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US: Farmers Watch Harsh Winter Crush Their Livelihoods

winter forecast 2011 US
© accuWeather
Hartford, Conn. - For Northeastern farmers long used to coping with all sorts of cold-weather problems, this winter presents a new one: snow and ice that's bringing down outbuildings, requiring costly repairs, killing livestock and destroying supplies.

Farmers in Connecticut alone have lost at least 136 barns, greenhouses, sheds and other structures as snow measured in feet, not inches, accumulated while January passed without a thaw.

"We've had other challenges," said Joe Greenbacker, a partner at Brookfield Farm in Durham, where a fabric-covered "hoop house" caved in and killed a calf. "But this is the most snow I can remember on the ground and the biggest problem with roof issues I can remember."

Losses still are being totaled by the state Agriculture Department. Commissioner Steven Reviczky says no one can remember a more destructive winter.

The Northeast is suffering through one of its most brutal winters in years, with cities all along the seaboard reporting snow piling up at a record-setting pace. Connecticut has been especially hard-hit, with Hartford reporting 81 inches since Dec. 1, compared with an average of 46 inches, according to the National Weather Service.

Arrow Down

Vietnam : 9 friends die at New Year party

Vietnamese police say nine friends died during a lunar New Year party after they started a car parked inside a house to play music following an electricity outage.

Police in Hai Phong said Monday that seven men and two women, all in their 20s, died of apparent carbon monoxide poisoning early Sunday.

A police officer says the car was started after the power went out. Its headlights and stereo were turned on inside the 20-square-meter (215-square-foot) house, which had all windows and doors closed. The officer identified himself only as Le because he was not authorized to speak to reporters.

Dollar

US: Bank of America to pay $410 Million to Settle Overdraft Lawsuit

Bank of America
© Bank of America
Bank of America Corp (BAC.N) has agreed to pay $410 million to settle lawsuits accusing it of charging customers with excessive overdraft fees, court documents show.

The largest U.S. bank by assets is among the more than two dozen U.S., Canadian and European lenders named as defendants in the class-action litigation, which in 2009 consolidated lawsuits filed across the country.

JPMorgan Chase & Co (JPM.N), Citigroup Inc (C.N) and Wells Fargo & Co (WFC.N) are among the other defendants named in the case, court records show.

Bank of America spokeswoman Anne Pace in an email said the bank has already changed its overdraft practices, eliminating fees for debit transactions and significantly lowering fees for customers who overdraw excessively.

She also said the Charlotte, North Carolina-based lender has "fully accrued funds" to cover the settlement.

Notice of the January 27 accord with Bank of America was filed on Friday with the U.S. district court in Miami. The settlement requires court approval.

Laptop

Anti-Berlusconi hackers block Italy government website

Rome - The Italian government's website came under attack from computer hackers on Sunday, police said, after opponents of Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said they would target the site to protest against curbs to media freedom.

The action was the latest against Berlusconi, who has faced protests since prosecutors opened an investigation last month into wild parties at his Milan villa, accusing him of illegally paying for sex from a prostitute who was under 18.

Access to the website www.governo.it appeared to be blocked briefly during the afternoon, although it was working normally by evening.

The hackers, calling themselves Anonymous Italy, criticized a number of Italian government policies and said they were responding to a cable leaked by anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks from the U.S. embassy in Rome.

Stormtrooper

Police evict indigenous Easter Island protesters

Image
© EPA
The results of the Easter Island Native dispute with the Government and Police in Dec. 2010. Islanders said the police used batons and pellet guns against them.
Buenos Aires, Argentina - Police on Easter Island raided the grounds of a luxury hotel Sunday to evict the last of dozens of indigenous protesters battling for ancestral lands and a larger share of profits from the tourists who come to see the Pacific Island's mysterious statues of giant heads.

A Rapa Nui clan's claims to the land under the new, $800-a-night Hangaroa Eco Village & Spa has won support from international human rights agencies, and it poses legal and political dilemmas for a Chilean government already criticized for its treatment of indigenous people on the mainland.

The Hito clan's attorney, Rodrigo Gomez, said the last handful of about 50 squatters were hauled off and jailed by police Sunday after they had tied themselves down in the lobby.

Police Maj. Fernando Lobos said all the Hitos were processed and freed pending a court hearing. He said officers were following an order to empty the property so that federal investigators could survey its condition.

Members and supporters of the Hito clan had been squatting on the grounds of the $50 million development since August, claiming the land was swindled from their illiterate grandmother and then illegally sold into private hands by Gen. Augusto Pinochet's dictatorship.

Bomb

Airliner evacuated in Chile after bomb threat

Chilean authorities have evacuated passengers and crew from an Iberia airline flight to Madrid, Spain, following a bomb threat.

Authorities say a team from Chile's civil aviation agency have searched the airliner and ruled out the presence of explosives. Police investigators are trying to determine the origin of Sunday's threatening phone call.

The civil aviation agency says 312 people were removed from the plane after the police communication center received the threat shortly before the aircraft was to take off.

Officials say passengers have been taken to a nearby hotel and will be put on a new flight to Madrid on Monday.

Bizarro Earth

Asia faces climate-induced migration 'crisis'

asiafloods
© AP

Singapore - Asia must prepare for millions of people to flee their homes to safer havens within countries and across borders as weather patterns become more extreme, the Asian Development Bank warns.

A draft of an ADB report obtained by AFP over the weekend and confirmed by bank officials cautioned that failure to make preparations now for vast movements of people could lead to "humanitarian crises" in the coming decades.

Governments are currently focused on mitigating climate change blamed for the weather changes, but the report said they should start laying down policies and mechanisms to deal with the projected population shifts.

Ambulance

Say 'No'! to Female Genital Mutilation

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"Female Genital Mutilation"
International Day on Zero Tolerance...

Victoria, B.C. - Female Genital Mutilation is a heinous crime still perpetrated against girls. On February 6 2011 throughout the day, the entire world community is being asked to chant together a resounding "No!" in unison with all activists against female genital mutilation. As this is the date marking the 8th International Day on Zero Tolerance to Female Genital Mutilation, collectively, we can honour the global concerted efforts which rarely get the media attention, but which represent, both practical and existential struggles, against FGM tradition practice [as it is labelled for short].

Being that the 6th of February falls on a Sunday, the UN-sponsored meeting and backed by the World Health Organization will take place in Geneva on Monday 9:00 a.m. Feb 7 at "Le Centre International de Conférences" (CICG).

Handcuffs

Iran opens espionage trial of U.S. hikers

An Iranian court held closed-door proceedings Sunday to begin the espionage trial of three Americans - two in custody and one freed on bail - whose 18-month detention has been the subject of impassioned family appeals and backdoor outreach by Washington through an Arab ally in the Gulf.

Iran's state-run Press TV reported that not guilty pleas were submitted to the court by their attorney, but gave no other details.

The case highlights the power of Iran's judiciary, which is controlled directly by the nation's ruling clerics and has rejected apparent appeals by President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to show some leniency.


USA

10 Things Conservatives Don't Want You To Know About Ronald Reagan

Tomorrow will mark the 100th anniversary of President Reagan's birth, and all week, conservatives have been trying to outdo each others' remembrances of the great conservative icon. Senate Republicans spent much of Thursday singing Reagan's praise from the Senate floor, while conservative publications have been running non-stop commemorations. Meanwhile, the Republican National Committee and former GOP House Speaker Newt Gingrich are hoping to make a few bucks off the Gipper's centennial.

But Reagan was not the man conservatives claim he was. This image of Reagan as a conservative superhero is myth, created to untie the various factions of the right behind a common leader. In reality, Reagan was no conservative ideologue or flawless commander-in-chief. Reagan regularly strayed from conservative dogma - he raised taxes eleven times as president while tripling the deficit - and he often ended up on the wrong side of history, like when he vetoed an Anti-Apartheid bill.

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ThinkProgress has compiled a list of the top 10 things conservatives rarely mention when talking about President Reagan:
1. Reagan was a serial tax raiser. As governor of California, Reagan "signed into law the largest tax increase in the history of any state up till then." Meanwhile, state spending nearly doubled. As president, Reagan "raised taxes in seven of his eight years in office," including four times in just two years. As former GOP Senator Alan Simpson, who called Reagan "a dear friend," told NPR, "Ronald Reagan raised taxes 11 times in his administration - I was there." "Reagan was never afraid to raise taxes," said historian Douglas Brinkley, who edited Reagan's memoir. Reagan the anti-tax zealot is "false mythology," Brinkley said.