Thursday, April 28, 2011

Japan considering moving capital from Tokyo amid disaster fears -- From newspaper rumour to real government contingency plan

The concentration of money and power in Tokyo is to a degree unthinkable in the United States. — Edward Seidensticker

A recent issue of the somewhat disreputable Shukan Jitsuwa looked into a "rumor" that said the capital may be moved to the Kansai region due to the continuing threat of radiation in the eastern part of Japan. The exodus will be spearheaded by the private sector it said, mainly foreign companies but also firms that were born in Kansai but which had over time moved their headquarters to Tokyo. Jitsuwa said that Osaka governor Toru Hashimoto is excited about the possibility, hinting at a rivalry between him and Tokyo governor Shintaro Ishihara, who has never taken the idea of relocation seriously.

Because it was published in Jitsuwa, many won't take the article seriously, either. However, the earthquake of March 11 reminded everyone just how vulnerable Tokyo is to disaster. The quake caused little damage in the city, but the disruption of transportation and communications lines led to thousands of pedestrians clogging the sidewalks. Another weekly, Sunday Mainichi, reported that 33 percent of the people who commute to Tokyo for work walked home that night. It was an orderly migration, but nevertheless a worrying one. If this is what happens in Tokyo when a major earthquake strikes hundreds of kilometers away, what would happen if one struck much closer?

The idea of relocating the functions of the central government was first floated in the 1960s for various reasons, not all of them having to do with disaster countermeasures. During the so-called bubble period of the late 1980s, land prices in Tokyo were absurdly high, and it was thought that moving at least some of the government would spread the wealth around, since the theory was that related private sector concerns would follow. When the economy cooled in the 1990s so did talk about relocation, and by the late 2000s the idea was considered dead.

Now it's suddenly back. On April 14, Sankei Shimbun reported on a bipartisan meeting of national politicians in the Diet to set up fukutoshin (auxiliary capitals) that can take over if Tokyo is hit by a major natural disaster or terrorist attack. Some 200 lawmakers attended the meeting and agreed that construction must begin as soon as possible, by the end of the year at the latest. The urgency of such a task was underlined by Kobe University seismologist Katsuhiko Ishibashi, who warned at the meeting that if a major earthquake struck the Tokai region and damaged the Hamaoka nuclear power plant in Shizuoka Prefecture, Tokyo, which is less than 100 kilometers away, would have to be evacuated. (read more)

US recovery fears causing dollar's value to crumble -- is a currency crisis fast approaching?

The pound touched a 17-month high against the dollar as the world's reserve currency slumped on fears about the US economy's recovery.

Slower-than-forecast growth figures from the US reinforced expectations that the Federal Reserve, its central bank, will have to keep interest rates low to avoid choking off the recovery. The data compounded the fall in the dollar after comments from Ben Bernanke, its chairman, signalled the same.

Markets were prepared for his press conference on Wednesday to indicate that June would mark the end of the Fed's quantitative easing (QE) programme - buying bonds in order to pump money into the economy. But traders reacted to his markedly "dovish" tone - suggesting a leaning away from higher interest rates - as Mr Bernanke warned the jobs market was still in a "very, very deep hole". Tighter monetary conditions are not imminent, they judged.

Tightening - in the form of an interest rate rise - generally strengthens a currency, as demand for it increases as people seek to take advantage of the increased rates of return offered by debt held in that currency. Conversely, low interest rates would normally weaken a currency.

The dollar's fall saw the pound rise to $1.6711 on Thursday, before closing up more than a cent higher at $1.6648. Investors looking for a refuge from the greenback also pushed up the price of gold - seen as a safe haven - to a new high of $1,535.90 an ounce.

"At this juncture there is nothing much to support the dollar," said Kathleen Brooks, research director at trading platform Forex.com. "The Fed aren't helping." (read more)

Syria crisis: 1,500 flee across border into Lebanon to escape Assad crackdown

Some 1,500 people, many of them women and children, have fled across the Syrian border to Lebanon escaping gunfire from President Bashar al-Assad's forces.

Mahmood Khazaal, former mayor of the Lebanese border town of al-Buqaya, said 1,500 people had come on foot. Many crossed a river dividing the two countries because Syrian authorities had stopped them leaving through official border crossings.

It came as the Syrian government was forced to make a public denial of mutiny in its army as President Bashir al-Assad's hardline tactics against demonstrators come under pressure from within.

Growing reports in recent weeks of soldiers refusing to open fire on demonstrations have been followed by opposition claims of a gun-battle between the 4th and 5th divisions, both involved in putting down unrest in the southern city of Dera'a.

Although dismissed at first, the websites have begun to put out first-person accounts. Meanwhile, other activists abroad have reported that hundreds of members of the ruling Baath party have resigned in protest at the killings.

"We stress that this is a diversion from the truth," a military source told the state news agency SANA, adding that the reports of splits in the army were a "despicable" attempt by forces attempting to undermine the "fabric of Syrian society and the unity of the army". (read more)

Syria crackdown: hundreds resign from Ba'ath party, as Britain receives Syrian payments

Hundreds of President Bashar al-Assad's ruling Ba'ath party have resigned in protest at an increasingly bloody crackdown on pro-democracy protesters that is believed to have claimed at least 500 lives.

News of the resignations emerged as a deeply divided UN security council failed to agree on a European and US-backed statement condemning the government's use of violence.

The draft – proposed by France, Britain, Germany and Portugal – was opposed by several within the 15-member security council, including Russia, Lebanon and India.

Alexander Pankin, Russia's ambassador to the UN, warned that a "real threat to regional security could arise from outside interference in Syria's domestic situation".

France, Britain, Germany, Italy and Spain summoned Syrian ambassadors in their countries to tell them they condemned the violence and said Assad must change tactics.

In a potential embarrassment for the British government, it emerged that Sami Khiyami, the Syrian ambassador to London, was still on the guest list for the royal wedding. The Foreign Office later announced that it had decided, with the agreement of Buckingham Palace, that the presence of the ambassador would be "unacceptable" and that he should not attend.

Meanwhile, the University of St Andrews, where Prince William and Kate Middleton studied, has announced it is to review the financing of one of its Syrian studies centres after the Guardian revealed that funding was arranged with Khiyami's help. (read more)

TVA loses all power transmission lines in Alabama and Mississippi, Browns Ferry Nuclear plant forced into emergency shutdown

Wednesday’s storms took out all of TVA’s electric power transmission lines in Mississippi and North Alabama, and forced Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant unto diesel backup power and into emergency and automatic cold shutdown.

Bill McCollum, the chief operating officer of Tennessee Valley Authority, said it may be weeks before power can be restored to all of the 300,000 customers whose power is supplied by the federal utility.

“With the level of damage we have, it will be — we hope it will be days until we get most of the customers back on, but it will be weeks before we’ve fully repaired all of the damage,” he said.

McCollum said the reactors, now being cooled by backup diesel power, are safe.

He said the spent fuel pools also are being cooled by backup diesel power and are safe.

The transmission lines are the monster power lines that carry electricity from TVA power plants to power distributors such as EPB and Huntsville Utilities.

Now those utilities, along with a number of large industries that are wired directly to TVA transmission lines, will not have power until the lines are repaired, McCollum said.

The loss of those transmission lines also caused Browns Ferry Nuclear Plant to lose power. (read more)

This post was reader contributed.

Americans are Preparing for Disaster at Unprecedented Levels

Do you have enough larder to feed your family and some friends if grocery stores ran out of food? How about several assault rifles and a few thousand rounds of ammo? Solar panels, a water filter, medical kits, bug-out bags, fire starters, tents, sleeping bags, some junk silver and reserve gasoline?

Don’t worry, you’re not alone.

It’s becoming apparent to many Americans that depending on our local, state and federal governments in the event of an emergency, catastrophic societal collapse or widespread disaster will not be sufficient to meet the needs of your family. Residents in Colorado (and likely the other 49 states) are stockpiling in droves and preparing to live off the grid if it comes to that:

Four families in Yoder are building a sand bunker and stockpiling ammunition and weapons.

A Black Forest resident has erected a geodesic dome on her 5-acre spread to grow vegetables, keeps horses for emergency transportation, in case she can’t get gasoline for her car, and plans to acquire chickens and goats as food sources.

A husband and wife who have a cabin on 100 acres of secluded land in Park County have weaned their property from the electric grid, acquired a three-year food supply and taken other measures to become self-sufficient.

While there’s little threat of the earthquake and tsumani that rocked Japan last month in landlocked Colorado, other epic crises on the home front are possible: A flood or fire. A terrorist attack. A nuclear weapons launch. World War III. Or an apocalyptic-type scenario.

An increasing number of people say they are getting ready. (read more)

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on brink of being impeached for disagreeing with Supreme Leader -- and now has gone missing: Iran

A rift is emerging between Iran's president and its supreme leader, prompting several members of the parliament to call for the impeachment of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has not been seen in public for days.

Ahmadinejad has refused to appear at the presidential palace since Friday in what is being seen as a reaction to Ayatollah Khamenei's reinstating of a minister he initially "asked to resign".

Under pressure from Ahmadinejad the intelligence minister, Heydar Moslehi, a close ally of the supreme leader, stepped down on 17 April but was reinstated when Khamenei asked him in a letter to stay.

The president has not publicly shown his support for that decision and on Wednesday he refused for the second time to chair a cabinet meeting in which Moslehi was present. Ahmadinejad also reportedly cancelled an official visit to the holy city of Qom prompting reactions among conservatives that "the president was sulking".

Under Iran's constitution, the president is in charge of appointing cabinet ministers who will hold the ministerial office after the approval of the parliament but an unwritten law requires all officials to abide by the supreme leader.

Iran's opposition has speculated that Khamenei is worried about the increasing power of Ahmadinejad and especially his chief-of-staff Esfandiar Rahim Mashaei. (read more)

Birth certificate isn’t Obama’s only secret: Washington Times

Barack Hussein Obama II was born on Aug. 4, 1961, in Honolulu, Hawaii. For over two years, the president has resisted pressure to divulge this simple biographical information, which proves he’s a natural-born citizen. The belated White House release of the “long form” birth certificate answers one constitutional issue, but a host of other questions remains about the most mysterious president in modern history.

Mr. Obama’s hostility to openness drives the public’s curiosity about the most basic facts of his life. For example, he has refused to release his college and law-school transcripts, information recent presidential candidates have openly shown the public despite some embarrassment over decades-old bad grades. What is there for this president to hide? Maybe he flunked government classes or got busted for dope. He has openly discussed his past drug use, but is there more to it? Secrecy breeds speculation.

The list of hidden Obama documents includes medical records from his annual physical - which other presidents have made public - and first lady Michelle Obama’s law-firm records. Is she covering up a Hillary Clinton-type Whitewater case? Who knows. Perhaps the biggest secret in the Obama administration: What is the president’s golf handicap? He’s played 65 rounds in two years, so is his swing improving? Or, does he force staff aides in his usual foursome to let him take presidential mulligans? (read more)

Tornado destroys Tuscaloosa: Astonishing moment by moment video account (Reader contributed)

Jonathan Payton, Dressed as Cow, Steals 26 Gallons of Milk in Walmart Protest -- distributes it for free to people outside before arrest: Courage.

How about 26 gallons of it? One man did, at least for a little while. And that man was dressed in a cow costume.

In the category of You Can't Make This Stuff Up If You Tried, the 18-year-old crawled into a Stafford, Va., Walmart on all fours, reported PotomacLocal.com.

After standing, he loaded about $92 worth of milk into a shopping cart and simply rolled the cart out of the without paying, police have confirmed to NBC Washington.

He then attempted to give the milk away outside the store, and tried to flee the scene by skipping away, police said. (read more)

"Massive crop losses" feared from South drought: US

A devastating drought intensified across Texas over the last week, with high winds and heat causing "massive crop losses," and weather experts said Thursday that little relief was in sight.

The latest report from a consortium of national climate experts, dubbed the Drought Monitor, said drought worsened along the Texas border with Oklahoma, and in western, central and southern Texas.

Ranchers were struggling to feed and water cattle, and farmers were left to watch their crops shrivel into the dusty soil. Some experts estimated that producers were giving up on up to 70 percent of the state's wheat acreage.

"There are some scary things going on in Texas," said Brian Fuchs, climatologist with the National Drought Mitigation Center, which released its weekly drought analysis Thursday morning.

Fuchs said the drought in Texas was one of the worst in decades. The dramatically lower-than-normal amount of moisture in the soil has caused widespread crop failures, including to the state's hard red winter wheat crop.

Texas is a key production area for wheat. The losses there and in parts of the U.S. Plains hit by drought will aggravate already short supplies around the world.

Data issued Thursday by a consortium of national climate experts said 95 percent of Texas was suffering "severe drought," or worse, up from 92 percent a week earlier. More than 70 percent of the state was in the worse conditions of "extreme drought" or "exceptional drought." That is up from 68 percent a week ago in extreme and exceptional drought.

"High temperatures combined with no precipitation and high winds continue to drive widespread wildfires and have led to massive crop losses," the latest Drought Monitor report stated. (read more)

Obama’s birth certificate proves Americans are powerless: Washington Times

Many Americans were shocked yesterday when President Obama finally released his long-form birth certificate from the state of Hawaii. The real surprise, however, is that for the past three years, our democratic institutions did not address the matter. The media refused to tackle this issue with the same investigative drive with which they investigated Watergate, President Clinton’s alleged indiscretions and the George W. Bush administration’s missteps in Iraq; the courts declined to hear a single case on the issue; and Congress failed to hold any hearings on the matter.

Perhaps the saddest part of this story is its ending.

Mr. Obama did not release the birth certificate because the media pressured him or because the courts actually listened to one of the many cases that were filed. He released it because an obsessed billionaire threatened his electability in 2012, which forces us to ask the question: What good are our democratic institutions if they don’t stand up for the people?

Journalists did not address the fact that the president was refusing to resolve an issue about his constitutional eligibility. Instead, they covered the “birther” movement in an effort to discredit any American who had a legitimate question.

Mainstream news organizations did not want to get grouped in with “birthers” because they had been compared effectively to the Sept. 11 “truther” movements, and anyone who raised birth-certificate questions was labeled paranoid, crazy and even racist.

However, there’s a big difference between people who just wanted to see Mr. Obama’s birth certificate and those who believe that our own government caused the worst terrorist attack in American history, especially when there already is a mountain of evidence pointing to al Qaeda as the perpetrator. With the Obama birth-certificate issue, the archive of evidence was slim, and his refusal to release the more extensive version of his birth certificate rightfully created more suspicion. (read more)

US Dollar hammering continues as global sell off and decaying economy takes toll

The dollar dropped after economic indicators pointed to a dismal employment picture and slowing economic growth.

First-time claims for unemployment benefits jumped 25,000 to 429,000, indicating employers might have slowed their hiring recently. Economists were expecting claims to fall to 395,000.

At the same time, gross domestic product rose at a modest 1.8% pace in the first quarter, matching economists' forecasts. However, the pace of expansion is much weaker than it was at the end of 2010, when the economy was growing at 3.1% pace.

"Overall this suggests that the U.S. economy is slowing down a bit and that could potentially weigh on the dollar going forward," said Brown Brothers Harriman strategist Mark McCormick.

The euro was at $1.4827 from about $1.4794 late Wednesday. The dollar was at ¥81.48, from ¥82.04.

The dollar has been hammered recently, losing out on interest-rate differentials and regularly hitting multiyear lows against other major currencies. Losses were especially bad Wednesday after Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke indicated the central bank is far from tightening monetary policy as economic growth remains slow and unemployment remains high. (read more)

Federal Reserve admits inflation, stunted growth starting to sweep America

In his first regular news conference, Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke said the central bank was continuing its stimulus policy because it was projecting slower growth in the economy with only a modest uptick in inflation.

The Fed cut its growth estimate for 2011 to between 3.1 percent and 3.3 percent from a January forecast of 3.4 percent to 3.9 percent.

The Fed also raised its estimate of inflation this year to a range of 2.1 percent to 2.8 percent, taking into account a recent surge in oil prices. However, it bumped its core inflation forecasts only marginally to a 1.3 percent to 1.6 percent range.

As for unemployment, it lowered its forecast but said it would stay elevated over its three-year forecast period. For 2011, the Fed said it expects the unemployment rate to land in a 8.4-8.7 percent range, better than a range of 8.8-9.0 percent forecast in January.

"The markdown of growth in 2011, in particular, reflects the somewhat slower than anticipated pace of growth in the first quarter," Bernanke said in prepared remarks before he took reporter questions. (read more)

Oklahoma Senate OKs bill targeting illegal immigrants -- the counterstrike begins

The Oklahoma Senate on Wednesday approved a bill that would create criminal penalties for undocumented immigrants who work in Oklahoma and those who smuggle them into the state.

It would also give police officers more authority to question citizenship status of suspects.

The bill, approved by a 37-8 vote, originated in the Oklahoma House and underwent revisions in the Senate. The two chambers must reconcile differences in the bill before it can go to Governor Mary Fallin. Senators faced a deadline on Thursday to pass bills that originate in the House.

Oklahoma is one of several states -- including Alabama, Georgia, Indiana, South Carolina and Utah -- where Republicans are pushing immigration measures reminiscent of the one that became law in Arizona a year ago. The Arizona law required police to investigate the immigration status of anyone they detained and suspected of being in the country illegally.

Under the Oklahoma measure, local police officers trained through a federal program would be authorized to ask about immigration status.

The bill would also make it a misdemeanor for undocumented immigrants to work, apply for work or solicit work in a public place. Convictions could result in up to a year in jail and/or a $500 fine. (read more)

Sony faces global legal action over data theft; shares fall -- more business woes for Japan

Sony Corp could face legal action across the globe after it delayed disclosing a security breach of its popular PlayStation Network, infuriating gamers and sending the firm's shares down nearly 5 percent in Tokyo Thursday.

Sony shut down the network on April 19 after discovering the breach, one of the biggest online data infiltrations ever. But it was not until Tuesday that the company said the system had been hacked and that users' data could have been stolen.

In the United States, several members of Congress seized on the breach, in which hackers stole names, addresses and possibly credit card details from 77 million users. One U.S. law firm filed a lawsuit in California on behalf of consumers.

"Gamers are angry that Sony's CEO hasn't come out to explain the situation and investors are disappointed over the company's corporate governance," said Michael Wang, manager of overseas funds at Prudential Financials in Taipei, which owns shares in Sony.

Sony's PlayStation Network, a service that produces an estimated $500 million in annual revenues, provides access to online games, movies and TV shows. Nine out of 10 of PlayStation's users are based in the United States or Europe.

Gamers could ditch Sony and analysts said people looking to buy a video game console could steer toward Microsoft Corp's Xbox, which has its own popular online network.

"I am outraged that my personal information may have been accessed by hackers," said Rich Chiang, a PlayStation and Xbox user in Shanghai. (read more)

Wal Mart CEO: "Shoppers Are Running Out Of Money"; There Is "No Sign Of A Recovery"

When a month ago the CEO of Wal Mart Americas told the world to "prepare for serious inflation", the Chairman laughed in his face, saying it was nothing a 15 minutes Treasury Call sell order can't fix (granted net of a few billions in commissions for JPM). 4 weeks later the Chairman is no longer laughing, having been forced to hike up his inflation expectations while trimming (not for the last time) his economic outlook. "U.S. consumers face "serious" inflation in the months ahead for clothing, food and other products, the head of Wal-Mart's U.S. operations warned Wednesday talking to USA Today. And if Wal-Mart which is at the very bottom of commoditized consumer retail, and at the very peak of avoiding reexporting of US inflation by way of China is concerned, it may be time to panic, or at least cancel those plane tickets to Zimbabwe, which is soon coming to us." In light of that perhaps today's words of caution from Wal Mart CEO Mike Duke will be taken a tad more seriously (yes, even with the $50 billion in "squatters rent" that the deadbeats spend on iPads instead of paying their mortgage: that money is rapidly ending). Warning is as follows: "Wal-Mart's core shoppers are running out of money much faster than a year ago due to rising gasoline prices, and the retail giant is worried. "We're seeing core consumers under a lot of pressure," Duke said at an event in New York. "There's no doubt that rising fuel prices are having an impact." Tell that to Printocchio please.

From Money:

Wal-Mart shoppers, many of whom live paycheck to paycheck, typically shop in bulk at the beginning of the month when their paychecks come in.

Lately, they're "running out of money" at a faster clip, he said.

"Purchases are really dropping off by the end of the month even more than last year," Duke said. "This end-of-month [purchases] cycle is growing to be a concern. (read more)

Housing Crash 2.0 Is Accelerating -- and will be far worse than the first, but hey, Dancing With the Stars is on!

House prices are falling again—and the decline is accelerating.

Today’s big housing numbers comes from the Case-Shiller home price indexes. The indexes, which measure how prices have changed over the previous three months, show prices falling in every major metropolitan area (except, weirdly, Detroit). The 20-city average declined 3.3 percent from a year ago, and 1.1 percent from the previous three-month average.

This is the seventh successive month of widespread price declines.

The housing recovery began to stall last spring, after the government’s home-buyer tax credit expired. The three-month moving average of the Case-Shiller 20-city index showed that gains in home pricing slowing to a crawl in early summer and actually reversing in July and August. By September, it was clear that home prices were going into a serious decline.

The November numbers (which are actually the three-month average of September, October and November) showed a 1 percent decline over the previous month. Prices kept dropping by 1 percent in December and January.

February’s data shows that the decline is actually accelerating a bit.

This is the opposite of a recovery—it’s a crash building steam. (read more)

Vijendra Kumar, 20, A 'Spurned lover beheads pretty Khushboo Kumari ', 17, outside exam hall - 28th Apr 2011

A 'spurned lover' is accused of beheading a 17-year-old girl in broad daylight in front of horrified students on a college campus.

Vijendra Kumar, 20, waited for pretty Khushboo Kumari outside St Xavier's College in Ranchi, north east India, where she had been sitting exams.

When Miss Kumari emerged from the exam hall, Kumar allegedly dashed up and hacked off her head with a dagger outside the headteacher's office, before being overpowered by other students.

It is believed that Kumari was studying a course at Ranchi Women's College. Kumar was studying engineering in Jamshedpur, 80 miles from Ranchi.

Kumar told police that the pair were in love and had agreed a suicide pact, although police believe the young man had developed a one-sided obsession.

According to local reports, Kumar told police 'Since our parents were not in favour of our marriage, we had decided to die.

'As per our decision, after killing her I was to kill myself. But I was overpowered by others.'

Police spokesman Praveen Singh said: 'We still don't know if she was in love with him. An inquiry is ongoing. Soon we will come to know the truth.' Read More

Mexican drug gangs being armed with U.S. weapons - 28th Apr 2011

Mexican drug cartels are being armed with weapons supplied by the U.S., leaked documents show.

The WikiLeaks files, written by U.S. military chiefs, reveal that grenades and light anti-tank weapons seized from drug traffickers in Mexico and Colombia were from the U.S.

A cable entitled ‘Honduras: Military weapons fuel black market in arms’ states that the serial numbers of arms taken from drug gangs coincide with those supplied by the U.S. to the Honduran Armed Forces.

According to the Defense Intelligence Agency file, the brands and serial numbers seized equipment are the same as a shipment sent to the Second Infantry Battallion in Honduras.

‘The [U.S. Government] has become aware that light anti-tank weapons (LAWs) and grenades supplied to Honduras under the Foreign Military Sales program were recovered in Mexico and Colombia,’ the cable said.

‘According to the [Defense Intelligence Agency] report, three light anti-tank weapons (LAWs) were recovered in Mexico City in January 2008, and one was recovered in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico in April 2008.’

‘Over 50 per cent of the military-type weapons that are flowing throughout the region have a large source between Central American stockpiles, if you will, left over from wars and conflicts in the past,’ said General Douglas Fraser, the head of the U.S. Southern Command in the memo.

According to the report, in April 2008, an investigation by the Honduran Armed Forces showed that the battalion did not know the whereabouts of 26 pieces of military equipment supplied by the U.S. for training. Read More

Is this America's tsunami? 250 die and thousands of homes are destroyed as 161 tornadoes up to a MILE wide tear through South - 28th Apr 2011

The deadliest storms for 40 years have obliterated large swaths of land from Mississippi to Georgia, killing at least 250 people in six states, wiping out homes and businesses and causing a nuclear power plant to use back-up generators.

The death toll, already staggering, continues to rise almost every few minutes as rescue workers pull bodies from the rubble. There are fears it could rise higher than the death toll recorded in 1974 when 315 people lost their lives in a single day when violent storms rocked several states.

There were reports of more than 160 twisters crashing through the Southern states right up to the Northern states, according to the National Weather Service Storm Prediction Center

There were 162 dead in Alabama alone, the state emergency management agency confirmed. It was the worst hit state that saw an enormous F5-category tornado rip through Birmingham yesterday leaving a path of devastation in its wake.

Barack Obama will travel to state tomorrow to view the damage from the storms. The president will meet with Governor Robert Bentley, state and local officials and families, The White House confirmed.

At least 200 people died in six states, with Alabama hardest-hit, the Associated Press reported.

The president added Alabama to stops tomorrow in Florida that include Cape Canaveral for the launch of the space shuttle, and Miami, where he is scheduled to speak at a college commencement.

'We were in the bathroom holding on to each other and holding on to dear life,' said Samantha Nail, who lives in a blue-collar subdivision in the Birmingham suburb of Pleasant Grove.

There the storm slammed heavy pickup trucks into ditches and obliterated tidy brick houses, leaving behind a mess of mattresses, electronics and children's toys scattered across a grassy plain where dozens used to live.

'If it wasn't for our concrete walls, our home would be gone like the rest of them,' she added. Read More


Storms knock out TVA nuclear units, power lines in Alabama as weather situation worsens

Severe storms and tornadoes moving through the U.S. Southeast dealt a severe blow to the Tennessee Valley Authority on Wednesday, causing three nuclear reactors in Alabama to shut and knocking out 11 high-voltage power lines, the utility and regulators said.

Governors in Alabama, Arkansas and Tennessee each declared a state of emergency as more than 20 deaths were blamed on a recurring round of severe storms this week moving eastward across the southern United States. [ID:nN27120833]

All three units at TVA's 3,274-megawatt Browns Ferry nuclear plant in Alabama tripped about 5:30 EDT (2230 GMT) after losing outside power to the plant, a spokesman for the U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission said.

A TVA spokeswoman said the station's backup power systems, including diesel generators, started and operated as designed. External power was restored quickly to the plant but diesel generators remained running Wednesday evening, she said. (read more)

The Browns Ferry units are among 23 U.S. reactors that are similar in design to the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant in Japan where backup generators were swept away in the tsunami that followed the massive earthquake on March 11.

Back to the future: The tablet computer that looks just like an iPad... but is 17 YEARS OLD - 28th Apr 2011

A tablet computer that looks remarkably like an iPad seems to spring up on a weekly basis.

But this device, also hailed as the future of home computing, was made 17 years ago.

Called The Tablet, it provided a glimpse into tomorrow's world that was incredibly accurate.

A 1994 promo film released by technology firm Knight-Ridder talks about 'taking today's newspaper into the electronic age'.

Even more astounding, with the benefit of hindsight, of course, is the video's assertion that consumers want a computer that doesn't come with a manual.

Roger Fiddler, who founded Knight-Ridder in 1992, talks of 'building a bridge of familiarity' with the public.

Nowadays, Apple has fulfilled that maxim - it is literally a case of turning an iPad on.

Mr Fiddler says in the video: 'All forms of media that we know today will be transformed in the next ten to 15 years.'

That prediction, made in the mid-1990s, has proved startlingly correct.

The iPad was released to phenomenal demand in 2010 - 16 years after Mr Fiddler introduced The Tablet.

Taking an introductory route, the video's voiceover says: 'It might be difficult to conceptualise the idea of digital paper, but we think that's what's going to happen.'

The Tablet was created by a team of journalists, designers and researchers.

It was never released, and was instead developed to show the media industry what the future of news consumption could hold. Read More


Benefits cheat pockets £18,000 while working... at the JOB CENTRE - 28th Apr 2011

Benefits cheat John Pickard left Department of Work and Pensions officials red-faced after scamming £18,000 while working at his local Job Centre.

The 64-year-old fiddled taxpayers' cash, including incapacity benefit, while he was a claims processor at the employment outlet.

Pickard, of Whissonsett, near Dereham, Norfolk, continued to claim benefits, including pension credits, when he was a taxi driver for a private hire company after he quit the Job Centre.

Judge Peter Jacobs said: 'At some stage you also worked for the DWP which seems bizarre.'

Pickard is now repaying the money out of his weekly benefits, the court heard.

Under current guidelines he avoided a prison term, instead being ordered to do 200 hours unpaid work and given a 12-month community order at Norwich Crown Court yesterday. Read More

Scott Turner 15, killed on the motorway after wedding argument with father who told him 'you've drunk enough' - 28th Apr 2011

A boy of 15 was killed after wandering into motorway traffic following a minor row with his father, an inquest heard today.

Scott Turner was hit by a number of vehicles, including an unmarked police car, on the M23 at Crawley, West Sussex, at about 1.50am on July 18 last year.

The teenager, from Burgess Hill, West Sussex, had been drinking pints earlier in the evening at the wedding reception of a cousin.

His father, Andrew Turner, said he received a reaction typical of many teenagers when he warned Scott about his drinking but added that his son did not appear out of control.

Mr Turner, a builder, told the inquest at Horsham Magistrates' Court: 'He didn't appear drunk to be honest, but he was merry.

'He wasn't falling over himself, but I did say to Scott, "You've had enough, leave it there". Read More

Ecuador volcano Tungurahua spewing smoke and ash - 28th Apr 2011

VIDEO: Ecuador volcano Tungurahua spewing smoke and ash: MyFoxORLANDO.com



TUNGURAHUA, ECUADOR - Hundreds of people were evacuated from slopes along a volcano in Ecuador that's spewing smoke and ash.

The volcano's name is Tungurahua but the neighbors call her "grandma."

She's more than 16,000 feet high and she's been rumbling for a week.

People have been told to wear masks and schools have been closed.

At least four people were killed when she erupted in 2006.

The volcano's about 80 miles southeast of the capital Quito. Source

Tuscaloosa Super Tornado kills over 200 in Alabama and other south US states -- widespread destruction, rising death toll



Tornadoes and storms in the south-eastern United States have killed at least 215 people, officials say.

In Alabama, the worst-hit state, 131 have died in recent days - including 15 killed by a tornado that devastated the city of Tuscaloosa.

Deaths and widespread devastation are also reported in Tennessee, Mississippi, Georgia and Virginia.

A state of emergency has been declared in seven states, and federal aid money is being sent to Alabama.

In Alabama, as many as one million people were without power on Thursday morning, as emergency workers and 2,000 soldiers scoured the wreckage for survivors.

Governor Robert Bentley said he expected the death toll to rise as more bodies were discovered in the rubble.

"We still have a number of people that are missing this morning, and we have all ground and air assets that are up in those areas trying to search for those missing individuals," he told reporters.

Mr Bentley said Alabama residents are accustomed to tornados and had taken precautions, but "in highly populated areas, it just makes it very difficult to move everyone out when a tornado comes through that's a mile wide."

The US National Weather Service has preliminary reports of nearly 300 tornadoes since the storm began on Friday, more than 150 on Wednesday alone.

One meteorologist described the tornado that devastated Tuscaloosa as possibly the "worst in Alabama's history". (read more)

Alberta employment minister warns of 'perfect storm' as Boomers retire: Canada

Alberta's employment minister has unveiled an action plan aimed making the workforce more attractive to older workers, in hopes of avoiding what he calls a perfect storm for the labour market.

Thomas Lukaszuk said that within the next 10 years, the province will have 77,000 more jobs than people to fill them, partly because baby boomers will retire out of the workforce.

"We're walking into a perfect storm," he said.

At a conference in Edmonton Wednesday, he unveiled an aging-workforce strategy that aims to revise retirement programs and pension policies. It will also develop age-friendly work environments, flexible work arrangements and phased retirement.

In Calgary, retired cook Edith Jones scoffed at the idea of going back to work without flexible working hours and more take-home pay.

"It's not worth going to work when the government takes all your wages and you get barely nothing. What is the point of going to work?" (read more)

Japanese production suffers record fall -- country continues to spiral



Japanese factory output suffered a record decline in March as the devastating tsunami crippled supply chains across the world's third-largest economy.

The government said production plummeted 15.3 per cent in March from February, the biggest decline since records began in 1953, and worse than analysts had expected. Household spending dropped 8.5 per cent from a year earlier.

Kaoru Yosano, the economy minister, described the production figure as a "stunning statistic", according to the Nikkei newspaper.

But Mr Yosano said the supply chain recovery -- "a matter of life and death" -- would be faster than expected because companies were "working day and night" to recover.

In an interview with the Financial Times after the March 11 magnitude 9 earthquake, Mr Yosano had predicted that the disaster would barely impact Japan's economy.

The earthquake and ensuing tsunami devastated large parts of northeastern Japan, destroying factories and warehouses and disrupting industrial supply chains.

Toyota recently said restoring its global production volume to normal levels would take eight months. The automaker, which is having difficulty sourcing about 150 different parts, said domestic production in March plunged 63 per cent from a year earlier.

While areas directly affected by the disaster suffered a 31.9 per cent drop in industrial production in March, the overall decline also reflected a 13.5 per cent drop in other parts of Japan, which were indirectly affected by the crisis, the government said. (read more)

China's population swells to 1.3 billion, aging

China's population today is larger, more urban, ageing and more mobile than ever before.

The population of the second largest economy in the world shot up by 73 million people over the past decade, up 5.7 percent to 1.339 billion in November 2010 from 1.27 billion in 2000, according to new statistics released Thursday by China's Bureau of National Statistics.

At of the end of 2010, population was expected to be 1.34 billion.

While China grew by approximately the current population of Turkey, its overall rate of increase was slower than the preceding decade. This could affect China's economy as the number of future workers is likely to contract.

The census also revealed that China's population is also aging, better educated and made up of more migrants than ever, the head of the National Bureau of Statistics Ma Jiantang said in a news conference.

The proportion of mainland Chinese people aged 14 or younger was 16.6%, down by 6.29 percentage points from the last census, a decade earlier.

"The data from this census show that our country faces some tensions and challenges regarding population, the economy and social development," said Ma. "First, the aging trend is accelerating, and second, the size of the mobile population is constantly expanding."

China's migrant population is up 81.03 percent since 2000. (read more)

BREAKING NEWS: Blast rips through Moroccan cafe; casualties reported -- terrorism suspected

At least 14 people were killed and 20 injured Thursday -- most of them tourists -- when an explosion tore through a cafe in the Moroccan city of Marrakesh, the state-run news agency said.

Initial clues gathered by investigators indicate that the blast is the result of an attack, according to the Maghreb Arabe Presse, citing the Interior Ministry.

Witnesses told CNN the blast occurred at Cafe Argana in Place Jemaa el Fna, the popular bazaar and square that draws thousands of tourists every year.

"We were walking around the souks, right around the corner from Cafe Argana. We heard a gigantic boom, and everyone immediately starting running towards the square to see what happened," according to a German tourist who was about 50 meters from the cafe when the blast occurred.

The woman, who didn't want her name used, told CNN the top floor and terrace of the cafe were "ripped apart" and hundreds of people ran from the area when they realized there was an explosion.

The witness said rescuers were dispatched to the scene and the news agency said police opened an investigation to determine the exact causes.

It is not immediately known whether the attack was linked to unrest across the Arab world or militant activity, although there have been some protests in Morocco lately. (read more)

Taiwan to boost combat training in disputed waters

Taiwanese coast guards stationed in the South China Sea will undergo rigorous combat training, an official said Tuesday, in response to China's more assertive stance in disputed waters.

Coast guards posted in the area will receive training akin to that of members of Taiwan's elite Marine Corps, said Wang Chung-yi, deputy chief of the Coast Guard Administration.

"We need strength to defend our sovereignty," he told AFP.

He did not provide details about the training, but the Liberty Times newspaper said it would include skills in areas such as coastal defence against amphibious attack.

Taiwan's coast guard currently has a base on Taiping, the biggest island in the disputed Spratlys archipelago. (read more)

Fast-growing risk to China: Holding $1.2 trillion of US debt

imothy Geithner says borrowing more from China to finance tax cuts for the most affluent Americans would be irresponsible. The Treasury secretary has it backward. The real question is whether Beijing is willing to double down on a nation whose balance sheet makes Italy look good. Holding $1.2 trillion of US debt is a fast-growing risk to China.

Traders have a theory about why the euro is reasonably stable amid a broadening debt crisis: Asian central banks are converting proceeds from recent intervention moves into other currencies. "Asian central banks" has become a euphemism for China, whose reserves now exceed $3 trillion. China is making deals with nations such as Brazil to conduct trade in yuan. It's also making noises about the Federal Reserve's zero interest-rate policies and Congress playing games with the debt limit. If you were managing China's reserves, how many more dollars would you really want in this environment?

Heck, China is even loading up on Spanish debt these days. "China's open admission of continual purchases of European debt shows it doesn't consider the US any safer," says Simon Grose-Hodge, head of investment strategy for South Asia at LGT Group in Singapore.

The risk that America's sugar daddy is getting fed up hasn't escaped US officials. It's probably no coincidence that Fed officials are talking about dismantling their quantitative-easing programme while Washington is homing in on the deficit. (read more)

Cotton prices increased by 200% in Zimbabwe as global inflation continues to take toll

ZIMBABWE'S struggling cotton farmers are smiling all the way to their commercial banks after the Minister of Agriculture, Dr Joseph Made (pictured), gave them a 200 percent hike for their "white gold".

Cotton prices have been increased from the paltry US$0,30 per kilogramme to US$1, a more than 200 percent hike for the cash-strapped farmers who had regularly complained to the minister.

In the region, cotton farmers are paid between US$0,80 and US$0,90 which makes local cotton farmers the best paid.

"In Malawi, for example, cotton farmers are currently getting US$0,80 while in South Africa they get US$0,90 per kilogramme," an official from the Cotton Marketing Board (CMB) said in an exclusive interview.

Farmers interviewed said they welcomed the price hike which would go a long way in solving their production costs which were escalating annually.

"We pay a lot of money for such items as fertiliser and inputs," a communal farmer said in an interview.

"So, this US$1 will go a long way in trying to solve our cash problems. The money is very welcome but it has come a bit late."

The official from the cotton organisation said now that the price had been increased he hoped production would go up from the current 20 percent especially from communal farmers. (read more)

Parents, don't dress your girls like tramps -- an editorial that needs to be read



I saw someone at the airport the other day who really caught my eye.

Her beautiful, long blond hair was braided back a la Bo Derek in the movie "10" (or for the younger set, Christina Aguilera during her "Xtina" phase). Her lips were pink and shiny from the gloss, and her earrings dangled playfully from her lobes.

You can tell she had been vacationing somewhere warm, because you could see her deep tan around her midriff thanks to the halter top and the tight sweatpants that rested just a little low on her waist. The icing on the cake? The word "Juicy" was written on her backside.

Yeah, that 8-year-old girl was something to see all right. ... I hope her parents are proud. Their daughter was the sexiest girl in the terminal, and she's not even in middle school yet.

Abercrombie & Fitch came under fire this spring for introducing the "Ashley," a push-up bra for girls who normally are too young to have anything to push up. Originally it was marketed for girls as young as 7, but after public outcry, it raised its intended audience to the wise old age of 12. I wonder how do people initiate a conversation in the office about the undeveloped chest of elementary school girls without someone nearby thinking they're pedophiles? (read more)

Pesticide exposure in womb may hurt your child's IQ

Children whose mothers are exposed to high amounts of certain pesticides while pregnant appear to have lower IQs than their peers when they reach school age, according to three government-funded studies released today.

The pesticides, known as organophosphates, are commonly sprayed on food crops and can be found in trace amounts on berries, green beans, and other fruits and vegetables sold in stores. The pesticides have also been used in homes and gardens, although their indoor use has been widely restricted due to safety concerns.

Organophosphates, which kill pests by attacking the nervous system, have previously been linked to developmental delays and attention problems in young children who were exposed in the womb. Now, researchers in two different locations have found that a child's IQ tends to decrease in proportion to the mother's exposure while pregnant. (read more)

GDP: US Economic recovery stumbles, begins retracting

Economic growth slowed to a crawl in the first three months of the year as a spike in gasoline, higher overall inflation and continued weakness in the housing market all took a toll on the recovery.

Gross domestic product, the broadest measure of the nation's economic health, rose at an annual rate of 1.8%, the Commerce Department reported Thursday. That's a significant slowdown from the 3.1% growth rate in the final quarter of 2010.

Most predictions for growth have fallen precipitously over the past several weeks as rising prices spooked forecasters. Economists surveyed by CNNMoney were predicting growth of 2.0% in the first quarter. But some estimates were as high as 4.3% just two months earlier.

"Undoubtedly, consumers are cutting discretionary spending to compensate for rising food and energy prices," said Jim Baird, chief investment strategist for Plante Moran Financial Advisors. "The risk of recession in the near-term remains slim, but an extended period of slow growth isn't likely to encourage an enthusiastic mood any time soon." (read more)

Japan’s officials try to take a bite out of radiation fears about Fukushima vegetables - 15th Apr 2011

Now offered at lunch at a Japanese government restaurant: a rich curry and rice, topped with Fukushima vegetables fresh from the nuclear-emergency zone.

It is part of an unlikely twist in the eat-local movement as the government presses a skeptical public to accept that food from the contaminated northeastern coastline should be purchased, roasted and devoured, not avoided.

“Damage by perception,” reads a poster promoting the revamped menu at Sakuna, located inside a government ministry. “Let’s fight against it.”

When the restaurant opened for business Friday, politicians rushed in, filling a table of 12. Three parliamentarians were there. Same with the foreign minister, Takeaki Matsumoto. Within minutes, waitresses presented the meals. Each curry dish was topped with two button-size cuts of carrot and broccoli, a few mushroom slivers and two silver-dollar slices of purple potato. Cameras clicked, and politicians sampled their lunches and nodded their approval.

Prime Minister Naoto Kan has also been doing his part, urging people to eat food from the disaster-hit areas as a show of support. So has Yukio Edano, the chief cabinet secretary, who went to a farmers market and ate a Fukushima strawberry.

“Only safe produce is being distributed,” Edano said. “Please eat it.” Read More

Gallery >>>

High radiation levels in food near damaged Japanese plant - 28th April 2011

Tokyo - Authorities have detected high levels of radiation in fish and spinach produced near the damaged Fukushima nuclear power plant in north-eastern Japan, a news report said Thursday.

On Tuesday, 2,600 to 3,200 becquerels per kilogram of radioactive caesium was found in two samples of sand lance caught off Iwaki city, south of the Fukushima Daiichi Nuclear Power Station. That is five to six times above the legal limit, public broadcaster NHK reported.

Read More


Nuclear Event - Kozloduy Nuclear Power Plant was evacuated over a detected increase of radiation rare gases, Bulgaria - 28th Apr 2011

Sofia. A higher radiation level has been detected in Bulgaria’s Kozloduy nuclear power plant, Russian Mayak radio station reported.

The staff on duty at the time were exposed to radioactivity of about 0,05 mSv, while the permitted annual dose is 0,5 mSv, which means their health is not at risk, the radio station said.

The incident occurred during planned annual repair works, it added.

On Wednesday the nuclear power plant announced that on April 26 at about 10:45 a.m. local time it detected a higher level of radioactive gas xenon (Xe 133) in the containment reactor during maintenance work in the primary circuit of unit 5.

All people on duty were led out of the facility and measures were taken to normalize the radiation. The radioactivity the staff were exposed to represents up to 10% of the annual dose permitted by safety officers, the facility said.

It added that all its staff on duty were tested for radiation and the results showed they were exposed to radioactivity of about 0,05 mSv, with the permitted level being 0,5 mSv.
The nuclear power plant noted there was no increase in radioactivity outside the containment reactor.

At 6:00 p.m. local time on April 26 the radioactivity in the containment reactor subsided to normal. A committee will analyze the event. The preliminary INES assessment is Level 0, Kozloduy NPP said. Source

BREAKING NEWS: Syrian Ambassador's Wedding Invitation Withdrawn - 28th Apr 2011

The Syrian Ambassador's invitation to the Royal wedding has been withdrawn, the Foreign Office has confirmed.

The last minute U-Turn on Dr Sami Khiyami's place on the guest list comes just just 24 hours before Prince William and Kate Middleton meet at the altar andfollows widespread condemnation.

Earlier this week, Dr Khiyami was called to the Foreign Office to be told Britain regarded his government's use of force against the demonstrators as "unacceptable".

The permanent under secretary, Simon Fraser, said the Syrian government should immediately halt all attacks against protesters and rein in the army and security forces.

The move was part of a co-ordinated action by France, Germany, Italy and Spain, who also summoned the Syrian ambassadors in their countries. Read More

Fact or Fiction - Ancient Aliens "Underwater Worlds" - 28th Apr 2011

Suggestions that various underwater structures and ruins found around the globe may have been used by extraterrestrials; such as the temple ruins found under Lake Titicaca in Peru; the geometric structures of Yonaguni off the coast of Japan, and ancient Indian texts that allegedly describe other sunken cities yet to be discovered.

Scientists uncover new evidence of what triggered famous supernova explosion - 27th Apr 2011

This incredible image may offer scientists proof of the cause of an historic supernova explosion.

The object - originally observed by the Danish astronomer Tycho Brahe in 1572, and dubbed Tycho for short - was discovered by Nasa's Chandra X-ray Observatory.

Scientists believe it provides strong evidence that a star can survive the explosive impact generated when a companion star goes supernova.

'It looks like this companion star was right next to an extremely powerful explosion and it survived relatively unscathed,' said researcher Q Daniel Wang of the University of Massachusetts in Amherst.

'Presumably it was also given a kick when the explosion occurred. Together with the orbital velocity, this kick makes the companion now travel rapidly across space.'

Tycho was formed by a Type 1a supernova, a category of stellar explosion useful in measuring astronomical distances because of their reliable brightness. Read More

French air traffic controller stabbed to death in secure area of airport tower - 27th Apr 2011

An air traffic controller has been found dead in a pool of blood in the control tower of a French airport this morning.

The 34-year-old was found by an airport employee in an office adjoining the control room on the tenth floor of the tower shortly after 8am at the EuroAirport outside Mulhouse, France, near the Swiss and German borders.

Police sources said the married father-of-one, who has not been named yet, had been stabbed three times in the throat, lung and chest.

A murder investigation has been launched.

The attack took place in the airport's secure zone only accessible with an identity badge, according to reporters in France.

No one has been arrested yet and know knives or weapons have been recovered.

Air traffic at the airport was not affected whilst the investigation got underway.

The victim was a senior controller at the airport and was in charge of the tower.

The airport in eastern France serves Basel, Switzerland, Mulhouse, France, and Freiburg, Germany. Source

Sun and hail showers: While rest of country basked in heatwave, this village had a white-out - 28th Apr 2011

Image is from Saturday 23rd Apr 2011 in the Village of Birstall, Leicestershire.

Now for the drought: Source of the River Thames dries up after driest March in more than 80 years
.

The source of the River Thames has dried up after the UK experienced the lowest recorded rainfall in March since 1929.

The Thames head spring in Trewsbury Mead near Cirencester, Gloucestershire, has stopped flowing after the driest March in more than 80 years. It was fed from deep underground and joins with the River Churn to make up the waters of the Thames that stretches for 215 miles (346 km).

But a stone placed in the meadow three miles south of Cirencester to mark the source of the infamous river is as dry as a bone.

Experts are warning that the lack of rainfall is likely to lead to hosepipe bans and the possibility of droughts through the summer.

The parched start to spring has left rivers across England and Wales ‘exceptionally low’ for the time of year, putting wildlife at risk and raising the prospect of hosepipe bans.

Forecasters say this month is on course to be one of the warmest and driest on record – and follows the driest March in 60 years.

At least 13 rivers are experiencing the kind of low levels seen in April only once every 20 years.

But while it's been one of the balmiest Aprils on record, Birstall in Leicestershire endured a bizarre 20-minute mini-blizzard of hail and snow.

In a sign of the vagaries of the English springtime, while most of the UK basked in the heatwave on Saturday, Birstall was battered by a downpour with ice balls the size of large marbles that left cars and roads under three inches of ice – while temperatures soared to 27.2c (81f) just a mile away. Read More

Stop meddling in asylum cases, unelected Euro judges warned by 47 countries - 28th Apr 2011

Human rights judges in Strasbourg were last night instructed by all of Europe to stop blocking the deportation of failed asylum seekers and terrorists.

Each of the 47 countries which oversee the unelected European Court of Human Rights issued a joint statement saying the judges’ meddling in national affairs must end.

Ministers hope it will pave the way for the UK to deport more foreign criminals, asylum rejects and preachers of hate.

The declaration by the Council of Europe is a humiliating rebuke for Strasbourg, which has effectively been slapped down by its own parent body.

Justice Secretary Ken Clarke was instrumental in persuading other countries to join the attack on the European Court.

It indicates that – in the wake of the prisoner voting row – the Government’s patience with Strasbourg has finally snapped. Read More

Is the Facebook bubble about to burst? Early investors want out by offloading $1billion of shares - 28th Apr 2011

Early-stage investors and employees are worried the bubble might be about to burst.

A group of shareholders want to offload $1billion of Facebook shares on the secondary market in a sale that would value the company at more than $70 billion.

It would be one of the largest Facebook share transactions to date and show concern that the social networking site’s growth cannot keep pace with its market valuation.

The sellers had tried to offload shares at a price valuing Facebook at $90billion, which would have made it more valuable than Time Warner and News Corp combined.

‘At the current valuation where it is, it is really hard to justify the investment,’ said Sumeet Jain, of venture capital firm CMEA Capital, which has knowledge of Facebook.

‘It's hard to imagine it will turn into a $270billion company in the next few years.’

The current deal is awaiting approval from top Facebook executives such as CEO Mark Zuckerberg and Chief Financial Officer David Ebersman, sources told Reuters. Read More

Gabby Joseph, 16 Dies under a Train after Farewell on Facebook - 28th Apr 2011

Tragic teenager Gabby Joseph said 'goodbye' to fellow models from top fashion chain Hollister before being killed by a train, it was revealed today.

The promising young model was popular with colleagues and customers at her part-time job at the store in Cardiff and showed no outward sign of being unhappy.

New pictures released of the 16-year-old show her enjoying a night out with fellow models from store, who described her as a 'happy party girl'.

It emerged that Gabby posted a Facebook message to her colleagues just minutes before her death.

Friends who saw the post tried to contact her by phone, text and Facebook - but it was too late.

One model who worked at the Cardiff store with Gabby told of their grief and shock at her death.

'As soon as Gabby put the message up on Facebook we knew something was wrong', she said.

'It was a 'goodbye' message to all her friends saying she was going to miss everyone.

'She wrote on her status that she 'had to do this for herself' - that was the last thing we heard. Read More

'I remembered being born': Obama chides birthers for 'silliness'... as he hops on Air Force One to tell all to showbiz pal Oprah - 28th Apr 2011

Barack Obama has appeared on Oprah to explain why he released his birth certificate yesterday.

But he was immediately slammed for 'campaign politics' as video of him laughing with the talk show queen emerged.

Republicans accused the President of wasting time, saying that crippling national debt, high unemployment and rising gas prices are more important than President's birth certificate.

The President had chided the 'silliness' of the birther movement before hopping on Air Force One to make the Oprah appearance.

The White House had hoped the long-awaited release of the certificate would deliver a fatal blow to the so-called 'birther' movement - led by flamboyant billionaire Donald Trump - which maintains the President was not born in Hawaii.

But moments after labelling the whole debate a 'silly side show', Mr Obama hopped aboard Chicago bound Air Force One to film with his long-time supporter Oprah Winfrey.

'When it first came up, were you thinking, I hope I was born here?' Oprah asked, to laughter from the audience.

'Can I just say I was there, so I knew,' Mr Obama replied. 'I knew I had been born. I remembered it.' Read More