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Snakes in Suits

David Koch now taking aim at Hurricane Sandy victims

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© AP Photo
Billionaire David Koch's prime political organization, Americans for Prosperity (AFP), having failed in its $125 million quest to oust President Barack Obama, is now aiming at a slightly less sophisticated political target: victims of Hurricane Sandy.

Hurricane Sandy was the second most costly in American history, leaving 100 lives lost, over $50 billion in devastation and tens of thousands of damaged or destroyed homes. Legislative efforts to help those who survived Hurricane Sandy's wrath will reach a major stumbling block.

Earlier this week, AFP, which is chaired by Koch and believed to be financed by several other plutocrats from the New York City region, released a letter warning members of Congress not to vote for the proposed federal aid package for victims of the storm that swept New Jersey, New York City and much of the surrounding area in October. An announcement on the group's website says that the vote next week for the Sandy aid package will be a "key vote" - meaning senators who support sending money for reconstruction could face an avalanche of attack ads in their next election. Already, opposition to the bill is growing, although it passed one procedural hurdle last night.

There is some legitimate criticism with aspects of the legislation, including the fact that some of the money will go to non-Sandy related reconstruction efforts in disaster areas. For AFP, however, the whole bill must die and victims of the storm deserve no help from the government.

Koch's top deputy in New Jersey, a surly gentleman named Steve Lonegan, who heads the local AFP state chapter, called the aid package a "disgrace." "This is not a federal government responsibility," Lonegan told reporters. "We need to suck it up and be responsible for taking care of ourselves."

Pistol

Teachers flocked to a free gun training course after the Newtown massacre

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Cori Sorensen, a fourth grade teacher from Highland Elementary School in Highland, Utah, receives firearms training with a .357 magnum from personal defense instructor Jim McCarthy during concealed weapons training for 200 Utah teachers
As the gun-control debate rages in the US teachers are being given free weapons training by lobby groups - but the move has been condemned as a 'horrible, terrible, no-good, rotten idea'.

It is among the latest efforts to arm or train teachers to confront assailants after gunman Adam Lanza killed his mother and then went on a rampage through the elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut, killing 20 children and six adults before killing himself.

Nearly 200 teachers in Utah took six hours of free gun training offered by the state's leading gun lobby.

Elementary school teacher Jessica Fiveash, who learned on Thursday how to use a 9 mm Ruger with a laser sight, said: 'If we have the ability to stop something, we should do it.'

In Ohio, a firearms group said it was launching a test program in tactical firearms training for 24 teachers. In Arizona, the attorney geeral is proposing a change to state law that would allow an educator in each school to carry a gun.

The moves to train teachers come after the National Rifle Association proposed placing an armed officer at each of the nation's schools, though some schools already have police officers. Parents and educators have questioned how safe the proposal would keep children and whether it would be economically feasible.

Stop

Baby recliner 'Nap Nanny' recalled after five deaths

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Major U.S. stores are recalling a popular baby recliner after reports of five fatalities, according to the U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission Thursday.

The commission said the recliners contain defects in the design" that "pose a substantial risk of injury and death to infants," and have contributed to five infant deaths. The recall applies to the Nap Nanny Generations One and Two and also the Chill model of infant recliners.

There have been 92 reports of infants "hanging or falling out over the side of the Nap Nanny, even though most of the infants had been placed in the harness," said the commission.

The recliners are made by Baby Matters, which is based in Berwyn, Pa. The commission said the company was "unable or unwilling to participate in the recall."

The commission filed a complaint against Baby Matters earlier this month. The product was originally recalled in 2010 after reports of one death.
Diapers.com and Babies R Us also participated in the recall.

Powertool

As if dentists weren't scary enough: Dental drill comes loose, falls down patient's throat

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A dental implant surgery turned into a nightmare as the dentist's drill came unstuck, fell down the patient's throat and landed in her right lung, an accident which has now been reported to the authorities.

The patient, a 60-year-old woman, was having dental implant surgery at Västmanland County Hospital in Västerås, in central Sweden.

During surgery, the drill came loose from the grip and fell into her mouth. She was quickly pulled into a sitting position, but it was too late.

"She tried to spit it out, and was made to cough, but she'd already swallowed," the hospital's medical chief Per Weitz told The Local.

As she was lying down when it happened, the woman swallowed reflexively, and the three-centimetre long drill was gone, he explained.

The woman was immediately taken to be x-rayed, which revealed that the drill had lodged in her right lung. An immediate bronchoscopy was performed to remove it.

"A pinky-sized tube was sent into her lung with a small camera and pliers to grab hold of the drill," explained Weitz.

Dollars

Paypal accused in €960m lawsuit

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A French software engineer has demanded €960million in damages from Paypal after accusing it of stealing his idea for a secure online payment system.

José Montet lodged his claim with the Tribunal de Grande Instance in Paris, saying that Paypal's success - and its €1.5billion buyout by eBay in 2002 - was based on his copyrighted system.

He said he had first started researching a way to make online transactions more secure 12 years ago. Credit card fraud was soaring with thieves using easy-to-find card numbers and he hit on the idea of using an email address as part of the security procedure.

Mr Montet spent some time in 2000 trying to sell the idea to several major companies, including LCI and the Groupement des Cartes Bancaires, and lodged details of his "secret mail" system with the Agence Française de Protection des Programmes (APP) and then, a few days later, with the US Copyright Office.

But, despite spending time and money on the project he did not find anyone willing to back him and moved on to other work.

Pills

4 charged in synthetic drug overdoses in North Dakota, Minnesota

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© North Dakota Police
Charles Carlton is one of four people charged in the synthetic drugs overdose case.
Federal prosecutors in North Dakota have charged four men with conspiring to import and sell controlled substances used to make synthetic hallucinogenic drugs, including drugs made by a self-described "hobby chemist" from Grand Forks that killed two teens and led to several overdoses in the area.

In an indictment unsealed Wednesday, prosecutors describe Charles Carlton, a 28-year-old man from Katy, Texas, as the "leader, organizer, manager and supervisor" of a conspiracy to import controlled substances from Asia and Europe and resell them over the Internet to domestic buyers.

Prosecutors say Carlton imported hallucinogenic chemicals from China, the U.K., Austria, Poland, Greece, Spain, and Canada through a business he used, Motion Resources LLC, which were then distributed throughout the U.S. They say Carlton and the other defendants had the imports sent to various addresses throughout the country in an attempt to evade law enforcement.

Among those who bought chemicals from the company was Andrew Spofford, who was one of a dozen people from the Grand Forks area charged in the investigation into the June drug deaths of Christian Bjerk, 18, of Grand Forks, and Elijah Stai, 17, of Park Rapids, Minn.

Pistol

Gun found in teddy bear opened by 8-year-old foster child

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© Sheeba Anderson
An 8-year-old foster child found a gun in a teddy bear she opened on Christmas day in New York City, according to a Dec. 28 Huffington Post report. Natasha Brunson, 8, had to be thrilled when she opened the mom and teddy bear gift, but shortly after, the pistol was found with the teddy bear set.

The gun fell out of the package, and at first the foster family believed it was another gift. However, they soon realized it was a weapon. The gun did not have a firing pin, and the serial numbers had been filed off. Obviously somebody was just doing something odd with this donated gift, which is really sad.

Natasha's foster mother Sheeba Anderson picked up the bag of toys from St. Anthony's Church in Soho. She said,

"This is something you never expect on Christmas. I feel like we narrowly avoided what could have been a terrible disaster. I couldn't calm down all day."

Attention

Unemployment in France at highest since 1998

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The number of people looking for work in France has reached its highest level in nearly 15 years.

Unemployment rose by 0.9 percent in November to 3.13 million, the highest since January 1998.

It represents an increase of 10.8% year on year and is the 18th consecutive month that unemployment has risen.

Including those who are working a reduced number of hours, the number of people seeking work in France stands at 4.61 million - up 9.2% on last year.

Eye 2

GOP Senator Mitch McConnell blocks unemployment benefits for 2 million Americans

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) is demanding that government spending cuts be made to pay for an extension to the federal unemployment insurance program, which expires on Dec. 31, 2012, reports the Associated Press.

Without the extension, about two million people will lose their unemployment insurance. On top of that, another million will see their benefits run out after January 2013.

However, Sen. McConnell has not required the Bush tax cuts, which benefit the very wealthy, to be offset by any government spending cuts.

Dollars

Carrefour fined over unpaid breaks

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Supermarket chain Carrefour has been ordered to pay some of its staff for rest breaks, after a long legal battle in the north of France.

Some 540 staff at local branches of Carrefour Market had taken their case to the appeal court, claiming that they were being paid less than the legal minimum wage once compulsory breaks were taken into account.

Lawyers for the workers say they will receive between €2,000 and €5,000 in compensation.