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Britain's 'atheist church' set to go global

The Sunday Assembly
© Leon Neal/Getty Images
British comedian Sanderson Jones, a co-founder of The Sunday Assembly, an atheist service held at a converted church, leads a service in north London.
Echoing with joyful song and with a congregation bent on leading better lives, this London church is like any other -- except there's no mention of God.

Britain's atheist church is barely three months old but it already has more "worshippers" than can fit into its services, while more than 200 non-believers worldwide have contacted organisers to ask how they can set up their own branch.

Officially named The Sunday Assembly, the church was the brainchild of Pippa Evans and Sanderson Jones, two comedians who suspected there might be an appetite for atheist gatherings that borrowed a few aspects of religious worship.

Held in an airy, ramshackle former church in north London, their quirky monthly meetings combine music, speeches and moral pondering with large doses of humour.

Question

Hot stuff: Are fire facials the next beauty trend?


The latest spa treatment from China has people burning, literally, for a more youthful appearance and a healthier physique.

Known as huǒ liáo or "fire treatment," the bizarre beauty procedure involves placing a cloth that's been soaked in alcohol and some kind of special elixir over the face, back, legs, belly or another problem area, according to RocketNews24.

Once everything is in place, the cloth is set aflame for up to a minute or so; an attendant then smothers the flames using a towel. The procedure is a widely practiced health and beauty treatment in parts of Asia, according to MSN.com.

Heart - Black

Elderly woman forced off Metrorail for singing hymns


Miami, Florida -- A South Florida woman claims a security guard forced her to exit the Metrorail last month for refusing to stop singing religious hymns.

The incident involving 82-year-old Emma Anderson and the guard occurred Feb. 20 at the Brickell Metrorail station, was caught on cell phone video. The footage shows the guard approaching Anderson, who was singing loudly on a corner seat and tapping her thigh with a rolled-up piece of paper to keep time with the music.

The guard asked Anderson several times to stop singing before grabbing her cart and escorting her off the train. "You're getting off here, let's go," the guard is heard telling Anderson, who was heading to the Brownsville station.

"It was not right for them to drag her off the train," said Donal Anderson, the rider's son, "Not by the way I've seen in the video." As the footage shows, a tug of war between the devout woman and the guard ensued after he grabbed her bag.

Anderson's efforts were no match for the guard's strength as she was dragged toward the exit. It was at this point, once the guard had forced Anderson off the train and onto the platform, that she fell down.

Bad Guys

The Army doesn't want you to see the results of its shady PTSD probe

flag
© Reuters
This past fall, the Army found out the results of a probe meant to determine if psychiatrists were reversing soldiers' PTSD diagnoses to save the government money by denying them medical retirements. Months later, they still don't want anyone knowing what's in those files. The Army has refused to release the results of the so-called Madigan inquiry, and attempts to get the report through Freedom of Information Act requests have all been denied.

"George Wright, an Army spokesman at the Pentagon, told NBC News that 'concerns brought up in the Madigan matter will be addressed' in a separate forthcoming report by the Army's Task Force on Behavioral Health," reports NBC News's Rebecca Ruiz. ("Madigan" is the Madigan Army Medical Center in Tacoma, Washington.) According the same report, three Seattle-based news agencies have been denied Freedom of Information Act requests on the inquiry.

That's troubling because the Madigan inquiry was an internal probe into whether forensic psychiatrists at Madigan Army Medical Center were reversing PTSD diagnoses to save the federal government money. This group of forensic psychiatrists had reversed more than 300 diagnoses, suggesting these were more than just cautious second opinions. The evidence:

Dollar Gold

Money-laundering scheme run by IRA and Mafia broken up by Italian police

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The operation against the Mafia money laundering scheme
Italian police have broken up a huge money-laundering scheme run by the IRA and the Mafia which has allegedly duped hundreds of holiday home investors across Europe.


A British man, said to be involved with the republican terrorist organisation, is being sought by detectives investigating the £390m fraud which was based around a development on the beautiful coast of Calabria in Southern Italy.

Italian authorities arrested 16 people in dawn raids and issued a warrant for the arrest of Henry James Fitzsimons, 63, from Belfast, saying he was "a subject considered by the British authorities to be close to the IRA, the Irish terrorist organisation."

Nicola Gratteri, a veteran anti-mafia prosecutor based in the southern port city of Reggio Calabria, described Mr Fitzsimons as someone "delegated by the IRA to recycle the proceeds of terrorist activities and to reinvest the financial resources of the movement."

The wanted man is understood to be the same person as Henry James Fitzsimmons, now 63, who once served 15 years in jail for an attack on a Belfast hotel.

He was jailed in 1973 for blowing up the Woodburn House Hotel in Suffolk, Belfast in November 1971 when he was described as "one of the most active officers in the Provisional IRA during their 1971 bombing campaign."

Che Guevara

Hugo Chávez's final words: 'I don't want to die'

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© Lindsey Parnaby/PA
Hugo Chávez died of a heart attack after great suffering, the general said.
Venezuelan president mouthed his desire to live before succumbing to massive heart attack, general reveals

Venezuelan president Hugo Chávez died of a massive heart attack after great suffering and inaudibly mouthed his desire to live, the head of the country's presidential guard said.

"He couldn't speak but he said it with his lips ... 'I don't want to die. Please don't let me die,' because he loved his country, he sacrificed himself for his country," General Jose Ornella said.

The general said he had spent the past two years with Chávez, including his final moments, as Venezuela's president of 14 years battled an unspecified cancer in the pelvic region.

Ornella spoke to Associated Press outside the military academy where Chávez's body lay in state. He said Chávez's cancer was very advanced. He did not respond when asked if the cancer had spread to Chávez's lungs.

The government announced on the eve of Chávez's death that he had suffered a severe respiratory infection, the second since he underwent his fourth cancer surgery in Cuba on 11 December.

Heart - Black

100 million sharks killed every year!

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© SHAWN HEINRICHS FOR THE PEW ENVIRONMENT GROUP
Shark fins drying in the sun in Kaohsiung before processing. 30 percent of the world’s shark species are threatened or near threatened with extinction.
Aggressive overfishing threatens to push some shark species to extinction, and a new study puts annual shark deaths at 100 million.

"Our analysis shows that about one in 15 sharks gets killed by fisheries every year," study leader Boris Worm, a professor of biology at Canada's Dalhousie University, said in a statement. "With an increasing demand for their fins, sharks are more vulnerable today than ever before."

Based on available data for shark deaths and estimates of unreported illegal catches, the researchers estimated that 100 million sharks were killed in 2000 and 97 million in 2010. But since scientists lack sufficient data on shark catches, they say the real number of annual shark deaths could possibly be between 63 million and 273 million.

Sharks are fished for their meat, liver oil, cartilage and valuable fins, which are hacked off, often from live sharks, to be used in shark fin soup, an ancient and prized delicacy in East Asia. Since sharks have slow growth and reproductive rates, it can be tough for their populations to bounce back from big losses.

Eye 1

Further attacks on women in India raise doubts over crackdown

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© Dar Yasin/AP
Indian women protest in New Delhi after the gang rape and murder of a student in December.
A recent spate of attacks on women in Delhi has renewed fears over the safety of women in the Indian capital and raised doubts over the efficacy of reforms introduced since the gang rape and murder of a 23-year-old physiotherapy student in the city last December.

Two women are reported to have been raped by multiple attackers in moving cars in separate incidents in recent days. A third woman was robbed and then raped by two men after taking a motorised rickshaw in the satellite city of Ghaziabad at the weekend.

Four victims under 18 were also assaulted in incidents reported to the police over the past four days, according to local media. Only a fraction of such attacks are ever reported in India.

The gang rape and murder in December shocked the nation. Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets in India calling for widespread legal and policing reforms as well as a wholesale shift in cultural attitudes towards women.

A series of measures - such as fast-track courts for sex crimes, harsher punishments for convicted offenders and gender training for policemen - have been introduced since the attack by authorities. The government was heavily criticised for its early lack of sympathy for protesters.

Attention

Obstetrician threatens to call police on woman for opting out of caesarean

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Lisa Epsteen, 35, and her husband, Rick, 35, are expecting their fifth child. They already have a daughter and three sons, ages 10, 8, 5, 2. Lisa received an email from her USF doctor Wednesday threatening to have police bring her to the hospital for a caesarean. Courtesy of Epsteen family.
Lisa Epsteen thought she had an advocate for her high-risk pregnancy in Dr. Jerry Yankowitz, chairman of the University of South Florida's department of obstetrics and gynecology.

But Wednesday morning, she opened her email to find the well-known expert threatening to send police to her Spring Hill home unless she immediately reported to Tampa General Hospital for a caesarean delivery.

Epsteen, 35, was more than a week past the due date for her baby boy. Despite an ultrasound that alarmed her doctors, she wanted to wait until Friday to schedule the caesarean surgery, which would be her fifth.

"I am deeply concerned that you are contributing to a very high probability that your fetus will die or your child will incur brain damage if born alive. At this time, you must come in for delivery," Yankowitz wrote.

"I would hate to move to the most extreme option, which is having law enforcement pick you up at your home and bring you in, but you are leaving the providers of USF/TGH no choice," he continued.

Epsteen said she panicked.

Ambulance

Lion kills woman interning at California sanctuary

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© Photo: KFSN-TV/AP
Cous Cous in 2012 at Cat Haven, a 100-acre refuge in the Sierra Nevada foothills with about two dozen large cats from four continents.
Male lion attacked when volunteer entered cage. Deputy later shot 4-year-old big cat dead.

An African lion killed a 26-year-old female intern who entered his enclosure Wednesday at a California sanctuary for rare big cats, the Fresno County Sheriff's Office said.

A deputy shot and killed the 4-year-old male lion after he attacked the woman about 12:30 p.m. PT at Project Survival's Cat Haven in Dunlap, 45 miles east of Fresno.

The sanctuary's founder, Dale Anderson, described the victim as an intern-volunteer but did not identify her. An autopsy will be conducted Thursday.

The lion, named Cous Cous, had been at the preserve since he was 8 weeks old, said Project Survival spokeswoman Tanya Osegueda.

A sheriff's sergeant told the Associated Press that only one other worker was around at the time of the mauling. The non-profit preserve is closed Tuesdays and Wednesdays between Oct. 1 and April 30.

Investigators are trying to determine why the woman entered the lion's space.