Greek triple jumper removed from Olympic team after making racist comments on Twitter

Greek triple jumper Voula Papachristou was banished from the Olympic Games on Wednesday after making racist comments and expressing right-wing sentiments on Twitter.

Papachristou was scheduled to fly to London next week from her training base in Athens when the Hellenic Olympic Committee – Greek’s Olympic federation – made the decision to expel her from the team.

Papachristou, 23, made a racist and tasteless comment on her Twitter account, @papaxristoutj, that highlighted the number of African immigrants in Greece.

“With so many Africans in Greece … at least the West Nile mosquitos will eat homemade food!!!,” Papachristou wrote. She also reposted a comment from controversial Greek politician Ilias Kasidiaris, who has strongly criticized his government’s “soft” immigration policy.

Photo Credit: (Matt Dunham/AP)


Poor sanitation and incidents of crime at some Occupy Wall St protests test patience in cities across the US

Fed up with petty crime, the all-night racket of beating drums, the smell of human waste and the sight of trampled flowers and grass, police and neighbors are losing patience with some of the anti-Wall Street protests around the U.S.

In Oakland, Calif., police in riot gear fired tear gas and bean bags before daybreak Tuesday to disperse about 170 protesters who had been camping in front of City Hall for the past two weeks, and 75 people were arrested.

The mayor of Providence, R.I., is threatening to go to court within days to evict demonstrators from a park.

And businesses and residents near New York’s Zuccotti Park, the unofficial headquarters of the movement that began in mid-September, are demanding something be done to discourage the hundreds of protesters from urinating in the street and making noise at all hours.

Photo: The possessions of Occupy Oakland protestors are seen strewn about Frank H. Ogawa plaza Tuesday, Oct. 25, 2011, in Oakland, Calif. Occupy Oakland protestors were evicted from the plaza early this morning. (Ben Margot/AP)

U.S. airstrike that killed American teen in Yemen raises legal, ethical questions

One week after a U.S. military airstrike killed a 16-year-old American citizen in Yemen, no one in the Obama administration, Pentagon or Congress has taken responsibility for his death, or even publicly acknowledged that it happened.

The absence of official accountability for the demise of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, a Denver native and the son of an al-Qaeda member, deepens the legal and ethical murkiness of the Obama administration’s campaign to kill alleged enemies of the state outside of traditional war zones.

‘Major Spill’ After Exxon Pipe Ruptures in U.S.

An Exxon Mobil crude oil pipeline ruptured near the town of Mayflower in the US state of Arkansas, spilling thousands of barrels of oil, the company said.

Exxon shut the 50-centimetre Pegasus pipeline, which carries crude oil from Pakota, Illinois, to the Gulf Coast, after the leak was discovered on Friday afternoon.

Exxon, which was hit with a $1.7m fine by regulators this week over a 2011 spill in the Yellowstone River, said a few thousand barrels of oil had been observed.

Local media reported the spill occurred in a subdivision, and Mayflower police said the oil had not reached the nearby Lake Conway.

Federal, state and local officials were on site and the company said it was staging a response for a spill of more than 10,000 barrels “to be conservative.”

“The air quality does not likely present a human health risk, with the exception of the high pooling areas, where clean-up crews are working with safety equipment,” Exxon said in a statement.

The US Environmental Protection Agency had categorised the rupture as a “major spill,” Exxon said, and 22 homes were evacuated following the incident. Clean-up crews had recovered approximately 4,500 barrels of oil and water.

The spill occurred as the US state department is considering the fate of the Keystone XL pipeline, which could carry 800,000 barrels of crude per day from Canada’s oil sands to the Gulf Coast.

Environmentalists, concerned about the impact of developing the oil sands, have sought to block its approval. Supporters say Keystone will help bring down the cost of fuel in the United States.

The Arkansas spill was the second incident this week where Canadian crude has spilled in the United States. On Wednesday, a train carrying Canadian crude derailed in Minnesota, spilling 15,000 gallons of oil.

Related: Read more on the Keystone Pipeline decision and the two tar sands spills that occurred this week.

Photo Credit: (Reuters)

3 US citizens among victims in Mexico bus attack

Three U.S. citizens traveling to spend the holidays with their relatives in Mexico were among those killed in a spree of shooting attacks on buses in northern Mexico, authorities from both countries said Friday.

A group of five gunmen attacked three buses in Mexico’s Gulf coast state of Veracruz on Thursday, killing a total of seven passengers in what authorities said appeared to be a violent robbery spree.

The Americans killed were a mother and her two daughters who were returning to visit relatives in the region, known as the Huasteca, said an official in the neighboring state of Hidalgo, where the mother was born.

Photo Of 8-Year-Old Syrian Rebel ‘Ahmed’ Smoking A Cigarette With His Rifle

It’s a picture that is both haunting and heartbreaking.

Dressed in red, an 8-year-old Syrian boy identified as Ahmed stares into the camera of American-born photojournalist Sebastiano Tomada Piccolomini. The child’s face is partially obscured by the smoke of a lit cigarette, and his small frame is dwarfed by the assault rifle slung around his shoulders.

Piccolomini’s pint-sized “rebel” exemplifies the growing tragedy in Aleppo, a city on the front lines of Syria’s ongoing civil war. The photographer has been documenting the struggle of the Free Syrian Army fighters for a series called “The Things They Carry,” the New York Daily News reports.

Once the country’s commercial center, Aleppo is currently divided by between soldiers loyal to President Bashar Assad and the rebel forces who oppose him.

According to German filmmaker Marcel Mettelsiefen, conditions in the city border on unbearable, with only 30 doctors and nurses caring for hundreds of thousands of civilians. The New York Times reports that rebel areas lack electricity, water, or any sort of economic stability.

Since the fighting broke out in Syria more than two years ago, the United Nations estimates that more than 70,000 people have been killed, Reuters notes.

Photo Credit: (SIPA USA)

Foreclosures made up 20% of home sales in 3Q

Foreclosures made up a smaller slice of all U.S. homes sold in last year’s third quarter, as banks delayed placing properties for sale and home sales slowed.

Despite the decline, foreclosures still represented 20 percent of all homes sold in the July-September period - about four times more than at the height of the housing boom, foreclosure listing firm RealtyTrac Inc. said Thursday.

Foreclosure sales include homes purchased after they received a notice of default or were repossessed by lenders.

In 2005 and 2006, when housing was still flying high, foreclosures made up less than 5 percent of all home sales, the firm said. They peaked in 2009 at 37.4 percent.

Anonymous Soldier Pawns Off Purple Heart for Cash

A pawn shop is an unusual place for a Purple Heart, a badge that symbolizes courage and patriotism and is awarded to U.S. soldiers killed or wounded in battle.

But in a small Michigan town, hard economic times forced one anonymous soldier to part with what may have been the biggest symbol of his military achievement.

A-Z Outlet owner Bryan VandenBosch says a Purple Heart was sold to him in November by a West Michigan man serving in Afghanistan. The servicemember, who pawned off the precious medal because he reportedly needed money, declined an interview request with the Holland Sentinel, which first reported the story.

“He was falling on hard times,” VandenBosch told the Sentinel, adding that the soldier didn’t want his name to be revealed. “He said the same thing everybody else who comes in here says. He was short on funds.”

Unlike some other medals, a Purple Heart is not engraved, which can make it difficult to track down the recipient.

Having Dropped to 1% of National News Focus, OWS Rebounds Strongly Since Zuccotti Raid

As police officers cleared protesters last week from Zuccotti Park in Lower Manhattan, the birthplace of Occupy Wall Street, they made sure most reporters were kept blocks away, supposedly for their own protection.

But in almost every other respect, mainstream news media outlets have been put right in the middle by the movement.

Newspapers and television networks have been rebuked by media critics for treating the movement as if it were a political campaign or a sideshow — by many liberals for treating the protesters dismissively, and by conservatives, conversely, for taking the protesters too seriously.

The protesters themselves have also criticized the media — first for ostensibly ignoring the movement and then for marginalizing it.

Lacking a list of demands or recognized leaders, the Occupy movement has at times perplexed the nation’s media outlets. Press coverage, minimal in the first days of the occupation in New York, picked up after amateur video surfaced online showing a police officer using pepper spray on protesters. On several occasions, video of confrontations with the police, often filmed by the protesters, has propelled television coverage.

In the initial coverage, “I saw almost nothing that talked about our reasons for being there, and that trend has largely continued,” said Patrick Bruner, an organizer for Occupy Wall Street in New York. He said the group welcomed investigations of “our ideas, why we’re here, what we’re saying and talking about.”

Alicia Shepard, who was until recently the ombudsman for NPR, said most news coverage of Occupy “hasn’t been about the issues, it’s been about who’s up and who’s down,” likening it to the “horse race” style of coverage prevalent in political campaigns.

An analysis by the Pew Research Center’s Project for Excellence in Journalism indicates that the movement occupied 10 percent of its sample of national news coverage in the week beginning Oct. 9, then steadily represented about 5 percent through early November.

Coverage dipped markedly, to just 1 percent of the national news hole, in the week beginning Nov. 6, supporting Ms. Shepard’s assertion that it had “died down” before the early morning eviction in New York last Tuesday. It has since rebounded strongly.

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Photo Credit: (Jonathan Auch)

A Statement from byline|beat Creative Director Kevin Gailey
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Kevin Gailey – Creative Director – @ BylineBeat

“On byline|beat”

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Brooklyn, NY — It has been a great week for us here at byline|beat! We launched our #OccupyWallStreet Landing Page, we have seen record traffic days — back to back to back — our latest installment of ‘Drugs & Sex has seen more traffic than any other posting in byline|beat history, and to top it off, my post reporting on Microsofts Q1 Earnings was featured on Tumblr’s #Tech section. Admittedly, & probably most selfishly, the last was what I was most excited about. No disrespect to our great contributor that is Charisma, her Drugs & Sex column is going to be a great draw to the site, but when I saw we had been featured in the #Tech section, I had this to say to our Editor-in-chief:

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Holiday homecoming: Last Iraq combat troops back at Fort Hood

1st Sgt. Scott Dawson has spent several Christmases overseas during four deployments to Iraq, but he arrived home for this holiday Saturday — and he and his family hope it’s for good.

Dawson was among the very last U.S. combat soldiers to leave Iraq a week ago. Members of his brigade having been arriving Fort Hood in Texas over the past week, and he was in a group of nearly 200 that landed Saturday. Only about a dozen are still overseas, along with members of another brigade that was in the final convoy to cross the border into Kuwait.

The soldiers’ families waited for two hours in drizzling rain and chilling wind on Christmas Eve morning, some wrapped in blankets and holding signs decorated with ornaments and candy canes. They screamed upon seeing the troops from the 3rd Brigade, 1st Cavalry Division arrive in buses and march onto a field at the Army post.

When the announcer yelled “Charge!” at the end of the brief welcome-home ceremony, wives, children and parents ran to the soldiers, hugging and kissing them.

Colorado Measure Legalizing Recreational Marijuana Passes

An amendment that would make it legal in Colorado for individuals to possess and for businesses to sell marijuana for recreational use has passed.

The Denver Post made the call at approximately 9:15 p.m.

Amendment 64 led with 52.7 percent voting yes and 47.3 percent voting no, with 1,507,746 votes or more than 50 percent of active voters counted, according to the Colorado Secretary of State’s office. The office said 25 counties had reported.

The early results prompted cheers throughout Casselman’s, a downtown bar where hundreds of supporters were gathering.

Mason Tvert, co-director of Yes on 64, said the crowd was cautiously optimistic.

“We’re not going to jump to any conclusions just yet,” he said. “But we believe Colorado voters have decided to take a more sensible approach to how we deal with marijuana in the state.”

If the amendment passes, Colorado could become the first state to legalize recreational use of the drug, possibly clearing the way for creation of a marijuana industry. There are similar measures before voters in Washington and Oregon.

Photo Credit: (Denver Post)

Washington Voters Overwhelmingly Approve Legalized Marijuana

Washington voters have overwhelmingly approved a measure to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana in the state.

I-502 establishes a system of state-licensed marijuana growers, processors and retail stores, where adults over 21 can buy up to an ounce. It also would establish a standard blood test limit for driving under the influence.

Estimates have shown pot taxes could bring in hundreds of millions of dollars a year, but the sales wouldn’t start until state officials make rules to govern the legal weed industry.

Recent public polling has showed significant support for the measure. Pot legalization initiatives were also on the ballot Tuesday in Colorado and Oregon. While the measure was running over 50 percent statewide, it was capturing 64 percent approval in King County.

Promoted by New Approach Washington, I-502 called for a 25 percent excise tax at each stage from the growers on until it is sold in stores to adults 21 and over. They could buy up to an ounce of dried marijuana; one pound of marijuana-infused product in solid form, such as brownies; or 72 ounces of marijuana-infused liquids.

The cannabis would be subject to testing to establish its THC content, and labeled accordingly. Public display or use of marijuana would still be prohibited.

State financial experts estimate it could raise nearly $2 billion in tax revenue over the next five years, with the money going toward education, health care, substance abuse prevention and basic government services.

It remained unclear how the federal government would respond.

Photo Credit: (AP Photo)

Source: Zimmerman says Trayvon circled his SUV, frightened him

George Zimmerman told investigators that while he was on the phone with a Sanford police dispatcher reporting Trayvon Martin as suspicious, the teenager was circling his vehicle on foot, a source familiar with the investigation told the Orlando Sentinel.

The source said Zimmerman’s account of events hasn’t changed in his several statements to police — in which he said he was so unnerved by the teen’s behavior that he rolled up his window to avoid a confrontation. However, he never mentioned any of that while talking to the dispatcher.

The details revealed by the source provide new insight into what Zimmerman said happened in the earliest moments of his contact with Trayvon. And they may reveal the inconsistencies alluded to by prosecutors in the case.

One of those inconsistencies: Zimmerman told police Trayvon had his hand over Zimmerman’s mouth during their fight on the night he shot Trayvon.

The Sentinel’s source confirmed that Zimmerman’s statements include that allegation. But authorities do not believe that happened, the source told the Sentinel, because on one 911 call, someone can be heard screaming for help. If it were Zimmerman, as he claims, his cries were not muffled, the source said.

Photo Credit: (Gary W. Green/Orlando Sentinel)

UN chief says former Libya rebels still hold 7,000 people, some reportedly tortured

A U.N. report says former Libyan revolutionaries are still holding about 7,000 people, and some reportedly have been subjected to torture and ill treatment.

A report by U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon circulated before a Security Council briefing about Libya on Monday says that many of the inmates have no access to due process in the absence of a functioning police force and judiciary.

Brooklyn Marijuana Dealer Donates Proceeds To Hurricane Sandy Victims

Marijuana doesn’t help disaster victims.

Money and supplies do.

It’s a simple connection made by a pot dealer in Brooklyn, N.Y., who donated half of his proceeds made over two days last week to victims of Hurricane Sandy. He spoke to HuffPost Crime on the condition of anonymity.

The dealer said he didn’t care about the implications of turning drug money into supplies for victims in the Rockaways, N.Y., some of whom are still without power. He just wanted to help out, and raised $700 for the cause.

“Look, there are probably some people down there [in the Rockaways] who want some marijuana – but that’s not going to clothe and feed them,” he said. “So in order for me to help, I needed to turn what I do into something concrete that I could give to them.”

The college-educated weed dealer said he saw the devastation in Breezy Point – where some 80 homes flooded and burned to the ground – and decided it was time to make some green for the victims. He alerted his clientele last Monday that he would be donating, and the calls started coming in.

He’s no Pablo Escobar, but the dealer claims he did make $1,400 in those two days, amounting to $700 that will go toward hot meals, diapers, formula, clean water and other supplies that people on the Rockaway Peninsula still desperately need. HuffPost crime confirmed that he bought 50 wool blankets that will likely go to residents who are still without power.

“Yes, I made a little extra money for myself those two days,” he told HuffPost Crime. “But [my clients] are getting something they’d already get anyway. I was going to work regardless, and now I felt like I was doing it with purpose … I’m not doing what I do in order to get rich or create some super marijuana empire. I’m trying to help, and this is my job.”

When he’s not operating Nuggets for the Needy, the Brooklyn dealer says he’s been throwing on boots and helping to transport relief goods – and not the THC kind – around south Brooklyn and Queens.

Photo Credit: (Huffington Post)

Former LA Fire Chief’s Son Accused Of Bribing TSA Agent, Smuggling Pot Onto Flight

The son of Los Angeles’ former fire chief, Millage Peaks, has been arrested for allegedly bribing a TSA agent to help him smuggle marijuana on board a flight.

Authorities arrested Millage Peaks Jr., 23, Sunday morning on charges of smuggling 10-15 pounds of pot on a flight from Los Angeles International Airport to Boston.

“It’s a fair amount. I think it was purchased for about $38,000 and was gonna be resold for some amount greater than that,” said Robert Little, Peaks’ attorney.


Video: Michael Rusch (@weeddude), Editor-in-Chief of Byline Beat (@BylineBeat) talks with Captain Ray Lewis in Zuccotti Park.

November 21, 2011

Source: (@weeddude/Twitter)

Exclusive: Republicans move to control Keystone approval

Congressional Republicans, who are urging President Barack Obama to give a permit to the Canada-to-Texas Keystone XL oil pipeline project, are working on a plan to take the reins of approval from the president should the White House say no.

Senator John Hoeven of North Dakota, a state counting on TransCanada Corp’s pipeline to help move its newfound bounty of shale oil, is drafting contingency legislation that would see Congress green-light the project, an aide told Reuters.

After delaying the $7 billion project past the November 2012 election, Obama was compelled by Congress to decide by February 21 on whether to approve the pipeline that would sharply boost the flow of oil from Canada’s oil sands.

Should Obama reject the pipeline, Senate Republicans would look at a bill that would force the go-ahead for work to begin, said Ryan Bernstein, an energy adviser to Hoeven, citing the powers given to Congress in the Constitution to regulate commerce with foreign nations.

“We believe that express authority in the Constitution gives Congress the ability to approve and move forward on such a project,” Bernstein said in an interview.

Photo Credit: (