Saturday, March 26, 2011

Japan: Level of iodine-131 in seawater off chart -- Contamination 1,250 times above maximum limit

The level of radioactive iodine detected in seawater near the Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant was 1,250 times above the maximum level allowable, the Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency said Saturday, suggesting contamination from the reactors is spreading.

Meanwhile, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power Co. turned on the lights in the control room of the No. 2 reactor the same day, and was analyzing and trying to remove pools of water containing radioactive materials in the turbine buildings of reactors 1 to 3.

The iodine-131 in the seawater was detected at 8:30 a.m. Friday, about 330 meters south of the plant's drain outlets. Previously, the highest amount recorded was about 100 times above the permitted level.

If a person drank 500 ml of water containing the newly detected level of contamination, it would be the equivalent of 1 millisievert of radiation, or the average dosage one is exposed to annually, the NISA said.

"It is a substantial amount," NISA spokesman Hidehiko Nishiyama told a news conference. (read more)

Fears rise that Japan could sell off U.S. debt to pay for disaster

Some lawmakers and market analysts are expressing rising concerns that a demand for capital by earthquake-ravaged Japan could lead it to sell off some of its huge holdings of U.S.-issued debt, leaving the federal government in an even tighter financial pinch.

Others say a major debt sell-off by Tokyo is unlikely, but noted that the mere fact that questions are being raised speaks volumes about the risks involved in relying so heavily on foreign investors to fund U.S. debt.

“This natural disaster in Japan concerns me that it could speed up what’s coming, because they are the second leading buyer of our debt,” Sen. Rand Paul, Kentucky Republican, told The Washington Times. “Small degrees of differences in how much they buy of our debt, I think, can make a big difference in interest rates that we have to pay people to buy our debt.”

With the federal government having piled up $14.2 trillion in debt, budget experts are warning that the country is on an unsustainable fiscal path. Congress, they say, must find cuts in all areas of the budget, while reforming the entitlement programs — Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid — that are the biggest drivers of national spending.

Congress has passed short-term spending bills this year that nibble on the edges of government spending, and President Obama has offered a 2012 spending plan that also saw spending rise.

Concerns about the financial plight facing Japan, which trails only China among foreign holders of U.S. Treasury debt, aren’t helping the picture. (read more)

General Electric's Strategies Let It Avoid Taxes Altogether -- It Earns Billions in Profit, But Pays $0 in Taxes

General Electric, the nation’s largest corporation, had a very good year in 2010.

The company reported worldwide profits of $14.2 billion, and said $5.1 billion of the total came from its operations in the United States.

Its American tax bill? None. In fact, G.E. claimed a tax benefit of $3.2 billion.

That may be hard to fathom for the millions of American business owners and households now preparing their own returns, but low taxes are nothing new for G.E. The company has been cutting the percentage of its American profits paid to the Internal Revenue Service for years, resulting in a far lower rate than at most multinational companies.

Its extraordinary success is based on an aggressive strategy that mixes fierce lobbying for tax breaks and innovative accounting that enables it to concentrate its profits offshore. G.E.’s giant tax department, led by a bow-tied former Treasury official named John Samuels, is often referred to as the world’s best tax law firm. Indeed, the company’s slogan “Imagination at Work” fits this department well. The team includes former officials not just from the Treasury, but also from the I.R.S. and virtually all the tax-writing committees in Congress.

While General Electric is one of the most skilled at reducing its tax burden, many other companies have become better at this as well. Although the top corporate tax rate in the United States is 35 percent, one of the highest in the world, companies have been increasingly using a maze of shelters, tax credits and subsidies to pay far less. (read more)

United Auto Workers (UAW) Plans "Suicide Bombing" of Economy?

On a day that Toyota has announced plans for a possible shutdown in the US because of supply problems in Japan, the United Auto Workers said that they are on the verge of the "largest boycott in the history of the global economy," according to the Michigan's Royal Oak Daily Tribune. The UAW is organizing the boycott to protest the refusal of transnational automakers to unionize employees in the US.

The head of the union, Bob King, has admitted that declining union membership rolls means that if the UAW doesn't "organize these transnationals, I don't think there's a long-term future for the UAW — I really don't."

He's given foreign automakers including BMW, Volkswagen AG, Toyota and Nissan an offer they can't refuse: Unionize their workers or else he'll single out one automaker and put the screws to them with a boycott. Never mind that the boycott will hurt workers, consumers and the economy.

“This will be the biggest campaign ever undertaken. It will involve hundreds of dealerships,” said Dennis Williams, UAW Secretary Treasurer, adding the union will ask for help from its retirees, community groups and other unions to help with the campaign, says the Tribune.

“We will do whatever it takes,” said Williams.

Toyota alone has about 25,000 workers in the US. During supply shutdowns Toyota has a policy in place to to continue to pay workers. (read more)

Iraqi protesters rally in the rain

Throngs of demonstrators protested in the rain Friday, rallying in central Baghdad's Tahrir Square against corruption, unemployment, the lack of basic services and the treatment of prisoners.

Several women also turned out at the square to call on the Iraqi government to release sons and husbands who are in the prison awaiting trial or investigation. Some were carrying photos of their loved ones.

"I demand Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki to release my son immediately," one elderly woman was heard shouting. "He has been in prison for months, but faces no charges. Where are human rights organizations? Let them hear my voice."

"Many Iraqis live under very poor conditions inside their homes -- God knows what kind of conditions are inside Iraq's prisons," another woman said.

On Thursday, at least 15 inmates were wounded after a riot broke out at Baghdad's Rasafa prison, Interior Ministry officials told CNN. Dozens of Rasafa inmates had set tents afire in the prison yard to protest against ill treatment, poor conditions inside the prison and the sectarian bias of some wardens in favor of Shiite inmates over Sunnis, officials said.

A fight broke out between Sunni and Shiite inmates and security forces fired live bullets to disperse the masses, wounding 15 prisoners, officials said. (read more)

In Yemen, a day of rival demonstrations

Yemen's president, speaking to thousands of people at a pro-government demonstration on Friday, underscored his intentions to have a dialogue with protesters and make concessions in order to avoid bloodshed.

This comes amid a report of discussions between President Ali Abdullah Saleh and a pro-opposition general over guidelines for a peaceful transition of power.

Saleh told the throng that while he's ready to hand over authority systematically, he said he won't do so to "gangs," "drug dealers" or the Houthi rebels fighting the government.

"We are against chaos and coups and against shooting one single bullet on our people," Saleh said. "We will hand over the authority to you great people."

As he spoke in Al-Sabeen Square, anti-government demonstrators gathered in another part of the capital in University Square.

The rival gatherings reflected the gulf in opinion throughout restive Yemen, a key U.S. ally and central battleground against al Qaeda that has been wracked by protests since the beginning of the year. (read more)

More than 100 people injured as demonstrators clash in Jordan



Demonstrations turned violent in Amman, Jordan, Friday as government loyalists clashed with protesters who are pushing for reforms.

Dozens were injured as the two sides converged in a hail of rocks and swinging sticks, according to protest organizers and the government. The country's General Security Directorate said at least 62 citizens and 58 security force members, including two senior officers, were injured

One man died of a heart attack Friday, officials said. His cause of death is disputed by some protesters who claim he was beaten.

Government opponents and supporters chanted dueling slogans while police stood by, one organizer said. But officials say police tried to separate the two groups and were initially overwhelmed before they later regained control of the situation.

Several thousand protesters voiced their discontent with the government. The number included young people, writers, artists and communists as well as "normal and independent people," said Toleen Tauq, one of the demonstration organizers. She described several waves of stone-throwing incidents.

The state-run Petra news agency reported that several hundred young people demonstrated, carrying placards stating "The people want reform" and "We want to live in dignity and freedom." (read m0re)

A family slaughtered in Israel – doesn't the BBC care?

Who is Tamar Fogel? The chances are that you will have no idea. She is a 12-year-old girl who arrived home late on Friday, March 11, to discover her family had been slaughtered. Her parents had been stabbed to death; the throat of her 11-year-old brother, Yoav, had been slit. Her four-year-old brother, Elad, whose throat had also been cut, was still alive, with a faint pulse, but medics were unable to save him. Tamar's sister, Hadas, three months old, had also been killed. Her head had been sawn off.

There were two other Fogel brothers sleeping in an adjacent room. When woken by their big sister trying to get into a locked house, Roi, aged six, let her in. After Tamar discovered the bodies, her screaming alerted their neighbour who rushed in to help and described finding two-year-old Yishai desperately shaking his parents' blood-soaked corpses, trying to wake them up.

I found out about the barbaric attack not on BBC news, but via Twitter on Monday. I followed a link there to a piece by Mark Steyn entitled "Dead Jews is no news'. Horrified, I went to the BBC website to find out more. There I discovered only two stories: one a cursory description of the incident in Itamar, a West Bank settlement, and another focusing on Israel's decision to build more settlements, which mentioned the killings in passing. (read more)

The globalisation of revolution

To listen to the hype about social networking websites and the Egyptian revolution, one would think it was Silicon Valley and not the Egyptian people who overthrew Mubarak.

Via its technologies, the West imagines itself to have been the real agent in the uprising. Since the internet developed out of a US Defense Department research project, it could be said the Pentagon did it, along with Egyptian youth imitating wired hipsters from London and Los Angeles.

Most narratives of globalisation are fantastically Eurocentric, stories of Western white men burdened with responsibility for interconnecting the world, by colonising it, providing it with economic theories and finance, and inventing communications technologies. Of course globalisation is about flows of people as well, about diasporas and cultural fusion.

But neither version is particularly useful for organising resistance to the local dictatorship. In any case, the internet was turned off at decisive moments in the Egyptian uprising, and it was ordinary Egyptians, mothers and fathers, daughters and sons, who toppled the regime, not the hybrid youth of the global professional classes. (read more)

Cruel and usual: US solitary confinement -- incarceration rates explode in the US, thousands are placed in solitary confinement, often without cause


The spectre of Bradley Manning lying naked and alone in a tiny cell at the Quantico Marine Base, less than 50 miles from Washington, DC, conjures up images of an American Guantanamo or Abu Ghraib, where isolation and deprivation have been raised to the level of torture.

In fact, the accused Wikileaker, now in his tenth month of solitary confinement, is far from alone in his plight. Every day in the US, tens of thousands of prisoners languish in "the hole".

A few of them are prison murderers or rapists who present a threat to others. Far more have committed minor disciplinary infractions within prison or otherwise run afoul of corrections staff. Many of them suffer from mental illness, and are isolated for want of needed treatment; others are children, segregated for their own "protection"; a growing number are elderly and have spent half their lives or more in utter solitude.

No one knows for sure what their true numbers are. Many states, as well as the federal government, flatly declare that solitary confinement does not exist in their prison systems. As for their euphemistically named "Secure Housing Units" or "Special Management Units", most states do not report occupancy data, nor do wardens report on the inmates sent to "administrative segregation".

By common estimate, more than 20,000 inmates are held in supermax prisons, which by definition isolate their prisoners. Perhaps 50,000 to 80,000 more are in solitary confinement on any given day in other prisons and local jails, many of them within sight of communities where Americans go about their everyday lives. (read more)

UN: One million flee Cote d'Ivoire violence

Up to one million people have fled Ivory Coast to safer areas amid fears of an all-out civil war, the UN refugee agency has said.

The office of the UN High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) and other aid agencies said they have been unable to access the country's west due to the fighting in the capital and other areas.

It cited estimates of between 700,000 and one million people displaced, largely from the city of Abidjan, including the heavily-populated districts of Abobo, Adjamame, Williamsville and Yopougon.

"The massive displacement in Abidjan and elsewhere is being fuelled by fears of all-out war," Melissa Fleming, a spokeswoman for the UN High Commissioner for Refugees, on Friday said in Geneva.

She said the closure of banks and businesses is also causing economic chaos in the West African country, with rising unemployment and food prices.

Just over a week ago the UNHCR put the number of displaced in Ivory Coast at around half a million, Fleming said, adding that the latest estimates were made by the agency's own staff on the ground.

The UNHCR and the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) warned that the situation in the rural west of Ivory Coast was uncertain, with fighting going on in the area. (read more)

Anarchists blitz the Ritz and occupy Fortnum & Mason: Yobs break away from anti-cuts demo as HALF A MILLION peaceful protesters march on London Read

Anarchists today broke away from one of the largest protests Britain has ever seen to bring chaos to the streets of London.

The Ritz hotel and Fortnum & Mason were among the buildings targeted in the capital after groups of rampaging youths intent on spreading havoc left the mass anti-cuts demonstration.

Around 500,000 activists and campaigners descended on London this morning to protest at the Government's drastic cuts programme.

But while the main march and rally in Hyde Park, which was addressed by Labour leader Ed Miliband, remained peaceful, splinter groups of anarchists went wild. Read More


'Grim Sleeper' indicted on 10 murder counts - 25th May 2011

LOS ANGELES (Reuters) - Prosecutors unsealed an indictment on Thursday charging an accused serial killer dubbed the "Grim Sleeper" with murdering 10 girls and women during a Los Angeles-area crime spree that spanned three decades.

The suspect, Lonnie David Franklin Jr., 58, who worked as a neighborhood mechanic, has been jailed without bond since he was arrested outside his home on July 7, partly on the basis of DNA evidence linking him to the killings through genetic material of his son.

The indictment, returned by a grand jury on Wednesday, supersedes a criminal complaint filed against Franklin last year with the same charges -- 10 counts of murder and one count of attempted murder in the case of an 11th victim who survived.

He is accused of shooting to death or strangling seven of his victims between August 1985 and September 1988 and three others between March 2002 and January 2007. The suspect was dubbed "the Grim Sleeper" because of a gap of more than 13 years between the killing sprees.

The girls and women he attacked ranged in age from 14 to 36, and many were prostitutes. Some were raped before they were slain. Their bodies were dumped in alleys and trash bins and covered with debris.

The surviving victim was shot in the chest, raped, then pushed out of the suspect's car and left for dead in 1988.

The Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office said in a statement it has not decided whether to seek the death penalty or life in prison without parole if he is convicted. Read More

Evil 'immigrant vigilante' faces death penalty after found guilty of killing father and nine-year-old daughter shot twice in the face - 26th Mar 2011

A jury took less than four hours to convict a border activist of killing a father and his nine-year-old daughter who he shot twice in the face in her home.

Jason Bush, 36, is now faces the death penalty for killing Brisenia Flores and Raul Flores, 29.

Pretending to be a US Border Patrol agent he gained entry into the Flores’ Arivaca home along with Minutemen American Defense founder Shawna Forde, 43.

Once inside, he shot Raul and his wife Gina Gonzalez, before shooting the nine-year-old.

The court heard how the nine-year-old girl begged for her life before being shot dead.

The family were woken by noises at 1am on May 30 and thought police were at the door.

The couple went to the front room - where Brisenia had spent the night on the sofa to be near her new dog - and spotted two people outside.

Both Forde and Bush were in camouflage - Bush had his was blackened with greasepaint.

He was armed with a rifle and pistol.

The pair demanded to be let in, claiming the family were harbouring a fugitive.

They then burst into the house with Bush telling Mr Flores: 'Don't take this personal, but this bullet has your name on it.' Read More

Violence As Workers Protest Against Cuts - 26th Mar 2011

A small group of protesters smashed windows and attempted to occupy shops in central London - as tens of thousands of people marched against government cuts.

Anti-capitalists and anarchists attacked branches of HSBC, Lloyds and Santander banks as well as McDonalds, Topshop and Dorothy Perkins. The windows of the Ritz hotel and an Ann Summers store in Soho were smashed.

Light bulbs filled with ammonia and paint bombs were thrown in Oxford Street, police said.

However, the majority of the demonstration - dubbed the "March for the Alternative" - was peaceful with organisers claiming up to 500,000 people had taken part.

Police commander Bob Broadhurst said about 150 people, who had nothing to do with the march organised by the Trade Union Congress, were responsible for the violence. He described them as "criminals, not protesters", saying they were mainly young and masked Read More

Second body found by Sian murder police after diggers work in farm field through the night - 26th Mar 2011

Police investigating the murder of Sian O'Callaghan tonight found a second set of human remains after a huge search operation.

Investigators spent 24 hours digging up the isolated spot in the Cotswolds in an extraordinary operation that involved full-scale diggers.

JCBs worked through the night at the field near Eastleach, Gloucestershire, after they were directed there by murder suspect Chris Halliwell.

Detective Superintendent Steve Fulcher said he had told the remains were those of a woman abducted in Swindon between 2003 and 2005.

This would appear to rule out Linda Razzell, who vanished from the town in March 2002 after parking her car just a few streets away from where Miss O'Callaghan went missing.

The 41-year-old's body was never found and her husband Glyn, 52, was jailed for life in 2003.

Detective Superintendent Steve Fulcher said tonight: 'During interviews he [Halliwell] indicated that he killed a young woman at some point between 2003 and 2005.

'He could not be specific about dates or the year but did give the exact location of the body. He told me a young woman had been taken by him from the Swindon area.

'Officers have begun work to recover this second body and officers have found remains we believe to be human, at the location at Eastleach. Work is ongoing at the site.'

Meanwhile, a post mortem examination on Miss O'Callaghan's body has revealed she had not been sexually assaulted. Read More

Tripoli Shock: Minders Snatch 'Rape Victim' - 26th Mar 2011

A shocking scene occurred in Tripoli on Saturday when a gun was pointed at Sky News after a woman tried to tell foreign journalists about being raped and tortured by Libyan officials.

A visibly very distressed woman burst into the breakfast room of the hotel where we are staying and attempted to speak out about an ordeal at the hands of Gaddafi supporters.

As correspondents here in Tripoli under the supervision of the Libyan government, we are not allowed to move around freely.

However, it has become apparent to those in the city that there are a clutch of journalists in two hotels.

We were having breakfast in our hotel when the woman broke in and said she'd been picked up at a checkpoint in the city.

She claimed she had been held for two days, and that she had been raped and tortured.

The woman showed marks on her body which she said she had received as a result of beatings by the people who were holding her, Gaddafi supporters.

She showed marks on her legs and on her wrists, which she suggested came from handcuffs.

In a state of great distress, she said she had suffered this beating because she was from Benghazi, the city where the uprising began in the east of the country. Read More

Libyan rebel commander admits his fighters have al-Qaeda links

Abdel-Hakim al-Hasidi, the Libyan rebel leader, has said jihadists who fought against allied troops in Iraq are on the front lines of the battle against Muammar Gaddafi's regime.

In an interview with the Italian newspaper Il Sole 24 Ore, Mr al-Hasidi admitted that he had recruited "around 25" men from the Derna area in eastern Libya to fight against coalition troops in Iraq. Some of them, he said, are "today are on the front lines in Adjabiya".

Mr al-Hasidi insisted his fighters "are patriots and good Muslims, not terrorists," but added that the "members of al-Qaeda are also good Muslims and are fighting against the invader".

His revelations came even as Idriss Deby Itno, Chad's president, said al-Qaeda had managed to pillage military arsenals in the Libyan rebel zone and acquired arms, "including surface-to-air missiles, which were then smuggled into their sanctuaries".

Mr al-Hasidi admitted he had earlier fought against "the foreign invasion" in Afghanistan, before being "captured in 2002 in Peshwar, in Pakistan". He was later handed over to the US, and then held in Libya before being released in 2008.

US and British government sources said Mr al-Hasidi was a member of the Libyan Islamic Fighting Group, or LIFG, which killed dozens of Libyan troops in guerrilla attacks around Derna and Benghazi in 1995 and 1996. (read more)

Fact or Fiction: Could Japan one day sink into the Ocean?

Japan: Radiation in seawater off nuclear plant spikes to 1,250 times normal



Levels of radioactive iodine in seawater just offshore of the embattled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant spiked to more than 1,250 times higher than normal, Japan's nuclear and industrial safety agency said Saturday.

Samples taken Friday morning from a monitoring station 330 meters off the coast were significantly higher than results from the previous morning, when the level was 104 times above normal.

The measurements also showed high levels of cesium and were taken outside the discharge canal for the plant's Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 4 reactors.

Readings from a short distance away, outside the Nos. 5 and 6 units' discharge canal, showed lower but still high radioactive iodine levels some 284 times above normal.

These high levels suggest there may have been some sort of leakage directly into the ocean -- unlikely to be because of atmosphere emissions or rain alone, said an official with the Tokyo Electric Power Co., which operates the nuclear plant.

A Tokyo Electric official told CNN that authorities are not sure why the levels spiked. The official speculated that the radioactive iodine may have been swept off the coast recently into the Pacific Ocean or the tainted water may have seeped from turbine buildings for two nuclear reactors that have shown the presence of radiation 10,000 times the normal amount. (read more)

Dozens of Syrians reported killed in Daraa



Violent protests erupted Friday in Syria, with dozens of people killed in and around the restive city of Daraa and a boy slain in the coastal town of Latakia, reports said.

"The situation in Syria has worsened considerably over the past week, with the use of live ammunition and tear gas by the authorities having resulted in a total of at least 37 people being killed in Daraa, including two children," said Rupert Colville, a spokesman for the U.N.'s Office of the High Commissioner for Human Rights.

Among the dead were 15 people who tried to march to Daraa, sources said, and nine others who died when security forces fired on demonstrators in Daraa's main square, said Wissam Tarif, a human rights activist.

There were many casualties in Daraa, said Abdullah, who asked that his full name not be reported due to security concerns. He said he saw Friday's events in the city, where deadly clashes have taken place in recent days between security forces and protesters.

"Thousands gathered and moved to the governor's building in Daraa, and there they burned a large picture of Bashar al-Assad, and then they toppled a statue of Hafez al-Assad in the center of the square," Abdullah said, referring to the current president and his late father, the former president.

"After that, armed men came out from the roof of the officers' club in front of the governor's office and started firing at the crowd," he said.

Aman al Aswad, a political dissident, said dozens of people appeared to have been killed or wounded in clashes with security forces in the square, but he could not be precise on the totals. (read more)

Japan: 'Voluntary' evacuation set for 20 to 30 km around Fukushima

Residents living between 20 and 30 km from the wrecked Fukushima No. 1 nuclear power plant are being urged to "voluntarily evacuate" amid difficulties in obtaining daily necessities and the possibility of further radiation leaks, Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said Friday.

While stressing that current radiation levels in the area do not necessitate immediate evacuation, Edano said notices have been sent out to municipalities asking them to be ready to work closely with the central and regional governments in the event an evacuation order is issued.

"With the lack of business and logistics, people's lives are becoming increasingly difficult within the 20 to 30 km radius, and we cannot rule out the possibility that more radioactive material might leak and an evacuation order be issued," he said. "Based on this situation, municipalities need to expedite their living support and voluntary evacuation of residents, as well as prepare for a scenario in which an immediate evacuation order is issued." (read more)

Japan: 'Drastic' ideas eyed for power crisis -- Unpopular options before summer heat strikes include daylight-saving time, price hikes

The government will come up with a drastic plan by April to deal with a major electricity shortage expected this summer from the loss of two nuclear power plants damaged by the quake and tsunami in Fukushima Prefecture.

Options being considered include the introduction of daylight-saving time, known locally as "summer time," and a hike in electricity charges, although nothing has been decided yet.

When electricity use peaks to escape the heat and humidity this summer, it is expected to create a shortage of around 10 million kw — or nearly 20 percent of total available power — Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said upon emerging from an emergency meeting on the problem earlier in the day.

"There needs to be a drastic and immediate measure that may affect industrial business activities and people's lifestyles to fill in the gap" between supply and demand, Edano said. (read more)

Japan Survey: 60% of survivors unlikely to return home

An NHK survey shows that about 60 percent of survivors of the March 11th earthquake and tsunami think they cannot return to their homes or do not want to.

NHK asked 488 people staying in shelters in the 3 hardest-hit prefectures -- Iwate, Miyagi and Fukushima.

79 percent of the respondents said they want to return to where they lived before the disaster, but 40 percent said they cannot. 17 percent said they don't want to go back.

Asked about their reasons, many cited financial difficulties. Some said they're afraid of another disaster, while others said their destroyed homes would remind them of their ordeal.

64 percent of the respondents said they do not know where to live, and 53 percent said they have no idea how to make a living. (read more)

Saif al-islam gaddafi: Libya is far from cowed, and will fight on

Reader contribution: Continued BP oil spill contamination pictures of Gulf Park Estates, Oceansprings Mississippi








CBO: Obama understates deficits by $2.3 trillion

A new assessment of President Barack Obama's budget released Friday says the White House underestimates future budget deficits by more than $2 trillion over the upcoming decade.

The estimate from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office says that if Obama's February budget submission is enacted into law it would produce deficits totaling $9.5 trillion over 10 years -- an average of almost $1 trillion a year.

Obama's budget saw deficits totaling $7.2 trillion over the same period.

The difference is chiefly because CBO has a less optimistic estimate of how much the government will collect in tax revenues, partly because the administration has rosier economic projections.

But the agency also rejects the administration's claims of more than $300 billion of that savings -- to pay for preventing a cut in Medicare payments to doctors -- because it doesn't specify where it would come from. Likewise, CBO fails to credit the White House with an additional $328 billion that would come from unspecified "bipartisan financing" to pay for transportation infrastructure projects such as high speed rail lines and road and bridge construction.

Friday's report actually predicts the deficit for the current budget year, which ends Sept. 30, won't be as bad as the $1.6 trillion predicted by the administration and will instead register $200 billion less. But 10 years from now, CBO sees a $1.2 trillion deficit that's almost $400 billion above White House projections. (read more)

US: Unemployment rises in nearly all metro areas

Unemployment rose in nearly all of the 372 largest U.S. cities in January compared to the previous month, mostly because of seasonal changes such as the layoff of temporary retail employees hired for the holidays.

The Labor Department said Friday that the unemployment rate rose in 351 metro areas, fell in only 16, and was unchanged in 5. That’s worse than December, when the rate fell in 207 areas and increased in 122.

Other seasonal trends, such as the layoff of construction workers due to winter weather, also contributed to the widespread increase.

Nationwide, the unemployment rate dropped to 9% in January from 9.4% the previous month. It ticked down to 8.9% in February. But the national data is seasonally adjusted, while the metro data isn’t, which makes it more volatile. The metro data also lags the national report by one month. (read more)

US Audit: Pentagon overpaid oilman by up to $200 million

A Pentagon audit has found that the federal government overpaid a billionaire oilman by as much as $200 million on several military contracts worth nearly $2.7 billion.

The audit by the Defense Department’s inspector general, which was posted on the Pentagon’s Web site this week, estimated that the department paid the oilman “$160 [million] to $204 million more for fuel than could be supported by price or cost analysis.” The study also reported that the three contracts were awarded under conditions that effectively eliminated the other bidders.

Harry Sargeant III, a well-connected Florida businessman and once-prominent Republican donor, first faced scrutiny over his defense work in October 2008, when he was accused in a congressional probe of using his close relationship with Jordan’s royal family to secure exclusive rights over supply routes to U.S. bases in western Iraq.

Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), who led the probe, asserted in a letter to Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates that Sargeant had won the three jet fuel contracts, despite having among the highest bids, because he had an effective monopoly over the routes. Waxman accused Sargeant and his company of price gouging and “engaging in the worst form of war profiteering.” (read more)

Escape From America Continues: Mass Exodus from the United States Due to Deteriorating Conditions

The latest news reports reconfirm a continuing trend we at the Sovereign Society have observed since our founding in 1997; the most recent U.S. State Department figures for 2010 show the total number of U.S. citizens formally ending their citizenship is rising at double previous rates.

According to one web site, the 2010 figure was 1,485, but Bloomberg News lists 1,534. In both cases, the 2010 figure appears to be about double that for any year since 2003.

We at the Sovereign Society have noted sadly that each year hundreds of thousands of U.S. citizens and resident aliens have left America to make a new home in other nations, even though most of them do not renounced U.S citizenship. Admittedly, that number pales against the millions clamoring to get into the U.S., legally and otherwise.

But there’s a huge difference in the economic status of these two groups.

Although the current recession has slowed the pace, those seeking admission (or just illegally crossing our borders) are, by and large, poverty stricken persons desperately trying to better their lot with a new life in the Promised Land. They’ll settle for low-paying jobs, welfare, free education for their kids, and U.S. taxpayer subsidized housing and health care.

Those leaving are the wealthy and the talented – those who have had enough, thank you. (read more)

The ghost trees of Pakistan: Spider webs cocoon branches in creepy after-effect of floods - 26th Mar 2011

Millions of spiders have crawled into trees in Pakistan to escape flood waters, shrouding them with their silky webs.

The eye-catching phenomenon is an unexpected side-effect of last year's flooding which claimed the lives of almost 2,000 people.

However, since the monsoon weather devastated the nation last July, much of the water has still not yet receded.

The tiny insects have sought refuge amongst the trees weaving beautifully intricate webs between the leaves Read More

Veterinarian 'shoots dead his pregnant mistress...so his wife won't find out about the affair' - 26th Mar 2011

A married veterinarian, furious over his mistress's pregnancy, shot the woman three times before dumping her body in a nature preserve, according to police.

David Rapoport, 30, of Lansdale, Pennsylvania, allegedly shot Jennifer Snyder, 27, once in the back and twice in the head.

Her body was discovered in woodland in the Trexler Nature Preserve, near Allentown, last week. An autopsy determined she was two months pregnant with a boy.

When questioned by police, Rapoport initially denied any recent contact with Miss Snyder but later acknowledged having a relationship with her and not wanting his wife Elizabeth to find out about the baby.

Bullet casings from the scene matched a gun officers recovered from Rapoport's vehicle, Lehigh County District Attorney James Martin said.

According to court documents, police believe Rapoport killed Miss Snyder before dumping her blood-soaked car behind a professional building about two miles from where the woman's body was found. Read More

Biggest demo to hit London since the Iraq war march as 250,000 join the anti-cuts protest - 26th Mar 2011

Hundreds of thousands of protesters have descended on London today in a mass protest being staged against Government cuts in public spending.

The TUC had estimated that around 100,000 union activists and other campaigners would take part in today's demonstration in London, but it was clear that hundreds of thousands had made their way to the capital.

Unofficial estimates said that at least 250,000 demonstrators have packed into central London before a march had even started.

Police fear scores of violent anti-capitalist demonstrators could hijack the anti-cuts demonstration and cause chaos in London’s West End.

Organisers say it will be the largest march since up to a million took to the streets in 2003 to oppose the war in Iraq.

Mr Miliband has hailed it as a ‘march of the mainstream’ and urged people to take to the streets to demand ‘an alternative, to save our services, to show the cuts are going too deep and too fast’. Read More

Was Libya's Mass Funeral a Sham? - 25th Mar 2011

Quake-hit Japanese city in danger of Dying - 25th Mar 2011



Otsuchi, Japan (CNN) -- You can see the survivors making the choice as they walk through the debris-strewn main street of Otsuchi in Japan -- stay or go?

Some ramble as they walk, as if in a daze, trying to comprehend the present and match it with an uncertain future. Others look like tourists, coolly trying to place a cousin's house or a grandmother's garden.

But the dilemma is the same for them all: do you stay and rebuild in a devastated small town, struggling economically even before the tsunami, or pull up stakes and start anew in a big city?

Twenty-one-year-old Ayano Okuba doesn't hesitate with her answer. "Even though I like Otsuchi, I can't come back here." The tsunami flattened Okuba's childhood home and killed the matriarch of her family, her grandmother.

There's nothing left of her childhood to rebuild, she says. Read More

Libyans flee fighting in Ajdabiya, end up Homeless in Harshness of Desert - 26th Mar 2011


Ajdabiya, Libya (CNN) -- Outside the Libyan city of Ajdabiya, tents have sprouted in the rolling desert, where the sands blow and farmers grow figs and grapes.

In the city, a fierce fight rages for control between the Libyan opposition and forces loyal to strongman Moammar Gadhafi, whose tanks lob shells to push their foes back.

At night, coalition planes roar overhead, pounding Gadhafi's positions. Early Friday, British jets pounded Libyan armored vehicles. But they have not been able to stop the battle on the ground, and residents are escaping to safer ground.

"I couldn't even begin to describe to you the horror that I have seen," one man said. "Leaving Ajdabiya, we saw dead bodies in the street. No one would ever dare go to recover them."

He fled his hometown with his six children this week. One of his sons, maybe about 10, cradles his head as his father talks. He cries quietly. Read More

Libyan Rebels Retake Town Of Ajdabiyah - 26th Mar 2011

Libya's rebel forces are now in control of the strategicaly important eastern town of Ajdabiyah after pushing back troops loyal to Colonel Muammar Gaddafi.

On the eastern road, where Gaddafi's forces had been firing out towards rebel positions, those ground troops appear to have been hit by coalition airstrikes.

There are no signs of Gaddafi's forces offering any resistance any more. We just passed a huge celebration on the road with rebels firing into the air and cheering that Ajdabiyah is now free.

We are just heading into the town, but already people are telling us that it has been a horrible situation over the past week or so while the town has been under the control of Gaddafi's forces.

It is a town of 140,000 people. About half the population fled when the fighting began but that still leaves a good number who have sat here hiding and we understand there have been a high number of civilian casualties. Read More

Light Pillars - Most Amazing Natural Phenomenon In The World - 26th Mar 2011

Light Pillars: Visual Phenomena created by the Reflection of Light.

Amazing Light Pillars Rain Down On Nebraska Farm - 28th Jan 2011

Light pillars are a common sight around cities in winter. Urban lights bounce off ice crystals in the air, producing tall luminous columns sometimes mistaken for auroras. But the light pillars Mike Hollingshead saw last night near a corn mill in Nebraska were decidely uncommon. "They had V-shaped tops," he explains, "and some of the Vs were nested." Here is what he saw:

"These light pillars are not just rare, they are exceptional!" declares atmospheric optics expert Les Cowley. "Ordinary pillars are produced by plate-shaped ice crystals roughly half way between you and the light source. These are different. Their rarely seen flared tops show that they were made by column-shaped crystals drifting slowly downwards and aligned horizontal by air resistance." Read More

A Beetle Plague takes over Surfers Paradise, Australia - 24th Mar 2011

THOUSANDS of beetles are swarming Surfers Paradise in a never before seen phenomenon that has stumped local scientists.

The water beetle invasion captured on amateur youtube footage shows the large black beetles swarming around lights and dropping to the footpath on The Esplanade last night.

Griffith University entomologist Professor Clyde Wild said he had no definitive explanation for the rare phenomenon.

''I've never seen swarms of these like this before, why they are at the beach front escapes any explanation I can think of,'' Prof Wild said.

''You might see two or three on any given night - this is literally thousands.

''They haven't come out of the sea, they live in fresh water and live on larvae, or eating other insects.''

Prof Wild said he would be less surprised if the invasion had occurred in areas that had recently flooded.

''If there was masses of flowing water, a lot of habitat, it would make more sense.

''But it hasn't been that wet on the Gold Coast so it's a very curious phenomenon. Read More

Sian Murder: Hunt For Second Body Continues - 26th mar 2011

Police continue searching a Gloucestershire field after a man suspected of killing Sian O'Callaghan allegedly pointed out where he previously dumped another victim.

The location was provided by the 47-year-old man, who was arrested on suspicion of murdering clubber Sian O'Callaghan after she left a Swindon venue last week.

Detective Superintendent Steve Fulcher said the person had gone missing "several years ago" as search teams sifted land at Baxter's Farm, between the villages of Eastleach and Filkins.

Police have refused to comment on speculation the remains they are looking for could belong to 39-year-old Tina Pryer.

The mother-of-three was last seen getting in a taxi in Trowbridge in April 2001.

The suspect, named locally as taxi driver Christopher Halliwell, appeared before Swindon magistrates on Friday as officers were granted another 24 hours to quiz him. Read More and Video >>>

Thousands of fish killed in a stream in Huntington after a suspected chemical was Poured into the Water - 25th Mar 2011

THOUSANDS of dead fish have been found floating in a picturesque stream after harmful pollution was allegedly poured down drains.

The surface of a small stream in Caldy Valley Nature Park in Huntington was littered with the bodies of 10,000 fish on Wednesday (March 23), after a suspected chemical attack.

Families and couples enjoying a stroll in the glorious sunshine in the council-owned park were greeted by the gruesome sight of rangers clearing the bodies, which lined the brook near Sainsbury's supermarket.

Thousands of roach, dace, chubb, gudgeon, lamprey, stone loach and eels were killed in the incident which was reported to Cheshire West and Chester Council at just after 1pm on Wednesday.

Following the discovery, officers from the Environment Agency have been testing the water for toxins and conducting door to door inquiries in the hope that residents can help them identify what caused the mass cull. Read More

Dutch to cull 127,500 hens in a bird flu scare - 25th Mar 2011

* More tests to show if strain was high-pathogenic

* Poultry transport banned within 1 km zone around farm

AMSTERDAM, March 25 (Reuters) - Dutch authorities said on Friday they will cull about 127,500 egg-laying hens on a farm in the south of the country after the H7 bird flu strain was detected.

The virus was reported at a farm in the village Schore in Zeeland province, around 170 kilometres south-west of Amsterdam near the border with Belgium, the Dutch ministry for economic affairs, agriculture and innovation said in a statement.

Authorities imposed a ban on transporting poultry and eggs in an area of 1 kilometre around the farm, the statement said.

The government said more tests will be conducted to indicate whether the H7 strain was low-pathogenic or a more dangerous high-pathogenic strain. The results will be available later on Friday.

The most devastating outbreak of H7N7 avian flu strain in the Netherlands was in 2003 and led to the culling of 30 million birds, about a third of the nation's poultry flock.

H7 bird flu in its highly pathogenic form can kill large numbers of birds and can occasionally infect people, although it is rarely fatal in humans. Read More

Gaddafi May Unleash 'New Lockerbie' Terror - 26th Mar 2011

Justice Secretary Kenneth Clarke has warned that the Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi could seek revenge on Britain for its involvement in airstrikes.

In an interview with The Guardian newspaper, the politician said the dictator could stage another Lockerbie-style terrorist attack and admitted he is "not totally convinced anyone knows where Britain is going" in the conflict.

"The British people have reason to remember the curse of Gaddafi - Gaddafi back in power, the old Gaddafi looking for revenge, we have a real interest in preventing that...

"I am not in the Foreign Office, fortunately, so I am not too worried by my remarks. But I am still not totally convinced anyone knows where we are going now."

The comments come as the coalition says it has carried out 96 airstrikes in Libya in the past 24 hours - and that the Libyan air system has been completely taken out. Read More and Video >>>

Night Stalker Rapist Jailed For 27 Years - 25th Mar 2011

Night Stalker rapist Delroy Grant smiled as he was led from the dock after a judge jailed him for life for violently attacking 18 elderly victims.

The 53-year-old serial sex predator had showed no emotion as witness impact statements were read out at Woolwich Crown Court, where a jury had previously convicted him of 29 charges.

Mr Justice Rook told the former minicab driver that he must serve at least 27 years before ever being considered for release.

"Your utter depravity knows no bounds," said the judge.

Grant's attacks began in 1992 and continued up to the night of his arrest in November 2009.

He preyed on victims in southeast London, breaking into homes before raping and sexually assaulting some of the occupants.

The judge told Grant: "You targeted elderly victims living alone. Your actions blighted the remaining precious years of their lives. Read More

Derrick Bird 'Unlawfully Killed' 12 Victims - 25th Mar 2011

An inquest has returned verdicts of suicide for Derrick Bird and unlawful killing for each of the 12 people he shot dead in West Cumbria last year.

The self-employed taxi driver went on a 45 mile shooting rampage on June 2 last year before he turned his rifle on himself.

A jury of six women and five men sitting in Workington, Cumbria, returned the verdicts after listening to four weeks of harrowing evidence.

Bird killed his own twin brother David, went on to gun down solicitor Kevin Commons, 60, and then drove to a taxi rank in Whitehaven town centre where he shot taxi driver Darren Rewcastle, 43, at point-blank range.

The troubled father-of-two then randomly targeted strangers as he travelled out of town - killing nine and wounding 11 - before he was found dead in woodland near Boot - more than three hours after police discovered his first known victim. Read More