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South African in toenail campaign to clip rhino deaths

A South African film production designer armed with a nail cutter is trying to help stamp out rhino poaching by sending toenail clippings to the Chinese embassy in Pretoria.

Mark Wilby said he wants to make the point that rhino horn, which sells for prices higher than gold as a traditional Chinese medicine, is made up of keratin - a protein which is a component in human nails and hair.

"I felt that we have moved beyond the time of politeness. I am not doing it out of disrespect to the Chinese authorities, but how else do you get their attention," Wilby told Reuters on Wednesday.

Wilby has produced a video (above) released on YouTube, calling on others to clip their nails and send them by post to the embassy.

Chinese embassy officials were not immediately available for comment. Officials from China and South Africa have been working together to reduce poaching.

Rhino poaching deaths in South Africa, home to almost all the rhinos in Africa, hit a record annual high in October, driven by the use of horns in Chinese medicine and a spreading belief in Southeast Asia, unfounded in science, that they may cure cancer.

The number of rhinoceroses dying unnatural deaths in South Africa, either through illegal poaching or legal hunts, has now reached a level likely to lead to population decline, according to an expert study.

Heart - Black

Miami priest accused of years of 'oral sex and sodomy' with runaway boy

The Archdiocese of Miami said on Wednesday that Father Rolando Garcia was placed on leave after they learned that he had been accused of sexually abusing a 16-year-old runaway boy.

In a press conference on Tuesday, Tony Simmons recalled that Garcia began abusing him in 1994 at the Church of the Little Flower in Hollywood. Simmons said that the Catholic priest first offered him food and counseling. Over time, Garcia plied him with movies, concerts, alcohol and pornography, which eventually led to "oral sex and sodomy."

Simmons explained that he was afraid to speak out because he lived and worked as a painter at the church.

"I honestly thought I was the only person," he told reporters. "And if it came out, I could lose my job."

Garcia continued to stay in contact with Simmons even after he joined the military in 2003. But on Oct. 15, Simmons said he changed his mind about coming forward when Garcia laughed while telling him that others had also accused him of pedophilia.

Arrow Up

Maya demand an end to doomsday myth

Mayan Women
© AFP/File, Jose Miguel Lam
Indigenous women of the village of Plan de Sanchez, in Guatemala City.
Guatemala City - Guatemala's Mayan people accused the government and tour groups on Wednesday of perpetuating the myth that their calendar foresees the imminent end of the world for monetary gain.

"We are speaking out against deceit, lies and twisting of the truth, and turning us into folklore-for-profit. They are not telling the truth about time cycles," charged Felipe Gomez, leader of the Maya alliance Oxlaljuj Ajpop.

Several films and documentaries have promoted the idea that the ancient Mayan calendar predicts that doomsday is less than two months away, on December 21, 2012.

The Culture Ministry is hosting a massive event in Guatemala City -- which as many as 90,000 people are expected to attend -- just in case the world actually does end, while tour groups are promoting doomsday-themed getaways.

Maya leader Gomez urged the Tourism Institute to rethink the doomsday celebration, which he criticized as a "show" that was disrespectful to Mayan culture.

Experts say that for the Maya, all that ends in 2012 is one of their calendar cycles, not the world.


People Power! UK coffee chain pulls out of town after public protest campaign

© Unknown
Totnes currently has 41 independent coffee outlets
A national coffee chain has pulled out of a Devon town that prides itself on having independent shops.

South Hams District Council had approved plans by Costa Coffee to open in Fore Street, Totnes.

But in a letter, Chris Rogers, managing director of Costa, said the company had "recognised the strength of feeling" against national brands in the town.

The move, detailed in a letter to "the people of Totnes", has been welcomed by campaign group No to Costa.


Pennsylvania may force workers to pay taxes to their employers

© Shutterstock.com
A bill that landed on Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Corbett's (R) desk this week would give companies that hire more than 250 new workers a gobsmacking tax incentive: 95 percent of those workers' state income taxes would be paid to the employer, and not the state.

It's a bizarre strategy meant to attract companies from other states, specifically designed to lure California-based software maker Oracle into Pennsylvania. It's also, as Philadelphia City Paper put it, "lavish corporate welfare" writ large across state government.

The bill, HB 2626, passed on October 17 with bipartisan support. Just 80 members of Pennsylvania's House of Representatives, most of the Democrats, voted in opposition.

Heart - Black

U.S. soldier stationed in Afghanistan 'watched wife have sex with 15-year-old girl on webcam'

A US Army soldier serving in Afghanistan who allegedly watched his wife have sex with a 15-year-old girl over Skype, has been charged with child sex abuse.

Shawn Raymo, 22, and his wife Jessica Raymo, 21, who both live on the Fort Drum army base in Upstate New York, were arrested on Tuesday on charges of endangering a child's welfare, and of using a child in a sexual performance.

The alleged crime took place while Shawn Raymo was deployed in Afghanistan in July 2011.

Mrs Raymo is alleged to have had oral sex with the teenage girl while her husband watched via a webcam.

Mr Raymo, who returned from deployment in last Autumn, was arraigned in court and held in jail on $5,000 bail along with his wife - after the charges recently came to light.

A spokesman for Fort Drum told the New York Daily News this was the first time he had heard of sex crimes happening involving soldiers at the US Army post before.

'We are constantly trying to brief our soldiers on things that they should not be doing,' Lt Col David Konop said.

Eye 2

New York police officer latest to turn into real-life zombie: Gilberto Valle arrested over plot to kidnap and eat women


Gilberto Valle, the latest person to be infected by The Virus
A New York City police officer was charged Thursday with plotting to kidnap, rape, torture and kill women, and then cook and eat their body parts.

Gilberto Valle was taken into custody by the FBI on Wednesday and suspended from the New York police department. He was expected to appear in federal court in Manhattan later Thursday.

In a criminal complaint, investigators cited numerous emails and other internet communications that portray a ghoulish scheme of torture and cannibalism. They allege Valle met one potential victim over lunch, but there was no information that any women were harmed.

"The allegations in the complaint really need no description from us," said Mary E Galligan, acting head of the FBI's New York office. "They speak for themselves. It would be an understatement merely to say Valle's own words and actions were shocking."

Black Magic

Ghost busting

The fourth installment of the Paranormal Activity films topped the box office last week. Television channel SyFy's hit show Ghost Hunters scares up big ratings, and has spawned copycat series on networks ranging from Biography to Animal Planet.

The omnipresence of paranormal entertainment piqued the interest of Paul Brewer, professor of communication at the University of Delaware, who wondered what makes viewers believe -- or disbelieve -- what they see on the screen.

His resulting study, recently published in the journal Science Communication, examines the influence of media messages about paranormal investigators on how people perceive the investigators' credibility. Brewer conducted an experiment asking participants to read one of four versions of a newspaper article. After reading the selected article participants filled out a questionnaire.

"It wasn't just any story about paranormal investigators that made people believe in ghosts and haunted houses," Brewer said, "it was a story about how they were scientific."


Jimmy Savile scandal: BBC director general engulfed by 'tsunami of filth'

© Lefteris Pitarakis/AP
George Entwistle, the new BBC director general, had a 'tsunami of filth' breaking over him because of the Jimmy Savile scandal, says BBC Trust chairman Lord Patten.
The BBC Trust chairman has defended George Entwistle's performance before parliament, saying he was unfortunate to be engulfed by a "tsunami of filth" - his description of the Jimmy Savile scandal - less than two weeks into his new role.

In a Radio 4 interview, Lord Patten also admitted that the Savile sex abuse scandal had done "terrible damage" to the corporation's reputation.

Patten's defence of the beleaguered BBC director general on Thursday came as Entwistle asked Radio 5 Live controller Adrian Van Klaveren to lead the corporation's editorial coverage of the Savile child abuse scandal, taking over responsibility from BBC News director Helen Boaden and her deputy, Steve Mitchell.

Arrow Up

Higher taxes, rising prices in store for Americans in 2013

© American Institute for Economic Research
Consumers will have to dig deeper into their pockets next year to pay for costlier healthcare, more expensive grocery bills and higher taxes, an extra drag on the country's already slow-moving economy.

The additional outlays look set to test the resilience of consumers, whose spending accounts for around two-thirds of the U.S. economy.

"We think it's going to be a difficult six to nine months," said Scott Hoyt, senior director of consumer economics for Moody's Analytics. "If anything, conditions are likely to get worse, particularly at the start of the year."

The strength of consumer spending has surprised some economists, given unemployment near 8 percent and anemic wage growth. Consumer spending has cushioned the blow to the United States from slower foreign demand for its goods.

U.S. households have shed about $880 billion in debt since the peak in the first quarter of 2008, according to Federal Reserve data. That has put many consumers on a path back to financial health.

Comment: 25 Horrifying Statistics About the U.S. Economy That Obama Does Not Want You To Know
America's Third World Economy
US: Slow-moving economy runs into brick wall

The illusion of freedom [Economy] will continue as long as it's profitable to continue the illusion. At the point where the illusion becomes too expensive to maintain, they will just take down the scenery, they will pull back the curtains, they will move the tables and chairs out of the way and you will see the brick wall at the back of the theater. - Frank Zappa