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Fri, 29 May 2020
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Christmas Tree

Christmas DisGraced

Image
© Calamitiesofnature.com
This year, as I bear witness to the quickening changes in our world, I find that I also can't ignore the various reminders of the holiday season. I face an interesting conundrum as I attempt to walk the line of allowing those around me the free will to celebrate carelessly as if all is well while knowing it is not.

This situation gave rise to thoughts of Christmas traditions as we know them today and how they began. What's the story behind the Christmas tree? Going a step further than Virginia O'Hanlon, I wondered if Santa was really an actual person. In short, why is Christmas - Christmas? Perhaps with some digging, we can get a bit closer to the truth.

Cowboy Hat

US: The Incredible Shrinking Sarah Palin

What has Sarah Palin been doing while no one was watching? A year ago, Palin's every tweet -- even retweet -- was worldwide news. But since she decided not the run for president, the press has become mostly bored with her. What has she been doing with her vacation from media scrutiny? Mostly still working out her grudges from the 2008 campaign.
sarah palin wink
© unknown

"I have had people who have sworn on a bible that they have had affairs with Todd or had affairs with me or one specific one was a masseuse that she massaged me when I was seven months pregnant and she could tell that I wasn't pregnant, hence, Trig was not my kid. And that resulted in this whole Trig truth or issue that I still deal with every day. I've had these liars out there trying to ruin my family and my reputation and my record. So I know what Herman Cain is going through."

Palin: You know, remember too, Sean, we have a distinct advantage going into the 2012 race that we did not have in '08. Obama finally has a record. Of course he did not have a record when he ran as a candidate in '08. He had voted present most of his political career. He was an unknown and just had a lot of hogwash rhetoric that he spewed about hope and change. And now we know what that hope and change represented, and it was socialist policies and they're not working. And that's why we see the joblessness and the home mortgage crisis that is really making Americans suffer. We see so many problems today that are a result of what Obama really represents. So we have that advantage today...

Wolf

US: Connecticut Woman Whose Dogs Mauled Toddler to Death is Charged


A Connecticut woman whose three pit bulls fatally mauled a 20-month-old girl staying in her home has been charged with criminally negligent homicide and other offenses, police said on Friday.

Erica Hobdy, 30, of West Haven, Connecticut, had been babysitting her niece, Neveah Angel Bryant, on the evening of September 30 when authorities say that as many as three pit bulls owned by Hobdy mauled the girl inside a bedroom of Hobdy's apartment.

Nearly three months after the attack, Hobdy was charged in Milford Superior Court on Thursday with first-degree reckless endangerment and risk of injury to a minor, in addition to criminally negligent homicide, said West Haven Police Officer Bret Schneider.

West Haven is located a few miles south of New Haven on the central Connecticut coast.

Che Guevara

Russia: Tens of Thousands of Protesters Pressure Putin

Tens of thousands of flag-waving and chanting protesters called Saturday for a disputed parliamentary election to be rerun and an end to Vladimir Putin's rule, increasing pressure on the Russian leader as he tries to win back the presidency.


The protesters shouted "Russia without Putin" and "New elections, New elections" as one speaker after another called for an end to Putin's 12-year domination of the country at the second big opposition rally in two weeks in central Moscow.

"Do you want Putin to return to the presidency?" novelist Boris Akunin asked from a large stage. Whistling and jeering, protesters chanted: "No!"

Witnesses said at least as many people turned out as at the last big Moscow rally on December 10 to protest against alleged vote-rigging in the December 4 election won by Putin's United Russia party.

Police said at least 28,000 attended the rally on Prospekt Sakharova (Sakharov Avenue), named after Soviet-era dissident Andrei Sakharov. But one of the organizers, liberal politician Vladimir Ryzhkov, put the crowd size at 120,000. Some climbed lamp-posts or trees to get a better view.

Crusader

Pope Ushers in Christmas, Decries Commercialization

Pope Benedict
© Reuters/Max Rossi
Pope Benedict XVI holds the book of the gospels as he leads the Christmas mass in Saint Peter's Basilica at the Vatican December 24, 2011.
Pope Benedict ushered in Christmas for the world's 1.3 billion Roman Catholics on Saturday, urging humanity to see through the superficial glitter and commercialism of the season and rediscover the real significance of the humble birth of Jesus.

The 84-year-old pope, celebrating the seventh Christmas season of his pontificate, also urged that those marking the holiday in poverty, suffering or far from home not be forgotten.

At the start of a Christmas Eve service, he was wheeled up the central aisle of St Peter's Basilica standing on a mobile platform which he has been using since October.

The Vatican says it is to conserve his strength, allow more people to see him and guard against attacks such as one on Christmas Eve, 2009, when a woman lunged at him and knocked him to the ground. He is believed to suffer from arthritis in the legs.

But he seemed to be in good shape during the solemn service in Christendom's largest church as choirs sang, cantors chanted and organ music filled the centuries-old basilica.

Family

Rich Chinese couple's octuplets spark anger, inquiry

Image
© Wikipedia
Government sign in Tang Shan:
"For a prosperous, powerful nation and a happy family, please practice family planning."
Beijing, China: A rich Chinese couple who had eight babies with the help of two surrogate mothers has been forced to move out of their villa following a public uproar, and could face a large fine for breaching strict family planning laws mandating only one child.

The couple in the booming southern metropolis of Guangzhou had the children last year, but the story only came to light after media discovered a picture of the babies -- four boys and four girls -- taken by a photography studio.

The couple turned to in vitro fertilization after years of trying to have children and spent nearly one million yuan ($157,800) on the procedure, state television CCTV reported this week.

The mother had three of the children herself, and the other five with two surrogates, though the couple had not intended to have so many.

Star of David

Israel: The Jews Go To War (With Themselves)

On 12 December 2011 hundreds of Israeli settler fanatics besieged a West Bank Israeli army base. They destroyed equipment, set fires and even stoned the base soldiers. This was the second such attack in a month. The cause? Anger over the army's dismantlement of a small number of isolated, unauthorized settler outposts. The chief of the Central Command of the Israel "Defence" Forces (IDF), Major-General Avi Misrahi, is quoted as saying "I have not seen such hatred of Jews towards soldiers during my 30 years of service." He must not have been looking.

Staged hypocrisy

This was not an exceptional event. The subsequent indignation over the attack expressed by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu ("red lines have been crossed") was, as Alex Fishman writing in the Israeli newspaper Yedioth Ahronoth put it, staged hypocrisy. The prime minister is certainly aware that for some time there has been on-going skirmishing between the settlers and government security forces. Right-wing settlers regularly throw rocks and fire bombs at police and army vehicles and "physical altercations" between settlers and Israeli police and soldiers are "almost routine". This is so despite the fact that the government - both prime minister and Knesset - "either tacitly or openly" support the settlers. Then why the hatred and why the attacks?
 
At this stage the battle is over strategy. The Israeli government wants to gobble up all of Palestine in an orderly step by step fashion. In part, this is to avoid too much international criticism at any particular stage of the process. On the other hand, the settlers don't give a damn about international opinion - no more than does al-Qaeda, to which they have an unsavoury resemblance. Led "by fundamentalist religious leaders who do not recognize the state of Israel and its laws", they are driven by religious fanaticism and have no respect for governments or their agents. It is their ideological conviction that all of Palestine (including, by the way, Jordan) must be Jewish as soon as possible. The authorities sometime get in the way of this goal and that has led the settlers to, as Fishman puts it, "terrorize not only the Palestinian population but also the police and the army".

Heart - Black

New Hampshire, US: Parents Say Sick Son Ordered Out of Safety Seat

Image
© http://ourpromisetonicholas.com/
No consideration: Southwest Airline attendants wouldn't allow Nicholas Dainiak, 8, who has a terminal disease, to sit in his safety seat
A New Hampshire couple said Saturday that Southwest Airlines flight attendants put the couple's terminally ill son at risk by ordering him out of a safety seat and into a regular passenger seat for a flight home from Florida.

Chris Dainiak and his wife, of Bedford, were told to remove 8-year-old Nicholas from his protective travel seat for a Friday flight home from Orlando to Manchester, N.H., Chris Dainiak said. Nicholas suffers from a rare illness called Batten disease and can't walk, talk, feed himself or hold his head up.

The attendants agreed Nicholas would be safer in his special seat but didn't know if it was approved by the Federal Aviation Administration, Dainiak told The Associated Press. He said the boy has used the seat on previous flights, including the Southwest flight that took the family to Orlando so they could visit Disney World.

He said he wants Southwest to develop a policy to ensure other people with disabled children aren't put in similar situations.

Handcuffs

Massachusetts, US: Student Who Tricked Harvard is Sentenced to Prison

Image
© AP Photo
Adam Wheeler
A Delaware man who faked his way into Harvard has been sentenced to a year in prison for violating his probation by putting the university on his resume.

A probation department spokeswoman says Adam Wheeler was sentenced Friday at Middlesex Superior Court.

Prosecutors say the 25-year-old Wheeler got into Harvard and obtained about $45,000 in financial aid by falsely claiming he attended elite schools, including the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.

Last year, he was convicted of identity fraud and sentenced to 2 1/2 years in prison and 10 years' probation. The Milton, Del., man served a month in jail awaiting trial, and the remainder of his sentence was suspended.

His attorney acknowledged that Wheeler violated probation by representing himself as a Harvard graduate. But he said it was due to financial pressure after losing his job.