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Sunday, Feb 14th

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UN reports stark rise in number of Afghan civilian casualties in 2015

Afghan civilian casualties riseMore Afghan civilians were killed or injured in 2015 than any other year on record, the UN has said in a report.

11,002 casualties is the highest toll since the UN began documenting in 2009, and constitutes a 4% jump from the previous year, following a worrying pattern: as the international military presence in Afghanistan diminishes, more civilians are caught in the crossfire or directly targeted.

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Members of UK Indie Band Viola Beach killed in car crash in Sweden

Viola Beach members killedThe four members of British indie band Viola Beach and their manager have died in a car crash in Sweden.

Kris Leonard, River Reeves, Tomas Lowe and Jack Dakin and manager Craig Tarry were killed when their car plunged more than 25m (82ft) from a highway bridge into a canal.

The incident happened in the early hours of Saturday near Stockholm.

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Obama chooses to fight over Supreme Court

Obama to nominate Scalia replacementPresident Barack Obama, suddenly given perhaps the greatest voter turnout tool ever, was facing the choice between setting off a nasty brawl with Congress by seizing the best chance in a generation to flip the ideological balance of the Supreme Court, or simply punting.  Obama chose the fight.

And he chose it just as the Supreme Court nears the end of a term that’s already shaping up as a referendum on his presidency around just about every core Democratic issue: abortion, affirmative action, union rights, immigration reform and environmental regulations.

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U.S. to open regular commercial flights to Cuba

UD to open air travel to CubaThe United States will resume commercial flights to Cuba as part of an ongoing process to normalize relations between the two countries.

President Barack Obama's administration will finalize an agreement with the island nation Tuesday allowing regularly scheduled plane travel to commence for the first time in 50 years.

As per the agreement, U.S. air carriers will be allowed to offer 20 flights a day to the Cuban capital of Havana and 10 more to other airports in the country.

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Leaving Lanai: A billionaire's Hawaii could displace longtime residents

Lanai takeover by Larry EllisonA punishing Hawaiian sun rises on the first day of the final week in which Lilinoe Bicoy, 33, and her family of seven will share the same simple, plantation-style cottage.

Friends and relatives file in and out of the sea-foam green garage, fists full of furniture legs and fishing poles to load onto truck beds. Whatever remains will go to the thrift store down the red-dusted road, one of the island of Lanai’s three main strips of pavement.

“Everything’s free, everything’s got to go,” Bicoy says. A pit bull named Bossy sits obediently at her tattooed feet, panting in the heat and dust.

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Alex Baer: Troll Models

Troll modelsIt may be the early Egyptians built the pyramids not with blocks, tackles, or roller logs, or even long-speculated minerals with anti-gravity properties.  They could have been hupped together by really, really strong coffee.

Although I admit the anti-gravity thing would be a nice touch, and would also help keep this season's ant parade from finding my triple-espresso mocha-supremo extra-grande within six seconds of touchdown of my free, attached, limited-edition, celebrity-signature model hand-truck-beverage-holder, up to the computer station, where it gets strapped in like tanks of liquid oxygen near the thruster ports.

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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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