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Sunday, Feb 14th

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The phony in American politics: how voters turn into suckers

phony American voterFor most of history we had an excuse. Emperors, pharaohs, czars, kings, queens, sultans, sheiks, they descended on us via peremptory power structures and the vagaries of genetics. If the king was a warmongering dolt or half-mad egomaniac, it wasn’t our, the people’s, fault.

The best we could do was keep our heads down and suffer as God almighty seemed to want us to. Occasionally there would be regime change, a new family of dolts and psychotics in charge, but for the mud-dwellers of the 99%, life was largely a cowering slog through the nether regions of obedience.

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Federal investigation to review rubber turf for possible cancer link

Rubber turf studied for cancer linkThe Obama administration approved a federal study to review the possible health risks that may come with playing sports on artificial playing fields, especially crumb-rubber turf.

The study, announced Friday, will look at the turf, which is made from recycled tires and is spread across fields to provide cushion and traction for football players, field hockey players and other athletes.

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Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia Dies At 79

Scalia diesAssociate Justice Antonin Scalia was found dead of apparent natural causes Saturday on a luxury resort in West Texas, federal officials said.

Scalia, 79, was a guest at the Cibolo Creek Ranch, a resort in the Big Bend region south of Marfa.

According to a report, Scalia arrived at the ranch on Friday and attended a private party with about 40 people. When he did not appear for breakfast, a person associated with the ranch went to his room and found a body.

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Alex Baer: Another Fine Week

Another Fine WeekIt's been a heckuva week or so for Science lately:  Watching as black holes merged, observing gravitational ripples and waves, proving correct more of Einstein's theories...

That was just for openers.  We also learned that electrons in the metal graphene can behave like a liquid -- a real first -- and that the explanation for the Yellowstone supervolcano may need to be revised.

Plus, it also looks like Earth might have been formed by the collision of two early bodies -- and, for good measure,  hundreds more galaxies have been discovered playing peekaboo behind our own Milky Way.

There have been major scientific downsides recently as well:

An Indian man is believed to be the first person killed by a meteorite;
The European Space Agency says after 60 hours of operation after a jarring landing,  it's now bidding farewell to its Philae comet lander after no response; and
An Alaska woman says her 6-year-old Happy Meal refuses to decompose.

There have also been developments somewhere in the middle:

Scratch-and-sniff posters have been hung in NY subway cars, to give riders an olfactory break from the environs;
LA's mayor has recorded an R&B video to alert residents of a road closure; and
A city in Switzerland has cancelled plans to allow a silent disco to carry on all night long.

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U.S. Defence Secretary says UK needs nuclear weapons for 'outsized' world role

Ash CarterBritain must renew its submarine-borne Trident nuclear weapons system if it is to maintain its "outsized" role in world affairs, U.S. Defence Secretary Ash Carter said in comments published on Saturday.

A decision on replacing the ageing fleet of four submarines which carry nuclear warheads is due to be made this year and while Prime Minister David Cameron is committed to renewal, the issue has caused deep divisions in the opposition Labour Party.

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Study: Air pollution kills 5.5 million people annually

Air pollution Every year, dirty air sends some 5.5 million people to an early grave.

That's according to researchers at the University of British Columbia, who on Friday presented new data on air pollution at the annual meeting of the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

"Air pollution is the fourth-highest risk factor for death, globally, and by far the leading environmental risk factor for disease," Michael Brauer, a professor at UBC's School of Population and Public Health, said in a press release. "Reducing air pollution is an incredibly efficient way to improve the health of a population."

The main culprit is particulate matter -- aerosols, smoke, soot, dust and other toxins and fumes suspended in air.

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Church lifts ban of Indian priest convicted of sex assault

rapist Indian priest ban liftedThe Roman Catholic church in southern India has lifted the suspension of a priest convicted last year of sexually assaulting a 14-year-old girl in the United States more than a decade ago, a spokesman said Saturday.

The suspension of the Rev. Joseph Palanivel Jeyapaul was lifted last month after the bishop of the Ootacamund Diocese in India's Tamil Nadu state consulted with church authorities at the Vatican, said the Rev. Sebastian Selvanathan, a spokesman for the diocese.

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Latin American Doctors Suggest Monsanto-Linked Larvicide Cause of Microcephaly, Not Zika Virus

Doctors say Monsanto linked Larcivide causes macrocephlyAs the Zika epidemic “spreads explosively” around the world, pregnant travelers have been put on pause due to the virus’s suspected association with microcephaly, the congenital condition in which a baby’s head is abnormally small.

While the link between the mosquito-borne virus and microcephaly has yet to be scientifically proven, Argentinian and Brazilian doctors have suggested an alternate culprit: pesticides.

The report, written by the Argentine group Physicians in the Crop-Sprayed Towns (PCST), suspects that pyriproxyfen—a larvicide added to drinking water to stop the development of mosquito larvae in drinking water tanks—has caused the birth defects.

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Egyptian doctors revolt against escalating police abuses

Egyptian doctors protestWhen a doctor at a Cairo hospital told a police officer that his cut didn't require stitches, the response was startling and brutal. Police beat up the doctor and a colleague and dragged them off into custody.

The incident spiraled into protests by thousands of doctors in the Egyptian capital on Friday, a rare show of public outrage over police abuses that rights group say have escalated in the country. Such public demonstrations have become unusual in Egypt, where tens of thousands of political dissidents have been arrested and street protests without prior police permits have been banned since 2013.

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