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Anti-austerity strike to bring Greece to a standstill

Greek workers walk off the job on Wednesday in a nationwide anti-austerity strike that will disrupt transport, shut public schools and tax offices and leave hospitals working with emergency staff.

Antonis Samaras
© Reuters/John Kolesidis
Greece's Prime Minister Antonis Samaras (2nd L) attends the ''Initiative Against the Crisis'' news conference by Stavros Niarchos foundation at Zappeion hall in Athens February 18, 2013.
Greece's two biggest labor unions plan to bring much of the near-bankrupt country to a standstill during a 24-hour strike over the cuts, which they say only deepen the plight of a people struggling to get through the country's worst peacetime downturn.

Representing about 2.5 million workers, the unions have gone on strike repeatedly since Europe's debt crisis erupted in late 2009, testing the government's will to implement necessary reforms in the face of growing public anger.

"The (strike) is our answer to the dead-end policies that have squeezed the life out of workers, impoverished society and plunged the economy into recession and crisis," said the private sector union GSEE, which is organizing the walkout with its public sector sister union ADEDY.

"Our struggle will continue for as long as these policies are implemented," it said.

Prime Minister Antonis Samaras's eight-month-old coalition government has been eager to show it will implement reforms it promised the European Union and International Monetary Fund, which have bailed Athens out twice with over 200 billion euros.

It has taken a tough line on striking workers, invoking emergency law twice this year to order seamen and subway workers back to the job after week-long walkouts that paralyzed public transport in Athens and led to food shortages on islands.

But in a sign it is buckling under pressure, it announced on Monday it would not fire almost 1,900 civil servants earmarked for possible dismissal, despite promising foreign lenders it would seek to cut the public payroll.


Nurse 'banned' from caring for newborn because of skin color, lawsuit claims

Tonya Battle is suing her employers at Hurley Medical Center.
A Michigan nurse claims she was banned from caring for a newborn child because of her skin color.

Tonya Battle is suing her employers at Hurley Medical Center, in Flint, after they ordered her not to look after the baby in the neonatal intensive care unit following a request from its father, WNEM reports.

The lawsuit states: "The father told the [nurse in charge] that he did not want an African Americans taking care of his baby."

It adds that, during the conversation with Battle's supervisor, the father rolled up his sleeve to reveal a tattoo of a Swastika.


More than a dozen injured in Kansas City gas blast, fire, official says

© The Associated Press/KCTV
Feb. 19, 2013: In this image taken from video from KCTV, firefighters battle a massive fire at Country Club Plaza in Kansas City, Mo.
Kansas City, Missouri - A massive fire triggered by a gas explosion engulfed an entire block of an upscale Kansas City shopping district and injured more than a dozen people, a city official said Tuesday evening.

City Manager Troy Schulte said he did not know of anyone being reported missing and had not heard of any fatalities.

The cause of the explosion was not immediately known, but Schulte said it is believed that an accident involving a utility contractor may have caused the blast.

Fox4KC.com reports that witnesses said the explosion was like an earthquake. The station said there were reports of blown-out windows and minor damage inside apartments near the blast.

Kansas City Fire Chief Paul Berardi said late Tuesday that cadaver dogs were searching the smoldering remains of a restaurant that burned to the ground following the explosion and blaze.

Berardi said the search for possible victims could take hours and that he expected his crews to be at the scene through the night.

While officials have said they have no reports of fatalities, Berardi noted, "I would always fear there are fatalities in a scene like this."


At least four dead, two wounded in California shooting and carjacking spree

© Laszlo Halasi / Shutterstock.com
A shooting rampage left four people dead and at least two people wounded in California on Monday.

Orange County Sheriff's Department Jim Amormino told the Orange Country Register that a man went on a shooting spree that began with the death of a person at a home in Red Leaf at about 5:20 a.m.

The suspect then fled in a SUV and shot a person, who was not fatally wounded, while trying to steal a car the area Red Hill Avenue in Tustin. Reports indicated that a driver was shot and killed near Village Way and the 55 freeway during a second carjacking.

In the process of stealing another car in near Edinger and Newport Avenue, the shooter killed a person and a second person was injured.

Police eventually located the suspected shooter driving on the 55 freeway.

That's when "the suspect shot and killed himself," according to Tustin Police Department Lt. Paul Garaven said.


Body found in Los Angeles hotel water tank may be missing Canadian tourist

© Reuters/Los Angeles Police Department/Handout
Elisa Lam of Vancouver, British Columbia, is seen in this undated handout photo provided by the Los Angeles Police Department.
Los Angeles - A body was found in a large water tank on top of a downtown Los Angeles hotel on Tuesday which may be a 21-year-old Canadian woman who went missing under suspicious circumstances while staying there late last month, police said.

Elisa Lam, a student from Vancouver, British Columbia, who was visiting southern California on her own, was last seen at the Cecil Hotel on January 31. Local authorities had characterized her disappearance as suspicious.

A security video taken in an elevator at the hotel and released by the Los Angeles Police Department last week showed Lam acting strangely, hiding in a corner and repeatedly peering around the elevator doors into the hallway.

A Los Angeles police spokeswoman confirmed that a body had been found in one of four large water tanks on top of the Cecil Hotel early on Tuesday after a maintenance worker went up to investigate reports of low water pressure.

The spokeswoman said police detectives were on the scene, but had not yet determined whether the remains were those of the missing woman.

Source: Reuters


Autopsy finds that Maryland man with Down syndrome died of asphyxia while in police custody

© Unknown
Frederick - The Frederick County Sheriff's Office says the death of a mentally disabled man in police custody has been ruled a homicide.

Cpl. Jennifer Bailey said Friday that the state medical examiner determined that 26-year-old Robert Saylor of New Market died of asphyxia Jan. 12.

Saylor had Down syndrome.

Bailey says he died after resisting arrest by three deputies at a Frederick movie theater. An employee had called police because Saylor wouldn't leave his seat after a movie.

Bailey says Saylor cursed at the deputies. She says he became medically distressed while they were escorting him in handcuffs from the theater.


Profiting from human misery

© AP/Mel Evans

A row of beds inside the Elizabeth Detention Center.
Marela, an undocumented immigrant in her 40s, stood outside the Elizabeth Detention Center in Elizabeth, N.J., on a chilly afternoon last week. She was there with a group of protesters who appear at the facility's gates every year on Ash Wednesday to decry the nation's immigration policy and conditions inside the center. She was there, she said, because of her friend Evelyn Obey.

Obey, 40, a Guatemalan and the single mother of a 12-year-old and a 6-year-old, was picked up in an immigration raid as she and nine other undocumented workers walked out of an office building they cleaned in Newark, N.J. Her two children instantly lost their only parent. She languished in detention. Another family took in the children, who never saw their mother again. Obey died in jail in 2010 from, according to the sign Villar had hung on her neck, "pulmonary thromboembolism, chronic bronchiolitis and emphysema and remote cardiac Ischemic Damage.' "


Yemeni warplane crashes in residential district of capital, killing 11

© Khaled Abdullah / Reuters
Military personnel and firefighters try to extinguish a fire at the site of an aircraft crash in Sanaa, Yemen on Feb. 19, 2013.
A Yemeni air force plane crashed in the centre of the capital Sanaa on Tuesday, killing at least 11 people and wounding 15, security sources said.

The Ministry of Defense said in a text message that the plane had been on a training flight when it came down in a western residential district.

Pictures of the crash on social media sites showed one body near burning wreckage of the aircraft. Several cars were on fire and debris littered the street. A security official said without elaborating that the pilot had ejected from the plane.

Heart - Black

ChristianMingle date rape victims sought by California cops

A suspected rapist accused of sexually assaulting a woman he met on ChristianMingle.com may have used the dating site to prey on women while he traveled across the country, California police said today.

Sean Patrick Banks, 37, a former Navy sailor, used a fake name to contact a woman who he allegedly raped in November, cops in La Mesa, Calif., said. Investigators believe that he used additional aliases to contact other women on the popular website and police hope that if there are additional victims they will recognize Banks.

Banks lives in Del Mar, Calif., and is currently unemployed but previously "travelled frequently around various spots in the U.S." for work, widening the search for potential victims from Southern California to across the country, said La Mesa Police spokesman Lt. Matt Nicholass.


Nestle finds horsemeat in beef pasta meals

© Reuters/Joao Vieria
A Nestle logo is pictured on a factory in Orbe April 20, 2012.
London - Nestle (NESN.VX), the world's biggest food company, has removed beef pasta meals from sale in Italy and Spain after finding traces of horse DNA.

The discovery of horsemeat in products labeled as beef has spread across Europe since last month, prompting product withdrawals, consumer anger and government investigations into the continent's complex food-processing chains.

Swiss-based Nestle, which just last week said its products had not been affected by the scandal, said its tests had found more than 1 percent horse DNA in two products.

"We have informed the authorities accordingly," Nestle said in a statement on Monday. "There is no food safety issue."

Nestle withdrew two chilled pasta products, Buitoni Beef Ravioli and Beef Tortellini, in Italy and Spain,