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Sherlock

US: Bodies Found Bound, Burned in Posh Arizona Town


Two people were tied up and killed, and their bodies burned beyond recognition in a posh Phoenix suburb, shaking residents who were being told to lock their doors and pay attention to their surroundings and a police department that last investigated a homicide in 2004.

Police in Paradise Valley, most known for its scenic mountain trails and upscale resorts, said Wednesday that investigators were not able to positively identify the bodies because they were so badly burned. An autopsy was under way Wednesday to determine the identities and whether the people were killed in the fire or by other means.

"This particular crime is a heinous crime and it can happen anywhere," said Police Chief John Bennett. "People in Paradise Valley hopefully understand it can happen even to them."

He said investigators had no suspects and had not determined a motive, including whether the stylish stucco home had been robbed.

"This has been a very trying two days for us," Bennett said a news conference. "This is going to be a prolonged, complex investigation that's going to take probably quite a lot of time."

Dollar

The Global Debt Clock

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The clock is ticking. Every second, it seems, someone in the world takes on more debt. The idea of a debt clock for an individual nation is familiar to anyone who has been to Times Square in New York, where the American public shortfall is revealed. Our clock shows the global figure for all (or almost all) government debts in dollar terms.

Does it matter? After all, world governments owe the money to their own citizens, not to the Martians. But the rising total is important for two reasons. First, when debt rises faster than economic output (as it has been doing in recent years), higher government debt implies more state interference in the economy and higher taxes in the future. Second, debt must be rolled over at regular intervals. This creates a recurring popularity test for individual governments, rather as reality TV show contestants face a public phone vote every week. Fail that vote, as the Greek government did in early 2010, and the country can be plunged into imminent crisis. So the higher the global government debt total, the greater the risk of fiscal crisis, and the bigger the economic impact such crises will have.

Mr. Potato

Leaked Syria Observers' Report Details Failings of Mission

Some were too old, too ill for their task. Others quarreled over reimbursements for hotel accommodations or refused orders to carry out their mission.

Simply put, many of the 166 Arab observers parachuted into Syria on Dec. 24 to document the widening violence were utterly incapable of enduring the rigors of life in a country roiled by social upheaval and conflict, according to an internal account of their work.

"Regrettably, some observers thought that their visit to Syria was for pleasure," wrote Gen. Mohamed Ahmed Mustafa Al-Dabi, the chief of the Arab League monitoring mission. "In some instances, experts who were nominated were not qualified for the job, did not have prior experience, and were not able to shoulder the responsibility."

On Jan. 18, Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby ordered the suspension of the organization's observer mission, its first major experiment in human rights monitoring. He claimed that the escalation of violence had undercut its ability to do its job.

But a confidential account of the organization's mission, signed by the monitor's controversial chief and obtained by Turtle Bay, shows that the Arab monitors were hobbled from the beginning by a shortage of equipment -- and by what Al-Dabi describes as a ferocious Syrian media disinformation campaign against the monitors and him personally. "The credibility of the mission has been undermined in the minds of Arab and foreign viewers," he wrote.

Crusader

US: South Dakota Legislature Passes Resolution "Encouraging" Bible Study Courses In Public Schools

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© unk
It really does look like Republicans across the country are trying to force Christianity upon every man, woman, and child in America. To date, Missouri, Indiana, New Hampshire, and Oklahoma have each introduced anti-evolution bills that encourage the teaching of creationism. Joining this pageant of unconstitutionality, the Pennsylvania State House passed a resolution two days ago that praises the Bible and encourages the teaching of the scripture. And now the South Dakota legislature has passed a resolution that "encourages" public schools to create Bible study courses of their own.

The Republican dominated South Dakota legislature passed HRC 1004 by a vote of 55-13. The bill permits schools to add an elective Bible study course and explicitly requires that such courses not violate First Amendment rights (which it is guaranteed to do the second it inevitably strays outside of a strictly secular examination of the Bible and teaches Christianity in school). One sponsor of the bill, Representative Steve Hickey, who is also a pastor, insists that such courses will only teach the Bible on an academic level and thinks the Bible would add to the education of students in ways that other books cannot. "I have a concern that we're raising a generation of kids who can't quote anything beyond Sponge Bob," Hickey stated, apparently unaware that a common world history course covers Jesus and the ancient world in which he lived, without the divinity.

Attention

Baltic Dry Index Signalling Renewed Market Collapse?

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Shipping tipping point?
Much has been said about the Baltic Dry Index over the course of the last four years, especially in light of the credit crisis and the effects it has had on the frequency of global shipping. Importing and exporting has never been quite the same since 2008, and this change is made most obvious through one of the few statistical measures left in the world that is not subject to direct manipulation by international corporate interests; the BDI. Today, the BDI is on the verge of making headlines once again, being that is plummeting like a wingless 747 into the swampy mire of what I believe will soon be historical lows.

The problem with the BDI is that it is little understood and often dismissed by less thoughtful economic analysts as a "volatile index" that is too "sensitive" to be used as a realistic indicator of future trends. What these analysts consistently seem to ignore is that regardless of their narrow opinion, the BDI has been proven to lead economic derision in the market movements of the past. That is to say, the BDI has been volatile exactly because markets have been volatile and unstable, and is a far more accurate thermometer than those that most mainstream economists currently rely on. If only they would look back at the numbers further than one year ago, they might see their own folly more clearly.

Dollar

Gold Up 10% on Iran Rumours

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© Reuters
An employee counts some gold bars before he sells them to a customer at a gold shop in Hanoi August 23, 2011.
India, China may pay in bullion for Iran oil; Dollar under attack

Gold prices are currently trending around the $1,730 per ounce mark, within touching distance of their 60-day high of $1,747/oz, and up 10 per cent in the first 30 days of 2012.

Fuelling the bullion's newfound drive are rumours that India and China, one of the world's largest oil consumers, are secretly mulling paying in gold for Iranian oil, and bypassing a European Union (EU) oil embargo on Iran, effective from July 1, 2012.

The EU voted last Monday to ban oil imports from Iran. The move came after a defiant Iran announced earlier in January that it had launched a nuclear enrichment programme at a well-protected underground facility near the city of Qom.

Western nations suspect Iran, which is already under numerous international sanctions, of pursuing a secret nuclear weapons programme but Tehran insists it needs nuclear power solely for civilian purposes.

Nevertheless, the new EU sanctions are being seen as a way for the Western world to bring Iran to the negotiations table, but any move by China and India, which together purchase more than one-third of Iran's oil, to bypass the sanctions will significantly reduce the EU's negotiating prowess.

Handcuffs

'Gasland' Film Director Arrested at US Capitol Hearing

arrest Josh Fox
© Unknown
Republicans Bar Filming of Fracking Hearing

Oscar-nominated documentary filmmaker Josh Fox was handcuffed and led away Wednesday while attempting to film a House Science Committee hearing on fracking.

The Gasland director was attempting to film the hearing which is looking into the EPA's investigation of water contamination from fracking in Pavillion, Wyoming. Josh was filming the hearing for his upcoming film Gasland 2.

Subcommittee chairman US Rep. Andy Harris (R-MD) objected to the presence of Mr. Fox and his crew as well as another crew from ABC.

"This is a public hearing!" Josh shouted as he was led away. "I'm being denied my First Amendment rights."

Approximately 16 Capitol Hill police officers entered the hearing room and handcuffed Josh amid audible discussions of "disorderly conduct" charges, according to Democratic sources who spoke to the Huffington Post.

The filmmaker did not have "proper credentials", and an ABC News crew did not make the committee aware that they would be filming, according to the Capitol Hill newspaper The Hill.

USA

U.S. Culpable in African Atrocities

The United States is shamefully implicated in the terror that Charles Taylor, erstwhile leader of Liberia, inflicted on the people of West Africa.

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Beginning in the 1980s, Taylor was an informant and collaborator with a number of U.S. intelligence agencies that included at least the Defense Intelligence Agency and the CIA, according to Freedom of Information documents obtained by the Boston Globe. While it is still unclear exactly what Taylor did for the United States, apparently it was at least worth a jailbreak.

On Sept.15, 1985, while languishing in a maximum-security penitentiary in Boston for embezzling nearly $1 million when he was in the government of Liberian dictator President Samuel Doe, Taylor made a dramatic prison escape. He strolled into freedom through an open cell door. It's likely that someone in the U.S. security apparatus helped him slip away.

Four years later, Taylor launched a civil war in Liberia to overthrow the Doe regime. The war raged on for five years. He financed it by the illicit sale of blood diamonds, iron ore, timber and rubber, and by gang-pressing children into his National Patriotic Front of Liberia. This militia committed countless atrocities across the nation. He forced more than 15,000 children, some as young as six, to fight.

Crusader

Christians 'Face Deportation' in Saudi Arabia

Rights group says dozens of Ethiopian Christians have been arrested and could be deported for "illegal mingling".
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© Al Jazeera

Dozens of Ethiopian Christians are facing deportation from Saudi Arabia after authorities raided a private prayer service in Jeddah, according to Human Rights Watch (HRW).

The group was reportedly arrested in a private home in Jeddah in mid-December. Most of the 35 detainees are women, and three of them told the US-based group that they were strip-searched by police.

HRW said it spoke to three detainees, two women and one man, by telephone from prison.

One of them said the men were beaten, and also complained of inadequate medical care and poor sanitation at the jail.

"Two of the women said that officials there forced the women to strip, and then an officer inserted her finger into each of the women's genitals, under the pretext of searching for illegal substances hidden inside their bodies," the report said.

"Officers also kicked and beat the men in Buraiman prison, and insulted them as 'unbelievers'."

Padlock

Why Are So Many Americans in Prison?

We ask if the US should reconsider its 'lock 'em up and throw away the key' approach to crime and punishment.


The US has the highest prison population in the world - some of whom have been subjected to lengthy sentences for relatively minor crimes. And that population has surged over the past three decades.

Although there has been a slight reduction in the past year, more than two million people are either incarcerated in prison or in jail awaiting trial.

The US has the highest rate of imprisonment in the world, with 743 people incarcerated for every 100,000 Americans. No other nation even comes close to these figures.

One explanation for the boom in the prison population is the mandatory sentencing imposed for drug offences and the "tough on crime" attitude that has prevailed since the 1980s.

But it is the length of sentences that truly distinguishes US prison policy. Some prisoners are locked up for life - literally - and many receive harsh sentences for non-violent crime.

These long sentences are leading to an ageing prison population - with eight per cent of prisoners now over the age of 55. This, in turn, is increasing the burden of providing healthcare and geriatric services.