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Sequestered? Homeland Security gets new $3.9B headquarters


The construction site of the Department of Homeland Security's new headquarters, Feb. 15, 2012, in Washington, DC
President Barack Obama is trying to solve big problems in his proposed 2014 budget. His efforts to curtail entitlement spending have gotten most of the headlines. But he also seems determined to complete the U.S. Department of Homeland Security's new headquarters, the largest federal construction project since the Pentagon rose in the 1940s. The cost: $3.9 billion.

The project would unite at a single location nearly all DHS's 22 divisions devoted to thwarting terrorists and safeguarding the populace from natural and manmade disasters. The site is the campus of St. Elizabeth Hospital, a former federal asylum that was once the home of poet Ezra Pound and John Hinckley, Ronald Reagan's would-be assassin. There would be 4.5 million square feet of workspace in the new facility and ample employee parking.

The project's supporters say the price tag is justified. They say it's not easy to get the various DHS divisions to operate in concert with each other if they are scattered throughout the capital area. At the 2009 groundbreaking, DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano herself made the case for the agency's costly new digs: "It will help us have meetings. It will help us create a culture of 'one DHS.'"

Comment: Rather than helping struggling Americans, the government deems it more important that the DHA gets a new building to facilitate operations. The sequester will cause 600,000 low-income women and children to be denied benefits under the federal nutrition program for women, infants and children. The economy is in tatters and poverty is at record levels. Anything wrong with this picture?
Sequester initiates new austerity drive against U.S. workers
The likely way social security benefits will be cut
Cancer clinics are turning away thousands of Medicare patients. Blame the sequester
TSA sealed $50-million sequester-eve deal to buy new uniforms

Arrow Down

Four more dogs found dead in Idaho as dog disappearances, killings mount

Four dogs have been found beaten in the head and shot to death in rural southern Idaho, authorities said on Thursday, adding to the mysterious disappearance and killing of dozens of dogs that has left residents in that area on edge.

Examinations showed that the German Shepherd mixes, whose carcasses had been dumped in a pile off a highway south of Twin Falls, had been bludgeoned and shot in the head, said Gary Trostel, deputy with the Twin Falls County Sheriff's Office.

"We didn't know until today how they had died: poisoned or shot or what. We knew it was some type of head trauma the way the eyes bulged out and with all the bleeding," Trostel said.

Animal control officers reported last month that roughly 30 dogs had gone missing since November in Twin Falls and nearby communities in a farming region known as the Magic Valley.

A German shepherd discovered by hikers last month in an area known as the Devil's Corral in neighboring Jerome County appeared to have suffered what animal control officers called a "ritualistic execution" in which its head was crushed with rock and its carcass covered with a purple cloth.


Taser used on Connecticut middle school student

Polcie Taser gun
© Newsline
Controversial: A police officer wields a Taser gun
Middletown's school superintendent Patricia Charles says an incident took place early Wednesday between police and an unnamed student.

A city student was subdued Wednesday morning with a Taser by Middletown Police outside Woodrow Wilson Middle School.

Middletown Police student resource and patrol officers "were called to the school today to assist the staff," according to Lt. Heather Desmond.

"When officers arrived, the student was uncooperative and combative. The officers tried to take the student into custody and during the arrest, the student was "drive" stunned one time with a Taser. The student was then compliant with officer's directions and the arrest continued without further incident."

No one was injured, Desmond said and declined to give out more details due to the student's age.

Superintendent of Schools Patricia Charles confirmed the incident took place at about 9:30 a.m. at the Middletown school that serves seventh- and eighth-graders, but was unable to provide much more information. Charles declined to provide the student's age, sex or grade.


Grand Rabbi of France resigns after accusations of plagiarism, lying about education

© Jeff Pachoud/AFP/Getty Images files
Grand Rabbi of France Gilles Bernheim “prays to be heard in his request for forgiveness,” a statement said.
France's top rabbi announced Thursday he is taking leave from his post, hoping to end a scandal that has unsettled the Jewish community after he acknowledged "borrowing" other people's work and lying about his educational pedigree.

The Central Consistory of France accepted Rabbi Gilles Bernheim's request for time away at an urgent meeting to discuss fallout from the case. Bernheim, 60, later issued a statement apologizing to France's Jewish community, his family and friends, and saying he could no longer do his job with the necessary "serenity."

"He hopes that the serious events he is blamed for and which mark him, don't obscure all the actions carried out in the name of his various rabbinical functions over the years in the service of the divine," the statement said. "He prays to be heard in his request for forgiveness..."

Richard Prasquier, the head of France's largest umbrella group of Jewish organizations, CRIF, said by phone that two other rabbis would temporarily fill the post of Grand Rabbi of France, while Bernheim is away for at least six months. Talks about whether he might return at all will take place in the coming months, he said.


Cop fired for using Trayvon Martin images in target practice

People along with New York City Council members attend a press conference to call for justice
© AFP Photo / Allison Joyce
People along with New York City Council members attend a press conference to call for justice in the February 26 killing of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford, Florida, on the steps of City Hall March 28, 2012 in New York City.
A Florida policeman has been fired for using photos of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin, shot and killed last year by a neighborhood watchman, for target practice. Martin's family attorney condemned the act as "depraved."

Sgt. Ron King of the Florida's Port Canaveral Police Department allegedly offered paper shooting targets emblazoned with Martin's image to two other officers, an internal review revealed. He was dismissed on Friday for possessing a number of such shooting targets.

"Port Canaveral Police Department considers that behavior unacceptable," John Walsh, CEO of the Port Canaveral Authority said. King reportedly acquired the paper targets online and brought them to a firearms training session.

Heart - Black

'Heartbreaking' auction of Hopi katsinam proceeds in Paris

© Courtesy Survivor International

Young Hopi man Bo Lomahquahu with Director of Survival International France Jean-Patrick Razon outside the Drouot auction house.
As many concerned Hopi had feared, the auction of 70 katsinam happened on April 12, despite passionate protests both outside and within the Drouot auction facility in Paris.

In an auction described by an AP reporter as "chaotic," the items, commonly referred to as "masks," brought in 930,000 Euros, or 1.2 million, over the pre-sale estimate of copy million. One of the katsinam, or "friends," called the Crow Mother, sold for $209,000.

On the street outside the building, a protester carried the American Indian Movement (AIM) flag as a group sympathetic to the Hopi's cause handed out leaflets. Bo Lomahquahu, a Hopi student studying in Paris, was a notable presence. He described the scene to the New York Times as "very surreal and heartbreaking." He explained that the katsinam "are truly sacred to us; we feed and care for them. ... And to see people walking out with them in bags, like some object, I felt really helpless and hurt."

Che Guevara

Protestors line up outside George Osborne's office in demo against 'bedroom tax'


A campaigner sets up on the Little Heath in Knutsford
A group of campaigners has set up home outside George Osborne's office in Knutsford in a protest against the legislation known as the 'bedroom tax'.

UK Uncut arrived in Knutsford at lunchtime today, Saturday, April 13, where they are protesting against the government's decision to charge housing tenants an extra amount for having a spare bedroom in their property.

The organisation told the Guardian the move would mean that tenants who are considered to have one spare bedroom will have to find an extra £529 per year - more than £10 a week - while those considered to have two spare bedrooms will be asked to pay £945 a year more.


Elderly woman survives komodo dragon attack

Komodo dragon
© Sergey Uryadnikov / Shutterstock
Komodo dragons have long, forked tongues that they use to help smell and taste.
An 83-year-old Indonesian woman survived a recent attack by a fearsome 2-meter-long (6.6 feet) Komodo dragon and is currently recovering in the hospital.

The attack occurred when Haisah, who like many Indonesians goes by one name, was making a broom from a coconut tree, Agence France-Press reported. The reptile pounced and bit down on her hand and Haisah told AFP, "I knew that I faced a fight for survival." She kicked one of the reptile's front legs, which was enough to get it to release her hand, then screamed for help. That is one tough lady!

Haisah's wrist required 35 stitches and was initially paralyzed, though it has since recovered some mobility.

This incident follows a spate of Komodo dragon attacks in recent months on the Indonesian islands that are the native home of the species. Komodo dragons are the world's largest lizard, growing up to 200 pounds (90 kilograms); they are considered a vulnerable species and are protected in their native habitat.

Cell Phone

Social media use linked to poor academic performance

© Unknown
The widespread use of media among college students -- from texting to chatting on cell phones to posting status updates on Facebook -- may be taking an academic toll, say researchers with The Miriam Hospital's Centers for Behavioral and Preventive Medicine.

According to a new study, freshmen women spend nearly half their day -- 12 hours -- engaged in some form of media use, particularly texting, music, the Internet and social networking. Researchers found media use, in general, was associated with lower grade point averages (GPAs) and other negative academic outcomes. However, there were two exceptions: newspaper reading and listening to music were actually linked to a positive academic performance

Black Cat

Day care worker arrested for biting child

An Ohio day care worker decided to teach a 5-year-old a lesson by giving him a 'bite' of his own medicine.

When 56-year-old Robin Mullins of Cincinnati found out about a 5-year-old at her day care that was biting other children, Mullins sat him down, then chomped on his arm in order to 'teach him a lesson.'

Mullins' plan of action, however, didn't go over too well with the parents -- or police for that matter. Mullins was arrested and charged Thursday with assault after leaving a visible bite mark on the kid's arm, Colerain Police Officer Eric Renner wrote in court records.