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Pakistan says it will stop air strikes against the Taliban, after the militants announced a month-long ceasefire.Al Jazeera America
However, it said it "reserved the right to respond to any violent activity" carried out by the Taliban.
The Taliban announced the ceasefire - aimed at reviving stalled peace talks with government - on Saturday.
The talks broke down last month, after Taliban-linked militants said they had killed 23 soldiers they were holding.
This triggered air strikes by the Pakistani military against suspected militant hideouts in the north-west.
Taliban spokesman Shahidullah Shahid said on Saturday that the Taliban had decided on a ceasefire "because of a positive response from the government, an appeal from the religious scholars and for the better future of Pakistan".
California farmers hire dowsers to find water
With California in the grip of drought, farmers throughout the state are using a mysterious and some say foolhardy tool for locating underground water: dowsers, or “water witches.”I have to add my dowsing story. I didn't believe in it until a guy found water on my property. The guy next door, a good old boy, wanted to build a house on his 24 acres so drilled a well….dry. Drilled another….dry. Drilled a third…dry. I said get it dowsed, what have you got to lose. Had it dowsed, got a good well. I don't know if he ever accepted it.
Practitioners of dowsing use rudimentary tools — usually copper sticks or wooden "divining rods" that resemble large wishbones — and what they describe as a natural energy to find water or minerals hidden deep underground.
While both state and federal water scientists disapprove of dowsing, California "witchers" are busy as farmers seek to drill more groundwater wells due to the state's record drought that persists despite recent rain.
The nation's fourth-largest wine maker, Bronco Wine Co., says it uses dowsers on its 40,000 acres of California vineyards, and dozens of smaller farmers and homeowners looking for wells on their property also pay for dowsers. Nationwide, the American Society of Dowsers, Inc. boasts dozens of local chapters, which meet annually at a conference.
"It's kind of bizarre. Scientists don't believe in it, but I do and most of the farmers in the Valley do," said Marc Mondavi, a vineyard owner whose family has been growing grapes and making wine since the mid-20th century in the Napa Valley.
Al Jazeera America
Arizona House Republicans are closer to passing a bill that would allow for surprise inspections in Arizona abortion clinics, just one day after Republican Gov. Jan Brewer vetoed a controversial bill that would have allowed businesses to deny service to gays based on their religious beliefs.Al Jazeera America
Legislators gave initial approval to House Bill 2284 on Thursday. The bill, sponsored by Rep. Debbie Lesko, R-Peoria, eliminates a requirement that the Department of Health Services obtain an administrative warrant to conduct unscheduled inspections at the state's nine licensed abortion clinics. Lesko says the bill aims to protect women from clinics that are not up to standards.
The Department of Health Services has received five complaints concerning abortion clinic safety in the last 3 years, a spokeswoman said. The department has sought and obtained an administrative search warrant for only one of those.
Democrats oppose the bill, saying it is unconstitutional and infringes on women's privacy. The House debated the issue for several hours before giving initial approval. The bill is being pushed by the anti-abortion group Center for Arizona Policy.
Idaho gov. signs 'ag gag' bill into law
Idaho on Friday became the first state in two years to pass a bill aimed at stopping filming at farms and dairy producers. The bill, which animal rights activists often refer to as an “ag gag” bill, was created in response to undercover animal rights activists exposing animal abuse at one of Idaho’s largest dairy operations 2012.You can't inspect food producers but you can inspect abortion facilities. It's bizarro world
The bill was signed into law by Idaho Gov. C.L. Otter on Friday.
The measure passed Idaho’s Senate earlier in February to the applause of agricultural representatives who said it would help ensure farmers’ right to privacy. But animal rights groups say the measure will have a chilling effect on investigations that attempt to expose wrongdoing on Idaho’s farms.
“Gov. Otter has decided to keep corrupt factory farming practices from the public. He’s created a safe haven for animal abuse,” said Matt Rice, the director of investigations at Mercy for Animals, the group that made the 2012 video that sparked Idaho’s ag-gag debate. “These are facilities that supply food to the entire country. No other industry has the kind of immunity.”
Al Jazeera America
LA City Council places moratorium on hydraulic fracturing.
Los Angeles on Friday moved one step closer to becoming the largest municipality in the United States to approve a moratorium on hydraulic fracturing (also known as fracking).Al Jazeera America
The City Council members present at the session voted unanimously in favor of the motion, which will now go to the city attorney who will craft an ordinance that bans fracking and other “well stimulation” practices in Los Angeles County, until the city deems that the practices can be done safely.
Los Angeles isn’t an especially active region for fracking — a process in which thousands of gallons of water mixed with chemicals are forced deep into wells in order to break up gas- and oil-rich deposits. But oil drilling does take place within the city’s limits, and activists say that fracking is on the rise there.
Supporters of the bill say it will not only have an immediate impact in areas where drilling is taking place, but will send a message to Gov. Jerry Brown, who has so far kept fracking largely unregulated in the state. A similar bill currently making its way through California’s Senate would also place a moratorium on fracking.
Iraq death toll tops 700 in February
The United Nations said Saturday that violence across Iraq in February killed 703 people, a death toll higher than the same month last year, as the country faces a rising wave of attacks rivaling the sectarian bloodshed that followed the U.S.-led invasion in 2003.Peace in the world or the world in pieces?
The figure, issued by the U.N.'s mission to Iraq, comes close to January's death toll of 733, showing a surge of violence that began 10 months ago with a government crackdown on a Sunni protest camp is not receding. And, as a new month began, attacks Saturday killed at least five people and wounded 14, authorities said.
Attacks in February killed 564 civilians and 139 security force members in February, the U.N. said. The violence wounded 1,381, the vast majority civilians, it said. The numbers far surpass those of February 2013, when attacks killed 418 civilians and wounded 704.
The capital, Baghdad, was the worst affected with 239 people killed, according to the U.N. Two predominantly Sunni provinces — central Salaheddin with 121 killed and northern Ninevah with 94 killed — followed.
Al Jazeera America
The fabulous life of your US legislator
Match your U.S. lawmaker with the corresponding charges on his or her fundraising expense account, and one can get a textured glimpse of exactly what it takes these days to charm donors.USA Today
For example, which congressman spent $91,000 in 2013 for a getaway at Dorado Beach Club, a luxury resort in Puerto Rico known for its championship golf courses and plantation-style residences?
That would be Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, who has lamented the widening income gap that separates rich and poor and has been a forceful advocate for a minimum wage hike.
Which lawmaker appears to have an insatiable taste for red meat, having dropped $54,000 at BLT Steakhouse in Washington last year and another $5,000 at Bobby Van’s, a favorite haunt of D.C. lobbyists?
That’s House Majority Leader Eric Cantor, R-Va. If that wasn’t enough to put his political contributors in a giving mood, his PAC, Every Republican Is Crucial, spent $2,300 on “golf fees” and “golf items” through 2013, in addition to the $26,000 the organization expended on a single fundraiser at the luxury golf resort Creighton Farms in northern Virginia.
Kerry heads to Kiev as Ukraine crisis deepens
(Extensive video at the link)
Russian troops consolidated their hold on Ukraine's Crimean peninsula as the United States and others denounced the military movement, deepening the East-West standoff over the future of Ukraine.Rawstory
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and European foreign ministers announced plans Sunday for talks in Kiev aimed at easing rising tensions as Ukraine put its military on high alert and appealed for international help against a feared invasion by Russia.
Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatsenyuk said his country "was on the brink of national disaster." The interim government in Kiev said the country's military should be ready to fight. Ukrainian military reservists were ordered to active duty while in the Crimean region in the south of the country, road traffic was blocked and telecommunications remained sporadic — two days after communication centers were seized by unknown armed men.
Wisconsin woman arrested for holding two men hostage, demanding sex
According to the Stevens Point Journal, a Wisconsin woman appeared in court on Friday on charges related to an incident in which she held two men hostage and demanded that one of them have sex with her.Rawstory
Terry Boyd, a native of Wausau, Wisconsin, appeared on charges of false imprisonment, resisting arrested, disorderly conduct, and bail jumping. Because of a plea agreement, all charges but the three counts of disorderly conducted were dismissed.
The charges stem from an incident last August, in which police were called to a house after neighbors reported that they heard a man screaming for help. When police arrived, they found two men — one of whom was Boyd’s roommate — hanging out of a second-story window calling for help.
The men, who are not named because they are potentially victims of a crime involving sexual assault, told police that Boyd had barricaded them in the room and was holding them against their will. She said that neither could leave until one of them had sex with her.
Doctors remove rare tumor, made of teeth, from brain of 4-month-old infant
A 4-month-old Maryland infant recently underwent surgery to remove a tumor made of teeth that had been growing in his brain, LiveScience reports.Rawstory
Doctors first suspected something was wrong with the boy when his head began growing at a faster rate then is normal for infants. A brain scan revealed that he had a craniopharyngioma — a rare brain tumor that can grow to the size of a ping-pong ball — that contained structures typically only found in the lower jaw.
Tissue analysis of the craniopharyngioma revealed that it consisted not only of the same cells used to make teeth, but actual teeth.
Meet the seven people who hold the keys to worldwide internet security
It sounds like the stuff of science fiction: seven keys, held by individuals from all over the world, that together control security at the core of the web. The reality, discovers James Ball, is rather closer to The Office than The Matrix
In a nondescript industrial estate in El Segundo, a boxy suburb in northern Los Angeles just a mile or two from LAX international airport, 20 people wait in a windowless canteen for a ceremony to begin. Outside, the sun is shining on an unseasonably warm February day; inside, the only light comes from the glare of halogen bulbs. [It is]
the coming together of a group of people, from all over the world, who each hold a key to the internet. Together, their keys create a master key, which in turn controls one of the central security measures at the core of the web. Rumours about the power of these keyholders abound: could their key switch off the internet? Or, if someone somehow managed to bring the whole system down, could they turn it on again?