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Che Guevara

People Power! Families Re-Occupy Vacant Homes

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© Liberate the Southside
Tene Smith prays at a press conference outside her re-occupied home on January 19.
Growing movements on both sides of the Atlantic try to turn bank-owned houses into homes.

In the U.S. today, a new wave of squatters is moving into vacant foreclosed properties in cities like Chicago, New York and Minneapolis.

After three years of staying in her sister's living room, Tene Smith decided to move her family into a home that had sat vacant on Chicago's South Side for more than two years.

With the help of Liberate the South Side, a Chicago-based organization that targets vacant homes for re-occupation and spent months renovating the house, Smith and her three children moved in during a public ceremony attended by community members and the media in January 2012. "I was fearful when I first made this commitment," she told In These Times, "but as the days passed I had a sense of independence that had eluded me for a long time."

The term "squatter" conjures images of the predominantly young, urban hipsters who in decades past claimed vacant property in areas such as New York City's Lower East Side. But with five times as many vacant homes as homeless people in the U.S. today, a new wave of squatters - just as likely to be hard-hit families like Smith's as young activists making a political statement - is moving into vacant foreclosed properties in cities like Chicago, New York and Minneapolis.

Chart Pie

Foodstamp Spending Expected to Increase Through 2014

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The Congressional Budget Office said Thursday that 45 million people in 2011 received Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program benefits, a 70% increase from 2007. It said the number of people receiving the benefits, commonly known as food stamps, would continue growing until 2014.

Spending for the program, not including administrative costs, rose to $72 billion in 2011, up from $30 billion four years earlier. The CBO projected that one in seven U.S. residents received food stamps last year.

Arrow Up

Banned: Swedish Airport Refuses to Allow Israeli Security Inspections

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© Reuters
Stockholm's international airport has refused to allow Israeli security inspections to take place, forcing an Israeli airline to stop its service, daily Haaretz reported Thursday.

Israeli security procedures, which often involve ethnic and personal profiling, were prohibited from taking place at Denmark's Copenhagen airport last summer.

The measures, which are formulated by Shin Bet security services, are now also prohibited at Sweden's Malmo and Stockholm airports, Haaretz said.

Israeli airline Arkia has stopped flying to Stockholm's airport in light of the restrictions.

"We are talking with security authorities in Sweden and other countries where problems have surfaced, to understand the meaning of the new restrictions imposed on Israeli flights," Haaretz quoted Israel's Transport Ministry as saying.

Cowboy Hat

Hypocrisy of the Elites: Santorum Says Affordable Education Snobbish

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© Scott Olson/Getty Images
Rick Santorum speaks at a campaign rally in Lansing, Mich., on February 27.
Rick Santorum thinks making college affordable for all is elitist. How else are Americans going to find good-paying jobs?

Say what you will about this era's Republican presidential candidates, they at least have chutzpah.

Millionaire blue-blood George W. Bush pretended to be a down-home cowboy. Two-time divorcee and longtime Washington influence peddler Newt Gingrich struts around preaching about traditional family values and insisting he's a D.C. outsider. Now, topping them all is Rick Santorum, who last week declared that only "snobs" support efforts to make a college education more accessible to all Americans.

Santorum, of course, has not one, not two, but a whopping three separate degrees, two of which come from public universities - that is, two that were taxpayer-subsidized, courtesy of the "Big Government" Santorum now claims to loathe.

Hypocritical - and dare I say, snobbish - as it is for someone with such a pedigree to attack President Obama's college affordability initiatives, Santorum did inadvertently stumble into a significant question: Is higher education for everyone? The answer today is not necessarily, but that's precisely because of the affordability problem Obama aims to solve.

Crusader

Bishop Compares Obama's Health Care Policies to Hitler's Actions

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© 2012.talkingpointsmemo.com
An Illinois Roman Catholic diocese whose bishop compared President Barack Obama's health care policies to actions taken by Adolf Hitler said Thursday that the comments, which prompted outside demands for an apology and investigation, were "historical context" in an ongoing debate over religious liberty.

Peoria Bishop Daniel Jenky said during a Sunday homily at St. Mary's Cathedral in Peoria that Obama is following previous governments that "tried to force Christians to huddle and hide only within the confines of their churches."

"Hitler and Stalin, at their better moments, would just barely tolerate some churches remaining open, but would not tolerate any competition with the state in education, social services and health care," the (Peoria) Journal Star and Chicago Tribune quoted Jenky as saying during the homily. "In clear violation of our First Amendment rights, Barack Obama - with his radical, pro-abortion and extreme secularist agenda - now seems intent on following a similar path."

Chart Pie

'Shrink Ray' at the Supermarket: Shoppers are Paying the Same for Ever Smaller Products

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Shoppers are paying more for their goods without realising - as manufacturers shrink the pack sizes
  • Two ice cream brands and detergent join the 'shopping list of shame'
  • Manufacturers say they're responding to rising commodity prices
  • Supermarket shoppers are increasingly getting less for their money as big brands continue to reduce the size of their products, a consumer watchdog has revealed.

    The smaller groceries still cost the same at the checkout, leaving customers with already squeezed household budgets due to the rising cost of living - out of pocket.

    This week Which? identified more everyday products subjected to the 'grocery shrink-ray' - a practice first highlighted by the Mail in 2001.

    Bulb

    Rationality and the Ability to Properly Weigh Evidence

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    © sumanthkapoor.blogspot.com
    Among the signs of rationality in one's thinking, the ability to properly weigh evidence is perhaps one of the most important. But how good are we at deciding what constitutes evidence and how do we determine how convincing each piece of it should be? We may not be as rational as we like to think we are at assessing evidence.

    To begin with, there are those who are too easily led to believe what they want and who take almost anything as valid evidence for that belief. On the other hand, some research shows that most people are too conservative in assigning weight to a piece of evidence. In general it is found that we remain less convinced than the evidence warrants. Or, to put it another way, humans may be more skeptical than they should be.

    Brick Wall

    Zimmerman to Trayvon's parents: 'I am sorry for the loss of your son'

    trayvon mother
    © Associated Press/John Raoux
    Sybrina Fulton, left, mother of Trayvon Martin and attorney Benjamin Crump, arrive at the Seminole County Criminal Justice Center for a bond hearing for George Zimmerman, the neighborhood watch volunteer charged with murdering Trayvon Martin, Friday, April 20, 2012, in Sanford, Fla. Zimmerman's attorney is asking the Seminole County judge to let Zimmerman post bail at the hearing Friday
    As George Zimmerman has bail set at $150K, he speaks to parents of Trayvon Martin, the unarmed teen he shot Feb. 26.

    A routine bail hearing for George Zimmerman took a surprising turn into remorse and explanation Friday when the neighborhood watch volunteer got on the witness stand and told Trayvon Martin's parents: "I am sorry for the loss of your son."

    "I did not know how old he was. I thought he was a little bit younger than I am. I did not know if he was armed or not," Zimmerman said, marking the first time he has spoken publicly about the Feb. 26 shooting of the unarmed black 17-year-old.

    The hearing wrapped up with a judge ruling Zimmerman can be released from jail on $150,000 bail while he awaits trial on second-degree murder charges. Zimmerman, who has been in jail for more than a week, could be out within days and may be allowed to live outside Florida for his own safety once arrangements are made to monitor him electronically.

    Cut

    Iran to cut oil to "whole Europe", claims to have alternative buyers

    Rostam Ghasemi

    Iranian Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi
    Iran will cut oil export to all European countries if they do not lift sanctions on Tehran after the next round of talks in Baghdad, country's Oil Minister Rostam Qasemi said on Thursday, Mehr reported.

    After nuclear negotiations in Istanbul on April 14, which was described as positive, Iran and the 5+1 group (the five permanent members of the UN Security Council and Germany) are scheduled to meet again in Baghdad on May 23.

    Qasemi said the Oil Ministry has "officially" cut crude exports to Britain and France, however, he added a stop of Iran's oil export to refiners in Greece, Spain, and Germany is not "official". He added that Greece is paying a large sum of its oil debts to Iran.

    The minister went on to say that the National Iranian Oil Company (NIOC) has signed new contracts with some customers so that if oil export to Europe is halted completely Iran will have alternative buyers.

    HAL9000

    Freedom Attack! FBI Seizes Riseup Email Network Server

    The FBI has seized a computer server at a New York facility shared by the internet organizations Riseup Networks and May First/People Link. The server was operated by the European Counter Network and ran a program called Mixmaster, which routes emails through anonymous servers in a network. The server also ran a number of mailing lists and websites for political groups. Jamie McClelland of May First said: "The server seizure is not only an attack against us, but an attack against all users of the Internet who depend on anonymous communication." The server was seized as part of an FBI investigation into the bomb threats against the University of Pittsburgh.