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Wednesday, Jul 01st

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US to pay millions for Agent Orange claims

Agent Orange paymentsEnding years of wait, the government agreed Thursday to provide millions of dollars in disability benefits to as many as 2,100 Air Force reservists and active-duty forces exposed to Agent Orange residue on airplanes used in the Vietnam War.

The new federal rule, approved by the White House Office of Management and Budget, takes effect Friday. It adds to an Agent Orange-related caseload that already makes up one out of six disability checks issued by the Department of Veterans Affairs.

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Alex Baer: The Vanishing Art of Disappearing

poofWe are all time travelers.

I have come to this conclusion in a roundabout route, my usual method of making way from A to B, via a few scenic-tour handfuls of multi-cultural alphabets wrought from pen, paper press, and cuneiform tablet.

Art is the key. It is in art where most of us spend our free time, from soaking up opera to hand-tying flies for fishing, or whatever our fancy. We are consumers of all things, now that we make almost nothing in this country, and art -- popular culture, if you'd prefer to call it -- is part of our voracious appetite.

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Supreme Court blocks Texas confederate flag plate

Confederate plate blocked by SCStates that sell specialty license plates promoting everything from "Choose Life" to "Conserve Water" can prohibit images like the Confederate flag, the Supreme Court ruled Thursday.

The justices said in a 5-4 decision that Texas' specialty license plate program is a type of government speech, and that the First Amendment does not prohibit the state from rejecting some designs.

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Pope Francis sends out strong climate change warning, urges environmental policy

Pope FrancisPope Francis has released his encyclical on climate change, urging for worldwide environmental policy and warning that humans threaten the planet.

Climate change "represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day. Its worst impact will probably be felt by developing countries in coming decades," the Pope wrote.

Francis has called for renewable fuel subsidies and "maximum energy efficiency." He urges the use of public transportation, carpooling and recycling.

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Conservative lobbying group ALEC sets sights on local lawmakers

ALEC Moments before Adam Briggle was arrested in early June along with other protesters for blocking the entrance to a fracking site in Denton, Texas, police Sgt. Scott Jenkins approached him with a smile. “He shook my hand and thanked me for my years of service to Denton,” Briggle recalled. “I thanked him as well. And then they put me in cuffs.”

In Denton’s fight against fracking, Briggle, a philosophy professor at the University of North Texas, became an unlikely advocate in the fight for community control over corporate interests. “I hadn’t even heard of fracking until I moved to Denton,” he said. Alarmed, however, by oil industry plans to put fracking wells close to schools, playgrounds and parks, he and other concerned citizens spent the previous four years organizing a grass-roots campaign to get an anti-fracking provision on the city ballot.

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Israel church set ablaze in possible Jewish extremist attack

Chiurch of the Multiplication arsonA fire ripped through one of the most famous Catholic churches in the Holy Land on Thursday, damaging the roof and burning prayer books in what authorities believe is an attack by Jewish extremists.

The fire broke out at the Church of the Multiplication of the Loaves and Fish in the middle of the night, causing extensive damage to the inside and outside of the building, said Israel police spokesman Micky Rosenfeld.

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Man, 21, arrested in Charleston church shooting

church massacreAuthorities have arrested a white man who joined a prayer meeting and then opened fire inside a historic black church in downtown Charleston, killing nine people, including the pastor. Authorities called it a hate crime.

Charleston police identified the suspect as Dylann Storm Roof, 21, of Lexington, South Carolina.

The gunman stayed for nearly an hour at the prayer meeting Wednesday night before shooting the victims — six females and three males, Police Chief Greg Mullen said.

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These 21 Republicans Voted Against a Torture Ban

Republicans who voted against torture banThe Senate approved an amendment Tuesday that would make it harder for future presidents to torture prisoners like the CIA did during the Bush Administration. As written, it “does not directly confront all the ways the CIA might try to circumvent U.S. torture rules,” Joshua Keating writes, “but it is an important step toward ensuring that the worst abuses committed by U.S. personnel after 9/11 won’t be repeated—even if those who did the torturing won’t be punished.”

Before the vote, I argued that it should be regarded as a moral test and a reaffirmation of a civilizational taboo. Now let’s take note of who passed that test and who failed it. The amendment passed 78 to 21. All 44 Democrats in the Senate voted for it.

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One-Third Of The World's Largest Groundwater Sources Are In Serious Trouble: Study

groundwater in troubleThe earth's biggest groundwater basins are being depleted far more quickly than previously believed, according to two new studies by the University of California, Irvine (UCI).

The studies used data from NASA's Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellites gathered between 2003 and 2013 to examine the 37 largest aquifers on the planet. Twenty-one of those aquifers have exceeded their sustainability "tipping points," meaning they lose more water every year than is being naturally replenished through processes like rainfall or snow melt, said Jay Famiglietti, senior water scientist at NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory and principal investigator in the two studies.

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