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Sherlock

US: Medical examiner: Homicide victim John Wheeler died of 'blunt force trauma'

John Wheeler
© U.S. Air Force
John Wheeler
Toxicology "didn't play a role" in his death, officials said.

Homicide victim John P. Wheeler III, a former Pentagon official and presidential aide whose body was discovered Dec. 31 in a Wilmington landfill, was beaten to death in an assault, the Delaware medical examiner's office announced today.

The official cause of Wheeler's slaying was "blunt force trauma,'' agency spokesman Karl Kanefsky said about a case that has drawn worldwide media coverage.

Police reiterated today that the case remains under investigation but acknowledge they cannot fill in critical gaps in the murder mystery.

Within hours of the grisly New Year's Eve discovery, state pathologists had ruled that the 66-year-old New Castle resident was a homicide victim, but until today authorities had been mum on the cause of his death -- an unusual posture in Delaware, where such information is usually released promptly.

The four-week delay has helped fuel rampant speculation that Wheeler, a defense consultant and expert on chemical and biological weapons, was poisoned by enemies -- a theory that persisted in part because he was seen stumbling around Wilmington in the days before he died and officials said they were awaiting the results of toxicology tests.

Arrow Down

Will There be a Chocolate Drought? World's Supply of Sustainable Cocoa Could Run Out by 2014

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© unknown
No-go: Fairtrade training schemes for farmers have ground to a halt because of political unrest in Africa
The world faces a chocolate 'drought' over the next few years, an expert warned yesterday.

Political unrest in the Ivory Coast, where 40 per cent of the world's cocoa beans are grown, has 'significantly' depleted the number of certified fair trade cocoa farmers.

Many have fled the West ­African country, while fair trade training programmes have also come to a halt.

Fairtrade training programmes have ground to a halt because of the danger farmers face in rural areas.

The situation is already affecting chocolate manufacturers, who are facing the highest cocoa prices for over 30 years.

Prices jumped by 10 per cent this month alone. Analysts are predicting they could soon hit $3,720 per metric tonne - a level last seen in January 1979.

It follows a curb on international cocoa exports initiated earlier this week by the country's new president, Alassane Ouattara.

Angus Kennedy, the editor of Kennedy's Confection and a leading British chocolatier, said chocolate producers are facing 'one of the biggest challenges to hit the industry in recent history'.

Pharoah

Looters Destroy Mummies in Egyptian Museum

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© The Associated Press / Ben Curtis
An Egyptian army tank stands outside the Egyptian museum which remains intact, right, as smoke billows in the background from the ruling National Democratic party building, torched by anti government protesters overnight, in central Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, Jan. 29, 2011.
Looters broke into the Egyptian Museum during anti-government protests late on Friday and destroyed two Pharaonic mummies, Egypt's top archaeologist told state television.

The museum in central Cairo, which has the world's biggest collection of Pharaonic antiquities, is adjacent to the headquarters of the ruling National Democratic Party that protesters had earlier set ablaze. Flames were seen still pouring out of the party headquarters early on Saturday.

"I felt deeply sorry today when I came this morning to the Egyptian Museum and found that some had tried to raid the museum by force last night," Zahi Hawass, chairman of the Supreme Council of Antiquities, said on Saturday.

"Egyptian citizens tried to prevent them and were joined by the tourism police, but some (looters) managed to enter from above and they destroyed two of the mummies," he said.

2 + 2 = 4

College fires professor; views on Israel blamed

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© Salon/iStockphoto
CUNY graduate student Kristofer Petersen-Overton.
Pro-Palestinian adjunct professor preemptively fired by Brooklyn College, which struggles to explain why

An adjunct political science professor was fired Wednesday by Brooklyn College following complaints by a student and a local politician about his pro-Palestinian political views.

The college maintains the instructor, graduate student Kristofer Petersen-Overton, was let go because he did not have proper credentials to teach a master's level course on Middle East politics. But there's evidence that other graduate students with the same level of experience as Petersen-Overton have had no trouble teaching advanced courses in the department both in the past and the present.

And now a group of Brooklyn College professors are blasting the administration for undermining academic freedom.

Here is what happened:

Petersen-Overton, a political science student at the CUNY Graduate Center in New York, was looking for a course to teach in the spring, and he heard about an opening at Brooklyn College, which is part of the CUNY [City University of New York] system. Petersen-Overton had a B.A. in political science from San Diego State and a masters in development from a university in Denmark. He has published several articles about Israel and the Palestinians in academic journals and books. He also previously worked at the Palestinian Center for Human Rights, a Gaza NGO, in 2007-08. He started his studies at CUNY in 2009.

He got the part-time adjunct professor's job at Brooklyn College to teach Middle East politics, a master's level course that is regularly offered in the political science department. That was in late December. The acting chair of the department, who had hired him, asked Petersen-Overton to send him a syllabus to circulate to prospective students.

That's when the trouble began.

Brick Wall

Arab governments in the region are wary of demonstrations spreading to their countries: Saudi Arabia Slammed Protesters in Egypt as "Infiltrators"

Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates -- Saudi Arabia slammed protesters in Egypt as "infiltrators" who seek to destabilize their country, and a top Palestinian official affirmed "solidarity" with Egypt on Saturday, while an Iranian official called on Egypt to "abide by the rightful demands of the nation" and avoid violent reactions.

Saudi King Abdullah called Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and "was reassured" about the situation in Egypt, the state-run Saudi Press Agency reported.
Saudi Obama
© CNN
The President of the United States Barack Obama bows to King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia at the 2009 G20 summit.
"During the call, the king said, 'Egypt is a country of Arabism and Islam. No Arab and Muslim human being can bear that some infiltrators, in the name of freedom of expression, have infiltrated into the brotherly people of Egypt, to destabilize its security and stability and they have been exploited to spew out their hatred in destruction, intimidation, burning, looting and inciting a malicious sedition,'" the news agency said.

Saudi Arabia "strongly condemns" the protest, it said.

Health

Flu Epidemic Shuts all Moscow Schools

nurse/schoolchildren
© AFP
Moscow and two other cities shut their schools for a week Saturday and urged children not to play in groups in a bid to stamp out the worst flu outbreak to hit central Russia in more than a decade.

The Moscow education department's order covered more than 1,500 public and private elementary schools.

Education officials said this meant that nearly 500,000 children would get an unscheduled week-long vacation in the first such shutdown to strike the Russian capital since 1998.

"Even today, some classes are already missing half their students," an official with Moscow's health control service told the Komsomolskaya Pravda daily.

"The situation in Moscow is relatively favourable compared to what it is in the other regions" of central Russia, Alexander Gavrilov said.

Moscow's kindergartens would remain open and older children would not be affected. But officials have issued instruction for parents to take extra care with younger children and avoid spending too much time with them in public places.

Alarm Clock

UK consumer confidence suffers 'astonishing collapse'

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© PHOTOLIBRARY
The survey found that people were keener to save and create a safety net if harder times arrive.
Britons' confidence in the economy and their finances has suffered its biggest drop in close to 20 years, raising fears that the Government's austerity onslaught will set off a self-feeding downward spiral.

The most closely-watched barometer of consumer confidence revealed an "astonishing collapse" in January as the VAT rise took effect, according to market research group GfK NOP.

The first taste of the fiscal tightening to have a widespread impact on consumers appeared to have hit sentiment hard, researchers said, even before the full impact of the public spending cuts is felt.

"In the 35 years since the index began, confidence has only slumped this much on six occasions, the last being in the midst of the 1992 recession," said Nick Moon, managing director at GfK NOP Social Research. "Today's figures, when combined with the bleak economic forecast, will make talk of a double-dip recession unavoidable."

The eight-point plunge in optimism took the barometer's headline reading to -29, the lowest since March 2009, when the UK was mired deep in the last recession.

Their findings will prompt more questions as to whether the Coalition risks tipping the economy back into recession through its programme of tax rises and spending cuts to reduce the budget deficit.

Family

Dramatic Rise in Church Foreclosures Nationwide

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Last spring Calvary Baptist Church in Paterson, N.J., faced foreclosure after it was unable to pay its $30,000 per month mortgage.

The strain of possible financial ruin and even shutting the church after 125 years, tested the faith of its congregants and the senior minister, Rev. Dr. Albert Rowe.

"[The bank] filed the papers," Rowe said. "There was a date set for us to have a hearing but I did not think that we would lose the church ... I always had faith that, you want to call it a miracle, or something would happen. I always believed that."

Calvary isn't alone in its financial predicament.

Vader

New York Times: Democracy is Bad for US Foreign Policy

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© Latuff

Here's New York Times reporter Mark Landler on Washington's reaction to the popular uprising in Egypt against the anti-liberal democratic, human rights-abusing Hosni Mubarak, a "staunch ally."

Washington is "proceeding gingerly, balancing the democratic aspirations of young Arabs with cold-eyed strategic and commercial interests."

In other words, democracy and human rights are fine, but not when strategic and commercial interests are at stake.

Landler goes on to say that Washington's cold-eyed commitment to realpolitik and profits "sometimes involves supporting autocratic and unpopular governments - which has turned many of those young people against the United States."

Well, there's nothing amiss in Landler's observation except his downplaying of the frequency with which Washington supports autocratic and unpopular governments - often rather than sometimes.

Dollar

Hawaii bill would charge $100 for Obama birth info

obama,hawaii
© Unknown

Honolulu - Hawaii's government would charge $100 for a copy of President Barack Obama's birth records under a bill introduced in the state Legislature by five Democrats. The bill would change a privacy law barring the release of birth records unless the requester is someone with a tangible interest, such as a close family member or a court.

The measure hasn't been scheduled for a public hearing, a required step before it can move forward. A decision on considering the bill will be made by the House's Democratic leadership and committee chairmen.

The idea behind the measure is to end skepticism over Obama's birthplace while raising a little money for a government with a projected budget deficit exceeding $800 million over the next two years.

"If it passes, it will calm the birthers down," said the bill's primary sponsor, Rep. Rida Cabanilla. "All these people are still doubting it because they don't want the birth certificate from Obama. They want it from our state office."

So-called "birthers" claim there's no proof Obama was born in the United States, and he is therefore ineligible to be president. Many of the skeptics question whether he was actually born in Kenya, his father's home country.

The Obama campaign issued a certification of live birth in 2008, an official document from the state showing the president's Aug. 4, 1961, birth date, his birth city and name, and his parents' names and races.