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Brazil: Anti-corruption journalist and girlfriend kidnapped and murdered

Mario Randolfo Marques Lopes
© Facebook
The body of Brazilian journalist Mario Randolfo Marques Lopes was found on Thursday.
The body of a Brazilian journalist who wrote about corruption and had survived one attempt on his life was found the day after he was abducted.

Mario Randolfo Marques Lopes had been shot dead along with his companion, Maria Aparecide Guimarães.

Randolfo, editor-in-chief of the news website Vassouras na Net, was kidnapped with his girlfriend on Wednesday by three men in the city of Barra do Piraí in Rio de Janeiro state. Their bodies were found 22 hours later dumped next to a highway.

Randolfo, 50, had frequently written articles accusing local officials of corruption. His most recent article alleged that local judges and courts were corrupt. He was also being sued for defamation by a judge and a police officer.

Cult

400-year-old witchcraft trial resumes in Germany

witch
The trial of a woman burnt at the stake 400 years ago for witchcraft resumed in Germany on Monday in an effort to clear the woman's name.

Katharina Henot suffered her fiery fate in Cologne in 1627 after being found guilty of practicing black magic. Arrested, and tortured to such an extent that the right-handed woman had to scrawl her last letter of defence with her left hand, she was eventually paraded through the city in an open cart before being tied to a stake and burnt.

Now the panel on the city council whose predecessors found her guilty of witchcraft hundreds of years ago will review the evidence. It is suspected that Henot, head of the city's post office, fell foul of a deadly game of political intrigue orchestrated by her rivals and detractors.

Bizarro Earth

9/11 Cognitive Dissonance: Why People Are Afraid of 9/11 Truth

Leading Psychologists explain why so many Americans refuse to listen or believe in the overwhelming evidence that the official story of 911 cannot be true. Excerpt from Architects & Engineers for 911 Truth DVD Experts Speak Out


Comment: This concept of congnitive dissonance can be expanded to nearly every action taken by the PTB. They count on the fact that normal people are not able to conceive of committing such heinous crimes, creating the social paralysis that allows them to get away with it. By educating oneself, gathering facts and considering them, sets one free from that paralysis.

The question is whether one loves the truth more than a comfortable, "safe" worldview.


Attention

Why scientists are boycotting a publisher

The scientific community finds itself at the beginning of its own Arab Spring. At stake are values that all Americans hold dear: the free flow of information and the continued betterment of human life. Success is by no means guaranteed, but it's an important protest movement in which Boston should play a special role.

The central character in this emerging drama may seem an unlikely villain: Elsevier, an Amsterdam-based publisher of scientific journals, including the prestigious titles Cell and Lancet, which give researchers a platform to share their most important advances.

But Elsevier has settled on a business strategy of exploitation, aligning itself against the interests of the scientific community. Most of the intellectual work that goes into Elsevier's journals is provided for free, by scientists whose salaries are largely paid for by taxpayers. Then Elsevier charges exorbitant rates for its journals, with many titles running in the thousands of dollars a year. This sharply curtails the sharing of results - the fuel of scientific discovery - and makes it prohibitively expensive for the public to read what appears in its pages. Yet for Elsevier, this looks like success: In 2010 Elsevier reported revenues of about $3.2 billion, of which a whopping 36 percent were profit.

Family

How Swedes and Norwegians Broke the Power of the '1 Percent'

nordic flag
© Christopher Neugebauer
Scandinavian workers realized that, electoral "democracy" was stacked against them, so nonviolent direct action was needed to exert the power for change.

While many of us are working to ensure that the Occupy movement will have a lasting impact, it's worthwhile to consider other countries where masses of people succeeded in nonviolently bringing about a high degree of democracy and economic justice. Sweden and Norway, for example, both experienced a major power shift in the 1930s after prolonged nonviolent struggle. They "fired" the top 1 percent of people who set the direction for society and created the basis for something different.

Both countries had a history of horrendous poverty. When the 1 percent was in charge, hundreds of thousands of people emigrated to avoid starvation. Under the leadership of the working class, however, both countries built robust and successful economies that nearly eliminated poverty, expanded free university education, abolished slums, provided excellent health care available to all as a matter of right and created a system of full employment. Unlike the Norwegians, the Swedes didn't find oil, but that didn't stop them from building what the latest CIA World Factbook calls "an enviable standard of living."

Neither country is a utopia, as readers of the crime novels by Stieg Larsson, Kurt Wallender and Jo Nesbo will know. Critical left-wing authors such as these try to push Sweden and Norway to continue on the path toward more fully just societies. However, as an American activist who first encountered Norway as a student in 1959 and learned some of its language and culture, the achievements I found amazed me. I remember, for example, bicycling for hours through a small industrial city, looking in vain for substandard housing. Sometimes resisting the evidence of my eyes, I made up stories that "accounted for" the differences I saw: "small country," "homogeneous," "a value consensus." I finally gave up imposing my frameworks on these countries and learned the real reason: their own histories.

Heart

The Seedy, Scandalous History of Valentine's Day

Valentine's Day
© Wikimedia Commons
St. Valentine's Day. John Callcott Horsley (1817–1903).

Forget roses, chocolate boxes, and candlelight dinners. On Valentine's Day, this is rather boring stuff - at least according to ancient Roman standards.

Imagine half naked men running through the streets, whipping young women with bloodied thongs made from freshly cut goat skins. Although it might sound like some sort of perverted sado-masochist practice, this is what the Romans did until 496 A.D.

Indeed, mid-February was Lupercalia (Wolf Festival) time. Celebrated on February 15 at the foot of the Palatine Hill beside the cave where according to tradition the she-wolf had suckled Romulus and Remus, the festival was essentially a purification and fertility rite.

Directed by the Luperci, or "brothers of the wolf," the festival began with the sacrifice of two male goats and a dog, their blood smeared on the faces of Luperci initiates and then wiped off with wool dipped in milk.

As thongs were cut from the sacrificed goats, the initiates would run around in the streets flagellating women to promote fertility.

Stop

New Zealand: 'Absolutely Shocking' Animal Cruelty Case Still Unresolved

The Auckland SPCA is no closer to finding the person responsible for one of the worst cases of animal negligence staff have seen.

Bright Eyes, a Staffordshire-cross, was found abandoned in a cardboard box at the end of a driveway in Alfriston Road, Manurewa, on January 27. The dog was so emaciated it could not stand, its bones were shown and its claws were seriously overgrown. Despite media reports appealing for information on who was responsible, no one has been held accountable.

"There were a few phone calls from the public but nothing that lead us in the direction of finding the person responsible," SPCA Auckland chief executive Christine Kalin said.

"In terms of the forensics, unfortunately we weren't able to get any forensics off the box. So it looks like in this case we will be unable to find the offender."

Ms Kalin said the dog was in a frail condition and it was "very much touch and go". "There has been a little bit of an improvement, but it is still by no way out of the woods. "Ultimately what will guide our decision is what is in the best interests of the puppy. That's a vet decision, that won't be SPCA organisational decision."

Arrow Down

Apple Not to Blame for Despicable Price Hike of Whitney Houston Album

Whitney Houston
© Minyanville
Last year, Microsoft came under fire for turning singer Amy Winehouse's death into a money-making opportunity. Only a few months after Bing used the devastating earthquake in Japan as Twitter ad campaign, Redmond promoted Winehouse's album Back to Black with its Zune Twitter account and urged fans to download it from the music service. Following the backlash, Microsoft released a statement: "Apologies to everyone if our earlier Amy Winehouse 'download' tweet seemed purely commercially motivated. Far from the case, we assure you."

And as that mea culpa failed to convince us otherwise, another posthumous money grab has revealed a corporation's true intentions, however ghoulish.

This past Saturday, world-renowned pop singer Whitney Houston died from an apparent drug overdose in a Los Angeles hotel room. Almost immediately, as fans were flooding the iTunes Store and Amazon to download her music, the price of her greatest hits album The Ultimate Collection rose from £4.99 to £7.99 in iTunes.

Attention

Canada Cracks Down on Transgendered Air Travelers

Transgendered Travel
© Minyanville
What the Canuck?!
It looks like America can finally put a check in the "win" column over Canada for LGBT rights -- at least when it comes to air travel.

Suddenly, flying the gay friendly skies over our neighbor to the north may be a thing of the past for its transgendered citizenry. Due to an obscure amendment to the country's airline screening regulations, Canadian men and women who don't identify with their genetic sex will be prohibited from boarding any commercial aircraft for travel.

Meanwhile, guys like this -- who dress in women's lingerie -- go untagged by the US government's No Fly List, are waved right on through the checkpoint line by the Transportation Security Administration, and are welcomed aboard US Airways flights as preferred customers. They may not be able to get married in the majority of our country, but at least we give them the right to fly through it.

Document

US: Washington State's Governor Signs Gay Marriage Law

Image
© Reuters/Robert Sorbo
Washington state Governor Christine Gregoire signs legislation legalizing gay marriage in the state, in Olympia, Washington February 13, 2012.
Governor Christine Gregoire signed legislation on Monday to make Washington state the seventh in the United States to legalize gay marriage, but opponents vowed to try to prevent the law from taking effect.

Gregoire, a Democrat and a Roman Catholic, signed the measure to raucous applause during a ceremony in the ornate reception room of the Olympia statehouse, declaring, "This is a very proud moment. ... I'm proud of who and what we are as a state." It was the latest victory for the U.S. gay rights movement.

Six other states already recognize gay marriage - New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire and Iowa - as does the District of Columbia.

The measure, which won approval from state lawmakers on Wednesday, remains essentially on hold until at least early June, following a standard enactment period that runs until 90 days after Washington's legislative session ends.

Opponents of the statute have vowed to seek its repeal through a ballot measure in November that could delay enactment further or halt it entirely. The issue is also likely to figure in the state's Republican presidential politics.