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Palestinian Crisis Spurs Mass Protests in West Bank

Image
© AFP
Burning issue ... a young demonstrator prepares to throw a tyre during a protest against the high cost of living near Ramallah.
Cities across the West Bank are in the grip of mass protests as taxi drivers, teachers, shopkeepers and other Palestinian workers joined a strike to protest against fuel price rises and the ongoing financial crisis that is crippling the Palestinian Authority.

Threats of cuts to the electricity supply to large areas of the West Bank over at least $US125 million ($120 million) in unpaid bills are contributing to rising tensions, with protesters from Nablus to Ramallah and Bethlehem to Hebron calling on the Prime Minister, Salam Fayyad, to resign over the government's economic failings.

The Palestinian Authority President, Mahmoud Abbas, backed his embattled Prime Minister on Saturday and blamed Israel for restrictions that he said hampered an effective response.

Mr Abbas said that he bore ultimate responsibility for government policies and that he had asked Mr Fayyad and the cabinet to meet with representatives of the public to examine ways to lower the cost of living.

Speaking at a news conference called at his headquarters, Mr Abbas said the Palestinian Authority was facing a cash crisis because of a shortfall in donor contributions, particularly from Arab states, and he warned that civil-service employees would not receive full salaries this month.

Info

Ukraine's Real-Life Anime Girl

It's official, this real-life anime trend has gotten completely out of hand. Hardly a day goes by that I don't stumble upon some photos of girls going to any lengths in order to look like real live anime characters. Today's example, Anastasiya Shpagina, an Ukrainian girl who has even taken a Japanese name - Fukkacumi. Not the most inspired choice, I must say...
Anime Anastasiya_1
© Oddity Central
Just last Friday I wrote an article about a rather creepy-looking Chinese model called Tina Leopard, who had the pointiest chin I'd ever seen and had risen to Internet fame thanks to her anime-like appearance. I had discovered there was actually a trend sweeping China, with thousands of Chinese teens posting photos of themselves with anime-style makeup and hairstyles, but apparently it's not just China that's affected by this bizarre fashion. Venus Angelic, a young Londoner who made headlines in international media for her YouTube videos where she talks and makes herself look like a living Japanese doll, and Dakota Rose(aka Kotakoti) from America, were also praised for their genuine anime looks, and now the trend has apparently hit Eastern Europe as well. After Valeria Lukyanova sparked controversy in Ukrainian and Russian media with her doll-like features a few months back, it's Anastasiya Shpagina's turn to baffle us with her realistic anime-like looks. Coincidentally, she's from the same town as Valeria, Odessa.

19-year-old Anastasiya (Nastya) Shpagina has been called "the new Barbie" by national news outlets, but she later revealed she's striving to become a real-life Japanese anime character, not a doll. She even posted "I am not like a doll, a doll is like me ..." as the tagline on her VKontakte profile page. Apparently, Nastya has been passionate about makeup even as a young child, always experimenting with it in the mirror. Over time she also developed a thing for Japanese cartoons and it was only a matter of time before she started using her make-up artist skills to transform herself into a real-life anime girl. But just putting on makeup wasn't enough to attain that coveted look, so she decided to lose weight in order to seem more genuine. At 1.58-meters-tall, Anastasiya weighs just 39 kilos and is trying to lose one more in order to look just right. She has even taken the name Fukkacumi,to sound more Japanese.

Briefcase

U.S. Mom Who Sent Boy Back to Russia Loses Lawsuit

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© RIA Novosti. Vitaliy Belousov
Pavel Astakhov and Artyom Savelyev
A U.S. woman who sent her adopted son back to Moscow lost on Monday a lawsuit she filed against Russian children's rights ombudsman Pavel Astakhov.

A Moscow court ordered Torry Hansen to pay 50,000 rubles ($1,500) in legal costs.

Hansen had sued Astakhov over a website post in which he called her the "adoptive mother" of Artyom Savelyev. Hansen insisted she was a "former adoptive mother."

The woman has also lost her lawsuit against Russian government daily Rossiyskaya Gazeta.

Hansen was living in Tennessee in April 2010 when she put Savelyev, then aged seven, unaccompanied on a flight to his native Russia, with a note saying she did not want him as he was "psychotic." She had adopted the boy from a Russian orphanage in 2009.

He currently lives in a group home in Moscow.

Sherlock

Severed head recovered from canal in England

Gemma McCluskie
© Metropolitan Police/PA
Police have not confirmed if the head found in Regent's Canal is that of murder victim Gemma McCluskie
Police have recovered a severed head from a canal where the decapitated remains of a former EastEnders actress were found.

Scotland Yard said the discovery was made by a member of the public in Regent's Canal in Hackney, east London.

It comes more than six months after the headless and limbless body of actress Gemma McCluskie, 29, were discovered in the same stretch of water.

Miss McCluskie, who played Kerry Skinner in the BBC soap in 2001, had been missing for a week after attending the £650 million opening of the new Royal London Hospital in Whitechapel, east London.

She was last seen returning to the home in Pelter Street, Hackney, that she shared with her brother Tony McCluskie.

Smoking

Fake Cigs: Human Excrement, Asbestos, Dead Flies and Billions in Lost Tax Revenues in UK

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© Agence France-Presse/Alain Jocard
British undercover detectives in Birmingham have found cigarettes containing human excrement, asbestos, mold and dead flies, as counterfeit cigs flood into the UK at huge risk to public health.

Private eyes working for the tobacco industry have spent weeks rummaging through litter bins and scouring pavements for cigarette butts to access the scale of the black market in England's midlands region, according to the Birmingham newspaper the Sunday Mercury.

Operation EDPC - which stands for Empty Discarded Pack Collection - was funded by Swiss-based brand protection company MS Intelligence - found that 31% of cigarettes were either bogus or bought abroad.

Investigators were shocked by the sheer volume of the trade, which has more than doubled in the last 12 months. A similar study last year found only 14% of packets were fakes or had been smuggled into the country.

The trade in counterfeit cigs is big business. HM Revenue and Customs (HMRC) estimate that non UK duty-paid cigarettes cost the tax payer up to £3.6 billion during the financial year 2009-2010.

Most of the brands originated in the Far East, particularly from China, which has had a problem with counterfeits for a number of years.

Eye 2

California Man Pleads Guilty to Mutilating and Murdering Friend

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© The Associated Press/Del Norte County Sheriffs Office
Jarrod Wyatt
A Northern California mixed-martial artist accused of ripping out his friend's heart and removing his tongue while the two were on hallucinogenic drugs has pleaded guilty to murder and mayhem charges.

Jarrod Wyatt of Crescent City agreed to a plea deal in which he will serve 50 years to life in prison, Del Norte County prosecutors said. His official sentencing is scheduled for Oct. 4.

Wyatt pleaded guilty to first-degree murder involving mayhem in the March 21, 2010, death of his sparring partner, 21-year-old Taylor Powell, prosecutors said.

"The earliest he'll be able to see a parole board is 2062," District Attorney Jon Alexander said. "We saved Taylor's family the agony from reliving the incident at the trial."

Wyatt's attorney, James Fallman, said his 29-year-old client didn't want to testify at trial and he didn't want his family to testify.

"We looked for an agreement that would at least give him the opportunity to be paroled someday," Fallman said. "As bad as 50 years to life sounds, it's better than life without the possibility of parole."

Sheriff

Mission PD Chief Denies Police Brutality Alleged in Lawsuit

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Texas, McAllen - A Mission man says in a lawsuit that police officers entered his property and assaulted him, but city officials maintain his claims are baseless.

John Kenneth Snider claims that on Dec. 19, "four or five police officers from the Mission Police Department made a warrantless and unauthorized entry" into his home, according to a lawsuit he filed in July against Mission city officials.

Snider claims once inside his home, police officers "immediately began to assault, beat and strike" him.

Attempts to reach Snider and his lawyer, Rodney Sipes of Edinburg, were unsuccessful last week.

Snider was indicted in February on one count of assault on a public servant. He was later convicted of the charge in the 139th state District Court, where he was sentenced to two years of probation. Whether the charge and conviction stem from the same incident is not clear in court papers and could not be confirmed last week.

The lawsuit names Mission police Chief Martin Garza as the man responsible for the actions of "unnamed officers" and asks for unspecified damages.

Garza told The Monitor he was not at Snider's house during the alleged incident, but he is familiar with the lawsuit and stands by his officers.

"I believe our officers acted within reason and within department policy," Garza said. "I have no reason to doubt the integrity of my officers."

Attention

Chicago Teachers to Strike For 1st Time in 25 Years

  • Strike could have implications for Obama's campaign
  • Community leaders had urged agreement
  • Teacher pay, evaluations are major issues

Chicago public school teachers will strike for the first time in a quarter century on Monday after they failed to reach agreement with the nation's third-largest school district over education reforms sought by Mayor Rahm Emanuel.

The historic confrontation between Emanuel - Barack Obama's former top White House aide - and organized labor could have implications for education reform nationwide and for the president's re-election campaign.

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© Sitthixay Ditthavong/Associated Press
Members of the Chicago Teachers Union distributed strike signs as the deadline approached.
"We have failed to reach an agreement that will prevent a labor strike," Chicago Teachers Union President Karen Lewis told a press conference on Sunday night. "In the morning, no CTU members will be inside our schools."

About 29,000 teachers and support staff in Obama's home city will not report for work on Monday morning, affecting some 350,000 students.

Lewis was interrupted by applause from about 100 union supporters as she spoke, some wearing red in support of the union and carrying signs "On Strike" even before she had finished speaking.

Leigh Nevels, an occupational therapist who works at several schools in the city, said she came out to support Lewis and other union leaders. "The teachers work really hard and they deserve every penny that they get, and then some," Nevels said. "Rahm (Emanuel) just pulled the rug out from under us."

The union wants Chicago to drastically reduce class sizes and increase funding for education.

It is suspicious of efforts to erode traditional job protections such as tenure, teacher autonomy and seniority.

Question

Are We Ready for a Zombie Attack?

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© unknown
No one in emergency preparedness circles really believes the dead will rise and come looking for living people to devour -- that weird face-eating incident in Florida aside.

But they do see zombies -- the moaning, flesh-eating stars of a plethora of horror novels, comics and movies -- as a brain-grabbing way to get people to think about preparing for large-scale disasters.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency became the latest federal government agency to shamble onto the zombie bandwagon, following in the footsteps of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the agency that captured the hearts of internet geeks everywhere when it unveiled its "Zombie Apocalypse" preparedness page and social media campaign last year.

"We need something that gets their attention, so I applaud that," said Richland Fire Chief Grant Baynes, who is involved in local disaster planning.

Baynes likened getting the public engaged in emergency planning to "trying to sell an umbrella on a sunny day."

In a place that's relatively disaster-free -- the Tri-Cities doesn't get catastrophic hurricanes, tornadoes, earthquakes or floods as other parts of the United States -- residents can become complacent and forget that a flu pandemic or some other disaster might be around the corner.

Baynes said it's good that people feel safe, but he'd also like them to be mindful that life is unpredictable.

"Preparedness isn't just a technical thing," he said. "It's mental. It's an attitude. It's that same attitude that says, 'I know there is that potential, so I'll buy this umbrella now while I have the opportunity.' "

Binoculars

Are you better off?: 40 statistics that will absolutely shock you

obomney
© KickThemAllOut.com
Are you better off today than you were four years ago? This is a question that comes up nearly every election. This year the Romney campaign has even created a Twitter hashtag for it: #AreYouBetterOff. The Democrats are making lots of speeches claiming that we are better off, and the Republicans are making lots of speeches claiming that we are not. So are most Americans actually better off than they were four years ago? Of course not.

One recent poll found that only 20 percent of Americans believe that they are better off financially than they were four years ago. But the same thing was true four years ago as well. Our economy has been in decline and the middle class has been shrinking for a very long time. The Democrats want to put all of the blame on the Republicans for this, and the Republicans want to put all of the blame on the Democrats for this. A recent CNN headline defiantly declared the following: "Decline of middle class not Obama's fault", and this is the kind of thing we are going to hear day after day until the election in November. But obviously something has gone fundamentally wrong with our economy. So who should we blame?

Sadly, you hear very little on the mainstream news networks or the talk radio shows about the institution that has the most power over our economy. The Federal Reserve has far more power over our financial system than anyone else does, but the media and both political parties tell us that the Federal Reserve is "above politics" and that their "independence" must never be questioned.

But the truth is that the debt-based financial system that the Federal Reserve is at the core of is absolutely central to our economic problems. If you do not understand this, please see this article: "10 Things That Every American Should Know About The Federal Reserve".