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Archive for May, 2012

SpaceX Dragon Capsule Splashes Down in Pacific, Ending Historic Test Flight.

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  • Dragon capsule is barely visible as a white blob in the middle of this image, as it returns to earth on Thursday, May 31, 2012.Dragon capsule is barely visible …
  • Dragon's main chutes are faintly visible as SpaceX's spacecraft returns to Earth on Thursday, May 31, 2012.Dragon’s main chutes are faintly …

This story was updated at 11:59 a.m. EDT.

The world’s first commercial space cargo ship dove through Earth’s atmosphere and splashed down in the Pacific Ocean early Thursday (May 31), ending an historic test flight to the International Space Station.

The SpaceX Dragon capsule made a water landing off the coast of Baja California, Mexico at 11:42 a.m. EDT (1542 GMT). Recovery ships have spotted the capsule and are en route to collect the vehicle to tow to Los Angeles.

Mission Control in Houston informed the space station crew that the capsule’s red-and-white striped parachutes were visible.

“That’s good news,” NASA astronaut Don Pettit radioed back.

Dragon departed the space station earlier today, when it was released from the outpost’s robotic arm after being plucked from a docking port on station’s Earth-facing Harmony module. The unmanned capsule began its return to Earth in earnest at 10:51 a.m. EDT (1451 GMT) with a nine minute, 50 second de-orbit engine burn.

Dragon became the first private vehicle to visit the space station when it docked there May 25, three days after launching atop a SpaceX Falcon 9 rocket from Cape Canaveral, Fla. The capsule spent a total of five days, 16 hours and 5 minutes attached to the $100 billion orbiting laboratory. [Dragon Capsule’s Space Station Arrival in Pictures]

“It was a major success for us,” Dragon mission director John Couluris of SpaceX said during a news conference yesterday (May 30). “The trust and hard work that NASA helped SpaceX with were really important. The ability to get to the space station on our first time, to not only rendezvous but to berth — we would call that mission alone a success.”

SpaceX’s test drive for NASA

The nine-day Dragon flight was a test run for the 12 cargo-delivery flights SpaceX (short for Space Exploration Technologies Corp.) is contracted to fly for NASA for a total of $1.6 billion. The Hawthorne, Calif.-based company was founded in 2002 by billionaire entrepreneur Elon Musk, who also co-founded PayPal.

Though this flight is only Dragon’s second-ever trip to orbit, the mission went smoothly from end to end, with all the major milestones achieved without mishap.

That Dragon’s re-entry and splashdown went well marks another significant achievement, as the spacecraft is alone among the automated cargo freighters that service the space station in its ability to carry supplies not just up, but down.

While the cargo-delivery spacecraft built by Russia, Japan and Europe are designed to burn up during re-entry, Dragon is equipped with a heat shield and parachutes to survive the fiery plunge.

Dragon is packed with 1,367 pounds (620 kg) of crew items, used hardware and completed science experiments for its return trip. On the way up, the spacecraft delivered student-designed experiments and food, clothing and other supplies for the station’s astronauts.

Will astronauts be next?

SpaceX is one of two private firms receiving NASA funding to develop robotic cargo spacecraft (the other is Orbital Sciences Corp. of Dulles, Va.). SpaceX is also competing for a NASA contract to carry crew, as well as cargo, aboard Dragon.

Officials say if work proceeds on schedule, the first humans could fly on Dragon as soon as 2015. The capsule, which measures 14.4 feet tall (4.4 meters) and 12 feet wide (3.7 m), is designed to fit up to seven astronauts aboard.

You can follow assistant managing editor Clara Moskowitz on Twitter @ClaraMoskowitz. Follow for the latest in space science and exploration news on Twitter @Spacedotcom and on Facebook.

Copyright 2012, a TechMediaNetwork company. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

SPACE.comBy Clara Moskowitz |

Use of RFID Tracking Technology To Be Mandatory In US Food Stamp Program.

Food stamp welfare individuals must soon be chipped

“And he causeth all, both small and great, rich and poor, free and bond, to receive a mark in their right hand, or in their foreheads: And that no man might buy or sell, save he that had the mark, or the name of the beast, or the number of his name.” (Revelation 13:16-17)

In a little while, the above scene in Revelation 13 will become a global reality. People can no longer buy or sell without the mark of the beast. And sometimes that would mean no longer being able to eat!

The USDA is now considering biometric identification for all individuals who will want to benefit from their Food and Nutrition Services. The RFID chip may just soon be a must for everyone who does not want to starve!

The following is an excerpt of the executive summary of the FINAL REPORT of the Use of Biometric Identification Technology to Reduce Fraud in the Food Stamp Program:

Biometric identification technology provides automated methods to identify a person based on physical characteristics—such as fingerprints, hand shape, and characteristics of the eyes and face—as well as behavioral characteristics—including signatures and voice patterns.

Although used in law enforcement and defense for several years, it has recently been used in civilian applications and shows some promise to reduce the number of duplicate cases in the Food Stamp Program (FSP) and other assistance programs .

Already operational in some states

Biometric identification systems are currently operational at some level in Arizona, California (under county initiative, first by Los Angeles County), Connecticut, Illinois, Massachusetts, New Jersey, New York, and Texas. Finger imaging is the principal form of technology used in all eight States, though alternative technologies have simultaneously undergone trials in Massachusetts (facial recognition) and Illinois (retinal scanning). By the end of 2000, new systems are expected to be in place in California (statewide unified system), Delaware, and North Carolina. Other States are currently in the initial planning stages, including Florida, Maryland, Michigan, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, and South Carolina. However, there is little information available at this point regarding the specific course and trajectory these States will follow in terms of system types, implementation schedules, and the benefit programs in which they will implement the new requirement.

The States planned for implementation of their biometric identification systems in response to a wide variety of factors and considerations idiosyncratic to each State environment. Some States reported that their respective legislative mandates, which prescribed specific dates by which biometric systems were required to be in place, allowed insufficient time for development and planning. The States developed and followed implementation schedules in accordance with internal priorities and considerations. The States uniformly described their implementation processes as largely uneventful, though they encountered a variety of minor implementation issues, most of which were associated with the logistical difficulties of mobilizing and managing such a complex initiative.

Preparing staff for the implementation of the biometric systems, both philosophically and operationally, took different forms, priorities, and levels of effort in the States. At implementation, advance notification to clients and/or the general public about new biometric client identification procedures was considered important by all State representatives. The objective of providing advance notification was to inform and prepare clients for the additional application or recertification step (i.e., to explain the requirement and who is required to submit, and to address client concerns), as well as to accelerate enrollment of the existing caseload. All States prepared informational mailings to clients advising them of the new requirement. Some States reported developing additional outreach media including multilingual (English and Spanish) videos, posters, and brochures for viewing and distribution in the local office. Most of the States also identified various outlets in the community through which they informed the general public in advance about the implementation of biometric client identification procedures.

Program outcomes

The evaluations of finger imaging systems conducted by six States have produced the following findings.

  • A small number of duplicate applications (approximately 1 duplicate for every 5,000 cases) have been detected by finger imaging systems. Finger-imaging systems appear to detect more fraud in statewide implementations than in regional pilot systems. Additional matches have been found by interstate comparisons of finger-image data.
  • Institution of a finger-imaging requirement can produce a significant, short-term reduction in caseload, because some existing clients refuse to comply with the requirement. The number of refusals depends on the implementation procedures and appears to be lower when finger imaging is incorporated into the recertification process.
  • The most carefully controlled estimate of non-compliance among existing clients suggests that introduction of a finger-imaging requirement reduces participation by approximately 1.3%. However, this estimate reflects both reduced fraud and deterrence of eligible individuals and households.

Source – USDA

Additional information from the USDA Nutrition Assistance Program.

by Cookie Alicaya.

Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, federal appeals court rules.

Family Research Council President Tony Perkins at a May demonstration in favor of DOMA. (J. Scott Applewhite/A …On Thursday, a federal appeals court in Boston ruled that the government’s ban on gay marriage, called the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), violates the Constitution and should be struck down.

If the Supreme Court hears the case and upholds this ruling, it means that the federal government would most likely have to recognize the marriages of gay couples who were wed and reside in the six states that allow same-sex unions.

The First Circuit Court found that the federal government does not have a right to interfere in states’ definition of marriage, but stopped short of arguing that gay people have a constitutionally protected right to legal marriage. The First Circuit court is the first federal appeals court to strike down the law, and the case is likely to be taken up by the Supreme Court next year.

[Related: Obama touts support for gay marriage in video]

A section of DOMA, which was passed under President Bill Clinton, says that gay married couples are ineligible for federal benefits afforded to straight married people, such as tax breaks and Social Security survivor checks. DOMA encompasses about 1,000 federal laws tangentially related to marriage and affects 100,000 couples in the country, according to the decision. A group of gay couples in Massachusetts sued the government over the law, and the state of Massachusetts filed its own suit, saying DOMA makes its Medicaid program illegal because the state combines gay married couples’ incomes in calculating eligibility. (Gay marriage is legal in Massachusetts.)

The Justice Department under President Barack Obama initially defended DOMA against this lawsuit, but last year announced that it found DOMA unconstitutional and would no longer back it. House Republicans then appointed outside attorneys to argue for the federal law.

[Related: Obama’s gay marriage stance could hurt him, poll finds]

The judges admitted that the decision rested on navigating difficult and thorny precedents. “Only the Supreme Court can finally decide this unique case,” they wrote.

But in its decision, the First Circuit argued that the federal government has no interest in rejecting states’ definition of marriage, and that the singling out of a minority group—gays and lesbians—was troubling.

“Many Americans believe that marriage is the union of a man and a woman, and most Americans live in states where that is the law today,” the First Circuit wrote. “One virtue of federalism is that it permits this diversity of governance based on local choice, but this applies as well to the states that have chosen to legalize same-sex marriage. Under current Supreme Court authority, Congress’ denial of federal benefits to same-sex couples lawfully married in Massachusetts has not been adequately supported by any permissible federal interest.”

[Related: Bristol Palin chastises Obama for gay marriage position]

If the case makes it to the Supreme Court, all eyes will (as usual) be on Justice Anthony Kennedy, who moved to strike down laws banning anal sex in 2003 and a Colorado law that banned anti-discrimination rules that included gay people. So far, the Supreme Court has never held that sexual orientation can put people in a protected class, as it has with race and a few other things.

“I think this really does set up the issue for the Supreme Court to take this up next year,” said Erwin Chemerinsky, a liberal constitutional law professor at UC Irvine.

The decision marks the latest court victory for gay rights proponents after the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals struck down California’s ban on gay marriage in February. After North Carolina voters inserted a ban on gay marriage and civil unions into their Constitution in May, Obama announced that he personally thinks gay people should allowed to be married. But he stopped short of saying that the federal government should guarantee that right, indicating that states should decide.


By Liz Goodwin | The Lookout 

iMitt: What does Romney write in his iPad diary?.

Mitt Romney confided during a recent interview with Peggy Noonan in the Wall Street Journal that he has been keeping a campaign diary on his iPad. The goal of the journal, he said, is to capture “the feelings – the ups, the downs, the people I meet – and the sense I have about what’s going to happen.”
Romney joked that his private jottings would make his iPad “a subject of potential theft.” Tempting though it may be, no cat burglar is likely to slither up the Romney car elevator to walk off with this piece of history. Still, it would be fun to read Romney entries like: “Tuesday it rained. Well, actually, Donald Trump rained on my parade.”
Without resorting to a life of crime or waiting for the publication of Romney’s memoirs, let’s simply imagine what might be hidden in the Mitt Memory Book on his iPad.
Dec. 31, 2011: Growing up dreaming of an exciting life like being a missionary in France and being a car guy like my Dad, I never thought that Ann and I would be spending New Year’s Eve in Des Moines. But then six months ago, I never thought I’d be spending New Year’s Eve leading in the new Des Moines Register poll.
If I win Iowa big enough (especially without a social conservative like Rick Santorum nipping at my heels), I can go back to being who I really am – a problem-solver, a can-do guy, someone who knows the free market. These social issues: It’s not like I’m a liberal. I’ve had one wife and one beer, long ago. But people out here care so much more than I do about stuff like gay marriage. Gosh, though I’d never ever admit it, Obama was sort of right about them clinging to their guns and their religion.
[Related: How Romney’s app typo explains the Internet]
You know, a year from now, on New Year’s Eve 2012, Ann and I could be in California, surrounded by the Secret Service, looking out at the ocean and making our plans to move into the White House. Or we could be out there all by ourselves, staring at the waves, wondering what should we do with the rest of our lives. Dad did pretty well after he knew he’d never be president. I can take it, win or lose, I think.
Jan. 9: I love picture-postcard New Hampshire small towns where everything is perfect except the trees are the wrong height (too tall, but I can never say that). With the primary tomorrow, this was supposed to my victory lap day after virtually winning the Iowa caucuses (neck-and-neck with Santorum and they’re still counting). Instead, I have to do one of those gosh-darn walk-back-the-cat press conferences.
They’re going to want me to explain what I meant when I said that I worried about being “laid off” during my early years at Bain. Well, I did. It would have been embarrassing to be back on the job market with just my Harvard MBA and my law degree to fall back on. My advisers tell me that I have to relate to the average guy, the average schmo. Then when I actually tell a true story from long ago, they’re on my case because I’m “out of touch.” What am I supposed to do? Invent a different life where I was eating dog meat in Indonesia?
Feb. 2: Did Newt Gingrich, with his campaign running on fumes, really believe that Donald Trump would endorse him? I’m the only guy in the race who can talk to Trump mano-a-mano about what he cares about: money and convincing the banks that he has it. Trump’s entire brand is that he’s a winner surrounded by winners. That’s my brand, too, a guy who’s going to get the nomination because he’s going to get the nomination. I can’t say it was much of an endorsement from Trump, since he mostly (big surprise) talked about himself. But my people tell me – and the polling and focus group research back this up – that Trump can only help me, he can’t hurt me.
[Related: Romney ‘haunted’ by past verbal gaffes]
Feb. 10: Every time we rehearsed the speech, I didn’t like the line. Talking to CPAC, the heart of the hard right, you can’t just say that you were “a conservative governor of Massachusetts.” It’s wimpy, like saying that the Red Sox are a baseball team you’ve heard of. So I added an adjective – and maybe “severely conservative” wasn’t the best choice. But I had one-tenth of a second to make up my mind as I was speaking. What was I supposed to do? Stop the speech and ask for the focus group research? Maybe nobody will notice.
Feb. 24: After four campaigns, I know you can’t run politics like a business. But, boy, I wish you could. If I could figure out who was the person who gave the final sign-off on my giving an economic speech on the 30-yard-line of an empty football stadium, I would give them the full Seamus treatment. Jackie Gleason on the old “Honeymooners” would say, “To the moon, Alice.” Well, if I could run things the way I wanted to, without the press finding out, it would be, “To the car roof, former Romney aide.”
[Related: #FAIL on Twitter, brought to you by U.S. politicians]
Ann tells me to calm down, that we’re going to beat Santorum here in Michigan. Still, I wish I hadn’t tried so hard to prove that I was still a Detroit car guy and started talking about her Cadillacs. I hate it in politics when Ann gets caught in the line of fire. Wives never became collateral damage when I was in business. But if we win Michigan, it’s pretty much over and I can go back to being who I really am: a problem-solving businessman who knows how markets work. In other words, a severely conservative moderate.   April 10: If only Dad and Mom – Dad especially – were still alive. Santorum has just dropped out, as I knew he would, because he couldn’t risk losing his home state of Pennsylvania. What that means is that my 10-year plan (I remember putting together the first PowerPoint for myself and Ann the morning after the Salt Lake City Olympics) has been crowned with success. Sure, it took some doing, some re-branding of positions and about $75 million out of the boys’ inheritance, but at last a Romney will be nominated for president, just like Dad should have been. And once we get the Santorum endorsement and firm up my right flank, I can finally go back to being the guy I really am.
It’s a funny thing, though. I felt a lot more euphoria back at Bain when we flipped that credit-reporting company and made $200 million for owning it for three weeks. Maybe it’s getting older, maybe I’ll feel it on the big night at the Tampa Convention, but those early days at Bain seemed like a lot more fun.
May 19: They’ve been telling me for weeks that the Democrats would go after Bain. So I guess it’s no surprise that Obama and his super PAC are up with ads about how all I want to do in life is to close steel plants and shut down paper-and-pad companies. I can’t decide if Democrats are even more cynical than we are or whether they really don’t understand free markets. Golly, this is 2012 and the companies that they’re weeping over in the Obama ads made things like buggy whips and typewriters.

That’s what’s so frustrating about politics – so many people, even the Republicans, don’t understand how capitalism works the way I do. I remember when Forbes magazine had a slogan, “Capitalist Tool.” I get that in a way that lots of good guys who are on my vice-presidential list don’t. There’s nothing wrong with Rob Portman or Chris Christie or Marco Rubio or Tim Pawlenty. But they’ve all spent most of their lives in government. I just wish I had a running mate who could go out there and explain to the voters in ways that I can’t about how they’re wrong about Bain. Destroying and building, destroying and building, that’s where the economic growth comes from. May 29: Spent the day in Vegas with Donald Trump. Remember back in February when I said that Trump could only help me, he couldn’t hurt me. Well …


By Walter Shapiro

Gingrich on super PAC ad war: ‘It’s going to be a mess’.

Newt Gingrich (Evan Vucci/AP)Former presidential candidate Newt Gingrich, who during the Republican primaries found himself on the blunt end of brutal attack ads paid for by a super PAC supporting his rival Mitt Romney, predicted Thursday that the slew of negative ads from outside groups will be even worse in the general election.

[Related: What $1B will get you in politics]

“You watch this fall: Between the Obama super PACs and the Romney super PACs, the  conservative super PACs, the liberal super PACs—it’s going to be a mess,” Gingrich said during an appearance on MSNBC‘s “Morning Joe,”  “and people are going to be sick of it and it’s really unfortunate. It’s not the way a great nation should govern itself.”

Gingrich has long been a vocal critic of campaign finance rules that cap   the amount of money a candidate is allowed to raise from individual   donors, a system, he says, that funnels money to less transparent   organizations to pay for political speech. On the campaign trail earlier this year, Gingrich often argued for replacing the current system with rules that allow campaigns to raise unlimited amounts of cash so long as they report their donors online.

[Related: Obama, Romney slam ‘hate-filled’ super PAC plan]

“These super PACs have huge amounts of money,” he said during a stop in  New Hampshire in January. “They’re totally  irresponsible, totally secret, and I  think it’s a problem.”

Outside groups supporting both Republicans and Democrats have flooded the political scene with record amounts of spending this election cycle to pay for television air time, radio ads and mailers meant to influence local and national races. All of the major Republican candidates had a super PAC supporting them, including Gingrich, and the group boosted his candidacy with millions of dollars in support.


By Chris Moody | The Ticket 

Bush returns to the White House, plus more to watch for Thursday in politics

George W. Bush will be back in the White House on Thursday for the official unveiling of his and former first lady Laura Bush‘s portraits. President Barack Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will host the occasion. Also attending: Vice President Joe Biden, former President George H.W. Bush and former first lady Barbara Bush.

The House is expected to vote on legislation that would make it a federal crime to carry out an abortion based on the gender of the fetus. The bill focuses on the abortion of female fetuses, a practice more common in India and China, but which is also thought to take place in this country.

Republican supporters say the measure is aimed at a sex-discrimination issue; abortion rights advocates say the bill exploits the problem of selective abortion to further limit a woman’s right to choose.

Mitt Romney will be in California for another day of raising campaign cash, and Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, who has been mentioned as a Romney running mate, will meet with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.

Wisconsin Republican Governor Scott Walker and Tom Barrett, his Democratic challenger in the June 5 recall election, meet for a second debate.

And then there is this: Yes, the John Edwards jury is still deliberating. This makes day nine.

Sources: Yahoo! News, Associated Press


By Phil Pruitt | The Ticket 

Judge tells Edwards jury to continue deliberations.

Edwards outside the federal courthouse in Greensboro, N.C., May 31, 2012. (Chuck Burton/AP)Click image to see more photos.

After nearly two weeks of deliberations, the jury in the John Edwards corruption trial in Greensboro, N.C., said on Thursday that it has reached a verdict on one of six counts but remains deadlocked on the others. Prosecutors immediately asked the judge in the case to send the 12-member jury back to continue deliberation on the remaining five counts. Attorneys representing Edwards asked the judge to declare a mistrial.

After a brief recess, U.S. District Judge Catherine Eagles ordered jurors to deliberate for the rest of the day.

Edwards is charged with conspiracy, four counts of receiving illegal campaign contributions and one count of making false statements—for allegedly soliciting and secretly spending over $925,000 to cover up his affair with Rielle Hunter, a campaign videographer, during the 2008 presidential election. If convicted on all six counts, Edwards faces up to 30 years in prison and $1.5 million in fines.

According to ABC News, the count the jury agreed on, count three, was related to money given to Edwards by Rachel “Bunny” Mellon, a wealthy heiress. That verdict was never read.

In recent days, jurors raised scheduling concerns with Eagles, who held  several private meetings with attorneys from both sides on Wednesday to  discuss a note from one of the jurors participating in deliberations.  She did not reveal the contents of the note in open court.

The jury began deliberations on May 18 after a month of testimony that covered the sordid details of Edwards’ affair with Hunter, the elaborate cover-up and campaign finance law.

Prosecutors say Edwards knew exactly what he was doing in 2008 when he used nearly $1 million in campaign funds to cover up his affair with Hunter, while lawyers for the former presidential candidate argue that while he may have been a “bad husband,” he did not violate any federal laws in doing so.

Lawyers for Edwards say the payments from Mellon and trial lawyer Fred Baron were intended as personal gifts, not political contributions, to shield Edwards’ wife from learning of Hunter’s pregnancy with his child. Elizabeth Edwards, who was battling cancer at the time, died in 2010.

Edwards did not testify during the trial, nor did Hunter, who lives in Charlotte, N.C., with Frances Quinn, her four-year-old daughter with Edwards.

From combined staff and wire reports.


By Dylan Stableford | The Ticket

Romney Will Win in November for Two Very Bad Reasons.

COMMENTARY | Mitt Romney clinched the Republican nomination Tuesday with his Texas primary win. Officially he doesn’t have the final stamp of approval until the Republican National Convention, but that’s a mere formality at this point.

The situation makes me predict that Romney will be the next president of the United States for two very bad reasons.

(1) The “Citizens United” ruling by the Supreme Court (explained well here by the Cornell School of Law) made drastic changes to campaign contribution law. All you really need to know about it is this: Essentially anyone can contribute any amount of money to any candidate. The sky is the limit. Citizens United has shown it might be more accurately called “Corporations and Rich People United for Political Gain.”

Romney, being from the right wing, is the Big Business candidate. He’s also a very rich man, which makes him the pro-rich candidate if for no other reason than self-interest.

Since there are no caps on contributions by rich people or corporations it’s almost certain they will contribute heavily to Romney. I predict he will raise so much money that his campaign will be the best funded of all time. His political war chest will be so huge it will prove how bad an idea unlimited contributions are – but the lesson will come too late.

(2) Romney also gets to use the unfortunate “three Gs” platform – “Gays, Guns and God.” It’s an old right wing mantra to campaign on those three issues. Obama‘s recent support for marriage equality handed Romney a powerful weapon against him. Conservatives tend to be prodded into action over those issues. Romney will rally his voter base simply by appealing to their bigotry using formal language.

Average Americans can’t compete with the financial power of billionaires and mega-corporations. Common sense solutions to real problems like the economic disaster will take a back seat to anti-gay bias. In the end the 2012 election is set to be decided on the basis of bigotry and enormous contributions by the extremely rich and powerful.


Yahoo! Contributor Network

By Andrew Riggio | Yahoo! Contributor Network 

Mali ‘should have UN-backed force’: AU head.

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  • Refugees from northern Mali walk past a UNHCR car on Tuesday at the Imbaidou refugee camp near Ayoru in Niger. African Union chief Thomas Boni Yayi called Wednesday for the creation of a UN-backed force to intervene in Mali, where Islamist militants and Tuareg rebels have declared independence in the north. (AFP Photo/Issouf Sanogo)Refugees from northern Mali walk …

African Union chief Thomas Boni Yayi called Wednesday for the creation of a UN-backed force to intervene in Mali, where Islamist militants and Tuareg rebels have declared independence in the north.

“We are proposing that the AU strengthen its position so that its Peace and Security Council can refer the matter to the UN Security Council,” the Benin president said in Paris, calling for a UN-backed African force.

“We can take the example of Somalia, where an African force is operating with the support of the United Nations. We can move in this direction,” said Boni Yayi, who on Tuesday met with French President Francois Hollande.

“This (military) solution must come after dialogue, but this dialogue must not last too long,” he said. “We do not want a west African Afghanistan. The question of stability is non-negotiable for us.”

Tuareg rebels — many of whom were mercenaries for Libya’s Moamer Kadhafi and returned heavily armed to their homeland — rekindled their decades-old struggle for autonomy with a massive offensive in mid-January.

A coup by a group of low-ranking officers ousted the government in Bamako on March 22, accusing it of incompetence in handling the Tuareg rebellion.

However the coup only opened the way for the Tuareg, Islamist group Ansar Dine — believed to have ties with Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb — and criminal groups to occupy Mali’s vast north, an area larger than France.

The main Tuareg rebel group, the National Liberation Front of Azawad (FNLA), and Ansar Dine (Defenders of Faith) jointly declared the independent Islamic state of Azawad in northern Mali on Saturday — but a rift over Islamic law emerged within 48 hours and the two groups remained deadlocked.

The short-lived accord was hammered out after weeks of discussions between two groups that have long held separate objectives and ideologies.

Mali’s embattled transitional government swiftly rejected the embryonic rebel alliance’s declaration.

The West African bloc ECOWAS on Monday also rejected the rebel declaration of independence and repeated an earlier threat to take “all necessary measures” to keep Mali’s territorial integrity intact.

Mali’s transitional leaders have stressed their wish to restore the country’s territorial integrity but seem unable to guarantee their own safety, let alone mount a credible challenge against the north’s new masters.



Miami Face-Eating Attack Lasted 18 Agonizing Minutes.

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The grisly assault on a homeless man whose face was eaten by a deranged assailant lasted for 18 agonizing minutes and was captured on nearby surveillance cameras.

Rudy Eugene, who authorities suspect may have been high on a dangerous new street drug known as “bath salts,” had to be shot four times by a police officer to halt the cannibalistic attack.

The victim, Ronald Poppo, 65, is in critical condition after police say 75 percent of his face was devoured by Eugene.

Footage taken by security cameras at the nearby Miami Herald building show most of the 18 gory minutes of Eugene’s growling and vicious attack on Poppo when Eugene ate the man’s nose, mouth and eyes.

Eugene had a criminal past and has the notoriety of being the first person ever tasered by the North Miami Police Department after he was arrested for beating and threatening to kill his mother in 2008. Police told ABC affiliate WPLG that they had to taser him three times to subdue him.

“He wasn’t cooperative, wouldn’t follow orders, very belligerent,” said Detective Mike Pons. “He had that thousand-yard stare, staring right into you, not assessing or understanding what the commands were.”

According to WPLG, police believed that Eugene may have been mentally ill, but according to the judge who handled the case was never referred to the court’s mental illness diversion program.

Eugene was found guilty, but the court suspended his sentence citing in court records “the defendant is not likely to engage in a criminal course of conduct.”

That prediction proved to be horribly wrong last Saturday. Police say Eugene, 31, started his day in South Beach where he dumped his car. It is believed that he may have been cruising the streets for the popular Urban Beach Weekend.

He then walked across a causeway that connects the popular neighborhood with downtown Miami when he began to strip his clothes off.  The footage picks up and shows an agitated Eugene naked and bent over a  second figure believed to be Poppo.

Poppo was homeless and lived near the area where the attack occurred. Poppo tries to fight back as Eugene tries to take off his clothes. As the assault begins, the surveillance video shows a few passerbys beginning to notice what is going on. Police say they received at least five calls from witnesses.

When a police officer, who has been described as traumatized by the incident, arrives on scene, he is seemingly casually getting out of his patrol car until he notices what is going on. The officer almost immediately draws his gun. The cop ordered Eugene to stop the attack, but Eugene ignored his command and even growled back at the officer. It’s unclear when the officer fired because the video is obstructed by a metro commuter train line, but it eventually took four bullets to make Eugene stop his brutal assault.

It’s still unclear what triggered the violent attack. Police and many in the medical community believe that drugs, in particular “bath salts,” may have played a role. “Bath salts” have become increasingly popular in the Miami party scene, and they can trigger extremely violent outbursts. But police have found no evidence of drugs at the scene, and toxicology results will take several weeks to come back in.


ABC NewsBy SENI TIENABESO (@senijr_abc) | ABC News 

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