Friday, April 8, 2011

Russia wants 'red button' rights for US missile defence system

A top Kremlin official has told the United States Russia wants "red button" rights to a new US-backed missile defence system for Europe, a move that would allow it to influence the shield's day-to-day operational use.

Sergey Ivanov, Russia's deputy prime minister, made the controversial demand during a visit to the United States where he met with top officials including Hillary Clinton, the US Secretary of State.

"We insist on only one thing," he said of the nascent US-backed missile defence shield. "That we are an equal part of it."

"In practical terms, that means that our office will sit for example in Brussels and agree on a red-button push to launch an interceptor missile, regardless of whether the missile is launched from Poland, Russia or the UK."

Russia has been pushing hard for a prominent role in the new missile shield for months but with little noticeable success as Washington and its allies remain deeply sceptical of Russia's reliability as a political and military partner.

The United States has said the new shield is needed to protect Europe and itself from long-range missile attacks from rogue states such as Iran. But Russia has argued that the new system will blunt its own nuclear deterrent. It has threatened to beef up its own nuclear forces if it is excluded or granted only a junior role in the project. (read more)

Japan earthquake and tsunami debris floats across the Pacific toward the US west coast: Photo gallery

Inflation at UK factories hits two-and-a-half year high

Inflation at British factories hit its highest rate in more than two years in March, official figures showed, raising fears about the feed-through into the wider economy.

Factory gate prices – what manufacturers charge for their products – rose 5.4pc over the year, the steepest inflation rate since October 2008, said the Office for National Statistics. The month-on-month jump was 0.9pc, while economists had expected a 0.6pc leap.

The data will stoke concerns about spiralling prices in the UK, as the rise in factories’ output prices is likely to help push up the headline inflation rate, currently well over target at 4.4pc.

Manufacturers are raising their prices in response to the squeeze on their margins as the costs of their own materials and fuels climb higher.

Input prices rose 14.6pc in the year to March, just off the previous month’s 28-month high at 14.9pc, mostly reflecting the rising cost of crude oil. The leap was 3.7pc on the previous month.

Chris Williamson, chief economist at researchers Markit, said: “Worse may be yet to come, as oil prices have since hit a record high in sterling terms and supply chain disruptions from the Japanese earthquake could also drive up prices for certain highly sought-after components.” (read more)

George Osborne: UK won't bail out Portugal

Britain has no plans to offer the Portuguese government a direct loan as it seeks an international bail-out, George Osborne insisted on Friday.

The Chancellor said he remained focused on reducing the UK's budget deficit, which stands at about £122bn this year, as he spoke at a meeting of European finance ministers and central bank governors in Hungary.

"I made it clear that unlike the Irish case the UK will not be making a bilateral loan to Portugal. British taxpayers' money will not be lent directly to Portugal," he said.

Jean-Claude Trichet, president of the European Central Bank, said he is ready to begin negotiating with the Portuguese government immediately - insisting the "hard work" should begin straight away. Mr Trichet said Portugal needed to agree a package containing "ambitious fiscal adjustment" in order to "safeguard fully financial stability in Portugal and by way of consequence, in the eurozone".

However, he denied pressuring Portuguese banks to persuade the country's interim government to seek financial support. "We didn't force the banks to do anything. We didn't force the government or the authorities in general to do anything," he added.

Mr Trichet's comments were made a day after the Portuguese government formally requested a bail-out, raising the prospect of pay cuts, reduced welfare benefits, labour market reforms and a bank recapitalisation. Analysts estimate Portugal will seek between €60bn (£52.9bn) and €90bn. (read more)

Ivory Coast: French helicopters launch rockets at Gbagbo's palace

French helicopter gunships launched rocket attacks on President Laurent Gbagbo’s palace in Ivory Coast’s main city Abidjan on Friday night, according to witnesses.

The strikes came hours after mortar rounds and a rocket were fired at the residence of the French ambassador in Abidjan by pro-Gbagbo forces.

A spokesman for Mr Gbagbo denied that the French ambassador’s residence had been attacked.

“The Ivory Coast government believes France is looking for a pretext to resume bombings on the presidential palace,” Toussaint Alain, a representative for Mr Gbagbo, said in Paris. “If there are attacks on the embassy, it’s not Gbagbo’s forces. Nobody has been attacked.”

The UN peacekeeping head said Mr Gbagbo’s forces had regained ground in Abidjan and fully control the Plateau and Cocody areas.

Alain Le Roy said the Gbagbo camp had used a lull on Tuesday for peace talks as a “trick” to reinforce their positions and that they still had heavy weapons. (read more)

HMS Astute shooting: Nuclear submarine guard kills officer in bizarre rifle rampage



One Royal Navy officer was shot dead and another critically injured after a rating guarding Britain’s flagship nuclear submarine “went crazy” and turned his gun on them.

Able seaman Ryan Donovan, who held at the scene on suspicion of murder is understood to have opened fire with an SA80 assault rifle at 12.12pm after a row broke out in the control room of HMS Astute, which was berthed in Southampton.

Sources said the rating, 22, had just collected the rifle from the submarine’s weapons store as he came on guard duty, and was due to take up his sentry position on the gangplank when the row started. He fired several rounds before he was overpowered.

The dead officer was named by sources as Lt-Cdr Ian Molyneux, the vessel’s weapons engineering officer. Lieutenant Commander Chris Hodge was said to be in a critical condition on Friday night.

It also emerged that several VIP guests, including the city’s mayor, were on board at the time, and a party of schoolchildren was standing on the dockside waiting to board the vessel when the shooting happened.

The Ministry of Defence insisted that the incident had not caused a wider threat to public safety. (read more)

US electronics chain offers free guns to TV subscribers

A new promotion by RadioShack electronics chain in the US states of Idaho and Montana is offering free guns to first-time subscribers of satellite TV service Dish Network.

John Marshall, owner of a RadioShack store in Mountain Home, Idaho, said the flagging economy was behind the promotion, which he began advertising this week.

"There's no problem with it here; this isn't New York City," he said about the gun giveaway.

Customers who sign up to Dish Network packaged for the first time are given a coupon for $135 (£82) to buy either a pistol or a shotgun from a local sporting goods store. The promotion has unsurprisingly sparked criticism by gun-control advocates elsewhere in the United States.

The guns-for-subscriptions offer is the brainchild of Steve Strand, owner of a RadioShack store in Montana's Bitterroot Valley.

Mr Strand affirmed that the promotional campaign was a sure-fire strategy to target satellite subscribers in a region where firearms are commonplace. Since the offer was introduced last autumn, Mr Strand said that subscriptions for Dish Network packages have increased threefold. (read more)

Crude at $175? Oil traders stress test the future

Oil at $175 a barrel; copper at $12,000 a tonne and corn at $10 a bushel. As commodity prices rally, the world’s largest trading houses have been busy ‘stress testing’ to be sure their finances can withstand a “super spike”.

The levels are not a forecast – indeed, executives tell me they do not expect such hefty prices – but do signal a “worse case scenario” for which oil, metals and food commodities traders need to prepare.

“Can we reach $175? I don’t think so,” says a trading executive. “But there is a chance of a spike to that level for one or two days if something happens in Saudi Arabia.” The same reasoning justifies tests for copper at $12,000 a tonne (think of an accident at a big mine in Chile) or corn at $10 a bushel, which could, for example, be caused by bad weather during the US planting season in May and June. (read more)

'Massacre' at Camp Ashraf: Iranians call for international help as Iraqi soldiers run down refugees in armoured trucks, killing 25

Iranian refugees have called for international help to prevent a massacre at Camp Ashraf after Iraqi forces invaded the compound and killed at least 25 people.

A full state of alert has been declared by the Iranian group after 65 Iraqi vehicles carrying soldiers entered Ashraf late yesterday, with reports that they are running down and shooting the refugees.

Videos have emerged seemingly showing Iraqi troops firing on Iranian refugees and one instance appears to show an Iraqi vehicle ramming a resident and trapping him under its wheels.

Muzzle flashes of gunshots are also visible as the vehicles chase residents around the compound at speed.

Another six-minute video posted on YouTube that the exiles claim was taken of the offensive, shows Humvees flying the Iraqi flag chasing down around 100 stone-throwing masked people in an open area. (read more)

Israeli army strikes Gaza after school bus hit

Israeli aircraft and ground forces struck Gaza on Friday, killing three Hamas militants and three civilians in a surge of fighting sparked by a Palestinian rocket attack on an Israeli school bus the day before.

Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers seemed on the brink of another round of intense violence, just a little over two years after persistent rocket fire from Gaza triggered a devastating Israeli military offensive in the territory.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the attack on the school bus "crossed a line" and warned that "whoever tries to harm and murder children will pay with their life."

In Thursday's attack, Gaza militants hit an Israeli school bus near the border with a guided anti-tank missile, injuring the driver and badly wounding a 16-year-old boy. Most of the schoolchildren on the bus got off shortly before the attack.

By Friday afternoon, Israel's ongoing retaliation had killed 11 Gazans — six militants, a policeman and four civilians — and wounded 45. The dead Friday included three civilians killed by Israeli tank fire and two militants killed in an air strike, both near the southern Gaza town of Khan Younis. Another militant was killed in an airstrike in northern Gaza. (read more)

Explosions hit 3 gas pipelines in Iran, halt flow in Qom for second time -- cause unknown

Iran's semiofficial Mehr News Agency says three explosions have hit gas pipelines near the country's holy city of Qom, in the same area where simultaneous blasts took place two months ago.

The lines carry gas from Iran's gas refineries in the south to the country's northwest.

The report says Friday's explosions cut the gas flow through those lines but power plants switched to oil for electricity production.

Mehr says an investigation is under way as to what caused the blasts.

In February, officials said the blasts were not caused by technical failures but did not say if they were acts of sabotage.

Iran's oil and gas sector has been hit by an increasing number of attacks recently but authorities have provided no explanation for them. (read more)

Witness: 13 protesters killed in Syria

Syrian security forces opened fire on thousands of protesters Friday, killing at least 13 people, wounding hundreds and forcing residents to turn mosques into makeshift hospitals in a southern city that has become a flashpoint for anti-government demonstrations, witnesses said.

The government acknowledged violence in Daraa, but said only two people died and blamed armed thugs.

One witness said he helped ferry the dead and wounded to the city's hospital, where he counted 13 corpses.

"My clothes are soaked with blood," he said by telephone from Daraa, adding that he was among thousands of people at the protest and he witnessed security forces shooting live ammunition.

Like most activists and witnesses who spoke to The Associated Press, he requested anonymity for fear of reprisals.

A nurse at the hospital said they had run out of beds; many people were being treated on the floor or in nearby mosques. (read more)

Rush to Use Crops as Fuel Raises Food Prices and Hunger Fears

The starchy cassava root has long been an important ingredient in everything from tapioca pudding and ice cream to paper and animal feed.

But last year, 98 percent of cassava chips exported from Thailand, the world’s largest cassava exporter, went to just one place and almost all for one purpose: to China to make biofuel. Driven by new demand, Thai exports of cassava chips have increased nearly fourfold since 2008, and the price of cassava has roughly doubled.

Each year, an ever larger portion of the world’s crops — cassava and corn, sugar and palm oil — is being diverted for biofuels as developed countries pass laws mandating greater use of nonfossil fuels and as emerging powerhouses like China seek new sources of energy to keep their cars and industries running. Cassava is a relatively new entrant in the biofuel stream.

But with food prices rising sharply in recent months, many experts are calling on countries to scale back their headlong rush into green fuel development, arguing that the combination of ambitious biofuel targets and mediocre harvests of some crucial crops is contributing to high prices, hunger and political instability. (read more)

Patrick the Pitbull is doing well! Kisha Curtis faces massive charges as world cheers on miracle pup

When an emaciated pit bull found at the bottom of a trash chute in New Jersey was rushed to a veterinary emergency room last month, doctors there thought he would be dead within the hour.

Instead, the scrappy pup, nicknamed Patrick, has defied the odds and is getting stronger by the day.

"He is a tremendous fighter," said Dr. Thomas Scavelli, the director and founder of the Garden State Veterinary Specialists, the pet hospital in Tinton Falls where Patrick is being treated. "There are very few animals, or any life form, that could have gone through and survived what he has, and really never looked back."

Hospital staffers, who named the dog for his reddish fur and because he was found the day before St. Patrick's Day, have been chronicling his progress on their website and a Facebook page that has garnered fans from around the world. He's received hundreds of emails, donations, gifts and letters from those inspired by his tale of survival.

When Patrick was brought to the hospital after being rescued by officials at the Associated Humane Societies, he was so starved, emaciated and dehydrated he was curled into a ball, unable to walk or stand. His ribcage protruded, he weighed about 20 pounds — roughly 30 pounds less than average — and was covered in sores with parts of skin hanging off him, according to Patricia Smillie-Scavelli, Thomas Scavelli's wife and the administrator of the hospital.

"Everyone thought that, you bring in an animal like that, that looks like it's really just a corpse, you put it to sleep," Smillie-Scavelli said. "But of course, he looked up at you with those eyes, and you say: How can you give up on this dog? How can you, when he's not giving up on life? So, we gave him that second chance, and he has just run with it, and thrived." (read more)

Europe’s $2 Trillion of Distressed Debt Set to Outstrip U.S.

The distressed debt market in Europe is set to outstrip the U.S. for the first time as the region’s sovereign crisis forces banks to sell $2 trillion of underperforming assets, Strategic Value Partners LLC said.

“The opportunity set in Europe is very attractive and rich,” said Victor Khosla, founder of the Greenwich, Connecticut-based distressed-debt hedge fund manager, said in a phone interview. “It far exceeds the U.S. for the first time.”

Strategic Value Partners, which oversees $4 billion, is among hedge funds eyeing Europe as the fallout from the credit crisis and governments’ austerity measures trigger fire sales. Mark Unferth, head of distressed debt at London-based CQS U.K. LLP, is boosting investment in Europe and expects rivals to do the same, he said in an April 6 interview. New York-based KKR & Co. said March 1 it hired Mubashir Mukadam to head its push into the European market.

By comparison, U.S. banks have announced they need to sell $800 billion of assets since the credit crisis, Strategic Value Partners calculations show. (read more)

Oil prices surge to fresh two and a half year highs

Oil prices have surged to a two-and-a-half-year high on concerns about supply and a weaker dollar.

Brent crude rose $1.82 to $124.49, while US crude was up $1.29 at $111.59.

Other commodity prices were also boosted by the fall in the US currency, as a weaker dollar makes commodities cheaper for investors holding other currencies.

Gold hit a new record of $1,470.50 an ounce, while silver went to $40.22 an ounce, its highest since 1980.

With little prospect of an interest rate rise in the US any time soon, the dollar has fallen in recent weeks.

It stands at a 15-month low against a basket of currencies. In morning Friday trade, the pound and the euro rose further, to $1.6427 and $1.4422 respectively.

Interest rates in the eurozone rose on Thursday, from 1% to 1.25%, with the UK expected to increase borrowing costs within the next few months.

Higher rates are used to combat inflation, which is being driven by rising commodity prices. (read more)

North Korea parliament silent on Kim Jong-un succession

A rare session of North Korea's parliament, seen as an opportunity to reveal more about political succession, has failed to mention leader Kim Jong-il or a son tipped to replace him.

Observers had been looking for clues that the son, Kim Jong-un, would lead a smooth transition as his father ails.

But state media made no mention of either man.

The rubber-stamp Supreme People's Assembly agreed to "remarkably increase" production.

Analysts of North Korea's opaque politics had thought he would be appointed to the National Defence Commission.

However, the official Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) did not mention whether Kim Jong-il or his 28-year-old son attended the session, nor did it include the younger Kim in its mention of appointments.

The previous session of parliament, in June last year, oversaw the appointment of Jang Song Thaek, the brother-in-law of Kim Jong-il, to one of the defence commission's several vice chairmanships. (read more)

Pinched By $4 Gasoline? Blame The Big Banks

Yes, that's right! The same Big Banks that taxpayers bailed out during the financial crisis are now jacking up oil and gasoline prices (Fig. 1), thus making consumers pay yet once again at the gas pump. Don`t buy into the hype fed to the media by the Big Banks about impending global oil supply crisis due to the unrest in the MENA (Middle East and North Africa) region.

It All Started With Jackson Hole….

This run-up in oil prices started with Fed Chairman Bernanke`s Jackson Hole speech where the big banks realized they were going to get a bunch more juice in the form of POMO operations by the Federal Reserve to play around in markets with.

And what did the large financial institutions do with this newly created juice? Instead of allocating the almost zero percent money they are all borrowing to productive activities such as lending loans to small businesses which will create jobs and stimulate the economy, the big banks have decided that since the fed is electronically printing money and providing extra liquidity/juice for financial markets that this is inflationary and devalues the dollar. (read more)

Ron Paul: Gold, Commodity Prices “Big Event” Signaling Economic Collapse



Skyrocketing gold, silver, oil and other commodity prices, a brazen attempt by the Federal Reserve to monetize a staggering and deleterious debt, a precipitously falling dollar, creeping inflation – these are elements of a “big event,” Ron Paul told Alex Jones on Tuesday.

“It’s huge, and it has started,” Paul said, and it may be identified as such within 30 days. “I believe it is the beginning… you and others have been talking about commodity prices going up.” The Texas Congressman noted that even the former boss of the Federal Reserve, Alan Greenspan, has warned about out of control inflation.

“A necessary condition for long-term unemployment is low inflation,” Greenspan said recently. “If the Fed does its job and stabilizes the inflation rate, that’s the maximum that the central bank can do.” (read more)

Gulf activitist Tucker Mendoza gunned down: “Gunshot wounds to his forehead and torso” — Niece with “gunshot wounds to her neck and buttock”

Tucker Mendoza, a gulf truth activist, was shot early this morning 4 times through the door of his home in Laplace. He was hit 3 times in the chest and once across the forehead. With him was a niece, he reports she was struck in the neck and bottom.

Tucker has been able to communicate via his phone and post to Facebook regarding the events. Please pray for him and his niece, for a full recovery and include the entire family. They are being treated at University Hospital in New Orleans. Further details as yet are unknown. (read more)

This story was reader contributed -- sorry, there was no more room in the header!

PBS Documentary -- Nuclear Energy: Lessons From Japan (Reader contributed)

More dead sea turtles, photos (Reader contributed)



Pictures taken at Lakeport, Mississippi.

Photographer apparently contacted authorities, who arrived, spray-painted the turtles backs, and then left them to rot in the sun.

Amazingly, no tests were conducted.

Deaths reported amid clashes in Syrian City, 22 Dead - 8th Apr 2011



Security forces fired on protesters in a show of force after Friday prayers in Daraa, leaving at least 22 unarmed civilians dead, a doctor told CNN.

But the government had a different account, saying 19 security force members were killed in the violence.

A tense calm settled on the restive southern city as evening approached, but it seethed over the bloodshed and conflict.

The doctor said more than 40 people were injured, and of the dead, five had been returned to their families for burial. Dozens of people complained of breathing problems from tear gas.

Wissam Tarif, a human rights activist outside Damascus who had received reports about the unfolding violence, said security forces also were arresting protesters.

Daraa was one of several cities where protesters took to the streets Friday, and Amnesty International said unarmed people calling "for greater freedoms were reportedly attacked by security forces firing live ammunition."

"The alarming reports coming from Syria today show that the authorities have not altered their violent methods for dealing with dissent," said Philip Luther, deputy director of the Middle East and North Africa Program at Amnesty International. Read More

Fukushima: A 'nuclear sacrifice zone' - 8th Apr 2011

Some experts believe Japan's nuclear disaster could become worse than Chernobyl.

Worst case scenario

"There could be a core that gets molten, and we could have an explosion," Ramana said of what he believes would be a worst-case scenario, "This isn't likely, but it is possible."

Mary Olson is the director of the Southeast Office of the Nuclear Information and Resource Service (NIRS), a group that describes itself as the information and networking center for citizens and environmental organisations concerned about nuclear power, radioactive waste, and radiation.

Olson shares Ramana's concerns about the worst-case scenario.

"The worst-case scenario is still out there, it could happen," Olson told Al Jazeera, "And that would be some kind of explosive force that mobilizes the fissile material on the site into a wider sphere."

Olson, who is also an evolutionary biologist with a double major in Biology and History of Science, including studies of chemistry and biochemistry at Purdue University, expressed concern over the fact that in the aftermath of the Three Mile Island nuclear disaster in the United States, "All the contaminated material generated from that was released to our environment in a planned and 'regulated' way. It was dumped in rivers or boiled off into the atmosphere."

Olson sees the same thing already happening now with the Fukushima disaster, and thinks the situation could eventually be worse than even the Chernobyl nuclear disaster that left some 200,000 people dead, according to a study from the environmental group Greenpeace.

"All of those [Fukushima] reactors have been in a catastrophic level of radioactive release that exceeds Chernobyl," she said,."Two of these have exploded, No. 2 is in meltdown, and we believe it has gone back into criticality and that there is a nuclear chain reaction coming and going."

She also pointed out that the fuel core in reactor No. 4 was offloaded for refueling at the time of the earthquake and tsunami, "So none of the fuel was in containment and was all in the pool and that's why it's gotten hotter faster and there has been very little attention to this. All of these are catastrophic in themselves. Having them in one place in one month is truly catastrophic." Read Full Article

Cosmic blast in distant galaxy that has so far lasted for 11 DAYS puzzles scientists - 8th Apr 2011

Gamma-ray explosions normally last a couple of days

Reminiscent of a space invaders computer game from the early 1980s, this is actually a cosmic blast in a distant galaxy.

The extraordinary gamma-ray explosion was observed on March 28 by Nasa's Swift satellite.

It has left astronomers scratching their heads - because it has so far lasted an incredible 11 days.

Flaring from such an event usually lasts a couple of hours.

But scientists are perplexed by this blast because, unusually, the effects are so long-lasting.

More than a week later, they are continuing to see high-energy radiation spiking and fading at the source.

The burst was likely caused by a star that was ripped apart after drifting too close to a super-massive black hole. Read More

Poison laboratory of the Soviets - Most EVIL HUMAN Experiments - 8th Apr 2011

Poison laboratory of the Soviets:

Poison laboratory of the Soviet secret services, alternatively known as Laboratory 1, Laboratory 12, and Kamera which means "The Chamber" in Russian, was a covert poison research and development facility of the Soviet secret police agencies.

**1921: First poison laboratory within the Soviet secret services was established under the name "Special Office". It was headed by professor of medicine Ignatii Kazakov, according to Pavel Sudoplatov.

Human experimentation

Mairanovsky and his colleagues tested a number of deadly poisons on prisoners from the Gulag ("enemies of the people"), including mustard gas, ricin, digitoxin and many others. The goal of the experiments was to find a tasteless, odourless chemical that could not be detected post mortem. Candidate poisons were given to the victims, with a meal or drink, as "medication"

Finally, a preparation with the desired properties called C-2 was developed According to witness testimonies, the victim changed physically, became shorter, weakened quickly, became calm and silent and died within fifteen minutes. Mairanovsky brought to the laboratory people of varied physical condition and ages in order to have a more complete picture about the action of each poison.

Pavel Sudoplatov and Nahum Eitingon approved special equipment [poisons] only if it had been tested on humans", according to testimony of Mikhail Filimonov. Vsevolod Merkulov said that these experiments were approved by NKVD chief Lavrenty Beria. Beria himself testified on August 28, 1953, after his arrest that "I gave orders to Mairanovsky to conduct experiments on people sentenced to the highest measure of punishment, but it was not my idea".

In addition to human experimentation, Mairanovsky personally executed people with poisons, under the supervision of Sudoplatov Source

Gen. Carter Ham: U.S. troops not ideal, but may be considered in Libya

The United States may consider sending troops into Libya with a possible international ground force that could aid the rebels, according to the general who led the military mission until NATO took over.

Army Gen. Carter Ham also told lawmakers Thursday that added American participation would not be ideal, and ground troops could erode the international coalition and make it more difficult to get Arab support for operations in Libya.

Ham said the operation was largely stalemated now and was more likely to remain that way since America has transferred control to NATO.

Complete coverage: Anger in the Arab World

He said NATO has done an effective job in an increasingly complex combat situation. But he noted that, in a new tactic, Muammar Qaddafi's forces are making airstrikes more difficult by staging military forces and vehicles near civilian areas such as schools and mosques.

The use of an international ground force is a possible plan to bolster rebels fighting forces loyal to the Libyan leader, Ham said at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.

Asked if the U.S. would provide troops, Ham said, "I suspect there might be some consideration of that. My personal view at this point would be that that's probably not the ideal circumstance, again for the regional reaction that having American boots on the ground would entail." (read more)

Jesse Jackson declares federal budget fight equivalent to American Civil War

An estimated 700,000 Americans died in the Civil War, one of the bloodiest times in our nation’s history. It’s hard to imagine anything quite measuring up in this day and age — but Jesse Jackson can.

On Thursday’s “Martin Bashir” on MSNBC, Jackson, the founder and president of the Rainbow PUSH Coalition, said the budget battle on the Republican side represents an effort to make the federal government “dysfunctional.”

“[T]his really is a Civil War fight,” Jackson said. “This is making the federal government dysfunctional on the 150th anniversary of the Civil War. These guys will support three wars. They’ll support tax dodgers. They’ll support the wealthiest Americans getting tax breaks. They want to cut into education and health care. This is an ideological battle.”

Jackson said those trying to shut down the federal government are doing so to make an “ideological-religious point.”

“This is a Civil War fight,” he said. “I think Time magazine has it right. This is the 150th anniversary of the 1861 Civil War. Now those are determined to shut the federal government down to make their point — their ideological-religious point.” (read more)

Stressful job: Obama is preparing to take yet ANOTHER vacation to Williamsburg



The leader of the free world may be coming to Williamsburg for some rest and relaxation if Congress is able to come to agreement on the budget. President Obama and the First Family are planning to visit the area this weekend in what the White House described Wednesday as a "long-planned family trip to Colonial Williamsburg."

But the trip might get grounded if a government shutdown can't be averted by Republicans and Democrats in Congress.

On Thursday morning, the Federal Aviation Administration established a no-fly zone over Williamsburg that will be in place from Friday through Monday. Jessica Wharton, spokeswoman for the Newport News-Williamsburg International Airport, said the no-fly zone will not affect the arrival and departure times at the airport for this weekend. (read more)

Japan: Water radiation levels rise north of nuke plant

The operator of the troubled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant says seawater radiation levels continue to rise in areas north of the plant.

Tokyo Electric Power Company says it detected on Thursday 110 becquerels of radioactive iodine-131 per cubic centimeter in seawater samples collected 30 meters from outlets in the northern part of the complex.

The figure is 2,800 times higher than the maximum allowed under government standards. Measurements at the same spot were 600 times the standard on Tuesday and 1,000 times on Wedneday.

In a series of surveys 15 kilometers from the coastline, a reading 9.3 times the national limit was detected north of the plant, off the coast of Minami-soma City.

The government's nuclear safety agency has instructed the Fukushima plant operator to review its monitoring activities, as the radioactive material is likely to be carried northward by ocean currents. (read more)

UK To Hire 'Twitter Czar' For $232,000 -- money well spent in hard times

The UK government was advertising Friday to hire a "Twitter czar" on a £142,000 ($232,000) annual salary, which would make the successful candidate one of the best paid bureaucrats in the nation.

The generous paycheck almost matches the £142,500 annual salary that British prime minister David Cameron gets for running the country, The Daily Telegraph reported.

The vacancy, posted on the official Civil Service jobs website, is officially titled the "new and exciting role of Executive Director of Digital." (read more)

Blackout hits much of Venezuela, gov't blames fire

A blackout hit a large swath of Venezuela on Thursday, darkening street lights, shutting down the Caracas subway and forcing President Hugo Chavez's government to resort to temporary rationing measures.

The power outage affected the capital of Caracas and 12 states stretching across the northern half of the country, Electricity Minister Ali Rodriguez said.

The state oil company said some activities were interrupted at its refineries, including units partially halted at the Jose heavy crude upgrading complex in eastern Venezuela. But it said operations were expected to be back to normal by early Friday.

A forest fire apparently caused the outage by overheating major transmission lines in western Venezuela and knocking them offline, Rodriguez said. He said that failure forced various power plants to shut down and caused a cumulative drop of about 10,000 megawatts, a large share of the country's generating capacity of roughly 24,000 megawatts. (read more)


China 'tainted milk' kills three children

Three children have died in north-west China from suspected poisoning after drinking milk from two local dairies, state media says.

Thirty-five others, mostly children, are being treated at hospitals in Gansu province, officials said.

An initial investigation showed that the victims were poisoned by nitrite, a chemical used in the curing of meat.

The two farms have been sealed off and an investigation is under way, Xinhua news agency reported.

A joint statement by the Pingliang city government and health bureau said one of those being treated was "in critical condition and the other cases were stable".

This is the latest in a series of food safety scandals to hit the dairy industry.

Last week, China's quality inspection agency shut down nearly half of the country's 1,176 dairies as part of a campaign to clean up the industry.

In 2008, at least six babies died and another 300,000 were made ill by drinking infant formula tainted with melamine.

The industrial chemical was added to dairy products to make them seem high in protein. (read more)

New warning on Arctic ice melt: Summer ice will be completely gone soon

Scientists who predicted a few years ago that Arctic summers could be ice-free by 2013 now say summer ice will probably be gone within this decade.

The original prediction, made in 2007, gained Wieslaw Maslowski's team a deal of criticism from some of their peers.

Now they are working with a new computer model - compiled partly in response to those criticisms - that produces a "best guess" date of 2016.

Their work was unveiled at the European Geosciences Union (EGU) annual meeting.

The new model is designed to replicate real-world interactions, or "couplings", between the Arctic ocean, the atmosphere, the ice and rivers carrying freshwater into the sea. (read more)

Garden As If Your Life Depended On It, Because It Does

There are at least five reasons why more of us should take up the spade, make some compost, and start gardening with a vengeance.

Spring has sprung -- at least south of the northern tier of states where snow still has a ban on it -- and the grass has 'riz. And so has the price of most foods, which is particularly devastating just now when so many Americans are unemployed, underemployed, retired or retiring, on declining or fixed incomes and are having to choose between paying their mortgages, credit card bills, car payments, and medical and utility bills and eating enough and healthily. Many are eating more fast food, prepared foods, junk food -- all of which are also becoming more expensive -- or less food.

In some American towns, and not just impoverished backwaters, as many as 30 percent of residents can't afford to feed themselves and their families sufficiently, let alone nutritiously. Here in the Piedmont Triad of North Carolina where I live it's 25 percent. Across the country one out of six of the elderly suffers from malnutrition and hunger. And the number of children served one or two of their heartiest, healthiest meals by their schools grows annually as the number of them living at poverty levels tops 20 percent. Thirty-seven million Americans rely on food banks that now routinely sport half-empty shelves and report near-empty bank accounts. And this is a prosperous nation! (read more)

Sounds safe: Google making app that would identify people's faces

Google is working on a mobile application that would allow users to snap pictures of people's faces in order to access their personal information, a director for the project said this week.

In order to be identified by the software, people would have to check a box agreeing to give Google permission to access their pictures and profile information, said Hartmut Neven, the Google engineering director for image-recognition development.

Google's Profiles product includes a user's name, phone number and e-mail address. Google has not said what personal data might be displayed once a person is identified by its facial-recognition system.

"We recognize that Google has to be extra careful when it comes to these [privacy] issues," Neven told CNN in an exclusive interview. "Face recognition we will bring out once we have acceptable privacy models in place."

While Google has begun to establish how the privacy features would work, Neven did not say when the company intends to release the product, and a Google spokesman said there is not a release timeline.

The technology wouldn't necessarily be rolled out in a separate app, a Google spokesman said. Instead, facial recognition could be issued as an update to an existing Google tool, such as its image search engine.

Google has had the technical capabilities to implement this type of search engine for years. (read more)

Home price declines deepen in major US markets

Damage from the housing bust is spreading to areas once thought to be immune.

In at least 14 major U.S. metro areas, prices have fallen to 2003 levels -- when the housing bubble was just starting to inflate. Prices will likely drop further this year, making many people reluctant to buy or sell. That would push down sales and prices more.

The depressed housing industry is slowing an economy that has shown strength elsewhere. And it's starting to hurt those who bought years before the housing boom began. In some cities, people who have paid their mortgages for a decade have little or no home equity.

Prices have tumbled in familiar trouble spots, such as Las Vegas, Cleveland and Detroit. But they're also at or near 10-year lows in Denver, Atlanta, Chicago and Minneapolis -- cities that weren't as swept up in the housing boom and bust.

"It's been tough on the lower class, but it's filtering up," said Paul Dales, senior U.S. economist with Capital Economics. "It may be only a matter of time before it hits the wealthy." (read more)

Europe Whispers “Crisis” While the Market Continues Screaming

Last year the Europe Union (and the euro) teetered on the verge of collapse when the Greek financial crisis strained the viability of the EU construct. This year, as other EU countries domino in similar fashion, no one seems to care – certainly not the markets. Portugal’s government collapsed last Friday, and Standard and Poor has downgraded Portugal twice in the last week from A- to BBB-. S&P then proceeded to cut Greece’s rating further from BB+ to BB-. Yet, defying all reason, the markets have gone up.

So, why is the market reacting positively to this news?
Well, in the perverse logic of a shortsighted market, debt spending is good. Going into the European crises last year, there was no backstop for a European country in trouble. The provisions for sovereign collapse were unclear and hotly debated. Would Greece be kicked out of the Eurozone? What would happen to the Euro? Would bondholders suffer losses? How would this impact banks?

The solution? Europe quickly embraced the troubled American model, socializing risk, instituting multiple backstops, and implementing enough cross guarantees to ensure that sorting through them would be more difficult than, say, trying to figure out how may countries the US is at war with. (read more)

True toll of Deepwater Horizon disaster may be 50 times worse than thought

The recorded impact of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill on wildlife may have severely underestimated the number of deaths of whales and dolphins, according to a new report.

The Deepwater Horizon disaster of 2010 devastated the Gulf region ecologically and economically. However, a new study published in Conservation Letters reveals that the true impact of the disaster on wildlife may be gravely underestimated. The study argues that fatality figures based on the number of recovered animal carcasses will not give a true death toll, which may be 50 times higher than believed.

"The Deepwater oil spill was the largest in US history, however, the recorded impact on wildlife was relatively low, leading to suggestions that the environmental damage of the disaster was actually modest," said lead author Dr Rob Williams from the University of British Columbia."This is because reports have implied that the number of carcasses recovered, 101, equals the number of animals killed by the spill."

The team focused their research on 14 species of cetacean, an order of mammals including whales and dolphins. While the number of recovered carcasses has been assumed to equal the number of deaths, the team argues that marine conditions and the fact that many deaths will have occurred far from shore mean recovered carcasses will only account for a small proportion of deaths. (read more)

BREAKING NEWS: Man Killed In Shooting On UK Nuclear Sub

One person has been killed and another seriously wounded after being a shot on a nuclear submarine docked in Southampton.

The incident on HMS Astute happened while the Mayor of Southampton, the leader of the council and the chief executive were aboard the vessel. None was hurt.

A Royal Navy serviceman has been arrested. There are reports a 9mm pistol was used in the attack.

A police spokesman said the shooting was not terror-related and there was no risk to the public.

Police vehicles were sent to the city's and officers could be seen on the gangway of the submarine. The area has been sealed off.

A former submarine engineer told Sky News handguns would be kept on board under lock and key.

Hampshire police were called by the Ministry of Defence shortly after midday. (read more)

How 'good luck' coins thrown into a hot spring have turned one of nature's wonders into a lurid hue of green - 8th Apr 2011

(image) Psychedelic wonder: Tourists have for decades been throwing coins into the Morning Glory Pool in Wyoming for luck. These have blocked its heat vents thereby reducing its temperature and causing a chemical reaction
(Image) 1966: How the hot spring looked 45 years ago before the chemical reaction took place.

For decades it has proved a popular tourist attraction.

And while the Morning Glory Pool in Wyoming with its stunning colours continues to attract visitors from around the world its appearance has undergone a dramatic change.

Just a few decades ago, the natural hot spring was a distinctive blue colour.

But now it has taken on a deep green hue with a distinct yellow and red ring around its circumference. Read More

Cupcake crusader: Woman is told she faces arrest for clearing up dog mess and replacing it with chalk pictures of cakes - 8th Apr 2011

A campaigner who replaced dog mess with drawings of cupcakes has been told that she could be arrested ... for criminal damage.

Louise Willows, a mother of two, became so fed up with the mess on the paths around Crouch End, North London, that she began her campaign.

Her mission was simple: replace every dog mess she found with a chalk drawing of a pink cupcake in a yellow cup. Such is the extent of the 'plague' in her area that she drew 25 sketches in just three days.

She also wrote: 'Dog owners, please clear up your dog's mess. Children walk here.'

However, on Saturday, she was approached by two WPCs who told her the drawings constituted criminal damage and had to be cleaned away.

She said: 'I explain that it's just chalk and it's part of a campaign to end this scourge of dog fouling by a children's park and school, but they're insistent it is criminal damage and I must wash it off.

'They are clear that I must fetch a bucket and a brush. I guess this is so it feels like a real punishment. Read More

Note: Seems to be a growing trend in the United Kingdom, people that try and stick up for making things better are punished by the law, while the law allows Real criminals to walk free from court, give holidays to yobs funded by the taxpayer and allow child killers out on bail.

And they wonder why society is imploding before their eyes.

Conflicting Reports: Nato 'Won't Apologise' For Libya Rebel Deaths - 8th Apr 2011

Nato has acknowledged its air strikes in "may have" resulted in the deaths of rebel forces on the ground in Libya yesterday - but will not apologise. The military alliance did not know the rebels were using tanks, spokesman Rear Admiral Russell Harding said after the attack, which killed at least five people.

But a rebel commander earlier claimed Nato had been told the rebels were moving T55 and T72 heavy tanks from Benghazi to Brega.

General Abdul Fatah Younis said at a news conference in Benghazi that fighters and medics were among the dead after the bombing "carried out in error".

Saleh Faraj, a former soldier fighting with the rebels, said at least three rebel tanks were hit in the air strike.

"There was no fighting anywhere. (The warplanes) flew back and forth and then they struck our forces," said Faraj.

The incident came ater the rebels criticised Nato for failing to provide the assistance it requires.

French Foreign Minister Alain Juppe said on Thursday it was now only a question of how Gaddafi's regime meets its downfall rather than whether the Libyan ruler can survive in power. Read More

Another nuclear plant damaged in big aftershock - 8th Apr 2011

Waters leaks have been found at another nuclear power plant after a strong aftershock hit Japan on Wednesday but there has been no change in radiation levels outside the plant, according to its operator.

A powerful 7.1 magnitude earthquake on Thursday jolted the Miyagi prefecture on the northeast coast, the area devastated by a massive earthquake and tsunami in March.

At least three people were killed and more than 100 injured in the aftershock.

The quake struck at 11.32pm, 66km east of Sendai at a depth of 49km, the US Geological Survey said. It was the strongest of the aftershocks from the 9.0-magnitude quake on 11 March and shook buildings as far away as Tokyo.

The Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) says water has leaked out of spent fuel pools of the Onagawa nuclear plant's No 1 and No 2 reactors and other parts of the plant, Reuters reports.

However, no new damage has been detected at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant that has been crippled since March, Tepco says.

Thursday's quake cut power was been cut in three regions, and there have been reports of fire and minor damage, and some injuries.

Workers were evacuated from the Fukushima plant, the BBC reported, and Japanese authorities ordered a new evacuation from the warning zone.

The workers are trying to keep the damaged reactors cool to stop further releases of radioactive material.

A tsunami alert issued after the quake was cancelled after 90 minutes. Waves of up to 1 metre in height were recorded hitting the coast. Source

Scientists link oil on dolphins to BP spill - 7th Apr 2011

Scientists confirmed on Thursday that they have discovered oil on dead dolphins found along the U.S. Gulf Coast, raising fresh concerns about the effects of last year's BP oil spill on sea life.

Fifteen of the 406 dolphins that have washed ashore in the last 14 months had oil on their bodies, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration scientists said during a conference call with reporters.

The oil found on eight of those dolphins has been linked to the April 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, scientists said.

"It is significant that even a year after the oil spill we are finding oil on the dolphins, the latest just two weeks ago," said Blair Mase, southeast marine mammal stranding coordinator for NOAA Fisheries.

Since mid-March, 87 dead sea turtles have also been found, although no visible traces of oil have been discovered on the carcasses, said Barbara Schroeder, NOAA Fisheries national sea turtle coordinator.

"But we do not have very much information about how oil products find their way into turtles," she added.

The Gulf is home to five species of sea turtles, all of which are considered at risk of extinction.

In February, NOAA declared "an unusual mortality event" after a spike in the number of dead dolphins washing up in Louisiana, Mississippi, Alabama and Florida.

There have been 153 deaths this year, 65 of them newly born or stillborn calves, NOAA officials said on Thursday. Read More

Harsh Winter Leaves Dead Fish At Many Ponds And Small Reservoirs - 7th Apr 2011

The severity of this past winter has left its mark on the shorelines of ponds and small reservoirs throughout the state.

Dead fish, thousands upon thousands of them, have washed up along banks during the spring thaw, falling victim to a lack of dissolved, life-sustaining oxygen in the water. State environmental officials say that the long winter's thick, snow-packed ice proved an effective barrier to both air and light. Not enough light reached below the surface to allow adequate photosynthesis by aquatic plants and algae that release oxygen.

Winter fish kills are a natural phenomenon, but the unusually harsh winter caused them to be widespread and, in some cases, more devastating than in past seasons.

"I had never heard of anything like that before. It was a surprise to us," said Kathleen Bagley, director of parks and recreation in Wethersfield, where thousands of dead bass, bluegill and sunfish have carpeted portions of the shoreline at the 1860 Reservoir.

Winter kills have been reported so far at 36 lakes and ponds, according to the state Department of Environmental Protection, with most of those reports coming in the last two weeks of March, when warmer weather took hold and surface ice melted. Source

Note: yet again we hear a witness comment that they have never seen or heard of this before

At least fourteen dead after eating toxic fish in Madagascar - 7th Apr 2011

At least 14 people have died after eating toxic sardines in Madagascar.

The deaths occurred in the town of Toliara, with another similar situation happening 130km away in Sakaraha. The sardines the victims ate belong to the Clupeidae family. As well as the dead around 120 people have been taken ill after eating the fish according to officials.

Dr Hery Raharisaina, Madagascar's fishing and aquatic resources minister, offered condolence to the families of the victims on behalf of the government. He added in his statement that the government would pay for the medical bills for those who are still hospitalized from the toxic fish and would also supply 100 mattresses to the city of Toliara as the region's hospital is overcrowded.

Samples of the sardines have been sent to health officials at the Institut Pasteur de Madagascar in the capital city of Antananarivo. Incidents like this have happened before in which researchers have tracked the cause down to the fish eating poisonous seaweed. Madagascar has the third biggest coral system in the world. Source

Four Rare otters found dead at Barton Clay Pits killed by illegal eel traps

FOUR otters have been found dead after getting caught in illegal eel traps.

The otters, a protected species, were discovered at Barton Clay Pits by members of the Barton Wildfowlers gundog group.

The discovery came on the final day of the closed season for eel fishing.

Biodiversity officer for the Environment Agency Phil Smith said the Government agency would be looking to take action against those who set the traps.

He said: "It is tragic these four otters met their end by drowning in such an horrendous way, in nets being used illegally on an unauthorised site.

"If the people who set these nets are caught, we will not hesitate to prosecute. Eel nets should be used only with permission from the land owner and the consent of the Environment Agency."

The otters were found in a string of four fyke nets in the Humber bank clay pit.

These bag-shaped nets can be up to 5m long with 10m lead wings which guide eels into them.

Eel nets have to be licensed by the Environment Agency, in much the way that anglers need to license their fishing rods.

The nets must have a numbered tag to allow identification and have to be fitted with a guard to prevent otters entering them.

As well as failing to meet these conditions, the nets were placed during the closed season. Read More

President Ronald Reagan: Speech about Aliens at UN



President Ronald Reagan Made this Speech at the United Nations in 1987

9 volcanic quakes recorded at Mount Taal in 24 hours - 8th Apr 2011

Restive Taal Volcano in Batangas showed signs of heightened activity anew in the last 24 hours, as state seismologists recorded at least nine volcanic quakes there during that period.

The Philippine Institute of Volcanology and Seismology also recorded weak steaming activity at the thermal area in the Main Crater Lake.

"Phivolcs reiterates Alert Level 1 and its recommendation over Taal Volcano. At present, no imminent eruption is indicated. However, the public is advised to strictly observe some safety precautions. Phivolcs reminds the general public that the Main Crater should remain strictly off-limits because sudden hazardous steam-driven explosions may occur and high concentrations of toxic gases may accumulate," it said in its Friday bulletin.

Also, it noted water temperature in the area slightly increased from 30 degrees Celsius to 30.5 degrees, although the water has become slightly less acidic. Source

(U.K. Justice, if you can call it that) Crown court judge accused of being 'influenced by alcohol' during paedophile trial - 8th Apr 2011

A legal watchdog is investigating a crown court judge after he was accused of being "influenced by alcohol" during a trial in which an alleged paedophile was freed.

Judge Douglas Field, 63, is said to have attended a leaving party during an extended lunch break.

He then instructed his jury to acquit the 55-year-old defendant, who was accused of raping a minor, after they failed to reach a verdict at the end of the five-day hearing.

However, it is claimed Judge Field forgot the man was facing a further two charges and dismissed the panel before they were able to give a decision.

A complaint has been lodged with the Office for Judicial Complaints by the mother of the alleged victim, aged eight. The watchdog is now investigating the claims.

In documents seen by The Sun newspaper, the complainant said in her opinion the judge was "of a person influenced by alcohol", when he returned to court.

She also described how he sat at his bench with his "head in hands resting his elbows on the table", following the leaving party.

The alleged incident occurred at Swindon Crown Court in Wiltshire during a trial in June last year.

The defendant was accused of raping a girl under the age of 13 as well as two charges of inciting a child to engage in sexual activity.

The Crown Prosecution Service sought a retrial last November on the two outstanding charges, but jurors failed to reach a verdict and the defendant was formally cleared. Read More

Nato 'Sorry' For Libya Rebel Airstrike Deaths - 8th Apr 2011

Nato has apologised for an airstrike that killed at least five people outside Brega, an opposition forces commander said.

General Abdul Fatah Younis said at a news conference in Benghazi that fighters and medics were among the dead after the bombing "carried out in error".

He said that the rebels had informed the military alliance that they were moving T55 and T72 heavy tanks from Benghazi to Brega before the airstrike.

Saleh Faraj, a former soldier fighting with the rebels, said at least three rebel tanks were hit in the air strike.

"There was no fighting anywhere. (The warplanes) flew back and forth and then they struck our forces," said Faraj.

In Brussels, Nato did not directly acknowledge responsibility for a blundered airstrike on the rebels, but noted that the area where the attack occurred was "unclear and fluid with mechanized weapons travelling in all directions".

The incident came ater the rebels criticised Nato for failing to provide the assistance it requires. Read More