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Mon, 25 Oct 2021
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DNA samples at police checkpoint 'gross abuse of power,' say PA drivers

pa checkpoint
© AFP / Ross Mantle
A Pennsylvania community is asking questions after a government contractor, with help from the local police, pulled drivers off the road and into a parking lot to ask about their driving and - most notably - pressure them into providing a DNA sample.

Residents in Reading, Pennsylvania said they were forced off the road by employees of the Pacific Institute for Research and Evaluation, a contractor hired by the National Highway traffic Safety Administration and the White House Office of National Drug Control Policy. But the Reading city police were also at the scene with the lights in their patrol cars flashing, which drivers said gave the experiment a level of legitimacy it should not have had.

"I feel this incident is a gross abuse of power on many levels," Ricardo Nieves, a Reading resident who was stopped in the search, told the City Council, as quoted by the Reading Eagle.

Police officials have maintained that the search was only meant to poll drivers on their habits behind the wheel and that the DNA collection was intended to detect prescription drug use. That explanation has failed to satisfy many, with Mr. Nieves complaining that he had to refuse several times before he was released.

Comment: Yet another increasingly common, disturbing sign of the times.

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No. of Scots using food banks rises 5-fold

food bank

Food bank in Britain
The number of Scottish people using food banks and soup kitchens has increased by five times in a year, a new report reveals.

According to the overview of food aid provision by the Scottish government's social research unit, food bank charity The Trussell Trust handed out food support to 23,073 Scots between April and September, compared with 5,726 recorded in 2011-12.

Speaking during a visit to the Edinburgh South East food bank on Tuesday, Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond described as "absolutely unacceptable" the increase in the number of people ending up using food banks.

Charities blamed the rise on the UK government's welfare reforms, falling incomes and benefit delays.

British MPs are expected to face a critical debate in the House of Commons on Wednesday about the rise of food bank use and the increase in the country's hunger levels.

Black Magic

Mad world: Mumbai woman beheaded in gory tantrik ritual

© Reuters
A black magic holyman holds a human skull at Guwahati's Kamakhya Temple, which is believed to be the highest seat of Tantra or black magic. A tantrik has been arrested for killing a woman in a human sacrifice in Mumbai.
A 50-year-old Indian woman has been killed in a human sacrifice ritual by six people, including a tantrik, in Nalasopara, a suburb of India's commercial capital, Mumbai.

All six men have been arrested a day after the western Indian state assembly of Maharashtra passed an anti-superstition bill.

The woman, who was killed as a sacrifice, was identified as Kalavati Gupta when her son recognised her headless body in photographs.

According to The Times of India (TOI), Kalavati regularly visited Sarvajeet Kahar, who works as a technician in Air India's transport department and practised black magic at home. She was seeing Kahar for a cure for her 30-year-old paralysed son.

Kalavati's neighbour Ramdhani Yadav (33) and his brother Gulab (28), were also visiting the tantrik and were advised by him to perform a human sacrifice for health, wealth and prosperity.

The police said that the tantrik first asked for an animal sacrifice but later stressed on a human one.

Eye 2

Tourist walks off pier while browsing on Facebook

© James Lane/AAP
St Kilda Pier in Melbourne
Police rescue woman from dark and chilly Melbourne waters still clutching her mobile phone

A tourist is lucky to be alive after she fell into Melbourne's Port Phillip Bay while browsing on Facebook, police say.

The woman was walking along St Kilda pier engrossed in social media when she walked off the pier into the dark and chilly water about 11.30pm on Tuesday.

A quick-thinking witness raised the alarm. Police officers were able to point out the distressed woman floundering in the water to the water police, who rescued her about 20 metres from the pier. It is believed the woman did not know how to swim. She was taken to hospital for treatment.

There will be no need for a lost property report as the woman kept hold of her mobile phone throughout the ordeal.

Black Magic

Alleged animal sacrifice discovered at Lake Merced, San Francisco

Animal Sacrifice
© Courtesy @DStevensonKTVU/Twitter
Two chukars were found at Lake Merced in what Animal Care and Control described as an animal sacrifice.
San Francisco police and Animal Care and Control were called out to Lake Merced on Tuesday morning to clean up the scene of what appeared to be an animal sacrifice, officials said.

Police were contacted about 11 a.m. regarding two dead animals seemingly sacrificed in the area of John Muir Drive and Lake Merced Boulevard, Officer Gordon Shyy said. Police then forwarded the call to the Animal Care and Control department.

Once there, ACC officers determined that the two animals were chukars, a type of partridge, which can generally be found at live food markets sold as game birds, spokeswoman Deb Campbell said.

Star of David

Israel worries U.S. boycott could go contagious

 A demonstrator displays a sign reading
© Unknown
A demonstrator displays a sign reading "Boycott Israel" in Dublin, Ireland. (file photo)

Israel has expressed alarm over a boycott of its academic institutions by a powerful group of American scholars, saying other academic organizations in the United States could take similar action.

On Sunday, the American Studies Association (ASA), which has nearly 5,000 members, approved the academic boycott of Israel to protest its treatment of Palestinians, indicating that a movement to isolate the apartheid regime of Israel that is gaining momentum in Europe has also hit the US.

"The ASA condemns the United States' significant role in aiding and abetting Israel's violations of human rights against Palestinians and its occupation of Palestinian lands through its use of the veto in the UN Security Council," the organization said in a statement explaining the endorsement.

On Tuesday, Israel's Deputy Foreign Minister Ze'ev Elkin termed the ASA as a "radical leftist group", but added that "we need to prepare for the danger that it (boycott call) will pass to other, more serious academic forums."

He stated that Israeli officials were striving hard to discourage other American groups from following the ASA's lead.


Prison industrial complex! Colorado and other states illegally jail poor people unable to pay exorbitant court fines

© AFP Photo / Justin Sullivan
Jails in multiple cities throughout Colorado regularly imprison people who were previously given a fine by a court but are simply too poor to pay it, according to a new report from the American Civil Liberties Union that calls for an end to this practice.

The ACLU conducted investigations in municipal courts of Westminster, Wheat Ridge, and Northglenn, Colorado - all of which are located just outside Denver - and found that each of the cities regularly hand out "pay or serve" warrants that lock up those who cannot foot the bill.

One of the subjects was Linda Roberts, a 55-year-old grandmother who struggles with a disability and survives on food stamps. She was arrested in June 2012, according to the ACLU, for stealing $20 worth of groceries. Upon pleading guilty, she was ordered to pay a $371 fine, which was then raised to a $746 fine when she did not pay the initial amount.

Ms. Roberts was arrested in October of that year and served 15 days in the county jail. She now maintains that, during her stint behind bars, she appeared in front of a court and was forced to serve the duration of the 15 days unless she could pay the fine.

Roberts' story and others like it come after a number of recent ACLU investigations found similar circumstances at prisons in Ohio, Georgia, and Alabama. Yet the practice has been illegal since the 1830s, and a Supreme Court ruling from 1983 upheld that "a sentencing court cannot properly revoke a defendant's probation for failure to pay a fine and make restitution..."

Part of the motivation to keep this practice alive in some states is the growing influence of private prison firms, which always need inmates in their facilities in order to earn a profit. Yet this does not seem to be done for the benefit of the taxpayer.


Outcry in Italy over video of naked refugees being disinfected in public

Parliamentary speaker Laura Boldrini condemns treatment of migrants seen stripping naked at Lampedusa reception centre

Video footage appearing to show migrants at the reception centre on Lampedusa standing naked in the open air while waiting to be sprayed for scabies has provoked a storm of protest in Italy.

Broadcast by the Rai 2 television channel on Monday night, the pictures appeared to show a practice that was labelled "unworthy of a civilised country" by Laura Boldrini, the speaker of the lower house of parliament. Coming barely two months after hundreds of people died in two separate disasters in the Mediterranean, the footage provoked renewed criticism of Italy's creaking reception system for asylum seekers and refugees.

"Italy should be ashamed," Giusi Nicolini, mayor of Lampedusa, told Rai 2 television. "It [the reception system] has to change. This is not what we were expecting to see just two months after the shipwrecks which prompted weeping, tears, commitments and promises."

In the footage, which appeared to have been shot on a mobile phone, at least two men at the reception centre are shown standing with no clothes on, while others are undressing.


China says six arrested after deadly riot in Xinjiang

Chinese police have arrested six people they suspect of taking part in a riot near the old Silk Road city of Kashgar, in the restive far western Muslim region of Xinjiang, in which 16 people were killed, the regional government said.
© Rooney Chin/Reuters
A security officer holds out a detector on a street in Urumqi, Xinjiang.
The arrests, reported by the Xinjiang government in a statement on an official news site late on Monday, came a day after Chinese police shot and killed 14 people during the riot. Two policemen were also killed.

The government statement called the incident "an organised, pre-meditated, violent terror attack".

"The gang repeatedly gathered to watch violent, terrorist videos, promoted extremist religious ideology, manufactured explosive devices and guns, conducted test explosions several times and planned to carry out violent terrorist activities," the Xinjiang government said.

China has previously called some of the violence in Xinjiang the work of Islamist militants plotting holy war.

On Monday, China's Foreign Ministry stopped short of directly blaming Islamist militants but said a "violent terror gang" attacked police with explosives.

The Xinjiang government said the "terror gang" made up of 20 members was formed in August and was led by a person they named as Hesen Ismail.


Another cracked windshield? Russian plane to Dubai turns back due to windshield crack

© RIA Novosti. Alexander Paniotov
Airport in Krasnoyarsk
A plane bound for Dubai from the eastern Russian city of Krasnoyarsk was forced to turn back because of a crack on its cockpit window, officials said Tuesday.

The crew noticed during the plane's initial ascent that the glass on the co-pilot's side of the front windshield was cracked, and so decided to turn around, the Western Siberian Transport Prosecutor's office said in a statement.

Comment: Another cracked windshield? We wonder if there is any connection to the following case:
Explanation for 13 cracked airplane windscreens doesn't fly!