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Tue, 30 May 2023
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Mine Fields Circle Jesus' Traditional Baptism Site

Qasr el-Yahud minefield
© AP Photo/Oded Balilty
Christian Orthodox pilgrims arrive to a traditional Epiphany baptism ceremony, at Qasr el Yahud, the spot where John the Baptist is said to have baptized Jesus, near the West Bank town of Jericho, Tuesday, Jan. 18, 2011.
Qasr el-Yahud, West Bank - Just months before the official opening of one of Christianity's holiest sites to visitors, the area where John the Baptist is said to have baptized Jesus remains surrounded by thousands of land mines.

Israel says the sites visited by pilgrims and tourists in an area known as Qasr el-Yahud will be safe, but advocacy groups warn that crowds could be in danger.

On Tuesday, some 15,000 Christian pilgrims marched between two fenced-in mine fields to reach the Epiphany ceremony led by the Greek Orthodox patriarch on the Jordan River, 5 miles (8 kilometers) east of the oasis town of Jericho at the edge of the West Bank.

Worshippers from around the world dipped themselves in the muddy waters, facing fellow believers on the other side of the small river. Orthodox clergymen dressed in dark frocks and robes chanted prayers as Patriarch Theofilos III blessed the waters, hurled branches and released white doves into the air.

This site is Christianity's third holiest - after the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem, on the spot where Christian belief says Jesus was crucified and resurrected, and the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem, where tradition holds Jesus was born - and the baptism marks the beginning of Jesus' public ministry.


Army To Report Rise In National Guard, Reserve Suicides

The U.S. Army on Wednesday will report that while the number of suicides in the active-duty force declined in 2010, the number of suicides in the Army Reserve and National Guard increased, a senior Army official said.

The increase in Reserve and National Guard suicides is among troops who are in the United States and not activated for duty. The senior Army official said more than half of those troops were never deployed to a war zone.

The official said one possible explanation for the increase in suicides is economic pressure and rising unemployment, but he emphasized that the Army simply does not have answers.

The official noted that for Guard and Reserve personnel who live as civilians back in their communities, the Army is not able to provide the same type of suicide awareness and prevention programs that are available to active-duty personnel.


Crime-ridden Camden, New Jersey Cuts Police Force Nearly in Half

The mayor of crime-ridden Camden, New Jersey, has announced layoffs of nearly half of the city's police force and close to a third of its fire department.

One hundred sixty-eight police officers and 67 firefighters were laid off Tuesday, as officials struggle to close a $26.5 million budget gap through a series of belt-tightening measures, Mayor Dana Redd told reporters. The layoffs take effect immediately.

Redd said she was unable to secure the $8 million in budget concessions that she says she needed to save the jobs of up to 100 police officers and many of the city's firefighters.

The mayor -- who said she will continue negotiations with police and fire unions -- had been asking the workers to pay more for their health care, freeze or reduce their salaries and take furlough days.


US: School Without Power After Falling Behind On Bill


Detroit, Michigan -- A Detroit school is trying to find funds to turn its gas and electric back on after falling behind on a $100,000 bill.

A representative for DTE Energy said it turned power off to Detroit Urban Lutheran School as a last resort.

Principal Dave Siefker said he tried working with the utility company but has only been able to come up with $10,000.

"We have students, parents and teachers working through every kind of fundraiser that you can imagine," he said. "But fundraising is not going to fund our school. Donations, only major donations, probably."

Cell Phone

US: Thieves in Florida Take $10M in Phone Equipment

Newly released video from the $10 million heist at an Orlando wireless company shows crooks moving pallets of stolen merchandise and ramming them into the back of a stolen trailer.

The video shows one suspect guiding the driver of the semi-tractor trailer toward one of the bay doors of Quality One Wireless off Tradeport Drive sometime after the business closed at 7 p.m. Friday.

Another video camera caught one suspect operating a forklift and moving pallets of electronics into the trailer while the other men helped hold the trailer doors open.

Orlando police investigators also said burglars targeted the business in 2007 and 2008 - and some of the company's employees think it could have been an inside job.

After the 2008 burglary, employee Augusto Urena told police "he believes the suspect(s) must be familiar with the layout of their warehouse as the suspect(s) had a good idea where to make the hole in the wall."

"In both cases [2007 and 2008] they believe an employee may be responsible," the police report from the 2008 burglary shows.

Burglars in September 2007 "gained entry into the locked and alarmed business by burning a hole approximately 5 ½ feet long and 2 feet high," with a blow torch, the commercial burglary report shows.

Police investigators said the suspects then removed "1,500 boxes of Samsung C416 cell phones. There were a total of 6,683 black cell phones and 1,689 red cell phones inside these boxes."

Estimated value of what was taken in the September 2007 burglary is $711,720. Surveillance cameras showed one suspect taking notes during that heist.


US: Johnson: Charge 10-year-old as an adult in accidental fire? Grow up

Go for broke. Put the kid on the stand.

This is the reason I do not practice law, and would be quite bad at it if I did because I would go all in.

I'd put the kid up there, let those who will judge him soak in the absurdity of it all, that we live in a world that sees fit to charge a mere boy with a felony.

Jacob Christenson is 11.

More to the point, he was 10 last May when he and a buddy were playing with a lighter they found at their Parker townhome complex.

They put it to a piece of paper. The flame rose quickly and burned the buddy, who flung the lit paper into a dry pine bush.

By the time firefighters were done, a nearby townhome lay smoldering, the damage totaling nearly $200,000.

Arrow Down

Ponerization in Action: Rape Laws Blurry for Israelis

Israel Rape Law
© Agence France-Presse
Rape laws blurry for Israelis: researcher
More than 60 percent of Israeli men and 40 percent of women do not believe that forcing sex on an acquaintance constitutes rape, an Israeli researcher said on Tuesday.

The findings, set to be published in a book in the United States later in the year, indicate a stark difference between public perceptions of what constitutes rape and the way it is defined by law, author Avigail Moor told AFP.

"Among the public there is a very stereotypical view of rape of a stranger jumping out the bushes and assaulting a woman," said Moor, a psychologist who treats victims of sexual violence and a researcher at the Tel Hai college in northern Israel.

Moor asked participants in her study for a yes or no answer on whether forced sex was rape when carried out by a stranger, an acquaintance or a partner.

Comment: "Any human group affected by the [ponerization] process [...] is characterized by its increasing regression from natural common sense and the ability to perceive psychological reality. Someone considering this in terms of traditional categories might consider it an instance of 'turning into half-wits' or the development of intellectual deficiencies and moral failings." - Andrew M. Lobaczewski, Political Ponerology


America's Blood Sport of Buying Trophy Killer Guns: The Tuscon Glock

© unk
Glock Pistol
When is rising consumer demand bad for America?

When it comes in the form of guys buying guns used in killings as blood-sport collectors' trophies.

That's what happened in Arizona after the Tucson massacre, when the sales of the Glock handgun used by the killer soared:
Greg Wolff, the owner of two Arizona gun shops, told his manager to get ready for a stampede of new customers after a Glock-wielding gunman killed six people at a Tucson shopping center on Jan. 8.

Wolff was right. Instead of hurting sales, the massacre had the $499 semi-automatic pistols - popular with police, sport shooters and gangsters - flying out the doors of his Glockmeister stores in Mesa and Phoenix.

"We're at double our volume over what we usually do," Wolff said two days after the shooting spree that also left 14 wounded, including Democratic Representative Gabrielle Giffords.

Bizarro Earth

Suicide Tourists Make Swiss Minister Uneasy as Terminally Ill Seek Escape

© Wikimedia
Former Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf has proposed making the practice more difficult by demanding oversight by doctors who aren’t connected with one of the country’s four right-to-die organizations.
Switzerland is the destination of choice for people from abroad who want to die. The office of the country's top legal official is pushing to change that.

While assisted suicide is permitted in the Netherlands, Belgium and the U.S. states of Oregon, Washington and Montana, only Switzerland allows doctors to help foreigners end their lives. More than 25 percent of the 380 assisted suicides in Switzerland during 2009 involved foreigners, most of whom died after drinking water laced with a lethal dose of barbiturates.

Former Justice Minister Eveline Widmer-Schlumpf, who was replaced by Simonetta Sommaruga in November, has proposed making the practice more difficult by demanding oversight by doctors who aren't connected with one of the country's four right-to-die organizations. Assisted suicide has been legal in Switzerland since 1942.


Monk Caught with Nun's Skeleton at Airport

A Cypriot monk caught at a Greek airport with the skeletal remains of a nun in his baggage on the weekend told authorities he was taking the relics of a saint back to his monastery.

The 56-year-old Cypriot was detained at Athens airport on Sunday after security staff discovered a skull wrapped in cloth and skeletal remains in a sheet inside his baggage.

"They maintained it was a woman who was a saint," a Greek police official who declined to be named told Reuters on Tuesday, adding that the monk told authorities he was transferring her remains to a monastery in Cyprus.

The remains were those of a nun who died four years ago. She was not a saint in the Greek or Cypriot Orthodox Churches, but had once been a nun at a Cypriot convent, police said.

Revering the skeletal remains of saints is common in the Greek Orthodox tradition. A sect within the church may have venerated the nun even though she was not an official saint.