Friday, March 25, 2011

Uh oh: Gates calls upon Syrian forces to move aside -- is Syria next?

Syria should follow Egypt’s lead and the Syrian army should “empower a revolution”, Robert Gates, US secretary of defence, argued as thousands marched in a southern city.

Mr Gates made his comments – some of the toughest remarks to date by a US official about the rule of Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s president – on a day of further upheaval in the Middle East and beyond.

The White House signalled it was preparing for a change in power in Yemen, where it has been allied with the government of Ali Abdullah Saleh, president. Nato allies reached a deal in which the alliance will take over command of the Libyan no-fly zone, although responsibility for strikes on forces loyal to Col Muammer Gaddafi will not immediately come under the Nato umbrella.

Drawing a parallel between the unrest in Syria and the protests that unseated Hosni Mubarak, Egypt’s former president, Mr Gates said: “I’ve just come from Egypt, where the Egyptian army stood on the sidelines and allowed people to demonstrate and in fact empowered a revolution. The Syrians might take a lesson from that.” (read more)

America's New Tax? CBO: Taxing mileage a 'practical option' for revenue enhancement

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) this week released a report that said taxing people based on how many miles they drive is a possible option for raising new revenues and that these taxes could be used to offset the costs of highway maintenance at a time when federal funds are short.

The report discussed the proposal in great detail, including the development of technology that would allow total vehicle miles traveled (VMT) to be tracked, reported and taxed, as well as the pros and cons of mandating the installation of this technology in all vehicles.

"In the past, the efficiency costs of implementing a system of VMT charges — particularly the costs of users' time for slowing and queuing at tollbooths — would clearly have outweighed the potential benefits from more efficient use of highway capacity," CBO wrote. "Now, electronic metering and billing are making per-mile charges a practical option." (read more)

Protesting Jordanian youths attacked, injured: witnesses

A group of nearly 50 loyalists hurled stones at Jordanian students in a protest camp set up in Amman Thursday night, leaving several injured, as security forces stood by, witnesses told AFP.

Around 500 young people from different movements, including the powerful Islamist opposition, had braved rain and cold weather to to call for "regime" reforms and putting the corrupt on trial.

They were camped out next to the Interior Circle, or Gamal Abdel Nasser Square, in the capital.

At nightfall, police attempted to disperse the youths and cut off electricity on the square around 11:00 pm (2100 GMT), an AFP journalist witnessed.

"A group of nearly 50 loyalists who were gathered not far from them (the students) took advantage of the power cut to throw rocks at the youths," one of the protesters, Moaz Kassrawi, told AFP.

"Most of those injured suffered head wounds and had to be hospitalised," he said.

According to another witness, police who had surrounded the sites did not intervene. (source)

Portugal: A Nation of Dropouts Shakes Europe

Isabel Fernandes, a cheery 22-year-old with a constellation of stars tattooed around her right eye, isn't sure how many times she repeated fifth grade. Two, she says with a laugh. Or maybe three. She redid seventh grade as well. She quit school with an eighth-grade education at age 20.

Ms. Fernandes lives in a poor suburb near the airport. She doesn't work. Employers, she says, "are asking for higher education." Even cleaning jobs are hard to find.

Portugal is the poorest country in Western Europe. It is also the least educated, and that has emerged as a painful liability in its gathering economic crisis.

Wednesday night, the economic crisis became a political crisis. Portugal's parliament rejected Prime Minister José Sócrates's plan for spending cuts and tax increases. Mr. Sócrates handed in his resignation. He will hang on as a caretaker until a new government is formed.

Without the budget cuts, Portugal is almost certain to need an international bailout. It will run out of money this year without fresh cash, and markets are charging punitive rates for borrowing. Two firms downgraded Portugal's credit rating Thursday. (read more)

Scientists discover sabre-toothed tortoise (awesome!)

With its fearsome canines and a mouth filled with teeth, experts could have been forgiven for thinking they'd discovered another great dinosaur predator.

But this prehistoric tortoise is no more predatory than its latter-day relative.

Rather than being a snarling meat-eater this sabre-toothed beast - that lived 260million years ago - feasted on leaves and stems.

The fossilised remains of the creature, known as Tiarajudens eccentricu and which was the size of a large dog, have been discovered in Brazil.

While apparently unnecessary due to it's vegetarian tendencies, the dagger teeth will have been very much needed to fight off predators and enemies.

Speaking to LiveScience, vertebrate paleontologist Juan Carlos Cisneros at the Federal University of Piauí in Teresina, Brazil said: 'If you asked me how surprised I was about finding this fossil, I can tell you that finding a fossil so bizarre as Tiarajudens eccentricus, a fossil that looks like if it has been made from parts of different animals, is like finding a unicorn.

'You see it, but you don't believe it.' (read more)

Physicist Michio Kaku calls for the "Chernobyl Option" -- Japan's nuclear reactors must be buried



On March 18, three days into the Japanese reactor disasters, senior Physicist Michio Kaku called for the “Chernobyl Option” to deal with four out of control nuclear reactors in Northern Japan.

Dr. Michio Kaku’s Recommendations to the Prime Minister:

“If I had the ear of the Prime Minister, I would recommend the “Chernobyl Option.”

  • Put the Japanese Air Force on alert
  • Assemble a huge fleet of helicopters. Put shielding underneath them.
  • Accumulate enough sand, boric acid, and concrete to smother these reactors, to entomb them forever.

This is what the Soviets did in 1986, calling out the Red Air Force and sandbagging the reactor with over 5,000 tons of concrete and sand.”

There is one issue to be solved.

Physicists around the world say the four blown reactors must be “opened” and Boron “inserted” to kill the reactors’ nuclear process. Easy to say, very difficult to do.

Robots must be used. Even though there may be human volunteers, they would die from lethal radioactivity before completing even a small portion of their tasks.

Boron and Boric Acid are chemical products that kill the chemical and radioactive processes and activities inside the reactor. The Boron must be placed inside the four reactors to do the job.

That is the immediate task. Next job is get the Japanese Air Force up to speed on the Chernobyl techniques. (read more)

Will the US Dollar Collapse Within 3-4 Months?

The US Dollar's inflationary death spiral continues. We've now taken out the 2010 low leaving only two more lines of support before we're in completely uncharted territory.

At its current rate of collapse, the US Dollar will do this within the next 3-4 months. This means the greenback will break into a new all-time lows by 2H11, which will precipitate the coming inflationary collapse.

Small wonder then that both Gold and Silver recently hit new highs for their current bull markets. With the greenback dropping like a rock, and rumors of QE 3 swirling around the financial community, what sane investor would bet against inflation?

On that note, now is the time to be shifting capital into inflation hedges. Those who buy Gold and Silver will likely do very well in the coming months (my personal view is Gold will clear $1,500 and Silver $40 this year).

We’re also going to be seeing an increased wave of buyouts in the natural resources sector as larger firms look to increase their resources via mergers and acquisitions rather than spending the money to find and develop new mines.

The natural resources sector will also benefit as large institutions (pensions, mutual funds, etc) finally begin piling into inflation hedges across the board. Given how little exposure the Big Boys have to inflation hedges even a small percentage of assets under management, shifted into these sectors, could result in sharp price spikes. (read more)

Jim Sinclair: Gold to $5000-$12000?

Martin Armstrong just wrote a paper on gold titled, "How and When." My response to this article is why?

Why in the world, if you believe that the gold price can go to $5000 and $12,500, as the article says, do you give a damn about the next 90 days?

You must realize that the economic and political damage is already done.

You must realize that the mountain of OTC derivative paper is not going away.

You must realize that all the old legacy assets (broken OTC derivatives) demand to be adjusted at
each market turn in order to maintain any semblance that they are serious contracts.

You must realize that this adjustment means adding on new OTC derivatives.

You must realize that this means the mountain of OTC derivative weapons of mass financial destruction can only grow.

You must realize that it is not whether or not QE will continue, it is what it already has done to the Western economies that much higher gold prices will reflect.

You must realize this is not a business problem, but rather a debt problem as it applies to the gold price.

You must realize the monumental change in the Middle East is NOT positive for the West in any manner, shape or form.

You must realize that the change in the Middle East is from some form of government to chaos.

You must realize that the beneficiaries of chaos in the Middle East are Iran and Russia. (read more)

Ivory Coast: Nearly one million flee Abidjan amid fears of war, U.N. says

Escalating violence and fears of war have forced nearly one million residents to flee Abidjan, the commercial capital of Ivory Coast, the U.N. refugee agency said Friday, with scores more uprooted across the country.

The west African nation has been embroiled in a political stalemate since incumbent President Laurent Gbagbo refused to cede power after November elections.

Election officials and the international community consider rival Alassane Ouattara the rightful winner of the poll.

Post election clashes have left at least 462 dead since December, the United Nations said.

Up to one million people have fled populated suburbs in Abidjan alone, said Melissa Fleming, a spokeswoman for the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees.

"The massive displacement in Abidjan and elsewhere is being fueled by fears of all-out war," Fleming said. (read more)

Israeli Defense Force Considers Deploying Iron Dome as of Sunday

In the wake of the escalation of rocket attacks originating from Gaza towards southern Israel, the IDF is considering beginning to use the Iron Dome rocket defense system in the communities around Gaza already as of Sunday.

The final decision on the matter is expected over the weekend, after the IDF assesses the situation and decides where, if at all, to place the two batteries of the system, whose purpose to provide protection against Kassam and Grad rockets fired from Gaza. Each battery can protect just one city.

The Iron Dome system is designed to intercept short-range rockets with a relatively small warhead that are launched from a distance of 4.5 to 70 kilometers. Under certain conditions it could also be effective against mortar shells.

In the present circumstances, the system would be able to protect a predetermined area with a size of 10X10 km from rockets and mortars. The system knows how to calculate the path of rockets and mortar shells and avoids shooting down those rockets that would be landing in open areas. Iron Dome is unable, however, to intercept objects that are fired from a distance of less than 4.5 km. (read more)

Nearly 20% of Florida Homes Are Vacant, Census Bureau Reveals

Florida can't seem to catch a break these days, especially when it comes to its housing market. First, the news (or not-so-news, if you actually live there) broke that Florida had the highest rate of foreclosures of any state in the union during the last quarter of 2010. And now, in a striking example of it pouring when it rains - even in the Sunshine State, another stunningly bad real estate stat: Nearly 20% of the homes, all homes, in Florida are vacant. Vacant as in no one lives there. At all. When almost 1 in 5 homes in a state are vacant, it gives new, economically dismal meaning to the phrase "no one's home."

This data, revealed by the Census Bureau, shows that 18% of all Florida homes, more than 1.6 million properties to be precise, have fallen into vacancy for one reason or another. To give this some context, this is a 63% increase in vacancies in the last 10 years. These homes largely fall into two categories: new homes that were built, and never sold in the first place, and homes that were once occupied, but have been foreclosed on, followed by the eviction of the homeowners.

But Florida's vacancy rates are extreme, even when compared to the other foreclosure hot spots: California only has an 8% vacancy rate and 16% of Arizona homes are unoccupied. Even Nevada, which has had more total foreclosures than any other state during the four-year-long real estate recession during the real estate recession, only has a 14% vacancy rate. (read more)

UK Office for Budget Responsibility: standard of living to fall for two years

Households face falling standards of living for at least another two years as rising prices outstrip wage increases, the Government’s official economic forecaster has warned.

Inflation will exceed expected salary increases until the middle of 2013, more than five years after the onset of the recession, figures from the independent Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) suggest.

The predicted squeeze is far worse than ministers had previously signalled. A typical middle-class family will see their disposable income fall by more than £1,500 this year as a result.

In one possible scenario, the OBR, set up by George Osborne to provide economic forecasts, suggests that high inflation could result in a twelvefold rise in Bank of England interest rates, up to six per cent, plunging many households into difficulty.

The disclosure of the new forecasts, which were published alongside the Chancellor’s Budget on Wednesday, came as:

• Forecourts were accused of “ripping off” drivers by putting up the price of petrol hours before the Budget, only to lower it with a fanfare once the 1p cut in duty was announced (read more)

Britain's £200bn time bomb of debt interest

A little bit of inflation is a good thing, right? Well, that's one way of looking at it, and if you were being charitable, it might even provide a decent explanation of why the Bank of England appears to have given up on the inflation target.

One of the effects of relatively high inflation is to ease the burden of debt by reducing its real value. For a highly indebted nation such as Britain, inflation therefore seems to make sense as an economic strategy.

With no control over their own monetary policy, the Portuguese and other fiscally-challenged eurozone nations don't have that luxury. Without inflation to do the work for them, the austerity required to get public debt under control becomes that much greater, which is one of the reasons why Portugal will soon be following Greece and Ireland into seeking a bail-out. Britain, by contrast, gets a relatively pain-free way out of the mire.

That's the conventional wisdom, anyway, but it is also largely rubbish. Wednesday's analysis of the public finances by the Office for Budget Responsibility provides further evidence of why elevated inflation can never be economically benign.

Three powerfully negative effects are identified by the OBR. As a result of higher than expected inflation, living standards will fall for longer than previously anticipated, public borrowing will end up higher, and real terms cuts in public spending will have to be deeper.

So adverse are the consequences that the Government may have to abandon its commitment to real increases in health spending over the Parliament. (read more)

Montana floats bison relocation plan after disease and famine strikes herds



Hundreds of hungry bison are leaving Yellowstone National Park in the US Rocky Mountains in search of food.

Livestock authorities in Montana are concerned about the migration as they want to keep the animals penned up in the park to prevent the potential spread of disease.

But as Cath Turner reports, conservationists and Native Americans have another solution. (Source)

Bahraini activists prepare for Friday Day of Rage

Bahraini opposition activists will hold protests throughout the tiny island state on Friday, defying a ban on public gatherings under martial law declared last week.

It was not clear who was behind the marches, plans for which were circulated by email and internet. Neither the mainstream Shi'ite Muslim opposition group Wefaq nor the Feb. 14 Youth Movement which led protests at Pearl roundabout that were dispersed by riot police a week ago, were involved.

Demonstrators demanding political and constitutional reforms, mostly members of the Shi'ite Muslim majority, began mass protests against the Sunni Al Khalifa ruling family last month, drawing strength from the protest movement that has swept the Arab world in recent months.

Last week Bahrain called in troops from its fellow Sunni-ruled neighbours, declared martial law and launched a crackdown that drove the protesters from the streets. (read more)

Einstein, the world's smallest horse, gets set for first birthday

He may not be able to compete in the Kentucky Derby, but he is surely as popular as the winner.

And with appearances on Oprah and across the U.S. it has certainly been an eventful first year for Einstein, the world's smallest horse, as he approaches his birthday.

Standing just 20inches tall, the horse attracted huge media interest when he was born in April last year.

Thousands queued at a farm in Barnstead, New Hampshire for a glimpse of him, but while human interest was high, he didn't have many friends of his own breed.

Now his quest to find buddies and his life at home with owners Charlie Cantrell and Rachel Wagner in Gilmanton, New Hampshire, will be published in a new a book to celebrate his birthday.

'This has been a remarkable year for us and for Einstein,' said Mr Cantrell, 44, who bought Einstein for their small farm along with his wife Rachel.

'We are both horse enthusiasts and we decided to get ourselves a miniature horse from the renowned breeder Judy Smith at a Miniature Horse Farm in New Hampshire. (read more)

North Korea's food stocks running dry, UN warns

North Korea's government food distribution programme will run dry in May and put one-quarter of the country's 24 million people at risk of starvation, the United Nations has warned.

The UN World Food Programme, which resumed sending food aid to North Korea in 2006, blamed flooding, foot-and-mouth disease, and an unusually cold winter for devastating food supplies to the country.

"Vulnerable members of society are currently facing increasing shocks to their daily coping strategies, leaving them on a knife edge," the WFP said in a statement. (read more)

Drug-Resistant ‘Super Bug’ Hits Los Angeles County Hospitals, Nursing Homes

A deadly drug-resistant bacteria is spreading to more patients in nursing and long-term care facilities in Los Angeles County, according to local health officials.

Dr. Brad Spellberg, an infectious disease expert at Harbor UCLA Medical Center says there is no current teatment for CRKP bacteria — and there might not be any in the future either.

“There’s been a complete collapse in the development of new antibiotics over the last decade…and in the next decade there isn’t going to be anything that becomes available that’s going to be able to treat these bacteria,” said Spellberg.

Medical expert Dr. David Baron of Primary Caring in Malibu cautions hospital visitors that there’s no need to panic, but advises people visiting their loved ones to examine the standards of the intensive care units. (read more)

Obama: No U.S. Forces on the Ground in Libya... except for the 2200 US Marines waiting off the coast?

NPR: “President Obama said Wednesday it was ‘absolutely’ out of the question that U.S. ground forces would be used in Libya.”

How would the president describe the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit? There is no such thing as a purely air-based combat mission; planes have problems and pilots end up on the ground, and then U.S. forces have to end up on the ground, hopefully briefly, to rescue them and bring them home safely. Ask Scott O’Grady how much time you can spend on the ground while patrolling a no-fly zone.

Details on the recent rescue:

The Kearsarge then sent up two MV-22 Ospreys carrying Marine rescue teams. As they were en route, the Harriers dropped two laser-guided bombs near the crash site, apparently to keep Libyans on the ground from approaching the pilot.

With additional helicopters hovering overhead for security, one of the Ospreys landed and picked up the pilot. He was then taken aboard the Kearsarge.

The weapons systems officer was recovered by what U.S. officials described as Libyan opposition forces. He is safe, officials have said.

There are about 2,200 Marines off the shore of Libya right now. (read more)

Japan disaster update: over 27,000 dead or missing

More than 27,000 people are officially dead or missing after the earthquake and tsunami that struck northeastern Japan on March 11th.

According to the National Police Agency, 9,811 people are confirmed dead as of 9 PM on Thursday.

The agency says it has received reports of 17,541 people missing.

Most of the dead and missing are from the 3 hardest hit prefectures of Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima.

The number of confirmed deaths in Fukushima totals 839, far smaller than the more than 5,800 in Miyagi and about 3,000 in Iwate. This may be due to the suspension of search operations in areas within 20 kilometers of the damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, because of radiation leaks.

Figures appear almost certain to rise because of the absence of family members to report the dead and missing. In some areas, entire families appear to have perished in the tsunami that followed the magnitude 9.0 quake.

Emergency shelters are accommodating more than 200,000 people, mostly from the prefectures of Miyagi, Iwate and Fukushima, according to NHK figures. More than 30,000 people, mainly from Fukushima, have fled their hometowns to other prefectures. (read more)

British Banditry: Major Climbdown On MPs' Expenses Rules Due to Cameron Pressure

A huge climbdown on rules governing MPs' expenses has been announced following pressure from David Cameron and Conservative MPs.

The Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (Ipsa) is softening the expenses regulations after the Prime Minister condemned them as "anti-family" and demanded changes by April.

The expenses watchdog is set to allow the bill for MPs' expenses to rise by millions of pounds - allowing more to be spent on accommodation, travel and staff.

For the first time, MPs will be able to claim lump sum payments upfront and use taxpayer-funded credit cards for their expenses.

Several MPs living in commuter areas around London will also be allowed to claim for a second home, overturning a clampdown introduced after the 2009 expenses scandal.

Ipsa said it was adjusting the expenses rules and simplifying the process for claiming.

The authority's chairman Sir Ian Kennedy said the changes were "helpful strides forward on the way to restoring the public's confidence in Parliament". (read more)

Portugal debt downgraded for second time -- terrible gets worse in Europe

Standard & Poor's has cut Portugal's credit rating by two notches, warning that the country's political crisis heightened the risk that it would be unable to refinance its debt.

S&P's downgrade in Portugal's long-term credit rating from A- to BBB is the lowest attributed by any rating agency, bringing Portugal's credit standing closer to junk status.

S&P also warned that it could cut Lisbon's rating by a further notch depending on the outcome of negotiations on the eurozone's bail-out fund.

S&P's decision on Thursday night came hours after Fitch Ratings downgraded Portugal's long-term rating by two notches from A+ to A- because of increased financing risks caused by the fall of the Socialist government.

S&P and Fitch have both placed Portugal's ratings on negative outlook, implying further downgrades could be made in the near future.

Aníbal Cavaco Silva, Portugal's president, is to meet political parties on Friday in an effort to resolve the crisis triggered by the resignation of José Sócrates, the prime minister, after his defeat in a key vote on austerity measures.

Political leaders said the most likely outcome was an early election at the end of May or early June.

Eileen Zhang, an S&P credit analyst, said the political uncertainty caused by the collapse of the government could damage market confidence, pushing up financing costs and increasing the likelihood Portugal would seek an international bail-out. (read more)

Gonzalo Lira: How Likely is QE-Three?

So back in September 2008—in the throes of the Global Financial Crisis—the Federal Reserve under its chairman, Ben Bernanke, unleashed what was then known as “Quantitative Easing”.

They basically printed money out of thin air—about $1.25 trillion—and used it to purchase the so-called “toxic assets” from all the banks up and down Wall Street which were about to keel over dead. The reason they were about to keel over dead was because the “toxic assets”—mortgage backed securities and so on—were worth fractions of their nominal value. Very small fractions. All these banks were broke, because of their bad bets on these toxic assets. So in order to keep them from going broke—and thereby wrecking the world economy—the Fed payed 100 cents on the dollar for this crap.

In other words, the Fed saved Wall Street by printing money, and then giving it to them in exchange for bad paper. (read more)

Water Shortage Looms for Taiwan Science Park

Lower-than-normal rainfall around a major technology manufacturing area in Taiwan, the Hsinchu Science Park, has prompted the government to cut water pressure at night and study more stringent measures going forward.

The water level in one reservoir that supplies the science park has fallen to 36 percent of capacity, while another is at 47 percent, according to science park management. Authorities would usually expect levels between 72 percent and 82 percent of capacity at this time of year.

On March 10 the water utility began reducing water pressure for six hours per night when non-industrial consumers in the surrounding county normally keep their taps off. The pressure drop will reduce wasted water.

"We haven't stopped providing water. It's just a reduction in pressure," said Chien Chen-yuan, an engineer with the government's Water Resources Agency. "For the moment we will keep monitoring things."

But the government may consider stronger measures if rainfall of just 30 percent of average so far this year continues through April.

Taiwan seldom faces water shortages. The tropical island normally gets plentiful rainfall, and last year an excess of it triggered a landslide in northern Taiwan, covering a section of freeway and burying several cars. (read more)

Glitches hamper radiation warning system in California -- half of detectors don't work(!)

Reporting from Sacramento and Los Angeles— The federal government's radiation alert network in California is not fully functional, leaving the stretch of coast between Los Angeles and San Francisco without the crucial real-time warning system in the event of a nuclear emergency.

Six of the Environmental Protection Agency's 12 California sensors — including the three closest to the Diablo Canyon nuclear power plant near San Luis Obispo — are sending data with "anomalies" to the agency's laboratory in Montgomery, Ala., said Mike Bandrowski, manager of the EPA's radiation program.

The problem delays from 30 minutes to several hours the updating of a database that would be critical for warning the public in case of a sudden radiation danger from air wafting to the United States from a foreign country, for example, or from a radiation leak at a domestic nuclear facility. (read more)

China aims new missile at Taiwan: intelligence chief

Taiwan's top intelligence chief said Wednesday that China is targeting the island with a new type of ballistic missile.

"The Chinese communists have deployed the Dongfeng 16, which is a new powerful missile aimed at Taiwan," said Tsai Teh-sheng, the director-general of the National Security Bureau.

"Its range is longer, and it increases the threat to Taiwan," Tsai said while replying to queries raised by Lin Yu-fang, a legislator from the ruling Kuomintang party.

Tsai declined to provide technical details about the new weapon as well as the number that has been deployed so far. Dongfeng means "East Wind".

Taiwanese experts estimate China's People's Liberation Army currently has more than 1,600 missiles aimed at the island, mostly deployed in Fujian and Jiangxi provinces in the mainland's southeast. (read more)

What The Frack: Ohio Gov. John Kasich wants to open up state parks for oil and gas drilling

Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) opposes measures to reduce oil consumption, telling his constituents last year, “Passenger rail is not in Ohio’s future” (see New GOP governors kill $1.2 Billion in high-speed rail jobs).

But Kasich does want to Drill, Baby, Drill in his state parks, as Think Progress reports.

At the behest of then-Vice President Dick Cheney, an exemption was inserted into a 2005 energy bill — dubbed the “Haliburton loophole” — which stripped the EPA of its power to regulate a natural gas drilling technique called hydraulic fracturing. This method, called fracking, entails drilling a L-shaped well deep into shale and pumping millions of gallons of water laced with industrial chemicals — chemicals which the energy companies are not legally bound to disclose. The poisonous fluid fractures the shale and releases natural gas deposits for collection.

Due to the documented water contamination issues surrounding hydraulic fracturing, both New York and New Jersey have imposed bans on fracking in their states. But the public health risk doesn’t seem to bother Ohio Gov. John Kasich (R) and state Republicans. The Ohio House introduced a bill early this month that would create a panel to open any state-owned land for oil and gas exploration to the highest bidder. This week, in an unreleased portion of Kasich’s proposed budget, the Ohio Department of Natural Resources would be given authority to lease 200,000 acres of state park land for oil and gas exploration.

Kasich has fully endorsed drilling in Ohio state parks, saying, “Ohio is not going to walk away from a potential industry.” State Rep. John Adams (R), the House bill’s sponsor, said drilling in state parks can help erase a projected $8 billion budget deficit, and “keep our parks and our lakes up to the standards that the citizens of Ohio want.”

But the evidence proves contrary. Since 2005, large amounts of radioactive material have been found in water supplies near fracking sites, many Pennsylvanians have gotten sick, the tap water in homes near fracking sites have caught on fire, and a home in Celveland, Ohio blew up. (read more)

US Cost of Living Hits Record, Passing Pre-Crisis High

One would think that after the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression, Americans could at least catch a break for a while with deflationary forces keeping the cost of living relatively low. That’s not the case.

A special index created by the Labor Department to measure the actual cost of living for Americans hit a record high in February, according to data released Thursday, surpassing the old high in July 2008. The Chained Consumer Price Index, released along with the more widely-watched CPI, increased 0.5 percent to 127.4, from 126.8 in January. In July 2008, just as the housing crisis was tightening its grip, the Chained Consumer Price Index hit its previous record of 126.9.

“The Federal Reserve continues to focus on the rate of change in inflation,” said Peter Bookvar, equity strategist at Miller Tabak. “Sure, it’s moving at a slower pace, but the absolute cost of living is now back at a record high in a country that has seven million less jobs.”

The regular CPI, which has already been at a record for a while, increased 0.5 percent, the fastest pace in 1-1/2 years. However, the Fed’s preferred measure, CPI excluding food and energy, increased by just 0.2 percent.

“This speaks to the need for the Fed to include food and energy when they look at inflation rather than regard them as transient costs,” said Stephen Weiss of Short Hills Capital. “Perhaps the best way to look at this is to calculate a moving average over a certain period of time in order to smooth out the peaks and valleys.” (read more)

Federal Reserve bank con exposed on MSNBC: There is no money!

Is America becoming a Hispanic country?

According to an analysis of newly released 2010 U.S. Census data by the Pew Hispanic Center, the Hispanic population in the United States is growing more quickly and more dramatically than demographers had estimated.

In the 33 states for which data has been released so far, there are almost 600,000 more Hispanics than previously thought. Twenty-eight states had more Hispanics than expected. And, while the current count is 38.7 million Hispanics, there is still data coming from 17 states, making it likely that the final figure could surpass 55 million, or 17% of the U.S. population.

What is really interesting is that this "Hispanicization" of America is most noticeable in states that are not typically thought of as being places where Hispanics live.

The real story isn't what's happening in Texas, California, Florida or New York, which have long been home to significant numbers of Hispanics. It's about the demographic changes in states such as Alabama, Louisiana, Kansas and Maryland, where Hispanics are a relatively new commodity -- and the accommodations that have to be made between new arrivals and longtime residents.

One day soon, Hispanics will help define the worlds of media, politics, commerce, fashion, music, entertainment, sports and science. There will be no turning back. (read more)

BREAKING NEWS: 6.4 Magnitude Earthquake NEAR THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, Japan - 25th Mar 2011

A 6.4 Magnitude Earthquake has just hit near the East Coast of Honshu More to Follow

  • Friday, March 25, 2011 at 11:36:24 UTC
  • Friday, March 25, 2011 at 08:36:24 PM at epicenter
Depth: 39.2 km (24.4 miles)

107 km (66 miles) ENE of Sendai, Honshu, Japan
124 km (77 miles) SSE of Morioka, Honshu, Japan
150 km (93 miles) ENE of Yamagata, Honshu, Japan
392 km (243 miles) NNE of TOKYO, Japan

Up to 4,000 fishermen from Pyapon (Myanmar was also hit by the 7 Magnitude Earthquake 24th March 2011) missing in storms - 24th Mar 2011

New Delhi (Mizzima) – Around 4,000 fishermen from the Pyapon area may have lost their lives in vicious storms that struck Irrawaddy Division last week, according to Win Kyaing, the general secretary of the Myanmar Fisheries Federation.

Win Kyaing said in a meeting held by the Myanmar Fisheries Federation on Tuesday that the 4,000 fishermen represent about 2,000 fishing rafts that were lost in storms from March 14 to 17, according to a reporter who attended the meeting.

The number of dead or missing is difficult to determine, said authorities.

‘His estimation of the missing is based on the total number of rafts. There are about 1,500 registered rafts and 500 unregistered rafts [in the area]. A raft can carry around three people each. That’s why he estimated that more than 4,000 people are missing’, the reporter said. The rafts are manned by fisherman who go out daily to catch fish and work their nets. Read More

Fire Tornadoes - Most Amazing Natural Phenomenon In The World - 25th Mar 2011

The rare event occurs when a fire is whipped up by strong, dry air currents to form a vertical whirl. They can consist of a whirlwind of hot air around or within the flames or a vortex of fire itself.

Also known as “fire devils” or “fire whirls”, they can uproot trees up to 49 ft (15m).

Fire tornadoes are usually 30-200ft (10-50m) and a few meters wide, and last only a few minutes. But some of the largest can be more than a half a mile tall, contain winds over 100mph, and persist for more than 20 minutes.


A Kayaker paddling near 28 feet Rare Basking Shark - 25th Mar 2011

A kayaker off the coast of Panama City, Florida, is caught on video paddling near an enormous basking shark.

JAPAN -Water radiation 10,000 times above normal spurs leakage fears - 25th Mar 2011

The water three men were exposed to while working at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant had 10,000 times the amount of radiation typical for that locale, an official with the Japan nuclear and industrial safety agency said Friday.

The contamination is likely from the No. 3 reactor's core, the official, Hidehiko Nishiyama said.

He said there's a possibility of "some sort of leakage" -- including potentially from a crack in the unit's containment vessel.

The incident raised questions about radiation control measures at the plant as 536 people -- including government authorities and firefighters continued working there Friday, according to an official with the plant's owner, Tokyo Electric Power Co.

Workers are undertaking various measures to prevent the further release of radioactive substances into the air and beyond. Read More

Israeli aircraft launch retaliatory attacks in Gaza as fears grow for peace deal - 25th Mar 2011

Israeli aircraft struck the Gaza Strip today in response to militant rocket and mortar attacks, raising fears that fresh hostilities could destroy an Israeli-Palestinian peace deal.

The retaliatory action by Israel arrived the as the country suffered two weeks of attacks - including the deadly bombing of a crowded Jerusalem bus stop which killed a British tourist.

Israeli reprisals against Gaza militants included one case where four Palestinian civilians were killed - as Washington today urged the two sides to take 'bold action' to reach a peace agreement.

U.S. Defense Secretary Robert Gates called the rocket attacks 'repugnant' and defended the Israeli attacks in the Gaza Strip as legitimate self-defence.

But at a news conference in Tel Aviv with his Israeli counterpart Ehud Barak, Mr Gates said today: 'There is a need and an opportunity for bold action to move toward a two-state solution.' Read More

More than 60 Killed after Earthquake Strikes Burma - 25th Mar 2011

More than 60 people have been killed and dozens of buildings destroyed when a strong earthquake struck northeast Burma, close to the country's border with Thailand.

Tremors were felt as far away as Bangkok, almost 500 miles (800km) from the epicentre of the 6.8 magnitude quake.

An official in Burma warned there could be "many more casualties" in the town of Tarlay, close to the epicentre.

Those dead include 10 men, a boy and 13 women, with at least 90 people injured.

"Five monasteries and 35 buildings collapsed in the town. Those people were killed when the buildings collapsed," said the official, who declined to be named.

Twenty people were injured in Tarlay in the district of Tachileik, and the official said the main road into the area was closed after being damaged.

Just across the border from Tachileik, Thai authorities said a 52-year-old woman was killed in Mae Sai district after a wall of her house collapsed. Read More

U.S. May Supply Gaddafi Rebels With Weapons - 25th Mar 2011

Western diplomatic sources have confirmed to Sky News that the US is considering the legality of arming the Libyan rebels.

One of the unintended consequences of United Nations' Resolution 1970 was to starve the rebels of the weapons they would need to take on Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

It requires all UN members to "immediately take the necessary measures" to prevent the supply or sale of weapons to the Libyan government - with no exemption for anti-Gaddafi forces.

But Sky News now understands the US is looking at a legal framework to allow limited supplies of arms to the rebels, if they can prove they need them to defend themselves from attack.

Mark Kornblau, spokesman for US Ambassador Dr Susan Rice, confirmed it was a possibility.

"Resolutions 1970 and 1973, read together, neither specify nor preclude such an action," he said.

Britain and France are also reported to be considering the legal options.

A diplomat from a member state participating in the coalition told Sky News the purpose of the resolution was clear.

He said: "It authorises all necessary measures to protect civilians under threat of attack. Source

350 British special forces already deep inside Libya... and more are ready to be deployed - 25th Mar 2011

Hundreds of British troops have been deployed deep inside Libya targeting Colonel Gaddafi’s forces – and more are on standby.

While Chancellor George Osborne repeated that UK ground troops would not be involved, the Daily Mail can reveal there are an estimated 350 already mounting covert operations.

In total it is understood that just under 250 UK special forces soldiers and their support have been in Libya since before the launch of air strikes to enforce the no-fly zone against Gaddafi’s forces.

Drawn from a squadron of SAS and SBS personnel, some have been in Libya for a month and are being re-supplied with water, food and ammunition via airdrops from Cyprus.

Those numbers were further boosted by nearly 100 this week when paratroopers from the Special Forces Support Group (SFSG) were sent to Libya as coalition commanders prepare to increase the tempo of operations.

A further 800 Royal Marines are on five days’ notice to deploy to the Mediterranean to support humanitarian relief and aid operations. Read More

Milky Way's 'twin' discovered as astronomers find a supermassive black hole - 25th Mar 2011

Astronomers have found that the centre of the galaxy nearest to our own hosts a twin of Sagittarius A*, the bright radio source that lies at the core of our Milky Way and which harbors a massive black hole.

Scientists studied the spectacular spiral galaxy, NGC 253, with Chile's Very Large Telescope (VLT) and NASA's Hubble Space Telescope when they made the find.

Andrea Ghez, professor of physics and astronomy at UCLA, who studied the stars and planets, told the Daily Galaxy website that through combining these observations they learnt the black hole was born billions of years ago, perhaps as very massive stars collapsed at the end of their life cycles and joined together to create a single, supermassive object.

Astronomers have spent years speculating that a giant, mysterious force lay at the centre of the Milky Way 26,000 light years - or 158 trillion miles - away, but it wasn't until recently that they learnt what it was. Read More

'Like finding the Holy Grail': Discovery of stone tools dates humans in U.S. to 2,500 years earlier than previously thought - 25th Mar 2011

The discovery of ancient stone tools at an archaeological dig in Texas could push back the presence of humans in North America, perhaps by as much as 2,500 years.

Thousands of artefacts dating to between 13,200 and 15,500 years ago were uncovered by researchers led by Michael R. Waters of Texas A&M University.

They report the discovery in tomorrow's edition of the journal Science.


The find was located five feet below materials left by the well-known Clovis culture, which was once thought to have been the first American settlers around 13,000 years ago.

It was 'like finding the Holy Grail', Professor Waters said in a telephone interview. To find what appears to be a large open-air campsite 'is really gratifying. Lucky and gratifying'.

The trove of 15,528 artefacts, including chipping debris from working stones and 56 tools - such as blades, scrapers and choppers - was found in the Buttermilk Creek complex near Austin.

Read More

Libya: Nato Takes Over Amid More Airstrikes - 25th Mar 2011

Western warplanes are continuing to bombard targets deep inside Libya - as Nato has agreed to take over enforcement of the no-fly zone over the country.

The UK Foreign Office said British Tornado GR4 aircraft had taken part in a co-ordinated missile strike against Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's forces.

And while airstrikes destroyed government tanks on the outskirts of rebel-held Misratah, other tanks inside the city escaped the bombardment and re-entered the city.

Residents and rebels said government snipers were also still active in the area.

"The situation is very serious," a doctor in the western town said.

Residents said around 6,000 workers and family members from Egypt and other African countries were stuck in the port, under the eye of two Libyan warships.

One man said: "They haven't attacked but if they do, the thousands of workers will be the first victims." Read More