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Heart - Black

Remains of 167 Bodies Found in Southern Mexican Cave

Mexico City - Mexican authorities say they've found the bodies of 167 people in a southern Mexican cave, and forensic experts believe the remains are at least 50 years old.

Prosecutors in Chiapas state said in a statement Saturday that the remains were found Friday on the Nuevo Ojo de Agua ranch in an area frequently used by Central American migrants traveling north. The statement said there were no visible signs of violence on the remains, which "break easily."

The authorities say they will "not discard any line of investigation."

Mass graves have been found in the past two years mainly in northern Mexico containing the bodies of dozens of migrants and others allegedly killed by drug cartels.

Source: The Associated Press

Cheeseburger

France's Muslims Hit Back at Nicolas Sarkozy's Policy on Halal Meat

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© Inminds.com
With Marine Le Pen chasing his votes, the French president has made labelling of halal meat an election issue. But Muslim entrepreneurs are dismayed by his shift to the right

France, Paris - Les Enfants Terribles, a chic restaurant in Paris's 12th arrondissement, was packed. Plates of halal foie gras à la maison, halal braised lamb with rosemary, and halal caramelised duck were being dispatched to tables. Fresh fruit cocktails and exotic non-alcoholic concoctions replaced glasses of wine.

Mohamed Abdenebi, 36, a history and geography teacher, was a typical diner: young, French, Muslim, dynamic - and furious. According to Abdenebi, France has let its Muslim population down. "They said to us, 'Do your studies, and you will get a job.' We did our studies but there were no jobs and they said we hadn't done the right studies. Each time there was a new obstacle."

Instead of being integrated and treated with equality, Abdenebi says the halal row shows the extent to which France's Muslims are being made to feel like "the enemy within".

Similar complaints were being heard across France. President Nicolas Sarkozy's decision to make the labelling of halal meat pivotal to his re-election campaign has infuriated, alienated and dismayed France's Muslim community, which may number as many as six million, and the backlash is growing. Members of the booming educated and entrepreneurial Muslim middle class say they are tired of being cast as scapegoats in Sarkozy's wooing of the extreme right and have accused him of dangerous and divisive election tactics.

Dollar

Bank Fees: Mega-Banks Screwing You With Sneaky Fees -- Again

bank fees
© mikeywally, via Flickr.com
Consumers were outraged when Bank of America announced a $5 debit fee last fall. Undeterred, some banks are now quietly imposing even more fees.

In recent years, the U.S. government has imposed important new regulations on big Wall Street banks -- rules designed to keep banks from preying on consumers. But ironically, the mega-banks have responded to those regulations in a decidedly anti-consumer manner, with a relentless campaign to impose unfair new fees on the very consumers the regulations were designed to protect.

For years, big shiny banks like Chase and Bank of America were where you went to get "no fee," "no hassle" checking accounts. We all got so used to seeing ads touting free checking accounts that many of us just came to accept free checking as the norm. At the same time, many of us have had our checking accounts with the same big bank (and/or the big bank that bought out our original bank) for years, giving some of us the impression that we're still getting the same great deal as when we signed up.

But think about it for a second: How many advertisements for "free checking" have you heard in recent months? Probably not very many, because free checking is no longer standard at big banks. Quietly, banks have ratcheted up the fees associated with their accounts, and now, according to research firm Moebs Services, virtually all of the big banks have stopped offering free checking accounts. At the same time, the banks have increased fees for everything from lost debit card replacements to account minimums and even the "privilege" of speaking to a bank teller -- fees that often disproportionately affect poor consumers who may have less flexible schedules and a harder time maintaining account minimums.

Info

Los Angeles Readies for a ''Levitating Mass''

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© Reuters/Fred Prouser
A woman and young boy walk past a 340-ton megalith rock, which is to be part of artist Michael Heizer's artwork Levitated Mass, as it is seen on a transport vehicle in the middle of the road, about 5 miles (8 km) from downtown Los Angeles March 9, 2012.
US, California - It weighs 340 tons, stands 21 feet, 10 inches high and measures 32 feet across. Beyond its massive size, this granite boulder being delivered to Los Angeles is no ordinary rock. It is art, or will be soon.

Last week, the huge rock embarked on an 11-day journey from the California desert to its new home at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art where it will become the centerpiece of artist Michael Heizer's Levitated Mass. He conceived of the artwork in 1968, but only discovered the right boulder six years ago while scouring a granite quarry.

It is expected to arrive in the early morning hours on Saturday and will take weeks to put in place before the installation opens to the public in late spring or early summer.

When Levitating Mass is completed, people will walk into a sort of trench in the ground underneath it, and the boulder will seem to rise in the air and hover above their heads. The museum hopes the work will become a major attraction for tourists and others at the museum.

Airplane

Passengers' terror as flight attendant screams 'We're going to crash!' and rants about 9/11 before being wrestled to the ground by colleagues

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© MSNBC
Struggle: Two other crew members wrestle with the woman as she screams about the plane crashing and 9/11
  • Unnamed flight attendant said to be bipolar and hadn't taken medication
  • Frightened passengers said she was 'screaming bloody murder'
  • Took five people to restrain her as plane was taxiing on runway
An American Airlines jet was delayed as it taxied for take-off this morning after a veteran flight attendant began ranting about the September 11 attacks and saying the plane was about to crash.

Flight 2332 was halted after the woman commandeered the plane's public address system and told passengers there were technical difficulties.

First class travelers helped the cabin crew subdue the attendant, after she started screaming random things like she was 'not responsible for crashing this plane' and that they couldn't take off because there wasn't enough ice on board, according to witnesses.

House

Government to Seek Court Approval of $25 Billion Mortgage Pact

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© Reuters/Shannon Stapleton
A home is seen padlocked and boarded up in Brentwood, New York February 10, 2012.
US, Washington DC - A previously announced $25 billion settlement between five major banks accused of abusive mortgage practices and government officials will be filed in federal court on Monday, people familiar with the matter said late Friday.

The pact unveiled February 9 is expected to result in payments and other mortgage relief for about one million borrowers, but must first be approved by a judge.

Bank of America Corp, Wells Fargo & Co, JPMorgan Chase & Co, Citigroup Inc and Ally Financial Inc agreed to the settlement after 16 months of negotiations with state attorneys general and federal agencies, including the U.S. Justice Department and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

But the fine print took another month to finalize.

Negotiators had hoped to file a settlement on Friday, but the deal was held up at the last minute over a disagreement between Nevada and Bank of America, people familiar with the matter said.

Alarm Clock

'Dance Moms' 'Nude' Dance Routine Episode Playground for Pedophiles, Experts Say

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© Lifetime
Lifetime's reality series Dance Moms, which follows young girls training at the Abby Lee Dance Company, is being ripped for its latest episode involving the child dancers wearing costumes that simulate nudity.

Tuesday night's episode, titled "Topless Showgirls," featured girls as young as eight performing a sexually charged, provocative showgirl-like routine in a local dance competition, donning barely-there sparkly flesh-colored bras and panties to give the illusion of nudity.

"All the girls and I feel kind of nervous because we feel kind of naked," one of the dancers said prior to taking the stage.

Pyschological experts and parents groups we talked to are up-in-arms over the stripper-esque theme, and fear that the episode could act as encouragement for pedophiles and sexual predators.

House

Banks Foreclosing on Churches in Record Numbers

Reverend Gregory G. Groover sits for a portrait
© Reuters/Brian Snyder
Reverend Gregory G. Groover sits for a portrait inside the Charles St. AME Church in the Roxbury neighborhood of Boston, Massachusetts.
Banks are foreclosing on America's churches in record numbers as lenders increasingly lose patience with religious facilities that have defaulted on their mortgages, according to new data.

The surge in church foreclosures represents a new wave of distressed property seizures triggered by the 2008 financial crash, analysts say, with many banks no longer willing to grant struggling religious organizations forbearance.

Since 2010, 270 churches have been sold after defaulting on their loans, with 90 percent of those sales coming after a lender-triggered foreclosure, according to the real estate information company CoStar Group.

In 2011, 138 churches were sold by banks, an annual record, with no sign that these religious foreclosures are abating, according to CoStar. That compares to just 24 sales in 2008 and only a handful in the decade before.

The church foreclosures have hit all denominations across America, black and white, but with small to medium size houses of worship the worst. Most of these institutions have ended up being purchased by other churches.

Smoking

Hands Off Our Packs - Nanny Town

The Government is set to announce a public consultation on whether the United Kingdom should adopt 'plain' packaging of tobacco products. Hands Off Our Packs has been launched by the smokers' group Forest to combat the threat of plain packaging. Our first campaign video features contributions from Hands Off Our Packs campaigner Angela Harbutt; Mark Littlewood, director-general, Institute of Economic Affairs; Sam Bowman, Adam Smith Institute; Simon Clark, director, Forest; and others opposed to this potentially damaging measure. If you oppose the plain packaging of tobacco please visit our website, www.handsoffourpacks.com, and register your support. By signing up you can help protect Britain from the dangers of excessive regulation.

Comment: For more information on the benefits of smoking, see these Sott articles:

Let's All Light Up!

5 Health Benefits of Smoking

Health Benefits of Smoking Tobacco

First They Came for the Smokers... And I said Nothing Because I Was Not a Smoker


Heart - Black

Children found living in school bus, while parents imprisoned for embezzlement

Houston, Texas - The imprisoned father of two Texas children found living in an abandoned school bus is claiming the home was only meant to be temporary.

Mark Shorten said he planned to build a house on a wooded lot near Houston before he and his wife were arrested for embezzlement in 2010. Child welfare officials took custody of his children earlier this week after the siblings -- a 5-year-old boy and 11-year-old girl -- were found living in the dilapidated bus at the end of a muddy, one-lane road in Splendora, home to one of the poorest school districts in the state.
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© AP Photo/Houston Chronicle, Brett Coomer
A Montgomery Count sheriff's deputy walks away from an old school bus where two children were found living on their own Wednesday in Spendora, Texas. An 11-year-old girl is said to be living in the bus with her five-year-old brother. Both of the children's parents are in prison, officials said.
Fox affiliate KRIV-TV reported Thursday that no charges have been filed yet in the case. The children's parents are in federal prison for stealing money from victims of Hurricane Ike, which struck in 2008, according to the station.

The postal carrier saw the kids Wednesday near Houston, and the two were swiftly placed in foster care while authorities investigate.

"The little girl's hair was just matted, like a stray dog's," Vanessa Picazo said.