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As the clock ticks, retail traffic posted the third straight week of double-digit declines

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© CNBC
Brick-and-mortar retailers saw no signs of relief last week, as store traffic in the final week before Christmas posted the third straight week of double-digit declines, according to the most recent report from ShopperTrak.

According to the analytics firm, traffic for the week ended Dec. 22 - which included the crucial final weekend before Christmas - was down 21.2 percent year over year. The first two weeks of December saw double-digit decreases, which trailed a 4 percent decline over Black Friday weekend, it said.

In-store sales fell 3.1 percent from the same week in 2012, ShopperTrak added.

"I think the Black Friday and Thanksgiving Day sales took a lot of energy out of the consumer," said ShopperTrak founder Bill Martin.

"We still have some days left to go - there could be some ground made up. [Monday] was an important day, one of the top five days of the year," he said, adding that Dec. 26 is the seventh-busiest sales day. Strong gift card sales could push some buying until after the holiday, which could be vital days to the success of the season.

"We're still looking at 2.4 percent [gain] for the holiday season, even though we're seeing some softness in December," Martin said.

Family

Hysterical America: Sister jailed for flinging peanut butter in argument over dog

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A 29-year-old Deltona woman was arrested on allegations of throwing peanut butter on her brother's face in an argument over a urinating dog.

Rachel Byrd was arrested Monday on battery charges.

According to a Volusia County Sheriff's report, Byrd and her brother, 30-year-old Gabriel Byrd, began arguing around 2 a.m. because the dog was urinating in the living room of the house shared by the siblings.

Comment: For an in depth look at why and how our society became so hysterical, See:
Good Times, Bad Times 1: The Hysteroidal Cycle
Good Times, Bad Times 2: Insiders and the Hysteroidal Cycle


Arrow Down

Surgeon suspended from Birmingham hospital over allegedly 'branding' his name on a patient's liver

Surgery Equipment
© The Independent, UK
A surgeon has been suspended over allegations that he "branded" his initials onto a patient's liver.

The letters were reportedly found by a colleague who was performing a routine operation on the unnamed patient.

University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust confirmed that they were investigating the claims made against a surgeon at the Queen Elizabeth Hospital in Birmingham.

The surgeon has been suspended while an internal investigation is carried out.

In a statement, the Trust said: "Following an allegation of misconduct, University Hospitals Birmingham NHS Foundation Trust has suspended a surgeon while an internal investigation is complete."

The news comes after concerns were raised by a report published by NHS England in mid-December which exposed mistakes made by its staff.

Sheriff

Hong Kong jails woman who smuggled baby formula under unlicensed milk law

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© The Raw Story
A Hong Kong court has jailed a woman for smuggling baby formula, the first time anybody has been sent to prison under the city's ban on unlicensed milk powder export, officials said Tuesday.

The 37-year-old woman, whose nationality has not been disclosed, was jailed for five weeks after being found with four boxes of baby milk formula weighing 3.2 kilograms at the border crossing between Hong Kong and its neighboring mainland Chinese city of Shenzhen Sunday.

Hong Kong barred people from taking more than 1.8 kilograms of formula out of the city in March after a rush on milk powder by Chinese parents, distrustful of domestic milk brands due to a 2008 scandal involving formula tainted with melamine that killed six children and sickened 300,000 others.

Their concern triggered demand which saw shelves emptied around the world.

Hong Kong's controversial ban aimed to crack down on "parallel traders" who sell the milk powder for a profit in China.

Compass

Police State: The worst police misconduct of 2013

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© Unknown
Police officers are heroes. They voluntarily put themselves in harm's way to serve and protect every citizen, and society grants them powers above and beyond the average citizen to achieve their mission.

Unfortunately, this power can be abused, turning the heroes into villains. Extra power, in a free society, must be coupled with extra responsibility, and exposing misconduct is key to holding those with power accountable.

Below are some - but not all - of the worse police abuses to have occurred or come to light in 2013. Much of the misconduct involves racial or sexual elements, a fact that is entirely unsurprising but still disturbing.

Black men arrested for being with white girl

Landry Thompson, 13, was visiting Houston, Texas to attend dance classes this month. Her mother had given dance instructor Emmanuel Hurd full guardianship over her during the trip.

But police began questioning Thompson, Hurd and another dance instructor while they were at a gas station. The police later decided to handcuff the dance instructors and trainee. Thompson was placed in the custody of Child Protective Services, but she was released back into the custody of Hurd about 11 hours later.

"I was horrified," her mother, Destiny Thompson, said. "She was with the people I wanted her to be with. She was with people I trusted. And now she was taken away from those people and in a shelter with people I didn't know."

Evil Rays

Texas student reports rape and gets suspended for 'public lewdness'

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© The Raw Story
Rachel Bradshaw-Bean
A former Texas high school student has come forward with accusations that school officials suspended her for "public lewdness" after she reported that she had been raped in a band room.

In her first extensive interview, Rachel Bradshaw-Bean told NBC News that a boy had asked her to go into the band room at Henderson High School in East Texas on Dec. 6, 2010 while they were waiting for a Key Club meeting to begin after school. That's when things turned violent and the boy raped her.

After crying and cleaning herself up in the bathroom, she went to an assistant band director to report the crime.

"He told me to work it out with the boy," she recalled. "There's no way I would do that. But I didn't know what to think. I was 17."

The next day, the news reached an assistant vice principal after Bradshaw-Bean and a friend told another assistant band director. The school sent Bradshaw-Bean to a health clinic, which found lacerations to the hymen and bleeding "consistent with information given per victim," according to a medical report obtained by NBC News.

Star of David

Judge rejects pro-Israel ad that demeans Palestinians or Muslims

boston train
© Dreamstime
A federal judge rejected a pro-Israel group's assertion that its free speech rights were violated when the MBTA turned down a subway advertisement on the grounds that the ad was "demeaning or disparaging."

The ad is paid for by the American Freedom Defense Initiative, a New York organization that seeks to combat the spread of Islam in the United States. With bold, all-capital-letter text placed against a stark black background, the ad reads: "In any war between the civilized man and the savage, support the civilized man. Support Israel; defeat Jihad."

Officials with the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority rejected the ad in November on the basis that it violated the agency's advertising guidelines, which include rejecting advertisements that demean and disparage individuals and groups, promote alcohol or tobacco, and depict graphic violence.

On Friday, US District Judge Nathaniel M. Gorton sided with the state's transportation authority, saying in the ruling that "it was plausible for the defendants to conclude that the . . . pro-Israel advertisement demeans or disparages Muslims or Palestinians."

Padlock

Class action lawsuit filed against city of Memphis over untested rape kits

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© Guardian
The city of Memphis is facing a class action lawsuit over the Memphis Police's backlog of untested rape kits.

A rape survivor sued the city saying her rape kit has sat untested in a police storeroom for 13 years. The woman's attorneys say her constitutional rights have been violated by the city and the police department.

The 13-page lawsuit was filed Friday in U.S. District Court in Downtown Memphis, and since it's a class action, other rape survivors could join the suit as plaintiffs.

Lawyers are identifying the plaintiff as Jane Doe to protect her identity as a sexual assault victim.

The court documents say a man broke into her home in 2001. She was bound by the suspect and sexually assaulted.

According to the complaint she was brought to the rape crisis center for treatment and an exam, but it says her rape kit, or sexual assault evidence kit, was never submitted for testing.

"There was an intentional decision made by the police department that they would treat crimes against women -- domestic violence, and sexual assaults -- differently than other crimes they investigate," said Robert Spence, Jr., plaintiff's attorney. "Crimes of that nature, rapes and sexual assaults they chose not to investigate them to throw the rape kits in a trash heap and essentially victimize the victims twice."

Eye 1

UK Police under investigation after three schoolboys with learning difficulties were TASERED

  • Officers called to Chelfham Senior School near Plymouth at 9.20am on December 1 to deal with alleged assault on a teacher
  • Two boys, 14, and a 15-year-old Tasered for 'brandishing knives'
  • IPCC has now launched investigation in Devon and Cornwall Constabulary
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Probe: The IPCC has launched an inquiry into Devon and Cornwall Police after pupils at Chelfham Senior School (pictured) were Tasered
Police are being investigated after a group of schoolboys with learning difficulties were Tasered at a special needs school.

The police watchdog is supervising an investigation into how three boys - aged 14 and 15 - were blasted with a 50,000-volt electric stun gun.
Several police units were called to Chelfham Senior School near Plymouth, a special needs school owned by the exclusive Priory Group following an alleged assault on a teacher in a 'scuffle' with pupils.

Eye 1

Ohio schools expect boom in civilian drone use in U.S., offer job training

u.s. drones
© HANDOUT/Reuters
Some Ohio schools are preparing students for a boom in the drone industry once the federal government, as is expected, allows civilian unmanned aircraft to fly in U.S. airspace.

The Federal Aviation Administration estimates as many as 7,500 commercial drones could be flying in national airspace within a few years, and has until 2015 to present a plan for safely integrating drones into U.S. airspace....


Comment: US approves drones for civilian use

The 'normalizing' of American society to seeing a drone presence in national airspace begins to play out - they're teaching the children 'well', aren't they?