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Belgium on strike as EU leaders ready to open summit

Image
© AFP/File, Georges Gobet
Belgian rail workers have launched a national strike in protest at EU-ordered austerity
Belgian rail workers launched a national strike in protest at EU-ordered austerity cuts just as European leaders were to gather for a Brussels summit on the debt crisis.

The first trains stopped turning around 9:00 pm (2000 GMT), travellers said on Twitter.

High-speed international Eurostar, Thalys and inter-city Belgian trains had warned passengers in advance it would be Tuesday mid-day before the network was functioning normally again.

Southern Charleroi airport -- a key low-cost hub -- was expected to be out of action Monday, but the main international runways at Brussels were due to be functional.

Heart - Black

Canada: All 3 Guilty in Shafia Murder Trial; Judge Condemns Twisted Concept of Honour

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© The Canadian Press/Graham Hughes
Mohammad Shafia, centre, Tooba Yahya, right, and Hamed Shafia, left, arrive at the Frontenac County courthouse in Kingston, Ont., Sunday, January 29, 2011.
Three members of an Afghanistan-born Montreal family were defiant Sunday in the face of life in prison and harsh condemnation for the murders of three daughters and a co-wife apparently motivated by what the judge called their "twisted concept of honour."

A jury took 15 hours to find Mohammad Shafia, 58, his wife Tooba Yahya, 42, and their son Hamed, 21, each guilty of four counts of first-degree murder in a so-called mass honour killing that has captivated Canadians from coast to coast, and touched off post-911 criticism of Muslim culture.

The three immediately pronounced the verdicts as unjust, but the judge was unmoved, cutting right to the core of the cultural cloud that hung over this case.

"It is difficult to conceive of a more heinous, more despicable, more honourless crime," Ontario Superior Court Judge Robert Maranger said.

"The apparent reason behind these cold-blooded, shameful murders was that the four completely innocent victims offended your completely twisted concept of honour...that has absolutely no place in any civilized society."

Padlock

US: Woman Gets Life Sentence in Maryland Yoga Shop Murder

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© unknown
A woman convicted of killing her co-worker at an upscale yoga clothing shop in the Washington suburbs, then spinning an elaborate lie about being attacked by two masked men, was ordered Friday to spend the rest of her life behind bars.

Brittany Norwood tearfully apologized to the family of her victim in her first public statements since her arrest in March. A jury two months ago convicted Norwood of first-degree murder for bludgeoning and stabbing 30-year-old Jayna Murray, a co-worker at the Lululemon Athletica shop in Bethesda. Murray had more than 330 distinct wounds on her body, and investigators believe she was alive for the duration of the attack.

The judge was unmoved by Norwood's tears, telling the 29-year-old that her crime "exemplified the worst of human nature" and that she was "one hell of a liar." He rejected defense pleas that she was capable of rehabilitation and deserved an eventual shot at freedom.

"You mutilated this woman. And with every blow, you had a chance to think about what you were doing," said Montgomery County Circuit Court Judge Robert Greenberg in imposing a sentence of life without the possibility of parole.

The violent nature of the crime, and the initial accounts by Norwood of two murderers and rapists on the run, rattled the community northwest of Washington.

House

Ireland: Jobless Man Builds a House Out of $1.82 Billion Worth of Shredded Money


What would you do with $1.82 billion worth of shredded money? In Ireland, people build houses out of it - at least that's what Dublin-based artist Frank Buckley did. The unemployed artist originally wanted to create a gallery for his series of mixed-media artworks called "Expressions of Recession," but he ended up building a house instead.

Bizarro Earth

Right-Wing Official Pushes Bible Death Message at Obama

hand & Bible
© n/a
A prominent Kansas elected official has made news in recent weeks after an email he passed around seemed to pray for the death of President Obama.

As president Obama made his way to the podium before his State of the Union address on Tuesday night there was a poignant reminder of the culture of hate and violence that has marked our public life in recent years. Obama paused for a sustained greeting and hug with Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D-AZ) who had just announced her resignation from Congress to complete her recovery from an assassination attempt.

The shooting of Giffords and others outside a supermarket in Tucson was widely seen as the inevitable result of the era of hate radio and partisan invective in which political differences are vilified as treason, Nazism and even terrorism. The likes of Rush Limbaugh, Glenn Beck, and the overt race-baiting rhetoric of the Tea Party have fallen out of the news, but the effects have lingered. Indeed, a death prayer against the president by a prominent Kansas elected official has been in the news in recent weeks -- and has been brushed off by many as a joke -- as if the last three years had not happened.

Light Sabers

UK Riots: Paratroopers Being Trained in Riot Control

teams armed with body-length shields
© Ki Price/AFP/Getty
Troops were trained into how to work as teams armed with body-length shields in driving back hostile crowds.
British troops are being trained in riot control tactics amid fears that violence and looting will return to Britain's streets this summer.

Hundreds of soldiers from 3rd battalion The Parachute Regiment spent last week learning how to contain and arrest "rioters" in a series of exercises mirroring last summers violence.

Defence sources have confirmed that if violence were to return to British cities, especially during the Olympic Games, the Paras would be "ideally placed" to provide "short-term" support to police forces around the UK.

Such a request would have to be made by the Home Office and would have to have Prime Ministerial approval, according to the source.

During the exercises at the Lydd training base in Kent, the elite troops were pelted with petrol bombs and missiles and "fought" running battles with gangs of protesters as part of the battalion's "public order training".

The battalion is the lead unit in the Airborne Task Force - the Army's premier rapid response unit and can be called on to deal with a wide range of emergency situations - from hostage rescue to riot control - around the world.

Vader

Flash-Grenades & Tear-Gas: 300 Arrested at Occupy Oakland

Occupy Oakland demonstrators
© Reuters / Stephen Lam
Occupy Oakland demonstrators confront a line of police officers during a demonstration in attempt to occupy a vacant building near Laney College in Oakland, California January 28, 2012
Police in Oakland, California, have used tear-gas and flash-grenades as a 2,000-strong Occupy Oakland march turned violent, with some protesters claiming that rubber bullets were also fired into the crowd. At least 300 people were arrested.

The demonstrators had attempted to take over vacant buildings to use as their headquarters, they also broke into City Hall and tried to occupy a YMCA. Police spokesman Jeff Thomason told media most of the arrests came around 8 pm local time. Police took many protesters into custody as they marched through the city's downtown area, with some entering a YMCA building.

Officials say, at one point protesters began tearing down perimeter fences around the Henry J. Kaiser Convention Center, as some attacked police officers, throwing rocks, bottles and other objects. Police declared an unlawful assembly and used force, according to the Oakland Tribune newspaper.

While police were taking people into custody near the YMCA, about 100 officers surrounded City Hall, while others swept the inside of the building for protesters who had broken in. Inside the building, protesters burned flags, broke into an electrical box and damaged several art structures, according to Oakland Mayor Jean Quan.

Che Guevara

"Poor Because of you": Topless FEMEN protesters detained at World Economic Forum in Davos

Police detained and later released three topless protesters today after they stripped to the waist outside a World Economic Forum event in Davos, Switzerland.

The trio, from the Ukrainian group FEMEN, carried banners that read "Gangsters party in Davos" and "Crisis made in Davos" while shouting "Poor because of you."

Police stopped them at the gates of a complex as world economic and business leaders met inside.

"We came here to Switzerland to Davos to explain the position of all poor people of the world, to explain that we are poor because of these rich people who now sit in the building," FEMEN representative Inna Schewcenko told Associated Press.

Police detained them only after the attempted to climb a fence into the compound.

Eye 1

"Bush Lied to FBI to Spy on Americans"

Bush & Muller
© presstv
US Ex-President George W Bush (L) talks to FBI Director Robert Mueller.
Former US president George Bush has lied to FBI Director Robert Mueller to protect White house programs that spied on the American citizens, a new book reveals.

In his book, Enemies, former New York Times reporter, Tim Weiner reveals the extent of the FBI long-war against terrorists, spies and anyone considered as subversive, including American presidents.

After the 9/11 attacks in its so called war on terror, the Bush anti-terror program included warrant less eavesdropping of the phones and emails of the Americans, which is now known by its code name "Stellar Wind."

However, FBI director Mueller, who felt the White house was "trying to do an end run" around the law, was opposed to the program.

In March 2004, US Justice Department under Attorney General John Ashcroft ruled that the program was illegal.

MIB

UK: Light to be Shed on Mystery of MI6 Spy Gareth Williams' Death

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© Associated Press
British intelligence official Gareth Williams
An inquest into the death of the spy whose body was found in a locked holdall is set to go ahead this spring, casting light on one of the most baffling mysteries in the recent history of the secret services.

It remains one of the most baffling mysteries in the history of the British secret services.

When the body of an MI6 spy was found locked in a holdall in the bath of his flat, in August 2010, it led to a rash of conspiracy theories, from the disturbing to the downright bizarre.

Nearly 18 months on, police have been unable to establish what led to the death of Gareth Williams, despite a battery of toxicology tests and an exhaustive investigation into his background and his movements.

But Dr Fiona Wilcox, the recently-appointed coroner for Westminster, has decided the time is now right to attempt to record the first official account of what happened to the 31-year-old spy.

She will hold a Pre Inquest Review (PIR) on March 29 at Horseferry Road Coroners Court. A full inquest will begin three weeks later, probably at a larger venue, and is expected to last three to four days.