Sunday, March 27, 2011

Al Qaeda sets up 'Islamic emirate' -- Is Libya the next vortex of chaos?

AL-QAEDA has set up an Islamic emirate in Derna, in eastern Libya, headed by a former US prisoner at Guantanamo Bay.

However, residents in the city have told reporters there is no substance to these rumours, which they claim the Libyan government is sowing to "scare Europe".

"Al-Qaeda has established an emirate in Derna led by Abdelkarim al-Hasadi, a former Guantanamo detainee," Khaled Khaim said.

"They have an FM radio station and have begun to impose the burqa" (head-to-toe covering for women) and have "executed people who refuse to cooperate with them."

Khaim said Hasadi has a lieutenant, "also a member of Al-Qaeda and named Kheirallah Baraassi" in Al-Baida.

Derna is the capital of a province by the same name in the region of Cyrenaica, some 1250 kilometres east of Libya's capital Tripoli. Al-Baida lies about 100 kilometres west of Derna.

Earlier, Italian Foreign Minister Francesco Franco Frattini said embattled Libyan leader Moamer Kadhafi had lost control of Cyrenaica and shared reports that an Islamic emirate had been declared there.

Speaking at a meeting in Rome organised by the Community of Sant'Egidio, a Christian organisation, Frattini said here had been recent proclamations in Cyrenaica that it was now an Islamic emirate and calls to break with the West. (read more)

Muammar Gaddafi 'moving bodies to airstrike site'?

US Defence Secretary Robert Gates says Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi's forces have been planting bodies "of the people he's killed" at the site of allied air strikes to apparently create an impression of civilian casualties.

"The truth of the matter is we have trouble coming up with proof of any civilian casualties that we have been responsible for," said Defence Secretary Gates, according to a transcript released by CBS News, from an interview to air in full on "Face The Nation with Bob Schieffer".

"We do have a lot of intelligence reporting about Gaddafi taking the bodies of the people he's killed and putting them at the sites where we've attacked," he added.

"We have been extremely careful in this military effort, and not just our pilots but the pilots of the other coalition air forces have really done an extraordinary job," he said. (read more)

Traces of radiation from Japanese nuclear plant detected in China

Traces of radioactive iodine were detected Saturday in China's Heilongjiang province, a Chinese government agency told state-run media.

The slight rise in radiation, which authorities determined had emanated from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, was a minuscule fraction -- one-hundred-thousandth, to be exact -- beyond normal background radiation levels, China's National Nuclear Emergency Coordination Committee said, according to Xinhua.

Because of the low level, the government agency said there was no harm to public health in China and said there was no need for any extra precautions.

Previously, similar trace levels of radiation from the embattled Japanese nuclear plant had been reported as far away as Sweden and the United States.

In addition, other nations are acting to ensure that their citizens in Japan don't suffer any ill effects from nuclear fall-out.

The U.S. Embassy in Tokyo, for instance, noted on its website Saturday that it would continue "to make potassium iodide tablets available to private U.S. citizens who have not been able to obtain it from their physician, employer or other sources." This medication that can counter the harmful effects of radioactive iodine when it gets into the body through the air, water or other means, health officials say.

While Japanese authorities have distributed some such pills to people who lived closed to the embattled power plant, they have not been made available to the general public. (read more)

19 Facts About The Deindustrialization (and Destruction) Of America

United States is rapidly becoming the very first “post-industrial” nation on the globe. All great economic empires eventually become fat and lazy and squander the great wealth that their forefathers have left them, but the pace at which America is accomplishing this is absolutely amazing. It was America that was at the forefront of the industrial revolution. It was America that showed the world how to mass produce everything from automobiles to televisions to airplanes. It was the great American manufacturing base that crushed Germany and Japan in World War II. But now we are witnessing the deindustrialization of America.

Tens of thousands of factories have left the United States in the past decade alone. Millions upon millions of manufacturing jobs have been lost in the same time period. The United States has become a nation that consumes everything in sight and yet produces increasingly little. Do you know what our biggest export is today? Waste paper. Yes, trash is the number one thing that we ship out to the rest of the world as we voraciously blow our money on whatever the rest of the world wants to sell to us. The United States has become bloated and spoiled and our economy is now just a shadow of what it once was. Once upon a time America could literally outproduce the rest of the world combined. Today that is no longer true, but Americans sure do consume more than anyone else in the world. If the deindustrialization of America continues at this current pace, what possible kind of a future are we going to be leaving to our children? (read more)

Reporter confined in closet during Vice President Joe Biden's Fundraiser

Staffers with Vice President Joe Biden confined an Orlando Sentinel reporter in a closet this week to keep him from mingling with high-powered guests gathered for a Democratic fundraiser.

Reporter Scott Powers was the designated "pool reporter" for the vice president's Wednesday visit to the massive Winter Park, Fla., home of developer and philanthropist Alan Ginsburg. The veep hadn't arrived yet but most of the 150 guests (minimum $500 donation) had. They were busy noshing on caprese crostini with oven-dried mozzarella and basil, rosemary flatbread with grapes honey and gorgonzola cheese and bacon deviled eggs, before a lunch of grilled chicken Caesar and garden vegetable wraps.

Not so for Powers. A "low-level staffer" put Powers in a storage closet and then stood guard outside the door, Powers told the DRUDGE REPORT. "When I'd stick my head out, they'd say, 'Not yet. We'll let you know when you can come out.'"

And no crustini for Powers, either. He made do with a bottle of water to sip as he sat at a tiny makeshift desk, right next to a bag marked "consignment." Powers was closeted at about 11:30 a.m., held for about an hour and 15 minutes, came out for 35 minutes of remarks by Biden and Sen. Bill Nelson, Florida Democrat, and then returned to his jail for the remainder of the event. (read more)


Senate panel OKs bill to flatten Arizona income tax -- 9 out of 10 (the middle class) to pay more

A "flat tax" bill to rewrite the state individual income tax is nearing the finish line at the Legislature, setting the stage for changes that would have the Arizona's wealthiest taxpayers paying less while nearly nine of every 10 Arizonans pay more.

The Senate Finance Committee approved the Republican-sponsored bill on a 4-2 party line vote Thursday. The House has already approved a version of the bill.

Major changes in the bill include eliminating the standard deduction, dependent exemptions and most other state deductions while flattening the current five rates into one lower rate of 2.13 percent. Current rates range from 2.59 percent to 4.454 percent depending on income levels. (read more)

Environmental boredom: Earth Hour may be losing steam as novelty wears off

More Canadian municipalities are pledging to power down Saturday for Earth Hour, but an expert says interest in the event may already be fizzling.

Earth Hour has "done a great job of capturing the imagination of an awful lot of people around the world" to raise awareness of climate change issues, said Mark Sarner, who specializes in marketing for non-profits.

But "just more of the same gets old fast," he said Friday, noting most marketing campaigns will fade after a few years without something new to draw the public's attention.

"If I think back to last year's Earth Hour, I don't think it was as big a deal because, you know, novelty normalizes and this is no longer a novelty," he said.

"Unless something really dramatic is done to recreate it and reinvent it, I don't think Earth Hour will be a significant thing in the next five years." (read more)

'Barefoot Contessa' Ina Garten taking heat for repeatedly rejecting 'Make-A-Wish' cancer patient

Someone might be in the market for a new PR team.

"Barefoot Contessa" Ina Garten has a new nickname -- "Heartless Contessa" -- in the wake of news that she repeatedly refused to meet with a 6-year-old boy named Enzo who was diagnosed with acute lymphoblastic leukemia.

According to the reports:

The boy, who would watch Garten from his sick bed, told the Make-A-Wish Foundation that he wanted to meet the Food Network celebrity. When told that her schedule was too busy, Enzo opted to wait. When the request was made once more, Garten's representatives replied with a "definite no," according to the online blog that the family kept about the boy's illness.

Cue the controversy.

"She is a pretty famous cook, but I doubt she is so busy that she can't cook one meal with this kid" read just one of the many comments posted on the story over on CafeMom, and The Stir launched a letter-writing campaign. "Ina Garten -- Heartless Contessa" screamed one headline. "The Barefoot Contessa shatters a little boy's dreams," read another.

But perhaps the most biting comment came from Business Insider: "We're sure that she truly is pretty busy. But if she had time to throw a charity lunch for six Hamptonites -- who paid $100,000 to be there -- she can make time to whip up some meringues with a six-year-old." (read more)

Louisiana doctor suspects patients' ill health caused by Gulf of Mexico oil spill (Reader contributed)

Blindness, nosebleeds, bleeding ears, memory loss. Is this what's happening to people exposed to leaking radiation in Japan? No, it's the symptoms a Louisiana doctor says his patients are dealing with more and more since the BP oil spill.

Dr. Mike Robichaux, an ear, nose and throat specialist and a former state senator, has shared his information with the Louisiana Environmental Action Network. LEAN director Marylee Orr says it's compelling.

"We are gathering evidence that I don't believe you can dismiss," Orr told members of the news media. "You may wonder about it, but you're going to find that all these folks have very high levels of the ten chemicals that we're testing for."

Dr. Robichaux says chemicals found in oil dispersants can have nasty effects on the human body.

"Ethylene glycol is antifreeze. Methanol is wood alcohol," Dr. Robichaux said. "10 ccs blinds you, 30 ccs kills you."

Dr. Robichaux says one spill cleanup worker lost his sight, and other patients have had trouble with their memory.

"People out here are losing their memories. They're having headaches and losing their memory," he said. "This is happening to hundreds and hundreds of people."

Dr. Robichaux says while BP has offered money to people who lost work because of the spill, nothing has been done for people sickened by it.

BP Admits using Synthetic Microbes in Gulf of Mexico -- Danger ahead? (Reader contributed)

Ongoing Disaster In The Gulf of Mexico: One Year Later, 2011 -- A new oil spill underway? (Reader contributed)

Unseen photos of Gulf of Mexico Oil Spill and Corexit damage and death -- from Feburary, March 2011 (Reader contributed)

Mexico's Cave of Crystals - Most Amazing Natural Phenomenon In The World - 27th Mar 2011

Mexico's Cave of Crystals stunned geologists when it was first discovered in 2000. The underground chamber contains some of the largest natural crystals ever found - some of the selenite structures have grown to more than 10m long. Professor Iain Stewart got a rare glimpse of the subterranean spectacle while filming for the new BBC series How the Earth Made Us.

Arrests After Benghazi Woman's Rape Claim - 27th Mar 2011

The son of a high-ranking Libyan police officer is thought to be among five people arrested after a woman claimed she was raped and tortured by men connected to Colonel Gaddafi's regime.

In a conversation with Sky News, Libya's deputy foreign minister Khalid Kaim said the men were being detained as part of a criminal investigation into the rape allegations made by Iman al-Obeidi.

Ms al-Obeidi was manhandled by waitresses and government minders yesterday morning as she attempted to speak to journalists at the Rixos Hotel in Tripoli.

She claimed she had been held for two days, and that she had been raped and tortured by men connected to the regime.

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

As journalists tried to speak to her, police minders waded in, trying to physically block her mouth to stop her talking.

At a news conference, a Government spokesman insisted that Ms al-Obeidi's claims were now being taken very seriously by the regime, and that they would be fully investigated.

He also insisted she had been given access to a lawyer, and was deemed to be in good health.

However, it is understood Ms al-Obeidi is still being held by Government officials as part of their investigation.

The Government spokesman also said it was likely Ms al-Obeidi would undertake interviews with western journalists in the coming days. Source

New View of Tsunami's Attack - 27th Mar 2011

'Al-Qaeda snatched missiles' in Libya: Chad President

AL-QAEDA'S offshoot in North Africa has snatched surface-to-air missiles from an arsenal in Libya during the civil strife there, Chad's President says.

Idriss Deby Itno did not say how many surface-to-air missiles were stolen, but told the African weekly Jeune Afrique that he was "100 per cent sure" of his assertion.

"The Islamists of al-Qaeda took advantage of the pillaging of arsenals in the rebel zone to acquire arms, including surface-to-air missiles, which were then smuggled into their sanctuaries in Tenere," a desert region of the Sahara that stretches from northeast Niger to western Chad, Deby said in the interview.

"This is very serious. AQIM is becoming a genuine army, the best equipped in the region," he said.

His claim was echoed by officials in other countries in the region who said that they were worried that al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQIM) might have acquired "heavy weapons", thanks to the insurrection. (read more)

Gaps in US radiation monitoring system revealed

Part of the nation's key radiation warning system was out of service as the U.S. braced for possible exposure to the fallout from a nuclear crisis in Japan.

While no dangerous levels of radiation have reached American shores, the test of the monitoring network has spurred some lawmakers to question whether it can adequately safeguard the country against future disasters.

The system is crucial because federal officials use the monitors' readings to validate the impact of nuclear incidents, then alert local governments and the public.

In California, home to two seaside nuclear plants located close to earthquake fault lines, federal officials said four of the 11 stationary monitors were offline for repairs or maintenance last week. The Environmental Protection Agency said the machines operate outdoors year-round and periodically need maintenance, but did not fix them until a few days after low levels of radiation began drifting toward the mainland U.S.

About 20 monitors out of 124 nationwide were out of service earlier this week, including units in Harlingen, Tex. and Buffalo, N.Y. on Friday, according to the EPA.

Gaps in the system — as well as the delays in fixing monitors in some of Southern California's most populated areas — have helped to prompt hearings and inquiries in Washington and Sacramento.

"Because the monitoring system ... plays such a critical role in protecting the health and safety of the American people, we will examine how well our current monitoring system has performed in the aftermath of the tragic situation in Japan," said Sen. Barbara Boxer, a California Democrat who chairs the U.S. Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which plans a hearing in the coming weeks on nuclear safety. (read more)

Man Saves $11,000 in Prison Wages, State Wants It Back -- Fair or Unreasonable?

Excuse me sir, but the state wants its money back. The state of Illinois says that Kenley Hawkins owes the entire $11,000 he managed to save earning $75 per week since 1982.

The catch: Hawkins is a prisoner at the Stateville Correctional Center in Joliet, and the state paid him those meager wages while he's been incarcerated. The total cost of his stay in prison is estimated at $455,203.14.

The 60-year-old prisoner is going to court to keep the state from seizing the funds in his bank account to partially satisfy that debt. It will be up to the Illinois Supreme Court to determine whether or not the state can repossess the wages paid to inmates. This will be the first time the court will address this particular issue. (read more)

Britain's leaders should come clean on the true depth of the fiscal crisis

The UK's fiscal retrenchment, we are told, is being conducted at an "extraordinarily ambitious pace". Last week's annual Budget statement pledged to "eliminate the structural deficit by 2014/15".

George Osborne told the House of Commons that "Britain has a plan and is sticking to it". The Chancellor won't be cowed by claims his efforts to get the UK back on the fiscal straight and narrow will do more harm than good. He is right, of course – but only up to a point.

The Labour party's most senior figures, in defiance of their education and intelligence, keep claiming that Osborne's actions are "driven by ideology, rather than necessity". This is absurd. Anyone who argues that rapidly addressing the fiscal catastrophe Labour left behind is anything other than absolutely crucial either knows nothing about global bond markets, or is so blindly ambitious, so determined to close their eyes to the facts, as to be unfit for public office.

Having said that, Osborne is also ignoring the facts – if to a slightly lesser degree. Because the UK's fiscal retrenchment won't be over by 2015 – when the deficit, on last week's numbers, falls roughly to zero. That won't be the end of our budgetary problems. It won't even be the beginning of the end. It will merely be, if we're lucky, the end of the beginning. (read more)

UK: Violence mars TUC protest march -- photo gallery

What's in the Venice Beach water? Health inspectors baffled by mystery bacteria (Reader contribution)



On what looked like the picture perfect day at Venice Beach on Wednesday, there was actually a problem.

Bacteria in the water forced the Sarasota Health Department to repost advisories, warning people not to go swimming.

"I don't understand it. Many other people don't understand it either," said Emilio Tavernise, vacationing from Ohio, "it aggravates you because you are on the beach and you can't swim."

The warnings are back in the same place they've been for most of the past month. After being taken down last week, recent water samples forced health inspectors to put them up again.

Tavernise says many of his vacationing friends have already run out of patience.

"Between 85 and 95% got disgusted enough where they jumped in their car and either went that way or the other way," he explained.

The health department says the bacteria may cause stomach illness, rashes, or infections, especially to children and the elderly.

But inspectors say they're frustrated because they can't figure out exactly what's causing the problem. (read more)

Poisoined fruit, industry corruption and agri-tyranny: A new clue in the case of the toxic strawberries

It was disappointing, if not downright strange, when California's Department of Pesticide Regulation decided in December to approve methyl iodide for use on the state's strawberry crops despite more than 50,000 letters of opposition — the most DPR has ever gotten on any proposed rule.

Was DPR head, Mary-Ann Warmerdam, in the pocket of the chemical industry? There's no smoking gun, but Warmerdam had been subject to aggressive lobbying by Arysta LifeScience, the largest privately held chemical manufacturer in the world and the maker of the profitable methyl iodide. Earlier this week, Warmerdam resigned her post, announcing she would be taking a job at chemical maker Clorox. (Clorox does not manufacture methyl iodide.)

DPR's approval raised eyebrows because methyl iodide is known to cause cancer, nerve damage and late-term miscarriage. Although the Bush-era U.S. EPA approved it, it's banned in Washington and New York, states which are normally less aggressive regulators than our own.

Many pointed fingers at Warmerdam, who had touted mitigation strategies that Dr. John Froines, Chair of the DPR Scientific Review Committee and Professor of Environmental Health Sciences at UCLA, said "are not going to be adequate, because this is without question one of the most toxic chemicals on earth." (read more)

Animal anarchy poses health risk: Dairy industry pushes CAFO secrecy bill

An Idaho House committee supported Wednesday a move to seal off more data related to confined-animal feeding operations from the public eye, making it harder for the public to tell if state regulations are enforced.

A bill proposed by Rep. Judy Boyle, R-Midvale, would put all dairy nutrient management plans — and related proprietary business information — out of the public’s eye.

The plans essentially detail what becomes of animal waste produced at the dairies, which if not properly disposed of can pollute groundwater and soils.

Most waste plans are already hidden from public review, for facilities that participate in a state management plan program. This bill would more broadly affect reports of facility compliance inspections carried out by the Idaho State Department of Agriculture.

The proposal has reignited a familiar debate about what should be public and what should be considered a private business affair.

Last year, a similar law closed off waste management plans for beef feedlots. This proposal also comes on the heels of a critical report on the dairy industry, much of it based on inspection data, presented recently to House lawmakers by the Fruitland-based nonprofit watchdog Idaho Concerned Area Residents for the Environment.

Boyle said the bill is not intended to hide non-compliance issues. It is intended to give the dairy industry the same degree of records privacy that the beef industry enjoys, she said. Uh-huh. (read more)

Battle-proof Wind Farms Survive Japan's Trial by Fire -- Proof that truly "safe energy" does exist?

As the world collectively holds its breath to see how the Fukushima crisis plays out (the quote of the day has got to be: "The worst-case scenario doesn't bear mentioning and the best-case scenario keeps getting worse...") there's a positive story which is not yet being reported.

Despite assertions by its detractors that wind energy would not survive an earthquake or tsunami the Japanese wind industry is still functioning and helping to keep the lights on during the Fuksuhima crisis.

Colleagues and I have been directly corresponding with Yoshinori Ueda leader of the International Committee of the Japan Wind Power Association & Japan Wind Energy Association, and according to Ueda there has been no wind facility damage reported by any association members, from either the earthquake or the tsunami. Even the Kamisu semi-offshore wind farm, located about 300km from the epicenter of the quake, survived. Its anti-earthquake "battle proof design" came through with flying colors.

Mr. Ueda confirms that most Japanese wind turbines are fully operational. Indeed, he says that electric companies have asked wind farm owners to step up operations as much as possible in order to make up for shortages in the eastern part of the country:

Eurus Energy Japan says that 174.9MW with eight wind farms (64% of their total capacity with 11 wind farms in eastern part of Japan) are in operation now. The residual three wind farms (Kamaishi 42.9MW, Takinekoshirai 46MW, Satomi 10.02MW) are stopped due to the grid failure caused by the earthquake and Tsunami. Satomi is to re-start operations in a few days. Kamaishi is notorious for tsunami disaster, but this wind farm is safe because it is locate in the mountains about 900m high from sea level. (read more)

Canada: Ocean garbage, 36000 Floating landmines

A new B.C. study found 36,000 pieces of debris along our coastline. Experts say it's just the 'tip of the iceberg' of a problem that's growing alongside our demand for disposable goods

No matter where you travel on the B.C. coast, no matter how remote or seemingly untrammelled and pristine the fiord or inlet, a piece of plastic, Styrofoam or other garbage has been there before you. God knows how it got there: Dumped recklessly off a vessel, swept down a river or through a storm drain, blown by the wind off the land, or brought in by the ocean currents flowing across the vast North Pacific - including debris from the Japanese tsunami, which could start arriving on our coast in two years.

What we do know is that marine garbage is ubiquitous and wreaking havoc at every level of the marine environment.

A new B.C. study estimates there are 36,000 pieces of "synthetic marine debris" -garbage the size of fists to fridges -floating around the coastline, from remote inland fiords to 150 kilometres offshore.

Of that, 49 per cent is Styrofoam or similar polystyrene products, 15 per cent plastic bottles, 10.5 per cent plastic bags and 6.3 per cent fishing gear. The rest of the garbage, slightly less than 20 per cent of the total, includes plastic, cardboard, wrappers, buoys, aluminum cans, and so on.

There are heavier concentrations of garbage in some places than in others -Victoria, Langara Island off northern Haida Gwaii, and the Cape Scott area of northern Vancouver Island, for example -perhaps due to ocean currents creating eddies that collect trash. (read more)

Deadly heatwaves will be more frequent in coming decades, say scientists

The heatwave that scorched eastern Europe in 2010, killing thousands of people and devastating crops, was the worst since records began and led to the warmest summer on the continent for at least 500 years, a new scientific analysis has revealed.

The research also suggests that "mega-heatwaves", such as the prolonged extreme temperatures that struck western Europe in 2003 will become five to 10 times more likely over the next 40 years, occurring at least once a decade. But the 2010 heatwave was so extreme – 10 °C above the average for the first week of August between 1970 and 2000 – that similar events are only expected to occur once every 30 years or so.

Searing temperatures in July and August 2010 across Russia are estimated to have killed 50,000 people, say the researchers, who were led by David Barriopedro at the University of Lisbon in Portugal. Mortality rates in Moscow doubled compared with the previous year, filling morgues to capacity as people succumbed to heatstroke and respiratory problems. More heat-related deaths are expected to have occurred in the Baltic states Ukraine and Kazakhstan, though these figures have not yet been estimated.

The mega-heatwave also cut the Russian grain yield by 25%, sending food prices soaring, and left a million hectares of land burned. The nation's losses are estimated at $15 bn. (read more)

Japan says very high radiation reading at reactor was wrong, It's ONLY 100.000 Higher than Normal - 27th Mar 2011

The operator of Japan's stricken Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant said on Monday a very high radiation reading that had sent workers fleeing the No. 2 reactor was erroneous.

Tokyo Electric Power Co. (TEPCO) vice-president Sakae Muto apologized for Sunday's error, which added to alarm inside and outside Japan over the impact of contamination from the complex which was hit by an earthquake and tsunami on March 11.

Radiation in the water was a still worrying 100,000 times higher than normal, rather than 10 million times higher as originally stated, Muto said.

"I am very sorry...I would like to make sure that such a mistake will not happen again." Source

Bahrain Dust Storm triggers hospital rush - 27th Mar 2011

DOZENS of people sought hospital treatment as a result of a dust storm that swept across Bahrain yesterday.

Doctors at Salmaniya Medical Complex (SMC) Accident and Emergency department said more than 50 people suffering from the effects of dust inhalation were given check-ups.

"While dust does not have any effect on people, except to cause minor irritation, it can cause complications among those suffering from asthma or other chronic conditions," said one doctor.

"It is recommended that anyone suffering from chronic conditions and feels discomfort should consult a doctor immediately.

"All those who came to the hospital with these conditions were administered first aid and discharged."

The doctor said while the lungs are constantly exposed to danger from the dust people breathe in, they also have defence mechanisms that protects them by removing dust particles from the respiratory system.

"Even though the lungs can clear themselves, excessive inhalation of dust may result in disease and so needs to be checked," he said. Read More

John Hinckley, psycho who shot Reagan to impress Jodie Foster, 'has recovered and will soon be released from mental hospital' - 27th Mar 2011

The man who stalked and shot President Ronald Reagan is edging closer to being released after almost 30 years in a mental hospital.

According to court records, the forensic psychologist at his hospital has testified that John W. Hinckley Jr has 'recovered to the point that he poses no imminent risk of danger to himself or others.'

The college drop-out, who was possessed by a terrifying obsession with actress Jodie Foster, has already been freed for several visits to his ageing mother in Williamsburg, Virginia.

Despite government objections, a judge in 2009 extended his furlough privileges to a dozen visits of 10 days each during the past year and a half.

Hinckley, who is now 55, is required to carry a GPS-equipped cell phone for tracking purposes any time he is away from his mother's home, and by court order, he is forbidden to talk to any media.

U.S. Attorney Joseph diGenova, who helped oversee Hinckley's prosecution in 1982, said talk of his release is deeply worrying. Read More

Police charge taxi driver Chris Halliwell with murder of Sian O'Callaghan - and say second body is of woman aged 23-30 - 27th Mar 2011

Taxi driver Chris Halliwell has been charged with the murder of Sian O'Callaghan, police announced today.

Father-of-three Halliwell, 47, was charged late last night and is due to appear before magistrates in Swindon tomorrow.

The development came as detectives revealed bones found at an isolated spot in Gloucestershire yesterday belong to a woman aged between 23 and 30.

They have yet to confirm her identity, alhough police believe they belong to someone who moved to the area from outside Wiltshire.

Detective Superintendent Steve Fulcher, who is leading the investigation, said: 'Bones recovered from the site at Eastleach in Gloucestershire are believed to be that of a young woman with an estimated age of between 23 and 30 years.

'It has been indicated to me that this young woman was taken from the Swindon area between 2003 and 2005. Read More

Syria Protests: Political Prisoners Freed - 26th Mar 2011

Syrian authorities have freed a substantial number of political prisoners in the biggest overture yet to protesters demanding reform in the country.

The London-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said more than 200 inmates, mostly Islamists, were freed from Damascus' Saidnaya prison.

Their release comes amid increasing violence in the country as protesters demand reforms.

Earlier today, Syrian security forces killed two protesters who tried to torch the ruling Baath Party headquarters in the port city of Latakia.

And on Friday at least 13 people were killed in protests.

President Bashar al-Assad's government had announced a string of reforms on Thursday, including the release of all activists detained this month and the possibility of ending emergency rule, in place since 1963. Read More

Dolphins killed in explosives exercise - 26th Mar 2011

SAN DIEGO, March 26 (UPI) -- Military officials in California say they spotted three dolphins in an area where explosive tests were being conducted, but it was too late to save them.

Scientists said they aren't sure what killed the three dolphins, but they showed injuries consistent with blast trauma, the Los Angeles Times reported.

The animals died this month during a Navy training exercise off the San Diego coast. The unit conducting the exercises said no marine mammals were in the area when it started its countdown.

"They saw the dolphins before the explosives went off, but it came so late it would have put humans at risk to stop the process," said Cmdr. Greg Hicks, spokesman for the U.S. Navy's 3rd Fleet. "After the detonation, despite all required protective actions taken to avoid marine mammal impacts, three dolphins were found dead in the area."

The incident occurred at the Silver Strand Training Complex near Coronado. Government biologists recovered the Long-Beaked Common Dolphins and took them to a veterinary lab at Sea World for necropsies. Read More

Dead Fish Wash Ashore in Gulf Shores - 26th Mar 2011

Hundreds Of Dead Fish Found At Midland Duck Pond - 26th Mar 2011

Midland, Texas- Residents are shocked after they find hundreds of dead fish floating in a Midland pond. A bizarre incident at the Wadely-Baron Park duck pond has Midlanders concerned and asking questions.

The sight today was disturbing, a strong smell had people gathering around the pond with jaws dropped when they realized where the smell was coming from.

The duck pond in midland provides a great environment for families to escape the city and enjoy some of nature's treasures, but today residents found a sickening sight.

"There were people and children walking around, I didn't know what to think about what I was seeing, I was mortified," said Jeann Ette, concerned resident.

"We started seeing dead fish and I told my husband, oh my gosh what's going on and he said that it looks like they're not getting oxygen," said Sandia Hampton, concerned resident.

Residents say the aerators, which provides the water with oxygen for the fish, has been off for days. And now, fish are dying by the hundreds, you can see it and smell it. Read More

U.S. anti-terrorism drill showing white supremacists shooting immigrants cancelled following threats to carry it out for real - 26th Mar 2011

An anti-terrorism drill featuring a white supremacist U.S. student on a racially-motivated gun spree has been cancelled - after a critic of the event threatened to carry it out for real.

The planned exercise at Treynor High School in western Iowa featured a mock scenario where an anti-immigration pro-gun student shouts racist abuse before shooting a minority pupil.

Emergency management officials in the state had organised the drill, which was going to involve 300 people, police and hospitals.

But the event has been shelved after bosses received an anonymous threat from a furious caller who warned: 'You better not come to work today because your school shooting is really going to happen.'

Organisers say the exercise - Operation Close Campus - was designed to ensure school officials, emergency responders and support were prepared in the event of a school shooting.

Pottawattamie County Emergency Management Agency had organised the event with the Homeland Security Exercise and Evaluation Plan by distributing plans last week for how the mock scenario would unfold.

In the back story created for the drill, an 18 year-old high school student whose family are known firearm enthusiasts, starts a fight with a group of minority students.

The pupil then shouts racial slurs at the minority students before producing a handgun and opening fire.

A 17 year-old friend of the 'active shooter' then joins him in 'firing upon anyone in their path and chasing down anyone who is against their ill-perceived stand', according to the drill instructions.

Mystery of Nick Clegg's 'Mata Hari' aunt and a plot to kill Lenin - 27th Mar 2011

Nick Clegg was last night urged to lift a 90-year ban on secret documents that could implicate one of his ancestors in a British plot to kill Russian Bolshevik leader Vladimir Lenin.

The Deputy Prime Minister's great-great-aunt, Baroness Moura Budberg, was the lover of Robert Bruce Lockhart, a British diplomat posted in Moscow during the Russian Revolution.

Lockhart - said to have been an inspiration for Ian Fleming's James Bond - is suspected to have been the brains behind an assassination attempt on Lenin in August 1918.

Moura, a sexually liberated Tsarist aristocrat whose colourful love life earned her the nickname the Mata Hari of Russia, was sharing Lockhart's bed in a British consular flat when Red Guards burst in to arrest them after the attack.

UFO frenzy goes into overdrive as three red lights hover over Colorado town - 27th Mar 2011

It's the latest internet sensation - amateur footage of three red lights in a triangular formation hovering in the night sky above the town of Lafayette in Colorado.

The video, shot last Monday, shows that the sky was clear and witnesses said they could not see anything connecting the lights.

Leroy Vandervegt, a 50-year-old who has lived in Lafayette for 16 years, shot the video Sunday evening after his 17-year-old son saw the glowing orbs move from south west to south east along the horizon.

'I had no idea what it is,' he said. 'It wasn't a satellite, it wasn't an airplane and it wasn't a helicopter.'

By Friday, five days after posting, more than 39,000 people had watched the video on YouTube, dailycamera.com reports.

Mr Vandervegt said the lights made no noise and did not blink.

The lights remained in a triangular shape as they moved forward, though the shape of the triangle changed. Read More


Beaten by Gaddafi’s nephew and intimidated by his thugs... so why was I treated like a criminal by British justice? - 27th Mar 2011

The swaggering son of Gaddafi’s henchman hit Karen Etchebery so savagely he broke seven bones in her face – yet after a campaign of threats and Foreign Office pressure, his trial collapsed.

Here she speaks bravely about the disturbing events that saw him free to return to Libya – and led her to a cell in handcuffs.

A woman at the centre of the trial involving serious allegations of violent assault by Colonel Gaddafi’s nephew has given disturbing new evidence about how senior members of the Libyan regime were able to flout the law with impunity under Tony Blair’s Government.

Mohammed al-Sanussi was charged, in 2006, with an attack on two Brazilian escort girls, Karen Etchebery and Patricia Bech, at his London home. This paper revealed last month that the ensuing trial collapsed amid pressure from the Foreign Office, which wrote to the Director of Public Prosecutions pointing out that Britain’s financial interests could be damaged if the case was pursued. Al-Sanussi’s father, Abdullah al-Sanussi, is Gaddafi’s brother-in-law and head of Libya’s intelligence services

At the time BP was negotiating a £15 billion contract to secure oil and gas rights in the country.

Read More

Fact or Fiction - Was the Bible forged? Author claims some New Testament books were written by 'people pretending to be apostles' - 27th Mar 2011

Parts of the Bible were written by people who lied about their identity, an author has claimed.

Bart D Ehrman claims many books of the New Testament were forged by people pretending to be the apostles Peter, Paul or James.

Writing in the Huffington Post, Professor Ehrman, best selling author of 'Misquoting Jesus' and 'Jesus, Interrupted', said religious scholars were well aware of the 'lies' of the Bible.

While some were happy to acknowledge them others refer to them as 'pseudepigrapha' - meaning a falsely attributed work -, he wrote.

In his new book , Why the Bible's Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are, Professor Ehrman claims The Second Epistle of Peter - or 2 Peter - was forged.

'...scholars everywhere - except for our friends among the fundamentalists - will tell you that there is no way on God's green earth that Peter wrote the book.

'Someone else wrote it claiming to be Peter,' he writes.

He then suggests scholars who say it was acceptable in the ancient world for someone to write a book in the name of someone else, are wrong.

'If you look at what ancient people actually said about the practice, you'll see that they invariably called it lying and condemned it as a deceitful practice, even in Christian circles,' Professor Ehrman writes.

Many scholars think six of the 13 letters allegedly written by Paul were actually authored by somebody else claiming to be Paul, Professor Ehrman claims. Read More

Protecting the Criminals - Public servant on 'child sex' charges - but we're barred from telling you anything about him - 27th Mar 2011

A public servant has appeared in court on charges believed to be connected to child-sex offences under a draconian restriction which means nothing can be said about him.

The Mail on Sunday is aware of his job but cannot disclose any information about the man, who can be referred to only as ‘X’.

Bizarrely, a second defendant in the case has not been granted anonymity.
The concealment of the identity of the public servant is believed to be an unprecedented move in a criminal case of this kind.

It is not known on what basis he was granted anonymity.

Other restrictions have been used to conceal the identity of child-killer Mary Bell, and Jon Venables and Robert Thompson – the boys convicted of murdering toddler James Bulger.

In these cases, however, there were full and open trials and anonymity was imposed only after court proceedings had concluded.

This time, the restriction has been imposed before any trial, and, unusually, for only one of the defendants.

However, there is deep concern in legal circles about
the increasing imposition of restrictions on reporting and the creeping spread of secret justice. Read More

Police and hard-core anarchist rioters clash late into the night as 250,000-strong march against government cuts ends in violence - 27th Mar 2011

Extremists brought violent chaos to Central London yesterday after hijacking the much-heralded trade union protest against public spending cuts.

Trouble continued to flare late into the night as hundreds of people attempted to hijack yesterday's massive anti government cuts demonstration.

Riot police fought activists in Trafalgar Square as violent protesters threatened to overshadow the TUC rally in Hyde Park which had earlier passed off peacefully.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said between 200 and 300 people had gathered at the landmark location late yesterday evening.

He said: 'A large number from the crowd are throwing missiles and have attempted to damage the Olympic clock within the square.

'Officers have come under sustained attack as they deal with the disorder and attempted criminal damage.'

Splinter groups broke off from the main body of more than 250,000 demonstrators marching from Victoria Embankment to Hyde Park to launch an assault on the -capital’s main shopping district. Read More

BREAKING NEWS: Radioactive iodine levels spike to 1,850 times higher than normal in seawater near the Japanese Fukushima nuclear plant.

TOKYO (Reuters) - Japanese authorities evacuated workers on Sunday from a reactor building they were working in after high doses of radiation were detected at a crippled nuclear power plant, the plant's operator said.

Tokyo Electric Power Co said radiation 10 million times the usual level was detected in water that had accumulated at the No. 2 reactor's turbine housing unit.

A Tokyo Electric official said workers left the No. 2 reactor's turbine housing unit to prevent exposure to radiation.

They had been struggling to pump radioactive water out of the nuclear power station, battered by a huge earthquake and a tsunami just over two weeks ago, after it was found in buildings housing three of the six reactors.

On Thursday, three workers were taken to hospital from reactor No. 3 after stepping in water with radiation levels 10,000 times higher than usually found in a reactor. But it was not immediately clear if the numbers were comparable with Sunday's reading at reactor No. 2.

However, it was yet another indication that the crisis at the plant was far from over, a point the world's chief nuclear inspector underlined at the weekend. Read More