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Ukraine Violence Escalates: Kiev is a battlefield; Ultimatum issued to President

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© Efrem Lukatsky/AP
Protesters clash with police in central Kiev.
Former heavyweight boxer Vitali Klitschko says President Yanukovych has 24 hours in which to call snap elections

At least three people died in a day of violence in Kiev on Wednesday, as an opposition leader said he was willing to face "a bullet in the forehead" if President Viktor Yanukovych did not launch snap elections.

A three-hour meeting between the embattled president and the three main political opposition leaders ended without a deal, leaving the capital braced for intensified violence.

Two men died from bullet wounds on Wednesday, according to Ukraine's general prosecutor, while the third died after falling from a rooftop while fighting with police. Protesters report that dozens of people have been seriously injured during the clashes, which have been running since Sunday evening.

Parts of central Kiev resembled a battlefield, with police firing rubber bullets and wielding truncheons, while protesters lobbed molotov cocktails. The two men who were shot were killed with live ammunition, the authorities admitted. As night fell people drove cars filled with used tyres up to the main front line and made a giant bonfire, throwing molotov cocktails from behind the flames.

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© Gleb Garanich/Reuters
A pro-European protester swings a metal chain during clashes.

Heart - Black

Mexican citizen, Edgar Tamayo, executed in Texas despite political pressure from the Mexican government and the U.S. state department

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© Richard Carson/Reuters
Protestors urge Texan authorities not to execute Edgar Tamayo.
Texas executed a Mexican citizen on Wednesday night despite an international outcry and warnings that his death could damage relations between the US and Mexico.

The execution of Edgar Arias Tamayo had been set for 6pm central time, but was delayed by more than three hours after a last-ditch appeal to the US supreme court by Tamayo's lawyers. After considering the appeal on Wednesday evening the court declined to issue a stay of execution, clearing the path for Texas officials to put Tamayo to death by lethal injection at the state penitentiary in Huntsville, near Houston.

Tamayo did not make a final statement in the death chamber, Associated Press reported. After being given a lethal dose of pentobarbital he took a few breaths, quietly snored once and then stopped moving. He was pronounced dead at 9.32pm central time, 17 minutes after the drug was administered.

Tamayo was arrested for the 1994 murder of Guy Gaddis, a Houston police officer, but not promptly advised of his right to consular help. That was a violation of the 1963 treaty known as the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations.

Tamayo's lawyers, Maurie Levin and Sandra Babcock, argued that he might have been given a lesser sentence had Mexican officials been able to assist him sooner. The attorneys claimed that Tamayo was mentally-ill and brain-damaged, with an IQ of 67, but that these discoveries were made too late to affect the trial.

Arrow Down

Facebook will lose 80% of users by 2017 say researchers

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© AFP/Getty Images
Bubonic plague bacteria.
Forecast of social network's impending doom comes from comparing its growth curve to that of an infectious disease

Facebook has spread like an infectious disease but we are slowly becoming immune to its attractions, and the platform will be largely abandoned by 2017, say researchers at Princeton University (pdf).

The forecast of Facebook's impending doom was made by comparing the growth curve of epidemics to those of online social networks. Scientists argue that, like bubonic plague, Facebook will eventually die out.

The social network, which celebrates its 10th birthday on 4 February, has survived longer than rivals such as Myspace and Bebo, but the Princeton forecast says it will lose 80% of its peak user base within the next three years.

John Cannarella and Joshua Spechler, from the US university's mechanical and aerospace engineering department, have based their prediction on the number of times Facebook is typed into Google as a search term. The charts produced by the Google Trends service show Facebook searches peaked in December 2012 and have since begun to trail off.

"Ideas, like diseases, have been shown to spread infectiously between people before eventually dying out, and have been successfully described with epidemiological models," the authors claim in a paper entitled Epidemiological modelling of online social network dynamics.

Wolf

Myth of the Tibetan mastiff creates a mad industry

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© Xinhua.
A Tibetan mastiff exhibition held in Handan, Hebei.
The myth that the Tibetan mastiff helps people become rich overnight has seen the breeding of the mountain dog spiral into a chaotic industry chain, involving artificial breeding, gambling, bribing and money laundering, the Guangzhou-based Southern Metropolis Daily reports.

The Tibetan mastiff is an ancient breed of domestic dog originating from the nomadic cultures of Tibet, Nepal and Central Asia. For thousands of years, the dogs have been used to defend the cattle and sheep of Tibetan herders. Over the past three decades, the price of a pedigree Tibetan mastiff has surged to up to 10 million yuan (US$1.6 million) from just a few hundred yuan.

Senji, a pedigree stud Tibetan mastiff from the famous Yushu region, has helped push the breeding industry to a peak, with its offspring now spreading across the country. Dogs aired by Senji have a long black and tan coat, including the legs, strong bones, a powerful body, abundant skin and a giant head. Senji embodies the ideal for the breed

Comment: Same old sad story of an ancient breed being exploited. As with many other ancient breeds the original features will be bred into extinction. Their heritage as people and livestock guardian will also be gone. To predict the future of this magnificent Asian breed one only needs to look at the old pictures of original Bulldog and compare them with contemporary English Bulldog which is at risk of cardiac arrest after only a short walk.


Stormtrooper

Secret military training blurs line between police and soldiers

Police Soldiers
© New American

As the military transitions into a tech-heavy force, increasingly reliant on robots and drones, local police forces are looking less like law enforcement and more like heavily armored combat units. Now, it seems they are starting to train like them, as well.

A story published by The State newspaper in Columbia, South Carolina, reported on recent secret joint training missions between U.S. Army special forces and the Richland County (South Carolina) Sheriff's Department.

The article describes training exercises being conducted by "unidentified units" from Ft. Bragg, North Carolina. Ft. Bragg is the home of the elite U.S. Army Special Operations Command (USASOC) and the super-secret, super-deadly Delta Force.

A spokesman for the Richland County Sheriff's Department refused to identify who was participating in the exercise or why it was being carried out. The department did, however, issue a press release, warning that the war games could get loud. "Citizens may see military and departmental vehicles traveling in and around rural and metropolitan areas and may hear ordnance being set off or fired which will be simulated/blanks and controlled by trained personnel," it declared.

As for why such combat simulations were necessary, the statement explained that they were a result of "Sheriff Leon Lott's longstanding commitment to making sure that deputies are trained and prepared for every event and potential threat and his desire to assist the military to ensure their preparations."

This synthesis of police and military is a threat to both civil liberty and a clear distinction between the purposes of the two organizations. The integration has progressed so far, though, that even the mainstream press is taking notice.

Red Flag

Judicial corruption: Man spends four decades in Washington mental hospital for stealing $20 necklace

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St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington, CIA mind control facility
Franklin H. Frye was charged with stealing a $20 necklace in 1970, and he has spent the better part of his life locked up ever since after being found not guilty by reason of insanity.

Mr. Frye was sent to St. Elizabeths Hospital in Washington in 1971, part of which houses the criminally insane - including would-be presidential assassin John Hinckley Jr.

In a chain of events that suggests a serious judicial breakdown, federal court records in Washington reviewed by The Washington Times show a public defender filed a motion for Mr. Frye's unconditional release nearly six years ago, citing his recovery.

But Mr. Frye never got his day in court.

The judge handling the case had died in 2007 when Mr. Frye's motion for release was filed. His case was not transferred to a living judge until recent weeks.

Comment: Perhaps Frye wasn't so much 'forgotten' as he was 'made use of'...

St. Elizabeth's Hospital was of the major institutions involved in CIA MK/Ultra and MONARCH mind control experimentation during the 1950s and 60s. It's probably no coincidence that John Hinckley Jr. is still in there too: the 'failed assassination' of Reagan - probably at the instigation of the Bush clan and the CIA - has Mind Control and 'programmed assassins' stamped all over it.

Apparently the 'hospital' is now set to become the new DHS HQ, so perhaps the US government is doing some 'house-cleaning'...


Ambulance

Hairdresser stabs customer in the chest with scissors after he complained he didn't like his haircut, China

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Bad service: The customer complained about his haircut so stylist Bao plunged a pair of scissors into his chest
  • Hairdresser stabbed unhappy customer in the chest with a pair of scissors
  • Victim complained to hairdresser about his cut, so the stylist attacked him
  • The incident was caught on CCTV at a hair salon in Beijing, China
A hairdresser in China lost his temper with an unhappy customer and stabbed him in the chest.

The unnamed male customer was unhappy with his cut, so the hairdresser pierced him with a pair of scissors at a salon in Beijing.

The hairdresser, only named as Bao, can be seen on CCTV footage running over to the customer as he sits in his chair, plunging the scissors into his chest.


Pistol

Witnesses: Deputy forced to shoot knife-wielding 'zombie'

Saum
© DailyCommercial.com
'Knife Wielding' Saum
A Lake County deputy had little choice but to shoot a 24-year-old man with a "zombie" look who was wielding a long carving knife and cutting himself in the street, witnesses said Thursday.

Residents said Ian Michael Saum was shot Wednesday after he moved toward deputies with the knife. Saum was described as a troubled, quiet man without friends who was living at his grandmother's home in a quite neighborhood near Clermont. Saum was airlifted to Orlando Regional Medical Center, where his condition wasn't immediately available.

Lake County Sheriff's Office spokesman Sgt. Jim Vachon said in an email that the officer was "forced" to use his firearm after Saum refused to obey orders to drop the knife. The deputy who shot Saum was placed on paid administrative leave while the Florida Department of Law Enforcement investigates, which is standard practice in such cases.

Comment:



Arrow Down

Allah vs atheism: A growing number of Muslims are speaking out about losing their faith

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© The Independent
Stigmatised: Amal Farah has not seen her family for eight years after telling them she had become an atheist.

Amal Farah, a 32-year-old banking executive, is laughing about a contestant singing off-key in the last series of The X Factor. For a woman who was not allowed to listen to music when she was growing up, this is a delight. After years of turmoil, she is in control of her own life.

On the face of it, she is a product of modern Britain. Born in Somalia to Muslim parents, she grew up in Yemen and came to the UK in her late teens. After questioning her faith, she became an atheist and married a Jewish lawyer. But this has come at a cost. When she turned her back on her religion, she was disowned by her family and received death threats. She has not seen her mother or her siblings for eight years. None of them have met her husband or daughter.

"It was the hardest thing I've ever done - telling my observant family that I was having doubts. My mum was shocked; she began to cry. It was very painful for her. When she realised I actually meant it, she cut communication with me," said Ms Farah. "She was suspicious of me being in contact with my brothers and sisters. She didn't want me to poison their heads in any way. I felt like a leper and I lived in fear. As long as they knew where I was, I wasn't safe."

This is the first time Ms Farah has spoken publicly about her experience of leaving her faith, after realising that she did not want to keep a low profile for ever. She is an extreme case - her mother, now back in Somalia, has become increasingly radical in her religious views. But Ms Farah is not alone in wanting to speak out.

It can be difficult to leave any religion, and those that do can face stigma and even threats of violence. But there is a growing movement, led by former Muslims, to recognise their existence. Last week, an Afghan man is believed to have become the first atheist to have received asylum in Britain on religious grounds. He was brought up as a Muslim but became an atheist, according to his lawyers, who said he would face persecution and possibly death if he returned to Afghanistan.

Cow Skull

Food shortages: U.S. cattle herd at a 61 year low

Dead cows in the snow
© The Billings Gazette
Cattle casualty from October 4, 2013 blizzard
Jan. 14 (Bloomberg) -- As temperatures dipped to a record minus 25 degrees Fahrenheit (minus 32 Celsius), the crew at Dean Wang's ranch in Baker, Montana, increased alfalfa-hay rations to give his cattle more energy during the arctic blast.

"Cattle are requiring more feed in order to just maintain their body temperature, instead of putting that extra energy into gaining weight," said Wang, 46, who has about 850 cows that will calve this spring and 550 young cattle. "This year, everyone started feeding a little earlier than what they would have liked, because of the heavy snow and the cold."

The deep freeze that swept across the U.S. last week, disrupting travel and boosting fuel use, is compounding stress on a shrinking domestic beef industry already struggling with high costs and weather shocks. While crops from oranges to winter wheat avoided major damage, the cold slowed the growth of livestock and extended a rally in Chicago cattle futures to a record, signaling higher beef costs for restaurants including McDonald's Corp. and Texas Roadhouse Inc.

The U.S. cattle herd contracted for six straight years to the smallest since 1952, government data show. A record drought in 2011 destroyed pastures in Texas, the top producing state, followed the next year by a surge in feed-grain prices during the worst Midwest dry spell since the 1930s. Fewer cattle will mean production in the $85 billion beef industry drops to a 20- year low in 2014, the U.S. Department of Agriculture said.