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Heart - Black

'Emo' Killings Raise Alarms in Iraq

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© The Associated Press/Alaa al-Marjani
In this picture taken on Wednesday, March 7, 2012, Iraqis who identify themselves as so-called Emos smoke a traditional "shisha" water pipe, as its smoke obscures their identity, in the Shiite holy city of Najaf, 160 kilometers (100 miles) south of Baghdad, Iraq.
Baghdad - Young people who identify themselves as so-called Emos are being brutally killed at an alarming rate in Iraq, where militias have distributed hit lists of victims and security forces say they are unable to stop crimes against the subculture that is widely perceived in Iraq as being gay.

Officials and human rights groups estimated as many as 58 Iraqis who are either gay or believed to be gay have been killed in the last six weeks alone - forecasting what experts fear is a return to the rampant hate crimes against homosexuals in 2009. This year, eyewitnesses and human rights groups say some of the victims have been bludgeoned to death by militiamen smashing in their skulls with heavy cement blocks.

A recent list distributed by militants in Baghdad's Shiite Sadr City neighborhood gives the names or nicknames of 33 people and their home addresses. At the top of the paper are a drawing of two handguns flanking a Quranic greeting that extolls God as merciful and compassionate.

Then follows a chilling warning.

"We warn in the strongest terms to every male and female debauchee," the Shiite militia hit list says. "If you do not stop this dirty act within four days, then the punishment of God will fall on you at the hands of Mujahideen."

All but one of the targets are men.

People

Sex on the Company Dime

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© unknown
Employees who expense prostitutes are more common than you'd think

As awkward explanations go, the one given for Dominique Strauss-Kahn's alleged involvement with a French prostitution ring may have set the bar lower than ever before. During a recent radio interview, Strauss-Kahn's lawyer acknowledged that his client did indeed participate in an orgy at the upscale Carlton hotel in Lille, France, but stressed that he could not have known the women were prostitutes. "People are not always clothed at these parties," said Henri Leclerc. "I defy you to tell the difference between a nude prostitute and a classy lady in the nude."

The sensational case, dubbed the "Carlton affair" by French newspapers, is merely the latest sex scandal to envelop the former head of the International Monetary Fund, who lost his job after being accused of sexually assaulting a New York hotel maid last year (the charges were later dropped). It's also the most recent example of a company - in this case a French construction firm - being accused of improperly using corporate funds to throw so-called "sex parties" for employees and clients. In fact, some experts say using sex to grease the wheels of commerce is far more common than most people think - even in a relatively conservative country like Canada. "We like to paint ourselves as better than other countries," says Al Rosen of Toronto-based forensic accounting firm Rosen & Associates. "But we're absolutely not."

Heart - Black

Egypt Army Court Acquits Doctor Over Virginity Test

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© Reuters/Mohamed Abd El Ghany
Army doctor Ahmed Adel, who was accused of carrying out a forced virginity test on a female detainee, speaks to the media after being acquitted in Cairo March 11, 2012.
Cairo - A military court acquitted an army doctor on Sunday charged with carrying out a forced virginity test on a female detainee during protests last year, said a court source, in a case that has fuelled anger against the ruling generals.

Activist Samira Ibrahim, who defied taboos in the conservative Muslim country to raise her case, said she was forced to undergo a virginity test in March last year after she was arrested during a protest in Cairo's Tahrir Square.

Ibrahim's and similar cases stoked criticism of the generals who took control of Egypt after Hosni Mubarak was driven from office on February 11, 2011 by a popular uprising.

"The army doctor Ahmed Adel was found not guilty in the case of virginity tests because of conflicting witness accounts," said the military judicial source, who asked not to be named.

Egypt's state news agency confirmed Sunday's court ruling, adding that the accounts of three witnesses in the case conflicted with a fourth.

Ibrahim declined to comment to Reuters after the ruling.

Light Saber

12-Year-Old Girl Sues School for Spying on Her Facebook Account

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The ACLU filed a lawsuit on behalf of a 12-year-old middle school student who was detained and interrogated by Minnesota school officials who demanded her Facebook and email passwords.

According to CNN, the girl claims she was "'intimidated, frightened, humiliated and sobbing while she was detained in the small school room' as she watched a counselor, a deputy, and another school employee pore over her private communications."

The "interrogation" of the student stemmed from an incident where the girl wrote on her Facebook wall that hall monitors in the school were being "mean" to her and that she hated them, which the school determined was enough justification to demand a review of all her private communications.

The ACLU says that the Minnewaska School District violated the student's First Amendment right to free speech and her Fourth Amendment right to privacy and protection from unreasonable search and seizure.

"Students do not shed their First Amendment rights at the school house gate. The Supreme Court ruled on that in the 1970s, yet schools like Minnewaska seem to have no regard for the standard," said Minnesota's executive director for the ACLU in a statement about the case.

The school district maintains that its actions were "reasonable and appropriate."

Cow

Meet the awesome dogs that are stamping out elephant poaching

The Democratic Republic of the Congo's Virunga National Park employs a lean, mean team of crime-fighters to take on evil elephant poachers. These elite commandoes are fearless trackers, work for practically nothing, have exceptional loyalty, and are a pack of adorable puppies.

Meet Carla, Stella, Lila, Dodi, Lily, and Sabrina. The bloodhounds - or Congohounds, as they're called in Virunga - are currently being trained to protect the National Park's animals from poachers. Rangers rely on the hounds' especially keen sniffers to track and apprehend suspects - bloodhounds can identify a single scent out of 5 million competing smells.

The goal of the program is to better protect Virunga's critically endangered mountain gorillas and other wildlife from poachers, and in general, help enforce the rule of law, which is critical to re-establishing Virunga's tourism trade. The program will also greatly improve the park's ability to quickly find lost and critically injured rangers, many of whom have died needlessly while awaiting help.


Sheriff

Gloria Allred seeks Rush Limbaugh prosecution

Gloria Allred
© AP Photo
Allred said he 'engaged in unwarranted, tasteless and exceptionally damaging attacks.'

Rush Limbaugh has drawn the ire of celebrity lawyer Gloria Allred, who sent a letter to the Palm Beach County state attorney requesting an investigation into whether the popular radio host should be prosecuted for calling a law student a "slut" and "prostitute" last week.

"Mr. Limbaugh targeted his attack on a young law student who was simply exercising her free speech and her right to testify before congress on a very important issue to millions of American women and he vilified her. He defamed her and engaged in unwarranted, tasteless and exceptionally damaging attacks on her," Allred told POLITICO Friday afternoon. "He needs to face the consequences of his conduct in every way that is meaningful."

In a letter dated March 8, Allred, writing on behalf of the Women's Equal Rights Legal Defense and Education Fund, requested that Palm Beach County State Attorney Michael McAuliffe probe whether the conservative radio personality had violated Section 836.04 of the Florida Statutes by calling Georgetown University law student Sandra Fluke the two derogatory words.

Heart - Black

Remains of 167 Bodies Found in Southern Mexican Cave

Mexico City - Mexican authorities say they've found the bodies of 167 people in a southern Mexican cave, and forensic experts believe the remains are at least 50 years old.

Prosecutors in Chiapas state said in a statement Saturday that the remains were found Friday on the Nuevo Ojo de Agua ranch in an area frequently used by Central American migrants traveling north. The statement said there were no visible signs of violence on the remains, which "break easily."

The authorities say they will "not discard any line of investigation."

Mass graves have been found in the past two years mainly in northern Mexico containing the bodies of dozens of migrants and others allegedly killed by drug cartels.

Source: The Associated Press

Cheeseburger

France's Muslims Hit Back at Nicolas Sarkozy's Policy on Halal Meat

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© Inminds.com
With Marine Le Pen chasing his votes, the French president has made labelling of halal meat an election issue. But Muslim entrepreneurs are dismayed by his shift to the right

France, Paris - Les Enfants Terribles, a chic restaurant in Paris's 12th arrondissement, was packed. Plates of halal foie gras à la maison, halal braised lamb with rosemary, and halal caramelised duck were being dispatched to tables. Fresh fruit cocktails and exotic non-alcoholic concoctions replaced glasses of wine.

Mohamed Abdenebi, 36, a history and geography teacher, was a typical diner: young, French, Muslim, dynamic - and furious. According to Abdenebi, France has let its Muslim population down. "They said to us, 'Do your studies, and you will get a job.' We did our studies but there were no jobs and they said we hadn't done the right studies. Each time there was a new obstacle."

Instead of being integrated and treated with equality, Abdenebi says the halal row shows the extent to which France's Muslims are being made to feel like "the enemy within".

Similar complaints were being heard across France. President Nicolas Sarkozy's decision to make the labelling of halal meat pivotal to his re-election campaign has infuriated, alienated and dismayed France's Muslim community, which may number as many as six million, and the backlash is growing. Members of the booming educated and entrepreneurial Muslim middle class say they are tired of being cast as scapegoats in Sarkozy's wooing of the extreme right and have accused him of dangerous and divisive election tactics.

Dollar

Bank Fees: Mega-Banks Screwing You With Sneaky Fees -- Again

bank fees
© mikeywally, via Flickr.com
Consumers were outraged when Bank of America announced a $5 debit fee last fall. Undeterred, some banks are now quietly imposing even more fees.

In recent years, the U.S. government has imposed important new regulations on big Wall Street banks -- rules designed to keep banks from preying on consumers. But ironically, the mega-banks have responded to those regulations in a decidedly anti-consumer manner, with a relentless campaign to impose unfair new fees on the very consumers the regulations were designed to protect.

For years, big shiny banks like Chase and Bank of America were where you went to get "no fee," "no hassle" checking accounts. We all got so used to seeing ads touting free checking accounts that many of us just came to accept free checking as the norm. At the same time, many of us have had our checking accounts with the same big bank (and/or the big bank that bought out our original bank) for years, giving some of us the impression that we're still getting the same great deal as when we signed up.

But think about it for a second: How many advertisements for "free checking" have you heard in recent months? Probably not very many, because free checking is no longer standard at big banks. Quietly, banks have ratcheted up the fees associated with their accounts, and now, according to research firm Moebs Services, virtually all of the big banks have stopped offering free checking accounts. At the same time, the banks have increased fees for everything from lost debit card replacements to account minimums and even the "privilege" of speaking to a bank teller -- fees that often disproportionately affect poor consumers who may have less flexible schedules and a harder time maintaining account minimums.

Info

Los Angeles Readies for a ''Levitating Mass''

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© Reuters/Fred Prouser
A woman and young boy walk past a 340-ton megalith rock, which is to be part of artist Michael Heizer's artwork Levitated Mass, as it is seen on a transport vehicle in the middle of the road, about 5 miles (8 km) from downtown Los Angeles March 9, 2012.
US, California - It weighs 340 tons, stands 21 feet, 10 inches high and measures 32 feet across. Beyond its massive size, this granite boulder being delivered to Los Angeles is no ordinary rock. It is art, or will be soon.

Last week, the huge rock embarked on an 11-day journey from the California desert to its new home at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art where it will become the centerpiece of artist Michael Heizer's Levitated Mass. He conceived of the artwork in 1968, but only discovered the right boulder six years ago while scouring a granite quarry.

It is expected to arrive in the early morning hours on Saturday and will take weeks to put in place before the installation opens to the public in late spring or early summer.

When Levitating Mass is completed, people will walk into a sort of trench in the ground underneath it, and the boulder will seem to rise in the air and hover above their heads. The museum hopes the work will become a major attraction for tourists and others at the museum.