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US: Controversial Air Force Casket Photo Prompts Investigation

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© unknown
This controversial photo has launched an Air Force investigation
The Air Force has launched an investigation into a controversial photo that shows several non-commissioned officers posing with an open casket, in which a fellow airman poses with a noose around his neck and chains over his body.

The Air Force Times received a copy of the photo over email, which includes the caption, "Da Dumpt, Da Dumpt .... Sucks 2 Be U." The casket is similar to those used to transport deceased U.S. soldiers home from the battlefield.

Air Force Secretary Michael Donley told the paper that investigators were mounting an inquiry of the grief the image might cause for families of fallen service members. "We take this matter seriously. [Air Education and Training Command] has initiated a commander directed investigation," Donley said in a statement.

Nuke

Cold shutdown': Japan reactor now stable, PM says

Tokyo - The tsunami-devastated Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power plant has reached a "cold shutdown" and is no longer leaking substantial amounts of radiation, Japan's prime minister said Friday.

Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda's announcement marks a milestone nine months after the March 11 tsunami sent three reactors at the plant into meltdowns in the worst nuclear crisis since Chernobyl.

"Even if unforeseeable incidents happen, the situation is such that radiation levels on the boundary of the plant can now be maintained at a low level," Noda said at the government's nuclear emergency response meeting.

However, experts noted that the plant remains vulnerable to more problems and will take decades to decommission the plant.

Located 150 miles northeast of Tokyo, the plant was wrecked on March 11 by a huge earthquake and a tsunami that exceeded 45 feet in some areas, which knocked out its cooling systems, triggering meltdowns and radiation leaks.

The crisis displaced some 100,000 people. Officials are to start discussing allowing some residents to return to less contaminated areas. A 12-mile zone around the plant is expected to remain mostly off-limits for years.

Comment: If a person breezed pass the title, they might have got the impression there was only one reactor at the Dai-ichi power plant.
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© Unknown

How much Radiation leaked out Mr. Prime Minister? "Substantial amounts of radiation." Do you have some form of measurement for each type of Radiation that leaked?

How is it possible that "radiation levels on the boundary of the plant can now be maintained at a low level" is it a new technology, hocus-pocus-alakhazam, or are you just blowing smoke Prime Minister Yoshihiko Noda?

So far as "unforeseeable incidents" happening, there was an unforeseeable Earthquake/Tsunami. Is it now that, even if a repeat were to happen, that everything will somehow now endure?


People

China - Inside Wukan: The Chinese Village That Fought Back

Wukan Villagers
© Malcom Moore
Thousands of Wukan's residents gathered for a second day in front of a triple-roofed pagoda that serves as the village hall.

For the first time on record, the Chinese Communist party has lost all control, with the population of 20,000 in this southern fishing village now in open revolt.

The last of Wukan's dozen party officials fled on Monday after thousands of people blocked armed police from retaking the village, standing firm against tear gas and water cannons.

Since then, the police have retreated to a roadblock, some three miles away, in order to prevent food and water from entering, and villagers from leaving. Wukan's fishing fleet, its main source of income, has also been stopped from leaving harbour.

The plan appears to be to lay siege to Wukan and choke a rebellion which began three months ago when an angry mob, incensed at having the village's land sold off, rampaged through the streets and overturned cars.

Although China suffers an estimated 180,000 "mass incidents" a year, it is unheard of for the Party to sound a retreat.

Christmas Tree

Census shows 1 in 2 people are poor or low-income

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© dbaldinger
Washington - Squeezed by rising living costs, a record number of Americans - nearly 1 in 2 - have fallen into poverty or are scraping by on earnings that classify them as low income.

The latest census data depict a middle class that's shrinking as unemployment stays high and the government's safety net frays. The new numbers follow years of stagnating wages for the middle class that have hurt millions of workers and families.

"Safety net programs such as food stamps and tax credits kept poverty from rising even higher in 2010, but for many low-income families with work-related and medical expenses, they are considered too 'rich' to qualify," said Sheldon Danziger, a University of Michigan public policy professor who specializes in poverty.

"The reality is that prospects for the poor and the near poor are dismal," he said. "If Congress and the states make further cuts, we can expect the number of poor and low-income families to rise for the next several years."

Congressional Republicans and Democrats are sparring over legislation that would renew a Social Security payroll tax cut, part of a year-end political showdown over economic priorities that could also trim unemployment benefits, freeze federal pay and reduce entitlement spending.

X

US: Vermont Fraternity Asks Members Who They Want to Rape

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© Flickr/Nigsby
The University of Vermont has temporarily suspended the fraternity Sigma Phi Epsilon after one their members sent out a survey asking his brothers who they would like to rape.

Sigma Phi Epsilon - or SigEp - was already on probation for alcohol abuses, but this latest incident prompted university authorities to contact the national fraternity and the police.

While the survey began with ordinary questions like major and favorite memories, the final question shocked students and members of the UVM administration.

"If I could rape someone, who would it be?" the survey asked.

According to student blogs, the survey was leaked when one SigEp brother mistakenly emailed it to a teaching assistant. One blog alleged that same student had been accused of rape, WCAX reported.

Megaphone

Iraqis Mark End of US Occupation

Thousands of Iraqis have taken into the streets in the western city of Fallujah to celebrate the withdrawal of US troops from the country.
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© unknown
Iraqi protesters burned Israeli and US flags during a rally in Fallujah to celebrate the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, Dec. 14, 2011.

Burning US and Israeli flags and carrying photos of Fallujah residents killed by US forces after the 2003 US-led invasion, the demonstrators on Wednesday described resistance against American invaders key to their country's freedom.

The demonstration was dubbed the first annual "festival to celebrate the role of the resistance".

"Celebrations mark a historical day for the city of Fallujah and we should remember in pride the martyrs who sacrificed their blood for the sake of this city," Reuters quoted Dhabi al-Arsan, deputy governor of Anbar province, as saying.

Handcuffs

US: '5,000-Plus Occupy Protesters Arrested'

The US police have arrested over 5,000 people attending anti-corporatism protests across the country over the past three months, a report says.
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© unknown
A protester is arrested near the Occupy Portland encampment in the city of Portland, Oregon in northwestern US on November 13, 2011.

There have been 5,425 arrests during Occupy protests in 94 cities across the United States up to December 12, according to St. Pete for Peace, an Occupy-affiliated group from St. Petersburg, Florida.

The group says it only tracks 'confirmed arrests.'

It says its list represents "a running total of the number of Occupy protesters arrested around the US since the Occupy Wall Street movement began [in September]."

Info

Egyptians Head to Polls Again in Landmark Election

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© Agence France-Presse/Mohammed Abed
Balloting began Wednesday with a "large voter turnout," said Hamdi Badeen, a member of the ruling council
Egyptians were headed to the polls again on Thursday in a phased election to choose the first post-revolution parliament, as liberals faced an uphill battle to compete with Islamist parties.

Ten months after a popular uprising ended Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule, the country's new political landscape looks set to be dominated by Islamist parties which clinched two thirds of the votes in the opening stage of the election.

Polling stations are due to open at 8:00 am (0600 GMT) in a third of the country's 27 provinces.

Voters are required to cast three ballots: two for individual candidates and one for a party or coalition, in the assembly's 498 seats. The ruling military council which took power when Mubarak was ousted in February will nominate a further 10 deputies.

The second round of the three-stage polls takes place in Cairo's twin city of Giza; Beni Sueif south of the capital; the Nile Delta provinces of Menufiya, Sharqiya and Beheira; the canal cities of Ismailiya and Suez and the southern cities Sohag and Aswan.

Airplane

US: F.A.A. Approves iPads in Cockpits, but Not for Passengers

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© unknown
The Federal Aviation Administration said Tuesday that pilots on American Airlines flights would be allowed to use iPads instead of paper flight manuals in the cockpit starting Friday, as reported by ZDNet, even during takeoff and landing. But passengers are still required to shut down anything with the slightest electronic pulse from the moment a plane leaves the gate until it reaches an altitude of 10,000 feet.

The rule barring passengers from using a Kindle, an iPad or even a calculator were originally made to protect the electronics of an aircraft from interference. Yet pilots with iPads will be enclosed in the cockpit just a few inches from critical aviation equipment.

There is some thought that the rule forbidding devices during takeoff and landing was made to ensure that passengers paid attention. The F.A.A. has never claimed this. (If this was the case, passengers would not be allowed to have books, magazines or newspapers during takeoff and landing.)

The F.A.A.'s stance regarding devices on planes has been revised several times. Last month, in my weekly Disruptions column, I noted that the rules requiring passengers to turn off devices, like Kindles and iPads, seem outdated. At the time I spoke with Les Dorr, a spokesman for the F.A.A., who said the reason for the ban was that the agency would rather err on the side of caution when it came to allowing digital devices on planes.

Dollar

US: Salvation Army Issues Urgent Plea For Help

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© Getty Images
Salvation Army Bell Ringers collect funds for charity.
Times are tough in metro Detroit, so much so that red kettles are as silent as mice, with very little cheerful clanging of change.

The Salvation Army of Metro Detroit is still $5 million away from reaching its $8.2 million 2011 Red Kettle Campaign fundraising goal, and 9 percent below its fundraising pace from last year. Scrambling, the charity issued an "urgent plea" for help Wednesday.

"With 16.8 percent of Michigan residents living in poverty - the highest percentage in four decades - we simply can't afford to miss making our goal of $8.2 million this year," said Major Mark Anderson, general secretary and metro Detroit area commander for The Salvation Army of Metro Detroit.

"We are counting on the generosity of metro Detroiter's to help us keep doing the most good this holiday season and throughout the entire year."

The financial goal of this year's kettle campaign is slightly higher than the funds collected last year, said Major Curtiss Hartley, divisional youth officer of the Salvation Army in Metro Detroit. Why raise the goal when money is so hard to come by?