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Justice Department places 'hold' on Trayvon Martin trial evidence, including Zimmerman's gun, which Florida law says must be returned to him

Zimmerman's gun

Assistant state attorney Bernie de la Rionda showed the jury George Zimmerman's gun during his closing argument on July 11. Jurors ruled that Zimmerman killed Trayvon Martin with the weapon while he was defending himself
The U.S. Department of Justice, overseen by Attorney General Eric Holder, has ordered the Sanford, Florida police department to keep possession of all the evidence from George Zimmerman's second-degree murder trial - including the exonerated neighborhood watch volunteer's gun.

Sanford police confirmed on Thursday that the DOJ asked the agency not to return any pieces of evidence to their owners. Zimmerman was expected to get his firearm back by month's end.

The development is a sign that the criminal section of the Justice Department's Civil Rights Division is seriously investigating Zimmerman to determine if federal civil rights charges should be filed.

Zimmerman was acquitted of murder and manslaughter on Sunday in a Florida courtroom, but civil rights violations provide an exception to the U.S. Constitution's protection against double jeopardy after a defendant has been found 'not guilty' in a state or local jurisdiction.

Cow

U.S. cattle producers against new meat labelling laws, say it will cost too much to tell you where the meat was produced

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© Rob Hotakainen | McClatchy Washington Bureau
After surviving years of drought and watching the size of the U.S. cattle herd fall to its lowest level in more than 60 years, Texas cattleman Bob McCan would just as soon steer clear of the U.S. government's latest meat-labeling rules.

For many U.S. consumers, it's a popular idea: Label packages to let them know what country the meat comes from.

But with his herd of roughly 4,000 including cattle from Mexico, McCan said there's no good reason to segregate the animals when he sells them. All it would do, he said, is create hundreds of millions of dollars of extra handling costs that would get passed on, driving up the price at grocery stores.

"We don't want beef to become a luxury item," said McCan, a fifth-generation rancher from Victoria, Texas.

McCan, now the president-elect of the National Cattlemen's Beef Association, is among a group of cattle producers and meat companies that has sued the U.S. Department of Agriculture for moving ahead in late May with new country-of-origin labeling rules.

In a lawsuit filed July 8 in U.S. District Court in Washington, the groups claim the labels will hurt beef exports and are unconstitutional as "compelled speech" that doesn't advance a government interest.

Backers of the new rules, who say labeling can be done at a minimal cost, are braced for another battle with cattle producers.

Comment: USDA proposes meat labels that some say provide too much information


Piggy Bank

Detroit city retirees on edge as they face pension cuts after bankruptcy filing

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On July 18, Detroit became the biggest U.S. city to file for bankruptcy, with an estimated $19 billion in debt. Here’s a look at some staggering facts about Motor City’s population, unemployment rate and more. The data come from a June report called “Proposals for Creditors.
The battle over the future of Detroit is set to begin this week in federal court, where government leaders will square off against retirees in a colossal debate over what the city owes to a prior generation of residents as it tries to rebuild for the next.

Soon after Detroit emergency manager Kevyn D. Orr and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (R) approved a bankruptcy filing Thursday, groups representing the 20,000 retirees reliant on city pensions successfully petitioned a county court to effectively freeze the bankruptcy process.

Now, city and state officials, who say the court ruling will not affect their plans, are asking a federal judge to hold hearings early this week to validate the bankruptcy and move forward with a strategy for Detroit to discharge much of its estimated $19 billion debt.

Orr has promised that retired city workers, police officers and firefighters will not see pensions or health benefits reduced for at least six months. But on Sunday, he said those retirement benefits will have to be cut down the road.

Comment: "The "no money" pretext is a lie. The deficit of Detroit stands at $327 million. In comparison, a handful of billionaires in the state have a net worth of $24 billion, close to 75 times the budget deficit. A mere ten percent surtax on the wealthiest nine individuals in Michigan would cover the city's deficit 7 times over. Wall Street giants such as Bank of America, JPMorgan Chase and UBS have extracted more than $474 million from the city in fees related to the sale of debt, according to a report from Bloomberg News."
Financial dictator of Detroit will institute slash and burn policy to benefit banksters
US: 20 Things We Can Learn About The Future Of America From The Death Of Detroit


Stock Down

Detroit bankruptcy a warning sign for America?

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© Carlos Osorio/AP
State-appointed emergency manager Kevyn Orr (r.) and Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder (l.) address reporters during a news conference on Friday in Detroit. On Thursday, Detroit became the largest city in US history to file for bankruptcy.
How Michigan Gov. Rick Snyder has dealt with financial crises in the state - and how he will handle the Detroit bankruptcy - could hold lessons for the rest of the US.

Gov. Rick Snyder (R) of Michigan could be forgiven for sounding like a bit of a cheerleader when discussing Detroit's bankruptcy Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press."

"I'm very bullish about the growth opportunities of Detroit," he said.

On one hand, finding the silver lining of perhaps the worst fiscal disaster in the history of America's cities is his job - it's hard to imagine Michigan truly thriving so long as its largest city is an economic millstone. Yet, on a much more personal level, it seems like Governor Snyder sincerely believes he was built for this.

A businessman who was elected during the depth of the recession, when Michigan stood as America's worst-case scenario, Snyder has made sweeping changes to the public sector in the state - from pensions to health care. Detroit, in many ways, is the final exam he has been preparing for since taking office.

Indeed, considering that Detroit's bankruptcy could drag out through the 2014 election, how Snyder is seen to manage it could be crucial to his reelection prospects. But more broadly, how Detroit and Michigan navigate their seismic changes could hold lessons for the country. All the problems that the city and state are facing are looming for states from Illinois to California.

In that way, Snyder's big moment could offer a hint of the sort of belt-tightening that could lie ahead for many parts of the country.

Black Cat 2

World's first hypoallergenic cat: Scientific breakthrough or hype?

Hypoallergenic Cat
© The DenverChannel.com

A small biotech company earned global acclaim when it announced it had produced the world's first scientifically proven hypoallergenic cat. But while it seemed like a godsend to feline fanatics with allergies, an ABC's The Lookout investigation explored allegations that company's cats are no more hypoallergenic than other cats.

In 2006, Allerca: Lifestyle Pets , aimed to fill the niche for pet lovers plagued by allergies and touted what it billed as the world's first scientifically proven, hypoallergenic cat, ABC News reported.

Despite price tags ranging from nearly $4,000 to $28,000, Allerca had year-long wait lists for its felines.

However, experts and several customers contested the company's claims the cats were hypoallergenic and claims of Simon Brodie, the founder of Allerca. Other customers complained that they paid thousands for an Allerca cat that they never received.

Scientists have concluded that the main reason cats can trigger allergic reactions is a protein found in their saliva and skin called Fel d1. Allerca's website acknowledged that fact but said its cats had a naturally-occurring mutation, adding that its kittens "do continue to express Fel d1, (the known allergen that is present in saliva, fur, dander etc.) but at a different molecular weight. In human exposure tests, and with further feedback from our clients ... this molecular weight does not trigger allergies in the same way that 'normal' Fel d1 does.

Black Magic

Man gets 25 years to life in 'satanic' murder of mother

Moises
© Al Seib / Los Angeles Times / July 17, 2013
Moises Meraz-Espinoza, left, appears with his attorney, Jonathan Roberts, in a Norwalk courtroom. Meraz-Espinoza was convicted of first-degree murder in June.
Moises Meraz-Espinoza walked into the Huntington Park Police Department two years ago to report a crime: He had killed his mother.

Officers went to the Maywood apartment that the then-18-year-old factory worker shared with his mother, Amelia Espinoza, 42, and found a gruesome scene. A trail of blood led to the bathroom, where plastic covered the walls and floor. There, they found an electrical circular saw with pieces of bone, blood and flesh stuck to the blade.

Nearby, in a freezer, police found skin and muscles stored in plastic bags. The woman's skull, with all her teeth plucked out, her eyes removed and two upside-down crosses carved into the bone, was stashed in a backpack.

Prosecutors say that Meraz-Espinoza strangled his mother and then skinned, filleted and dismembered her body as part of a satanic ritual. A Norwalk jury convicted him of first-degree murder in June.

On Wednesday, Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge Thomas I. McKnew Jr. sentenced Meraz-Espinoza to 25 years to life in prison, saying that the slaying "certainly ranks up there at the top" of "the most disgusting, hideous and vulgar" cases he has seen during his 50 years in the legal profession.

"I don't know what I can say to turn your life around, but you'll have a lot of time to think about it," McKnew said.

Briefcase

Five Costa Concordia staff convicted over shipwreck in Italy

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© Gregorio Borgia/AP
The Costa Concordia cruise liner lies on its side after running aground off the Italian island of Giglio.
Italian court sentences cruise liner employees for manslaughter and negligence over sinking of cruise liner off Giglio.

An Italian court has convicted five people of manslaughter and negligence over the shipwreck of the Costa Concordia cruise liner that left 32 people dead.

The court in the Tuscan town of Grosseto accepted plea bargains for the Costa Cruises employees on Saturday, handing the harshest sentence to the company's crisis co-ordinator, Roberto Ferranini, who will serve two years and 10 months in jail.

The ship's hotel director was sentenced to two years and six months while two bridge officers and a helmsman got sentences ranging from 20 to 23 months. None are likely to go to jail as sentences under two years are suspended, and the longer sentences may be appealed or replaced with community service, judicial sources said.

Airplane

American Airlines flight makes emergency landing in Ireland

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© MSN News
The flight path of American Airlines Flight 55 July 19 shows it turning back to Ireland.
An unspecified emergency forced an American Airlines jet headed to Chicago from England to turn back and land in Ireland. All passengers are safe.

An American Airlines flight bound for Chicago made an emergency landing in Shannon, Ireland, Friday after departing from Manchester, England.

The Boeing 767 carrying 212 passengers experienced an unspecified emergency and landed safely. All 212 passengers have safely exited the plane.

Attention

UK's supermarket cartel boss breaks ranks: 'Cheap food era is over' - Major global food price hikes imminent

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How long before Tesco stores up and down the UK are looted, like this one during riots in Liverpool in 2011?
Philip Clarke admits prices will rise as poll finds UK shoppers would pay more to back farmers

Major food price rises are all but inevitable, the chief executive of Britain's biggest supermarket chain has admitted. Speaking exclusively to the Observer, Philip Clarke of Tesco, which was heavily implicated in the horsemeat scandal, said that rising global demand means the historic low prices to which British consumers have become used are now unsustainable.

"Over the long run I think food prices and the proportion of income spent on food may well be going up," he said. "Because of growing demand it is going to change. It is the basic law of supply and demand." The admission comes as a new poll, commissioned by the Prince's Countryside Fund to mark National Countryside Week beginning tomorrow, reveals that a majority of British consumers would be prepared to pay more for food if they knew the extra was going to farmers rather than to supermarket shareholders. The YouGov poll also indicates that more than 80% of consumers think it is important to buy British produce where possible as a way of showing support for the nation's farmers.

Comment: Rising food prices, climate change and global 'unrest'


X

Unexplained National Grid power outage causes electricity loss to thousands in Hardwick and Ware, Massachusetts Saturday afternoon

About 5,700 customers in Ware and Hardwick lost power temporarily Saturday, after a control panel running a powerful circuit breaker at a substation failed, according to National Grid spokesman David Graves.

The outage occurred at 11:20 a.m. Saturday, affecting 5,700 customers, Graves said in a telephone interview. Crews restored power to 4,200 residents by 1:20 p.m. and the rest by 2:30 p.m., he said. Baystate Mary Lane Hospital was one of the customers, but was protected by a generator.