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Pot calling the kettle black: U.S. expands economic sanctions against Belarus

© AFP/ Victor Drachev
Belarussian plain-clothes policemen detain an activist in central Minsk on July 20, 2011
The United States has imposed additional economic sanctions against Belarus, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told a daily press briefing on Thursday.

"Today, the United States imposed additional economic sanctions against four major Belarusian state-owned enterprises," Nuland said. "The sanctions are a response to the continued incarceration of political prisoners, the crackdown on political activists, journalists, and civil society representatives."

"These new sanctions augment the travel restrictions, asset freezes, and sanctions announced on January 31st and these measures target those responsible for the repression in Belarus following the December 19th presidential elections. They are not designed to harm the people of Belarus," she said.

Bizarro Earth

US: Life of Ohio Boy Born on 9/11 Shows New Normal

© The Associated Press / Kantele Franko
Xavier Montjoy plays a video game at his home in Columbus, Ohio. Montjoy was born hours before the terror attacks on Sept. 11, 2001. Like millions of children born in the past decade, Xavier has never known a world untouched by that day’s terror attacks. He’s played baseball and soccer and hates math like generations before him but is growing up in a new normal. In this world, Afghanistan has always been a place of war, and several of his relatives in the military have been deployed overseas. Border security was tightened, and there are travel restrictions that hamper family trips and force travelers to stand in security lines in socks or bare feet at the airport near his house on a tree-lined Columbus street.
Xavier Montjoy sits on his bed in a T-shirt and shorts, his side-swept blond bangs and dark-rimmed glasses framing squinted hazel eyes and furrowed brows. He's trying to recount how his parents recently explained that Sept. 11, 2001, had meaning beyond being the day he was born, but all he remembers at the moment is that they said something about planes crashing in three parts of the country.

In his life, he says, it's just not a big deal.

Like the millions of children born in the past decade, he's never known a world untouched by that day's terrorist attacks. He's played baseball and soccer and hates math like generations before him but is growing up in a new normal shaped by the events of that day and the people behind them. In this world, the military has deployed several of his relatives overseas, and security officers maintain tighter border security and enforce travel restrictions that leave fliers standing in security lines in socks or bare feet at the airport near his house on a tree-lined Columbus street.

As for Osama bin Laden, the boy says, who was he? Xavier remembers hearing about bin Laden's death the day after it happened, when he says classmates announced "Obama is dead!" and a teacher clarified it wasn't the president. If further explanation followed, it didn't resonate with Xavier.

"I didn't really know what he was talking about," he says. "And frankly, I didn't really care, 'cause I had no idea."

There are more important things to this laid-back kid, such as what's for dinner or which villains he can slay in his Wii games. He'd much rather tell visitors about the modified weapons he imagines and sketches than talk about what happened on his birthday.


Haiti Mayor Says He Plans to Clear People Out of One of Country's Biggest Earthquake Camps

© Reuters / Carlos Barria
A boy stands at an open area camp in Port-au-Prince where people are staying following Haiti's major earthquake.
Thousands of Haitians living in one of the biggest tent camps created after last year's earthquake could soon have a new home: the mountains north of Port-au-Prince.

City officials plan to relocate the almost 20,000 people living on the 42-acre (17-hectare) Champs de Mars plaza across the street from the crumbled National Palace if the central government approves, Port-au-Prince Mayor Jean Yves Jason said Wednesday.

Patrick Rouzier, a housing and reconstruction adviser for the government, acknowledged the plan in a text message. He said Jason wants to move the families to Morne Cabrit, a mountain north of the capital, and house them in temporary shelters.

The government has reservations about the approach, Rouzier added, but he did not elaborate. He said he was traveling with President Michel Martelly.

Jason cited an "act of banditry" in the public square as a reason for officials wanting to clear away the camp, which has become a shantytown complete with barber shops, boutiques and restaurants and is a symbol of Haiti's post-quake misery.


US: Man arrested by TSA with 4th Amendment on chest says constitutional rights violated

Aaron  Tobey
© Richmond International Airport
Aaron B. Tobey is suing federal official and Richmond International Airport officials over his detainment in December 2010.

Authorities involved in the arrest of a protester who removed his shirt and pants at a security checkpoint at Richmond International Airport were doing their jobs and acted appropriately, a government attorney argued Wednesday in Richmond federal court.

Carlotta P. Wells, an attorney for the U.S. Department of Justice, argued in favor of a motion to dismiss Aaron B. Tobey's lawsuit, which claims his constitutional rights were violated. Wells said Tobey had made his point by removing his shirt to display words from the Fourth Amendment written on his torso but went too far when he disobeyed a command to pass through a security scanner.

But Anand Agneshwar, an attorney representing Tobey in his lawsuit against airport and federal officials, said the 21-year-old Charlottesville man obeyed the commands of authorities. Agneshwar said it was the authorities who went too far by detaining Tobey for 90 minutes or longer with his hands cuffed behind his back.

2 + 2 = 4

New Zealand: Shocking Skeleton Discovery at Far North School

© ThinkStock
A Northland school has discovered that a skeleton thought to have been plastic was actually real.
Teachers at a Northland school have made the macabre discovery that a skeleton thought to have been plastic was actually real.

The skeleton, made up of a skull and one side of the body, had been used as a teaching aide at Totara North School in Kaeo, the Northern Advocate reported.

Principal Bastienne Kruger was about to use it in a lesson showing how the human skeleton fitted together when she realised it was not plastic after all.

"When we realised it was real we wanted to do right by this poor person, but we didn't know how - so we phoned the hospital, and they suggested we bring it to the police."


US: Warren Jeffs, polygamist sect leader, gets life in jail

© Reuters
Religious head Warren Jeffs received maximum sentences on both counts
Polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs has been sentenced to life in prison for sexually assaulting two underage followers he took as brides.

The Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints leader was handed the maximum sentence possible.

Last Thursday, the 55-year-old was found guilty of forcing two girls into "spiritual marriages" and fathering a child with one of them.

The charges followed a raid on a remote west Texas ranch in 2008.


South Carolina, US: Teen gets prison time for planned Columbine-style attack

© The Sun News
Convicted: Christian Helms pleaded guilty to adult charges of attempted murder and carrying pipe bombs to a school in Socastee, near Myrtle Beach
A 15-year-old in South Carolina was sentenced on Wednesday to serve six years in prison for charges connected to a Columbine-style attack authorities said he had intended to carry out at his school.

Christian Helms pleaded guilty to adult charges of attempted murder and carrying pipe bombs to a school in Socastee, near Myrtle Beach.

Evidence showed that the then 14-year-old Helms brought a .38-caliber revolver to school last September and fired it at a school police officer, wounding him, Horry County Assistant Solicitor Alicia Richardson said.


Poll: 79 Percent of Americans Dissatisfied with U.S. Political System

US capitol flag
© n/a
Poll after poll has found that Americans are extremely disillusioned with the federal government, regardless of their political affiliation, after the president signed an agreement over the federal debt ceiling and budget deficit.

According to a Washington Post poll released on Wednesday, just 21 percent of Americans are satisfied with the way the country's political system is working, down 17 points from November 2009. Forty-five percent of Americans now consider themselves "very dissatisfied" and 33 percent consider themselves "mostly dissatisfied."

Additionally, just 26 percent of Americans believe that the federal government can actually solve the country's economic problems, down 21 points from October 2010 and down 37 points from February 2002.

President Barack Obama signed a debt ceiling deal into law in the beginning of August. The legislation raised the debt ceiling until 2013 and cut the federal deficit by about $2.1 trillion over a 10-year period. The two-stage agreement, which was criticized by both tea party lawmakers and progressive Democrats, passed by a vote of 269 to 161 in the House and a vote of 74 to 26 in the Senate.


Citizen Group Tracks Down Japan's Radiation

Protesters march in an anti-nuclear rally
Protesters march in an anti-nuclear rally in Tokyo after the crisis at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant
The aftermath of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear crisis has been marked by an outcry in Japan over radiation leaks, contaminated food and a government unable to put the public's fears to rest.

Perhaps the most worrying aspect of the meltdown that resulted from March's earthquake - triggered disaster, activists and citizens have said, is the uncertainty that has ensued.

In the months since the catastrophe, the Japanese government, its nuclear watchdogs and Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO), have provided differing, confusing, and at times contradictory, information on critical health issues.

Fed up with indefinite data, a group of 50 volunteers decided to take matters, and Geiger counters, into their own hands.


Is Insect-Eating Really the Future of Food?

Insect as Food
© Minyanville
That's not chicken!

When the collective conversation turns to how we will feed the planet in the years to come, the subject of entomophagy invariably comes up.

In this week's New Yorker, Dana Goodyear delves deep into the past, present, and future of bug eating, which are "now appearing on the menus of high-end restaurants in North America and in grocery stores in the Netherlands" as "a growing number of scientists, entrepreneurs, and chefs are arguing that they represent a sustainable, humane source of protein that we'd be foolish to overlook."

"Food preferences are highly local, often irrational, and defining: a Frenchman is a frog because he considers their legs food and the person who calls him one does not," she writes. "In Santa Maria Atzompa, a community in Oaxaca where grasshoppers toasted with garlic, chile, and lime are a favorite treat, locals have traditionally found shrimp repulsive."

"They would say, 'some people' eat it, meaning 'the coastal people,'" anthropologist Ramona Perez tells Goodyear, before pointing out that "when she made a scampi for a family there, they were appalled."