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Florence: Italian Far-Right Gunman Kills Senegalese Vendors

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People react after two Senegalese vendors were killed in downtown Florence on Tuesday.
An Italian far-right militant killed two Senegalese street vendors and wounded three people in a shooting spree in Florence Tuesday after which he apparently killed himself, police said.

Witnesses said they saw the gunman calmly getting out of a car at a street market on Piazza Dalmazia, north of the historic city centre, and firing off three shots that killed two vendors on the spot and gravely wounded a third.

Stop

US: Child Homelessness Up 33% in 3 Years

Homeless Children
© M. Scott Moon, (Kenai, Alaska) Peninsula Clarion, via AP
From left, Levi Gibbs, Isaiah Munk, and Stephanie Gibbs get food at a homeless facility.

One in 45 children in the USA - 1.6 million children - were living on the street, in homeless shelters or motels, or doubled up with other families last year, according to the National Center on Family Homelessness.

The numbers represent a 33% increase from 2007, when there were 1.2 million homeless children, according to a report the center is releasing Tuesday.

"This is an absurdly high number," says Ellen Bassuk, president of the center. "What we have new in 2010 is the effects of a man-made disaster caused by the economic recession. ... We are seeing extreme budget cuts, foreclosures and a lack of affordable housing."

The report paints a bleaker picture than one by the Department of Housing and Urban Development, which nonetheless reported a 28% increase in homeless families, from 131,000 in 2007 to 168,000 in 2010.

Dennis Culhane, a University of Pennsylvania professor of social policy, says HUD's numbers are much smaller because they count only families living on the street or in emergency shelters.

"It is a narrower standard of homelessness," he says. However, Culhane says, "the bottom line is we've shown an increase in the percentage of homeless families."

Cult

Special Report - Who knew what in U.S. priest child porn case?

Priest
© Reuters
Bishop Robert Finn is pictured in Kansas City, Missouri, in this undated handout photograph obtained on November 30, 2011. Authorities have filed criminal charges against Bishop Finn, the leader of the 133,000-member Catholic Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph, for failing to report to authorities the actions of one of its priests, who prosecutors have said was producing child pornography
Computer technician Ken Kes was supposed to be repairing a laptop for a local priest as part of his work for a Catholic Diocese in Kansas City. But as Kes opened a series of picture files stored on the computer, he slowly realized that the odd images of young children were not merely strange; they seemed pornographic.

"I looked at the first one. It was a young girl climbing up the back of a pickup truck and I thought, huh, that's kind of a neat shot," the 59-year-old Kes recalled. "The next one that I clicked on was a girl... climbing out of swimming pool and all it showed was her rear end. Then there was a little girl on the grass with her legs spread. All you could see was the area from her belly button to her knees."

By the time Kes got to a graphic photo of a little girl on a bed, exposed below the waist, his hands were shaking and he was in full panic.

"I stopped looking right there and got on the phone," he said.

That discovery last December yielded hundreds of such photos on the laptop of Father Shawn Ratigan, ultimately landing the 46-year-old priest in jail on multiple child pornography charges. He is awaiting trial next summer after pleading not guilty and remains jailed.

Comment: Far from an isolated case: Vatican Christmas Shocker! Pope says child rape isn't that bad, was normal back in his day


Info

US: Two Army Helicopters Crash in Washington State, 4 Dead

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© Reuters/Robert Sorbo
A U.S. Army Humvee drives down a dirt road near the scene where two U.S. Army helicopters crashed during a training exercise on Monday, killing four aviators on board near the town of Rainier, Washington, December 13, 2011.
Two U.S. Army helicopters crashed on Monday during training exercises at a Washington state military base, killing four aviators on board, the base said in a statement.

Brendalyn Carpenter, a spokeswoman for Joint Base Lewis-McChord, confirmed that "there was an accident" in the evening and that military police and emergency personnel were en route to the accident scene at the base near Tacoma.

"Our thoughts and prayers go out to the family, friends and loved ones of the soldiers involved in this tragic accident," said Major General Lloyd Miles, acting senior Army commander at the base.

"We will conduct a thorough investigation into this incident, and we will do everything in our power to support the families of the brave soldiers who died this evening," he added.

Bandaid

France: Paris bans beggars from most popular shopping and tourist hotspots

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© Alamy
The Champs Elysées is one of three popular tourist and shopping areas in Paris decreed as no-go zones for beggars.
French authorities claim no-go zones aim to stop pestering of foreign visitors by 'delinquents' run by criminal gangs

The glittering Christmas window displays in Paris's luxury stores are often offset by a shivering person begging for coins nearby, huddled behind a cardboard sign saying "hungry".

With the French economy in crisis and the looming spectre of another recession, Paris's poor and homeless people are more present than ever in doorways and metro entrances. Campaigners have demanded action on the country's housing crisis. Instead President Nicolas Sarkozy has launched a war on beggars, setting himself against Paris's popular mayor.

Sarkozy's interior minister and long-time right-hand man, Claude Guéant, has issued a series of decrees banning begging around Paris's most popular Christmas shopping and tourist spots. He says arresting and fining beggars is crucial to stop foreign visitors being pestered by begging "delinquents" run by organised mafia gangs.

Attention

Stephen Colbert Reports Norway's Butter Shortage

Last night on the Colbert Report, Stephen reminded us that if you "pick up any object in the US, there's a good chance it's butter." Apparently, this is not true in Norway, where butter prices have climbed as high as $740 a box thanks to a severe shortage.

The butter shortfall was caused by a surge in popularity for a high fat, low carb diet. Things have gotten so bad that one man was caught trying to smuggle 90 kilos of the spread over the border. The segment prompts Americans to count themselves lucky to live in a country with enough butter to support a product called I Can't Believe It's Not Butter.

Stephen's full report is below. Here's some more info on the Norwegian butter shortage.


Gear

Media Firestorm Over Korean Towers Resembling WTC On 9/11

Korean 2Towers
© redOrbit
The Dutch architecture firm MVRDV has come under heavy fire this week for its proposed design of two high-rise luxury apartments in Seoul, South Korea.

According to critics, the two roughly 850-feet towers bear a striking resemblance to New York's ill-fated twin towers shortly after they were attacked by terrorists flying two high-jacked jetliners.

Designers say that the buildings' design - which they call 'The Cloud' - was intended to resemble a "pixilated cloud" connecting the mid-section of the towers. A number of mostly American critics, however, say that the similarity is just too uncanny to be coincidental.

"I think it's a total lie and they have no respect for the people who died that day," vented Jim Riches, a former NY firefighter whose son died in on 9/11, to the New York Daily News.

"They're crossing a line. It looks just like the towers imploding," he added. "I think they're trying to sensationalize it. It's a cheap way to get publicity."

Info

Another School Bus Crash Sparks Fury in China

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© Reuters
Although the water in the ditch was not deep, it still claimed 15 young lives
Fifteen children were killed when a school bus crashed in China's eastern province of Jiangsu, state media said on Tuesday, the latest in a string of accidents fanning public fury across the country.

The bus rolled into a ditch as it veered off the road to avoid a pedicab, the Xinhua news agency said. At least eight children were injured in the accident, which happened after school on Monday.

"Students became trapped at the bottom of the overturned bus and drowned as water gushed into the wreck," Xinhua reported, citing Zhang Bin, a deputy head of the Fengxian county, where the accident happened.

The driver, he said, had been detained.

Xinhua gave conflicting accounts on the number of children on board the bus, but all the reports suggested it was not overloaded. Xinhua last reported that 29 were on board.

Ambulance

Pakistan President Had 'Mini-Stroke': Associate

Asif Ali Zardari
© EPA
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari
Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari suffered a "mini-stroke" that led to his extended hospitalization in Dubai, but he is improving quickly and will return to his country within two weeks, a close associate and a government spokesman said Tuesday.

Zardari's health has been the subject of speculation and contradictory statements by government officials since he was rushed to Dubai last week. His trip triggered rumors he could be on the verge of resigning. Officials deny that.

The president's absence coincided with domestic political attacks against him over a memo delivered to U.S. officials asking Washington's help in reining in Pakistan's powerful military. It came also during a spike in tensions between Washington and Islamabad after NATO airstrikes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers on the Afghan border.

The associate, who spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the matter, said that Zardari's diagnosis of a "mini-stroke" was made by the president's two physicians.

A "mini-stroke" is medically known as a transient ischemic attack, or TIA. It occurs when the blood supply to part of the brain is briefly interrupted, causing symptoms similar to a stroke but not as long-lasting, because with a TIA, the blood supply is restored.

Attention

US: 2 students shot, wounded at Texas middle school


Authorities suspect hunters may have shot two South Texas middle school students who were wounded by gunfire Monday afternoon while trying out for a basketball team.

Two boys - ages 13 and 14 - were shot, said Hidalgo County Sheriff Lupe Trevino. Classes were not in session at Harwell Middle School when the shooting happened around 4:45 p.m., but the school complex was immediately placed on lockdown. Edinburg school district spokesman Gilbert Tagle said a number of after-school activities were going on besides the basketball tryouts, including a concert and a faculty meeting. He estimated as many as 200 children could have been on campus.

One of the wounded boys was in critical condition Monday night with a bullet embedded in an organ. The other was stable and awaiting X-rays, Trevino said.

At the time of the shooting, one of the boys was going for a layup. The other was waiting his turn to try out, Trevino said.