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Fri, 31 Mar 2023
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Syria exodus massive

© Unknown
The number of refugees fleeing Syria could reach 700,000 by the end of the year, the UN refugee agency said on Thursday, almost four times its previous forecast. Most faced what was likely to be a bitterly cold winter living in tents with little prospect of returning to their homeland, it said.

About 294,000 refugees fleeing 18 months of conflict in Syria have crossed into four neighbouring countries - Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon and Turkey - or await registration there, it said.

"This is a significant outflow taking place, 100,000 people in August, 60,000 in September and at the moment 2,000 or 3,000 per day or night," Panos Moumtzis, regional refugee co-ordinator for the UN refugee agency UNHCR, told a news briefing.

About 5,000-6,000 Syrians have reached other parts of north Africa, mainly Egypt, while other refugees are turning up in southern Europe, including Cyprus and Greece, he said.

The previous forecast of 185,000 refugees was surpassed in August.

Arrow Down

"Bagel Head" trend is the newest fashion sensation

Tattoos, body piercings and implants have become the norm in today's society. However the newest trend in body alteration is "bagel head," which refers to a saline injection to an individual's forehead that is molded to resemble a bagel.

The new trend is created by injecting 400 cc of saline into the forehead until it swells up and then pressing the center of the swollen area in with a thumb. The results would reflect the appearance of bagel-like shaped bread stuck to an individual's head.

The process may take up to two hours to administer the saline injections. When the forehead is fully saturated with saline, the practitioner administering the saline then uses his or her thumb to form the shape of a bagel. This particular modification can last anywhere from 16 to 24 hours, when the saline is absorbed by the body, before an individual's forehead returns to normal.

Alarm Clock

Texas district expands corporal punishment policy

Jada Watt, a 16-year-old high school student
© Associated Press
Jada Watt, a 16-year-old high school student, shows a civil ticket
Springtown - Like many schools in Texas, "spare the rod and spoil the child" might be considered the motto at Springtown High School.

But when two teenage girls there reportedly suffered bruises after being paddled by male assistant principals, some parents complained. They weren't upset about the punishment itself, but instead that the school violated the policy requiring an educator of the same sex as the student to dole out the paddling.

So the school district has changed its policy - to expand, not abolish, corporal punishment. Board members voted Monday night to let administrators paddle students of the opposite sex, after Superintendent Michael Kelley cited a lack of women administrators to carry out spankings.

The new policy says a same-gender school official must witness the paddling, which is just one "swat," and that parents also can request one spanking per semester. In all cases, a parent must give written permission and request it in lieu of another punishment, such as suspension or detention.

Bad Guys

Mitt Romney Helped Monsanto's Toxic Takeover of the World

© Romney: Chris Devers/WikiMedia Commons; Corn: Africa Studio/Shutterstock
Today, Monsanto looms over the global ag landscape like a colossus. It is the globe's largest seed purveyor - and its dominant vendor of genetically modified traits. How dominant? Here's NPR on the company's mastery over the US GMO market: "More than 9 out of 10 soybean seeds carry [Monsanto's] Roundup Ready trait. It's about the same for cotton and just a little lower for corn." It also sells nearly $1 billion worth of herbicides every three months.

But for all its clout, Monsanto is a relatively new player in the Big Ag game. While fellow ag giants like ADM, Cargill, Bunge, and BASF have been in the game for a century or more, as recently as the late 1970s Monsanto was known mostly as a chemical company; herbicides were a relatively small sideline, and genetically modified seeds were just the gleam in the eye of a few scientists in the R&D department. And its flagship chemical business had plunged into crisis. In 1976, Congress banned the highly toxic industrial coolant PCB - the US production of which Monsanto had enjoyed what the Washington Post called a "lucrative four-decade monopoly." According to the Post, Monsanto had been actively covering up the dangers of PCB exposure for years before the ban, opening the company to a thicket of lawsuits. To make matters worse, the company had also been heavily invested in the toxic pesticide DDT (banned in 1972) and the infamous Vietnam War defoliant Agent Orange - both of which carried their own legal and public-relations liabilities.

How did Monsanto pivot from teetering, scandal-ridden chemical giant to mighty high-tech (though still quite controversial) agribiz firm? As the veteran investigative reporter (and Mother Jones contributor) Wayne Barrett shows in a new Nation article, a young consultant called Mitt Romney helped push the firm on its highly lucrative new path.


USA Harvest Founder Charged With Looting Charity

Stan Curtis

USA Harvest founder Stan Curtis
The founder of charity group USA Harvest, which has ties to celebrities Scarlett Johansson, Hillary Duff, the Goo Goo Dolls and Green Day has been charged by the Justice Department with stealing more than $553,000 from the organization.

Hugh "Stan" Curtis, the founder of USA Harvest, has been charged by the US Attorney's Office in Kentucky with mail fraud, money laundering and filing false income tax returns with the Internal Revenue Service.

Curtis allegedly stole over $180,000 between September 2005 and September 2007 of donations that he solicited on behalf of the organization-a tax-exempt charity. The theft included some large donations meant for the USA Harvest. According to the criminal charges Curtis allegedly deposited checks into his bank account for the charity that included a $20,000 and a $25,000 check from donors.

The charity provides food and meals for individuals in need by partnering with restaurants, hospitals to get leftover food to soup kitchens and food banks. According to the USA Harvest website, which highlights their ties with celebrities such as Johansson, the charity works with 5,400 agencies to provide food and notes that they have provided over 437 billion pounds of food to organizations since their founding in 1989.

Light Saber

University of California Pays $1M to UC Davis Students in Pepper Spray Settlement

© ABC News
The University of California regents will pay about $1 million to 21 UC Davis current and former students who were pepper-sprayed during a peaceful campus protest last November.

A video of the incident that went viral shows an officer casually walking up to and aiming a thick stream of the spray directly into the faces of seated students at close range during an Occupy rally. The incident triggered outrage and an investigation by the university.

In the settlement, each student who filed suit will each receive $30,000 and a handwritten apology from UC Davis Chancellor Linda Katehi.

Student Ian Lee was a freshman when he was pepper sprayed.

"The reason we were protesting was that the university has proposed unfair and unreasonable tuition hikes," Lee said.

In addition, the university system has agreed to $250,000 for the students' legal fees.

Lee said he plans to use all of the money to pay future tuition.

"I know that's what a lot of my friends are doing. Some others are donating it, and some others are using the money to get a good start post-college in this difficult economic time," he said.


Police Warn About Gangs Recruiting Prostitutes via Facebook


Girls as young as 12 are being recruited into lives of crime via the social networks
US, Texas - Facebook is a great way to connect with long-lost friends, and an even better way to connect with new ones. But not everyone who uses the world's most popular social network has good intentions: Police in Texas today are warning that girls are being lured into prostitution by gang members trolling their social media profiles.

According to San Antonio Police Detective George Segura, gangs look for girls on Facebook who are showing off a bit too much skin, and are possibly seeking attention. Gang members then approach the girls on Facebook, befriend them, and convince them to meet up in person. No one is too young to be exploited - police say girls as young as 12 are being recruited.

The sex trade is big business for gangs. According to a Bexar County probation officer, gang members "can easily make hundred of thousands of dollars per girl, per year."

While this news is admittedly alarmist, it provides a strong reminder to revisit your child's Facebook privacy settings. You should also discuss ways for your son or daughter to be smart, safe digital citizens, so they'll be better equipped to avoid such dangers. And, of course, it's important to know when your child is too young to handle tech on their own. "Not every child needs access and such freedom to chat with strangers that could do them harm," says Segura.

Source: Tecca


Nova Scotia Police Seek 2 Men After Teenage Boy Allegedly Chained, Sexually Assaulted

© Craig Paisley/CBC News
Police received a tip about the alleged confinement of a boy at this house Monday night.
Canada, Nova Scotia - A manhunt is underway in rural Nova Scotia for two men charged by RCMP with unlawful confinement involving a 16-year-old boy.

David James Leblanc, 47, and Wayne Alan Cunningham, 31, are facing forcible confinement and sexual assault charges.

"The nature of the charges speaks for themselves. They are serious charges, indeed," said RCMP Sgt. Alain LeBlanc.

Investigators said they believe the accused men could be in Lunenburg County southwest of Halifax or in Halifax County .

Alice Arnold, 79, said she heard panicked knocking at her back door Monday night.

"I went to the door," she said."I didn't open the storm door. There was a young man, probably about 14, I'd say, standing there saying, 'I want to come in, I want to come in. I've got to come in.' His appearance was unusual; he had chains on his wrists and chains on his feet."

She said the chains were double-wrapped around his wrists and ankles.

Arnold then called 911, but didn't let the teen into her home.


Norway Oksnes Family Celebrates Third Lottery Win

Lottery Tickets
© Getty Images
A Norwegian family has won the country's national lottery three times in six years, taking home a total of more than 3m euros ($3.9m; £2.4m).

Last week, 19-year-old Tord became the latest member of the Oksnes family to hit the jackpot, following his sister Hege Jeanette and father Leif.

The lucky numbers were drawn every time Hege was pregnant or had just given birth.

Two of the wins took place within hours of her giving birth.

Tord scooped the most at 12m kroner (1.6m euros), followed by his sister with 8.2m kroner and Leif with 4.1m.

Hege Jeanette told AFP news agency that her other three brothers who have yet to win the lottery are urging her to "have at least 10 children".

"Having children is always nice, but it doesn't happen on command," she said.

According to the Associated Press, the Norsk Tipping AS lottery company says it has seen cases where one person has won the lottery twice, but never three members of the same family winning separately.


Hospitals Harvesting Organs From Patients That Doctors Were Pressured to Declare Brain Dead: Lawsuit

Organ Harvest
© Medical Daily
New York hospitals are routinely "harvesting" body parts from patients before they're even dead, a lawsuit is claiming.

The suit accuses the transplant non-profit, The New York Organ Donor Network, of bullying hospital staffers to declare patients brain dead when they are still alive in order to take their organs.

Plaintiff Patrick McMahon, 50, an Air Force combat veteran, is a former transplant coordinator who claims he was fired just four months into the job for protesting about the practice and estimates that one in five patients is still showing signs of brain activity when surgeons declare them dead and start ripping out their body parts.

"They're playing God," McMahon told New York Post. The lawsuits, filed in Manhattan Supreme Court Tuesday, cited four examples of improper organ harvesting.

One of the examples cited details of a 19-year-old man injured in a car crash who was still struggling to breath and showed signs of brain activity when doctors at Nassau University Medical Center declared him brain dead under pressure from the donor-network officials, including Director Michael Goldstein, who allegedly said during a conference call: "This kid is dead, you got that?" the suit claims.