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Spain's Unemployment Total Passes Five Million

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Spain's unemployment figure passed the five million mark in the last quarter of 2011, official figures show.
Spain's unemployment figure passed the five million mark in the last quarter of 2011, official figures show.

The National Statistics Institute said 5.3 million people were out of work at the end of December, up from 4.9 million in the third quarter.

The rate rose from 21.5% in the third quarter to 22.8% - the highest rate in nearly 17 years.

Spain already has the highest jobless rate in the 17-nation eurozone and is expected to slide back into recession.

The 22.8% rate is more than twice the average unemployment rate of the eurozone, which stood at 10.3% in November, according to data released earlier this month.

Attention

The Truth About Race & Religion in Politics

POTUS Speech
© White House Photo, Pete Souza
President Obama delivers his State of the Union address at the U.S. Capitol.

The color of a candidate's skin failed to sway voters to depress the lever for either Obama or McCain in the 2008 election, immediate analyses of that contest seemed to suggest. Some pundits hailed it as the first postracial election.

But a closer look after the election has revealed a much more nuanced picture of that historic faceoff. It turns out that as many as a fifth of the voters cared about race more than other considerations like gender, endorsements by a local newspaper or a candidate's political party.

A study by political scientist Brian F. Schaffner at the University of Massachusetts, Amherst in the December issue of Political Psychology showed that concerns about race may have meant that Obama procured 3 percent less of the vote than he would have if he were white - enough to decide an election in a close race. "It's pretty clear that if Obama were white he would have done better than he did," Schaffner says.

His finding echoes the results of similar probings by other researchers into the 2008 statistics. Schaffner's work stands out, though, because of the care that he took in trying to figure out whether a voter was trying to mask biases about the hyper-sensitive issue of race. The researcher devised what he calls an "unobtrusive observational measure" to try to elicit a voter's real opinions.

Crusader

Vatican Whistle-Blower Begged to Continue Crusade Against Corruption

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© CNS
Archbishop Vigano, now apostolic nuncio to the US, apparently said there was a corruption problem at Vatican City in a letter to Benedict XVI
A senior Vatican official who was transferred after he exposed a web of corruption begged to be allowed to continue his crusade and denounced a "vulgar and insolent" cleric behind a plot to destroy him, according to a leaked letter on Friday.

The letter from Archbishop Carlo Maria Vigano, who is now the Vatican's ambassador to Washington, will increase consternation in the Vatican which has been put on the defensive by the growing scandal.

Vigano wrote on May 8, 2011, to Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone imploring "your eminence to radically change your opinion of me," according to the letter published by the Italian daily Il Fatto Quotidiano, one of two news organizations which have been leaked the correspondence

Vigano wrote that letter nearly two months after Bertone, the second-most powerful man in the Vatican after the pope, informed him that he was being removed from his position three years before the scheduled end of his tenure.

Letters broadcast on Wednesday by the investigative program The Untouchables on the private television La7 showed Vigano was transferred against his will after complaining to Bertone and Pope Benedict about corruption and mismanagement.

Better Earth

US: 28 States to Consider Toxic Chemicals Legislation in 2012

With no action yet from Congress, state legislatures continue to work to protect citizens.

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© Safer States
The past couple years have seen unprecedented changes in the toxic chemicals landscape across the United States. In the past nine years, over 80 chemical safety laws have been passed with an overwhelming margin of bi-partisan support in statehouses across the country.

But this is not a time to rest on our laurels. Across the country, families still come into contact with unregulated toxic chemicals. Every day, we are exposed to hundreds of different chemicals in our home and at our work - chemicals like formaldehyde and chlorinated Tris which are known carcinogens, and bisphenol-a (BPA) which contributes to health problems with reproductive development.

None of these chemicals are effectively regulated by the federal government: it is a widely held myth that manufacturers even have to prove a chemical's safety before introducing it into products we buy. They don't have to, and they won't often even disclose which chemicals make up their products. Instead, they hide behind the claim that the information is proprietary.

The hope for federal regulation is still that - just a hope; the law overseeing toxic chemical regulation is over 30 years old, and its overhaul is being buffeted by strong opposition from the industry trade association which is backed by billions of dollars of influence. So while Congress tries to figure out how to change the rules on the federal level, it is up to the states to fill the gap in protection.

Boat

US: Ship Strikes Kentucky Bridge, Portion Collapses

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© Stephen Lance Dennee/AP
The Delta Mariner is draped with two spans of the Eggner's Ferry Bridge after the boat hit it on Thursday night.
'All of a sudden I see the road's gone and I hit the brakes,' motorist says

Benton - State officials are inspecting what's left of a southwestern Kentucky bridge that collapsed after a cargo ship carrying aviation parts struck it.

Kentucky Transportation Cabinet spokesman Chuck Wolfe says inspectors began the in-depth review of the Eggner Ferry Bridge at daylight Friday.

The Delta Mariner cargo ship struck the span Thursday evening. No injuries were reported. Officials were unable to say where the ship was traveling when it struck the bridge.

They said the collapse meant vehicles needing to cross the Kentucky Lake reservoir and the Tennessee River had to be detoured for dozens of miles.

Officials say about 2,800 vehicles travel daily on the bridge, which was due to be replaced.

Bad Guys

US: Bastrop Pastor Charged with Animal Cruelty Over Death of Neighbor's Cat

A pastor is being accused of throwing a neighbor's cat off of a bridge.



"Love thy neighbor" is a lesson that goes back to Leviticus, but Texas police say one pastor forgot the Golden Rule, or at least doesn't think it applies to your neighbor's cat.

Bastrop Christian Church Pastor Rick Bartlett, whose sermons promise "deliverance and renewal from wrongs suffered and caused" in life, allegedly left his neighbor's 12-year-old cat Moody in a cage in the back of his truck for three days, then chucked the pussy off a bridge where it fell 50 feet to its death on Jan. 15, according to KEYE TV.

X

Talk about a dangerous cult! Canada: Quebec woman was 'cooked to death' at retreat, coroner says

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© Postmedia News files
Chantal Lavigne’s body temperature was 40.5C when taken to hospital.
Quebec police officers have completed their report into the bizarre death of Chantale Lavigne - who was "cooked to death" at a personal development seminar - and investigators are expected to meet with the Quebec prosecutor assigned to the case as early as next week.

It will be up to the prosecutor "to decide whether any charges will be filed, and, if so, what they would be," Rene Verret, a spokesman for the prosecutor's office, said Thursday.

The manner in which Lavigne died was "very unusual," Verret noted.

An autopsy report on Lavigne's body has yet to be completed, the Quebec coroner's office said. But Radio-Canada quoted coroner Gilles Sainton as saying the 35-year-old mother of two from St. Albert, Que., "was cooked to death."

Sainton conducted that interview last November for the TV show Enquete, said Dana Deslauriers, a lawyer for the coroner's office.

Sainton wouldn't be available for any followup interview, Deslauriers added.

Nuke

US deploys 15,000 troops to Kuwait as tensions with Iran increase

US Troops
© Unknown
The US Department of Defence have deployed 15,000 troops to the Middle Eastern state of Kuwait as tensions with Iran escalate over US and EU sanctions in response to Iran's defiance to halt its nuclear programme, which claimed to have produced its first nuclear fuel rod earlier this month. On Monday the EU passed a ban on Iranian oil exports following similar action by the US on Iran's oil and Central Bank.

Iran have now threatened to blockade the Strait of Hormuz, which 35% of the World's oil shipments pass through and have been carrying out a 10 day naval exercise and missile tests. The US have stationed two nuclear powered Supercarriers in the Persian Gulf. Combined with the deployment of 15,000 troops it seems that the US is preparing for a potential conflict with Iran on all fronts. General James Mattis, who heads US Central Command got approval at the end of 2011 to station the troops in Kuwait. General Mattis believes the deployment is necessary to keep Iran in check and to ensure America is prepared for any other threats in the Middle East.

Family

US: New Hampshire Republicans Propose Bills That Prevent Police From Protecting Domestic Abuse Victims

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© ThinkProgress
Since the 1970s, New Hampshire police have operated under a progressive policy for handling domestic violence cases that has saved countless lives. Under current law the presumption is that an arrest will be made when police observe evidence of abuse. They have a large degree of discretion and don't need to witness the assault firsthand or obtain a legal warrant before they can separate the alleged attacker from his victim.

All that will change if Republicans get their way. The state's GOP legislators are pushing two bills that will reverse a half century of progress, the Concord Monitor reports:

Better Earth

US: Earthjustice Coalition Sues Navy- Training Blasts Marine Mammals with Harmful Sonar

Southern Resident orcas.
© Kelly Balcomb-Bartok
Wildlife protection agency challenged for not doing its job.

San Francisco, California - A coalition of conservation and American Indian groups today sued the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) for failing to protect thousands of whales, dolphins, porpoises, seals, and sea lions from U.S. Navy warfare training exercises along the coasts of California, Oregon, and Washington.

Earthjustice, representing InterTribal Sinkyone Wilderness Council, Center for Biological Diversity, Friends of the Earth, Friends of the San Juans, Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), and People For Puget Sound, today filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court for the District of Northern California challenging NMFS's approval of the Navy's training activities in its Northwest Training Range Complex. The lawsuit calls on NMFS to mitigate anticipated harm to marine mammals and biologically critical areas within the training range that stretches from Northern California to the Canadian border.
"These training exercises will harm dozens of protected species of marine mammals - Southern Resident killer whales, blue whales, humpback whales, dolphins, and porpoises - through the use of high-intensity mid-frequency sonar," said Steve Mashuda, an Earthjustice attorney representing the groups. "The Fisheries Service fell down on the job and failed to require the Navy to take reasonable and effective actions to protect them."
The Navy uses a vast area of the West Coast for training activities including anti-submarine warfare exercises involving tracking aircraft and sonar; surface-to-air gunnery and missile exercises; air-to-surface bombing exercises; sink exercises; and extensive testing for several new weapons systems.