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Dollar

Gold Up 10% on Iran Rumours

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© Reuters
An employee counts some gold bars before he sells them to a customer at a gold shop in Hanoi August 23, 2011.
India, China may pay in bullion for Iran oil; Dollar under attack

Gold prices are currently trending around the $1,730 per ounce mark, within touching distance of their 60-day high of $1,747/oz, and up 10 per cent in the first 30 days of 2012.

Fuelling the bullion's newfound drive are rumours that India and China, one of the world's largest oil consumers, are secretly mulling paying in gold for Iranian oil, and bypassing a European Union (EU) oil embargo on Iran, effective from July 1, 2012.

The EU voted last Monday to ban oil imports from Iran. The move came after a defiant Iran announced earlier in January that it had launched a nuclear enrichment programme at a well-protected underground facility near the city of Qom.

Western nations suspect Iran, which is already under numerous international sanctions, of pursuing a secret nuclear weapons programme but Tehran insists it needs nuclear power solely for civilian purposes.

Nevertheless, the new EU sanctions are being seen as a way for the Western world to bring Iran to the negotiations table, but any move by China and India, which together purchase more than one-third of Iran's oil, to bypass the sanctions will significantly reduce the EU's negotiating prowess.

Handcuffs

'Gasland' Film Director Arrested at US Capitol Hearing

arrest Josh Fox
© Unknown
Republicans Bar Filming of Fracking Hearing

Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker Josh Fox was handcuffed and led away Wednesday while attempting to film a House Science Committee hearing on fracking.

The Gasland director was attempting to film the hearing which is looking into the EPA's investigation of water contamination from fracking in Pavillion, Wyoming. Josh was filming the hearing for his upcoming film Gasland 2.

Subcommittee chairman US Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) objected to the presence of Mr. Fox and his crew as well as another crew from ABC.

"This is a public hearing!" Josh shouted as he was led away. "I'm being denied my First Amendment rights."

Approximately 16 Capitol Hill police officers entered the hearing room and handcuffed Josh amid audible discussions of "disorderly conduct" charges, according to Democratic sources who spoke to the Huffington Post.

The filmmaker did not have "proper credentials", and an ABC News crew did not make the committee aware that they would be filming, according to the Capitol Hill newspaper The Hill.

USA

U.S. Culpable in African Atrocities

The United States is shamefully implicated in the terror that Charles Taylor, erstwhile leader of Liberia, inflicted on the people of West Africa.

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Beginning in the 1980s, Taylor was an informant and collaborator with a number of U.S. intelligence agencies that included at least the Defense Intelligence Agency and the CIA, according to Freedom of Information documents obtained by the Boston Globe. While it is still unclear exactly what Taylor did for the United States, apparently it was at least worth a jailbreak.

On Sept.15, 1985, while languishing in a maximum-security penitentiary in Boston for embezzling nearly $1 million when he was in the government of Liberian dictator President Samuel Doe, Taylor made a dramatic prison escape. He strolled into freedom through an open cell door. It's likely that someone in the U.S. security apparatus helped him slip away.

Four years later, Taylor launched a civil war in Liberia to overthrow the Doe regime. The war raged on for five years. He financed it by the illicit sale of blood diamonds, iron ore, timber and rubber, and by gang-pressing children into his National Patriotic Front of Liberia. This militia committed countless atrocities across the nation. He forced more than 15,000 children, some as young as six, to fight.

Crusader

Christians 'Face Deportation' in Saudi Arabia

Rights group says dozens of Ethiopian Christians have been arrested and could be deported for "illegal mingling".
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© Al Jazeera

Dozens of Ethiopian Christians are facing deportation from Saudi Arabia after authorities raided a private prayer service in Jeddah, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

The group was reportedly arrested in a private home in Jeddah in mid-December. Most of the 35 detainees are women, and three of them told the US-based group that they were strip-searched by police.

HRW said it spoke to three detainees, two women and one man, by telephone from prison.

One of them said the men were beaten, and also complained of inadequate medical care and poor sanitation at the jail.

"Two of the women said that officials there forced the women to strip, and then an officer inserted her finger into each of the women's genitals, under the pretext of searching for illegal substances hidden inside their bodies," the report said.

"Officers also kicked and beat the men in Buraiman prison, and insulted them as 'unbelievers'."

Padlock

Why Are So Many Americans in Prison?

We ask if the US should reconsider its 'lock 'em up and throw away the key' approach to crime and punishment.


The US has the highest prison population in the world - some of whom have been subjected to lengthy sentences for relatively minor crimes. And that population has surged over the past three decades.

Although there has been a slight reduction in the past year, more than two million people are either incarcerated in prison or in jail awaiting trial.

The US has the highest rate of imprisonment in the world, with 743 people incarcerated for every 100,000 Americans. No other nation even comes close to these figures.

One explanation for the boom in the prison population is the mandatory sentencing imposed for drug offences and the "tough on crime" attitude that has prevailed since the 1980s.

But it is the length of sentences that truly distinguishes US prison policy. Some prisoners are locked up for life - literally - and many receive harsh sentences for non-violent crime.

These long sentences are leading to an ageing prison population - with eight per cent of prisoners now over the age of 55. This, in turn, is increasing the burden of providing healthcare and geriatric services.

Play

US, New York: Pressure Builds for NYPD Chief to Resign Over Anti-Muslim Video

Muslim and civil rights groups held a demonstration and a news conference in front of City Hall in New York to denounce police commissioner Ray Kelly for giving an interview to the producers of the movie The Third Jihad.

Kelly who appeared for about 30 seconds in the movie later apologized but the protesters are not convinced as they are asking him to resign.

The movie was shown to over a thousand police trainees. Muslim groups insist that the dramatic footage shown in the movie project bias against Muslim faith by portraying Muslims in America as violent people who are only interested in implementing Sharia law by practicing Jihad against America.

Airplane

American Airlines Aims to Cut 13,000 Jobs

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© The Associated Press/LM Otero
An American Airlines pilot covers his ears against engine noise as he visual inspects an aircraft before departure at Dallas-Fort Worth International airport in Grapevine, Texas, Wednesday, Feb. 1, 2012.
American Airlines plans to cut 13,000 jobs to cut costs while under bankruptcy protection

The parent of American Airlines wants to eliminate about 13,000 jobs - 15 percent of its workforce - as the nation's third-biggest airline remakes itself under bankruptcy protection.

The company proposes to end its traditional pension plans, a move strongly opposed by the airline's unions and the U.S. pension-insurance agency, and to stop paying for retiree health benefits.

AMR Corp. said Wednesday that it must cut labor costs by 20 percent. It will soon begin negotiations with its three major unions, but the president of the flight attendants' union quickly rejected the company's ideas as unacceptably harsh.

CEO Thomas W. Horton said Wednesday that the company hopes to return to profitability by cutting spending by more than $2 billion per year and raising revenue by $1 billion per year.

AMR lost $884 million in the first nine months of 2011, and on Tuesday it disclosed a $904 million loss for December alone. It has lost more than $11 billion since 2001.

"We are going to use the restructuring process to make the necessary changes to meet our challenges head-on and capitalize fully on the solid foundation we've put in place," Horton said in a letter to employees.

Stormtrooper

US, New York: Video Leads to Brutality Probe of 4 NYPD Officers


Four New York City police officers have been stripped of their guns and badges after a video surfaced of them striking and kicking a suspect.

The internal affairs department is investigating, Police Commissioner Raymond Kelly said Wednesday. The officers are on desk duty in the meantime, he said.

The shaky amateur footage was posted anonymously Saturday on the website WorldStarHipHop and titled "These Cops In The Bronx, NY Are Out Of Control!"

2 + 2 = 4

US, Michigan: School Suspends Cancer Survivor Teen Over Hair He Plans to Donate

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© The Associated Press/The Flint Journal/Lathan Goumas
A Michigan teen who survived a bout with leukemia has been suspended from school over the length of his long hair, which he is planning to donate.

The Detroit News reports that 17-year-old J.T. Gaskins has been growing out his hair since last summer in order to donate it to the Locks of Love charity. Gaskins said he was inspired to make the donation after learning that the sister of a family friend was diagnosed with cancer.

Gaskins was diagnosed with leukemia when he was just a year old and has been in remission since he was seven. "I fought cancer my entire life. I'm going to keep fighting this," Gaskins told the Detroit News. "I'm not going to not give back just because my school says no."

The Madison Academy in Burton says Gaskins' suspension has more to do with the unkempt style of his hair, rather than its length. The school's student handbook requires that boys' hair be, "clean, neat, free of unnatural or distracting colors, off the collar, off the ears and out of the eyes."

Gaskins says Locks of Love requires a 10 inch ponytail for a donation and that his hair is currently only 2 ½ inches long.

Bizarro Earth

More Than 70 Die in Egyptian Soccer Pitch Invasion


Seventy-three people were killed and at least 1,000 injured on Wednesday after a soccer pitch invasion in the Egyptian city of Port Said, in what a deputy minister called the biggest disaster in the nation's soccer history.

Violence at football matches across north Africa has increased significantly since political unrest began sweeping the region more than a year ago, and one player described Wednesday's riot as "a war, not football."

Angry politicians and sports officials decried a lack of security at the match between Port Said team al-Masry and Al Ahli, one of Egypt's most successful clubs, and blamed the nation's leaders for allowing - or even causing - the tragedy.

Wednesday's trouble flared at the end of a match when al-Masry beat Al Ahli 3-1.

"This is unfortunate and deeply saddening. It is the biggest disaster in Egypt's soccer history," Deputy Health Minister Hesham Sheiha told state television.