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Heart - Black

US:Proposed Bill Would Create Domestic Violence Registry

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© AP Photo
A Woman Cries
Veronica Galaviz of Richardson is nine months free of the man who tried to first kill her before then taking his own life. Prior to that horrific night, Galaviz said that she spent years being verbally and then physically abused.

But a bill that has been proposed by State Representative Trey Martinez Fischer of San Antonio seeks to create a domestic violence registry, similar to the current sex offender registry. "Once you've been in an abusive relationship, you have some trust issues," Galaviz said. "You always have some doubts, and this would be one way to relieve some of those doubts."

"I think it's a great tool, especially for someone who doesn't have the means to do a criminal background check on a potential suitor," Galaviz added.

If the bill (House Bill 100) is passed, any individual convicted of domestic violence at least three times would be required to register as a repeat offender. The registry would be free and open to the public, and would include names, birthdates and recent photographs of the offenders.

Jan Langbein is the executive director of Genesis Women's Shelter in Dallas. "I've heard so many women over the years say, 'Gosh, I wish I could have seen this coming,'" Langbein said. "'There was no way for me to see this coming. I didn't know that his past three wives were abused by him.'"

Arrow Down

US: Home Sales Hit 13-Year Low; Slow Recovery Ahead

The number of people who bought previously owned homes last year fell to the lowest level in 13 years, and economists say it will be years before the housing market fully recovers.

High unemployment and a record number of foreclosures are deterring potential buyers who fear home prices haven't reached the bottom. Job growth is expected to pick up this year, but not enough to raise home sales to healthier levels.

"We built too many houses during the boom, and now after the crash, it will take us a long time to get back to normal," said David Wyss, chief economist at Standard & Poor's in New York.

The National Association of Realtors reported Thursday that sales dropped 4.8 percent to 4.91 million units in 2010. That was slightly fewer than in 2008, which had been the weakest year since 1997.

The poor year for sales did end on a stronger note. Buyers snapped up homes at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 5.28 million units in December, the best sales pace since May and the 12.8 percent rise from November was the biggest one-month surge in 11 years.

Briefcase

US: The Phantom 15 Million

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© John Moore/Getty Images
Anxious: Job seekers in Denver
America's jobs crisis began a decade ago. Long before the housing bubble burst and Wall Street melted down, something in our national job-creation machine went horribly wrong.

The years between the brief 2001 recession and the 2008 financial collapse gave us solid growth in our gross national product, soaring corporate profits, and a low unemployment rate - but job creation lagged stubbornly behind, more so than in any economic expansion since World War II.

The Great Recession wiped out what amounts to every U.S. job created in the 21st century. But even if the recession had never happened, if the economy had simply treaded water, the United States would have entered 2010 with 15 million fewer jobs than economists say it should have.

Somehow, rapid advancements in technology and the opening of new international markets paid dividends for American companies but not for American workers. An economy that long thrived on its dynamism, shedding jobs in outdated and less competitive industries and adding them in innovative new fields, fell stagnant in the swirls of the most globalized decade of commerce in human history.

Even now, no one really knows why.

Eye 1

US: Bonus Payments to City Retirees Are Drawing Ire

As San Francisco struggles under ballooning pension and health care costs, the city's retirees will receive unexpected cost-of-living bonuses totaling $170 million. The city's anticipated budget deficit for the coming year is $360 million.

A political battle has raged over the city's growing retirement obligations. In November, Proposition B, which would have required city workers to contribute more toward their pensions and benefits, was soundly defeated. The measure's opponents - every major elected official and energetic public-employee unions - said fears about the pension fund were overblown.

Meanwhile, the fund's fundamentals deteriorated as it gradually accounted for its huge losses in the stock market crash. It took in $414 million in contributions in 2010 but paid out $819 million.

Popcorn

US: LucasFilm spokesperson pooh-poohs George Lucas belief that world will end in 2012

George Lucas
© bananawacky/Flickr
George Lucas: another 2012er
Star Wars creator George Lucas was just kidding when he chatted with Seth Rogen about the Mayan prophecy of an apocalypse in 2012. But that hasn't stopped news sites from regurgitating Rogen's weird report that Lucas truly believes the end is near.

Even The Washington Post's Celebritology 2.0 blog got in on the action Wednesday, with a post headlined, "Does George Lucas Think the World Will End in 2012?"

While the question mark might indeed be the blogger's best friend, the answer to the query is a resounding "no."

"I spoke with George," said Lucasfilm rep Lynne Hale in an e-mail to Wired.com about this issue of obvious intergalactic importance.

"He was not serious when he talked about the end of the world in 2012 but he is an adamant believer that the world is flat, that Stonehenge was built by aliens, and that the sun revolves around the Earth," Hale said. "These are among the many subjects he commonly discusses at length with Elvis, who he's going to digitally insert into Indy 5 along with a roster of famous dead actors."

While Lucas and his associates clearly have a sense of humor about the rumor's wildfire propagation, Rogen was reportedly "left stunned" by Lucas' comments during a meeting that was also attended by Steven Spielberg, according to The Toronto Sun story that set the rumor mill buzzing.

Dollar

Communist Vietnam's $35 bowl of noodle soup

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As the communist country of Vietnam increasingly embraces the ways of capitalism, the gap between rich and poor is rapidly expanding.

I have had some odd days, but Sunday in Hanoi was certainly a very odd day.

It started off with me gawping at a preserved and somewhat waxy-looking man, then there was a taste of Vietnam's most expensive soup - and a sight of its most costly car.

Fish

Poachers toss thousands of fish

Kitty Hawk, North Carolina - WAVY.com has received numerous e-mails in regard to a major commercial trawler discard off the coast of North Carolina this past weekend. Several people have reported that trawlers fishing off the coast of the Outer Banks were caught tossing thousands of dead, or near dead, rock fish overboard. A YouTube video and several pictures emailed to WAVY.com show the fish floating everywhere.


A concerned fisherman told WAVY.com, "Commercial netters are dredging thousands of striped bass off the Outer Banks, and throwing back thousands of fish in the quest to fill their quotas with the largest fish possible. Miles of dead, floating striped bass are the result. Classic example of poorly designed fishing laws creating waste in a vulnerable and valuable fishery."

According to the Coast Guard , several fishing vessels were cited in violation of federal law, including one vessel in possession of 58 illegally caught Atlantic striped bass. The crew of the Coast Guard cutter Beluga, while on patrol, detected and intercepted the illegal poachers Friday.

Family

What happens when mom unplugs teens for 6 months?

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© Frances Andrijich
This undated photo shows Susan Maushart, second from left, with her children,from left to right, Anni, Sussy and Bill
New York - Susan Maushart lived out every parent's fantasy: She unplugged her teenagers.

For six months, she took away the Internet, TV, iPods, cell phones and video games. The eerie glow of screens stopped lighting up the family room. Electronic devices no longer chirped through the night like "evil crickets." And she stopped carrying her iPhone into the bathroom.

The result of what she grandly calls "The Experiment" was more OMG than LOL - and nothing less than an immersion in RL (real life).

Bad Guys

US: Hundreds of Yankton, South Dakota Birds Poisoned by USDA

It's happened in places like Louisiana, Arkansas and Kentucky. Hundreds of birds mysteriously found dead.

Folks in Yankton, South Dakota, thought they were being added to the list after hundreds of dead birds were found there on Monday. Turns out the unpleasant feathered discovery has a solid explanation. They were poisoned.


Some had thought 200 starlings found dead in Yankton's Riverside park had frozen to death. But they were actually poisoned on purpose, by the US Department of Agriculture.

Many of the European Starlings discovered by a passerby, were laying on the ground or frozen in trees. Officials first thought the birds were late to migrate and froze to death during the recent cold spell.

But that theory changed after Yankton police received a phone call from a USDA official who said the birds had been poisoned.

"They say that they had poisoned the birds about ten miles south of Yankton and they were surprised they came to Yankton like they did and died in our park," says Yankton Animal Control Officer Lisa Brasel.

The USDA confirms the story, saying the deaths were part of a large killing at a private feed lot in Nebraska.

Comment: USDA poisoning these birds could be one possible answer to the bird deaths in South Dakota. But there have been many bird and other animal deaths going on all over the world. Are they all unrelated? Time will tell...

Dead birds rain down on towns half a world apart

Dead birds found in Koroneia Lake, Greece

Dead Birds in China: Birds continue to fall around the world - may be a precursor to reversal of poles

Mystery as thousands of dead birds fall from sky in Australia

Romania: A Second Wave of Dead Birds

New Zealand: Mystery as sparrows drop dead

Hundreds of dead penguins wash up on Brazil shores

More mass animal deaths: Hundreds of fish meet an icy end in a frozen pond in Manchester


Heart - Black

Canada: 'Bizarre' Incest Appeal from Woman Who Married Her Son Dismissed by Court

Ontario's top court says the case of a woman who married her son, conceived several children with him and tried to pass him off as an African prince "gives new meaning to the word 'bizarre.'"

The Court of Appeal for Ontario upheld an incest conviction, as well as convictions on 46 counts of forgery and uttering forged documents, for a woman named B.D. in a decision released Thursday.

B.D. had appealed, saying the judge should have struck down DNA warrants, erred in his charge to the jury and in admitting some documents.

B.D., 47, maintains she is married to a man named Prince Wafi R. Dz., a real prince and a descendent of Nigerian or Ethiopian royalty. But, as found at her trial, her husband is really her 21-year-old son, Wafi. She also maintains that Wafi died in a volcano in the Congo, the court said.

The Appeal Court decision did not use real names, to protect the identities of the people involved, instead using fictitious names to help the decision be understood.

Psychiatric reports filed for the B.D.'s sentencing said she suffers from some delusional psychosis and is "intellectually deficient" with an IQ of 60.

The woman has seven children, including Wafi, three children fathered by Wafi and a girl named Wafu who died of natural causes at the age of two, but with characteristic traits of inbreeding, the court said.