Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Libya: al-Qaeda among Libya rebels, Nato chief fears



Libyan rebel forces may have been infiltrated by al-Qaeda fighters, a senior American military commander has warned.

Admiral James Stavridis, Nato's Supreme Allied Commander, Europe, said that American intelligence had picked up "flickers" of terrorist activity among the rebel groups. Senior British government figures described the comment as "very alarming".

The admission came as the American, Qatari and British Governments indicated that they were considering arming rebel groups, who yesterday suffered a series of setbacks in their advance along the Libyan coast towards Tripoli.

The plan is likely to spark further splits in the international coalition, with Nato and Italian sources indicating the move would require another United Nations resolution.

On Tuesday more than 40 ministers from around the world met at a conference in London to discuss the situation in Libya.

They agreed to establish formal links with opposition groups in the rebel-stronghold of Benghazi with several countries sending official envoys to the area. Libyan opposition leaders yesterday also travelled to Britain for talks with David Cameron and Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State. (read more)

Lejeune Marines prepare to deploy off Libyan coast -- for what purpose?



Twenty-two hundred Marines and sailors from Camp Lejeune are preparing to deploy off the coast of Libya in northern Africa. They said goodbye to their families Monday afternoon, and they'll be leaving in the days ahead.

"There's always in the back of your mind what if, what could happen," Marine wife Carrie Cochran said.

Cochran, like the other wives, is confident her Marine is prepared for the mission.

"As long as he knows how to do his job and he keeps his concentration going, he can take care of his Marines then he can bring everybody home," Cochran said.

The 22nd Marine Expeditionary Unit was set to deploy to the Mediterranean later this year but that got bumped up once NATO forces launched an air assault on Libya.

The unit is relieving the 26th MEU, which took part in some of the initial assaults. The 22nd is a Marine, air and ground task force. Some are trained for aviation combat, others for ground combat. They can handle evacuations and humanitarian missions too.

Whatever the president decides, Cochran's husband, Sergeant Lewis Cochran, says he told his little boy, Dylan, he's ready.

"My Marines, all the Marines the whole PLT is ready to go," Sgt. Cochran said. (read more)

Say what? Japan to discuss nationalising Tepco, reports say -- bailout coming?

Speculation is growing that the Japanese government may start talks to nationalise Tokyo Electric Power, which owns the Fukushima nuclear plant.

Conflicting reports in local media caused nervousness among investors and Tepco's share price fell by 18%.

Tepco's future has been in question after the earthquake that struck Japan caused a radiation scare at Fukushima.

The company has said it will need to raise about $25bn (£15.6bn) to shore up its finances.

The talk of Tepco being nationalised has been fuelled by a statement from cabinet minister Koichiro Gemba to the Reuters news agency that a discussion about bailing out Tepco was possible.

But Chief Cabinet Secretary Yukio Edano said the government was not currently considering a nationalisation.

"Although details cannot be seen such as how exactly the government is going to nationalise the company, as long as there are concerns that Tepco may be nationalised, investors don't want to hold the stock," said Hajime Nakajima of Cosmo Securities.

On Tuesday a flood of sell orders caused Tepco shares to stop being traded temporarily.

A day earlier, the shares dropped to their lowest level in three decades. (read more)

US house prices 'hitting new price lows'

US single family home prices fell for the seventh month in a row in January, according to the S&P/Case-Shiller index of prices.

It monitors 20 metropolitan areas and found that seasonally adjusted prices had fallen in 12 of them.

In four cities, prices were at their lowest for 11 years, with the overall index down 0.2% between December and January.

The average annual price fall across the 20 cities was 3.1%.

Only Washington DC registered a meaningful rise in prices, gaining 3.6% over the year, while San Diego was flat at 0.1% above January's price a year ago.

S&P's David Blitzer said there could be worse to come: "The housing market recession is not yet over, and none of the statistics are indicating any form of sustained recovery.

"Keeping with the trends set in late 2010, January brings us weakening home prices with no real hope in sight for the near future." (Source)

Canada: Great Lakes nuclear shipments on hold

The Ontario nuclear utility Bruce Power is delaying plans to ship radioactive steam generators through the Great Lakes and the St. Lawrence River as it meets with some of the groups that have been protesting the move.

Bruce Power president Duncan Hawthorne said the delay would allow further talks with First Nations and M├ętis.

The plan has sparked protests from First Nations as well as municipal politicians and nuclear safety advocates, who worry that an accident in the Great Lakes would harm the fresh water supply to 40 million people.

Critics also said it would set a precedent for shipping radioactive waste through the Great Lakes.

Hawthorne said the company has met regulatory obligations but has not yet met its own standard needed for providing information to those legitimate groups. (read more)

China bank plays down credit boom risk

China's largest bank lent Rmb640bn ($98bn) to local governments in the post-crisis credit boom, but insists these loans do not pose a danger to the country's banking system.

In an interview with the Financial Times, Jiang Jianqing, chairman of Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, the world's biggest bank by market capitalisation, acknowledged that unbridled lending to development companies controlled by local governments did carry some risk for the economy.

The development companies now account for 10 per cent of ICBC's loan book. In the aftermath of the 2008 global financial crisis, Chinese banks roughly doubled their lending activity.

"It is important that people pay attention to this problem and we should be alert to the risks," Mr Jiang said. "[But] I don't believe this problem poses a systemic risk to the Chinese banking system." (read more)

Japan's nuclear contamination spreads to more U.S. states

Minuscule levels of radiation from Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant incident have been detected in a widening number of U.S. states, but the Environmental Protection Agency reaffirmed this week that the levels represent no threat to public health.

"To date, data from EPA's real-time radiation air monitoring networks continue to show typical fluctuations in background radiation levels," Jonathan Edwards, director of the EPA's Radiation Protection Division, said in a statement Monday. "The levels we are seeing are far below any levels of concern."

At least 15 states reported detecting radioisotopes in air or water or both. No states have recommended that residents take potassium iodide, a salt that protects the thyroid gland from radioactive iodine.

Progress Energy reported over the weekend that iodine-131 was detected in the air near its nuclear power plants near Hartsville, South Carolina, and Crystal River, Florida.

"We know that it's not coming from our plant," said Progress spokesman Drew Elliot. Had the U.S. nuclear plants been responsible for the radioactive iodine, other isotopes would also have been found, he said. The levels detected were so low that authorities do not require they be reported, he said.

Sensors in Maryland have also reported elevated levels of I-131 in air samples. "None of these levels pose a risk to health," the state's Department of Health said. The Maryland secretary of health said Monday that microscopic amounts were also discovered Friday in rainwater. (read more)

Rich Richard Branson says: "Recession? Get over it, and start making more of new opportunities"

Now is the time for young, enthusiastic and nimble companies to set up and thrive, writes Sir Richard Branson.

Building a dynamic entrepreneurial culture is one of the key characteristics of a healthy economy. A society which encourages new business and recognises the importance of start-ups and small firms will be successful on the global stage.

Today sees the launch of StartUp Britain, a new campaign by entrepreneurs for entrepreneurs, aimed at celebrating, inspiring and accelerating enterprise in the UK.

It has already gained the support of established entrepreneurs, big business and the full backing of the Prime Minister and Government. We must not stop there, as firing up a new generation of entrepreneurs will be a crucial part of our recovery and essential for creating sustainable growth in Britain over the next decade and beyond.

Start-ups and small firms are the engine of the economy and account for nearly 60pc of private sector jobs. To allow them to flourish, we must ensure we create an economy where it is easier for new companies and innovations to develop.

Frustratingly for those looking for an easy answer or formula to securing entrepreneurial growth, there isn't one. Governments can make it simpler for people to do business; banks can make it easier for companies to access money and regulators can ensure competition is encouraged. (read more)

Crushing inflation: US consumers use savings to pay for basics

Americans' savings rate dropped last month as new figures showed that consumers are using more of their disposable income to cope with the rising cost of food and petrol.

The savings rate declined to 5.8pc in February from 6.1pc in January, as incomes rose a smaller-than-forecast 0.3pc on the month, the Commerce Department said.

In a blitz of data at the start of the week, a separate report showed that consumer spending climbed 0.7pc last month, a better number than forecast, which was welcomed by markets.

Sharp increases in the cost of food and petrol are tempering some of the optimism about a pick-up in growth that many on Wall Street began the year with.

While most economists still expect the world's biggest economy to beat the 2.9pc growth it recorded in 2010, few believe consumers can now match this quarter the performance they put in last quarter when their spending grew at the fastest rate since before the crisis.

"The data provide yet more evidence that higher prices are denting economic growth," said Paul Dales, senior US economist at Capital Economics. (read more)

UK: Get ready for more shocks from soaraway utility bills

"I am frequently told by businesses and the tax profession about the importance of predictability, stability and simplicity in the tax system", said David Gauke, Exchequer Secretary to the Treasury.

He went on, reasuringly, in last summer's official Government report on reforming the tax system, "Tax Policy making: a new approach", to say: "I want a new approach to tax policy making; a more considered approach.

Consultation on policy design and scrutiny of draft legislation proposals should be the cornerstone of this approach". After 13 years of capricious Labour meddling in the tax system, the new Government's statement of intent seemed like a breath of fresh air, or at least it would have been had it actually been followed.

In so far as perhaps the most vital industry of all – energy - is concerned, last week's Budget fell short of these laudable ambitions by a country mile.

The increase in petroleum revenue tax came like a bolt out of the blue to all concerned, and because nobody has bothered properly to think it through, it is likely to have those very same unintended consequences that Mr Gauke said the consultation process would avoid.

As for a price floor for carbon, it's as if the limited consultation the Government launched last December never took place; all advice has been roundly ignored. (read more)

UK: House prices fell for the fifth time in six months during February

House prices fell for the fifth time in six months during February as activity in the property market remained subdued, according to figures from the Land Registry.

The average cost of a home in England and Wales dropped by 0.8pc to £162,215 during the month, to stand 1.7pc lower than in February 2010, the registry said.

It was the ninth consecutive month during which the annual rate of house price inflation has fallen, and the second month in a row during which it was negative, while the drop was the largest since October 2009.

The number of homes changing hands also fell to a seven-month low in December, the latest month for which figures are available, with 54,812 transactions taking place – 30pc below the level for February last year, although the decline may in part reflect the severe winter weather during the month.

The data is the latest in a run of gloomy figures on the property market, with Halifax recently reporting that house prices had fallen at their fastest annual rate for 16 months during February, while the number of mortgages being approved for house purchase remain well down on the levels that are consistent with a stable market.

Howard Archer, chief UK and European economist at IHS Global Insight, said: "The fact that house prices dropped for the fifth month in six in February, and by 0.8pc month on month, is fully consistent with our view that house prices will continue to trend down in 2011 after losing ground overall in the latter months of 2010. (read more)

Time short, tempers flare in budget showdown -- US Government shutdown looming once again

The specter of a partial government shutdown looms again as Congress returns to Washington with Democrats and Republicans as far apart on spending priorities as they were when winter turned to spring.

The best the two parties have been able to agree on so far this year has been stopgap spending measures to avoid any disruptions in government services while they tried to work out sharp differences over national spending priorities.

The vehicle for the debate, left simmering when lawmakers went back to their districts last week, is must-do legislation to bankroll the day-to-day operating budgets of federal agencies - including military operations in Iraq and Afghanistan - through the Sept. 30 end of the budget year. (read more)

The lamb with an extra spring in his step: Five-legged 'Jake the peg' doesn't let his extra limb get in the way - 29th Mar 2011

Ewe won't believe your eyes... this plucky spring lamb is frolicking about just fine despite being born with five legs.

The unusual creature, who has been aptly named Jake the Peg, was born last week with two normal hind legs and three front legs.

But the bizarre deformity hasn't stopped Jake leaping around his field in Newnham, Northamptonshire, with hundreds of other newly born lambs.

And he continues to baffle his owners by beating the odds - as most lambs born with deformities tend not to last long.

Owner Pip Hopcraft said: 'He's a tough one all right - we've had more than 600 lambs born over the past few weeks and some are inevitably born with a deformity.

'However they don't usually last long. And it is especially uncommon to have a lamb born healthy with five legs. Read More

Former BP boss Tony Hayward 'may be charged with manslaughter' over Gulf oil spill - 29th Mar 2011

Investigators to examine e-mails and other documents to determine what oil firm officials knew.

BP’s former chief executive Tony Hayward could face manslaughter charges over his role in the Gulf oil spill.

The British boss may be quizzed by U.S. investigators on whether decisions he personally made cut corners on safety and caused America's worst environmental disaster in which 11 workers died.

Possible charges that he could face include manslaughter or seaman’s manslaughter, which carries up to 10 years in jail.

Such a move would be unusual as companies at fault in environmental catastrophes are usually hit with criminal probes, not individuals.

It would likely been seen as further evidence that the Obama administration is still going after BP, even though experts have said that the oil spill was nowhere near as bad as previously thought.

Investigators are said to be looking at Hayward's testimony before Congress in which he stonewalled dozens of questions to see if he has implicated himself.

They will also be examining e-mails and other documents to determine what BP officials and the company’s drilling partners knew and whether they withheld any information. Read More

Are pesticides killing Britain's bees? Government science chief orders urgent inquiry - 29th Mar 2011

The safety of a new generation of powerful pesticides is being evaluated amid fears they are to blame for Britain's vanishing bees.

The chemicals, which are routinely used on farms and garden centres, attack the central systems of insects and make bee colonies more vulnerable to disease and pests.

The position of the UK government has always been that the chemicals, which are used on 2.5million acres of farmland, have been tested and proven to be safe.

However, it has emerged that Professor Robert Watson, the chief scientist at the food and farming department, DEFRA, has asked officials to examine new research findings.

A study carried out at the US Department of Agriculture's Bee Research Laboratory pointed the finger at the pesticides which are known as neo-nicotinoids.

Scientists have been struggling for decades to understand the disappearance of honeybees, where numbers have halved since the 1980s. Read More

Stray dogs, abandoned cows... and the rice farmers who refuse to go: The only living things left in Japan's nuclear no-man's land - 29th Mar 2011

The streets seem deserted and the houses stand empty. Visitors are greeted only by stray dogs and the subdued moans of abandoned cows.

But first appearances are deceptive. Despite the apocalyptic warnings to leave, some residents have chosen to stay in the exclusion zone near Fukushima crippled nuclear reactor and risk whatever comes.

Tens of thousands have been evacuated from the area, leaving in a hurry as the plant became dangerous, and the only people allowed in are workers battling to limit the radiation leaks.

However, a Japanese television crew braved the 'danger' signs marking 12 miles (20km) around the damaged Dai-ichi nuclear power plant. Read More

'The accuser has become the accused': Woman gang-raped by Gaddafi's troops is CHARGED with slander - 29th Mar 2011

The Libyan woman who was arrested after telling foreign journalists she had been gang-raped by Gaddafi's troops has been charged, a government spokesman said today.

In a chaotic press conference, the official said Iman Al-Obeidi was being questioned by police - despite a promise that she had been returned to her family.

'The accuser has now become the accused,' he added, accusing her of a 'grave offence'.

The spokesman, Moussa Ibrahim, said the men accused by Iman al-Obeidi are now suing her. A son of a high ranking Libyan official was among those she claimed had raped her, he said.

'The boys she accused are bringing a case against her because it's a very grave offence to accuse someone of a sexual crime,' he told reporters in the Libyan capital.

Miss Al-Obeidi was taken into custody after bursting into the Rixos Hotel in Tripoli in a dishevelled and desperate state.

She was dragged away by officials and has not been seen in public since.

The regime had promised that foreign reporters would be able to speak to her today.

Her parents claimed last night that she was being held hostage in Gaddafi's compound in Bab Al-Aziziya. Read More

Radioactive particles from earthquake-hit Japanese nuclear plant are detected in OXFORDSHIRE - 29th Mar 2011

Radiation from the Fukushima leak has been detected across Britain, it was confirmed today as Japan was put on 'maximum' alert.

The Health Protection Agency revealed that radioactive iodine had already been discovered 5,500 miles from the stricken plant in Oxfordshire and Glasgow.

Air samples are being tested elsewhere in Britain over fears that much of the country could be hit by the radioactive plume.

Dr Michael Clark of the HPA said: 'Very low levels of radioactivity, traceable to Fukushima, have been detected at monitoring stations in the UK including Chilton, in Oxfordshire, and Glasgow, in Scotland.

'These traces have been found in Europe - Switzerland, Germany and Iceland - and in the USA.

'They're trace levels but of course with radioactivity we can measure very low amounts.'

The revelation came as Japanese prime minister Naoto Kan told his parliament that the country was grappling with its worst problems since the Second World War.

'This quake, tsunami and the nuclear accident are the biggest crises for Japan' in decades, Mr Kan said. Read More

Rainwater Across Entire US Contaminated With Japan Nuclear Radiation

Rainwater across the entire United States is now testing positive for nuclear radiation contamination from Japan’s nuclear fallout.

Clicking on the individual stories quickly reveals that Japan nuclear radiation is being detected in rainwater across the entire United States.

Before I continue with more from the article, are you serious Mr, John Auerbach? You mean to tell me that Radioactive iodine is being found in the rainwater yet the drinking water is unaffected? Who, just WHO!? in their right mind is seriously going to believe that? Our drinking water comes from the rainwater. WOW!!!! Doublespeak at it’s finest.

And what in the world has happened to objective journalism? An official says something that is totally nonsensical and it is printed and echoed to every news outlet in the country without even being questioned for validity. (read more)

Cost of Libya Intervention $600 Million for First Week, Pentagon Says

One week after an international military coalition intervened in Libya, the cost to U.S. taxpayers has reached at least $600 million, according figures provided by the Pentagon.

U.S. ships and submarines in the Mediterranean have unleashed at least 191 Tomahawk cruise missiles from their arsenals to the tune of $268.8 million, the Pentagon said.

U.S. warplanes have dropped 455 precision guided bombs, costing tens of thousands of dollars each.

A downed Air Force F-15E fighter jet will cost more than $60 million to replace.

And operation of the war craft, guzzling ever-expensive fuel to maintain their positions off the Libyan coast and in the skies above, could reach millions of dollars a week, experts say. (read more)

Libya Stalemate: Gaddafi troops force rebels back

Pro-government forces have intensified attacks on Libyan rebels, forcing them to abandon the key town of Bin Jawad.

The BBC's Nick Springate in Bin Jawad said hundreds of cars were fleeing eastwards from the town, which had been in rebel hands earlier on Tuesday.

The city of Misrata, closer to Tripoli, is also reported to be under heavy attack from government troops.

The renewed fighting comes as delegates from dozens of countries meet in London to discuss the future of Libya.

Anti-Gaddafi forces had made rapid progress westwards from their stronghold in Benghazi in recent days - greatly aided by international air strikes - seizing a number of coastal communities and important oil installations, including Ras Lanuf, Brega, Uqayla and Bin Jawad.

But on Tuesday rebel fighters said pro-Gaddafi forces had used heavy weaponry to check their advance.

The rebels first retreat from the town of Nawfaliya, 120km (75 miles) from Col Gaddafi's birthplace of Sirte, to the coastal town of Bin Jawad, some 30km further east.

Our correspondent in Bin Jawad reported intense fighting over the town before the rebels fled in hundreds of vehicles. (read more)

Japan on 'maximum alert' in nuclear crisis: PM

Japan's prime minister is insisting his country is on "maximum alert" to bring its nuclear crisis under control as officials race to stabilize an earthquake-damaged reactor complex and contain the spread of radioactive water.

Naoto Kan told parliament on Tuesday, before a new earthquake was recorded off Japan's main island of Honshu, that Japan was grappling with its worst problems since the Second World War.

"This quake, tsunami and the nuclear accident are the biggest crises for Japan" in decades, said Kan.

He said the situation remained unpredictable, but added: "We will continue to handle it in a state of maximum alert."

Tuesday's tremor, with a preliminary magnitude of 6.3, struck around 8 p.m. local time near the spot of the devastating March 11 quake, the U.S. Geological Survey reported. There were no immediate reports of damage.

The prime minister's comments also came as officials raised the alarm about the spread of radiation near the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power complex, 220 kilometres northeast of Tokyo.

Plutonium has been found in seawater and soil near the complex and some samples can be traced to the earthquake-damaged facility, plant operator Tokyo Electric Power said on Monday. (read more)

European Union to ban cars from cities by 2050

Cars will be banned from London and all other cities across Europe under a draconian EU masterplan to cut CO2 emissions by 60 per cent over the next 40 years.

The European Commission on Monday unveiled a "single European transport area" aimed at enforcing "a profound shift in transport patterns for passengers" by 2050.

The plan also envisages an end to cheap holiday flights from Britain to southern Europe with a target that over 50 per cent of all journeys above 186 miles should be by rail.

Top of the EU's list to cut climate change emissions is a target of "zero" for the number of petrol and diesel-driven cars and lorries in the EU's future cities.

Siim Kallas, the EU transport commission, insisted that Brussels directives and new taxation of fuel would be used to force people out of their cars and onto "alternative" means of transport.

"That means no more conventionally fuelled cars in our city centres," he said. "Action will follow, legislation, real action to change behaviour." (read more)

New Jersey Woman (Kisha Curtis) Accused Of Dumping Dog Down Trash Chute

A New Jersey woman has been charged with four counts of animal cruelty after authorities accused of her dumping a starved 1-year-old pit bull down a trash chute.

Kisha Curtis, 28, could face up to six months in jail, a $1,000 fine or community service if convicted.

On March 16, the dog was found in the garbage of a Newark apartment building after apparently having been thrown down a trash chute in a plastic bag in the 22-story building.

When a maintenance worker discovered him, the pup was rushed to the trauma unit at the Garden State Veterinary Specialists.

It was determined the dog was severely anemic and malnourished. He received a blood transfusion and was later named Patrick. (read more)

Prominent Chinese blogger Ran Yunfei charged as crackdown deepens

Chinese police have arrested prominent writer Ran Yunfei for challenging the ruling Communist Party, people close to the blogger said on Monday, the latest in a string of arrests in a deepening crackdown on dissent.

Ran, a writer and literature magazine editor from southwest Sichuan province, who had been detained without charge for more than a month, was formally arrested on the charge of inciting subversion of state power, Wang Yi, a Christian activist in Sichuan and a friend of Ran, told Reuters.

Ran, 46, was detained by police in Chengdu on February 20 as unrest rippling across the Middle East generated online calls for similar "Jasmine Revolution" protests in China.

The charge of inciting subversion was also used to jail Liu Xiaobo, the dissident who won the Nobel Peace Prize, which infuriated Beijing.

"Basically, it's the crime of expressing your opinions," said Wang, formerly a legal scholar. "In this case, too, the prosecutors will probably use essays that Ran has published on the Internet."

Nobel Laureate Liu has been serving an 11-year sentence since 2009 for co-writing the Charter 08 manifesto that called for sweeping political reform and is seen as one of the boldest challenges to Communist Party rule in recent memory.

The Chinese authorities are seeking to stifle any potential challenge to their power ahead of a Party leadership handover in late 2012. (read more)

Man Lives In Glass Apartment Inside Mall Of America to Highlight 60% of Minnesotans Being Overweight

Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota’s campaign “Let me see you move” is now on display at Mall of America.

St. Paul’s Scott Jorgenson, the “Human Doing” is spending a month in a glass apartment in an attempt to show us all how to live a healthier life. For 30 days and nights he’ll be under the watchful eyes of thousands of people on-line and hundreds right outside his door.

“When they spoke to me about the Do Campaign, it’s that nobody moves anymore. I was living proof I didn’t think of myself as lazy,” Scott said.

Three to five times a day Scott will exercise. Through Facebook and Twitter, online followers vote on precisely what he will have to do for a minimum of 10 minutes.

“When the time comes, whichever activity has the most votes he comes out and does it,” Dr. Marc Manly, chief prevention officer at Blue Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota, said.

Dr. Manly added that he’s already seeing a major shift in Jorgenson’s lifestyle.

“He’s also doing other things that aren’t even on the list. He’s taking walks around the mall, he’s doing some special activities. So he’s an active guy now and that’s a big change from just four days ago.” (read more)

Israel deploys 'Iron Dome' anti-rocket system

Israel on Sunday stationed the first batteries of its "Iron Dome" short-range missile defence system in the south of the country, but stressed the initial deployment was experimental.

The unique multi-million dollar system was stationed outside the southern city of Beersheva, days after it was hit by several rockets fired from the Gaza Strip amid a rise in tensions and tit-for-tat violence.

But officials were quick to point out that the system, the first of its kind in the world, could not yet provide complete protection for the hundreds of rockets fired from Gaza into southern Israel.

"Israel has been under missile threat for 20 years, since the (1991) Gulf War. I do not want to foster the illusion that Iron Dome, which we are deploying today for the first time, will provide a complete or comprehensive answer," Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told his cabinet.

"Iron Dome is still in the experimental stage and we do not have the possibility of deploying batteries to protect every home, school, base and installation."

So far, Israel has acquired just two batteries and no decision has been made yet on where to deploy the second unit.

"Today we are trying to accelerate the operational tests in order to be ready as fast as we can with the first systems," said the commander of Israel's air defences, Brigadier General Doron Gavish, speaking to reporters next to the first operational battery. (read more)

Appeals Court Revives Lawsuit Challenging NSA Surveillance of Americans

It’s easy to forget these days, but former President George W. Bush’s illegal warrantless surveillance program was never halted by Congress, nor by the Obama administration. It was merely legalized in a 2008 law called the FISA Amendments Act. That means the surveillance of Americans’ international phone calls and internet use — complete with secret rooms in AT&T data centers around the country — is likely still ongoing.

On Monday, a federal appeals court reinstated a key legal challenge to that surveillance: a lawsuit filed by the ACLU and others within hours of the FISA Amendments Act (.pdf) being signed into law. The lawsuit attacks the constitutionality of the legislation, which allows the government to electronically eavesdrop on Americans without a probable-cause warrant, so long as one of the parties to the communication resides outside the United States, and is suspected of a link to terrorism.

The decision by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals means the ACLU, and other rights groups involved in the suit, might get their day in court. “This is a really big victory,” said ACLU spokeswoman Rachel Myers. “The ruling is that you don’t have to prove you’ve been spied on to challenge an unlawful spy act.” (read more)

War on drugs has failed, say former heads of MI5, CPS and BBC

The "war on drugs" has failed and should be abandoned in favour of evidence-based policies that treat addiction as a health problem, according to prominent public figures including former heads of MI5 and the Crown Prosecution Service.

Leading peers – including prominent Tories – say that despite governments worldwide drawing up tough laws against dealers and users over the past 50 years, illegal drugs have become more accessible.

Vast amounts of money have been wasted on unsuccessful crackdowns, while criminals have made fortunes importing drugs into this country.

The increasing use of the most harmful drugs such as heroin has also led to “enormous health problems”, according to the group.

The MPs and members of the House of Lords, who have formed a new All-Party Parliamentary Group on Drug Policy Reform, are calling for new policies to be drawn up on the basis of scientific evidence.

It could lead to calls for the British government to decriminalise drugs, or at least for the police and Crown Prosecution Service not to jail people for possession of small amounts of banned substances.

Their intervention could receive a sympathetic audience in Whitehall, where ministers and civil servants are trying to cut the numbers and cost of the prison population. The Justice Secretary, Ken Clarke, has already announced plans to help offenders kick drug habits rather than keeping them behind bars.

The former Labour government changed its mind repeatedly on the risks posed by cannabis use and was criticised for sacking its chief drug adviser, Prof David Nutt, when he claimed that ecstasy and LSD were less dangerous than alcohol. (read more)

Thanks America: Cancer on the rise globally as developing nations eat American foods and use American products


Cancer rates are increasing worldwide but especially in economically developing countries, according to a report released by the American Cancer Society in honor of World Cancer Day and published in CA: A Cancer Journal for Clinicians.

According to the report, an estimated 12.6 million new cases of cancer were diagnosed in 2008, and 7.6 million people died from cancer. The majority of those cases - 7.1 million and 4.8 million, respectively - occurred in economically developing countries. The spread of an "affluence" disease such as cancer to poorer countries can be attributed to the increasing adoption of unhealthy behaviors such as smoking, sedentism and poor diet.

The researchers noted that one-third of the cancer deaths in 2008 could have been prevented by simple measures such as people quitting smoking, drinking less, eating better, exercising more and reducing infection risk. That would have saved 7,300 lives per day.

In the developed world, only 10 percent of cancers are caused by infection, but 25 percent are caused by infection in the developing world. (read more)

Maniacal Medicine: Is the FDA silencing journalists?

Many prominent organizations and agencies like the FDA release information with an embargo on it. In other words, news organizations will agree not to publish this information until a certain date. This gives the journalists time to research and write their articles, so that their more detailed investigation - often a deeper perspective on a complex story - can appear at the same time as the organization's press conference.

So the FDA's new policy goes like this; you can write about FDA's new drug/medical device approval, but you can't do any outside research or ask any experts to weigh in on our decision before the embargo is lifted. The FDA wants to forbid reporters from doing any independent research and gathering opposing views. Effectively, the FDA wants journalists to not ask questions, not to seek independent experts and simply tow the FDA line like good little stenographers.

This is a drastic change - journalists customarily share the information with other experts in the field to get a more impartial perspective. These experts are are always apprised of the embargo, must agree to its terms, and fall under the same confidentiality agreement as the media organization. (read more)

Even The Troops Are Waking Up: Americans Growing Tired of American Imperialism

BREAKING NEWS: 6.3 Magnitude Earthquake NEAR THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, Japan - 29th Mar 2011

Tuesday, March 29, 2011 at 10:54:33 UTC A large Earthquake hit just off the East Coast of Honshu with a depth of just 18.2km (11.3 Miles)

No Tsunami warning in affect at this moment.

Search On For Swan Killer - Oregon State - 28th Mar 2011

Oregon State Police say they want help tracking down whoever killed two swans and dumped them in garbage cans.The dead tundra swans were found at the Burns Christian Church at West Jackson and South Buena Vista avenues in Burns last Friday.

Oregon State Police Fish & Wildlife workers say the animals were shot with a small-caliber gun, likely the day before.The killing of swans at any time is against the law in Oregon.

Anyone with information that could help the investigation is asked to call 541-589-0486 or the “Turn in Poachers” hot line at 800-452-7888. People can report information anonymously. Source

Radiation from Japan reaches B.C. Tests detect iodine-131 in samples taken in Lower Mainland , CANADA - 29th Mar 2011

Radiation from the Japanese nuclear reactor damaged in the March 11 earthquake and tsunami has been detected in B.C. seaweed and rainwater samples, researchers say.

Tests found iodine-131 in samples taken in the Lower Mainland on March 19, 20 and 25, Simon Fraser University said in a news release Monday.

SFU nuclear scientist Kris Starosta is confident the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant is responsible for the recent discovery, but he said there is no immediate danger to the public.

"As of now, the levels we're seeing are not harmful to humans. We're basing this on Japanese studies following the Chernobyl incident in 1986 where levels of iodine-131 were four times higher than what we've detected in our rainwater so far," Starosta said. "Studies of nuclear incidents and exposures are used to define radiation levels at which the increase in cancer risk is statistically significant. When compared to the information we have today, we have not reached levels of elevated risk."

The rainwater was collected at SFU's Burnaby campus and in downtown Vancouver, while seaweed samples were collected in North Vancouver near the SeaBus terminal. Read More

MAMMATUS CLOUDS - Most Amazing Natural Phenomenon In The World - 29th Mar 2011

MAMMATUS CLOUDS - When do cloud bottoms appear like bubbles? Normal cloud bottoms are flat because moist warm air that rises and cools will condense into water droplets at a very specific temperature, which usually corresponds to a very specific height.

After water droplets form that air becomes an opaque cloud. Under some conditions, however, cloud pockets can develop that contain large droplets of water or ice that fall into clear air as they evaporate. Such pockets may occur in turbulent air near a thunderstorm, being seen near the top of an anvil cloud, for example. Resulting mammatus clouds can appear especially dramatic if sunlit from the side.


Mothers-to-be flee from quake radiation as Japanese nuclear engineers discover contaminated water OUTSIDE stricken power plant - 29th Mar 2011

Hundreds of pregnant women are fleeing Japan’s east coast and capital Tokyo over fears that radiation from the Fukushima nuclear plant will harm their unborn babies.

Workers are battling to avert a nuclear disaster at the Fukushima Dai-Ichi power plant have discovered a pool of radioactive water outside the crippled facility.

Hospitals in the Osaka region, 450 miles from the crippled power station which is spewing radiation into the air, have been inundated with requests from mothers-to-be seeking a safe place to give birth Read More

(Update) Dying Detroit: Haunting photos of crumbling neighbourhoods highlight the terrible decline of America's once-great Motor City - 29th Mar 2011

Population drops 25 per cent to 713,777 - the city's lowest since 1910
  • Largely African-American population moves away to escape the terrible effects of the recession
  • Buildings rot on deserted streets that were once bustling thoroughfares

It was the centre of America's industrial muscle, but now it lies in ruins - a stark portrait of urban decay ravaged by the global recession

The population of devastated Detroit has dropped by 25 per cent in the past ten years and is now at its lowest since 1910.

Empty factories, burnt-out homes, silent banks and even derelict police stations litter the place once known as the 'Motor City' - where Henry Ford built his first car.

Almost a third of the city's 140 square miles is vacant or derelict. Read More

(ONLY in the U.K.) Heroin dealers to escape jail: New sentencing proposals mean pushers would go free - 29th Mar 2011

Drug dealers could in future escape jail even if they sell up to £2,000 worth of heroin.

New guidelines would allow courts to give community penalties to those playing a ‘subordinate’ role in a criminal gang.

The ‘lower level’ offenders – such as drug runners – could keep their liberty even if arrested over the sale of up to 50 grams of heroin or cocaine or up to 100 tablets of ecstasy.

Under the Sentencing Council’s proposals, these quantities would be seen as small. However, 50g is enough for 1,000 hits of heroin or 1,000 lines of cocaine.

Critics of the plans say the wrong message is being sent to criminals.

‘Anyone involved in the drug trade should face a custodial sentence and they should know they face a custodial sentence,’ said Tory MP James Clappison.

‘The idea you can supply 99 people with ecstasy and be described in any way as a minor participant is boggling. Nobody is going to put their hands up in court and say “I’m Mr Big”.’

Jail sentences will be reduced for dealers who say they are sorry or otherwise show remorse, the guidelines suggest. Read More

Convicted sex attacker freed to attack brothers aged 7 and 4 in McDonald's toilet is jailed - 28th Mar 2011

A paedophile freed on licence attacked two young brothers after their father had allowed them to go to the lavatory in McDonald’s by themselves.

Simon Archer lay in wait as the boys, aged just seven and four, went in together, just yards from where their family were sitting in the restaurant.

In a horrifying attack, Archer, 23, raped the elder boy and sexually assaulted his younger brother.

Their terror only ended when the younger boy collapsed crying on the floor but the ordeal continues to have a devastating effect on their lives.

Only weeks earlier Archer had been released midway through a jail sentence for previous child sex offences and was on strict licence conditions prohibiting him from being alone with children.

Yesterday Judge Michael Carroll jailed Archer for an indeterminate period, and said he was a ‘dangerous sexual predator’ who may never be released. (I wish the courts would stand by their word and make this statement true, no doubt he will walk the streets on some made up human rights claim)

The boys, from a religious family who had spent the morning together at church, were so traumatised they said nothing to their father at the time, Woolwich Crown Court in London was told. Read More

Drugs giant wins £312m off taxman - 29th Mar 2011

PROFITS at drugs giant ASTRAZENECA are to be boosted by an extra £312million this year thanks to a windfall from the taxman.

The firm has been in dispute with revenue officials in the US and Britain for ten years over how much they must pay in each country for goods sold between subsidiaries.

Officials were also chasing taxes relating to the merger of AZ's US businesses in 2000. AZ set aside £1.43billion to settle any tax bill.

But they have now been told they will only have to fork out £690million.

As a result, the company has decided to add £312million from its "emergency fund" to this year's first quarter profits. Total profits in 2010 totalled almost £7billion. AZ had been selling drugs developed and made in the UK to one of its American subsidiaries where they were then sold to patients.

An AZ spokesman said: "It had to be decided how much tax was paid here and how much in the US. We didn't want to pay twice. Read More

Note: For those who do not know who AstraZeneca is, this company was Raided by the EU Watchdog in a Drug probe during 2010

AstraZeneca today admitted its offices had been raided by European Union competition officials over concerns about possible collusion to keep cheaper copies of its blockbuster heartburn drug Nexium off the market. Read Full Article

More Dead Sealife Continues to Plague U.S. Beaches - 28th Mar 2011

ALABAMA— Months after the hundreds of birds fell dead from the sky and after thousands of dead fish, crabs, sardines, dolphins, and whales washed ashore worldwide, more dead fish washed ashore in Alabama, and a dead whale washed ashore in Virginia.

There's still no cause for the hundreds of dead fish that were found dead along the gulf shores over the weekend. They were also found along the gulf state pier Saturday morning. Park officials said it was unusual to see spade fish in that area this early in the year. The dead sigh spanned about three miles of shoreline.

The Department of Wildlife and Fisheries will take the fish in for testing.

In Sandbridge, VA, the carcass of a Sei whale was found Sunday morning. The whale measured 35 to 40 feet long. Staffers from the Virginia Beach Aquarium were called to the site so that it could be secured and would not wash back into the ocean.

The aquarium is planning to perform a necropsy on the dead animal to determine a cause of death.

Sei whales are not common to the Virginia Beach area. Source

Food drop for wallabies stranded in New Wales - 29th Mar 2011

The Department of Environment and Conservation will begin delivering food to about 200 wallabies stranded due to flooding in the east Kimberley.

The DEC believes there are about 150 agile wallabies and 50 northern nailtail wallabies marooned on two small islands near Kununurra due to Lake Argyle's rising water levels.

DEC Kimberley Regional Manager Daryl Moncrieff said they would begin dropping off hay for the wallabies within the next 24 hours which will keep them alive until wildlife officers can assess whether the animals can be relocated.

"Time and the weather are against us, with our helicopter flyover and visit to the larger island yesterday confirming the death of another 50 animals due to a lack of shelter and extreme heat," Mr Moncrieff said.

"If we do determine that a relocation may have a reasonable chance of success rather than stressing the animals too much, we will focus on the weaker animals first to avoid suffering and help maximise wallaby survival."

However, Mr Moncrieff said no matter what decision is made there would be further loss of animals due to kangaroos and wallabies being prone to stress-related death. Read More

PHUKET WEATHER ALERT: Prime Minister’s office warns of flooding - 29th Mar 2011

Unseasonably heavy rains have swamped the South. Graphic: The Nation

PHUKET: The Prime Minister’s Office has warned residents in Phuket to brace for flooding, which has already stalled services at Nakhon Sri Thammarat and Samui airports.

Thousands of passengers were stranded on Koh Samui in Surat Thani province yesterday, while Nakhon Sri Thammarat Airport has been closed since Sunday.

Bangkok Airways canceled all 36 domestic and international flights in and out of Samui yesterday, due to the severe thunderstorms hitting the island and the surrounding area.

The airline said affected passengers should contact its ticketing office to rebook their flights at no additional charge.

Tourists on the island of Samui had completely lost access to the mainland as of press time because ferry services were also suspended.

As the severe flooding raged on in the South, the death toll rose to nine.

Floodwaters are now wreaking havoc in the provinces of Chumphon, Nakhon Sri Thammarat, Surat Thani, Trang, Krabi and Phatthalung. Read More

Baroness: Reclaim Our Streets From Thugs - 29th Mar 2011

Communities champion Baroness Newlove has called on members of the public to "reclaim their streets" in the fight against anti-social behaviour.

The widow of murdered father-of-three Garry Newlove said she wanted a new approach to neighbourhood crime that saw local people being given more power on their own streets.

Lady Newlove wrote in her first report as the Government's Champion for Active, Safer Communities, a role to which she was appointed last October, that she "wanted to make sure something positive" came out of the death of her husband.

Mr Newlove was 47 when he was kicked to death by a gang of teenagers outside his home in Warrington, Cheshire.

Working as an ambassador against anti-social behaviour, Lady Newlove has toured the UK in the past six months speaking to people about how best to tackle neighbourhood crime. Read More

Gaddafi Demands End to 'Barbaric Offensive' - 29th Mar 2011

Libyan leader Colonel Muammar Gaddafi has urged international powers meeting in London to end their "barbaric offensive" against his country.

In a letter to representatives of more than 40 countries, including all those who have contributed to the military operation in Libya, Gaddafi likened the airstrikes on his forces to military campaigns launched by Adolf Hitler during the Second World War.

The one-day meeting of the so-called "contact group" includes officials from the United Nations, the African Union, the Arab League and Nato.

It has been designed to take stock of progress on the ground and discuss how best to proceed and comes hours after US President Barack Obama justified the reasons behind military action.

But the gathering takes place against a backdrop of increased criticism of the strikes on Gaddafi's troops and an emerging fear in the Arab world that efforts at securing a no-fly zone and protecting the public are a precursor to regime change. Read More