Tuesday, April 19, 2011

British troops go to Libya amid 'Vietnam' warnings

British military personnel will be sent to Libya, prompting a warning that Britain now risks being sucked into a prolonged Vietnam-style conflict.

At least ten senior officers will be sent to Benghazi to try to forge the rebels trying to oust Colonel Muammar Gaddafi into a credible fighting force.

Ministers insisted that deploying the “military liaison advisory team” was not a sign of mission creep, but MPs of all parties said the move showed Britain is being dragged ever deeper into a Libyan civil war.

The announcement came after David Cameron urged Cabinet ministers to draw up new measures to help the rebels break the military deadlock in Libya.

After more than a month of air strikes, the rebels have failed to make significant progress against Col Gaddafi. British commanders have told the Prime Minister that the rebels lack the organisation to challenge the dictator’s forces.

Mr Cameron, who personally led international efforts to launch the Libyan intervention, is said to be becoming “increasingly impatient” and anxious about the stalemate. (read more)

Gold tops $1,500 for first time -- currencies crumbling across world

Gold prices topped a record $1,500 for the first time ever on Tuesday, shattering an important psychological barrier as investors seek out investments thought to be safe during times of upheaval.

Many investors see gold as the best place to park their money when there's economic or policital uncertainty, and there has been plenty of that to go around.

The price spike also comes against the backdrop of market uncertainty that has sent investors looking for an alternative to the weak U.S. dollar. And gold has been the marquee beneficiary.

On Monday, it was a dour outlook on U.S. debt that sent gold prices higher.

Standard & Poor's lowered its outlook for America's long-term debt to "negative" from "stable," based on uncertainty surrounding the nation's fiscal problems.

That's exactly the type of news that creates a flight to safe haven assets like gold.

Gold futures for June delivery hit an intraday record of $1,500.50 an ounce near midday, before retreating to settle at $1,495.10 an ounce -- also a new record. (read more)

Greece forced to pay sky-high rates to borrow -- Greek government may back of out of IMF rescue deal

Greece was forced to pay sky-high rates to borrow money for the next three months, amid reports Athens accepts that it has no alternative but to renege on the terms of its impossible debt burden.

The bailed-out nation sold €1.625bn (£1.43bn) of 13-week government bonds on Tuesday, but investors demanded a yield, or return, of 4.1pc to hold the debt - a quarter of a percentage point more than in a similar sale in February.

That means Greece pays a higher rate to borrow for three months than Germany pays for three decades, at 3.8pc.

The costs of servicing Greece's debt keep rising as markets ignore politicians' protestations that the country will not have to restructure the burden - effectively default, by changing its repayment terms.

A local report on Tuesday quoted a European Commission official as saying Greece "has realised that there is no other way and has accepted a mild debt restructuring".

Denials from the Commission, which argued that discussions were "not even" taking place between Brussels and the Greek government, could not convince investors. (read more)

Syria: emergency laws scrapped as protests continue -- 200 now dead, and rising



Syria has responded to weeks of unrest that have killed more than 200 people by scrapping emergency laws in place since 1963.

At the same time, the regime of President Bashir al-Assad vowed to show no weakness in its resolve to stay in power, threatening a hard line against demonstrators and killing at least three in breaking up a sit-in in the northern city of Homs.

Security forces moved in before dawn on Tuesday after funerals for protesters killed in demonstrations on Sunday turned into an overnight rally, with protesters pledging to stay until President Assad stood down.

The attack on the demonstration, which was reported to be peaceful, came amid conflicting signals from the authorities.

On Monday night, the authorities issued a hardline statement condemning opposition to the regime as an “armed mutiny” by Salafists - adherents of strict, Saudi-style Sunni Islam - who had killed policemen, soldiers and civilians.

They said they would “pursue the terrorists wherever they are in order to bring them to justice”. (read more)

Rebuilding Japan: Self restraint threatens recovery

Post earthquake, luxury goods are out of fashion, and hurting the economy.

At the Mitsukoshi department store in Ginza, the counter girls have nothing to do. Far outnumbering their customers, they have been reduced to spending their days rearranging their displays of designer handbags.

It has become deeply unfashionable to be fashionable in post-earthquake Japan. Instead, a new sense of "jishuku" or self-restraint, has taken hold. Consumers have decided it is improper to splash out on luxury goods when so many Japanese are suffering.

For Ginza, Tokyo's equivalent of Bond Street or New York's Fifth Avenue, and for luxury brands around the world, the sudden parsimony of Japanese shoppers spells disaster.

Last year, Japan was responsible for 24pc of the world's luxury sales, compared with 20pc for the United States and 22pc for the whole of Europe combined, according to Deutsche Bank. Tiffany, the jewellers, depended on Japan for 18pc of its revenues in 2010.

"[Spending money on luxury goods] was a substitute for a low standard of living in other areas," said Roy Larke, a professor of international marketing and Japanese business at Tokyo's Rikkyo university. "Japan is a rich country but a lot of people still live in small apartments and lack the other measures of a high life." (read more)

North Africa: US secret mission?

Some American government-funded organizations were sponsoring the uprisings in Arab states, concludes The New York Times correspondent Ron Nixon.

He writes that while the Pentagon was financing the antiterrorist fight, the US government was training the key leaders of the Middle East rebels to organize campaigns through new media tools.

Nixon points to the involvement of several non-government organizations and individuals in the ousting of the harshest North African regimes, like Freedom House, a nonprofit human rights organization. Many Middle Eastern leaders frequently complained to the US government that the organization undermined their leadership. Egypt’s government even asked Freedom House to stop all contacts with local activists and then limited its operation in the country.

Political analysts from all over the world are dying to know who was behind the Middle East unrest. Some believe it was masterminded by the West, while others think it was triggered by domestic problems. The latter view is shared by strategic expert Sergey Demidenko:

"I don’t believe in protests orchestrated by the West. This is a typical liberal theory of controlled chaos, that unrest can not emerge out of nowhere. If it were orchestrated, the US would know what to do but it didn’t. The US was completely lost in Libya, Egypt, Tunisia and now in Syria. But America wants a stable and controlled Middle East, safe for their assets and their oil pumping . It doesn’t care about anything else." (read more)

12 Pieces Of Fallen Space Debris -- Earth's orbit is a giant junk pile dumping on our planet

Donald Trump's Solution on Gas Prices: Get Tough With Saudi Arabia; Seize Oil Fields in Libya and Iraq?

I had a feisty 35 minute sit-down with Donald Trump today in which he dug in on the "birther" controversy, answered Club for Growth’s charge that he is a “liberal,” talked about a possible independent run and answered your questions.

But we began with his get tough approach on gas prices:

Trump: Look at what’s going on with your gasoline prices. They’re going to go to $5, $6, $7 and we don’t have anybody in Washington that calls OPEC and says, "Fellas, it’s time. It’s over. You’re not going to do it anymore." I don’t know if you saw yesterday, Saudi Arabia came out and said very strongly there’s plenty of oil. "We’re going to cut back." You know what cutting back means? They’re going to drive up the price even further.

Stephanopoulos: So, what would you do to back up that threat?

Trump: Oh, it’s so easy George. It’s so easy. It’s all about the messenger. They wouldn’t even be there if it wasn’t for us. If it weren’t for us, they wouldn’t be there. These 12 guys sit around a table and they say, "Let’s just screw the United States." And frankly, the rest of the world.

Stephanopoulos: And so finish this sentence. "If you don’t produce more oil…"

Trump: Look. I’m going to look ‘em in the eye and say, "Fellas, you’ve had your fun. Your fun is over."


Stephanopoulos: So, you would threaten to take away that [security] protection?

Trump: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. Let’s-- let me tell you something. Oil prices might go down. Because there’s plenty of oil, all over the world. Ships at sea. They don’t know where to dump it. I saw a report yesterday. There’s so much oil, all over the world, they don’t know where to dump it. And Saudi Arabia says, "Oh, there’s too much oil." They-- they came back yesterday. Did you see the report? They want to reduce oil production. Do you think they’re our friends? They’re not our friends. (read more)

US greenhouse gases drop to 15-year low, as does Global Warmists' credibility


Greenhouse gas emissions in the US dropped to their lowest level in 15 years in 2009 as the impact of the financial crisis led to decreases in fuel and electricity consumption, according to newly published figures.

In 2009, the US saw its emissions of the six main greenhouses gases drop 6 per cent year-on-year to 6,633m metric tonnes, the lowest total since 1995. Despite that annual fall, emissions rose by more than 7.3 per cent between 1990 and 2009.

The figures, released by the Environmental Protection Agency, are likely to be seized upon by Republicans as evidence that there is no need for further regulation of carbon emissions. The GOP has embarked on a campaign in recent months to strip the EPA of its ability to regulate hydrocarbons as well as other pollutants. (read more)

Freeze Tag, Wiffle Ball Deemed Dangerous in New Summer Camp Regulations: America -- But please, continue playing video games: they're safe!

Dodgeball, Red Rover, Wiffle Ball – those time-honored kids’ games, along with activities like Steal the Bacon and Capture the Flag – have been deemed dangerous by the state as part of an effort to tighten regulations for summer camps in the area.

Any indoor or outdoor recreational program that offers two or more organized activities, including one that falls on the “risky list” determined by state officials, will be considered a summer camp under the new rules and subject to the associated regulations.

The rules aim to curtail a loophole in previously passed regulations by the state Health Department that count activities like horseback riding and archery among the “risky list,” but do not include many activities like Freeze Tag and kickball featured in indoor programs.

At least one state legislator, Sen. Patty Richie (R-St. Lawrence County), fears the new rules will impair smaller programs’ ability to operate by requiring them to pay a $200 fee to register as summer camps. (read more)

25 percent of Paterson, New Jersey, Police Force laid off -- and fears grow that criminals will take over

On Monday, pink slips for 125 cops took effect in Paterson, N.J. It’s not clear if the cuts affected response times for the short-handed force, but NBC New York took to the streets with a police scanner to shadow officers as they grappled with reduced manpower in the neighborhoods of New Jersey’s third-largest city.

A police dispatcher sent officers to 245 East 21st St. to respond to a burglary at about 7 p.m. Monday. The first officer arrived at the residence within 15 minutes of being dispatched, but the victim said she made the initial 911 call six hours earlier – at 1p.m. (read more)

Secret memos expose link between oil firms and invasion of Iraq

Plans to exploit Iraq's oil reserves were discussed by government ministers and the world's largest oil companies the year before Britain took a leading role in invading Iraq, government documents show.

The papers, revealed here for the first time, raise new questions over Britain's involvement in the war, which had divided Tony Blair's cabinet and was voted through only after his claims that Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction.

The minutes of a series of meetings between ministers and senior oil executives are at odds with the public denials of self-interest from oil companies and Western governments at the time.

The documents were not offered as evidence in the ongoing Chilcot Inquiry into the UK's involvement in the Iraq war. In March 2003, just before Britain went to war, Shell denounced reports that it had held talks with Downing Street about Iraqi oil as "highly inaccurate". BP denied that it had any "strategic interest" in Iraq, while Tony Blair described "the oil conspiracy theory" as "the most absurd".

But documents from October and November the previous year paint a very different picture. (read more)

McDonalds will save American workers -- 50,000 hiring spree begins today



McDonald’s plans to hire 50,000 people nationwide during a one-day campaign this Tuesday. More than 280,000 people had applied online prior to the hiring day.

Minnesota stores will hire nearly 1,000 employees. It’s unclear how many will show up at stores Tuesday.

Managers are looking for cheerful employees who are reliable.

“Timeliness, especially here with the bus system. We have a lot of people, you know, ‘I missed my bus,’” said Katie Cheney, assistant manager at a McDonald’s in south Minneapolis.

She says one of the biggest challenges she faces is making sure a full staff is on duty.

“I had four people already today, ‘Oh, I’m going to be a few minutes late,’” said Cheney.

She said about 70 percent of the day staff is made up of working parents and other adults. (read more)

U.S. Debt Tops $14.3 Trillion for First Time -- And is Rising Exponentially

The national debt has passed another historical milestone, topping $14.3 trillion for the first time ever, according to data released by the U.S. Treasury late Monday afternoon.

When the Treasury opened for business on Friday, April 15, according to the Treasury’s Bureau of the Public Debt, the national debt stood at $14.27 trillion ($14,270,792,119,184.89). By the close of business Friday, the debt had climbed to $14.31 trillion ($14,305,336,580,992.11), an increase of $34.54 billion ($34,544,461,807.22).

Friday’s $34.54-billion jump in the national debt almost equaled the $38.5 billion the Republican House leadership said would be cut from spending for the remainder of this fiscal year by the continuing resolution that the Congress passed on Thursday and President Obama signed Friday.

The federal government is now perilously close to hitting its legal limit on debt.

At the close of business Friday, according to the Daily Treasury Statement published Monday afternoon, the Treasury only had legal authority to borrow another $40.821 billion. (read more)

EU awaits UN approval for deployment of ground troops in LIbya Conflict -- one big charade?

The EU has drawn up a "concept of operations" for the deployment of military forces in Libya, but needs UN approval for what would be the riskiest and most controversial mission undertaken by Brussels.

The armed forces, numbering no more than 1,000, would be deployed to secure the delivery of aid supplies, would not be engaged in a combat role but would be authorised to fight if they or their humanitarian wards were threatened. "It would be to secure sea and land corridors inside the country," said an EU official.

The decision to prepare the mission, dubbed Eufor Libya, was taken by the 27 governments at the beginning of April. In recent days, diplomats from the member states have signed a 61-page document on the concept of operations, which rehearses various scenarios for the mission in and around Libya, such as securing port areas, aid delivery corridors, loading and unloading ships, providing naval escorts, and discussing the military assets that would be required.

The planning has taken place inside the office of Catherine Ashton, the EU's foreign and security policy chief. Officials are working on an "A-plan", the operational instructions that would specify the size of the force, its equipment and makeup, and the rules of engagement.

Diplomats and officials said this would not be finalised unless a request for an EU military mission came from the UN body the Office for the Co-ordination of Humanitarian Affairs (Ocha). (read more)

"Obama ran against Bush, but now governs like him"

He ran as the anti-Bush.

Silver-tongued, not tongue-tied. A team player on the world stage, not a lone cowboy. A man who'd put a stop to reckless Bush policies at home and abroad. In short, Barack Obama represented Change.

Well, that was then. Now, on one major policy after another, President Barack Obama seems to be morphing into George W. Bush.

On the nation's finances, the man who once ripped Bush as a failed leader for seeking to raise the nation's debt ceiling now wants to do it himself.

On terrorism, he criticized Bush for sending suspected terrorists to Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and denying them access to U.S. civilian courts. Now he says he'll do the same.

On taxes, he called the Bush-era tax cuts for the wealthy wrong, and lately began calling again to end them. But in December he signed a deal with Republicans to extend them for two years, and recently he called the entire tax cut package good for the country. (read more)

Alert: High levels of Cesium-137 nuclear fallout not being shown to public?

Hey America, Ready For $7.78 A Gallon Gas?

The most important thing in the world for you to understand right now is that prices are NOT going up, it is the value of your money going down. The more debt/money created out of thin air by the privately owned Federal Reserve and the more money/debt spent by the Federal Government, the less value your dollars have. As a direct result of money/debt creation you need more dollars to buy the same amount of goods. When you understand that concept, it does not take too long to figure out that you are being stolen from by a bunch of criminals, every single day.

The best way to protect yourself from this thievery is to sell all of your paper assets and buy physical tangible assets that have no counter party risks. When you own tangible assets, the more “they” print, the higher your assets go. This should at the very least, protect your purchasing power and at the most, create a tremendous amount of wealth. To give you an example of how this works and why I think we could see $7.78 a gallon gas soon, let’s go back before the 70′s. (read more)

Mystery illnesses plague Louisiana oil spill crews

Jamie Simon worked on a barge in the oily waters for six months following the BP spill last year, cooking for the cleanup workers, washing their clothes and tidying up after them.

One year later, the 32-year-old said she still suffers from a range of debilitating health problems, including racing heartbeat, vomiting, dizziness, ear infections, swollen throat, poor sight in one eye and memory loss.

She blames toxic elements in the crude oil and the dispersants sprayed to dissolve it after the BP-leased Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico about 50 miles (80 kilometers) off the coast of Louisiana on April 20, 2010.

"I was exposed to those chemicals, which I questioned, and they told me it was just as safe as Dawn dishwashing liquid and there was nothing for me to worry about," she said of the BP bosses at the job site.

The local doctor, Mike Robichaux, said he has seen as many as 60 patients like Simon in recent weeks, as this small southern town of 10,000 bordered by swamp land and sugar cane fields grapples with a mysterious sickness that some believe is all BP's fault.

Andy LaBoeuf, 51, said he was paid $1,500 per day to use his boat to go out on the water and lay boom to contain some of the 4.9 million barrels of oil that spewed from the bottom of the ocean after the BP well ruptured.

But four months of that job left him ill and unable to work, and he said he recently had to refinance his home loan because he could not pay his taxes.

"I have just been sick for a long time. I just got sick and I couldn't get better," LaBoeuf said, describing memory problems and a sore throat that has nagged him for a year. (read more)

Fact or Fiction - Ancient Aliens "Chariots, Gods & Beyond" - 19th Apr 2011

Erich von Däniken who theorized that advanced beings from another world visited primitive humans, gave them the knowledge of the solar system, concepts of engineering and mathematics, and became the basis for their religions and cultures as evidenced by ancient monuments such as the Nazca Lines, the Pyramids of Giza and the Moai statues of Easter Island.

Evil Vile thugs hurl brick in four-year-old Jersey-Lou Perry’s face after her father tells them to stop kicking football at his van - 19th Apr 2011

This picture shows the horrific injuries Jersey-Lou Perry suffered after thugs threw a brick at her head.

The four-year-old was left with a swollen, bloodied face and broken nose in the disgusting attack in Grimsby.

She was left unconscious with shards of glass in her face after a gang of up to 15 yobs attacked her father's van - simply because he asked them to stop kicking a ball at the vehicle.

As he began to drive off one thug jumped out from behind a wall and threw a brick through the window, which struck his daughter in the face.

The brick hit her so hard it knocked out her two front teeth and broke her nose.

Her devastated father Kyle Perry, 23, said: 'I can not believe that someone could do this to a child - who throws a house brick at an innocent little girl?

'The coward who has done this to my little girl has to hand themselves in to the police.

'He could have killed her.' Read More

Nuclear Event Valencia, Spain - Water leak at Cofrentes Nuclear Plant described as normal - 19th Apr 2011

The plant claims that the leakage of 4,000 litres of cooling water a day is normal.

The Nuclear Safety Council, CSN, has noted in a report on its inspection in the third quarter of last year, that the Cofrentes nuclear plant in Valencia is suffering the leak of some 4,000 litres of cooling water a day.

The nuclear plant considers that such escapes are normal and say the water ends up in a dry well where it is treated and then returned to the system. The CSN report describes the leak as ‘continuous’. The Cofrentes spokesman, Juan Cruz, said that there was ‘no leak or anything abnormal’, despite those being the terms used in the CSN report. Cruz claims the escapes are ‘part of the design of the plant’.

The ecologist group ‘Cerramos Cofrentes’ says that the problem is serious, and affects the control bars which were substituted in 2005 and 2007. They called again for the plant to be closed, but the Ministry for Industry announced on March 10 that the life of the plant had been extended by ten years. The CSN report was completed the following day. Source

Police 'Hostile' To Oz Flood Tragedy Family -19th Apr 2011

A mother and her son who were killed by a flash flood in Australia were told off by police when they made frantic phone calls for help, an inquiry has heard.

Donna Rice and her 13-year-old son Jordan were swept to their deaths when flood water swamped the Queensland city of Toowoomba in January.

Their deaths received worldwide publicity because Jordan bravely requested that rescuers save his younger brother Blake first - a decision that cost him his life.

An official inquiry into the flooding disaster has been played audio tapes of the calls the family made to the emergency services while they were trapped in their car.

It took 28 rings before the first call from Donna Rice was answered by an operator, who yelled at her: "Why did you drive through flooded waters?"

The officer then asked her to spell her name several times, before she requested a tow truck.

He responded: "You ring the tow truck company yourself."

She hung up when the officer told her he was getting lots of phone calls from people affected by the flooding.

A short time later Jordan rang the Australian 000 emergency line.

The officer who answered told him to tell the woman who was next to him to "stop yelling".

Jordan pleaded: "We're nearly drowning, hurry up please."

In the background, his mother could be heard shouting "Get on the roof!"

Family and friends of Ms Rice wept in court as the calls were played. Read More

Robin Garbutt, Village Postmaster Found Guilty of the Murder of His Wife, Diana Garbutt and will Serve A minimum of 20 Years - 19th Apr 2011

A respected village postmaster has been jailed for life - with a minimum of 20 years - after being found guilty of beating his wife to death with an iron bar.

Robin Garbutt attacked his wife Diana as she slept, in a bid to escape from his debts and a failing marriage.

He then tried to cover his tracks by pretending their post office at Melsonby in North Yorkshire had been robbed by a gunman.

Garbutt, who cried in the witness box without shedding tears and changed a crucial aspect of his story, had told the jury: "I would never hurt Di."

But detectives discovered the village shop and post office was struggling to make money and Garbutt had been stealing cash to spend on lavish weekends away.

In sentencing, Mr Justice Openshaw said Garbutt's lies had been exposed as "pure humbug".

"He has always accompanied his lies with sanctimonious lies of his love for her.

"By their verdict, the jury have exposed this as pure humbug.

"This was a brutal, planned, cold-blooded murder of his wife as she lay sleeping in bed." Read More


Arizona Governor Jan Brewer vetoes 'birther' bill: Presidents not required to prove US citizenship in order to get on the state's election ballot

The governor of Arizona has vetoed a bill requiring presidential candidates to prove US citizenship in order to get on the state's election ballot.

Republican Jan Brewer said the bill would have allowed officials to judge who is eligible to run for office.

A lingering "birther" conspiracy theory asserts US President Barack Obama was not born in the US and is thus ineligible to hold the office.

But the bill's Republican backers insisted it was not aimed at Mr Obama.

The Arizona legislature was the first to pass such a law.

It would have allowed the state's top election official, the secretary of state, to determine whether candidates met citizenship requirements to hold the office of president.

"I do not support designating one person as the gatekeeper to the ballot for a candidate, which could lead to arbitrary or politically motivated decisions," Ms Brewer said in a statement. (read more)

12-year-old girl charged with armed robbery in Highland Township

A 12-year-old girl will likely be charged as an adult in an armed robbery attempt in Highland Township, officials say.

The girl was arraigned Saturday for attempted armed robbery in connection with the incident, which occurred around 10 p.m. Friday at Country Lake Market at 2150 N. Milford in Highland.

Armed with a loaded 9 mm Smith & Wesson handgun and wearing a bandana over her face, the girl confronted an employee and demanded money, according to a press release from the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office.

Despite the bandana, an employee recognized the girl. One of the three employees at the store disarmed the girl and held her until deputies from the Highland Township substation of the Oakland County Sheriff’s Office arrived. (read more)

Nigeria election: Thousand flee after riots following election of Goodluck Jonathan

Thousands of people have fled their homes in northern Nigeria after riots prompted by the election of incumbent President Goodluck Jonathan.

The Red Cross told the BBC some 16,000 has been displaced in six states across the north where some residents slept in police stations for safety.

Mr Jonathan appealed for an end to the violence and imposed a curfew.

His main rival, Gen Muhammadu Buhari, a northerner, told the BBC the violence was sad, unwarranted and criminal.

Some of the rioters have been alleging ballot-rigging, but the former military leader said he wanted to disassociate himself and his party from the clashes.

"In the last 24 hours, there has been a spate of violence in the country: this has included the burning of churches and is a sad, unfortunate and totally unwarranted development," he said in a statement. (read more)

Chernobyl new radiation shield funding fall short

An international conference called to raise funds for new safety measures at the site of the 1986 Chernobyl disaster has fallen 25% short of its goal.

The Ukrainian government said it had raised 550m euros of the 740m euros ($1bn; £600m) it needed to finance a massive new radiation shield.

Ukraine's President Viktor Yanukovych said this was a "preliminary" figure.

Chernobyl, the world's worst nuclear accident, sent a plume of radiation over large parts of Europe.

"The catastrophe at Chernobyl power station left a deep wound that Ukraine will need to live with for many years ahead," Mr Yanukovych said at the conference in Kiev.

"We thank the international community for not leaving Ukraine alone with this problem."

Mr Yanukovych said that to turn Chernobyl into an "ecologically safe site", it was necessary "to build a new sarcophagus around the damaged reactor as well as a secure storage facility for spent nuclear fuel."

"The catastrophe has affected millions of people; thousands died and tens of thousands continue to suffer," Mr Yanukovych said. (read more)

Gadhafi has 'still considerable' weaponry: NATO

NATO's top military official said Tuesday the alliance is having trouble destroying mortars and rockets that Moammar Gadhafi's loyalists are firing at the besieged rebel city of Misrata, Libya.

The city has been under attack for seven weeks, and the New York-based Human Rights Watch has accused the regime's forces of launching indiscriminate attacks on residential neighbourhoods.

Admiral Giampaolo Di Paola, the chairman of the alliance's military committee, told reporters in Rome that even though NATO operations have done "quite significant damage" to the Libyan regime's heavy weaponry, what Gadhafi has left is "still considerable."

Asked if more NATO air power and bombing are needed, Di Paola said any "significantly additional" allied contribution would be welcome. Given NATO's mandate in Libya, which does not allow ground forces, "it's very difficult" to stop the regime's firepower on Misrata, he said. (read more)

Inflation rate in Canada highest since before recession

Canada's inflation rate rose to 3.3 per cent in the 12 months ending in March, the highest it has been since before the recession.

Economists polled by Bloomberg were expecting the figure to come in closer to 2.8 per cent.

Energy prices increased 12.8 per cent during the period, with gasoline prices specifically increasing by 18.9 per cent.

But prices increased on all eight components the agency tracks. Food increased 3.3 per cent as the price for fresh vegetables rose by 18.6 per cent.

"Alongside higher prices of food and energy, the 'Olympics' effect from the prior year strongly contributed to the headline gain," Scotiabank economist Derek Holt said in a note. Prices jumped temporarily in February 2010 in response to the Vancouver Winter Olympics, reversing course the following month. (read more)


Japan's food crisis goes beyond recent panic buying

The neon lights of Ginza flickered out, leaving Tokyo's favorite playground in ominous darkness. Drivers fumed while waiting in long lines to purchase gasoline. Goods disappeared from supermarket shelves, sending housewives on forays into neighboring prefectures in search of everyday items such as toilet paper.

This describes Japan in the winter of 1973-74, after Middle East oil exporters, headed by the late Shah of Iran, jointly reduced output and raised prices in the wake of the Yom Kippur War, spurring the Energy Crisis.

Some of those who had experienced the "oil shokku" of the '70s may have been among the ones who rushed out to snatch up provisions in the immediate aftermath of the March 11 megaquake. Many people harbored legitimate fears that the frequent aftershocks, some in the magnitude 7 class, might set off a chain reaction that would trigger a major quake close to Tokyo.

But the greatest blame for the panic buying was simply lack of preparation. In a 2007 survey conducted by the cabinet office, while 58.9 percent of the subjects said they kept portable radios, first-aid kits and flashlights in their homes, only 36 percent maintained emergency stocks of food and water. (That figure was still higher than the 25.6 percent of responses to the 2005 survey, and nearly double the 18.6 percent of responses given in 2000.) (read more)

Pollution rules could be eased despite increase in asthma

Students in the South Allegheny School District, downwind of U.S. Steel Corp.'s Clairton Coke Works, have asthma rates 300 to 400 percent higher than national rates, convincing district officials to install air filtration systems in school buildings.

But studies show high rates of asthma prevail throughout southwestern Pennsylvania and the entire nation, affecting one in every 10 students.

The prevalence of lifetime asthma among Allegheny County school students is 11.3 percent, with Clearfield County claiming the region's and one of the state's highest asthma rates at 13.5 percent of students, according to state Health Department numbers.

"Diagnosis of asthma is better, but I do think there seems to be a lot more of it," said Carol Ann Kuczma, director of program and services at the American Respiratory Alliance of Western Pennsylvania in Cranberry. "We have a lot of it, and it accounts for a lot of hospital dollars."

But a study released Wednesday by Health Care Without Harm, the Alliance of Nurses for Healthy Environments and the National Association of School Nurses, said the already staggering human and financial toll of asthma in the United States "is likely to increase" if Congress carries through with its threat to weaken the Clean Air Act and block the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency from tightening air pollution regulations. (read more)

USF study concludes that common fungicide is deadly to frogs

Two years ago some University of South Florida researchers began studying the effects of the most widely used fungicide in the country to see if it might kill more than just fungus.

Turns out it's also a pretty effective frog-icide.

"We were completely surprised to see it basically killed everything," said Taegan McMahon, the lead researcher on the study, which was published this week in a scientific journal called Environmental Health Perspectives. Frogs on farms with treated fields, frogs in ponds on golf courses, frogs in the back yard — the fungicide could be lethal to any of them, the study suggests.

"We don't know what the effect on humans could be," she added. "And we use it heavily in Florida."

The fungicide, chlorothalonil, sold under such names as Bravo, Echo and Daconil, is used to treat farmers' fields, lawns and golf courses and is an ingredient in mold-suppressing paint.

It's part of the same chemical family, organochlorines, as the banned pesticide DDT. It is known to cause severe eye and skin irritation in humans if handled improperly. (read more)

Freeway air pollution linked to brain damage in mice

It is well known that air pollution from cars and trucks on Southern California freeways -- a combination of soot, pavement dust and other toxic substances -- can cause respiratory disease, heart attacks, cancer and premature death.

Now, exposure to pollution particles roughly one-thousandth the width of a human hair has been linked to brain damage in mice, including signs associated with memory loss and Alzheimer’s disease, according to a USC study in the journal Environmental Health Perspectives.

In a statement, senior author Caleb Finch, an expert on the effects of inflammation and holder of USC's ARCO/William F. Kieschnick Chair in the Neurobiology of Aging, said “You can’t see them, but they are inhaled and have an effect on brain neurons that raises the possibility of long-term brain health consequences of freeway air.” (read more)

Biodiversity vital to streams as extinctions rise

As Earth enters a period of mass extinction, a study released on Wednesday offers a new reason to preserve biodiversity: it's an effective, natural pollution scrubber in streams.

Environmental activists have long warned that waning biodiversity means the loss of such ecological services as stream-cleaning, control of pests and diseases and increased productivity in fisheries.

The latest study, published in the journal Nature, shows how this works, demonstrating that streams that contain more species have better water quality than streams that have fewer.

The species being discussed are microorganisms such as algae that incorporate elements of pollution into their bodies. The more types of algae there are in a stream, each with a minutely different habitat, the better they are collectively at filtering pollution out of the water. (read more)

Backyards disguise secret toxic dumps: Australia

TONNES of hazardous waste have been secretly buried on private properties, hidden by layers of spray-on grass in Wollondilly, an important Sydney water-catchment area.

Residents have revealed that organised illegal dumping has been big business in the area for years, with some property owners filling unwanted gullies and dams with waste and being paid about $100 a truckload to take it.

The residents also said the dumps were often quickly disguised with a layer of top soil and spray-on lawn.

''Within a week you almost couldn't tell,'' said a long-term resident of the shire on Sydney's south-western fringe, who did not want to be named for fear of reprisals.

The new MP for Wollondilly, Jai Rowell, told The Sun-Herald there had been 223 incidents of illegal dumping in the past two years, and - ''that's just the ones they caught''. He said waste was dumped on Burragorang Road last week, leading to the area known as The Oaks. (read more)

UK Military Experts To Help Libyan Rebels - 19th Apr 2011

Experienced British military officers are being sent to the Libyan rebel stronghold of Benghazi to help the fight against Muammar Gaddafi.

The extra personnel will add to a UK diplomatic team that is already liasing with rebel leaders in the eastern city.

A statement from Foreign Secretary William Hague said they would be able to advise on how to better protect civilians.

It stressed that the additions would not teach the rebels how to fight.

"This deployment is fully within the terms of UN resolution 1973 both in respect of civilian protection and its provision expressly ruling out a foreign occupation force on Libyan soil," the statement said.

"Consistent with our obligations under that Resolution, our officers will not be involved in training or arming the opposition's fighting forces. Read More

Note: If they are not there to fight, Arm or teach the Rebels, so what are they doing there? Surely to protect you would need to fight of the attacker?

Surely they could come up with a better excuse for getting our Army Boys on ground.

Bomb Targeting Police Fails In Northern Ireland - 19th Apr 2011


Police in Northern Ireland have had a lucky escape after being lured to a booby-trapped bomb in south Belfast that failed to explode, detectives have revealed.

Police were responding to a 999 call when they discovered an explosive device attached to a gate.

The emergency call to the police was made on Monday evening by a man who claimed to have heard a woman in distress in a wooded area off Annadale embankment in south Belfast.

Superintendent Chris Noble said the bomb that failed to detonate was capable of causing multiple deaths.

The narrow escape comes after a van containing a 500lb bomb was discovered by police in Newry on 7 April.

The device in the van was described by police as "sophisticated and substantial".

Last month a bomb scare in north Belfast caused the evacuation of 40 homes.

More to follow... Source

Blood for oil? Documents reveal talks between Government and oil giants BEFORE invasion of Iraq - 19th Apr 2011

Telling the truth? Tony Blair said oil conspiracies about the Iraq war were 'absurd' but leaked documents have revealed ministers met with BP and Shell about Iraqi oil before the invasion.

Opponents of the Iraq war always insisted oil had a part to play in the 2003 invasion, whatever Western leaders claimed about their desire for regime change.

The theory that Iraq’s oil was of interest to the UK was even dismissed as ‘absurd’ by then prime minister Tony Blair as the British government prepared for the invasion while BP also insisted they had ‘no strategic interest’ in Iraq.

But the real link between oil firms and the Iraq war has now been confirmed after secret documents showed ministers met with senior oil bosses, months before the invasion.

In 2003, Shell said rumours that it had met with the government to discuss Iraq’s oil reserves were ‘highly inaccurate’ while then BP chief executive Lord Browne said: ‘It is not in my or BP’s opinion, a war about oil’.

Yet Baroness Symons, then the Trade Minister, met with officials from BP, Shell and BG (previously British Gas) on October 31 2002, some five months before the invasion of Iraq.

Documents obtained after a Freedom of Information request by oil campaigner Greg Muttitt reveal that Lady Symons pledged to lobby the U.S. government on behalf of BP to ensure the British firm was not ‘locked out’ of energy deals agreed by Washington.

A memo, published in part by the Independent, states that at the October 2002 meeting Baroness Symons ‘agreed that it would be difficult to justify British companies losing out in Iraq in that way if the UK had itself been a conspicuous supporter of the US government throughout the crisis’.

The Foreign Office held talks with BP a week later, with the meeting’s minutes saying: ‘Iraq is the big oil prospect. BP is desperate to get in there and anxious that political deals should not deny them the opportunity.’

And while the company stressed just before the March 2003 invasion that it had ‘no strategic interest in Iraq’, BP had already told the UK government the Middle Eastern nation was ‘the most important thing we’ve seen in a long time’, adding it was prepared to take ‘big risks’ to secure access to Iraqi oil. Read More

Sarah Crutchley, 30, killed after falling from 300ft waterfall in Thailand - 19th Apr 2011

A British woman, 30, has been killed in a tragic accident after being swept 300ft down a waterfall in Thailand.

Aspiring teacher Sarah Crutchley lost her footing as she walked across submerged rocks and fell into two feet of water close to the edge of the Ton Nga Chang falls.

She managed to grab hold of a large rock for a few seconds but was washed away by the fierce torrent of water last Friday.

Miss Crutchley from Bournemouth in Dorset, who had been learning to teach English in Thailand, slid about 30ft down the sloping rock-face before plunging off the steep 300ft drop.

Only seconds earlier the university graduate had told a friend of how she been having the time of her life in Thailand, where she had been for three weeks and was about to become an English teacher.

Chris Penny, who witnessed her fall to her death said he desperately tried to reach Miss Crutchley as she clung on for life to the boulder.

The 21-year-old said today: 'Sarah was just swept off her feet by the water. She grabbed hold of a large rock and hung on for about two or three seconds.

'I tried to get to her but I also slid and fell and grabbed on to another rock. She was about one or two feet from edge but didn't say a word.

'I cried out for help and then the current of water was just too strong for her and she lost her grip. Read More

Jail fugitives hiding behind human rights - 19th Apr 2011

High risk ... crimes of 47 on run

FURY erupted last night over 47 dangerous fugitives not being named - in case it breaches their human rights.

The freed lags fled after committing new crimes or breaking early release terms.

But soft justice rules mean murderers and a rapist have a right to privacy.

All 47 are deemed "high risk" or "very high risk" - and include child-sex offenders, The Sun can reveal.

New powers promised by PM David Cameron to name criminals on the loose have been quietly dropped. Criminals have used data protection rules and the Human Rights Act to stay anonymous.

Last night Police and Justice Minister Nick Herbert ordered a review of the secrecy - branding it "ridiculous". He declared: "Of course offenders on the run should be named."

Tory MP Dominic Raab stormed: "Labour allowed the privacy of dangerous offenders to be put ahead of public protection. The coalition must reverse those warped priorities We can't have dozens of high risk fugitives shielded on human rights grounds."

This latest example of Ken Clarke's Justice Department being soft was exposed by a Sun freedom of information request about freed lags on the run. The total was 960 - and 47 were deemed dangerous.

A justice official refused to name them - citing their "reasonable expectation that the Department would hold the information in confidence". Source

Chicago turns white as 101-year record falls IN APRIL - 19th Apr 2011

If it was the first day of April then you’d be forgiven for thinking this is a fake picture.

But snow really did come down in Chicago this morning and the 0.6in fall recorded at O’Hare International Airport broke a 101-year-record for the day of 0.4in.

More snow fell in other parts of Illinois and northern areas were covered by about one to two inches - with around 2.3in recorded in Hebron, McHenry County.

The 0.6in recorded in Chicago broke the April 18 record from 1910 and moderate to heavy snow is expected to continue on Monday across Illinois’s northern parts.

Today’s high temperature is a chilly 40F and it will not get any hotter than 50F in the city until Friday, with thunderstorms and hail forecast for Tuesday.

Areas further south towards Indiana are more likely to see severe storms.

It follows the 241 tornadoes that took the lives of 45 Americans over the last week and cut a path of destruction through 14 states in the most violent storm on record. Read More

Stocks plunge as ratings agency cuts U.S. outlook to negative as national debt expected to hit highest level since Pearl Harbor - 19th Apr 2011

Fears over the U.S. recovery reached a new high as the country was slapped with an unprecedented warning that its pristine credit rating could be downgraded because of spiralling national debt, predicted to reach its highest level since Pearl Harbor.

In a major blow to President Obama and the U.S. economy, ratings agency Standard & Poor’s threatened to expel America from the elite club of top-rated nations if the administration fails to tackle the towering national debt.

The ratings giant said there is a one in three chance that in the next two years it will downgrade the coveted gold-plated AAA rating that the U.S. has enjoyed since the 1940s.

Stocks tumbled around the world as the S&P lowered the long-term outlook for the debt of the world’s largest economy to ‘negative’ from ‘stable’.

The Dow Jones plunged 183.68 points (1.49 per cent) to 12,158.15 in the first three minutes of trading as the ratings agency raised the alarm bell giving a strong vote of no confidence in America’s ability to tackle its deficit.

The Nasdaq dropped 42.06 points (1.52 per cent) to 2,722.59. The dollar fell sharply against the euro and the pound.

It sparked a wave of selling on global stock markets, with the FTSE-100 losing two per cent of its value. Read More

Star Wars is real: Life could thrive on planets like Tatooine with two suns, scientists claim - 19th Apr 2011

It was a fantasy world plucked from George Lucas' imagine.

But life could thrive on a planet like Luke Skywalker's Tatooine with its two suns, scientists have claimed.

However, the legendary director did get one detail wrong in his famous movies - the trees would have had black leaves.

Scientists have discovered that the temperature of a star determines its colour - and at different temperatures life evolves in very different ways.

Photosynthesis - the process by which plants produce energy from sunlight - is altered when the light colour is changed.

Scientists carried out computer simulations to model Earth-like planets either orbiting two stars close together or one of two widely separated stars.

They found that plants with dim red dwarf suns - like Tatooine - are likely to have black or grey plants.

The research is significant because it means scientists hunting for alien life should not rule out planets with multiple suns as uninhabitable.

Many multi-star systems contain 'red dwarfs'. These are cool, faint stars that are the most common star type in our galaxy, the Milky Way.

Around half of all red dwarfs, and a quarter of Sun-like stars, exist in multiple systems. Read More

Four Protesters Killed At Syrian Funeral - 18th Apr 2011

At least four protesters were killed and up to 50 injured when Syrian security forces opened fire on a funeral procession.

A further seven people were shot dead at a nearby demonstration when security forces fired on the crowds.

The shootings came as thousands of protesters took to the streets to mark Independence Day and to bolster the uprising against the country's authoritarian regime.

Witnesses said security forces fired at the hundreds of mourners who attended the funeral of 20-year-old soldier Mohammad Ali Radwan al Qoman as they chanted slogans calling for the overthrow of President Bashar al Assad.

The soldier is believed to have been tortured by security forces.

As the funeral procession snaked through Talbisseh, near the central town of Homs, protesters waved flags and shouted "Freedom, freedom Syria" and "Bashar get out!" Read More

500 Earthquakes in the Past week - Possible Volcanic Concerns Near Hawthorne, Nevada? - 19th Apr 2011



Five Hundred plus earthquakes near Hawthorne, Nev. over the past week have scientists looking closer at the ground.


They are looking at seismic and volcanic activity in Nevada. What is the possibility of "the big one" hitting Nevada? Or a volcano popping-up in Nevada?

The images from the movie "Volcano" are extreme. But, could we see the explosions or lava flow like in this film happen in Nevada? Seismologist Graham Kent says a movie-like eruption is not likely. "The type of lava that comes out of Aurora crater is much more like the Hawaiian. It is not the explosive kind."

Kent is talking about the Aurora Volcanic Field located just miles from the area where hundreds of quakes began rumbling a week ago. The center of those quakes, just eight miles from Hawthorne, Nev.


Kent says there has not been any significant volcanic activity there for 250,000 years. And there is not much risk of a catastrophic volcanic event.

But, there is risk of a big quake. The tremors are near Hawthorne, yet that does not mean Nevada state residence should ignore them. Kent says "this is a very significant sequence."

Kent says the residents of Hawthorne have been placed on alert. However, he adds, "I don't want everyone to focus on Hawthorne and not realize if you're not prepared and you're in Las Vegas or Reno or in Elko you need to be prepared and now use this as an excuse."

The Division of Emergency Management in Carson City is in place for quick action should it be needed. "Both folks at state and federal level are concerned," says Kent. All of this could be leading to a big quake in other parts of the state. Source

Was John F Kennedy killed because of his interest in aliens? Secret memo shows president demanded UFO files 10 days before death

An uncovered letter written by John F Kennedy to the head of the CIA shows that the president demanded to be shown highly confidential documents about UFOs 10 days before his assassination.

The secret memo is one of two letters written by JFK asking for information about the paranormal on November 12 1963, which have been released by the CIA for the first time.

Author William Lester said the CIA released the documents to him under the Freedom of Information Act after he made a request while researching his new book 'A Celebration of Freedom: JFK and the New Frontier.'

The president’s interest in UFOs shortly before his death is likely to fuel conspiracy theories about his assassination, according to AOL News.

Alien researchers say the latest documents, released to Mr Lester by the CIA, add weight to the suggestion that the president could have been shot to stop him discovering the truth about UFOs.

In one of the secret documents released under the Freedom of Information Act, JFK writes to the director asking for the UFO files.

In the second memo, sent to the NASA administrator, the president expresses a desire for cooperation with the former Soviet Union on mutual outer space activities.

The previously classified documents were released under the Freedom of Information Act to teacher William Lester as part of research for a new book about JFK.

He said that JFK’s interest in UFOs could have been fuelled by concerns about relations with the former Soviet Union. Read More

BP oil disaster scientists say Gulf of Mexico is almost back to pre-spill health levels...so why are a huge number of dolphins and turtles dying?

One year on from the BP oil spill and some scientists are declaring the overall 'health' of the Gulf of Mexico as back to normal.

More than three dozen scientists now grade the Gulf's health a 68 on average, using a 1-to-100 scale. This is just below the 71 grade the same researchers last summer said they would give the ecosystem before the spill.

However the scientists are also warning that just because the surface of the water looks clear, beneath is still a mess.

They cite significant declines in key health indicators such as the sea floor, dolphins and oysters. In interviews, dozens of Gulf experts emphasised their concerns, pointing to the mysterious deaths of hundreds of young dolphins and turtles, strangely stained crabs and dead patches on the sea floor.

Jane Lubchenco, head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, said the Gulf is 'much better than people feared, but the jury is out about what the end result will be.

'It's premature to conclude that things are good. There are surprises coming up - we're finding dead baby dolphins,' she said.

Just as it was before the April 20 accident when the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, spewing 172million gallons of oil, the Gulf continues to be a place of contradictions.

The surface looks as if nothing ever happened while potentially big problems are hidden deep below the surface, in hard-to-get-to marshes and in the slow-moving food web. Some may not even be known for years. Read More

I saw my girlfriend die via webcam: Beijing man watches in helpless horror as student Qian Liu is killed in her Toronto dorm room

A university student was killed in front of her own webcam while her helpless boyfriend looked on.

Officers found the semi-naked body of 23-year-old Qian Liu in her Toronto apartment at York University Village after receiving a tip-off from her boyfriend,who was chatting with her online 11,000 miles away in China at the time of the attack.

Now police have issued an urgent appeal for computer experts to help recover images of the murder.

The witness said he was talking to the English Language Institute student , originally from Beijing, at about 1am Friday morning when there was a knock at the door.

‘She opened the door to a male. She could have known the male but he was unknown to the online witness,' Toronto Police Det–Sgt Frank Skubic said.

The witness, speaking from Beijing, then told police he watched through the webcam lens as the muscular man with medium-length brown hair asked the victim to use her mobile phone.

He then watched as a violent struggle developed between Qian Liu and the man, although some of the fight also took place out of the camera's range.

The suspect - described as white, in his 20s, 6ft tall and about 200lbs - then turned off the IBM ThinkPad T400 laptop, which is now missing.

Her room-mate told reporters outside their house he thought the attacker had been pursuing her romantically.

The victim’s stunned boyfriend quickly used social media to contact others who knew the woman in Toronto and China but police didn’t arrive at her apartment until around 10 hours later. Read More

Colin Atkinson Banished for his Christian beliefs: Now electrician who had a cross in his van is thrown out of depot - 19th Apr 2011

The electrician making a stand over his Christian beliefs was yesterday thrown out of his workplace of 15 years for displaying a cross to mark Easter.

Colin Atkinson was told he had ‘violated’ his contract by revealing he had been disciplined for having the symbol on the dashboard of his company van.

Senior managers told the 64-year-old grandfather he could no longer work at the depot because he had ‘upset his workmates’. He has been moved to another depot but fears he will be sacked in days.

Despite Wakefield District Housing’s ‘anti-Christian’ rules, Mr Atkinson’s boss, Denis Doody, is allowed to display a poster of communist revolutionary Che Guevara in his office.

It is believed Mr Doody is one of the ‘upset’ colleagues.

Yesterday morning senior WDH managers were waiting for Mr Atkinson – who retires in ten months – at the company’s depot in Castleford, West Yorkshire, to deliver the news.

Mr Atkinson told the Daily Mail: ‘I expect to be sacked within days. They have already found against me for failing to carry out a “reasonable management request” by refusing to get rid of the cross.

‘And now they say they will give me three days notice of their final decision.

‘But if I lose my job as a consequence of all this then so be it. I don’t have any bitterness. I am standing by what I believe to be right in the eyes of the Lord.’

Mr Doody, the company’s environmental manager, has complained about being drawn into Mr Atkinson’s disciplinary case. But the electrician, who has been moved to a depot in Wakefield, claims that his boss’s Left-wing posters are relevant. Read More

Finnish Eurosceptics' election win could halt Portugal's £70bn rescue package - 19th Apr 2011

The crisis gripping the Eurozone deepened yesterday after a hardline euro-sceptic party made sweeping gains in the Finnish general election.

In a move that sent shockwaves across financial markets, the True Finns vowed to block further financial bailouts for struggling nations after seizing one fifth of the votes in the weekend election.

The party’s spectacular rise could derail a £70billion rescue package for debt-laden Portugal, which opened up talks with the International Monetary Fund and the European Commission yesterday.

The Portuguese government’s cost of borrowing hit fresh highs and the euro currency slid amid fears that the True Finns could torpedo the delicate negotiations.

In a further blow for countries in the single currency, the credit agency Moody’s yesterday downgraded the rating of Irish banks to the ‘junk’ category.

This means they will struggle to raise capital and lend money on the global markets.
But the potentially bigger blow came from political developments in Finland.

Previously only a fringe party like UKIP in Britain, the True Finns are vehement critics of the single currency and strongly opposed any financial support for profligate euro-zone members during its election campaign. Read More

Cutbacks council spends £1.2m on free phones for two thirds of staff - 19th Apr 2011

One of the country’s most controversial councils has handed out free mobile phones to nearly two out of every three of its own workers, it was revealed yesterday.

More than 7,000 town hall staff in Manchester have been given mobiles, with the bill of more than £1.2million a year paid by the taxpayer.

The number of mobiles for council workers went up by nearly a third last year and the cost of providing them rose by more than ten per cent, according to details released under freedom of information rules.

The wide distribution of phones to the authority’s 96 councillors and the majority of its 11,500 staff came in the depths of the recession and just before it launched a programme of large-scale cutbacks in its services to the public.

Labour-run Manchester is currently cutting back lollipop patrols, swimming pools, leisure centres, homes for the disabled, libraries and public toilets as part of an attempt to deal with £170million in reductions in grants from the Treasury.

Its leaders have piled the blame entirely on the Coalition and cuts. Ministers, however, say the city could maintain its service if it improved efficiency and spent less on wasteful bureaucracy.

But at the weekend its leaders were revealed to have £95.2 million sitting untouched as cash reserves.

The council spent more than £1.2million on mobile phones for its staff in the financial year that ended in April 2010, according to the figures obtained by the council tax protest group Is It Fair?

The bill was 10.6 per cent up on the £1,095,734 paid for staff mobiles the year before.

It supplied workers with 7,032 mobile phones and 232 BlackBerry devices, up from 5,451 mobiles and 111 BlackBerries in the previous year. Read More

No Evidence Of Gaddafi Violence, Say Britons - 19th Apr 2011

The Libyan government has renewed its call for independent fact-finding experts to come to the country to assess allegations of violence against civilians.

Speaking to Sky News, deputy foreign minister Khalid Kaim said: "We are asking for professional fact-finding missions.

"We asked the British government for this in the first week of the conflict but never received a reply. When we have claim and counter-claim, this is unacceptable."

It comes as the United Nations outlines plans for a humanitarian team to be sent to the besieged city of Misratah.

It also follows the surprise finding of a British campaign group who claimed they had seen ‘no evidence’ that Colonel Gaddafi’s forces had attacked, bombed or killed any civilians in western Libya, despite widespread condemnation of the regime from organisations such as the UN, the African Court of Human Rights and the International Criminal Court.

The mission, from British Civilians For Peace in Libya, led by Dave Roberts, of the Socialist Labour Party, spent a week touring Tripoli and a number of other towns in the west of Libya.

The 13-person group comprised a number of humanitarian campaigners involved in projects in Ramallah and Gaza, as well as film-makers, bloggers and political activists.

They travelled to Libya last week after forming a few days earlier. It is unclear who funded their visit.

In their interim findings the campaign group claimed they had been able to "corroborate civilian casualties and fatalities due to Nato bombing" but "could find no evidence that three areas of Tripoli cited in UN resolution 1973 had been subjected to government forces bombardment". Read More