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Fake Cigs: Human Excrement, Asbestos, Dead Flies and Billions in Lost Tax Revenues in UK

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© Agence France-Presse/Alain Jocard
British undercover detectives in Birmingham have found cigarettes containing human excrement, asbestos, mold and dead flies, as counterfeit cigs flood into the UK at huge risk to public health.

Private eyes working for the tobacco industry have spent weeks rummaging through litter bins and scouring pavements for cigarette butts to access the scale of the black market in England's midlands region, according to the Birmingham newspaper the Sunday Mercury.

Operation EDPC - which stands for Empty Discarded Pack Collection - was funded by Swiss-based brand protection company MS Intelligence - found that 31% of cigarettes were either bogus or bought abroad.

Investigators were shocked by the sheer volume of the trade, which has more than doubled in the last 12 months. A similar study last year found only 14% of packets were fakes or had been smuggled into the country.

The trade in counterfeit cigs is big business. HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) estimate that non UK duty-paid cigarettes cost the tax payer up to £3.6 billion during the financial year 2009-2010.

Most of the brands originated in the Far East, particularly from China, which has had a problem with counterfeits for a number of years.

Eye 2

California Man Pleads Guilty to Mutilating and Murdering Friend

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© The Associated Press/Del Norte County Sheriffs Office
Jarrod Wyatt
A Northern California mixed-martial artist accused of ripping out his friend's heart and removing his tongue while the two were on hallucinogenic drugs has pleaded guilty to murder and mayhem charges.

Jarrod Wyatt of Crescent City agreed to a plea deal in which he will serve 50 years to life in prison, Del Norte County prosecutors said. His official sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 4.

Wyatt pleaded guilty to first-degree murder involving mayhem in the March 21, 2010, death of his sparring partner, 21-year-old Taylor Powell, prosecutors said.

"The earliest he'll be able to see a parole board is 2062," District Attorney Jon Alexander said. "We saved Taylor's family the agony from reliving the incident at the trial."

Wyatt's attorney, James Fallman, said his 29-year-old client didn't want to testify at trial and he didn't want his family to testify.

"We looked for an agreement that would at least give him the opportunity to be paroled someday," Fallman said. "As bad as 50 years to life sounds, it's better than life without the possibility of parole."

Sheriff

Mission PD Chief Denies Police Brutality Alleged in Lawsuit

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Texas, McAllen - A Mission man says in a lawsuit that police officers entered his property and assaulted him, but city officials maintain his claims are baseless.

John Kenneth Snider claims that on Dec. 19, "four or five police officers from the Mission Police Department made a warrantless and unauthorized entry" into his home, according to a lawsuit he filed in July against Mission city officials.

Snider claims once inside his home, police officers "immediately began to assault, beat and strike" him.

Attempts to reach Snider and his lawyer, Rodney Sipes of Edinburg, were unsuccessful last week.

Snider was indicted in February on one count of assault on a public servant. He was later convicted of the charge in the 139th state District Court, where he was sentenced to two years of probation. Whether the charge and conviction stem from the same incident is not clear in court papers and could not be confirmed last week.

The lawsuit names Mission police Chief Martin Garza as the man responsible for the actions of "unnamed officers" and asks for unspecified damages.

Garza told The Monitor he was not at Snider's house during the alleged incident, but he is familiar with the lawsuit and stands by his officers.

"I believe our officers acted within reason and within department policy," Garza said. "I have no reason to doubt the integrity of my officers."

Attention

Chicago Teachers to Strike For 1st Time in 25 Years

  • Strike could have implications for Obama's campaign
  • Community leaders had urged agreement
  • Teacher pay, evaluations are major issues

Chicago public school teachers will strike for the first time in a quarter century on Monday after they failed to reach agreement with the nation's third-largest school district over education reforms sought by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The historic confrontation between Emanuel - Barack Obama's former top White House aide - and organized labor could have implications for education reform nationwide and for the president's re-election campaign.

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© Sitthixay Ditthavong/Associated Press
Members of the Chicago Teachers Union distributed strike signs as the deadline approached.
"We have failed to reach an agreement that will prevent a labor strike," Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis told a press conference on Sunday night. "In the morning, no CTU members will be inside our schools."

About 29,000 teachers and support staff in Obama's home city will not report for work on Monday morning, affecting some 350,000 students.

Lewis was interrupted by applause from about 100 union supporters as she spoke, some wearing red in support of the union and carrying signs "On Strike" even before she had finished speaking.

Leigh Nevels, an occupational therapist who works at several schools in the city, said she came out to support Lewis and other union leaders. "The teachers work really hard and they deserve every penny that they get, and then some," Nevels said. "Rahm (Emanuel) just pulled the rug out from under us."

The union wants Chicago to drastically reduce class sizes and increase funding for education.

It is suspicious of efforts to erode traditional job protections such as tenure, teacher autonomy and seniority.

Question

Are We Ready for a Zombie Attack?

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© unknown
No one in emergency preparedness circles really believes the dead will rise and come looking for living people to devour -- that weird face-eating incident in Florida aside.

But they do see zombies -- the moaning, flesh-eating stars of a plethora of horror novels, comics and movies -- as a brain-grabbing way to get people to think about preparing for large-scale disasters.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency became the latest federal government agency to shamble onto the zombie bandwagon, following in the footsteps of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the agency that captured the hearts of internet geeks everywhere when it unveiled its "Zombie Apocalypse" preparedness page and social media campaign last year.

"We need something that gets their attention, so I applaud that," said Richland Fire Chief Grant Baynes, who is involved in local disaster planning.

Baynes likened getting the public engaged in emergency planning to "trying to sell an umbrella on a sunny day."

In a place that's relatively disaster-free -- the Tri-Cities doesn't get catastrophic hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes or floods as other parts of the United States -- residents can become complacent and forget that a flu pandemic or some other disaster might be around the corner.

Baynes said it's good that people feel safe, but he'd also like them to be mindful that life is unpredictable.

"Preparedness isn't just a technical thing," he said. "It's mental. It's an attitude. It's that same attitude that says, 'I know there is that potential, so I'll buy this umbrella now while I have the opportunity.' "

Binoculars

Are you better off?: 40 statistics that will absolutely shock you

obomney
© KickThemAllOut.com
Are you better off today than you were four years ago? This is a question that comes up nearly every election. This year the Romney campaign has even created a Twitter hashtag for it: #AreYouBetterOff. The Democrats are making lots of speeches claiming that we are better off, and the Republicans are making lots of speeches claiming that we are not. So are most Americans actually better off than they were four years ago? Of course not.

One recent poll found that only 20 percent of Americans believe that they are better off financially than they were four years ago. But the same thing was true four years ago as well. Our economy has been in decline and the middle class has been shrinking for a very long time. The Democrats want to put all of the blame on the Republicans for this, and the Republicans want to put all of the blame on the Democrats for this. A recent CNN headline defiantly declared the following: "Decline of middle class not Obama's fault", and this is the kind of thing we are going to hear day after day until the election in November. But obviously something has gone fundamentally wrong with our economy. So who should we blame?

Sadly, you hear very little on the mainstream news networks or the talk radio shows about the institution that has the most power over our economy. The Federal Reserve has far more power over our financial system than anyone else does, but the media and both political parties tell us that the Federal Reserve is "above politics" and that their "independence" must never be questioned.

But the truth is that the debt-based financial system that the Federal Reserve is at the core of is absolutely central to our economic problems. If you do not understand this, please see this article: "10 Things That Every American Should Know About The Federal Reserve".

Sherlock

A 15-year Mystery in Syracuse: Who Keeps Sending These Anthrax Hoax Letters?

The FBI has evidence that for the past 15 years someone in Syracuse has been panicking office workers with powder-filled letters threatening an anthrax attack.
Anthrax Hoax Letters
© FBI
The drawing common to many of the letters, which appears to be drawn from the works of horror novelist H.P. Lovecraft.
The pattern is the same: A letter arrives with a mound of white powder inside. The writer claims it's anthrax. It terrorizes the poor soul who opens the letter and has to wait as long as 36 hours to find out it was only baby powder.

Then the terrorist disappears for months, even years.

For 15 years, through 21 scares in Syracuse and throughout the East, the FBI has tried to solve the mystery.

Now the FBI wants help.

The agency is sharing details about the chain of terror. It says the letters contained white powder with threats that it was lethal anthrax spores. But in each case, it turned out to be baby powder, detergent or other nonhazardous materials.

The letters also carry clues about the sender, including his penchant for the writings of a long-dead science fiction writer.

The FBI and the U.S. Postal Inspection Service are offering a $10,000 reward for information that leads to the conviction of whoever sent the powder in 21 threatening letters from Syracuse since 1997.

Black Cat

World's Richest Woman Supports $2 per Day Slave Wages

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Gina Rinehart, the world's wealthiest woman, claims that iron-ore mining in Australia may have to abandoned if wages are not cut.

Rinehart then proudly added that African miners are "willing to work for less than $2 per day," reports the BBC (video below).

In a video recently posted on the Sydney Mining Club website, Rinehart, who is worth $18[B], said Australia should emulate Africa, reports RawStory.com.

Dollar

Flying le coop: France's Richest Man Seeks Belgian Citizenship, Denies its an Attempt to Dodge Taxes

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Bernard Arnault, France's richest man with a net worth estimated at US$41 billion, has applied for Belgian citizenship - citing personal and business reasons and maintains this has nothing to do with François Hollande's 75 per cent tax hike on the super-r[ich].

As the Belgian authorities evaluate Arnault's request to determine whether or not he has demonstrable "real ties" to Belgium, it stands to reason that Arnault would wish to seek shelter under Belgium's 50 per cent tax rate.

Arnault insisted on Saturday that he was not becoming Belgian to dodge tax.

Dollar

Debt Slavery! Collectors Cash in on $1 Trillion in US Student Loans

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Most US college students hope to land a good job with a high salary after graduation. But for some the reality is very different. Many find themselves faced with insurmountable debt - and a loan industry that's happy to cash in on their misfortune.

­As the number of people taking out government-backed student loans has soared, so has the number of borrowers who have fallen behind in making payments.

Around 5.9 million people nationwide have fallen at least 12 months behind in their payments. This number has grown by a third in the last five years, according to a State Higher Education Finance survey.

Many who can't repay their loans feel they have no choice but to default. It's a decision that can be disastrous - ruining a borrower's credit and increasing the amount they owe. It can also result in penalties of up to 25 per cent of the balance.

Comment: The student loan racket is destroying the future for many young people and often forces them to take desperate measures:
Prostitution Attractive Option for Med Students with Debt
"I Cannot Eat Your Prayers": How Student Debt Changed One Woman's Mind on "Christian Charity"
America's Student Loan Racket
US: Students Protest Debt While These Companies Rake in Money