashes continue to rage in Egypt over football riots leaving 12 killed and more than 2500 wounded in street clashes over authorities' failure to stop Port Said football violence.

State media reported renewed scuffles between members of the security forces encircling the building of the ministry of interior and demonstrators who included hardcore soccer fans, aka Ultras, known for confronting the police and who were on the frontlines of protests against the military throughout the last year.

The Ultras played a prominent role with anti-government activists in the uprising that toppled president Hosni Mubarak a year ago, and a spokesman on their behalf has suggested pro-Mubarak forces were behind the soccer incident, or at least complicit.

The soccer violence will likely strike news followers as most unfortunate and tragic accident, but for the supreme military council of armed forces of Egypt (SCAF), a council reluctant to relinquish power, it will definitely strike a different chord.

For a military institution that is supposed to hand over power to civilians by next July, after a monopoly of power for more than six decades, any incident that would allow chaos and insecurity to prevail will certainly be welcomed.

A stampede is an act of mass impulse among a crowd of people in which the crowd collectively begins running with no clear direction or purpose. But last Wednesday's soccer violence that left 74 killed and at least 1,000 people injured in the Egyptian coastal city of Port Said when soccer fans invaded the pitch after local team al-Masry beat Cairo-based Al Ahli, has been no accidental stampede.

The fingers are once again pointing at the police's complicity in the bloody incident as well as the overall instability and insecurity that has been afflicting the country since the fall of Mubarak.

The scenes and initial investigations proved all the gates to the football pitch were deliberately ordered open minutes before the end of the match, and also showed the police forces stood still and did almost nothing to prevent the disaster.

Book

Why Small-Town America Is Drowning in Drugs

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In his best-selling - and uncannily prophetic - 2009 book, Methland: The Death and Life of an American Small Town, author Nick Reding compared crystal meth to a "sociocultural cancer." The easy-to-make stimulant can spread with the speed and destructiveness of a disease, but curiously, it can take many years to take hold, like a cell mutation triggered by decades of bad decisions. The subject of Reding's book was a struggling town in Northern Iowa called Oelwein, home to a population of 6,415. A once-wholesome community, Oelwein had fallen on hard times during the past decade, when the collapse of its industries - including many family-run farms - threatened its citizens livelihoods as well as their way of life. In classic post-traumatic stress mode, Oelwein fell victim to the crank epidemic, becoming a midwestern focal point for speed dealers.

Reding spent years reporting and writing Methland, which struck a chord in a nation experiencing a painful recession. He pointed out how economic problems had spurred towns like Oelwein to become unlikely centers of the drug trade. A sizable percentage of the town's citizens ended up becoming addicted to meth or pills. Others were engaged in manufacturing or transporting illegal drugs.

To mark the recent paperback release of his book, Fix columnist Jeff Deeney talked to Reding about the current state of Oelwein and similar towns across America. Deeney works as a drug counselor in inner-city Philadelphia, where he regularly witnesses what life is like for the dealers and addicts who remain invisible to most of us. Like Reding, he has witnessed first-hand the toll that America's declining economy has taken on the underclass, who have increasingly come to view drugs not just as an escape but also as a rare avenue of opportunity. The two writers talked recently.

Attention

US: New 'Doomsday Preppers' Show Highlights Extreme Survivalists

House of Containers
© National Geographic Channel / Sharp Entertainment
Floresville, Texas: Paul Range and Gloria Haswell have constructed a house entirely out of used shipping containers.

It's better to be safe than sorry, which is why FEMA guidelines recommend stockpiling your pantry with three days worth of food in case of a natural disaster. Meanwhile, Paul Range and Gloria Haswell have enough in store to feed 22 people for 15 years - as well as enough guns, bullets and bug-out vehicles to wage a small war. The couple occupies nine steel shipping containers arranged in a castle formation outside Floresville, Texas. A system of windmills and solar panels powers the compound, and human body waste is used to generate methane, which serves as their cooking fuel.

It's all because they are worried Earth's magnetic poles might switch.

Range and Haswell are among those profiled in Doomsday Preppers, a weekly TV documentary premiering on the National Geographic Channel tomorrow (Feb. 7) at 9 p.m., with a bonus episode at 10 p.m. following the premiere. The show takes viewers on a shocking tour of modern-day apocalypse paranoia, from Range, Haswell and their steel fortress to a Californian who has trained himself to survive off garden weeds in preparation for a major earthquake.

While the show may highlight a few of America's most extreme cases, apocalypticism - fear of the end of the world as we know it - is at a historic high point, according to Lorenzo DiTommasso, chairman and associate professor of religion at Concordia University in Montreal. The phenomenon has experienced peaks and valleys throughout history. Right now, "we're in a peak, and have been for the last 40 years," DiTommasso said.