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US: Alabama county readies for possible record bankruptcy

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© Unknown
Birmingham, Alabama
Birmingham, Alabama -- Alabama's largest county is laying the groundwork for filing what would be the largest municipal bankruptcy in U.S. history, over a more than $3 billion debt for its sewer system.

The Jefferson County Commission approved resolutions Tuesday to hire prominent bankruptcy lawyers and to sell bonds later in case money is needed to emerge from bankruptcy.

Jefferson is Alabama's most populous county and seat of Birmingham. It's been trying for three years to avoid filing bankruptcy over debt payments it can no longer afford.

Two of the five commissioners say there's an 80 percent chance the county will file bankruptcy. The vote could come at a meeting scheduled for Thursday in Birmingham.

Cult

Christian Jihad? Why We Should Worry About Right-Wing Terror Attacks Like Norway's in the US

paramedics,norway
© AFP

The Norwegian police on Saturday charged a 32-year-old man, whom they identified as a Christian fundamentalist with right-wing connections, over the bombing of a government center and a shooting attack on a nearby island that together left at least 91 people dead.

In my new book Sex, Mom and God I predicted just such an action. I predicted that right wing Christians will unleash terror here in America too. I predict that they will copy Islamic extremists, and may eventually even make common cause with them.

There is a growing movement in America that equates godliness with hatred of our government in fact hatred of our country as fallen and evil because we allow women choice, gays to marry, have a social safety net, and allow immigration from other cultures and non-white races.

Pills

US: Jared Loughner to be forced to take anti-psychotic medication

Jared Loughner
© AP Photo/Pima County Sheriff's Dept. via The Arizona Republic
In this Jan. 8, 2011 file photo released by the Pima County Sheriff's Office shows shooting suspect Jared Loughner.
Bizarre and suicidal actions of Arizona shooting suspect Jared Lee Loughner have pushed a federal appeals panel to reverse an earlier decision and allow authorities to force him to take anti-psychotic medication.

The three-judge panel for the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals based in San Francisco had ruled on July 12 that Loughner can refuse anti-psychotic medication.

But since that ruling, Loughner, who has been diagnosed as schizophrenic, has deteriorated, prosecutors said.

He's had screaming and crying fits that last hours, he has harmed himself and claims that the radio was inserting thoughts into his head, prosecutors said.

Loughner has also expressed "regret for the circumstances that led to his arrest," prosecutors wrote in court documents.

Stormtrooper

US: Columnist Amy Alkon Traumatized by the TSA

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© unknown
Over the weekend, columnist Amy Alkon (a.k.a. "The Advice Goddess," pictured) was on her way back to LA from the Association of Alternative Newsweeklies conference in New Orleans, when this happened:


Sheriff

Italy: Knox Lawyers Show Video of Cops Dropping Key Piece of Evidence

  • Gasps from public gallery as video of investigators dropping clasp is shown
Police scientists involved in the Amanda Knox murder case made a series of glaring errors, an appeal court heard yesterday.

Knox, 24, is serving 26 years for the sex murder of student Meredith Kercher, 21, who was found semi-naked with her throat cut in the house the two shared in Italy.

The American and her former boyfriend Raffaele Sollecito, 26, were convicted on two key pieces of evidence, a 12in kitchen knife and a clasp from Meredith's blood-stained bra.
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© EPA (left) AFP/Getty Images (right)
Upbeat: Amanda Knox smiles and waves to supporters as she takes her place before the start of a session at her appeal trial in Perugia's courthouse today

Their trial heard how DNA from Meredith was found on the knife blade and that of Knox was found on the handle, while DNA from Sollecito was said to be on the clasp.

Cult

Irish political classes lose their fear of the Catholic church

Enda Kenny
© Isopix / Rex Features
Enda Kenny, who this week launched an unprecedented attack on the Vatican.
Enda Kenny's criticism of the Vatican this week marks a significant milestone on Ireland's journey away from being a mono-Catholic state into a 21st European republic

There are two parallel revolutions taking place on either side of the Irish Sea that will radically alter the relationship between government and non-state institutions that exercise major temporal power.

In Britain the ongoing revelations of wrongdoing within the Murdoch empire and the public humiliation of a media baron and his son may result in re-alignment in the relationship between politicians and the press, with the former becoming less supplicant to the latter.

One of the most important by-products of the last few incredible weeks has been the end of fear. Specifically, fear of media tycoons who used to boast that some of their newspapers had "won" elections and had left the prime ministerial ambitions of party leaders in ruins. The humbling of Murdoch Senior and Junior this week marked the end of that fear.

Meanwhile, here in Ireland the political classes have also lost their fear, namely of the once almighty Roman Catholic church. The news reports both in the Republic and the UK were not exaggerating on Wednesday.

Enda Kenny's attack on the Vatican over its handling of yet another clerical child sex abuse scandal in Ireland was indeed truly "unprecedented". Even Kenny's Fine Gael, a party with deep roots in rural Catholic Ireland, had lost its fear of the men (they are always men!) who wear red cabs and wield crosiers.

Since the mid 1990s the Catholic church's reputation has been slowly eroding amid a deluge of damaging revelations about its priests, religious orders and the institutions they run.

Bad Guys

NY Mummy Smugglers Reveal Vast Antiquities Black Market

Mummy
© Dr. Michael Miyamoto
The illegal trafficking of mummies can destroy scientists' chances of learning about ancient Egyptians. Here, the mummy Maiherpri resides in a sarcophagus after undergoing a scan to reveal the prevalence of heart disease at the time.
The rescue of an ancient Egyptian mummy's sarcophagus this month from alleged smugglers in New York - the first time authorities say an international artifacts' smuggling ring was dismantled within the United States - sounds more like the plot of a movie than reality.

Amazingly, however, mummy smuggling not only still happens today, it was once so common that enough mummies were available to be ground up and sold as powder, archaeologists reveal.

"Mummy powder was something you could buy in pharmacies up to 1920, because people thought it was a type of medication," said Egyptologist Regine Schulz, curator of ancient art at the Walters Art Museum in Baltimore.

Today's black market for mummy and other antiquities is in the billions of dollars, though exact numbers aren't known. Besides not having a clear bead on the breadth of trafficking in Egyptian artifacts, scientists and officials say it's often difficult to protect the precious artifacts as the Egyptian desert is so vast.

Phoenix

California, US: Mysterious 'explosion' that triggered Friday's fire under investigation

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© Bill Lavallie
A CAL FIRE helicopter and federal fire fighting helicopter scoop water from the Mokelumne River to battle Friday's blaze
CAL FIRE investigators are looking into the cause of a fire that torched more than 80 acres of Calaveras County and burned up to the very edge of Amador County, threatening to burn the Mokelumne River's scenic Middle Bar run. As the fire reached its most dangerous peak Friday afternoon, witnesses and reporters observed CAL FIRE law enforcement questioning at least one man about how the blaze started.

Fire crews were first alerted to the blaze around 4 p.m. Friday afternoon. Emergency responders arriving at Gwin Mine Road were quickly told by witnesses that an old, beat-up truck had just "exploded and caught fire," tossing red embers that quickly ignited the dry weeds and greasewood. At least two people - reportedly a man and a woman - were seen escaping the truck without injuries.

Heart - Black

Chinese couple sells kids to play games

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© Unknown
A Chinese couple sold their three children for cash to play video games, according to a local report.

Sanxiang City News newspaper (translated by ABC News, via VideoGamer.com) said the parents, both under 21, sold their children for money to fund playing online games at internet cafes.

In 2009, Li Lin and Li Juan sold their second child, a baby girl, for less than $500. They reportedly spent the money shortly after.

They then sold their first child, a boy, for about $4600. They sold their third child, also a boy, for the same amount.

Pistol

Norway gunman's father speaks out: 'He should have taken his own life'

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© Sipa Press/Rex Features
Jens Breivik, the father of Anders Behring Breivik, is protected by gendarmes at his home in Cournanel, south-west France.
Jens Breivik in state of shock over actions of Anders Behring Breivik and says he wishes his son had killed himself

Sitting in his villa in the French village of Cournanel - population 500 - surfing the internet for news of the bomb blast and massacre back home, retired Norwegian diplomat Jens Breivik had no idea that, for him, the worst was to come.

Today the country home near the Pyrenees in south-west France, where he had hoped to spend his retirement in peace, is surrounded by gendarmes "for his own protection".

And the most obscure details of his 70-year life were being picked over for clues to why his son, "a very ordinary boy", turned into an assassin. The truth is that Jens Breivik has no more idea than anyone else. Possibly less. Anders Breivik had never lived with his father and had not seen him since he was a teenager.

"I view this atrocity with absolute horror," his father told Norwegian journalists. "My condolences go out to all those who have suffered because of this. I am in a state of shock. I have not recovered."