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Majority in Poll in U.S. Back Employees in Public Unions

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As labor battles erupt in state capitals around the nation, a majority of Americans say they oppose efforts to weaken the collective bargaining rights of public employee unions and are also against cutting the pay or benefits of public workers to reduce state budget deficits, according to the latest New York Times/CBS News poll.

Labor unions are not exactly popular, though: A third of those surveyed viewed them favorably, a quarter viewed them unfavorably, and the rest said they were either undecided or had not heard enough about them. But the nationwide poll found that embattled public employee unions have the support of most Americans - and most independents - as they fight the efforts of newly elected Republican governors in Wisconsin and Ohio to weaken their bargaining powers, and the attempts of governors from both parties to cut their pay or benefits.

Americans oppose weakening the bargaining rights of public employee unions by a margin of nearly two to one: 60 percent to 33 percent. While a slim majority of Republicans favored taking away some bargaining rights, they were outnumbered by large majorities of Democrats and independents who said they opposed weakening them.

Those surveyed said they opposed, 56 percent to 37 percent, cutting the pay or benefits of public employees to reduce deficits, breaking down along similar party lines. A majority of respondents who have no union members living in their households opposed both cuts in pay or benefits and taking away the collective bargaining rights of public employees.

Bizarro Earth

Chile Survivors Live in Squalor a Year After Quake

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© Claudio Santana/AFP/Getty Images
Coastal town of Dichato, Chile, on March 1, two days after the huge 8.8-magnitude earthquake triggered several waves of devastating tsunamis. Chile has been hit by numerous aftershocks, some reaching over 6 points on the Richter scale, as well as heavy damages in coastal towns resulting from tsunamis.
Around 3,000 people whose coastal town was leveled by Chile's massive earthquake and tsunami one year ago still live in squalid conditions that some compare to a "concentration camp."

In El Molino camp, some 450 temporary homes line streets of rubble, with no running water and shared makeshift bathrooms.

Residents lost everything when the nearby town of Dichato on the central coast was razed by the giant quake -- measuring 8.8 on the moment magnitude scale -- and subsequent tsunami on February 27, 2010.

Jimena Toledo, a community leader, regularly visits inhabitants of the wooden shacks, stepping over trash and other debris to walk down the streets, which are regularly flooded with mud during the winter months.

"Life in the village is bad, bitter, and ugly. I think it's like a concentration camp. People shut themselves in their homes at nine o'clock at night and that's it," Toledo told AFP.

"It wasn't like that before... we went out."

The government set up the camp, which is one of Chile's largest, three weeks after the quake, renting the land from a forestry company.

Almost all the former residents of Dichato now live there after the destruction of around 80 percent of their fishing town, which was once popular with tourists. Twenty-six people died there.

"Few people go to Dichato. Although they don't want to believe it, this is a new town," Toledo said of the camp.

A fruit and vegetable market takes place several days of the week, and many people have set up stalls selling basic goods.

Another 106 temporary villages sprung up after the quake to house the more than 4,000 families worst affected by the tragedy, which left 524 people dead and at least 31 missing, as well as 30 billion dollars in losses.

Pills

US: Young Lives Wrecked by Prescription Drug Epidemic in Southern Ohio

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© John Kuntz, The Plain Dealer
Jo Anna Krohn and her son Blake, 25, visit the grave of her son Wesley Workman, 18, who died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound with OxyContin in his system.
In the grand experiment known as the American democratic system, jury selections are designed to bring together a wide cross-section of any community.

As Scioto County Prosecutor Mark Kuhn kicked off the process of selecting a jury for a drug-related murder trial last year, he asked those selected randomly to raise their hands if someone in their family or in a friend's family had a drug problem.

One by one, all 31 potential jurors stuck their hands in the air.

Even for a seasoned prosecutor who has seen thousands of drug cases come through the Scioto County system in his six years on the job, it was a stunning verdict about the depth of the drug problem in the county.

"That was simply unbelievable," Kuhn said, shaking his head on a recent morning as he stood in the hallway at the Scioto County Courthouse, a manila folder full of arraignments tucked under his arm. A courtroom full of defendants awaited him -- most of his cases typically will somehow involve prescription drug abuse.

Such is life in Scioto County, a Southern Ohio county on the Ohio river where a prescription drug epidemic crosses all socioeconomic lines, wrecking young lives from ramshackle trailer parks to cushy suburban homes. The pain pills come in varying forms and dosages, but there is no question which one is king -- OxyContin, the fifth most prescribed drug in the world.

Beer

US: Ex-MADD Chapter President Arrested For DUI

Ex-MADD Chapter President Arrested For DUI
© Unknown
Ex-MADD Chapter President Arrested For DUI

Florida - The Gainesville chapter of Mothers Against Drunk Driving closed in the mid-90s, but it's volunteer president is gaining notoriety after being arrested on a drunk driving charge last week. 48-year-old Debra Oberlin reportedly failed a field sobriety test one hour after she was stopped for driving erratically in Gainesville city limits.

An odor of alcohol and bloodshot eyes tipped the officer that the driver could be driving drunk. Oberiln admitted to drinking four beers and blew a .234 and a .239 on the breath alcohol meter. Gainesville's legal breath alochol limit is .08.

Che Guevara

People Power!: 100,000 Rally in Wisconsin snow

Even the snow can't keep the people's voice from being heard.


Ambulance

Four Americans dead in UAE plane crash

Abu Dhabi - Four Americans aboard a turboprop plane were killed when their aircraft crashed shortly after takeoff in the United Arab Emirates, US and Emirati officials said Monday.

Investigators were examining the wreckage to determine a possible cause for the fiery Sunday evening crash. The identities of those killed _ the only people on board _ were not immediately disclosed.

A statement by the US Embassy to local media said the plane was en route to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, on the first leg of a trip back to the United States.

Info

Google Aims to Weed Out Low-Quality Websites from Search Results

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© Google
The top search engine doesn't want to be overgrown by content farm posts.
Google has announced a significant tuneup to its search mechanics that should help boost high-quality, original-content websites over "content farms" that pump out poor online postings.

In a blog post, Google staffers described how honing the search algorithms has affected nearly 12 percent of user queries since the upgrades were rolled out Wednesday (Feb. 23) in the United States

Beaker

US: Chemical spill from derailed train in Pierce County under control, officials say

Hazardous chemicals that spilled from a derailed freight train onto the banks of Puget Sound on Saturday night could have produced an environmental catastrophe in Pierce County, according to a state Department of Ecology official. Twelve of the train's cars left the track, and some of them struck another train, causing two of its cars to derail.
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© Ellen M. Banner/The Seattle Times
A worker looks at some of the 14 cars from two trains that derailed Saturday night in University Place, Pierce County.

Hazardous chemicals that spilled from a derailed freight train onto the banks of the Puget Sound on Saturday night could have produced an environmental catastrophe in Pierce County, according to a state Department of Ecology official.

But only 50 gallons of highly corrosive sodium hydroxide, or lye, hit the shore in University Place near Tacoma, Ron Holcomb, a state hazardous-materials specialist, said Sunday. Holcomb said the lye would be diluted as it comes in contact with water, and any damage to aquatic life would "probably not be obvious."

"We're very fortunate," Holcomb said.

Four tank cars, each containing about 15,000 gallons of lye, were derailed near the shore. Only one car leaked, from two places, a valve and a hatch, he said. Emergency crews were able to seal and reduce those leaks to a drip by Sunday morning.

Briefcase

Charles Ferguson's Oscar Speech Rips Wall Street: 'Inside Job' Director Levels Criticism During Acceptance

The winners of the Best Documentary Feature, Inside Job, Charles Ferguson and Audrey Marrs address the audience the 83rd Annual Academy Awards at the Kodak Theatre on February 27, 2011 in Hollywood, California.


Inside Job won the 2011 Academy Award for best documentary on Sunday night. The film's director used his acceptance speech to deliver pointed criticism of Wall Street and the financial industry.

Megaphone

Libya quashes protest in Tripoli; West to aid east

TRIPOLI, Libya - The West moved to send its first concrete aid to Libya's rebellion in the east of the country, hoping to give it the momentum to oust Moammar Gadhafi. But the Libyan leader's regime clamped down in its stronghold in the capital, quashing an attempt Monday to hold new protests as residents reported skyrocketing food prices from the crisis.
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© AP/Bilal Hussein
Lebanese students demand information about the disappearance of Shiite cleric Imam Moussa al-Sadr during an official visit to Libya in 1978.

The two sides in Libya's crisis appeared entrenched in their positions, and the direction the uprising takes next could depend on which can hold out longest. Gadhafi's opponents, including mutinous army units, hold nearly the entire eastern half of the country, much of the oil infrastructure and some cities in the West. Gadhafi is dug in in Tripoli and nearby cities, backed by security forces and militiamen who are generally better armed than the military.

In the two opposition-held cities closest to Tripoli - Zawiya and Misrata - rebel forces were locked in standoffs with Gadhafi loyalists.

An Associated Press reporter saw a large pro-Gadhafi force massed on the western edge of Zawiya, some 30 miles (50 kilometers) west of Tripoli, with about a dozen armored vehicles and tanks and jeeps mounted with anti-aircraft guns. Residents inside the city said they were anticipating a possible attack.