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Truth Dies in War - Eyewitness version of Houla massacre

Houla massacre
© onpointpolitics.com
The Houla massacre is a turning point in the Syrian conflict. Supported by the accounts of UN observers, the Western public blames the Syrian army for the bloodbath. This version can be doubted based on reports from eye-witnesses, according to whom the civilians were killed by Sunni rebels.

The Houla massacre was a turning point in the Syrian drama. The worldwide outrage was great as 108 people, among them 49 children were killed in Houla on May 25. Calls for a military intervention to put an end to the bloodshed in Syria became louder and the violence in the country has unrelentingly increased ever since. Based on Arabic news channels and the UN observers visit on the next day, world opinion almost unanimously accuses the regular Syrian army and the regime-affiliated Shabiha for the mass murder.

The German daily Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung (FAZ) questioned this version on the basis of accounts from eye-witnesses. The newspaper had reported that the killed civilians were Alawites and Shiites. They were intentionally killed by armed Sunni insurgents in Taldou, a town in the plains of Houla, as violent clashes broke out between the regular Syrian army and units of the [so called] Free Syrian Army at checkpoints around the village. This account was taken up by many media outlets worldwide and rejected by many as incredible. Therefore four questions arise: Why does the world opinion so far follow another version? Why does the context of the civil war make this doubted version plausible? Why are the witnesses reliable? What other facts support this version?

Bizarro Earth

Maine prepares for zombie attack

Zombie
© AFP Photo / Kimihiro Hoshino
Emergency officials in Maine have taken part in a training exercise in preparation for a zombie apocalypse. This comes just weeks after the federal government publicly denied the existence of zombies.

­Around 100 emergency responders from eight different counties participated in the event in the quiet city of Bangor.

The premise: an unknown virus originating from Jamaica has reached Maine, turning the infected into zombies. Once infected, the virus quickly spreads to the brain, and turns the host into a full-fledged zombie, who has only one thing on its mind: biting other people.

The officials were armed with two would-be vaccines - one to prevent the infection from reaching the brain, and one to bring the zombies back to life.

"We have identified in several states, particularly Texas, New York, Illinois outbreaks of these civil disturbances and biting," one official said. "And in conjunction with that there are also widespread power outages."

Attention

Kenya Brings Explosives Charges Against Two Iranians

Image
© Agence France-Presse
Mombasa's firemen inspect the scene of a grenade attack
Nairobi - A Kenyan court charged two Iranian nationals with illegal possession of explosives Monday, a day after a grenade attack on a bar in the southern city of Mombasa that killed three people.

The Iranians, whom police said they arrested last week over suspected links to a terror network planning bombings in Mombasa and Nairobi, are accused of possessing 15 kilos (33 pounds) of the powerful explosive RDX, according to the charge sheet presented in court.

The pair, Ahmed Mohamud and Said Mausud, were "armed with intent to commit a felony known as grievous harm", the charge sheet said.

The two men, who were not represented by a lawyer, denied the charges.

Pistol

3 Policemen Shot to Death at Mexico City International Airport During Drug Investigation

Image
© The Associated Press/Alexandre Menghini
Mexico's Federal Police officers arrive to the scene where a shooting took place in Mexico City's international airport on Monday, June.25 2012.
Mexico City - Drug trafficking suspects opened fire in a crowded food court at Mexico City's international airport on Monday, killing three federal policemen who were on an anti-narcotics mission as panicked witnesses dove for cover.

A witness said the shooters also wore police uniforms, and the federal Public Safety Department said it was investigating whether the attackers were active-duty police, former officers or impostors. Criminals in Mexico sometimes use false police uniforms.

The slain agents had gone to the airport "to detain suspects linked to drug trafficking at Terminal 2," the Department said in a statement. "Upon seeing themselves surrounded by federal police, they (the suspects) opened fire on the officers."

Two officers died at the scene and another died later of his wounds at a local hospital.

No suspects had been arrested following the shooting, which took place shortly before 9 a.m. (10 a.m. EDT; 1400 GMT). The federal Attorney General's office said that its organized crime unit had opened an investigation into the case.

Eagle

Hundreds of Florida Killers Could Get New Sentences Under Supreme Court Ruling

Supreme court
The U.S. Supreme Court struck down laws, including one in Florida, that mandate life sentences for juveniles convicted of first-degree murder.


Hundreds of convicted murderers in Florida will likely get a chance to convince a judge that their life prison terms should be reduced because they were juveniles when they killed.

A U.S. Supreme Court decision Monday in two cases, Miller v. Alabama and Jackson v. Arkansas, struck down laws in 28 states that mete out mandatory life sentences without the possibility of parole for minors convicted of homicide.

The ruling, hailed by civil-rights activists, doesn't mean Florida judges can't still impose a life sentence on youths for first-degree murder - but they must now at least consider a defendant's age.

"Kids are different. They are very impulsive. They follow other people. They don't have a full understanding of the consequences of what they're doing," said Miami-Dade Assistant Public Defender Stephen Harper, who has worked on the issue and estimates some 225 Florida convicts could get new sentences. "The court found it is important for a judge to consider all these factors."

Monday's opinion follows the high court's 2010 decision, based on a Jacksonville case, that ruled that sentencing minors to life without the possibility of parole in non-homicide cases constituted "cruel and unusual punishment."

Heart - Black

Unanswered Question Remains about Sandusky Case

sandusky
© marsme1551
Jerry Sandusky has molested his last troubled boy. He is going to jail for life. But a larger question remains after Sandusky's conviction.

How did Jerry Sandusky get away with his conspicuous deviant behavior all of these years when so many people in authority knew about it?

A Pennsylvania jury found the former high profile assistant football coach at Pennsylvania State University (PSU) guilty of forty-five charges of sexual abuse on June 20, 2012. The jury deliberated only twenty hours to reach the verdict. This answered the most fundamental question about Sandusky's behavior: Was he a child molester? Yes, beyond a reasonable doubt responded the jurors with their guilty verdict.

Light Sabers

Googler Wants Error 451 for Government Censorship

It's a government censorship-related error honoring the late Ray Bradbury.
Image
© Unknown

In an interview with The Guardian, Google employee Tim Bray said that he's recommending to the Internet Engineering Task Force (IETF) to use error code 451 when a website is blocked by the government.

For those who don't recognize the symbolism, the number pays homage to the late Ray Bradbury's novel Fahrenheit 451 which was first published in 1950. The story warned of a dystopian world defined by government-imposed censorship which arrived in the form of burning any house that contained books.

"We can never do away entirely with legal restrictions on freedom of speech," Bray said. "On the other hand, I feel that when such restrictions are imposed, they should be done so transparently; for example, most civilized people find Britain's system of super-injunctions loathsome and terrifying."

"While we may agree on the existence of certain restrictions, we should be nervous whenever we do it; thus the reference to the dystopian vision of Fahrenheit 451 may be helpful," he added. "Also, since the Internet exists in several of the many futures imagined by Bradbury, it would be nice for a tip of the hat in his direction from the Net, in the year of his death."

Grey Alien

Would Finding Aliens Shatter Religious Beliefs?

Aliens
© Columbia Pictures
When we meet them, will they remind us of . . . us? Here, human-like aliens from Close Encounters of the Third Kind.
Santa Clara, California - The discovery of life beyond Earth would shake up our view of humanity's place in the universe, but it probably wouldn't seriously threaten organized religion, experts say.

Religious faith remains strong in much of the world despite scientific advances showing that Earth is not the center of the universe, and that our planet's organisms were not created in their present form but rather evolved over billions of years. So it's likely that religion would also weather any storms caused by the detection of E.T., researchers say.

"I think there are reasons that we might initially think there are going to be some problems," said Doug Vakoch, director of Interstellar Message Composition at the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute in Mountain View, Calif. "My own hunch is they're probably not going to be as severe as we might initially think."

Vakoch spoke Sunday (June 24) at the SETICon 2 conference, in a panel discussion called "Would Discovering ET Destroy Earth's Religions?"

Attention

Shocking Reports of Overmedicated Foster Children Force Government Review

Dangerous Pills
© Tampa Bay Times
Three years ago, Mirko and Regina Ceska of Crawfordville, FLA told former Gov. Charlie Crist their two adopted 12-year-olds had been prescribed 11 pills a day, including the powerful antipsychotic Seroquel, reported the Tampa Bay Times. "These girls were overdosed and would fall asleep right in front of us several times a day," Mirko Ceska told Crist at an "Explore Adoption Day'' event. "It seems to be a prerequisite for foster children to be on medication," said Ceska, calling the pills "chemical restraint."

The couple's remarks came on the heels of the suicide of Gabriel Myers, a 7-year-old in Florida foster care who was prescribed psychiatric drugs, including Symbyax, not approved for children because of links to suicidal thinking. More than 15 percent of 20,000 foster care children in Florida are medicated, says the Times and doctors and case managers treating medicated 6- and 7-year-olds "routinely failed to complete legally required treatment plans, share information or properly document the prescribing of powerful psychiatric drugs."

Now, less than a year after passage of the Child and Family Services Improvement and Innovation Act which sought to improve protocols for psychotropic medications in children, three government agencies--the Administration for Children and Families, the Center for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration--are convening a meeting with hundreds of state officials to address medication guidelines on August 27 and 28.

"This is an urgent issue, and child-centered organizations and individuals need to let state and federal administrators, Congress and state legislators know that it needs immediate action," says Edward Opton, a psychologist and lawyer involved in child welfare issues. "The medical literature shows no studies of the long-term effects of antipsychotic drugs on children, including drugs for so-called conduct disorder, the condition for which they are most frequently prescribed to children. There are no data on drugged vs. undrugged children with respect to completion of school, employment, early pregnancy, imprisonment, or subjective quality of life as evaluated by the children or by anyone else."

People

Famine Killed 7 Million People in USA

Another online scandal has been gathering pace recently. Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia, deleted an article by a Russian researcher, who wrote about the USA's losses in the Great Depression of 1932-1933. Indignant bloggers began to actively distribute the article on the Russian part of a popular blog service known as Livejournal. The above-mentioned article triggered a heated debate.

The researcher touched upon quite a hot topic in the article - the estimation of the number of victims of the Great Depression in the USA. The material presented in the article apparently made Wikipedia's moderators delete the piece from the database of the online encyclopedia.

The researcher, Boris Borisov, in his article titled "The American Famine" estimated the victims of the financial crisis in the US at over seven million people. The researcher also directly compared the US events of 1932-1933 with Holodomor, or Famine, in the USSR during 1932-1933.

In the article, Borisov used the official data of the US Census Bureau. Having revised the number of the US population, birth and date rates, immigration and emigration, the researcher came to conclusion that the United States lost over seven million people during the famine of 1932-1933.