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US: Occupy Movement at Crossroads


When the Occupy Wall Street movement came to Austin four months ago, there was a big party. About 1,300 people gathered at City Hall for a celebration with live music. Protesters posed for pictures with smiling police officers.

But Friday night, in a sign of the protest movement's burgeoning identity crisis, police moved in and dismantled the Occupy Austin encampment at City Hall. The city said it no longer could afford the cost of police overtime and site maintenance.

It was a week when authorities across the nation took similar action, from McPherson Square in Washington, D.C., to Thomas Square in Honolulu. It raised once again the question of whether the Occupy movement has a future, and if so, what kind.

Shoe

US: Maryland Mall Evacuated & Locked Down After Sneaker Fight


Brawls break out at a Maryland mall over shoes. And it's not the first time shoppers have gone too far for Nikes. Kai Jackson explains what's driving the chaos.

The store had more anxious customers than they had sneakers for sale - and that was a recipe for trouble.

Valley Mall in Hagerstown is peaceful now, but a sneaker, Nike's new Foam tennis shoe, caused near-riot conditins inside the mall on Saturday, like a melee at another mall in December after Nike released a popular pair of Air jordans.

"Just a fight going on down there at Foot Locker. Arguments; someone said that there was knives pulled," said mall employee Cassandra Jenkins.

Dollar

US: Designer Gear for Obama Raising a Ruckus

Republicans Contend Relatively Low-Cost Items to Be Sold at Fund-Raiser May Amount to Campaign-Finance Violations

Image
© unknown
A nylon tote bag designed by Diane von Furstenberg and selling for $85.

Move over, PACs. The latest campaign-finance flap is about sacks.

At a New York fund-raising event Tuesday called "Runway to Win," President Barack Obama's re-election campaign plans to begin selling campaign-themed tote bags, T-shirts and accessories designed by more than two dozen famous designers.

Attendees can purchase a tote bag designed by Derek Lam for $75. A collectible makeup bag created by Richard Blanch with nail polish in Red-y To Win Red, Victory White and Bo Blue is going for $40. And a silk scarf featuring Mr. Obama's likeness by Thakoon Panichgul is $95. Profits from the sales will go to Mr. Obama's campaign chest.

Republicans contend the sale might violate campaign-finance rules. The gear will sell for a fraction of the price the designers' merchandise typically fetches at department stores. Republicans say that suggests they relied on corporate resources to keep costs low, which could amount to illegal campaign contributions. On Mr. Lam's website, handbags range in price from $340 to $1,890. The three scarves offered on Mr. Thakoon's website go for $325 apiece.

Info

Grading The Online Dating Industry

Online Dating
© Association for Psychological Science
New Scientific Report Finds Some Positives, Many Areas for Improvement

The report card is in, and the online dating industry won't be putting this one on the fridge. A new scientific report concludes that although online dating offers users some very real benefits, it falls far short of its potential.

Unheard of just twenty years ago, online dating is now a billion dollar industry and one of the most common ways for singles to meet potential partners. Many websites claim that they can help you find your "soulmate." But do these online dating services live up to all the hype?

Not exactly, according to an article to be published in a forthcoming issue of Psychological Science in the Public Interest, a journal of the Association for Psychological Science.

In the article, a team of psychological scientists aims to get at the truth behind online dating, identifying the ways in which online dating may benefit or undermine singles' romantic outcomes.

Lead author Eli Finkel, Associate Professor of Social Psychology at Northwestern University, recognizes that "online dating is a marvelous addition to the ways in which singles can meet potential romantic partners," but he warns that "users need to be aware of its many pitfalls."

Many online dating sites claim that they possess an exclusive formula, a so-called "matching algorithm," that can match singles with partners who are especially compatible with them. But, after systematically reviewing the evidence, the authors conclude that such claims are unsubstantiated and likely false.

Handcuffs

US: One Nation, Under Guard

police fish-eye
© n/a
from the with-liberty-and-justice-for-some dept

Bad news about the impending police state here in America: it's already here. From the indefinite detention (without trial) of terrorism suspects both foreign and American to the escalating militarization of our nation's police forces, there's little to indicate that any level of government is willing to "walk back" the overreach of law enforcement, much of which stems from the Patriot Act's anti-terrorism aims.

The New Yorker recently published a piece on incarceration in America, highlighting some very disturbing facts about the "land of the free:"
The accelerating rate of incarceration over the past few decades is just as startling as the number of people jailed: in 1980, there were about two hundred and twenty people incarcerated for every hundred thousand Americans; by 2010, the number had more than tripled, to seven hundred and thirty-one. No other country even approaches that. In the past two decades, the money that states spend on prisons has risen at six times the rate of spending on higher education.

More than half of all black men without a high-school diploma go to prison at some time in their lives. Mass incarceration on a scale almost unexampled in human history is a fundamental fact of our country today-perhaps the fundamental fact, as slavery was the fundamental fact of 1850. In truth, there are more black men in the grip of the criminal-justice system-in prison, on probation, or on parole-than were in slavery then. Over all, there are now more people under "correctional supervision" in America-more than six million-than were in the Gulag Archipelago under Stalin at its height.

Book

Italy: Pope 'Exorcised Two Men in the Vatican', Claims New Book

Pope benedict
© Getty Images
Pope Benedict unwittingly performed an exorcism of two men possessed by the Devil in the very heart of the Vatican, according to the Catholic Church's best-known exorcist, Father Gabriele Amorth.

In a new book, Father Amorth, the exorcist for the diocese of Rome, gives a bizarre account of how he and two assistants brought a pair of "possessed" Italian men to one of the Pope's weekly audiences in St Peter's Square in May 2009.

In his book, The Last Exorcist - My Fight Against Satan, he claimed the mere presence of the pontiff cured the men of their demonic afflictions.

Father Amorth said his two female assistants escorted the two men into St Peter's Square as the Pope was driven between crowds of faithful in the white "Popemobile" jeep.

The women managed to obtain seats for the two men in an area of seating normally reserved for the disabled.

As the Pope approached them, the men, identified only as Marco and Giovanni, began to act strangely, Father Amorth wrote.

Crusader

Roman Catholic Leaders Criticise Barack Obama Over Healthcare

Image
© Rex
Barack Obama has been accused of backtracking on an assurance that he made in a 2009 speech at the University of Notre Dame.
Roman Catholic leaders have furiously criticised President Barack Obama for approving new regulations that compel religious organisations to include morning-after pills and other contraceptives in employee health insurance coverage.

New rules, introduced under Mr Obama's overhaul of the US healthcare system, mean that religious charities, universities and other groups must now provide contraception in staff insurance packages.

Failure to do so would result in fines being levied by the federal government that larger Catholic organisations claim would cost them millions of dollars a year.

At least 153 US bishops have spoken out against the change. A letter from a leading bishop, accusing the president of waging a "severe assault on religious liberty", has been read to dozens of congregations.

"We Catholics will be compelled to either violate our consciences, or to drop health coverage for our employees and suffer the penalties for doing so," wrote Alexander Sample, the Bishop of Marquette.

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.