Officials overseeing holiday displays at the Florida Capitol have allowed a Nativity scene, a Festivus pole and even a chair holding fake pasta with eyeballs and an accompanying "provHerb" from the Church of the Flying Spaghetti Monster. But they are drawing the line with Satan. The Department of Management Services emailed the Satanic Temple on Wednesday, telling the group its proposed display of an angel falling from heaven into an open fire was "grossly offensive." read more
While the total number of terrorist attacks around the world has been steadily rising, it is also an increasingly concentrated phenomenon. New data released by the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism based at the University of Maryland shows that just three countries for the year 2012 -- Pakistan, Iraq and Afghanistan -- accounted for 54 percent of attacks and 58 percent of fatalities that year. The data also shows that the post-Osama bin Laden al-Qaida Central seems to be largely a spent force in the world, but al-Qaida offshoots continue to wreak havoc, writes Joshua Keating of Slate.
A federal lawsuit filed by the Southern Poverty Law Center accuses the Moss Point school district in Mississippi of pervasive anti-gay bullying and harassment. The suit is filed on behalf of Destin Holmes, a 17-year-old female student who said she's been harassed by administrators, teachers and students for being a lesbian and for dressing in typically masculine clothes. Holmes said that in middle school, one of her teachers divided the class into boys and girls for a trivia game and made Holmes sit in the middle, calling her an "in-between it." She left the school after torment from peers and faculty, the suit states. "I'm not an 'it,'" Holmes said. "I'm a person, a teenager, a human being." read more
For the launch of Newcastle Cabbie Black Ale, the beermaker put British cabs on the streets of Los Angeles one night and gave people free rides home -- but only if they touted the new brew with comments and songs through an enormous taxi-top megaphone for the entire ride. The company calls it cabvertizing. A sign on the back of the taxi reads, "Don't be a wanker. Take a bloody cab." read more
A video has surfaced of a sermon in which Duck Dynasty reality TV star Phil Robertson offers more harsh comments about gays. In the sermon, Robertson says that men who have sex with men and women who have sex with women will receive the "due penalty for their perversions." He goes on to say that they are full of "murder, envy, strife, hatred. They are insolent, arrogant, god-haters. They are heartless. They are faithless. They are senseless. They are ruthless. They invent ways of doing evil." He was suspended by the A&amp;E Network this week for several negative comments about gays he made in an interview with GQ magazine.
The family of a 13-year-old Oakland girl who became brain dead after having her tonsils removed plans to seek a court injunction Friday blocking the hospital from taking her off life support over the holidays. Doctors at Children's Hospital and Research Center Oakland performed the tonsillectomy Dec. 9, hoping to cure Jahi McMath's sleep apnea, weight gain and other afflictions. But soon after her surgery, Jahi's condition quickly deteriorated, her family said. Jahi went into cardiac arrest and the flow of oxygen to her brain was cut off. The next day, a CT scan showed two-thirds of Jahi's brain had swollen. Doctors declared her brain dead, and days later planned to take her off life support until an attorney intervened on behalf of the family. read more
A male 40-year-old Miley Cyrus fan has covered his body in tattoos of the pop singer. After collecting photos and watching interviews of her since 2009, Carl McCoid, 40, got 22 portraits, lyrics and quotes from the star inked all over his body. McCoid, who runs an ironing business in East Yorkshire, England, insists the tattoos did not contribute to the breakup of his marriage in 2011. But he has some concerns about his obsession. "I think I need to go and see someone about it," he told The Sun tabloid. read more
Raising the minimum wage would help the working poor and give the entire economy a boost, a new analysis finds. If the minimum wage rose to $10.10 per hour, as Senate Democrats and President Barack Obama propose, 27.8 million workers would see their wages go up as a direct or indirect result of the boost, according to the Economic Policy Institute, a left-leaning think tank. These workers would take home about $35 billion in additional wages and they would probably spend it, as low-income people living with little financial cushion cushion tend to do. The result: During the initial phase-in period, the U.S. economy would grow by about $22 billion, EPI found. The growth in the U.S. economy would result in about 85,000 new jobs, according to EPI.
In a compromise with Democrats, New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie (R) agreed to sign a bill into law that would give some illegal immigrants access to in-state tuition at public universities in the state. "The most important thing is for these young men and women of our state, who we have invested hundreds of thousands of dollars in their K-12 education, we're now going to give them an opportunity in an affordable way to be able to continue their education," Christie said. read more
Spiegel: When this story is published, Aliaa Elmahdy will have wiped away the traces of her former life and will be living in a location unknown to us. She will continue to flee and fear the day when one of the men from her native Egypt tracks her down and stands in front of her to take her back. For the last two years, 22-year-old Egyptian Aliaa Magda al-Elmahdy has been a hunted woman because she used the delayed-action shutter release of her digital camera to take a photo of herself, which she then posted online. She is only wearing stockings and shoes in the photo. read more
The Obama administration announced Friday it would allow Americans who had their individual insurance policies canceled due to Obamacare to buy low-cost catastrophic coverage as an option so they do not fall through the cracks at the start of the year. There are fewer than 500,000 people whose health insurance plans were canceled and haven't yet signed up for new ones, administration officials said. "For the limited number of consumers whose plans have been cancelled and are seeking coverage, this is one more option," Health and Human Services spokesperson Joanne Peters said. read more
Carl Hiassen: Gov. Rick Scott's latest purge of Florida's voter rolls is lurching forward, despite the skepticism and outright opposition of many county elections supervisors. True to his "tea party" roots, Scott dreams of the days when most voters were cranky, middle-aged white people, his core constituency. Up for re-election next year, the governor fears a high voter turnout, because that would mean lots of Hispanics and African Americans standing in line to cast their ballots. They tend to vote Democrat, grim prospects for a Republican who isn't exactly beloved in his own party.
President Obama on Thursday commuted the sentences of eight people serving lengthy time for crack cocaine convictions, part of the administration's effort to reduce what it views as "unduly harsh" sentences for drug crimes and eliminate overcrowding in federal prisons. Each of them had served at least 15 years and had been convicted prior to the 2010 Fair Sentencing Act, which seeks to reduce the sentencing disparity between those convicted of crack and powder cocaine crimes, according to the White House.
Underneath Seattle, something unknown has blocked the progress of the biggest-diameter tunnel-boring machine in use on the planet, a high-tech, largely automated wonder called Bertha. At five stories high with a crew of 20, the cigar-shaped behemoth was grinding away underground on a two-mile-long, $3.1 billion highway tunnel under the city's waterfront on Dec. 6 when it encountered something in its path that managers still simply refer to as "the object." The object's composition and provenance remain unknown almost two weeks after first contact. read more
A federal judge in Brownsville, Texas, has accused the Department of Homeland Security of aiding those who smuggle children into the country by delivering them to their undocumented parents. In an opinion delivered last week in the trial of an immigrant smuggler, District Judge Andrew S. Hanen criticized the DHS practice of reuniting undocumented immigrant children with their parents who are known to be in the United States illegally as "a dangerous course of action" that endangers children and ultimately funds Mexican drug cartels, which control human smuggling and trafficking routes through Texas.