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Edward Snowden nominated for Nobel peace prize

snowden
© Associated Press
Edward Snowden, a former NSA contractor, has leaked top-secret documents into the U.S. spy agency's activities over the past few months.
Two Norwegian politicians say NSA whistleblower's actions have led to a 'more stable and peaceful world order'

Two Norwegian politicians say they have jointly nominated the former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden for the 2014 Nobel peace prize.

The Socialist Left party politicians Baard Vegar Solhjell, a former environment minister, and Snorre Valen said the public debate and policy changes in the wake of Snowden's whistleblowing had "contributed to a more stable and peaceful world order".

Being nominated means Snowden will be one of scores of names that the Nobel committee will consider for the prestigious award.

Bad Guys

News of the World hacker admits lying - part of 'enormous conspiracy'

Image
© Andy Rain/EPA
Former News of the World reporter Dan Evans has admitted at the phone-hacking trial that he lied in a 2009 witness statement.
Dan Evans tells court that 2009 witness statement was 'drafted by News International lawyers' and he was 'toeing the line'

Dan Evans, the former News of the World hacker, has admitted lying about trying to access interior designer Kelly Hoppen's phone messages but said it was because he was part of an "enormous conspiracy" at News International, the Old Bailey has heard.

When it was put to him that he had lied, Evans said: "I was toeing the line, the party line, the company line."

Evans said he was very frightened when he was caught and a bogus defence he used when initially questioned by a superior on the paper had inadvertently made it into a witness statement drafted by the company's lawyers Farrers.

Evans said: "I bitterly regret I didn't take a braver course of action at the time. I didn't want to disabuse that they wanted to run with it."

Evans has pleaded guilty to making a false witness statement in relation to high court action that followed from the Hoppen hacking in 2009.

Under cross-examination on Wednesday he admitted he had lied in his first witness statement to Farrers and described a second witness statement with his own lawyers at Peters & Peters as "cobblers".

He claimed he had accidentally tried to dial Hoppen's voicemail because his Nokia phone had been damaged by liquid and had "sticky keys".

USA

Arizona sheriff sez: Inmates who deface flags to get only bread and water

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© Reuters
Sheriff Joe Arpaio of Arizona's Maricopa County said inmates who defaced American flags in their cells will be fed only bread and water for a week.

The flags were placed in cells in November in a patriotism campaign by the sheriff, who accused some inmates of "tearing them, writing on them, stepping on them, throwing them in the toilet, trash or wherever they feel. It's a disgrace," CNN reported.

In addition to the display of flags, the "Star Spangled Banner" is played over the jail intercom each morning and every evening inmates hear "God Bless America," the report said.

Bacon n Eggs

Food prices in U.S. to skyrocket in 2014

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Carnivores, brace yourselves: The cost of steaks will skyrocket this year, and as a result, you'll probably see more restaurants serving up nose-to-tail and root-to-stalk culinary creations. But hold your taste buds - there are a number of other food trends that will shake up your senses if not your sensibilities.

Food trends on the menu for 2014:

How much is the beef?

The rising cost of a good piece of meat may have you thinking twice about buying one in the grocery store or ordering one in a restaurant. Beef prices have been steering higher for many months, and will probably continue to do so as supplies decline and demand stays constant or even moves lower.

Comment: Mint-chocolate flavored toothpaste and robot bartenders, just what we need to ease the transition into an ice-age with collapsing economy.


Question

Conspiracy theorists' favorite lab is moving to Kansas

Plum Island
© Wikimedia Commons

The stories about Plum Island, an unremarkable 3-mile strip off the coast of Long Island that has long played home to the Plum Island Animal Disease Center, are the stuff of comic books and horror movies.

During the cold war, folks said it was home to a secret biological weapons program involving a former Nazi scientist. Years later, it was blamed for the spread of Lyme disease (which was named for a town in nearby Connecticut). The latter claim was so persistent that the Department of Homeland Security still refutes it on its website.

Plum Island has also been the setting for a novel and the subject of the TV show Conspiracy Theory With Jesse Ventura, and it even got a shout-out from fictional bogeyman Hannibal Lecter in The Silence of the Lambs. "Sounds charming," he said of the place.

Now, the government is spending more than $1 billion to move the lab, which studies swine flu, foot-and-mouth disease, and other livestock ailments, from New York to Manhattan, Kan. - and the talk is starting again.

The project, which received $404 million in the latest appropriations bill, has alternately been described as a vital government priority, an "earmarkish" piece of pork, an economic boost to the locals, and a biological danger to a rural community, depending on who is doing the talking. It's a sterling reminder that there is more than one way to view a government expenditure.

As elected officials from Kansas tell it, moving what is now called the National Bio and Agro-Defense Facility from the 843-acre, off-limits campus on Plum Island to a site adjacent to Kansas State University represents a huge economic victory.

"This investment means Kansas will become a research epicenter, and the construction of this modern, world-class facility will ultimately create jobs for Kansans in the fields of engineering, science and technology," crowed Sen. Jerry Moran in a release after the funding was appropriated.

Laptop

Twitter trolls jailed for sending abusive tweets

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© Skynews
Nimmo and Sorley arrive separately at Westminster Magistrates Court.
A man and a woman are jailed for abusing high-profile feminist Caroline Criado-Perez and MP Stella Creasy on Twitter

Two people who sent abusive and menacing tweets to banknote campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez and Labour MP Stella Creasy have been jailed.

Isabella Sorley, 23, and John Nimmo, 25, posted dozens of abusive tweets against both women before they were arrested.

Senior district judge Howard Riddle jailed Sorley for 12 weeks and Nimmo for eight weeks as well as ordering them to pay £400 compensation to each victim.

Earlier this month the pair pleaded guilty to sending the menacing tweets, admitting they were among the users of 86 separate Twitter accounts from which Ms Criado-Perez had received abusive messages.

Passing sentence at Westminster Magistrates Court, Judge Riddle said that both victims had suffered substantially as a result of the abuse.

He said Ms Criado-Perez had faced "panic, fear and horror" adding that she feared the "abusers would find her and carry out the threats. She felt hunted."

Arrow Down

State crime labs are incentivized to get false convictions

Crime Lab
© HealthDay
To understand why the United States is the most incarcerated nation in the world, all aspects of the legal system must be scrutinized. One of the least considered points of corruption is the crime lab.

A recent study found that crime labs across the country are literally being incentivized to turn out results that will be favorable to prosecutors in getting criminal convictions. Some say that this introduces a point of compromise in a process that is supposed to be free of bias and partiality.

Its not hard to imagine why. Biased reward schedules are how animals are trained. When a performance is rewarded, a subject will produce more of it. When a performance is not rewarded, a subject will produce less of it.

Like a puppy being rewarded for performing a trick, the government rewards crime labs for "verifying" that unknown substances are illegal narcotics; for finding a driver's blood alcohol content to be over a certain arbitrary number; for determining that a package of drugs is over a certain arbitrary weight so a more draconian charge can be imposed.

Impossible? Consider the recent corruption scandal in Massachusetts, in which a biased crime lab chemist used her position to intentionally forge test results, casting doubt over the validity of tens of thousands of cases.

Sheriff

Sex trafficking of Americans: Business in the slave trade has never been better

The names of all victims and their relatives have been changed. Quotes from Dennis Paris, Gwen, and Alicia are taken from court testimony.
"He called me a stupid bitch ... a worthless piece of shit.... I had to tell people I fell off stage because I had so many bruises on my ribs face and legs.... I have a permanent twitch in my eye from him hitting me in my face so much. I have none of my irreplaceable things from my youth." - From the victim-impact statement of Felicia, minor prostitute-stripper enslaved by trafficker Corey Davis.

"Prostitution is renting an organ for ten minutes." - A john, interviewed by research psychologist Melissa Farley.

"Would you please write down the type of person you think I am, given all that you've heard and read?... I've been called the worst of the worst by the government and it's going to be hard for you to top that." - Letter postmarked June 27, 2008, to Amy Fine Collins, from Dennis Paris, a.k.a. "Rahmyti," then inmate at the Wyatt Detention Facility, in Central Falls, Rhode Island, now at a high-security federal penitentiary in Arizona.
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© Larry Fink
A photographer's representation of a typical scene at one of the motels in Central Connecticut used for sex trafficking.
The little Barbies

In the Sex Crimes Bureau of the Brooklyn District Attorney's Office, in the pediatric division of Fort Bragg's Womack Army Medical Center, in the back alleys of Waterbury, Connecticut, and in the hallways of Hartford's Community Court, Assistant D.A. Rhonnie Jaus, forensic pediatrician Dr. Sharon Cooper, ex-streetwalker Louise, and Judge Curtissa Cofield have all simultaneously and independently noted the same disturbing phenomenon. There are more young American girls entering the commercial sex industry - an estimated 300,000 at this moment - and their ages have been dropping drastically. "The average starting age for prostitution is now 13," says Rachel Lloyd, executive director of Girls Educational and Mentoring Services (gems), a Harlem-based organization that rescues young women from "the life." Says Judge Cofield, who formerly presided over Hartford's Prostitution Protocol, a court-ordered rehabilitation program, "I call them the Little Barbies."

Comment: Despite the "happy ending" of this article, keep in mind that the federal government has estimated that at least 100,000 minors every year are sold for sex in the U.S. The men who purchase and pimp them are rarely punished. Run-away shelters, safe housing and services for these children are perennially underfunded. Instead, the most common reaction is to punish these victims.

Most children in the commercial sex industry qualify as victims under statutory rape laws. Yet Cynthia Godsoe, assistant professor of family law at Brooklyn Law School, could find not a single case of a customer of a trafficked child being prosecuted for statutory rape.

For more information see:

Give restitution to victims of child pornography, but also recognize all child victims of sexual exploitation


Pistol

Elderly Nevada man shoots paralyzed wife to death in hospital bed‏

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© Uknown
A man who shot his wife of 63 years to death last week in a Nevada hospital said he felt he had no other choice.

"She was paralyzed from the neck down and very uncomfortable without much of a future, so I just helped her along," the 88-year-old William Dresser told the Reno Gazette-Journal.

Dresser was released on $225,000 bond Friday, was charged with open murder in the Jan 19 fatal shooting of his wife, 86-year-old Frances Dresser, who suffered from a fall earlier this month and struck her chin.

Heart - Black

Woman sues employer for firing her hours after cancer diagnosis

The day Elisa Madonia learned she had cancer, she thought things couldn't get any worse, but they did.

She says just a few hours after her doctors told her employer she would need some time off for cancer treatments and surgery, they fired her.

CBS 2′s Dana Kozlov tells us why she's fighting back.

"I've been fighting for my life," said Madonia.

One thing Elisa Madonia didn't think she'd have to fight for after her cancer diagnosis was her four year job at property management company S37. She was wrong.

"Not only I'm being hit with a disease, that I have cancer, now you take my job too away from me?" said Madonia.

Madonia's ordeal began last October, right after doctors told her she had stage three esophageal cancer.

Doctors sent her employers letters about her illness and her possible need for some significant time off for chemo, radiation and surgery. Less than two hours after getting that letter, Madonia says her boss called her in to the office, suggested she resign and offered to pay six months of COBRA if she signed a separation letter. Then they terminated her. Video here.