Sunday, March 20, 2011

Muammar Gaddafi calls for World to unite against West



Muammar Gaddafi has called for the world to unite against the West's "mad aggression".

The Libyan leader also warned, in a speech that was broadcast on state television, that he will arm civilians with weapons to defend Libya from, what he called, the "colonial, crusader".

He said: "It is now necessary to open the stores and arm all the masses with all types of weapons to defend the independence, unity and honour of Libya.

"We call on the peoples and citizens of the Arab and Islamic nations, Latin America, Asia and Africa to stand by the heroic Libyan people to confront this aggression, which will only increase the Libyan people's strength, firmness and unity."

He also said the Mediterranean and North Africa were now a battleground, and that the interests of countries in the region would be in danger from now on. (Source)

Japan nuclear crisis: 'Fukushima 50' face new setback as pressure spikes in reactor

The "Fukushima Fifty," the group of Japanese workers battling the worst nuclear disaster since Chernobyl in 1986, faced a new setback following a spike in pressure at one of the reactors they are trying to contain.

It occurred in a holding vessel around reactor three at the stricken Fukushima Daiichi plant, and forced engineers to consider releasing more radioactive material into the atmosphere. A similar tactic produced explosions during the early days of the crisis.

Officials warned that a release of radiation this time would be larger than in previous releases because more nuclear fuel had degraded.

They said the process could involve the emission of a cloud dense with iodine, as well as the radioactive elements krypton and xenon.

Japan’s health ministry said it had advised residents in Iitate, a village of about 6,000 19 miles northwest of the nuclear plant, not to drink tap water due to the levels of radioactive iodine which were three times the normal level.

Tepco, the plant operator, temporarily suspended the venting plan after pressure inside the reactor stopped climbing, but said it was still at a high level. (read more)

Mideast once again exploding: Thousands protest in Morocco

Thousands took to the streets in cities across Morocco on Sunday demanding better civil rights and an end to corruption in the moderate North African country where the king this month promised constitutional reform.

"Morocco should start drawing some serious lessons from what's happening around it," said Bouchta Moussaif, who was among at least two thousand people marching alongside the city's medieval walls in the capital Rabat.

Thousands joined protests in Casablanca, the country's biggest city, in Tangiers in the north, and in Agadir on the Atlantic coast where witness Hafsa Oubou said several thousands were marching.

"The king did not meet the demands made during the first nationwide protest, that's why we are here again. He promised to reform the constitution and we all know how far those promises have got us," Moussaif said.

Morocco's King Mohamed promised on March 9 to reform the judiciary, create a stronger role for parliament and political parties and boost the authority of local officials, and appointed a committee to work with political parties, trade unions and civil society groups to draw up proposals by June. (read more)

Syrians demand end to 48 years of emergency law

Thousands of Syrians demanded an end to 48 years of emergency law on Sunday in a third consecutive day of protests.

"No. No to emergency law. We are a people infatuated with freedom," marchers chanted as a government delegation arrived in the southern town of Deraa to pay their condolences to victims killed by security forces in demonstrations there this week.

Security forces fired tear gas at the protesters and there were reports that one protester had been killed. Around 40 people were taken to be treated for gas inhalation at the main Omari mosque in the old city, residents said.

"The mosque is now a field hospital. The security forces know they cannot enter the old city without spilling more blood," one resident said.

Syria has been ruled under emergency law since the Ba'ath party, which is headed by President Bashar al-Assad, took power in a 1963 coup and banned all opposition.

Security forces opened fire on Friday on civilians taking part in a peaceful protest in Deraa. An official statement said "infiltrators" claiming to be high ranking officers had been visiting security stations and asking security forces to fire at any suspicious gathering. (read more)

Libya: Col Muammar Gaddafi faces second night of air attacks from British, French and American forces



Libya has been plunged into a second night of military conflict after Colonel Muammar Gaddafi defied Western forces by launching fresh attacks against rebels.

The Libyan leader tried to prevent a second wave of air strikes by announcing another ceasefire from 7pm yesterday, but American F-16 fighters took off from Italian air bases within an hour, amid widespread scepticism over the announcement, which came after reports of fierce clashes between rebels and pro-Gaddafi troops in urban areas. British jets were expected to join the action overnight.

Explosions were reported in Tripoli and anti-aircraft fire was heard over Col Gaddafi’s residence. A plume of smoke was reported to be coming from near the dictator’s home. The Americans were said to have taken over the airwaves to warn residents not to interfere with the military operation.

On Sunday, an increasingly erratic Col Gaddafi initially refused to back down following the first round of air strikes from the United Nations-backed allies, declaring that he was arming more than one million of his people for a “long war”.

However, as the second round began, a spokesman for the Libyan military ordered all units in the country to observe a ceasefire.

Coalition commanders were cautious over whether the order was genuine. A No 10 spokesman said: “Everyone will recall that in recent days Col Gaddafi declared a ceasefire which was promptly violated. We said then we would judge him on his actions, not his words, and we will do so again.” Last night Tornados took off from RAF Marham as reports came through that Gaddafi troops were still targeting rebels in Misurata and Zintan. (read more)

So much for the "no fly zone" pretense -- Coalition targets Gadhafi compound: Target Gaddafi?



Airstrikes Sunday in the heart of Moammar Gadhafi's Tripoli compound had a military objective, but also no doubt brought a message of allied resolve to the Libyan leader's doorstep.

A coalition military official confirmed to CNN that the compound was targeted because it contains capabilities to exercise command and control over Libyan forces. The coalition's goal is to degrade Gadhafi's military capabilities.

The official, who was not identified because of the sensitivity of the information, insisted that neither Gadhafi nor his residence was the intended target. The leader's whereabouts were not known.

Earlier, Western journalists, including CNN's Nic Robertson, were brought inside by Libyan officials to survey the destruction.

Robertson reported a four-story building was heavily damaged, possibly by cruise missiles. (read more)

Super Moon -- Amazing pictures from around the world


Death toll from Japan’s disasters over 8,000; more than 12,000 missing

The official death toll in Japan soared past the 8,000 mark Sunday, nine days after a powerful earthquake and tsunami ravaged the northeast coast. Yet amid this grim reality came a piercing note of uplift when rescuers reached an 80-year-old woman and her 16-year-old grandson trapped in a house in a village that had mostly been swept away by the March 11 tsunami.

The dramatic helicopter airlift, broadcast live on national television, came after Sumi Abe had been pinned in her home by fallen debris for nine days in Ishinomaki City. She survived with the help her grandson Jin, who fetched her food from the refrigerator and eventually waved down rescue workers from the roof, according to NHK television.

Sumi Abe reportedly told her rescuers “I am relieved,” the station said. Jin was found shivering under towels. His remaining food supply consisted of yogurt supplemented by iron and two bottles of milk.

The two were airlifted to a local Red Cross hospital, with the boy suffering from hypothermia, the station reported. (read more)

What the Mayans can teach us about wind turbines -- and the gridlock of civilization

A fascinating new book reveals how, when society becomes more complex, Man substitutes belief for science - as the ancients discovered to their cost.

Something is happening to us. All of us. And it's happening at the same time. We've lost our ability to solve our most dangerous problems: skyrocketing debt, terrorism, natural disasters, nuclear proliferation, faltering education, the rapid depletion of the Earth's resources.

Despite having more technology, knowledge and wealth than at any time in history, every advanced nation has become gridlocked. How have we arrived at this point?

The answer comes from the most unlikely of sources, 152 years ago. When Charles Darwin discovered the slow pace at which living organisms adapt to change, he inadvertently stumbled upon the reason that civilisations stall and eventually collapse.

Simply put, human beings are a 'work in progress'. So, at any point in time there is a biological limit to the levels of complexity we can discern and manage. When we reach that limit, progress comes to a standstill.

In other words, we can only progress as far and as fast as evolution has equipped us to. The uneven match between human evolution, which is slow, and the rapid rate at which societies advance, eventually causes every civilisation to reach an impasse. (read more)


US commander Mike Mullen warns of Libya stalemate

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US joint chiefs of staff, has said the military operation in Libya called for by the UN Security Council is not aimed at regime change - adding that a "stalemate" could well exist, leaving Muammar Gaddafi in power.

The 64-year-old admiral also said that no-fly zone had "effectively been established", as Gaddafi's planes had not taken to the skies following Saturday's overnight shelling of dozens of targets in northern Libya.

"In the first 24 hours, operations have established the no-fly zone. French air planes are over Benghazi as we speak and will do that on a 24/7 basis. The operations have taken out some ground forces near Benghazi, taken out air defences, some of his control nodes, some of his airfields, I don’t have all damage assessments, but so far [it's been] very very effective," he said.

Gaddafi "was attacking Benghazi and we are there to stop that ... we are ending his ability to attack us from the ground, so he will not continue to execute his own people."

Mullen, the most senior officer in the US military, denied that any civilians had been killed in the bombardment, which saw some 110 cruise missiles being shot from American naval vessels in the Mediterranean sea.

Libyan state TV has reported that death toll from the air strikes has risen to more than 60.

It's understood that 20 of 22 Libyan targets were hit in the overnight assault, "with varying levels of damage", a military source told Reuters. (read more)

Video Discussion of North African refugee crisis: Will unrest in the region see an influx of refugees into Europe?

Plan to train Saudi air force pilots in Idaho causes controversy

Controversy has built around a proposal to bring dozens of Saudi pilots to an Idaho training facility to learn how to pilot F-15E Strike Eagles, 84 of which Saudi Arabia is purchasing in a new arms deal.

On the morning of September 11, 2001, a Saudi pilot trained to fly in the US slammed a Boeing 757 jetliner into the Pentagon, killing more than 180 people.

Less than a decade later, with the Middle East in a state of upheaval and following the recent arrest of a Saudi college student on bomb charges, the Pentagon is planning to bring dozens of Saudis to the US to train them to fly - and to kill.

Last year, when moderate Muslims announced plans to build a community centre in Lower Manhattan, it created a firestorm as Republican politicians, conservative pundits, right-wing websites and survivors of September 11 lined up to assail the "Ground Zero Mosque".

The group 9/11 Families for a Safe & Strong America called the proposal "a gross insult to the memory of those who were killed on that terrible day." While Peter Gadiel, the president of 9/11 Families for a Secure America, wrote: "The proposed mosque near the site of the 9/11 mass murder is a continuation of Islam's violent history, which promotes destroying prior cultures and building on the ruins." (read more)

Warning to those who defy the Almighty Dollar: Creator of "Liberty Dollar" Bernard von NotHaus Arrested, Convicted

Bernard von NotHaus, 67, was convicted today by a federal jury of making, possessing, and selling his own coins, announced Anne M. Tompkins, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of North Carolina. Following an eight-day trial and less than two hours of deliberation, von NotHaus, the founder and monetary architect of a currency known as the Liberty Dollar, was found guilty by a jury in Statesville, North Carolina, of making coins resembling and similar to United States coins; of issuing, passing, selling, and possessing Liberty Dollar coins; of issuing and passing Liberty Dollar coins intended for use as current money; and of conspiracy against the United States. The guilty verdict concluded an investigation which began in 2005 and involved the minting of Liberty Dollar coins with a current value of approximately $7 million. Joining the U.S. Attorney Anne M. Tompkins in making today’s announcement are Edward J. Montooth, Acting Special Agent in Charge of the FBI, Charlotte Division; Russell F. Nelson, Special Agent in Charge of the United States Secret Service, Charlotte Division; and Sheriff Van Duncan of the Buncombe County Sheriff’s Office.

According to the evidence introduced during the trial, von NotHaus was the founder of an organization called the National Organization for the Repeal of the Federal Reserve and Internal Revenue Code, commonly known as NORFED and also known as Liberty Services. Von NotHaus was the president of NORFED and the executive director of Liberty Dollar Services, Inc. until on or about September 30, 2008.

Von NotHaus designed the Liberty Dollar currency in 1998 and the Liberty coins were marked with the dollar sign ($); the words dollar, USA, Liberty, Trust in God (instead of In God We Trust); and other features associated with legitimate U.S. coinage. Since 1998, NORFED has been issuing, disseminating, and placing into circulation the Liberty Dollar in all its forms throughout the United States and Puerto Rico. NORFED’s purpose was to mix Liberty Dollars into the current money of the United States. NORFED intended for the Liberty Dollar to be used as current money in order to limit reliance on, and to compete with, United States currency.

In coordination with the Department of Justice, on September 14, 2006, the United States Mint issued a press release and warning to American citizens that the Liberty Dollar was “not legal tender.” The U.S. Mint press release and public service announcement stated that the Department of Justice had determined that the use of Liberty Dollars as circulating money was a federal crime. (read more)

Dying Dollar: North Carolina Legislator says the state needs its own currency

Cautioning that the federal dollars in your wallet could soon be little more than green paper backed by broken promises, state Rep. Glen Bradley wants North Carolina to issue its own legal tender backed by silver and gold.

The Republican from Youngsville has introduced a bill that would establish a legislative commission to study his plan for a state currency. He is also drafting a second bill that would require state government to accept gold and silver coins as payment for taxes and fees.

If the state treasurer starts accepting precious metals as payment, Bradley said that could prod the private sector to follow suit - potentially allowing residents to trade gold for groceries.

"I think we're in the process of inflating a dollar bubble that could be very devastating," said Bradley, a freshman legislator elected in November's GOP tide. "The idea is once the study commission finishes its work, then we could build on top of the hard-money currency with an actual State Tender Act that will basically [issue currency] in correspondence to precious metals stored in the state treasury." (read more)

UK: Housing market remains 'stuck in a rut', CML says

Britain's housing market is "stuck in a rut", the Council of Mortgage Lenders said, after new figures showed that activity remains at a historic low.

Mortgage lending and approvals numbers for February from the Bank of England and the CML offered little hope that the housing market will pull out of its slump this year. Howard Archer, chief UK economist at IHS Global Insight, said: "The housing market clearly is still very weak which does not bode well for house prices. On balance, we expect prices to fall by around 5pc in 2011."

The CML reported that gross mortgage lending was essentially flat at £9.5bn in February, and noted the seasonal pick-up in demand over recent weeks appears to be weaker than a year ago when it was already muted.

The Bank said mortgage approvals for purchases rose to 43,000 in February from a near-two year low of 41,000 in January. Mortgage approvals in February were down by 14.6pc year-on-year, and net mortgage lending of £500m in February was its lowest in at least three years, reflecting both weak lending and demand.

The CML is forecasting that net mortgage lending, which strips out redemptions and repayments, will dive by a quarter to just £6bn this year, from pre-credit crunch levels of more than £100bn a year.

Bob Pannel. CML chief economist, said: "There is little in the latest batch of market data that would cause us to revise our market forecasts for 2011, and nothing that alters our underlying view that this is going to be a challenging year for households and the housing market. The housing market remains stuck in a rut." (read more)

Japan nuclear crisis: tsunami study showed Fukushima plant was at risk

The company that runs Japan's stricken nuclear power station carried out an extensive underwater survey that should have revealed the plant's vulnerability to a tsunami after an earthquake hit one of its other nuclear power plants four years ago.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company carried out geological and sonic surveys around the Fukushima Daiichi plant to assess the power station's resistance to earthquakes and earthquake related phenomenon, including tsunamis.

The extensive survey was carried out as part of a widespread review of nuclear power plant safety following a magnitude 6.6 earthquake struck the Niigata region in northwest Japan in July 2007, causing a leak of radioactive water from the Kashiwazaki-Kariwa Nuclear Power Plant. A fire also broke out at the facility at the time.

Nuclear safety specialists said that despite the surveys it appeared officials at Fukushima Daiichi had not considered the scenario that a tsunami might hit the power plant at a time when they would need to use diesel back up generators intended to provide emergency power to the reactor cooling systems.

Fuel tanks for the generators, positioned at ground level just yards from the sea front, were among the first parts of the facility to be destroyed by the huge tsunami wave that swept inland following last week's magnitude 9.0 earthquake.

Officials from TEPCO said the plant was designed to be resistant to an 18 foot wave but was struck by a wall of water more than 22 feet in height. (read more)

NEW Oil Slick Gulf of Mexico - UPDATE - 20th Mar 2011

An oil slick measuring 12 miles wide and 100 miles long has been spotted in the Gulf of Mexico and is suspected to be from a new major leak at the Matterhorn Seastar oil rig just 20 miles from the Deepwater Horizon oil rig. Pilots from several independent organization are monitoring the slick and report it is spreading fast. Fishermen in Louisiana are reporting fresh oil slicks washing up on shore. Boom has been placed by cleanup crews to catch the spill. The Matterhorn field produces 5200 barrels of oil a day and was discovered in 1999. The well sits in 2789 feet of water and has been in production since 2003. It is 30 miles SE of the Mississippi River delta. Source

Significant overnight Christchurch earthquake 5.1 Magnitude aftershock - 20th Mar 2011

A small dairy is damaged in Christchurch following a magnitude 5.1 aftershock that rattled quake-weary residents last night.

The significant shake hit at 9.47pm, 10km east of the city and was 10km deep, making it one of the strongest since the horrific 6.3 earthquake on February 22 which killed an estimated 182 people.

A Civil Defence spokeswoman said there were no reports of injury, but Civil Defence had received one confirmed report of damage to a small dairy in suburban Christchurch.

A cordon was being established around the building and a further assessment of its condition would be made in the morning.

A quick inspection of buildings in the inner city had shown that some loose masonry has fallen, but a full assessment would also be made in daylight, the spokeswoman said.

The 5.1 aftershock was one of three to hit the city in quick succession overnight. Read More

Arab League unhappy; Russia slams coalition bombings; China, India regrets attacks - 20th Mar 2011

Dissenting voices, including from the Arab League which had backed the no-fly zone, arose yesterday as the scale and method of "Operation Odyssey Dawn" became apparent.

"What has happened in Libya differs from the goal of imposing a no-fly zone and what we want is the protection of civilians and not bombing other civilians," League Secretary General Amr Mussa told reporters.

Mussa said preparations were under way to convene an emergency meeting of the 22-member Arab League at which Libya would top the agenda.

Meanwhile, Russia called for an end to "indiscriminate use of force" by foreign states taking part in military operations in the North African country while China and India have expressed regret over the military operations yesterday.

Forces led by France, Britain and US began bombarding Libya with missiles from air and sea on Saturday to enforce a United Nations-mandated no-fly zone and protection of rebels from Muammar Gaddafi's forces.

Within the 15-member UN Security Council, China and Russia were the most prominent voices in opposition to the military action.

"We urge the relevant states to stop indiscriminate use of force," said a foreign ministry statement from Moscow. Read More

BREAKING NEWS - Libyan government calls for an "immediate ceasefire" and "democratic discussion". 20th Mar 2011

Colonel Gaddafi has recommended the armed forces call an immediate ceasefire, shortly after anti-aircraft fire was seen in the sky over Tripoli. The declaration - effective from 7.00pm - was announced by a government spokesman at a press conference.

The United States earlier said it expects to conduct more air strikes on Libya, as the Arab League also criticised the military action.

The anonymous US official said the operation was "ongoing", adding: "I fully expect more strikes."

Meanwhile, the chief of the Arab League spoke out against the strikes, just a week after urging the United Nations to operate a no-fly zone on the oil-rich North African state.

However, Foreign Secretary William Hague later made it clear he believed the group fully backed the action taken by the coalition. Arriving at Downing Street for an emergency Cobra meeting, he said he had spoken to the group's Secretary-General Amr Moussa. Read More

Supporters offer themselves as human shields for Gaddafi

Even as the allied intervention began, a group of foreign journalists were bused on a rare visit inside Col. Muammar el-Qaddafi’s compound — a labyrinth of concrete barracks, fortified walls and barbed wire designed to deter potential military coups.

There, hundreds of supporters offered themselves up as human shields, cheering to newly minted dance songs about their adoration for their leader. “House by house, alley by alley,” the catchiest song went, quoting a Qaddafi speech. “Disinfect the germs from each house and each room.”

The crowd included many women and children, and some said they had family in Colonel Qaddafi’s forces. They said they had come to protect Colonel Qaddafi’s compound from bombing by volunteering to be shields. “If they want to hit Muammar Qaddafi, they must hit us because we are all Muammar Qaddafi,” said Ghazad Muftah, a 52-year-old widow of a soldier from the Warfalla tribe, who said she was there with her six grown children. At least one person attending the rally spoke out against Colonel Qaddafi in a recent interview — a double-agent phenomenon that appears common among Libyan demonstrators for and against the government.

In Tajoura — a neighborhood near the capital that has been a hotbed of anti-Qaddafi unrest — one resident had complained earlier in the day that despite the announced no-fly zone, Libyan Air Force jets could be heard taking off from the nearby bases, presumably headed toward the eastern front with the rebels. (read more)

Libya to give weapons to one million people: report

Libya's government has begun distributing arms to more than one million people and will complete the operation within hours, the state news agency reported on Sunday.

Jana news agency quoted sources in Libya's defense ministry as saying they "expected the operation to end in the next hours to arm more than a million men and women." (Source)

Update: Possible New Oil Spill 100 By 10 Miles Reported in Gulf Of Mexico

Black Swan Clusterflock +1. As if earthquakes, tsunamis, nuclear meltdowns and war was not enough, the Examiner now discloses that a replay of the BP oil spill could be in the making, sending WTI to the (super)moon, the economy collapsing, and Ben Bernanke starting the printer in advance of QE 666. To wit: "The U.S. Coast Guard is currently investigating reports of a potentially massive oil sheen about 20 miles away from the site of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig explosion last April." There are no definitive reports yet, but we should now for sure within hours, if the Keppel FELS built TLP is indeed the culprit: "According to Paul Barnard, operations controller for the USCG in Louisiana, a helicopter crew has been dispatched to the site of the Matterhorn SeaStar oil rig, owned by W&T Offshore, Inc." And if preliminary reports are correct, BP will have been the appetizer: "Multiple reports have come in of a sheen nearly 100 miles long and 10 miles wide originating near the site." If confirmed, Obama can kiss tomorrow's Rio golf outing goodbye.

Independent pilots, including John Wathen of the Waterkeeper Alliance, and Bonnie Schumaker with Wings of Care, are currently flying out to investigate the spill. Schumaker reports having seen the sheen on Friday, March 18, and confirms that it is rapidly expanding.

A Louisiana fisherman, who has chosen to remain anonymous at this time, also reports fresh oil coming ashore near South Pass, LA, and that cleanup crews are laying new boom near the beach.

The site of the sheen, near Mississippi Canyon 243, lies 30 miles from the Louisiana coastline. The Matterhorn field, at a depth of 2,789 feet (850 meters) of water, was discovered in 1999, leased and permitted in July 2001, and came into production in November 2003. It is located 30 miles SE of the mouth of the Mississippi River.

According to W&T, the field has produced an average rate of 5,200 barrels of oil per day, and has production capacities of 35,000 barrels of oil per day. (read more)

Japan mulls ban on Fukushima area food products

Japan has confirmed the presence of radioactive iodine contamination in food products from near a crippled nuclear plant and is considering whether to order a halt to the sale of such products from the area, the U.N. nuclear body said on Saturday.

"Though radioactive iodine has a short half-life of about 8 days and decays naturally within a matter of weeks, there is a short-term risk to human health if radioactive iodine in food is absorbed into the human body," the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) said in a statement. (Source)

Japan nuclear crisis: 'Fukushima Fifty' cut off from family

The nuclear power plant workers known as the 'Fukushima Fifty' have been isolated from their families to prevent news of difficult conditions leaking out, it was claimed.

A family friend of one of the workers - the team battling to control the crisis at the power plant - said that email and phone access had been cut and one man had been unable to speak to his wife for days.

The move comes after one of the Fifty texted his wife in Japan saying that drinking water at the plant was running low, adding: "I feel like I'm coming down with something."

Fukushima workers interviewed by The Sunday Telegraph at a special evacuation centre in the city of Koriyama said they had lost confidence in the management of the plant.

"We were told that safety was a top priority," said one staff member, who asked to remain anonymous. "We went through simulations of what to do in an emergency, but we never thought it would be as bad as this. I don't want to go back there."

The majority of the plant's 1,800 workforce was evacuated last week after a series of explosions vented radioactivity harmful to human health into the atmosphere. But a skeleton team of around 50 workers at any one time – about 180 in total, with shifts and rotations – is fighting a desperate rearguard action to stop catastrophic reactor meltdowns. (read more)

Japan earthquake: Survivors battle disease and hunger

Japan's emergency services are struggling to cope as freezing weather, a lack of medicines and insanitary conditions make survival a challenge.

Katsumi Hosokawa's eyes are red-rimmed and he sniffs constantly. He kneels on a bed of cardboard on the second floor of a school that has been turned into temporary accommodation for those who lost their homes in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

"I've had an upset stomach ever since I've been here but they tell me there's no medicine," he says, pulling a blanket closer around him. "But the worst thing is the cold. It was minus four in here last night. I guess it will be the same again tonight."

Mr Hosokawa, 69, is just one of hundreds of thousands of elderly Japanese who are living in primitive conditions the length of the north-east coast of Japan. Doctors say many are in serious danger of succumbing to a number of ailments made worse by stress, a lack of food and sinking temperatures.

Across the third-floor classroom at Watanoha Junior School, in the eastern suburbs of Ishinomaki, the stress is clearly beginning to tell on Chikako Abe, a 66-year-old housewife. "It often feels like I can't go on," she says, tears in her eyes.

"I can't sleep at night and I have bad dreams. And then during the day, there is the stress of all this," she says, waving towards the floor-to-ceiling windows that look out across the devastated town. The school has become home to more than 1,000 local people whose houses were destroyed in the floods, even though the building was itself badly damaged. (read more)

Experts: Too early to bury Japanese reactors

Why not just bury them?

The idea of smothering and sealing the overheated nuclear reactors at the Fukushima No. 1 facility in sand or concrete to stop the crisis is appealing. But experts say it is too early for something that desperate and it could be a big mistake that could worsen matters.

Most urge continuing the current efforts to cool the radioactive material, and at least one suggested massive spraying to hold down radioactive dust.

Fires, explosions or partial meltdowns have struck four of the six reactor units at the plant. There are few options for stopping the dangerous overheating of nuclear materials. Firetrucks sprayed tons of water Friday, and workers hope to restart cooling systems once a new power line is installed.

Reporters raised the notion Friday of sealing the reactors and fuel rods in concrete as an emergency measure. But officials with the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency and the plant's operator, Tokyo Electric Power Co., didn't embrace the idea.

"We believe it is not a realistic option," said Hidehiko Nishiyama of the nuclear agency. And Teruaki Kobayashi, a Tepco manager, said the utility wouldn't rule out entombing the reactors but thinks the probability is low. (read more)

Yemen protests: Evidence snipers shot to kill

Photographs and amateur video footage have provided the first compelling evidence that professional snipers shot to kill when they opened fire on an anti-government demonstration in Yemen that left at least 52 protesters dead.

Image after image of the dead, men and boys, showed that those killed in the most violent day in the capital city Sana'a for 30 years had been systematically shot through the head and neck by gunmen positioned on city rooftops.

Yet even as the international community condemned Friday's violence, Ali Abdullah Saleh, Yemen's president of 32 years, remained unbowed as his security forces visited more bloodshed on protesters in the port city of Aden, a strategic British colony until 1963.

Police used live fire to disperse demonstrators calling for Mr Saleh's resignation. Local human rights groups said that at least four people died, while more than a dozen more were wounded.

Abandoning all pretence of defending his people's legitimate right to protest, a pledge that he had made just a week before, Mr Saleh deployed tanks on the streets of Sana'a after declaring a state of emergency.

But if he hoped to scare the ever-growing movement demanding his overthrow, Mr Saleh appeared to have misjudged the public mood. (read more)

Four Qatari planes to join Libya operations soon - 20th Mar 2011

PARIS, March 20 (Reuters) - Four Qatari planes will soon move into the Libyan zone of operations, a French Defence Ministry spokesman said on Sunday.

"As announced by the Qatari authorities, it will deploy four planes in the zone to be able to take part in the operations, which is another sign of Arab participation in this international operation to protect civilians," Laurent Teisseire told reporters.

A second official said the Qatari planes should arrive soon, although did not say where they would operate from.

French air forces would work closely with the Qataris, Teisseire added. (Reporting By John Irish; Editing by Jon Boyle) Source

United States to Conduct More Air Strikes - 20th Mar 2011

The United States expects to conduct more air strikes on Libya, a senior official has said, as the Arab League criticises the military action. The anonymous official said the operation was "ongoing", adding: "I fully expect more strikes."

Meanwhile, the chief of the Arab League spoke out against the strikes, just a week after urging the United Nations to slap a no-fly zone on the oil-rich North African state.

Secretary-General Amr Moussa said that Arabs did not want military strikes by Western powers that hit civilians when the League called for a no-fly zone over Libya.

He also called for an emergency league meeting to discuss the situation in the Arab world and particularly Libya under UN resolution 1973. Read More

Hundreds of dead fish in Cranberry Pond, DEC says it's "Winterkill" - 20th Mar 2011

The Department of Environmental Conservation says the cause of hundreds of dead fish in Cranberry Pond is nothing more than natural phenomena. An official was in the area investigating on Saturday. Cranberry pond is located off of Edgemere Drive on the Lake Ontario shoreline in Greece.

It is part of the Braddock Bay Fish and Wildlife Management Area. According to DEC Region 8 Director Paul D’Amato, the fish die from something called “Winterkill.” This happens naturally in small ponds when heavy snow and ice cover the pond for a prolonged period of time.

The fish and other organisms essentially use up the available oxygen in the pond and the ice cover prevents a fresh supply of oxygen from mixing with the water. D’Amato says there will be no cleanup effort for the hundreds of dead fish that line the shore of the pond. He says nature will be allowed to take its course and recycle their bodies.

Anyone that discovers a fish kill that seems suspicious or one that cannot be attributed to “Winterkill” should contact their local DEC regional office. Source

Wish you were here: Obama on sightseeing tour of Brazil's City of God slum while bombs and cruise missiles pound Libya - 20th Mar 2011

As U.S. and British air strikes and cruise missiles pounded Muammar Gaddafi's Libyan defences today, President Barack Obama was planning a sightseeing tour of Brazil's famed City of God slum.

He was also due to visit Rio's iconic Christ the Redeemer hilltop statue as the biggest military intervention in the Arab world since the Iraq invasion entered its second day.

The President's wife Michelle and daughters joined him on the five-day visit to Latin America prompting the trip to be branded a 'vacation' by right-wingers.

Steve Doocy, co-host of Fox & Friends, said: 'What is happening with the President while all of this is going on? He's going on vacation. He's going to Rio.'

Secret of time travel could be unlocked by the Large Hadron Collider, scientists claim - 20th Mar 2011

It's long been the stuff of science fiction fantasy but time travel could be a real possibility say scientists.

Furthermore, they believe the 17-mile-long Large Hadron Collider (LHC) based underground near Geneva holds the key.

The theory is that the world’s biggest atom smasher might be able to unleash the Higgs singlet - a particle that could appear before the collision that produced it.

The mind-boggling theory is that it will have entered from another dimension.

There are a few obstacles in the way, however.

To begin with, scientists aren't even sure that the particle exists – or whether the LHC is capable of creating it.

The Higgs singlet is related to another particle which is also yet to be found, the Higgs boson. This particular particle has been dubbed the 'God particle' and is believed to have been crucial in forming the cosmos after the Big Bang.

Regarding the Higgs singlet, physicists say that finding it could pave the way for messages to be sent both to the past and the future, according to a report in LiveScience.

‘Our theory is a long shot, but it doesn't violate any laws of physics or experimental constraints,’ said physicist Tom Weiler of Vanderbilt University. Read More

Why can't we just let the Libyans fight it out (...and then make friends with the winners) - 20th Mar 2011

Politics seems to have become a sort of mental illness. We have no bloody business in Libya, and no idea what we hope to achieve there.

We are daily told that we have no money to spare. We have just scrapped a large part of our Navy.

Our Army is stuck in an Afghan war whose point nobody can explain. And now we have set out on a course that could drag us into a long, gory brawl in North Africa.

And yet, when the Prime Minister announces this folly he is praised. Why? Partly it is because we all watch too much TV. Its reports simplify, then exaggerate.

Reporters, much like politicians, like to feel they are helping to make history, and get excited by subjects they knew nothing about until last Wednesday.

Before we know where we are, we are taking sides in quarrels we don’t understand. Who are the Libyan rebels? What do they want? Why do we love them so? Read More

Iran casts doubts on Western aims in Libya - 20th Mar 2011

Iran backs the revolt against Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi but "doubts" the aims of Western powers pummelling the country with air strikes, the foreign ministry says.

"The position of the Islamic republic is to always back the people and their legitimate demands," Ramin Mehmanparast said on Sunday, quoted by ISNA news agency.

"The action and history of domineering (Western) nations in occupying oppressed nations always cast doubt over their true intentions," he said in reaction to the Western missile and air strikes unleashed on Libya.

The United States, Britain and France on Saturday launched air and sea strikes on targets of Gaddafi's regime under a UN Security Council resolution to enforce a no-fly zone over the North African nation.

Western countries "usually engage action with misleading slogans expressing support for the people, but in fact they seek their own interests to set up military bases", Mehmanparast said. Source

Western air strikes kill 64 in Libya -- health official - 20th Mar 2011

TRIPOLI, March 20 (Xinhua) -- Sixty-four people have been killed and 150 others wounded in the air strikes launched by western forces since Saturday, Libya's health officials said on Sunday.

Western warplanes have bombed civilian targets in Tripoli, causing the casualties, the state television reported.

Several fuel tanks were also hit, it said.

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi Sunday called the Western attacks as "a crusader war" against the Libyan people, saying that the air strikes were designed to "terrify the Libyan people" and were "terrorist means."

Gaddafi vowed to snatch a victory over Western forces, which began on Saturday to launch air strikes against his troops, saying the western forces would be defeated.

All the Libyan people were united and have been given weapons, "ready for a long war" in the country, he said in a brief audio message carried out by Libya's state television. Read More

Libya - What the readers are saying. - 20th Mar 2011

Both President Obama and PM Cameron have told the world that what they are doing is legal and justified and the world stands behind them, Is this true?

Please take some time to read some of the comments below, feel free to add your comments or views.

Pity there wasn't such compassion to stop the Ethiopian civil war. But then Ethiopian didn't have oil did it? What is it about our politicians - Labour, Tory, there's no difference - that makes them believe they can simply arrogantly order bombing of other people's countries? If they did that to us they would be called terrorists - and rightly so!

WHO SAID it's 'right and legal' - certainly not the people of Britain. WHY were we not asked? This is that liar blair all over again.

Why is it we can always afford a war but we can never afford the peace...How can you believe a politician when they say the country has no money and we have to have 80Billionpounds worth of cuts..To me it is proof we are being ruled by the lunatics

I THOUGH REGIME CHANGE WAS AGAINST THE GENEVA CONVENTION. TONY MARK II. (and I'll shout if I want).

Already we have the pictures of children in hospital which are put up today to make us feel sympathetic to this war. Beware of the media spin. If these children were shot by Gadaffi's forces they were likely to have been using ammunition which was sold to them by our own government!

We've disturbed a right hornet's nest here, will lessons ever be learned?

It's blatant warmongering. Why haven't they attacked Mugabe? because the the only oil he has, is in his bathroom cabinet. The arms manufacturers and dealers are making billions out of these bitty wars. There is a social war in Britain, this is what the government should be addressing, not policing the World. It's time they got rid of this Empire mentality.


Arab League Splits From West Over Libya Hits - 20th Mar 2011

The Arab League has criticised the military strikes on Libya, a week after urging the United Nations to slap a no-fly zone on the oil-rich North African state.

The volte-face by the influential regional body raises uncertainty about the unity of Western and Muslim leaders to the UN-backed military campaign.

Only Qatar has openly supported the Western-led campaign while Sky sources confirm the United Arab Emirates was willing to offer support.

The Arab League had suffered wide criticism for not being more vocal in support of the action it had appealed for.

Foreign Secretary William Hague had earlier told Sky that the coalition was receiving "very strong support" from Arab states for the coalition. Read More