Archive | November, 2013

Current Event Cat of the Day: Syria’s New Years Resolution: Geneva Peace Talks

Current Event Cat - Geneva Talks

Geneva talks worked out well for the Iran nuclear deal, so now Syria is giving it a try. Starting on January 22, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s government will hold the first direct talks with opposition groups at an international peace conference in Geneva.

The Geneva conference will be the first time the two sides of the civil war will convene since the conflict began. UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon announced the little get-together on Monday, saying that the aim of the talks will be to agree on an acceptable transitional government with powers over military and security.

“We go with a clear understanding: The Geneva conference is the vehicle for a peaceful transition that fulfills the legitimate aspirations of all the Syrian people for freedom and dignity, and which guarantees safety and protection to all communities in Syria,”  Ban Ki-moon told reporters at UN headquarters.

But the news of the upcoming Geneva peace talks still leave many questions unanswered. Who should legitimately represent the divided Syrian opposition? What should they do with Bashar al-Assad? Should Iran be involved or completely banned from the table?

The rebel groups are skeptical that the talks will do any good because 1) the opposition is not united.

“Opposition political delegations do not have any power or influence on the Syrian street,” said Fahed Al-Masri, a spokesman for the Free Syrian Army. “As the Syrian street does not recognize them, it would be impossible for them to be able to commit to anything, much less fulfill any pledges.”

And 2) the rebels don’t believe their demand to get rid of Syrian President Bashar Assad will be met.

In fact, Syrian government officials have maintained that Assad will not resign and may even run for another term in presidential elections scheduled for mid-2014. If he can win an election after starting a two-year civil war that has so far claimed 100,000 lives, including that of more than 11,000 children, then either the ballots are rigged or all that sarin gas is seriously messing with Syrians’ brains.

Via: USA Today

The Steubenville Rape Case Isn’t Over Yet… And Other News

Steubenville Trent Mays, Ma'lik Richmond

If you thought the Steubenville rape case was over when two teenage boys were convicted of the crime, you were mistaken.

Now four new charges have been filed in the Steubenville case against four school employees, including the school superintendent. The superintendent, Michael McVey, was charged Monday with tampering with evidence, obstruction of justice, and falsification in the alleged 2012 rape of a 16-year-old girl. Also in the hot seat are assistant volunteer football coach Michael Belardine who has been indicted on charges of allowing underage drinking, obstruction, falsification, and contributing to unruliness, Steubenville elementary school principal Lynnett Gorman who has been indicted on a charge of failure to report child abuse, and wrestling coach slash teacher Seth Fluharty, who has also been indicted for failure to report child abuse. Moral of the story: don’t try to help rapists – even if they are Steubenville high school football players. CNN

Riga supermarket foor collapsePlot twist: Latvian president Andris Berzins is calling Thursday night’s supermarket collapse MURDER. The shopping mall roof collapse in Riga, Latvia, left 54 people dead and seven missing. The collapse, which took place when the mall was packed with after-work shoppers, is thought to have been caused by the garden being constructed on the roof of the mail. Apparently, the weight of the soil was too much for the roof. Following the collapase Andris Berzins called on foreign experts to investigate the situation. “We cannot call it a natural accident, because nature wasn’t involved. The evening was calm and silent with a little fog. This is our own made disaster,” Berzins said. BBC News

Saudi JulietA modern day Romeo & Juliet: Middle Eastern style. A Saudi woman illegally crossed the border to Yemen to be with her Yemeni lover. The two lovers, who have been living in an immigration detention centre since their arrival, decided to elope and flee to Yemen after the girl’s family rejected the idea of marriage. The woman, known as Huda, has now been given UN protection on the grounds that she could face mistreatment, even death, at the hands of her family if returned home and is now likely to get refugee status. In Yemen, the case is being celebrated as a modern-day Romeo and Juliet story, but over in Saudi Arabia, the government is calling for her to be deported. BBC News

Morocco RapeSpeaking of tragic love stories (minus the love), Moroccan activists are trying to repeal a law that exonerates rapists who marry their victims after another Moroccan teen committed suicide after her family forced her to marry her rapist. According to Article 475, a rapist can avoid a prison sentence by marrying his victim. After the latest victim ,a 16-year-old, was raped by another minor, her family, not wanting their daughter to be thought of as damaged goods, negotiated with the rapists family and proposed the two get married. Apparently this didn’t sit well with the young victim and she decided that taking her own life was a better option. Solid choice. Al Jazeera

Adam LanzaAfter a nearly year long investigation into last year’s shooting in Newtown, Connecticut, no clear reason has been found as to why 20-year-old Adam Lanza killed 20 first graders, six adults, his own mother and then himself. The exhaustive 48-page report released by Connecticut police, reveals that investgiators are still stumped over Lanza’s motive. All they could come up with was a history of mental-health issues, a “strong interest in firearms” and a “preoccupation with mass shootings.” Lanza apparently enjoyed violent video games, including one called “School Shooting” – but he also liked “Dance Dance Revolution” so that kind of cancels the shooting game out… The report wasn’t a total loss though. Investigators did determine that Lanza acted alone – so at least we know there aren’t any more crazy child shooters out there roaming the countryside of Newtown, Connecticut. For now. New York Times

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Crazy Alert: 25-Year-Old Plans to Marry Charles Manson

Charles Manson and Star

A 25-year-old devotee named Star (a name given to her by Charles Manson) intends to marry her boyfriend of six years, Charles Manson, the infamous serial killer.

Charles Manson, 79, is still working on his life prison sentence in Corcoran Prison in California for his role in the murders of actress Sharon Tate and Leno and Rosemary LaBianco – but that hasn’t stopped “Star” from planning her dream wedding.

Star, who claims she has been dating the cult-leading serial killer since she was 19, moved near the prison to be closer to him and has even carved an “X” into her forehead to match his swastika. Well, that will make it easier to spot the crazy.

People can think I’m crazy. But they don’t know. This is what’s right for me. This is what I was born for,” she said.

In an interview with Rolling Stone magazine, Star, who runs multiple websites calling for Manson’s release, announced that she plans to wed the serial killer.

“I’ll tell you straight up, Charlie and I are going to get married,” she told Rolling Stone magazine. “When that will be, we don’t know. But I take it very seriously. Charlie is my husband. Charlie told me to tell you this. We haven’t told anybody about that.”

Turns out that “Charlie” didn’t get the memo though. While Manson admits the 25-year-old “artist” from Missouri is his girlfriend, he denied any upcoming wedding bells.

“That’s a bunch of garbage. You know that, man. That’s trash. We’re just playing that for public consumption,” he told Rolling Stone.

Despite dating for six years, the two have been have never had a conjugal visit, but only because “California lifers no longer get them.” That might be a good thing though based on Manson’s recent musings on sex.

Sex to me is like going to the toilet. Whether it’s a girl or not, it doesn’t matter.” Manson told the magazine.

Ahhhh young love….

Via: The Rolling Stone

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Fox Host: Obamacare is Worse than the Iraq War and Katrina

Martha MacCallum Katrina Obamacare

Fox News host Martha MacCallum made the insightful comment that Obamacare is more devastating than both Hurricane Katrina and the Iraq War because it directly touches the lives of more people.

In a segment on America’s Newsroom, Martha MacCallum pointed out that unlike a hurricane which nearly obliterated an entire city and a war which took the lives of thousands of American soldiers and injured hundreds of thousands more, a glitchy health care website affects EVERYBODY.

“What I keep coming back to in all of this is unlike other issues — Katrina or the Iraq war — that we’ve seen in [President George W. Bush’s] second term, this is something that touches so many people’s lives across the country,” MacCallum said. “And you don’t know whether the president is going to be able to successfully dodge it.”

And while MacCallum’s guest, Fox News contributor Brit Hume, seems to agree, I’m not sure that the Iraq war and Obamacare are entirely comparable. No one died as a result of Obamacare (minus all those elderly people who were shot execution style by the death panels), whereas the war may have had its fair share of causalities.

But that’s not part of Fox’s logic: thousands of Americans needlessly dying in a war? No problem. Preventing people from needlessly dying by offering them affordable healthcare? Un-American!

Via: Raw Story

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Amsterdam Pays Alcoholics in Beer to Clean up the Streets

Alcoholics Paid in Beer

A new program has been launched in Amsterdam where troublesome alcoholics are paid in beer to clean the streets. Only in Amsterdam…

The special “beer for cleanup” program, funded by the Dutch state and donations, is designed to keep the alcoholics occupied and slightly buzzed so they don’t cause any disruptions or start any fights. For a day’s work, the alcoholics receive 10 euros, a half-packet of rolling tobacco and five cans of beer: two to start the day, two at lunch and one for after work. So much for AA…

“This group of chronic alcoholics was causing a nuisance in Amsterdam’s Oosterpark: fights, noise, disagreeable comments to women,” said Gerrie Holterman, who heads the Rainbow Foundation project.

“The aim is to keep them occupied, to get them doing something so they no longer cause trouble at the park.”

“Heroin addicts can go to shooting galleries, so why shouldn’t we also give people beer?”

The beer consumption is monitored – unless Gerrie Holterman gets called away – then it’s honour system all the way. Each alcoholic is responsible for recording how much beer they’ve consumed. Overall, the group, who volunteer to work three days a week from 9am to 3:30pm, are pretty happy with the beer setup.

One 45-year-old alcoholic, named Frank, says:

“I think I can speak for the group and say that if they didn’t give us beers then we wouldn’t come. … We need alcohol to function.”

Others enjoy the structure and satisfaction the job brings.

“We also feel satisfied, a job well done, contributing to society despite the fact that we drink,” Vincent, a former baker, said.

“It gives our lives some structure,” said another alcoholic.

Interesting approach. Alcoholics need alcohol and streets need to be cleaned – so why not? And if Amsterdam can get their alcoholics to clean the streets, just think of what we can do with the crackheads. We can get them to run Toronto!  Or run for congress in Florida! The possibilities are endless!

Via: AFP

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Current Event Cat of the Day: Nuke Deal Reached

Current Event Cat - Nuke Deal Reached

Break out the champagne – the Iran nuke deal has been reached! Unless you’re Israeli – then you can break out the anger. And unless you’re one of those people who looks more than 6 months into the future – then you can break out the mild enthusiasm because the nuke deal is only an interim pact.

Still, the not-yet-finalized six-month interim nuke deal is a big step towards Iran not blowing everybody up! After lengthy negotiations in Geneva between Iran and the P5+1 countries, the countries reached a temporary nuke deal under which Iran would dismantle its military nuclear capabilities and the other countries would lift some of the sanctions imposed on Iran by the UN, US and the European Union.

And while under the deal Iran will have to give inspectors greater access to its key nuclear sites, U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry is still a little skeptical about Iran’s compliance. Kerry hopes that the nuke deal will keep Iran’s nuclear program in check until a more permanent deal can be reached, but he acknowledged on Sunday that enforcing the agreement could be more difficult than reaching it in the first place.

“The next phase, let me be clear, will be even more difficult, and we need to be honest about it,” he said.

And while Kerry is taking a cautious approach, there is one guy who isn’t afraid to say the nuke deal blows: Iran’s arch-nemesis, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

“This is a bad agreement,” said Netanyahu’s office, in a statement hours after the nuke deal was signed.

“It gives Iran exactly what it wanted — a significant easing of sanctions and allows it to keep hold of the most essential parts of its nuclear programme.”

“The agreement allows Iran to continue enriching uranium and leaves all the centrifuges in place which allow it to create fissile material for nuclear weapons.”

Israeli Intelligence Minister Yuval Steinitz agreed, saying the nuke deal was likely to bring Iran “closer” rather than further away from building a bomb.

“The current deal … is more likely to bring Iran closer to having a bomb. Israel cannot participate in the international celebration, which is based on Iranian deception and world self-delusion,” he said.

But there’s nothing that a little phone call from President Obama can’t cure (except this). Obama rang up Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu Sunday afternoon to offer his assurances that Israel would be consulted in the Iranian nuclear deal. They might not listen to him, but he’ll be consulted. Obama also assured him that the U.S. “will remain firm in our commitment to Israel, which has good reason to be skeptical about Iran’s intentions.” Although if this is anything like his assurance that Americans could keep their healthcare plans, maybe Israel does have good reason to be worried…

Via: BBC News & Current Event Cats

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Trey Radel Shows Rob Ford How To Deal With A Cocaine Scandal… And Other News

 Trey Radel Cocaine Scandal

Take note Rob Ford – this is how you deal with a cocaine scandal.

On Wednesday, Florida Rep. Trey Radel announced at a press conference that he would be taking a leave of absence from his congressional seat in Washington amid the news that he was busted for cocaine possession. Radel, who was sentenced to one year of supervised probation, admitted he was an addict and also announced he plans to enter an inpatient treatment center and donate his salary to charity. “I’m owning up to my actions. I’m taking responsibility. I’m taking it very publicly,” Radel told a group of reporters at a news conference Wednesday night. He should also give a shout out to Toronto Mayor Rob Ford for giving him a foolproof “what not to do” cocaine scandal guide. ABC News

Negotiations Continue On Capitol Hill One Day Before Debt Limit DeadlineFilibuster no more! In a tight 52-48 vote, the Senate decided to change the filibuster rules in order to limit Republicans’ power to filibuster the president’s executive-branch appointments and judicial nominations. Senate Democrats say the need for the change is “obvious” but Republicans say it’s just a “power grab” by the Democrats. Obama was pretty psyched though. “A deliberate and determined effort to obstruct everything is not normal,” he said of the persistent gridlock in Congress. “This isn’t obstruction on substance or qualifications, it’s just to gum up the works.” Washington Post

kayla-mendozaProving that social media is the best thing to happen to prosecutors since lie detectors, a drunk driver tweeted “2 drunk 2 care” before causing a horrific car crash that killed two women.  20-year-old Kayla Mendoza of Florida (obvs) crashed into another car while going the wrong way on the Sawgrass Expressway at 2am on Saturday. Mendoza, who calls herself “pothead princess” on Twitter, tweeted about her drunken state hours before the crash. She is now in serious condition at Broward Health North, where she is probably sober enough by now to care. Miami New Times

apple-vs-samsungDon’t mess with Apple! A federal jury determined on Thursday that Samsing must pay Apple $290 million for infringing on a number of Apple patents involving technology used in iPhones and iPads. Apple was asking for $380 million and Samsung was offering $52 million – so my mathematical skills tell me that Apple won. But Apple says its not about the money – its about sticking it to the companies trying to rip off their technology.  “For Apple, this case has always been about more than patents and money,” Apple spokeswoman Kristin Huguet said in a statement. “It has been about innovation and the hard work that goes into inventing products that people love.” USA Today

Shooting Suspect ParisThe three-day manhunt for the Paris shooting suspect is over. Police have identified the man responsible responsible for firing a gun at a Paris TV station, newspaper office, and bank headquarters, which left a photographer’s assistant in a critical condition. French authorities took the suspect, Abdelhakim Dekhar, into custody where he will face charges of attempted murder and kidnapping. Dekhar was previously imprisoned in 1998 for four years for taking part in another series of Paris shootings that left four people dead. I don’t want to say France has a lax judicial system, but they probably shouldn’t have let him out… Maybe this time he’ll get more than 4 years? Al Jazeera

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McDonald’s Has Some Great Advice For Employees: Return Holiday Gifts to Get Out Of Debt And Stop Complaining

McResource Employees

McDonald’s knows how hard it is for employees to make ends meet – they’ve seen their $7.25 an hour paychecks. So the fast food giant set up a help website for McDonald’s employees called McResource.

The website Low Pay Is Not OK posted a few screenshots from the McResource site, which offers the following tips to employees:

  • You may want to also consider returning some of your unopened purchases that may not seem as appealing as they did.
  • Selling some of your unwanted possessions on eBay or Craigslist could bring in some quick cash.
  • Breaking food into smaller pieces often results in eating less and still feeling full.
  • Stop complaining. Stress hormones rise by 15% after 10 minutes of complaining.
  • At least two vacations a year can cut heart attack risk by 50%.

So can avoiding McDonald’s food – even if you do chop it up into smaller deep-fried pieces. Anyways, I’ve gotten more useful information from my cats, but McDonald’s is sticking to its McResource advice.

“This is an attempt by an outside organization to undermine a well-intended employee assistance resource website by taking isolated portions out of context,” a McDOnald’s spokeswoman wrote. “The McResource website has helped countless employees by providing them with a variety of information and resources on topics ranging from health and wellness to stress and financial management.”

McDonald’s was also criticized earlier this year for the sample budget it provided to employees which suggested picking up a second job and making do without heat. But at least they haven’t set up an employee food drive for their own employees… Walmart.

Via: Business Insider

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Police Rescue Three Women Held Captive By The British Version of Ariel Castro

Three Women Held Captive

Turns out the U.S and Austria aren’t the only countries where you can hold women captive for decades without detection.

Three women have been freed after being held captive for nearly 30 years in a south London home – including one woman who is thought to have spent her entire life held captive.

The women freed include a 69-year-old Malaysian woman, a 57-year-old Irish woman and a 30-year-old British woman. The women are said to be “highly traumatized” but are now in a safe location. Investigators say there was no evidence of sexual abuse but the women had controlled lives and spent most of their time indoors.

As for the Ariel Castro-like captor, details are scarce but British police have arrested a man and a woman, both 67. While the women were freed several weeks ago, the two suspects were only arrested on Thursday.

“The women were released as soon as possible,” Det Insp Kevin Hyland, from the Metropolitan Police’s Human Trafficking Unit, said.

“There was a delay in the arrest. This was down to the fact that we had to work very carefully with these people who were highly traumatised and it was very difficult to establish the facts.

“The last thing we wanted to do was increase that trauma.”

And how did the police manage to track down and suspects and their prisoners? With the help of television! One of the captive women saw a television documentary on forced marriages and called Freedom Charity, a group that raises awareness about child abuse, forced marriages and honour killings. After telling the organization that she had been held against her will at a London address for more than 30 years, they contacted the police and the rest is history! Moral of the story: TV saves lives.

Via: BBC News

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Afghan President Hamid Karzai Doesn’t Trust The U.S. And The Feeling Might Be Mutual…

Hamid Karzai

As the U.S and Afghanistan try to hammer out a new post-2014 security deal, President Hamid Karzai tells tribal leaders that he does not trust the United States.

Afghan elders, also known as the Loya Jirga, are currently debating the new security pact, which outlines a broad, long term relationship between the U.S. and Afghanistan. If the deal is passed, it would commit the U.S. to training Afghan security forces, allowing 10,000 – 15,000 foreign troops – mostly U.S. – to remain in the country post 2014. Under the proposed pact the remaining US troops would not operate in combat missions and would no longer be allowed to enter the homes of Afghans – with some exceptions.

Hamid Karzai urged the delegates to approve the new security deal, which he believes would provide the security Afghanistan needs. But Karzai also told the elders that there was a lack of trust between him and the Americans.

My trust with America is not good,” Hamid Karzai said at a meeting of tribal elders and political leaders in Kabul. “I don’t trust them and they don’t trust me. During the past 10 years, I have fought with them and they have made propaganda against me.”

Despite his lack of trust, Karzai also stressed the importance of strategic ties with Washington.

We need a good friend in the U.S. You cannot live in this global village without a friend – but you need to have a strong, faithful friend.”

Enough with the mixed messages Karzai!

Karzai said the pact would not be signed until after 2014 elections but the United States wants Afghanistan to hurry it up.

State department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said: “We believe that signing sooner rather than later is essential to give Afghans certainty about their future before the upcoming elections, and enable the United States and other partners to plan for US presence after 2014.

“It is neither practical nor possible for us to further delay because of the uncertainty it would create.”

If the Loya Jirga delegates does accept the pact, it still needs to be approved by both the U.S. and Afghan administrations. But given the weak job Karzai is doing trying to sell this thing, speed might be the least of America’s problems.

Via: NBC News

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