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US: The scandal of the Alabama poor cut off from water

poor no water
© Unknown
The poorest citizens in Birmingham, Alabama, say they can no longer afford running water.
Banks stand to lose millions of dollars in debt repayments if the biggest municipal bankruptcy in American history is allowed to proceed.

But the real victims of the financial collapse in the US state of Alabama's most populous county are its poorest residents - forced to bathe in bottled water and use portable toilets after being cut off from the mains supply.

And there is widespread anger in Jefferson County that swingeing sewerage rate hikes could have been avoided but for the greed, corruption and incompetence of local politicians, government officials and Wall Street financiers.

Tammy Lucas is the human face of a financial and political scandal that has brought one of the most deprived communities in America's south to the point of what some local people believe is collapse.

She says: "If the sewer bill gets higher, my light might get cut off and if I try to catch up the light, my water might get cut off. So we're in between. We can't make it like this."

Mrs Lucas's monthly sewerage rate bills - the amount levied by the county to flush away waste and provide water for baths and showers - has quadrupled in the past 15 years. She says it is currently running at $150 (£97) a month, which leaves little left out of her $600 social security cheque for food and electricity.

"We need to keep the water running because we're women," she says. "We need to take baths. I try to pay the sewer bill and the water bill together and then what little I got left I try to put on my lights. I got to have lights."

Stormtrooper

Will Russia let the United States start a war in mid-January?

Syria

Syria
The Western media has showcased the latest report from Human Rights Watch, "By All Means Necessary!", wherein it is alleged that crimes against humanity were committed under the authority of President Bashar al-Assad. At no time does the press inquire about the identity of the authors or the methodology of the report.

The Atlanticist press has hailed the Russian resolution proposal to the Security Council as a sign that Moscow has come around to Washington's views. However, the newspapers have not seen the full text, but only a few sentences quoted by Reuters.

The Canadian press echoes the call of its Foreign Minister for all Canadian citizens to leave Syria not later than mid-January, when their evacuation will become problematic. It is not clear what disaster is anticipated around this date.

Play

Occupy Psychopaths 1 (OWS vs. the Pathology of the 1%)

An Occupy Wall Street activist explains why he thinks it is very important to spread knowledge about psychopaths and psychopathy.

Find out about the important connection between psychopaths and the ruling 1%.

This is not taught in schools (but should be).


Heart

Iceland recognizes state of Palestine

Iceland has become the first Western European country to formally recognize the Palestinian Territories as an independent state. The announcement was made by Iceland's Foreign Minister, in the presence of his Palestinian counterpart.

Ossur Skarphedinsson, Iceland's Foreign Minister said, "This is the day when we formally submit to you our declaration where we say that Iceland recognizes the full sovereignty of the Palestinian people of Palestine on the basis of the borders pre 1967. And Iceland didn't only talk the talk, we walked the walk, we stood by our word, we have supported the Palestinian cause and today will not be the end of that. We will continue to do so."

Attention

Trust me, an infamous serial liar says

Image
© CNN
Stephen Glass was considered a brilliant 25-year-old Washington journalist before he was unmasked as a serial faker.
Stephen Glass, the whiz-kid magazine writer exposed 13 years ago as a serial fabricator, is telling what may be his most compelling story yet -- his own. He swears he's not making it up, and he's asking California's highest court to believe him and give him a chance.

Glass, who graduated in 2000 from Georgetown's law school, works as a paralegal for a firm in Beverly Hills, California. But he really wants to be a lawyer, and he insists he's remorseful, reformed and committed to telling the truth. Others aren't so sure, which is why a bar application that usually would be a no-brainer is taking five years and counting.

There is no question that Glass is brilliant, and he easily passed the bar exams in New York and California. But his budding legal career has become snagged on the jagged rocks of good character and moral fitness.

The latest installment in the infamous fabulist's saga is contained in a thick file at the California Supreme Court. Opened to the public late last month, it finally offers an explanation for why Glass once felt driven to publish lie after lie, and then lie some more to cover it all up. But this case also raises some difficult questions: Can he, should he be forgiven? Is his redemption even possible? Or, once a liar, always a liar?

Cult

Catholic Church Rocked by Dutch Abuse Scandal

Another child abuse scandal has hit the Catholic Church - this time in the Nertherlands.


Two of the church's organisations gave an independent commission the task of investigating incidents ranging from touching to rape within the Dutch church between 1945 and 2010. The church's response to these matters was also examined.

Chairman of the investigating committee, Wim Deetman said there was a large amount of victims: "The number of children under the age of 18 that were sexually abused while spending part of their lives in a catholic orphanage or boarding school in the Netherlands is between 10,000-20,000."

Findings from the commission detailing cover-ups by authorities have lead to the Dutch church offering a 'heartfelt apology' for the way previous abuse was handled.

People

Palestinian women: Our problems are worse in Jerusalem

For Palestinian women, life in Israel, the West Bank, Gaza and elsewhere can be difficult but it is especially challenging for those living in Jerusalem.

"Palestinian women in Jerusalem live a conundrum of being stuck between being directly governed by the occupying Israeli authorities and the traditional, patriarchal structure of Palestinian families," said Eida Eisawi, a women's rights researcher at the Women's Studies Centre in Jerusalem.

Mrs Eisawi spoke at a conference last week attended by 200 Palestinian mothers, daughters and sisters, who shared stories about trauma and abuse.

The male-dominated family structure in Jerusalem has in many ways been "reinforced" by Palestinians' mistrust of Israeli authorities in the city, she said. Rather than report crime such as rape to Israeli police, families tended to sort out issues at home. But that usually meant that men were left to arbitrate disputes, a process that rarely favours women.

Arrow Down

US: Bradley Manning's Attorney in WikiLeaks Case Seeks Presiding Officer's Recusal

Image
© Mark Wilson / Getty Images
Pfc. Bradley Manning (middle) is accused of disclosing diplomatic cables and intelligence reports to WikiLeaks.
The military pretrial hearing for Pfc. Bradley Manning opened contentiously Friday, with his defense attorney arguing that the presiding officer lacked the impartiality to render fair judgment in a case growing out of the release of a trove of government secrets to WikiLeaks last year.

Manning, 23, could face the death penalty or life in prison if he goes to trial and is found guilty of all charges related to the alleged leaking of hundreds of thousands of secret U.S. documents.

His attorney said Army Lt. Col. Paul Almanza, a reservist who also works for the Justice Department, could not be unbiased, citing that department's ongoing investigation of WikiLeaks co-founder Julian Assange.

"That simple fact alone, without anything else, would cause a reasonable person to say, 'I question your impartiality,' " the attorney, David E. Coombs, told Almanza, who works in the child exploitation unit of the Justice Department.

Almanza, formally known as the investigating officer in the hearing, rejected a request for recusal after considering it during a recess. He said his unit has no involvement in the case or in national security issues.

Wall Street

US: Protesters Occupy Goldman Sachs

vampire squid goldman sachs
© Robert Johnson — Business Insider
"The first thing you need to know about Goldman Sachs is that it's everywhere. The world's most powerful investment bank is a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity..." -Matt Taibbi, Rolling Stone

It is not warm on West Street at 8:30 AM on December 12, and the wind coming simultaneously off the Hudson River to the west and New York harbor to the south doesn't make it very much balmier. But if 50,000 people can take to the streets of Moscow because they object to their democracy being gamed by the elites, Occupy Wall Street won't let a little chill get in its way.

The reason several hundred protesters have congregated on West Street is that Goldman Sachs can be found there. And, today, Occupy Wall Street has gone squidding just outside. The idea comes from Matt Taibbi's "nailed-it" description of the banking giant as "a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money." Many umbrellas sporting makeshift tentacles and ad hoc hats with angry squid eyes cap the march, which leaves simultaneously from two locations: City Hall and Zuccotti Park.

Hourglass

UK: Supreme Court Grants Assange Right to Appeal

J Assange
© Paul Hackett/Reuters
Julian Assange, the founder of the WikiLeaks, won a new reprieve on Friday when the Supreme Court here agreed to hear his appeal on an order extraditing him to Sweden to answer accusations of sexual misbehavior.

In the latest maneuver in a legal battle that has lasted over a year, the Supreme Court set his appeal date for February. If the Supreme Court rejects his argument, Mr. Assange will still be able to appeal to the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg, according to a statement by Britain's Crown Prosecution Service, acting for the Swedish prosecutors' office. If that court declined to take the case, he would be returned to Sweden.

Mr. Assange has been living under house arrest at a friend's country mansion in eastern England as the case grinds along. In earlier hearings, his lawyers claimed that sending him to Sweden would be "unfair and unlawful." But three lower courts approved the extradition. The statement from the Supreme Court on Friday said a panel of three senior judges had "granted permission to appeal and a hearing has been scheduled for two days, beginning on February 1, 2012."