Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Protests erupt in Afghanistan after US preacher Terry Jones burned a copy of the Koran -- Gallery

Reports of funeral, police shootings raise tensions in Syria

Tensions flared outside the Syrian capital of Damascus on Tuesday as reports surfaced of a massive funeral for a man apparently shot dead by security forces in one town and two police officers apparently killed during a patrol elsewhere.

Eyewitness Abou Assad told CNN that around 6,000 mourners were in Moathamia for the funeral of Ahmad al Doumarani, a gathering that turned into the latest mass display of anti-government fervor in the restive country.

The witness said security forces killed al Domarani and wounded two other men early Tuesday, and al Domarani's burial was held later at a mosque. He added the men were workers and were headed home, but he couldn't provide any further detail about why and how the violence occurred. (read more)

Gbagbo negotiating surrender, Ivory Coast foreign minister says



After days of heavy fighting, forces loyal to Ivory Coast's Laurent Gbagbo laid down their arms Tuesday, and the self-declared president was negotiating the terms of his surrender, his foreign minister said.

Calm was reported Tuesday afternoon in Abidjan, the West African nation's largest city and the center of the battle between Gbagbo's military and those loyal to his rival, Alassane Ouattara, who is recognized internationally as the legitimate president.

"We must now do what we can do to have lasting peace," said Alcide Djedje, the foreign minister, who participated in talks at the French ambassador's residence in Abidjan.

Two of Gbagbo's generals were in "the process of negotiating a surrender," French Prime Minister Francois Fillon told parliament Tuesday. A U.N. official said that Gbagbo asked for U.N. protection for himself during the negotiations. (read more)

Libyan rebels: NATO is useless -- and wants airstrikes to stop if "they won't be done properly"

Libyan rebels have accused Nato of being too slow to act - and asked them to suspend operations unless they "do the job properly".

Rebel leader Abdel Fattah Younes has complained the alliance takes hours to respond to events on the battlefield because of an overly bureaucratic process.

He claimed the alliance's inaction was allowing Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's forces to advance and was letting them kill people in the rebel-held city of Misrata "everyday".

He said: "Nato is moving very slowly, allowing Gaddafi forces to advance. Nato has become our problem."

Mr Younes also said if Nato wanted to lift Col Gaddafi's weeks-long siege in Misrata, it could have done it weeks ago.

Nato took over from a coalition led by the United States, Britain and France on March 31.

It puts the alliance in charge of air strikes targeting Col Gaddafi's military infrastructure as well as policing a no-fly zone and an arms embargo.

Mr Younes said: "One official calls another and then from the official to the head of Nato and from the head of Nato to the field commander. This takes eight hours." (read more)

Flor Morina: 'I was enslaved for 40 days' -- modern day slavery exists and is rampant

A new California state law requires manufacturers and retailers in the state to discose their efforts at making sure their supply chains are free of slavery. It goes into effect in 2012. (Watch Barbara Starr's report)

As part of the process of getting the law passed, one modern-day slavery victim, Flor Molina, testified before California's leglislature last year about her experience of being enslaved. Here is her story in her own words from the edited testimony:

In the winter of 2001, I became a victim of slavery in the garment industry in Los Angeles. I was an easy target for my trafficker: I was a desperate mother who had just lost my baby because I didn't have the money to take her to the hospital when she got sick.

After my baby died, I got so depressed and worried that what happened to my baby could happen to my other three children. I was taking sewing classes in hopes of starting my own business and earn enough money to take care of my children.

My sewing teacher was approached by a trafficker because she knew a lot of women who knew how to sew and would be desperate to come to the United States to make money. There were no opportunities in my town, so when my sewing teacher told me about the opportunity to go to the U.S., I was definitely interested.

I had to leave my mom and my children behind. I was told that when I got to the U.S. I will have a job so I could send money home, food and a place to stay. When I arrived in Los Angeles, I quickly realized it had all been a lie. (read more)

Japan charges 2 with peddling fake radiation drug -- sold as "Premium Zeolite", avoid!

Japanese police have charged two people with selling a bogus drug they told buyers would protect them from radiation exposure, investigators said Tuesday.

The substance, sold as "Premium Zeolite," was billed as absorbing radioactive substances and allowing the body to excrete them within six hours. Tokyo's Metropolitan Police said the two had made 47,500 yen (about $565) from selling the drug online to three people in Ibaraki Prefecture, near the earthquake-damaged Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant.

Police said they found another 47 bottles of the product in their office.

The suspects, Natsumi Chiba, 29, and Fumitaka Umewaka, 50, have been charged with selling medicine without a license. They were being held for questioning late Tuesday, Tokyo police said. (Source)

US: Air Force spending $4 million a day for Libya war -- less than spent on Japan rescue efforts

The Air Force secretary says the service has been spending about $4 million a day to keep 50 fighter jets and nearly 40 support aircraft in the Libya conflict, including the cost of munitions.

Secretary Michael Donley tells reporters that the Air Force has spent $75 million as of Tuesday morning on the war. He says the U.S. decision to end its combat strike role in the conflict will cut costs, but he could not say by how much.

He says the Air Force has spent close to $50 million on the relief effort for the Japan earthquake, including $40 million to evacuate between 5,000-6,000 U.S. personnel.

ElBaradei: We'll fight back if Israel attacks Gaza

In interview with Arab newspaper, former IAEA chief says if elected as Egypt's next president he will open Rafah crossing in case of an Israeli attack.

Former International Atomic Energy Agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei, who had previously announced his intetions to run for the presidency of Egypt, said Monday that “if Israel attacked Gaza we would declare war against the Zionist regime."

In an interview with the Al-Watan newspaper he said: "In case of any future Israeli attack on Gaza - as the next president of Egypt – I will open the Rafah border crossing and will consider different ways to implement the joint Arab defense agreement."

He also stated that "Israel controls Palestinian soil" adding that that "there has been no tangible breakthrough in reconciliation process because of the imbalance of power in the region - a situation that creates a kind of one way peace." (read more)

India bans Japan food imports, says radiation spreading

India has imposed a three-month ban on imports of food articles from the whole of Japan on fears that radiation from an earthquake-hit nuclear plant was spreading to other parts of the country, becoming the first country to introduce a blanket ban.

The ban comes in the fourth week of unsuccessful attempts to safely secure the Fukushima nuclear power plant in central Japan crippled by an earthquake and tsunami in what could be the world's biggest nuclear disaster in a quarter of a century.

"Import of food articles coming from Japan stand suspended with immediate effect for a period of three months or till such time as credible information is available that the radiation hazard has subsided to acceptable limits," a statement from the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare said.

"After detailed discussions, it was concluded that since the radiation is spreading/expanding horizontally in other parts of Japan, it may result in further radioactive contamination in the supply chain of food exports from Japan," the statement added. (read more)

Israel: Second Iron Dome Battery Deployed -- to Protect Ashkelon

An second battery of the Iron Dome anti-rocket system was deployed Monday in southern Israel, according to Army Radio. The battery, operated by commanders and soldiers from the IAF's Aerial Defense Network, will be deployed in as part of efforts to protect residents of the cities of Ashkelon and Ashdod against rocket fire from Gaza.

This is the second Iron Dome battery ever deployed. The first battery was deployed in the Be'er Sheva region eight days earlier.

Shortly after the IDF announced the deployment of the battery, Gaza terrorists fired a 'Kassam' type short range rocket at the Hof Ashkelon area. No one was reported hurt. Iron Dome was apparently not used against the rocket.

Iron Dome is considered a significant achievement for the Israeli defense establishment, and is currently being assimilated into operational use by the IAF. It will be used to defend Israel against the threat posed by rockets and mortar shells. The Iron Dome system is capable of identifying and destroying such projectiles before they strike Israeli territory.

“Iron Dome will provide sound protection against missile and rocket fire at the residents of Israel’s southern communities. However, it is not hermetic,” said Aerial Defense Network Commander, Brig. Gen. Doron Gavish.

“Its deployment, a final step before the system’s official operational use, will last a number of weeks, during which we will survey its effectiveness in various sites in the South,” said Brig. Gen. Gavish. (read more)

Fears for Lisbon bailout as yields near 10%

Portugal's cost of borrowing has jumped to within a whisker of 10 per cent as the belief grows that the country needs an international rescue to fend off a sovereign bond default.

The yield on Portugal's five-year benchmark bonds rose to 9.91 per cent on Monday, higher than levels seen in Ireland when Dublin was bailed out in November. The market estimate of the probability of a default is now 40 per cent, up from 30 per cent a month ago, as measured by credit default swaps.

Marc Chandler, strategist at Brown Brothers Harriman, said: "Portugal needs an international rescue. That is a given. It may also have to restructure its bonds, which could then spark contagion elsewhere."

Even in Portugal, few policymakers, with the notable exception of José Sócrates, the outgoing prime minister, and his caretaker government, expect the country will escape a bail-out. (read more)

Mentally ill mocked at Halifax Wrestlemania event

A live wrestling demonstration making fun of people with mental health issues upset some moviegoers at a Halifax event Sunday.

Krista Lettues of Hammonds Plains had come out of a movie at Empire Theatre in Bayers Lake just after 6 p.m. when she happened upon a performance meant to excite fans for the cinema's live screening of Wrestlemania.

"The wrestler from New Brunswick said, 'This all you have, Nova Scotia? A retard from the N.S. Hospital?'" Lettues told CBC News.

"He came out and he was wearing this blue institutional uniform, kind of like pajamas. He was all hunched over and his hair was messed up and wild and he looked very unhealthy."

It was a wrestler who uses the stage name Randy Relapse.

"He was also carrying a teddy bear and he goes into the ring and I thought, 'Gee, this is not good, this sends a really horrible message about people who have mental illness," Lettues said. (read more)

April 6th Fukushima Fallout Forecast Shows U.S. West Coast Under Threat

March Madness: U.S. Gov't Spent More Than Eight Times Its Monthly Revenue

The U.S. Treasury has released a final statement for the month of March that demonstrates that financial madness has gripped the federal government.

During the month, according to the Treasury, the federal government grossed $194 billion in tax revenue and paid out $65.898 billion in tax refunds (including $62.011 to individuals and $3.887 to businesses) thus netting $128.179 billion in tax revenue for March.

At the same time, the Treasury paid out a total of $1.1187 trillion. When the $65.898 billion in tax refunds is deducted from that, the Treasury paid a net of $1.0528 trillion in federal expenses for March. (read more)

Obama Snatching Up Huge Tracts of Land

The president wants Congress to double spending - to $900 million next year - on a conservation fund that's used to buy more property for the federal government. Currently, the government owns 635 million acres, or roughly three out of every 10 acres, with the largest chunk in Alaska.

But with the nation deep in debt and facing a long backlog of projects on its public lands, many Republicans are lining up against Obama's plan, leaving its fate uncertain.

"I think we should take care of what we have before we acquire more land," said Washington state Republican Rep. Doc Hastings, the chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee. "Most people would say let's maintain what we have before we acquire more of it, I don't care what it is. ... To me, it's a pretty straightforward solution to oppose it." (read more)


There's No Such Thing as Safe Radiation

Since Fukushima failed, the Japanese government and TEPCO have obscured the danger of the Fukushima crisis—and it is a crisis. The word "safe" has been tossed about loosely. Unfortunately, when it comes to radiation, there's no such thing.


Now, there is no cloud of lethal radioactive vapor headed toward your house right now. If you're outside of Japan, as I write this, there's no evidence that you're in any imminent danger from what's spewing out of Fukushima.

Nothing I'll write here is meant to scare you, because we shouldn't be scared.

But we shouldn't be ignorant either. And, largely, we are. Japanese authority figures have taken steps, whether deliberately or out of pure ineptitude, to whitewash the danger of Fukushima's radiation. Speaking out of both sides of his mouth, Japan's Chief Cabinet Secretary, Yukio Edano, said that Tokyo's drinking water was both safe and unsafe. Levels of iodine 131, a radioactive isotope that clogs your thyroid gland and can have devastating effects on children, was found to be 110 becquerels per liter above the safe level. The evacuation zone surrounding the plant was expanded by seven miles—but only as a voluntary, not mandatory move. The government has advanced and retreated on the danger of irradiated food, with clear internal discord. The radiation limit deemed unsafe was suddenly erased and replaced with a new figure, on the fly. And just today, the TEPCO said it'll start dumping thousands of tons of contaminated water into the Pacific Ocean—an act they're saying poses ''no major health risk."

Nevermind that, before the Fukushima disaster, the average person outside of a physics classroom had zero idea in radioactive hell what a becquerel is. Nevermind that the entire concept of a safe level of radiation has been shown to be demonstrably elastic. (read more)

IMF Says US Must Raise All Taxes, Cut All Entitlements By 35% To Contain Future Budget

In what is either a delayed April Fool's report, or its latest exercise in rhetoric the IMF asks the humorous question: "An Analysis of U.S. Fiscal and Generational Imbalances: Who Will Pay and How?" The obvious answer is naturally the Fed. The unobvious answer, according to the IMF, is the impossible: a slashing all of USSA's entitlement benefits by a whopping 35% combined with a hike in all tax rates. From the IMF: "This paper updates existing measures of the U.S. fiscal gap to include federal laws up to and including the mid-December 2010 federal fiscal stimulus. It then applies the methodology of generational accounting to establish how the burden of adjustment required to attain fiscal sustainability is shared across generations. We find that the U.S. fiscal and generational imbalances are large under plausible parametric assumptions, and, while not much affected by the financial crisis, they have not improved much by the passing of the Final Healthcare Legislation. We find that, under our baseline scenario, a full elimination of the fiscal and generational imbalances would require all taxes to go up and all transfers to be cut immediately and permanently by 35 percent. A delay in the adjustment makes it more costly." (read more)

Musician elected new Haiti President - 5th Apr 2011

Michel Martelly, a carnival singer with a colourful past who seized the mantle of change, is Haiti’s new president after storming to a landslide victory, preliminary results showed.

The 50-year-old faces the huge challenge of rebuilding the Caribbean nation, which was the poorest country in the Americas even before a January 2010 earthquake flattened the capital Port-au-Prince and killed more than 225,000 people.

Martelly, with 67.57 per cent of the vote, ended the dreams of former first lady Mirlande Manigat, who was vying to become Haiti’s first democratically elected female leader but finished with a disappointing 31.74 per cent showing.

The results, released late Monday by the electoral commission, are not final as a period of legal complaints must be observed until April 16.

But with such a large margin, Martelly’s victory seems all but assured.

His supporters engaged in peaceful celebrations on the streets of the capital’s Petionville area, though the US embassy reported gunfire from the festivities and urged its citizens to “stay indoors and avoid large crowds for tonight.”

Washington hailed the election results as an “important milestone” and urged Haitians to keep their demonstrations peaceful as the process moves forward. Source

UK: We cant even manage to carry of a protest like the foreigners - 5th Apr 2011

The worst flash mob in the world? Only SIX people turn up to protest at lack of rail service (then the train breaks down and not even the organiser shows up)

Organisers may well have hoped for a crowd of hundreds to protest at the lack of trains servicing their airport.

But with less than 100 rail passengers a year, they were perhaps being a trifle optimistic.

And so a flash mob at Durham Tees Valley Airport station in County Durham designed to protest at the limited travel times proved a flop when just six people turned up.

To add insult to injury the train they were waiting for as part of the stunt broke down.

Organisers hoped the plan would attract attention to the underused train station, which gets less than 100 passengers a year.

They had hoped for a 200-strong flash mob but it failed miserably as a party of six turned up at the windy and rainy platform on Saturday and the founder of the event failed to show.

The train they were meant to get on - one of just four a week - broke down on its way, leaving them stranded in the miserable weather for over an hour.

The 10.28am train to Middlesbrough eventually rolled in at 11.45am, which the activists had to get on because they had all been given a lift to the station. Read More

Castration and conspiracy: How British government covered up torture of the Mau Maus - including Obama's grandfather - for 50 years - 5th Apr 2011

The full horror of a brutal campaign of torture meted out by British officials on Kenyan rebels including Barack Obama's grandfather has emerged for the first time.

A cache of secret documents detailing efforts to suppress the Mau Mau uprising has lain hidden in the Foreign and Commonwealth Office, in London, for 50 years.

Removed from Kenya on the cusp of independence, they were uncovered in January after five Kenyans launched a lawsuit against the British government.

The claimants say they suffered castration, sexual abuse and severe beatings in detention camps administered by the British government and want an apology and financial compensation.

Obama's grandfather Hussein Onyango Obama was rounded up in 1949 in the very early days of the rebellion and spent two years in a high security prison.

Once a cook for a British officer, his family claim Mr Obama was horrifically tortured, whipped every morning and evening until he confessed.

His third wife Sarah Onyango said white jailers would squeeze his testicles with parallel metallic rods and pierce his nails and buttocks with pins.

Mr Obama, whose involvement with the rebellion has never been clear, was left permanently scarred and bitterly anti-British.

His account tallies with the experiences of the five elderly Kenyans now suing the British government. Read More

Musa Kusa can travel to U.S. and spend his 'millions' after Washington lifts sanctions on him to encourage other Libyan defections - 5th Apr 2011

America has lifted financial sanctions on former Libyan foreign minister Musa Kusa in a bid to encourage other high-profile henchmen to abandon Colonel Gaddafi.

The alleged Lockerbie bombing planner had assets, believed to be worth millions, unfrozen and taken off a U.S. travel blacklist after defecting to Britain last week.

This grant of freedom, combined with a UK deal to arrange asylum, raises the possibility that Kusa may avoid being prosecuted over the 1988 attack that killed 243 people.

David Cohen, a U.S. Treasury Department official responsible for terrorism and financial intelligence, said Sanctions were lifted because Kusa had severed ties with Gaddafi.

'Kusa's defection and the subsequent lifting of sanctions against him should encourage others within the Libyan government to make similar decisions to abandon the Gaddafi regime,' he told the Deutsche Presse agency. Read More

PROJECT 4.1 - Most EVIL HUMAN Experiments - 5th Apr 2011

PROJECT 4.1 - U.S. Bomb Tests in Marshall Islands Still Raise Cloud of Questions.

Those of us who attended the 50th year commemoration of the Bravo test -- when the U.S. tested a hydrogen bomb on the tiny atoll of Bikini in the Marshall Islands -- heard powerful testimonies from the survivors of that infamous day.

We heard stories of the radiation sickness they experienced immediately after the test and stories of the continuing illnesses faced by not only that generation, but the two generations since born to them.

But just as troubling as the stories of that day itself were the stories of what happened before that day.

During the Clinton administration, thousands of documents were declassified and released regarding the U.S. government's nuclear test plans leading up to March 1,1954.

Some of these documents alluded to Project 4.1, a study of human exposure to radiation. It seems that Project 4.1, drawn up in 1953, planned for a study of what would happen to human beings exposed to high levels of radiation.

It's not a long leap of logic to think that those people who were left on the three neighboring atolls were not just forgotten that day.

Instead, it seems these Marshallese were human subjects in a frightening and horrible test.

And just as troubling as the stories of what happened before that day are the stories of what happened after that day. There is reason to believe that the misgivings of many of the Marshallese patients regarding their annual medical examinations they received after the Bravo test may have been well-founded. Perhaps they were being studied, rather than treated for the radiation they had received in the bombing.

In the words of Mayor James Matayoshi of Rongelap atoll at the March 1 anniversary, "If Project 4.1 was conceived, planned and funded prior to March 1, 1954, where were the study subjects supposed to come from?" Where, indeed? It makes the Tuskegee syphilis experiment on African American men in the first half of the 20th century look like child's play.

Not surprising to some, many documents, including some photographs of victims and of grossly malformed babies miscarried in the months just after the Bravo test and the 66 other tests done by our government, were removed from the office of the district administrator in the Marshall Islands and were burned. Several other fires involving medical records of Marshallese exposed to radiation have been reported through the years.

As horrible as the bombing itself was, the planned use of human beings in a study on radiation is even more horrible to contemplate. Yet, here we are 50 years later and the real story of what happened that day, what happened in the days before March 1 and what has happened in the years since March 1, 1954 has not truly come out.

Here we are 50 years later and most of the people are still unable to return to their homes. Here we are 50 years later and none of the adjudicated claims of the individuals harmed by our tests have been paid in full and many claims have not yet been adjudicated by the Nuclear Claims Trust Fund, and nearly all of the funds set aside for this already have been spent. Here we are 50 years later and we have yet to say we are sorry or that our actions were dishonorable to the people of the Marshall Islands and a sin before God.

This is not a Republican issue or a Democratic issue because we have had both Democrat and Republican administrations before, during and after the Bravo test and they all are at fault. This is an American issue, of which most Americans know little or nothing.

The victims of the Bravo test, including Mayor Matayoshi, whose mother was on Rongelap that horrible day, still seek justice and peace. Source

Sand Geyser - Most Amazing Natural Phenomenon In The World - 5th Apr 2011

A Sand Geyser or Sand Fountain is a geologic phenomena which occurs in association with earthquakes and other seismic events.



3DS refund row hits Nintendo

FURIOUS gamers made ill by Nintendo's new 3DS console have been REFUSED full refunds.

Record return levels were reported after thousands suffered headaches and dizziness. Many only got some cash back from shops - or nothing at all.

One dad became ill after playing the device for THREE MINUTES with his young son.

Sundeep Tailor, 27, returned the revolutionary 3D machine, which has left thousands with dizziness and headaches, after just 24 hours.

Staff at his local Game store at first refused to refund him, then offered £176.99 - £30 less than he had paid. Sundeep, of Luton, Beds, who was also out of pocket after paying £20 for games, said: "I lost money in just 24 hours. There will probably be more people in my position."

The 3DS flashes separate images into each eye, creating the illusion of depth.

Nintendo last week announced the console is not safe for under-sevens and advised playing in 3D mode for less than 30 minutes. (read more)

Town near nuclear plant rejects Japanese utility's 'token' offer... of just $12 per citizen

Acknowledging the toll the unrelenting nuclear crisis has had on people's lives and livelihoods, the owner of the stricken nuclear plant has offered money to some of those in the radiation's reach -- an offer that one city decided to refuse.

An official with the Tokyo Electric Power Company, which operates the Fukushima Daiichi power plant, said Tuesday that the utility made a "token" offer to residents in 10 communities near the plant.

Starting March 31, money began going out to those in nine of them. But the town of Namie rejected Tokyo Electric's offer, with a local official calling it a too meager attempt to make up for a drastically reduced quality of life and income.

Tokyo Electric didn't detail how much money is being offered to each community. But Kousei Negishi, who is the manager of general affairs for Namie, said that it was 20 million yen ($238,000). That works out to about $12 for each of Namie's roughly 20,000 residents. (read more)

Portugal downgraded by Moody's on further debt concerns

Ratings agency Moody's has downgraded Portuguese government debt by one notch, to Baa1 from A3, and warned that a further cut may be necessary.

This is the second downgrade by Moody's in less than a month and follows fellow agency Standard & Poor's cut last week.

Moody's said its decision was "driven primarily by increased political, budgetary and economic uncertainty".

The move heightens concerns Portugal will be forced to ask its European partners for a financial bail-out.

Last week, the Portuguese government admitted it had missed its budget deficit target for 2010.

The total was 8.6% of economic output, above the European Union's target of 7.3%.

Moody's said the increased uncertainty in the country heightened the risks that "the government will be unable to achieve [its] ambitious deficit reduction targets" in the next three years. (read more)

Japan earthquake update: Radiation tests in Fukushima schools

Officials in the Fukushima region of Japan have started an emergency programme to measure radiation levels in school playgrounds.

More than 1,400 schools and nurseries will be tested over two days amid anxiety among parents over leaks at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant.

The plant was crippled by last month's earthquake and tsunami.

Officials say there should be no risk to children if they keep outside a 30km (19mile) exclusion zone.

"A lot of parents are very concerned and at the local authority offices we've been flooded by queries, so we are collecting data that is objective and easy to understand, in the hope that this will allay some of those concerns," said Hiroyuki Aratake of the Fukushima Disaster Emergency Centre.

Meanwhile, workers at the nuclear plant are continuing to discharge water with low levels of contamination into the sea to free up room to store more highly radioactive water leaking at the site. (read more)

Oil vs. cocoa: Why Ivory Coast isn't like Libya, and will likely be left in the dust

Violence is escalating in the west African nation of Ivory Coast, where president-elect Alassane Ouattara is trying to oust incumbent Laurent Gbagbo, who refused to leave office after losing an election.

But the international response -- limited to a U.N. peacekeeping force already deployed there -- has paled by comparison with the U.S. and NATO air strikes targeting forces to Moammar Gadhafi in Libya to prevent attacks on rebels and civilians.

Read an explainer on the situation in Ivory Coast

Nigeria's foreign minister last month accused the West of hypocrisy in its reactions to the two crises, lashing out at the "contradictions" of imposing a no-fly zone over Libya but failing to to take action to protect civilians in Ivory Coast.

This raises questions about the strategic factors that have influenced the international response to the turmoil facing both countries. (read more)

'One in seven' chance that nations will abandon euro

The risk is roughly one in seven that Europe's ongoing debt crisis will push member nations to abandon the shared currency, raising the spectre of the "effective end of the euro area," the Economist Intelligence Unit has warned.

Attempts to restore investors' confidence in debt-laden nations' ability to honour their commitments could see the weaker eurozone members grow ever wearier of the demands placed on them, according to a new report from the research body.

Meanwhile, those countries whose finances are in better shape could lose patience with propping up other member nations, in this worse case or "ultimate risk" scenario.

The pressure on politicians from voters at home to leave the shared currency could then become "irresistible", resulting in either stragglers like Portugal or Ireland or a robust economy such as Germany deciding to leave, before other members follow suit.

"This scenario posits that sooner or later, the cement that has held European countries together for decades cracks and the progression towards ever-closer union comes to a spectacular halt," said researchers, who gave it a likelihood of 15pc.

The report's central scenario - put at a 50pc probability - is that the eurozone will muddle through the crisis, with the most indebted countries accepting the harsh reforms needed to cut their deficits and stronger members reluctantly offering enough support to contain the crisis. (read more)

Office for National Statistics reveals first drop in family income for 30 years

British households suffered a fall in disposable income last year for the first time since 1981.

Family incomes after tax and adjusted for inflation fell by 0.8 per cent during 2010, the biggest fall since 1977 and the first reduction for 30 years, the Office for National Statistics (ONS) reported yesterday.

Millions of workers have had their salaries frozen but are paying more for essentials, such as food and fuel. Official forecasts have warned that the squeeze on living standards is likely to last until 2013.

Yesterday, George Osborne, the Chancellor, came under pressure from a committee of MPs to ease the impact of the economic turmoil on families.

The Treasury forecasts that household debts will rise over the next five years, contrasting with official predictions last year that they would fall. Mr Osborne said: “We are coming out of an incredibly difficult situation. As a result there is a squeeze on disposable household income. That makes life difficult for households.”

He said that government initiatives to freeze council tax and cut fuel duty were designed to help families but added: “At some point, you’ve got to take some difficult decisions and the public has to share the burden of that.” (read more)

Desperate Times: Texans Could Vote on Expanding Gambling to Stave Off Debt

Texans could get to vote on a constitutional amendment to expand gambling.

The House Licensing and Administrative Procedures Committee will hear testimony on a number of measures to allow casinos and slot machines. The Texas Gaming Association is backing a measure that would license eight casinos and slot machines at eight racetracks. Other measures would allow gambling on Indian reservations or slot machines at bingo halls.

The Texas Gaming Association says its proposal could bring in $1.2 billion a year in gaming taxes alone. The organization also released a poll it said found that 86 percent of Texans believe there should be a vote on gambling.

The state faces a $23 billion budget shortfall over the next two years. Opponents warn that gambling could bring more trouble than it's worth. (read more)

Giving troubled mortgage borrowers a second chance is storing up trouble for the banks, warns Moody's

Efforts by banks to help out mortgage borrowers in trouble could be storing up serious problems for the financial system, according to credit rating agency Moody's.

Increased "lender forebearance" in the wake of the financial crisis whereby banks allow borrowers to extend the repayment period for their debt, switch a repayment mortgage to an interest-only product, or even allow them a holiday on interest payments, pose a risk to British banks.

In a report on the flexibility of UK banks to troubled mortgage borrowers, the ratings agency's analysts said the practice was a "credit negative" for the country's banking system.

"There is still high indebtedness on mortgages and there is potential for more borrowers to get into difficulty. As the forebearance numbers are aggregated it is hard to know the scale of the issue for any individual bank, but it is a concern," said Elisabeth Rudman, a senior credit officer at Moody's.

Moody's concerns follow the publication last week by the Financial Services Authority of its risk outlook report for the financial system, which drew attention to the issue.

FSA figures show that for every UK mortgage borrower in arrears, two are subject to some kind forebearance process to help them avoid defaulting on their debt. (read more)

US: Feds Want Ventura's Suit Against TSA Thrown Out

The U.S government wants former Governor Jesse Ventura's lawsuit against the TSA thrown out.

Ventura filed the suit in federal court earlier this year. He says he was sexually assaulted by the TSA during a pat down at Minneapolis- St. Paul International Airport in November.

The U.S. government filed a motion to dismiss the lawsuit Monday arguing all challenges to aviation and security-related TSA orders must be filed in the courts of appeal. (read more)

US: Cash-poor MTA may put recipients of unemployment benefits to work again cleaning subways

The cash-strapped MTA may soon put welfare recipients to work scrubbing and cleaning the subways.

The Metropolitan Transportation Authority wants to revive its participation in the city's Work Experience Program - which makes the unemployed toil for their benefit checks.

"This is a program that has a proven track record of doing three things: providing low-cost cleaning help for the subway; providing job training to people who need it, and leading directly to full-time employment for many of the people who participate in the program," MTA spokesman Jeremy Soffin said.

The MTA eliminated 173 cleaner positions last year in a series of budget cuts that slashed a total of about 3,500 jobs.

Subway riders told about the plan Monday largely gave it a thumbs up.

"I think it's a fair way to get the subways clean," Joanna Kielbiowski, 32, of New Hyde Park, L.I., said at a midtown subway station. "Sometimes when I take the subway, it's disgusting."

Adam Salah, 21, of the Bronx said the program would be "a good way to get people on their feet ... and get the subway cleaner."

Michael Pollack, 29, of Long Beach, L.I., was on the fence.

"I feel like saying yes and no," Pollack said. "On some level, it's exploitation of people in a bad position. On the other hand, a lot of people wait around looking for a handout, and this is a way for them to earn it." (read more)

Sea Turtle Deaths Mount in the Gulf - 4th Apr 2011

Sea turtles continue to wash ashore along the Gulf, forcing the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS) to scramble and figure out what is causing the spike. Last week, the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Huffington Post were first to publish blogs about the sea turtle deaths in Mississippi.

Since then, the national media picked up the story. Last Friday, NMFS released a statement with some details about its investigation:

In the past few weeks, we've seen an increase in turtle strandings in the northern Gulf, primarily in Mississippi. The spring time is the typical time when turtle strandings in this region begin to increase, but the sharp increases in recent days are of concern to us".NOAA Fisheries is in contact with the states of MS and LA regarding current trawl and other fishery activity that can result in turtle by catch and mortality. In addition, tests will be done for biotoxins, such as those from harmful algae blooms, which are common in the Gulf. "All causes of death, including petroleum, will be investigated when possible based on decomposition. During a necropsy, the full GI tract is examined for product or evidence of oil ingestion. Additionally, samples are taken for PAH analysis. In addition, all turtles are being carefully examined for signs of external oiling.

Like the dolphin strandings this year, it's likely that many more turtles have died and will never be found. A recent study of dolphin deaths showed the true number of mortalities is probably 50 times what is recovered. As of Friday, NOAA says recent deaths of sea turtles, all of which are included on the Endangered Species list, include 6 in Alabama, 10 in Louisiana, and 47 in Mississippi. Read More

BREAKING NEWS: 6.0 Magnitude Earthquake KEPULAUAN TALAUD, INDONESIA - 5th Apr 2011

A 6.0 Magnitude Earthquake has hit Kepulauan Talaud, Indonesia , 256 km (159 miles) North of Ternate, Moluccas - Indonesia at a depth of 17.6 km (10.9 miles) today Tuesday, April 5th 2011 at 11:14 UTC

There have been no reports of Damage or injuries - No Tsunami warning issued at this time.

Eman al-Obeidy Speaks out about Rape - 5th Apr 2011

Eman al-Obeidy, the woamn who accused Libyan Forces of Raping her, talks to CNN about her Ordeal.

Modern Day Slavery: Enslaved on 'Ghost Ships' - 5th Apr 2011

From a thriving industry in southeast Asia, the catch might end up on dinner plates almost anywhere in the world.

But you might be shocked to know how these fish are caught. Sometimes the boats are floating prisons crewed by slaves.

In this video report above, CNN's Dan Rivers explores the story of brothers Pheum Dina and Pheum Bolin, who were lured from Cambodia to work on the fishing boats three years ago. They say they were imprisoned on a Thai trawler for 3 months – with no pay and no chance to escape. They were slaves at sea.

The National Fisheries Association of Thailand, which works closely with the government on fishing-related issues, says it has not received reports of abuse or torture of crew in the past couple of years on Thai boats.

The chairman of the group says most crews are there of their free will. But he acknowledged some recruiters may have made false promises about pay and working conditions to some Burmese or Cambodian workers.

The association's Mana Sripitak also says it educates Thai fishermen about anti-human trafficking laws, warning that there, "could be fine(s) or jail term(s), and their boats could be confiscated if they are found guilty." Source

'Clock is ticking' for refugees fleeing Ivory Coast - 5th Apr 2011

Aid organizations are warning of an impending humanitarian crisis for tens of thousands of refugees who have arrived in Liberia after fleeing violence in Ivory Coast.

International aid agency Oxfam says more than 100,000 people have crossed the border from Ivory Coast to Liberia and are living in dire conditions in jungle villages.

The agency says there are many stories of wives being separated from husbands, children arriving in Liberia having lost their parents, and some not surviving the journey across rivers and through forests.

The refugees have been displaced by the fighting that has swept across Ivory Coast. The International Committee of the Red Cross said Friday that 800 people had been shot dead in the western cocoa-producing town of Duekoue. A U.N. official put the death toll at 330 on Friday.

The violence erupted after a disputed November election led both incumbent Laurent Gbagbo and rival Alassane Ouattara to claim the presidency. The international community recognized Ouattara as the legitimate winner but Gbagbo refused to cede power and violence has engulfed the nation. Read More