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Monday, 16 February 2015

Greece rejects EU's proposals, talks over debt crisis break down

Greece and EU

© Reuters/John Kolesidis

Talks between Greece and euro zone finance ministers over the country's debt crisis broke down on Monday when Athens rejected a proposal to request a six-month extension of its international bailout package as "unacceptable".

The unexpectedly rapid collapse raised doubts about Greece's future in the single currency area after a new leftist-led government vowed to scrap the 240 billion euro ($272.4 billion) bailout, reverse austerity policies and end cooperation with EU/IMF inspectors.

Dutch Finance Minister Jeroen Dijsselbloem, who chaired the meeting, said Athens had until Friday to request an extension, otherwise the bailout would expire at the end of the month. The Greek state and its banks would then face a looming cash crunch.

How long Greece can keep itself afloat without foreign support is uncertain. The euro fell against the dollar after the talks broke up but with Wall Street closed for a holiday, the full force of any market reaction may only be felt on Tuesday.

The European Central Bank will decide on Wednesday whether to maintain emergency lending to Greek banks that are bleeding deposits at an estimated rate of 2 billion euros ($2.27 billion) a week. The state faces some heavy loan repayments in March.

Seemingly determined not to be browbeaten by a chorus of EU ministers intoning that he needed to swallow Greek pride and come back to ask for the extension, Finance Minister Yanis Varoufakis, a left-wing academic economist, voiced confidence that a deal on different terms was within reach within days.

"I have no doubt that, within the next 48 hours Europe, is going to come together and we shall find the phrasing that is necessary so that we can submit it and move on to do the real work that is necessary," Varoufakis told a news conference, warning that the language of ultimatum never worked in Europe.

He cited what he called a "splendid" proposal from the European Commission by which Greece would get four to six months credit in return for a freeze on its anti-austerity policies. He said he had been ready to sign that - but that Dijsselbloem had then presented a different, and "highly problematic", deal.

A draft of what Dijsselbloem proposed, swiftly leaked by furious Greek officials, spoke of Athens extending and abiding by its "current programme" - anathema to a government which, as Varoufakis said, was elected last month to scrap the package.


Commission officials denied offering a separate plan and the man Varoufakis said presented it, Economics Commissioner Pierre Moscovici, stuck to the same script as Dijsselbloem.

Greece must extend its bailout on the current conditions, he said, even if that could be couched in language that did not embarrass Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras before his supporters.

"We need more logic and less ideology," Moscovici said as EU officials fretted about how seriously the novice Greek leaders were taking their finances and how far concerns about semantics and saving political face might trump pressing economic needs.

Dijsselbloem, who insisted he was willing to be flexible on terminology that has become highly charged for Greek voters, said further talks would depend on Greece requesting a bailout. Varoufakis and the other ministers will remain in Brussels on Tuesday for a routine meeting on the EU economy.

"The general feeling in the Eurogroup is still that the best way forward would be for the Greek authorities to seek an extension of the programme," Dijsselbloem told a news briefing.

Echoing that, Moscovici insisted there was no "Plan B", a phrase bounced back in his turn by Varoufakis, who invoked the language of high stakes poker: "It's not a bluff," he said.

"It's Plan A. There is no Plan B."

The talks, which had been expected to last late into the night, broke up in less than four hours - less even than a previous meeting last Wednesday after which EU officials voiced concern and astonishment at the Greeks' lack of preparation.

The euro dropped nearly a U.S. cent on word of stalemate, though edge back to $1.1350, about 0.5 percent down on the day.

Both sides showed signs of fraying patience, with several ministers complaining of disappointment and fearing "disaster". Dijsselbloem and Varoufakis spoke of a need to rebuild trust.

Asked what would happen if Greece did not request a bailout extension, Edward Scicluna, the finance minister of the smallest EU state Malta said: "That would be it; it would be a disaster.

"Greece has to adjust, to realise the seriousness of the situation, because time is running out."

Germany, the euro zone's main paymaster and Greece's biggest creditor, stuck to its hard line.

German Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble said before the talks that Greece had lived beyond its means for a long time and there was no appetite in Europe for giving it any more money without guarantees it was getting its finances in order.


As the meeting in Brussels broke up, a senior Greek banker said Greece's stance boded ill for the markets and the banks.

"It is a very negative development for the economy and the banks. The outflows will continue. We are losing 400-500 million (euros) every day and that means about 2 billion every week. We will have pressure on stocks and bond yields tomorrow," he said.

Varoufakis spelled out in a combative New York Times column Greece's refusal to be treated as a "debt colony" subjected to "the greatest austerity for the most depressed economy", adding: "The lines that we have presented as red will not be crossed."

An opinion poll showed 68 percent of Greeks want a "fair" compromise with euro zonepartners while 30 percent said the government should stand tough even if it means reverting to the drachma. The poll found 81 percent want to stay in the euro.

Deposit outflows in Greece have picked up. JP Morgan bank said that at the current pace Greek banks had only 14 weeks before they run out of collateral to obtain funds from the central bank.

The ECB has allowed the Greek central bank to provide emergency lending to the banks, but a failure of the debt talks could mean the imposition of capital controls.

Euro zone member Cyprus was forced to close its banks for two weeks and introduce capital controls during a 2013 crisis. Such controls would need to be imposed when banks are closed. Greek banks are closed next Monday for a holiday.

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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CIA controls mass media like the NY Times, Time Magazine and much more

In 1953, Joseph Alsop, then one of America’s leading syndicated columnists, went to the Philippines to cover an election. He did not go because he was asked to do so by his syndicate. He did not go because he was asked to do so by the newspapers that printed his column. He went at the request of the CIA.

Alsop is one of more than 400 American journalists who in the past twenty‑five years have secretly carried out assignments for the Central Intelligence Agency, according to documents on file at CIA headquarters. Some of these journalists’ relationships with the Agency were tacit; some were explicit.

There was cooperation, accommodation and overlap. Journalists provided a full range of clandestine services—from simple intelligence gathering to serving as go‑betweens with spies in Communist countries. Reporters shared their notebooks with the CIA. Editors shared their staffs. Some of the journalists were Pulitzer Prize winners, distinguished reporters who considered themselves ambassadors without‑portfolio for their country. Most were less exalted: foreign correspondents who found that their association with the Agency helped their work; stringers and freelancers who were as interested in the derring‑do of the spy business as in filing articles; and, the smallest category, full‑time CIA employees masquerading as journalists abroad. In many instances, CIA documents show, journalists were engaged to perform tasks for the CIA with the consent of the managements of America’s leading news organizations.

The use of journalists has been among the most productive means of intelligence‑gathering employed by the CIA. Although the Agency has cut back sharply on the use of reporters since 1973 primarily as a result of pressure from the media), some journalist‑operatives are still posted abroad.

Further investigation into the matter, CIA officials say, would inevitably reveal a series of embarrassing relationships in the 1950s and 1960s with some of the most powerful organizations and individuals in American journalism.

The US government has no external “need to manipulate” mass media outlets such as “Time magazine, for example, because there are Agency [CIA] people at the management level.”

Remember there are SIX corporations that control America's media.

Among the executives who lent their cooperation to the Agency were Williarn Paley of the Columbia Broadcasting System, Henry Luce of Tirne Inc., Arthur Hays Sulzberger of the New York Times, Barry Bingham Sr. of the LouisviIle Courier‑Journal, and James Copley of the Copley News Service. Other organizations which cooperated with the CIA include the American Broadcasting Company, the National Broadcasting Company, the Associated Press, United Press International, Reuters, Hearst Newspapers, Scripps‑Howard, Newsweek magazine, the Mutual Broadcasting System, the Miami Herald and the old Saturday Evening Post and New York Herald‑Tribune. By far the most valuable of these associations, according to CIA officials, have been with the New York Times, CBS and Time Inc.

The CIA’s use of the American news media has been much more extensive than Agency officials have acknowledged publicly or in closed sessions with members of Congress. The general outlines of what happened are indisputable; the specifics are harder to come by. CIA sources hint that a particular journalist was trafficking all over Eastern Europe for the Agency; the journalist says no, he just had lunch with the station chief. CIA sources say flatly that a well‑known ABC correspondent worked for the Agency through 1973; they refuse to identify him. A high‑level CIA official with a prodigious memory says that the New York Times provided cover for about ten CIA operatives between 1950 and 1966; he does not know who they were, or who in the newspaper’s management made the arrangements.

The Agency’s special relationships with the so‑called “majors” in publishing and broadcasting enabled the CIA to post some of its most valuable operatives abroad without exposure for more than two decades. In most instances, Agency files show, officials at the highest levels of the CIA usually director or deputy director) dealt personally with a single designated individual in the top management of the cooperating news organization.

The aid furnished often took two forms: providing jobs and credentials “journalistic cover” in Agency parlance) for CIA operatives about to be posted in foreign capitals; and lending the Agency the undercover services of reporters already on staff, including some of the best‑known correspondents in the business.

CIA officials almost always refuse to divulge the names of journalists who have cooperated with the Agency. They say it would be unfair to judge these individuals in a context different from the one that spawned the relationships in the first place. “There was a time when it wasn’t considered a crime to serve your government,” said one high‑level CIA official who makes no secret of his bitterness. “This all has to be considered in the context of the morality of the times, rather than against latter‑day standards—and hypocritical standards at that.”


How one Russian farmer repaid his "Lickspittle good-for-nothing" bankers


© pro-sibir.org

For Russian farmer Alexander Bakshaev, the crushingly high interest rates the banks were charging him on his loan inspired a smelly protest... As Pro-Sibir reports, the fuming farmer repaid his loan with the equivalent value in manure.

the manure was worth 40,000 rubles ($610) - the exact amount he owed the bank, Bakshayev told Sibkray.ru.

"The whole of Russia somehow owes something now to these lickspittle good-for-nothing bankers with nothing to do," Bakshayev was quoted as saying.

He owns 70 cows and 20 piglets but his total debt is 1 million rubles ($15,400), he told Sibkray.ru. That's 34 times the average monthly salary in Russia of about 29,000 rubles ($450).

The Kremlin has said it relies on Russian farmers to fill the gap caused by an import ban on Western foodstuffs imposed in retribution for sanctions over the war in Ukraine.

However, punitive interest rates have left businesses struggling for money.

Bakshayev's creditor, the state-run Sberbank, blasted his stunt as "hooliganism" but police in the city of Kuybyshev saw no reason to detain the farmer.

Security guards did not appear in the hour that it took Bakshayev to dump the manure, plant the gallows and pose for interviews in front of the heap.

[embedded content]

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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Trying to understand the teenage mind


© Thinkstock

To their parents, teenagers may seem like the laziest, most foolish, and most self-centered beings on the planet, but according to one prominent UK cognitive neuroscience professor, adults shouldn't hold such behaviors against them - that's just how their brains are wired.

Sarah-Jayne Blakemore, a professor at University College London and the deputy director of the UCL Institute of Cognitive Neuroscience, recently told that when adolescents tell their elders that, "nobody understands them," they might be right, neurologically speaking.

Over the past decade, Blakemore and her colleagues have been analyzing the development of the brain before and during the teenage years.

Among their findings are changes to grey matter in the prefrontal cortex responsible for some of the drastic changes in attitude during this time of life.

Blakemore and the researchers working in her lab have regularly been reporting new discoveries of observable, measurable changes in the structure and function of adolescent brains, the British newspaper said. Not only is she working to learn how the mind of a teenager works, she wants to use that information to change education policy to better maximize their learning potential.

"We work with many schools all over London for research purposes, and I hope that in the next 20 years or so we will be applying more evidence-based science in education because at the moment there is not much," she told the on Saturday. "We know a lot about how the teenage brain learns and how it develops but it hasn't filtered through yet."

Changing school policies

Among some of the changes she would like to see made: the addition of neuroscience to teacher training courses, and a later start to the school day. Blakemore said that education is nothing if not the process of molding the brains of children, and that teens tend to release the sleep hormone melatonin later in the day than adults, meaning they need more sleep in the morning.

She also argues that adolescent brains have tremendous creative capabilities, and that secondary schools aren't doing enough to tap into that potential. In 2011, she advised government officials to expand their focus from younger students to include middle schoolers, claiming that policy makers should consider the large amounts of new data of brain development at this age.

"Traditionally, policy has focused on the early years; the new research suggests that investment into adolescence is important too," Blakemore said. "The teenage brain is very capable of learning, and this is absolutely the wrong time to stifle creativity. They can do amazing things, and yet schools haven't changed that much for 400 years."

"The more I learn about how plastic and changing the teenage brain is, the more I question whether [what we have] is the right learning environment for teenagers. One of the things I've often thought is that if teenagers were allowed to design schools, maybe they would look completely different," she added, calling for "more peer-to-peer learning... less making them sit at a desk all day, and more self-initiated learning rather than being spoon-fed stuff all the time."

So what exactly are these changes that go on inside a teenager's brain?

What makes them more susceptible to peer influence and more willing to take risks? The answers, Blakemore explains, lie in the prefrontal cortex, the part of the brain that regulates emotional responses and inhibits risk-taking behavior. During adolescence, physiological changes are taking place there.

The prefrontal cortex of humans is larger than in any other species, she explained in June 2012 at the TEDGlobal conference in Edinburg, and it plays a key role in several different types of high-level cognitive functions, including planning and decision-making. It also inhibits inappropriate behavior and is involved in both self-awareness and understanding others, she added.

The "grey matter volume" of the prefrontal cortex peaks early in adolescence then begins to decease, leading to a developmental process Blakemore calls "synaptic pruning." In this process, the connections between cells of the prefrontal cortex that aren't used are being "pruned" in order to allow those that remain to become stronger.

The process is not without its consequences, however. Side-effects of this whole "pruning" process include an increase in reckless risk-taking as well as changes to the medial prefrontal cortex that make it harder for a teenager to see any viewpoint other than his or her own - thus leading to the selfish, self-centered behavior often demonstrated at this age.

The brains of teenagers are also more aware of "social outcomes" and place more weight on social exclusion than adults, Blakemore added. They tend to focus entirely on their own personal surroundings and whether or not something has a positive or negative impact on them, even if it wouldn't seem smart or moral to adults. Even with something like smoking, a teenage brain may weigh the social implications of the habit over the negative health outcomes of cigarettes.

Blakemore said that this is an example of "adaptive" behavior, adding, "You need, after puberty, to go out and explore your environment, and also you need to affiliate with your social group because you have to become more independent of your family... When I talk to parents and to teenagers about the research we do on the teenage brain, many times they say that it is useful for them to just know what is going on in there."

Chomsky: We Are All – Fill in the Blank.

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Creepy, calculating and controlling: All the ways big brother is watching you

"You had to live—did live, from habit that became instinct—in the assumption that every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement scrutinized."— George Orwell, 1984

Big Brother

© artofthewicked.com

None of us are perfect. All of us bend the rules occasionally. Even before the age of overcriminalization, when the most upstanding citizen could be counted on to break at least three laws a day without knowing it, most of us have knowingly flouted the law from time to time.

Indeed, there was a time when most Americans thought nothing of driving a few miles over the speed limit, pausing (rather than coming to a full stop) at a red light when making a right-hand turn if no one was around, jaywalking across the street, and letting their kid play hookie from school once in a while. Of course, that was before the era of speed cameras that ticket you for going even a mile over the posted limit, red light cameras that fine you for making safe "rolling stop" right-hand turns on red, surveillance cameras equipped with facial recognition software mounted on street corners, and school truancy laws that fine parents for "unexcused" absences.

My, how times have changed.

Today, there's little room for indiscretions, imperfections, or acts of independence—especially not when the government can listen in on your phone calls, monitor your driving habits, track your movements, scrutinize your purchases and peer through the walls of your home. That's because technology—specifically the technology employed by the government against the American citizenry—has upped the stakes dramatically so that there's little we do that is not known by the government.

In such an environment, you're either a paragon of virtue, or you're a criminal.

If you haven't figured it out yet, we're all criminals. This is the creepy, calculating yet diabolical genius of the American police state: the very technology we hailed as revolutionary and liberating has become our prison, jailer, probation officer, Big Brother and Father Knows Best all rolled into one.

Consider that on any given day, the average American going about his daily business will be monitored, surveilled, spied on and tracked in more than 20 different ways, by both government and corporate eyes and ears. A byproduct of this new age in which we live, whether you're walking through a store, driving your car, checking email, or talking to friends and family on the phone, you can be sure that some government agency, whether the NSA or some other entity, is listening in and tracking your behavior. As I point out in my book, A Government of Wolves: The Emerging American Police State , this doesn't even begin to touch on the corporate trackers that monitor your purchases, web browsing, Facebook posts and other activities taking place in the cyber sphere.

For example, police have been using Stingray devices mounted on their cruisers to intercept cell phone calls and text messages without court-issued search warrants. Thwarting efforts to learn how and when these devices are being used against an unsuspecting populace, the FBI is insisting that any inquiries about the use of the technology be routed to the agency "in order to allow sufficient time for the FBI to intervene to protect the equipment/technology and information from disclosure and potential compromise."

Doppler radar devices, which can detect human breathing and movement within in a home, are already being employed by the police to deliver arrest warrants and are being challenged in court. One case in particular, United States v Denson, examines how the Fourth Amendment interacts with the government's use of radar technology to peer inside a suspect's home. As Judge Neil Gorsuch recognizes in the Tenth Circuit Court of Appeal's ruling in the case, "New technologies bring with them not only new opportunities for law enforcement to catch criminals but also new risks for abuse and new ways to invade constitutional rights."

License plate readers, yet another law enforcement spying device made possible through funding by the Department of Homeland Security, can record up to 1800 license plates per minute . However, it seems these surveillance cameras can also photograph those inside a moving car. Recent reports indicate that the Drug Enforcement Administration has been using the cameras in conjunction with facial recognition software to build a "vehicle surveillance database" of the nation's cars, drivers and passengers.

Sidewalk and "public space" cameras, sold to gullible communities as a sure-fire means of fighting crime, is yet another DHS program that is blanketing small and large towns alike with government-funded and monitored surveillance cameras. It's all part of a public-private partnership that gives government officials access to all manner of surveillance cameras, on sidewalks, on buildings, on buses, even those installed on private property.

Couple these surveillance cameras with facial recognition and behavior-sensing technology and you have the makings of "pre-crime" cameras, which scan your mannerisms, compare you to pre-set parameters for "normal" behavior, and alert the police if you trigger any computerized alarms as being "suspicious."

Capitalizing on a series of notorious abductions of college-aged students, several states are pushing to expand their biometric and DNA databases by requiring that anyone accused of a misdemeanor have their DNA collected and catalogued. However, technology is already available that allows the government to collect biometrics such as fingerprints from a distance, without a person's cooperation or knowledge. One system can actually scan and identify a fingerprint from nearly 20 feet away.

Radar guns have long been the speed cop's best friend, allowing him to hide out by the side of the road, identify speeding cars, and then radio ahead to a police car, which does the dirty work of pulling the driver over and issuing a ticket. Never mind that what this cop is really doing is using an electronic device to search your car without a search warrant, violating the Fourth Amendment and probable cause. Yet because it's a cash cow for police and the governments they report to, it's a practice that is not only allowed but encouraged. Indeed, developers are hard at work on a radar gun that can actually show if you or someone in your car is texting. No word yet on whether the technology will also be able to detect the contents of that text message.

It's a sure bet that anything the government welcomes (and funds) too enthusiastically is bound to be a Trojan horse full of nasty surprises. Case in point: police body cameras. Hailed as the easy fix solution to police abuses, these body cameras—made possible by funding from the Department of Justice—will turn police officers into roving surveillance cameras. Of course, if you try to request access to that footage, you'll find yourself being led a merry and costly chase through miles of red tape, bureaucratic footmen and unhelpful courts.

The "internet of things" refers to the growing number of "smart" appliances and electronic devices now connected to the internet and capable of interacting with each other and being controlled remotely. These range from thermostats and coffee makers to cars and TVs. Of course, there's a price to pay for such easy control and access. That price amounts to relinquishing ultimate control of and access to your home to the government and its corporate partners. For example, while Samsung's Smart TVs are capable of "listening" to what you say, thereby allow users to control the TV using voice commands, it also records everything you say and relays it to a third party.

Then again, the government doesn't really need to spy on you using your smart TV when the FBI can remotely activate the microphone on your cellphone and record your conversations. The FBI can also do the same thing to laptop computers without the owner knowing any better.

Government surveillance of social media such as Twitter and Facebook is on the rise. Americans have become so accustomed to the government overstepping its limits that most don't even seem all that bothered anymore about the fact that the government is spying on our emails and listening in on our phone calls.

Drones, which will begin to take to the skies en masse this year, will be the converging point for all of the weapons and technology already available to law enforcement agencies. This means drones that can listen in on your phone calls, see through the walls of your home, scan your biometrics, photograph you and track your movements, and even corral you with sophisticated weaponry.

And then there's the Internet and cell phone kill switch, which enables the government to shut down Internet and cell phone communications without Americans being given any warning. It's a practice that has been used before in the U.S., albeit in a limited fashion. In 2005, cell service was disabled in four major New York tunnels (reportedly to avert potential bomb detonations via cell phone). In 2009, those attending President Obama's inauguration had their cell signals blocked (again, same rationale). And in 2011, San Francisco commuters had their cell phone signals shut down (this time, to thwart any possible protests over a police shooting of a homeless man).

It's a given that the government's tactics are always more advanced than we know, so there's no knowing what new technologies are already being deployed against without our knowledge. Certainly, by the time we learn about a particular method of surveillance or new technological gadget, it's a sure bet that the government has been using it covertly for years already. And if other governments are using a particular technology, you can bet that our government used it first. For instance, back in 2011, it was reported that the government of Tunisia was not only monitoring the emails of its citizens but was actually altering the contents of those emails in order to thwart dissidents. How much do you want to bet that government agents have already employed such tactics in the U.S.?

Apart from the obvious dangers posed by a government that feels justified and empowered to spy on its people and use its ever-expanding arsenal of weapons and technology to monitor and control them, we're approaching a time in which we will be forced to choose between obeying the dictates of the government—i.e., the law, or whatever a government officials deems the law to be—and maintaining our individuality, integrity and independence.

When people talk about privacy, they mistakenly assume it protects only that which is hidden behind a wall or under one's clothing. The courts have fostered this misunderstanding with their constantly shifting delineation of what constitutes an "expectation of privacy." And technology has furthered muddied the waters.

However, privacy is so much more than what you do or say behind locked doors. It is a way of living one's life firm in the belief that you are the master of your life, and barring any immediate danger to another person (which is far different from the carefully crafted threats to national security the government uses to justify its actions), it's no one's business what you read, what you say, where you go, whom you spend your time with, and how you spend your money.

Unfortunately, privacy as we once knew it is dead.

We now find ourselves in the unenviable position of being monitored, managed and controlled by our technology, which answers not to us but to our government and corporate rulers. This is the fact-is-stranger-than-fiction lesson that is being pounded into us on a daily basis.

Thus, to be an individual today, to not conform, to have even a shred of privacy, and to live beyond the reach of the government's roaming eyes and technological spies, one must not only be a rebel but rebel.

Even when you rebel and take your stand, there is rarely a happy ending awaiting you. You are rendered an outlaw. This is the message in almost every dystopian work of fiction, from classic writers such as George Orwell, Aldous Huxley, Philip K. Dick and Ray Bradbury to more contemporary voices such as Margaret Atwood, Lois Lowry and Suzanne Collins.

How do you survive in the American police state?

We're running out of options. As Philip K. Dick, the visionary who gave us Minority Report and Blade Runner, advised:

"If, as it seems, we are in the process of becoming a totalitarian society in which the state apparatus is all-powerful, the ethics most important for the survival of the true, free, human individual would be: cheat, lie, evade, fake it, be elsewhere, forge documents, build improved electronic gadgets in your garage that'll outwit the gadgets used by the authorities."

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Jon Stewart on Brian Williams saga: Guardians of the veracity

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USA: New Jersey woman found frozen to death near her home

Olivia Benito NJ

© facebook

A New Jersey woman was found frozen to death in the snow near her home on Sunday morning, authorities said.

Olivia Benito, 66, had stopped by a neighbor's house for drinks after they left a benefit event at an Elks Club in Lakewood, New Jersey, Al Della Fave, spokesman for the Ocean County prosecutor's office, said in a news release.

The neighbor told police that Benito had some alcoholic beverages during the course of the evening, Della Fave said. She left the neighbor's townhouse at about midnight to walk to her home two doors away, he said.

The neighbor said she discovered Benito face down in snow when she went out to clear her car of snow at about 7 a.m. on Sunday, Della Fave said. She was pronounced dead at the scene by ambulance personnel, he said.

Police found no outward signs of trauma or foul play but the death remains under investigation, Della Fave said.

The temperature at 7 a.m. on Sunday in the Lakewood area was 10 degrees, according to the National Weather Service.

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Man robs 6-year-old girl selling Girl Scout cookies outside gas station

© Scripps Media, Inc

Police in Beech Grove, Indiana are trying to identify a man who stole over $300 from a Girl Scout selling cookies outside a gas station, WRTV reports.

Six-year-old Whitney Allen was selling cookies outside of a gas station when a man approached her and her mother and began to browse.

According to Whitney's mother, Stephanie, the man said "'eenie, meenie, miney, mo,' and once he said 'mo,' he snatched my black [money] book right out from underneath my notebook and just took off running."

She noted that she was just as concerned about the fact that the man absconded with her customer's names, home addresses and phone numbers as she was about the missing money.

A local man ponied up $200 to help Whitney cover her losses, and local businesses contributed another $100 to ensure that her day was not a waste.

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Cop warns other officers not to arrest man until dashcam is turned off


In dashcam video released as evidence in an excessive force lawsuit against the St. Louis Police Department, an officer is heard warning her fellow officers to "hold up" with the arrest until the camera can be turned off, the is reporting.

The video, which has been held back since April 10, shows the suspect being dragged from a car, beaten, and kicked by up to seven officers while resisting arrest.

Lawyers for the suspect, Cortez Bufford, 18, released the video after filing the lawsuit on Jan. 22. The video was previously used as evidence to have charges dropped against Bufford.

In the video, police can be seen attempting to take Bufford and a companion into custody after receiving a 911 call about shots fired. As Bufford's companion exits the vehicle and is handcuffed, officer Nathaniel Burkemper argues with Bufford through the car window before reaching inside and opening the car door.

As Burkemper struggles with Bufford, pulling him from the car, multiple officers rush in, kicking him repeatedly while shocking him with a Taser. According to the police report, Burkemper warned the other officers that Bufford had a gun.

Police recovered a 9mm semi-automatic pistol with four rounds in the magazine and one in the chamber from Bufford.

When officers attempt to get the suspect to his feet, an officer identified as Kelli Swinton warned them "we're red now," indicating the dashcam was recording.

"Hold up, hold up, y'all. Everybody hold up," she can be heard saying near the end of the video."It's red right now, so if you're worried about cameras, just wait," before the video cuts off.

A separate dashcam video recorded what happened after Burkemper's camera was turned off, with officers huddled around Bufford.

That camera shuts off too, leaving a gap of more than two minutes before Bufford is seen stumbling and falling once as he's taken to a police vehicle.

A lawyer for the St. Louis Police Officers' Association stated that the video reflects a proper use of force used against an armed suspect reaching for a gun.

Bufford was initially charged with unlawful use of a weapon and a misdemeanor of resisting arrest, but those charges were dropped on Aug. 26.

A police spokesman said the officer who turned off the camera "has been recommended" for discipline, but is appealing.

Watch the video below from the /Fox2:

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Court demands woman write letters to man in prison who savagely beat her and cut her throat or face jail

© Facebook

Natalie Allman

A woman who was savagely beaten and had her throat slashed by the father of her children has been told she must write letters to her attacker in jail or face imprisonment herself, is reporting.

In 2011 Natalie Allman, 29, was tortured for over seven hours and had her throat slashed in front of her twins by her boyfriend Jason Hughes, 42, because he wanted to make her look "ugly" after she attempted to leave him.

Hughes, who lived in Ross-on-Wye in England with Allman, is currently incarcerated, serving a nine year term for the attack that left Allman with a lacerated throat and five facial fractures requiring plastic surgery to repair the damage.

A judge, citing Section 8 of the Children's Act, has told Allman that she must send three letters a year to Hughes, including photographs of their five-year-old boys, updating him on their lives. Failure to do so could result in a contempt of court charges and imprisonment.

In an interview, Allman said she is being victimized again by her former boyfriend.

"We are the victims, not him. I thought he was going to kill me that night for no reason and my boys saw that. They were terrified," she said. "I'm so angry that the law still defends his parental rights and that he is still being allowed to control us from behind bars."

In 2011, right after Allman broke off her engagement to Hughes, he attacked her in bed, first attempting to smother her with a pillow before repeatedly striking her with a dumbbell.

According to authorities, Hughes then used the blade from a mini-tool to slash a 20cm-long cut across her throat, narrowly missing a major artery in her neck.

Seven hours later Hughes allowed Allman to call for an ambulance, with authorities arriving to find her and her then-2-year-old twins in the bed and covered in blood.

As Allman was rushed to a hospital, Hughes was arrested at the scene.

In January 2014 Allman was told that Hughes had requested six letters a year - as well as phone calls from the twins on their birthdays and at Christmas - under the Children's Act.

Despite spending £3,000 on legal fees to fight the order, the court instructed her that she would have to comply by updating Hughes on the children's school progress, health, and emotional development.

"I couldn't believe it, " she said. "I could end up being split up from my children and sent to prison when he was the one who attacked me. I'm the one being treated like a criminal."

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Wave of anti-Semitism in France: Hundreds of Jewish tombs defaced

© Reuters / Vincent Kessler

Desecrated tombstones are seen at Sarre-Union Jewish cemetery, eastern France, February 15, 2015

Hundreds of tombs in a Jewish cemetery have been vandalized in eastern France. The incident follows a rise in the number of attacks against European Jews, including Sunday morning's shooting in Copenhagen.

What happened in the town of Sarre-Union was a "despicable act," French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said on Sunday, referring to the defaced Jewish tombs. "The country will not tolerate this new injury which goes against the values that all French people share."

"Every effort will be made to identify, question and bring to justice the person or persons responsible for this ignominious act," he added.

France's Prime Minister Manuel Valls also condemned the act of desecration on Twitter, referring to the incident as "an antisemitic and ignoble act."

The Sarre-Union cemetery has witnessed several cases of vandalism in the past. Approximately 60 Jewish gravestones were overturned and thrown to the ground in 1988, and another 54 tombs were destroyed in 2001.

The attacks come amid growing religious tensions in Europe. France has been in the center of it all, since the attacks in Paris last month.

On January 7, Islamists attacked the office of French satirical magazine , known for its controversial cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad. The assailants said they "revenged their Prophet." Two days later, a gunman linked to the attackers took hostages at a Paris kosher store, killing four Jews there. A total of 17 people were killed in the attacks.

The most recent attack shocked Denmark's Copenhagen this weekend, when two people were killed in two separate shootings outside a synagogue and at a free speech debate in a café. The slain suspect was identified by police as a 22-year-old Danish-born man with a criminal record and history of gang-related offenses.

On Saturday, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu renewed his call for Jewish immigration to Israel, echoing his words that followed January's terrorist attacks. "Jews were killed on European land just because they were Jewish. This wave of attacks will continue. I say to the Jews of Europe - Israel is your home," he said.

Netanyahu said Israel will discuss a $46 million plan to encourage Jewish migration from Belgium, France, and Ukraine, stressing that Israel is the home to all Jews.

Five French teens aged 15 to 17 are being held for questioning over the incident, a local prosecutor said Monday. All five are from the Sarre-Union region.

Prosecutor Philippe Vannier told reporters that the youngest of the group turned himself in after being shocked by the mass public outcry over the vandalism.

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French leadership urges Jews to ignore Netanyahu's calls for Exodus

© AFP Photo/Miguel Medina

A recent attack in Denmark has triggered new calls from Israel's PM for Jews to immigrate, provoking a backlash from Paris. French PM Valls asks the Jews living in France to ignore the calls while President Hollande says French Jews "have a place."

Prime Minister Manuel Valls said on RTL TV channel.

French President Francois Hollande joined, speaking in the northeastern commune of Montry, said that

The French government's statements followed the killing of two people in shootings in Copenhagen at the weekend and the subsequent calls from the Israeli premier.

Benjamin Netanyahu reiterated the statement he made after the Paris attacks last month, in which four people were killed in a hostage-taking at a kosher shop.

he said.

the Israeli PM added.

The French PM said he Netanyahu's words.

Being in the middle of an election campaign [the general election in Israel takes place on March 17] doesn't mean you authorize yourself to make just any type of statement. The place for French Jews is France," Valls said. "We wouldn't be the same without the Jewish community in Denmark."

READ MORE: Mass 'exodus' of Jews from France probable as anti-Semitic attacks double - major Jewish groups

On Sunday, several tombs were defaced at a Jewish cemetery in eastern France, labeled by the French government.

Jair Melchior, Denmark's chief rabbi, said on Sunday he was by Netanyahu's call for immigration, stating that

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Israeli foreign minister Liberman: 'I hope all the world's Jews will come to Israel'

Liberman: 'Come home, Jews, you will be safe here'

Foreign Minister Avigdor Liberman on Monday said that he hopes that all of the world's Jews will eventually make aliya to Israel.

Speaking to Army Radio from Paris, where on Sunday he participated alongside Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and other world leaders in an anti-terror march following a violent week in France, Liberman said that "Israel's message is that we are here with them. We won't forget our brothers, no matter where they are."

"I hope that aliya will bring all the world's Jews to Israel, it doesn't matter from where," he said.

Liberman said that his call for aliya doesn't necessarily have to do with the recent anti-Semitic attack in Paris at a kosher supermarket. "Israel's policy has always been to have an aliya of Jews to Israel."

"The nation of Israel, after thousands of years, finally has a state of our own, and we want to see all of our Jewish brothers here."

On Sunday, dozens of world leaders including Muslim and Jewish statesmen linked arms leading more than one million said participants in an unprecedented march under high security in Paris to pay tribute to victims of Islamist terrorist attacks.

President Francois Hollande and leaders from Germany, Italy, Israel, Turkey, Britain and the Palestinian territories among others, moved off from the central Place de la Republique ahead of a sea of French and other flags. Giant letters attached to a statue in the square spelt out the word Pourquoi?" (Why?) and small groups sang the "La Marseillaise" national anthem.

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Serial complainer about anti-Semitic graffiti left on and near his home in Paris... caught daubing cars with anti-Semitic graffiti

'Jew' was painted on some 20 vehicles before the man was apprehended

A 73 year old man was caught Monday trying to tag the word "Jew" on vehicles in the upmarket 16th district of Paris. The man and his wife, who is Jewish, had previously filed filed complaints in July and August when anti-semitic graffiti was "discovered in their building."

On Monday around 4pm, a man was caught writing the word "Jew" on vehicles parked on Avenue du General-Clavery and Avenue Dode de la Brunerie in the 16th district. Some twenty cars were tagged. "The police handcuffed him, then arrested him. He's completely crazy to be doing something like this. An official at the scene told me that the guy acknowledged what he was doing," said one witness to MetroNews.

The suspect was immediately taken into custody. The man was born in April 1941 and is named 'Pierre B.' He was already known to police - not as a suspect but as a victim. Last summer, he twice visited the police station in the 16th district to denounce anti-Semitic remarks left near his property.

In July, Peter and his wife Suzanne B., who is Jewish, went to the police to report the presence of swastikas on their mailboxes, their doorframe, and on the door of their apartment in a building owned by the Property Management of the City of Paris (RIVP) and located Rue Abel Ferry (also in the 16th district). In August, they also lodged formal complaints to denounce the fact that it had been done to them again.

Six months later, in December, new graffiti were found in the couple's building . "Dirty Jew", a swastika and other tags were scrawled on the walls of the building. The same thing happened again in January. "It started happening a lot," says a source close to the case. "Several people were interviewed and writing tests were carried out. That's when the police realized that something really weird was going on."

Indeed, when comparing handwriting, the investigators found that the complainant's was eerily similar to that found on the walls and the mailbox of the building. "Another coincidence is that the 'B.' couple claimed that they had to temporarily leave their apartment because they felt unsafe there. During this period, no graffiti or markings were made there," notes the source close to the case. "The police were convinced that it was him, but lacked proof. Having now caught him in the act, they could not have been better served."

It was unclear Monday night whether the wife of Pierre B. was or was not an accomplice to her husband. "The couple wanted to change accommodation. We do not know why because they lived for two years in their apartment of 59m2. He had made two requests for a transfer to the RIVP that were denied. "It was perhaps part of their strategy to remain undetected," says the source, before adding that both the husband and his wife have had several stays in psychiatric hospitals.

On Tuesday afternoon, Pierre B. was still in custody. All the local residents were shocked. They too had heard of the couple's desire to change accommodation. "To go from that to attacking the Jews, moreover when we know that the wife of the suspect is Jewish, it's surreal," concluded a neighbor.

The suspect's custody was extended Tuesday to 17 hours. According to our information, the individual was to be presented to a psychologist in the evening.

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Britain's Roswell: the truth behind the Rendlesham Forest UFO incident

© Eyevine

The truth is out there? The Rendlesham UFO incident is the subject of a new film

Dubbed "Britain's Roswell", the Rendlesham Forest incident, which took place over a series of nights in December 1980, continues to fascinate UFO enthusiasts and conspiracy theorists. It is easy to understand why. Consider the following three statements, for example:

1) "This was not some vague 'lights in the sky' sighting - the UFO actually landed." - Nick Pope, a Ministry of Defence employee from 1985 to 2006.

2) "When I arrived [at the scene], it was going in and out through the trees and at one stage it was hovering." - Sgt. Adrian Bustinza, a security police commander who investigated the incident at the time.

3) "Okay, we're looking at the thing; we're probably about two to three hundred yards away. It looks like an eye winking at you... And the flash is so bright to the starscope that it almost burns your eye." - Taken from the Halt tape, recorded on December 27 1980 by United States Air Force lieutenant colonel Charles Halt.

Only last month, a dog walker uploaded fresh footage of unidentified lights in the sky above Rendlesham Forest, while a new film on the subject, produced by long-time Suffolk resident and Rendlesham Forest incident expert Daniel Simpson, has recently been released. There is even an official UFO trail for walkers to follow through Rendlesham Forest. But what actually happened? And, 35 years after the event, are we any closer to unravelling the mystery?

The start of the Rendlesham Forest UFO trail

As the years have passed, the facts have become increasingly hazy, as statements change and new witnesses come forward. But what we do know for sure is that, in the early hours of December 26 1980, US military personnel (sections of the US Air Force were temporarily stationed at RAF bases in Woodbridge and Bentwaters) spotted strange lights above Rendlesham Forest.

One of these men, John Burroughs, accompanied by his supervisor and one other individual, went to investigate the blue, red, orange and white lights. In his subsequent witness statement, published in 1981, Burroughs explains: "As we went down the east-gate road and the road that leads into the forest, the lights were moving back and they appeared to stop in a bunch of trees... Also, the woods lit up and you could hear the farm animals making a lot of noises, and there was a lot of movement in the woods. All three of us hit the ground and whatever it was started moving back towards the open field... We got up to a fence that separated the trees from the open field. You could see the lights down by a farmer's house. We climbed over the fence and started walking toward the red and blue lights and they just disappeared."

Jim Penniston, who accompanied Burroughs into Rendlesham Forest on December 26, claims to have encountered a craft, covered in hieroglyphic-like characters. "I estimated it to be about three metres tall and about three metres wide at the base," Penniston later explained. "No landing gear was apparent, but it seemed like she was on fixed legs. I moved a little closer. I had already taken all 36 pictures on my roll of film. I walked around the craft, and finally, I walked right up to the craft. I noticed the fabric of the shell was more like a smooth, opaque, black glass."

Burroughs does not recall this. Indentations on the forest floor, as well as damage to the trees in the area where the lights had been spotted, were found the following morning, however. Radiation levels recorded at the site of the indentations were also unusually high.

In the book , which was published last year, Penniston writes: "I left the forest a different man... I was in awe of the technology and yes, a knowing that it was not an aircraft which could have been manufactured in 1980 or even now." Both Penniston and Burroughs have since suffered from Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder.

Two nights later, a different set of military personnel experienced a similar series of events. On this occasion, when the lights were spotted, Lieutenant Colonel Charles Halt was prepared. A pragmatic character, Halt intended to disprove the wild rumours swirling around RAF bases Woodbridge and Bentwaters. Arming himself with a recording device, he set out to investigate. The subsequent audio tape is now considered one of the most valuable pieces of evidence in the Rendlesham Forest incident.

[embedded content]

The transcript of the tape runs to some 18 minutes but includes statements from Halt such as: "I see it too... it's back again... it's coming this way... there's no doubt about it... this is weird... it looks like an eye winking at you... it almost burns your eyes... he's coming toward us now... now we're observing what appears to be a beam coming down to the ground... one object still hovering over Woodbridge base... beaming down". Halt has since given interviews in which he claims that these occurrences were picked up by British radar. "I didn't know this until recently," he told AOL News. "Because people have come forward after they've retired. There were two radar confirmations."

The following night, December 28, one final group of men claim to have encountered something out of the ordinary in Rendlesham Forest. Larry Warren, an 18-year-old soldier who was not even at either RAF base on the night of the first incident, was sent out on patrol with Sgt Adrian Bustinza and a number of other military personnel. Sometime after 11pm, the men departed their trucks and headed towards the field where lights had been seen on the previous two nights.

There, Warren claims to have seen "disaster preparedness officers out here with geiger counters, going in an almost half-clockwise motion around this thing on the ground." A small red light was then seen approaching from the direction of the coast. "It moved in a downward arc, so fast. [It] stopped and hovered about 20 feet off the ground," said Warren. "It was the size of a basketball, [an] American basketball. [It was] self-illuminated, not quite red, yet that's the closest I can describe it."

Things were about to get even stranger, though. This red light suddenly exploded and a craft appeared on the forest floor. According to Warren, it had "no windows, no markings, no flag or country of origin. Nothing. You could hardly look at it head on, and if you looked at it through the side of your peripheral vision you'd get a shape of it... and there it was, clear as a bell."

© Ian Ridpath/NoW

A 1983 News of the World headline about Rendlesham sightings

At this stage, Warren and Bustinza were asked to retreat by a senior man. From a distance, they then claim to have witnessed Wing Commander Gordon Williams approach the craft and encounter some alien being with "what looked like eyes, facial features, bright clothing and some other device." Warren is clear that a "silent stand-off", rather than any communication, took place.

At around 4.30am, Warren returned to his base but Bustinza claims to have seen the craft depart. "When it took off, it was, like, hovering. It went up and, like, took off at about a forty-five-degree angle, and if you would have blinked, you would have missed it... And we got a cold draft of air that lasted about a good ten seconds. You know, like when you get a good blow of dust or wind. No noise though; I do remember that."

It is understood that almost half of all UFO correspondence directed at the Ministry of Defence relates to the Rendlesham Forest incident. Despite claims of a cover-up, the MoD's stance has never wavered. It states: "No evidence was found of any threat to the defence of the United Kingdom, and no further investigations were carried out. No further information has come to light which alters our view that the sightings of these lights was of no defence significance."

Daniel Simpson takes a different view, however. The director of The Rendlesham UFO Incident, a fictionalised account of the story set in the modern day and filmed on location in Rendlesham Forest, is convinced that either there has been a military cover-up or that something extra-terrestrial occurred in December 1980. And moreover, he believes he has uncovered further evidence to prove it. While filming in Rendlesham Forest - "It does have a very strong atmosphere of something strange" - he asked the Forestry Commission to investigate a series of hatches, which Simpson describes as "mysterious".

"I got the Forestry Commission to tow one of those hatches off with a four wheel drive and there's a ladder going down," he explains, as we discuss his film. "Now, they will tell you that those are drainage systems for the airfield but it's a very elaborate drainage system."

A drawing from Jim Penniston's original witness statement

Simpson believes that "the twin bases [RAF Woodbridge and Bentwaters] are connected by tunnels underneath, which isn't that far out a thing to suggest, because a lot of these bases do have an underground facility, especially as it's a nuclear facility. You don't keep nuclear weapons on ground level, they have to drop down."

He continues: "I recently heard a very interesting story of a guy that went up to the Bentwaters air base and, because it's privately owned, some of those buildings are rented out to people. A company up there wanted to have their internet sorted out and this guy dug down and - he was a telecom guy - he came back and he was sheet white. He couldn't believe it. He said he'd just come across these cables, two foot down, and they were cables delivering such a powerful internet connection - but they were cables from 1980. I haven't ever told anyone that story. They [the cables] were from 1980 and yet they were so in advance of what we've even got now. I'm told that all the time what we get [technologically] is much behind what they [the military] actually know."

So what, I wonder, is the truth? Simpson appears conflicted about whether this is a military cover-up at a nuclear facility or something even more alarming. "I honestly believe something very strange went on there and I believe that somewhere is the evidence to prove it but that's hidden away. I think it's an extra-terrestrial encounter. I do."

I put a series of theories to Simpson, which I hope might explain away the idea that extra-terrestrial life landed in a forest in Suffolk 35 years ago. But he bats them all away. Could the lights have come from nearby Orford Ness lighthouse, for example? "The lighthouse theory is rubbish," he scoffs. "Lighthouses don't fly down into forests, split up into five different lights and zap off into space at Mach-3. They don't move through the trees and get mistaken by up to 20 witnesses from the United States Air Force."

Daniel Simpson's film, The Rendlesham UFO Incident, was shot on location in Rendlesham Forest

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Propaganda: CIA fears "hostile nations" manipulating weather to trigger droughts and floods

If it seems like it never stops raining, blame the Russians. Or even the North Koreans. CIA chiefs fear hostile nations are trying to manipulate the world's weather, a conference heard.

A leading academic has told how he got a mysterious phone call asking whether foreign countries could be triggering droughts or flooding. Professor Alan Robock, from Rutgers University in New Jersey, said: 'Consultants working for the CIA rang and said we'd like to know if someone is controlling the world's climate would we know about it?

'Of course they were also asking - if we control someone else's climate would they then know about it.'

The professor is one of many scientists from around the world are actively looking at manipulating the weather as a way of combating climate change.

Geoengineering techniques range from cloud seeding, in which chemicals are sprayed by planes trigger rainfall, to shooting mirrors into space to reflect sunlight and cool the Earth.

Professor Robock told the callers that any attempts to meddle with the weather on a large scale would be detectable.

However, he told the American Association for the Advancement of Science's annual conference in San Jose, that the weather has been weaponised in the past.

During the Vietnam War, US scientists tried to increase rainfall to hamper the enemy's progress by spraying particles into the clouds. And the CIA seeded clouds over Cuba 'to make it rain and ruin the sugar harvest'.

Asked how he felt when he got the call, the professor said: 'Scared. I'd learned of lots of other things the CIA had done that haven't followed the rules and that wasn't how I wanted my tax money spent. I think this research has to be open and international, so there isn't any question of using it for hostile purposes.'

To add to the intrigue, the CIA is believed to have helped fund a major report into geoengineering.

Published last week by the prestigious US National Academy of Sciences, the report mentions the 'US intelligence community' in its list of sponsors, alongside organisations such as Nasa.

Professor Robock said the CIA had told one of his colleagues it wanted to fund the report, but apparently did not want this fact to be too obvious.

He said: 'The CIA is a major funder of the National Academies report so that makes me really worried who is going to be in control.'

He added that the tension created by any large-scale meddling in the climate could escalate to such an extent that it would end in all-out war.

The professor said: 'If one country wants to control the climate in one way, and another doesn't want it or if they try to shoot down the planes...if there is no agreement it could result in terrible consequences.'

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Russian opposition plans 'anti-crisis' rally in Moscow

© RIA Novosti / Vladimir Pesnya

Alexei Navalny

The opposition coalition Solidarity has submitted a request for a major march against the authorities' anti-crisis measures on March 1. Moscow City Hall is yet to grant approval for the rally.

The news about the application was reported by one of Solidarity's key activists, Sergey Davidis. He told Interfax the event would be named simply 'Spring' and the maximum turnout is estimated at 100,000. The main objective of the march is to express discontent with the anti-crisis program of the authorities, Davidis elaborated.

The head of Moscow's directorate for regional security, Aleksey Mayorov, told reporters on Monday that various political movements had submitted six different applications for mass rallies on March 1 and added that it was early to talk about any particular plans. According to Russian law, civil servants have three days to officially permit or ban the rally.

On Sunday one of the main figures behind the planned rally - the leader of the Party of Progress Aleksey Navalny - was detained for promoting the march.

Navalny and another anti-corruption activist - Aleksey Lyaskin - were apprehended on Sunday evening in the Moscow Metro and released at about midnight after spending six hours in a police station, TASS reported quoting the Moscow press service of the Interior Ministry. Police said that the detained were violating public order.

Lyaskin tweeted that law enforcers registered them both and asked to appear in the station on the next day in order to complete all forms. Navalny also posted a tweet about the accident, calling it "ridiculous and illegal" and adding a photo of himself at a Metro station with uniformed officers in the background.

Задержание в метро выглядит смешнее всех видов задержаний. Просто стою в вестибюле и меня охраняют 15 человек http://bit.ly/1FjP6vc

— Alexey Navalny (@navalny) February 15, 2015

In addition to allegedly breaching the public order Navalny violated the conditions of the house arrest he currently must remain under.

In late December, Aleksey Navalny and his brother Oleg were convicted of large-scale embezzlement and received sentences - suspended for Aleksey and incarcerated for Oleg, who was a key suspect in the case. However, the sentence has not yet come into full force which means that the prevention measure for Aleksey cannot be changed and he should remain under house arrest.

Navalny has protested about this situation by walking out of his apartment and cutting off the special surveillance device. Each time he was detained and returned home without any additional remands.

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FLASHBACK: In strange twist, Venezuela arrests '7 police agents' and rabbi's bodyguard in connection with Caracas synagogue attack

Anti-Semitic graffiti sprayed on the walls of the Caracas synagogue

Venezuelan investigators on Sunday said seven police agents and four civilians were arrested in connection with an attack on a synagogue that sparked international condemnation.

The Venezuelan public prosecutor's office said the civilians included at least one security official from the synagogue and that all had been captured in raids over the weekend.

"These people were apprehended during raids carried out between Saturday and the early hours of Sunday in different parts of Caracas. They will all be charged by the Public Prosecutor's office," the office said in a statement.

synagogue caracas

© Unknown

The hate criminalists desecrated the temple in the synagogue

Armed men broke into Venezuela's Tiferet synagogue last week, daubing the walls with slogans like "Jews get out" and destroyed religious objects.

The attack produced a deluge of condemnation of President Hugo Chavez, a vocal critic of Israeli foreign policy who last month expelled Israel's ambassador over the war in Gaza. Members of the U.S. Congress said in a letter that Chavez had fostered a climate of fear against the Jewish community, and the World Jewish Congress was also critical.

Chavez insists he respects all religions and condemned the attack on the synagogue, which he blamed on armed groups opposed to his government. This week he said investigators had found a videotape of the assailants in the temple and predicted arrests would quickly follow.

Representatives of World Jewish Congress met with Venezuelan officials on Friday and said the government had promised to clamp down on anti-Semitic acts.

Despite the government's assurances, some Chavez supporters are openly anti-Semitic and graffiti has become a common sight on Caracas' streets since the Israel's offensive in Gaza, which killed nearly 1,300 people.

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EU leaders worried about Syriza 'Virus' spreading across Europe

The Greek Solidarity anti-austerity protests are spreading.

As anti-austerity protests continue to build in numbers across Europe (and not just in Spain where Podemos now holds a commanding poll lead over the status quo) reports that Greek parliamentary spokesman for Syriza, Nikos Filis notes "The wave of protests indicates a new beginning... And it scares the dominant forces in Europe. Because Syriza virus can spread and in their communities." And we suspect that is indeed the Eurogroup's greatest fear.

Via AVGI (Google Translate),

The demonstrations of solidarity with the Greek people against the austerity policies and enrolled in a European perspective changes and upheavals. This scares the dominant forces in Europe. Because the "virus" SYRIZA can spread and in their communities,"said the parliamentary spokesman of SYRIZA Nick Phillis.

"The wave of protests indicates a new beginning because SYRIZA virus can spread to the rest of Europe, as solidarity rallies in Greek people are against the austerity policies that degrade the lives of European citizens. The protests shall be entered in a European perspective changes and upheavals. And it scares the dominant forces in Europe. Because SYRIZA virus can spread and in their communities."

Commenting on Juncker statements and attitude of Europeans, in recent times, given the current Eurogroup for the Greek issue, Nikos Phillis speaks of "democracy deficit in Europe" and notes:

"They have behind them saying in recent days, seems to insist on completion of the Memorandum program harden their stance. This element is important to take account of people and Greece and Europe. Most likely not end today, having a horizon until 28/2. It is a political issue, not a technical one, because they put issues not related financial interest, such as labor. And on the part of creditors is not the issue of a minimum wage only, is subject a comprehensive, collective bargaining rights of a system, a European acquis in Greece is not the case. When elections take place in a country, we must respect the will of citizens, it is sovereignty issue. But the loan agreement is a bilateral relationship and the Greece and its creditors, the memorandum is a relationship that the Greece and has to do with the domestic legislation. Therefore, it says Juncker and others in Europe is not right, why do not question multilateral European treaties, but a treaty that its internal legislation. This raises issues of sovereignty and democratic representation. The negotiations should take into account the political change in our country. If not taken into account, this shows the perception in Europe for democracy, indicates lack of democracy in Europe ".

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Libya may halt pumping oil as violence intensifies

© Reuters / Ismail Zitouny

Libya's National Oil Corporation (NOC) says it could suspend production at all its oilfields if the government fails to curb the rising number of attacks by militants.

The company is worried about the safety of its employees and the possibility staff might leave the extraction sites after repeated armed attacks. NOC wants the country's Defense Ministry to protect the oil pumping facilities.

"If these incidents continue, National Oil Corp will regrettably be forced to stop all operations at all fields in order to preserve the lives of employees," the company warned on its website.

There have been increasing attacks on Libya's oil facilities by armed groups, and the violence reached its peak last week. On Saturday a bomb exploded at a pipeline carrying crude from the country's largest oilfield El Sarir, following Friday's attacks on the nearby Makruk and Bahi oil fields. Nine guards were killed and three workers were taken hostage in an attack on Mabruk earlier this month.

Various militant groups are tearing Libya apart in the worst wave of violence since the 2011 uprising that overthrew the country's leader Muammar Gaddafi. Two de-facto governments are currently acting in the country.

Libya, a member of OPEC, which has Africa's largest proven oil reserves at about 48 billion barrels, was exporting 1.6 million barrels per day before Gaddafi was overthrown. Since then oil production fell from an average of just 430,000 barrels per day in 2014 to an average of 350,000 barrels per day in January 2015.

Brent crude finished last week up 7 percent and up 32 percent from its lowest point this year in mid-January at $61.52 a barrel due to the news from Libya.

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Outrage as UK's Selfridges department store installs 'anti-homeless' spikes

The UK's biggest department store, Selfridges, has provoked outrage after it installed "disgusting" anti-homeless spikes outside its Manchester branch.

"Anti-homeless" metal spikes placed outside the Manchester department store make it impossible for homeless people to sleep there.

Residents in the area have confirmed homeless people "used to sleep" in the exact same place where the spikes are now situated.

This isn't the first time these "inhumane" spikes have sparked controversy in the UK.

Last June, the metal spikes caused a stir on social media when they were placed outside luxury apartments in London.

Following public outrage, London Mayor Boris Johnson ordered the "ugly, self-defeating and stupid" fixtures be removed from the buildings.

The spikes outside the London apartments were removed following protests and a petition which reached over 130,000 signatures.

Furious campaigners have launched a fresh petition against the "intimidating" spikes outside the Manchester department store.

Academic Cathy Urquhart, who launched the change.org petition, said: "We should be looking after the homeless, not demonizing and scapegoating them."

Urquhart told the she was "shocked" when she saw the spikes.

A petition signatory, Richie Young from Blackpool, commented on the page: "Being homeless is not a crime."

"Damn this Government of the Rich for the Rich," Young added.

"If a company of this size and wealth can offer no better contribution to Manchester's homeless problem than to build themselves a fortress then I won't spend my money there," a signatory from Manchester said.

However, a spokesperson for Selfridges told IBTimes UK that the spikes were put in place "as part of a number of measures to reduce litter and smoking outside the store's team entrance, following customer complaints."

Jacqui McClusckey, director of policy and communications for Homeless Link, said: "Sleeping on the streets is dangerous, bad for your health and individuals need support."

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Congress planning to let Homeland Security funding lapse

© Reuters / Kevork Djansezian

In a move that could have ramifications for domestic anti-terrorism efforts, US House Speaker John Boehner said he would let funding for the Department of Homeland Security lapse on Feb. 27 in order to reverse Obama's immigration reform actions.

House Republicans have passed a Homeland Security appropriations bill, but it is contingent upon defunding Obama's 2012 and 2014 executive orders that negated the threat of deportation for an estimated five million undocumented immigrants seeking refuge in the United States.

In the Senate, Democrats have blocked the House funding bill three times, calling for "clean" DHS-funding legislation that would maintain Obama's immigration orders. Obama, meanwhile, has threatened to veto the House measure.

"Senate Democrats are the ones standing in the way," Speaker Boehner told Fox News on Sunday. "They're the ones jeopardizing funding."

Would he let the department's funding expire? "Certainly," Boehner answered. "The House has acted. We've done our job."

.@SpeakerBoehner on #DHS Funding: 'It's Up to Senate Democrats to Get Their Act Together' http://bit.ly/1zIKQNC http://bit.ly/1zIKQNE

— FoxNewsInsider (@FoxNewsInsider) February 15, 2015

In the Senate, however, Republicans do not seem as headstrong about playing with DHS funding to defeat the immigration orders.

"The American people did not give us majority to have a fight between House and Senate Republicans," Arizona Sen. John McCain said on NBC's in reference to last November's midterm election. "They want things done. You cannot cut funding from the Department of Homeland Security. We need to sit down and work this thing out."

Republican Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said last week that the Upper Chamber was "stuck" and that it was up to the House to make the next move.

Despite this supposedly critical juncture, Congress is taking this week off , meaning lawmakers will have Feb. 24-27 to settle on DHS funding before its expiration.

Lots of our work falls under Homeland Security. Its budget runs out in 2 wks. Chance to scare the public into wanting to fund DHS to the max

— U.S. Dept. of Fear (@FearDept) February 12, 2015

Who goes to work without funding?

Funding expiration would affect some Department of Homeland Security (DHS) services, but not front-line airport or border security, according to reports.

The agency has designated around 85 percent of its workers, or about 200,000 people, as being 'exempt' from a forced furlough given they work in areas that are vital to security or are funded by sources unrelated to the congressionally-approved budget, Reuters reported.

For instance, Transportation Security Administration (TSA) travel screenings at airports would certainly continue, as would the Federal Air Marshal Service, Coast Guard patrols, and disaster relief execution.

You may laugh, but when they defund Homeland Security, who will scan your license plate? Who will put your name into secret databases?

— Popehat (@Popehat) February 16, 2015

While these employees would be required to work, they would not get paid until a funding measure is passed by Congress and signed by Obama.

About 30,000 employees would be sidelined during a department shutdown. Procurement, hiring, training, administrative support, and "the bulk" of management involved in coordinating efforts such as domestic anti-terror operations would all be affected by a funding expiration, according to Reuters.

In addition, E-Verify, a citizenship and visa database used in hiring processes, would not be active.

DHS secretary Jeh Johnson has said an agency shutdown would negatively affect investments in border security and geospatial intelligence operations, as well as the "more aggressive investigations" by immigration and customs officials of criminal organizations involved in drug, cyber, and human trafficking crimes.

The agency shutdown would not hamper the US Citizenship and Immigration Services - the agency charged with enacting Obama's 2012 and 2014 executive actions on immigration reform - as it is funded mostly by fees paid by applicants.

Under the executive order Obama announced in November, undocumented immigrants who have lived in the US for five years or more, and are parents of American citizens or lawful residents, will be subjected to criminal and national security background checks. Once these are completed, they can pay taxes and defer deportation for three years at a time.

The plan also called for the US to increase security at the borders and focus deportation efforts on criminals and potential security threats rather than families.

Congressional Republicans have sought to block the order ever since.

"The House has acted to de-fund the department and to stop the president's overreach when it comes to immigration and his executive orders," Boehner said on Sunday.

"The Congress just can't sit by and let the president defy the Constitution and defy his own his oath of office."

Sounds like Boehner understands the true worth of our homeland security operations. Up to Democrats to stir up fear. http://bit.ly/1DyWTTO

— U.S. Dept. of Fear (@FearDept) February 16, 2015

What if Congress shut down homeland security for a few months and no planes fell out of the sky?

— U.S. Dept. of Fear (@FearDept) February 16, 2015

House Democrats countered that the shutdown would threaten Americans' safety.

"With only four legislative days left until the Republican Homeland Security Shutdown, Speaker Boehner made it clear that he has no plan to avoid a government shutdown that would threaten the safety of the American people," Drew Hammill, spokesman for House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, told Reuters.

"The speaker's reliance on talking points and finger-pointing was a sad reflection of the fact that (the) Tea Party continues to hold the gavel as they insist on their futile anti-immigrant grandstanding."

The White House awaits a bill, but Obama's Chief of Staff Denis McDonough told CBS's 'Face the Nation' on Sunday that he doesn't "see exactly how Congress is going to resolve this."

In October 2013, a similar, albeit larger, budget faceoff between Republicans and Democrats caused the the majority of the US government to shutdown for 16 days, putting nearly one million workers on mandatory leave. Yet, as is Washington's custom with its increasingly-frequent budget imbroglios, an eleventh hour agreement spared a potentially damaging debt default.

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