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US: Hundreds Mark MLK Holiday Outside South Carolina Capitol

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© AP Photo/Evan Vucci
People arrive at the Martin Luther King, Jr. Memorial in Washington, Monday, Jan. 16, 2012, for a ceremony honoring his legacy.
Hundreds of people rallied Monday outside the South Carolina capitol to honor the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday and protest the state's voter identification law.

While rallies in previous years have often been focused on protesting the Confederate flag that flies outside the Statehouse near a memorial for Confederate soldiers, the attention this year has turned to the voter ID law.

The U.S. Justice Department has rejected the law. The Obama administration said it didn't pass muster under the 1965 voting rights act, which outlawed discriminatory practices that prevented blacks from voting. On Monday, marchers carried signs that read: "Voter ID(equals)Poll Tax."

U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder was among those slated to speak.

Crusader

More US Catholics Take Complaints to Church Court

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© The Associated Press/M. Spencer Green
In this Wednesday, Jan. 11, 2012 photo, Rev. Patrick Lagges stands in front of a statue of Saint Francis in Chicago.
Parents upset by the admission policy at a parochial school. Clergy and parishioners at odds over use of their building. A priest resisting a transfer to another parish.

It was once assumed that disagreements like these in the Roman Catholic Church would end one way: with the highest-ranking cleric getting the last word.

But that outcome is no longer a given as Catholics, emboldened following the clergy abuse scandals that erupted a decade ago this month, have sought another avenue of redress.

In recent years, clergy and lay people in the United States have increasingly turned to the church's internal legal system to challenge a bishop's or pastor's decision about even the most workaday issues in Catholic life, according to canon lawyers in academia, dioceses and in private practice. Sometimes, the challengers even win.

In one example cited by veteran canon lawyers, parishioners wanted to bar musical performances in their church that weren't liturgical. Their priest had been renting space to a local band. In another case, a nun filed a petition after a religious superior disclosed the nun's medical information to others - a potential violation of privacy. Regarding bishops' often contentious decisions to close parishes, the liberal reform group FutureChurch posts a guide on its website called "Canonical Appeals for Dummies" on seeking Vatican intervention to stay open.

Cult

US: Imprisoned Jeffs Imposes Change on Polygamous Sect

Warren Jeffs
© unknown
Warren Jeffs
Polygamist sect leader Warren Jeffs may be serving a life-plus-20-year sentence in a Texas prison, but his grip on most of his 10,000 followers doesn't appear to be lessening and some former insiders say he's imposing even more rigid requirements that are roiling the church and splitting its members.

The edicts from Jeffs, head of the Fundamentalist Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints, form the basis for what he's called the "Holy United Order." An estimated 1,500 men, women and children church members failed to meet the stringent standards by a Jan. 1 deadline, said Willie Jessop, a former FLDS spokesman who no longer reveres Jeffs.

Whether those members were excommunicated outright or have been put on probationary status until they can prove they meet the standards remains unclear, Jessop and others said. Some marriages have been dissolved and families split up as Jeffs works from his prison cell to reshape his church.

Since about mid-November, Jeffs' brother, Lyle Jeffs, has been conducting personal interviews with members to determine their worthiness under the new order, the former church members say.

Mr. Potato

US: Republican Sponsor Of Bill To Require Drug Testing For Georgia Welfare Recipients Arrested For DUI

kipp smith
© Unknown

A Georgia Republican who wants all welfare reciepients subject to drug tests failed one himself after he ran a red light on Friday morning. The Atlanta Journal Constiution has the story on State Rep. Kip Smith (R):
Smith, whose given name is John Andrew Smith, first told the officer he had not consumed any alcoholic beverages.

"I asked him again, and he stated he had consumed a single beer at Hal's. I noticed also that Mr. Smith's eyes were watery, and I asked him to exit the vehicle, which he did," Kramer said in the report.

Smith told the officer he'd had the beer 45 minutes earlier, and the officer asked him to blow into a hand-held "intoximeter". The officer said the lawmaker refused, stating he would prefer to go to a clinic or the hospital to get tested.

The officer said Smith finally agreed to blow into the device. The report stated that Smith blew a .091., which is above the legal limit of .08.

Pharoah

America's Dangerously Removed Elite

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Rahm Emanuel
© AP/Reuters
New Jersey Governor Chris Christie and Rahm Emanuel
It's easy to cut public education funding when your kids go to private school. Just ask Christie and Emanuel.

Last week, my local Twittersphere momentarily erupted with allegations that Denver's public school superintendent, Tom Boasberg, is sending his kids to a private school that eschews high-stakes testing. Boasberg, an icon of the national movement pushing high-stakes testing and undermining traditional public education, eventually defended himself by insisting that his kids attended that special school only during preschool and that they now attend a public school. Yet his spokesman admitted that the school is not in Denver but in Boulder, Colo., one of America's wealthiest enclaves.

Boasberg, you see, refuses to live in the district that he governs. Though having no background in education administration, this longtime telecom executive used his connections to get appointed Denver superintendent, and he now acts like a king. From the confines of his distant castle in Boulder, he issues edicts to his low-income fiefdom - decrees demonizing teachers, shutting down neighborhood schools over community objections and promoting privately administered charter schools. Meanwhile, he makes sure his own royal family is insulated in a wealthy district that doesn't experience his destructive policies.

No doubt this is but a microcosmic story in a country whose patrician overlords are regularly conjuring the feudalism of Europe circa the Middle Ages. Today, our mayors deploy police against homeless people and protesters; our governors demand crushing budget cuts from the confines of their taxpayer-funded mansions; our Congress exempts itself from insider-trading laws and provides itself healthcare benefits denied to others; and our nation's capital has become one of the world's wealthiest cities, despite the recession.

Alarm Clock

US, New York: Schools 'Spy' on Fat Kids

Big Brother is joining the battle of the bulge.

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© Angel Chevrestt
Too far, too fast? School aide records a student’s heart rate.
A group of Long Island students will soon be wearing controversial electronic monitors that allow school officials to track their physical activity around the clock.

The athletics chair for the Bay Shore schools ordered 10 Polar Active monitors, at $90 a pop, for use starting this spring. The wristwatchlike devices count heartbeats, detect motion and even track students' sleeping habits in a bid to combat obesity.

The information is displayed on a color-coded screen and gets transmitted to a password-protected Web site that students and educators can access.

Handcuffs

Human Trafficking: Modern Day Slavery Affecting 30 Million Women and Children

stop human trafficking
© n/a
Most people think that slavery is a crime of the past. However, this notion couldn't be any further from the tragic reality of a well organized criminal activity which victimized more than 30 millions women and children worldwide. As matter of fact, there are more people being enslaved today than at any other time in human history.

There are two distinct facets of this modern slave trade: one concerns victims who are sold, bought and used as sex slaves, the other one pertains to people exploited for labor purpose. In this article we will only try to get a grasp on the global sex trade aspect of human trafficking.

Sex slavery is not limited to brothels is Thailand, Cambodia, the Philippines or the Dominican Republic. In countries where prostitution is legal, like Germany, traffickers, pimps and dangerous organized crime organizations such as the Russian mafia or ethnic Albanians are controlling most sex workers, even the ones who claim to be "independent".

According to recent estimates, there are currently around 200,000 children between the age of 12 to 15 who are sold for sex by pimps/traffickers every year in the United States. The problem is epidemic, and it often hides in plain sight.

Bizarro Earth

Punished For Not Crying: Thousands of North Koreans Face Labour Camps For Not Being Upset Enough About Death of Kim Jong-il

North Korea's hardline regime is punishing those who did not cry at the death of dictator Kim Jong-il, according to reports.

Sentences of at least six months in labour camps are also apparently being given to those who didn't go to the organised mourning events, while anyone who criticised the new leader Kim Jong-un is also being punished.

Those who tried to leave the country, or even made a mobile phone call out, were also being disciplined, it has been claimed.

Che Guevara

Kosovo Police Arrest 146 Protesters

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© unknown
Supporters of opposition party Self-Determination clash with Kosovo police in Podujevo, six kilometers from the Merdare border crossing that links Kosovo and Serbia, January 14, 2012.
Police in Kosovo have arrested at least 146 protesters following clashes with hundreds of Kosovo Albanians, who tried to blockade the border with neighboring Serbia.

Clashes erupted Saturday in the northern town of Podujevo, six kilometers (four miles) from the border with Serbia and near the main Merdare border crossing, leaving 50 people, including 31 police officers, injured.

Heavily-armed riot police fired tear gas and employed water cannons after the demonstrators blocked the road and ignored calls to disperse. Eventually, police managed to disperse the protesters and restore traffic on the road leading from the border to Pristina, the capital and largest city of Kosovo.

The opposition political party Self-Determination had announced that it would block the traffic from Serbia in order to bar Serb products from entering Kosovo.

Airplane

French, Saudi Warplanes Collide in Saudi

Mirage Jet
© unknown
A Mirage jet
A French Mirage and a Saudi F-15 collided in the kingdom's northern region of Tabuk without causing casualties, state news agency SPA quoted a military official as saying on Saturday.

"During a joint exercise on air engagement a French Mirage aircraft belonging to the French armed forces collided with a Saudi armed forces' F-15," said the statement.

"The Saudi pilot and the two French pilots ejected safely, and were taken to the Northern Sector Command. Investigations are under way to determine the circumstances of the incident," the official told SPA.

"Investigations are ongoing to uncover the circumstances surrounding the accident," it added.

Last May a Saudi F-15 crashed in the kingdom's east and its pilot was killed. The aircraft had been on a "training mission" in the Eastern Province when it came down, the news agency said at the time.

Source: Agence France-Presse