Friday, April 29, 2011

Japan Economy took bigger hit than estimated

The economy took a bigger hit from last month's disaster than anticipated, with factory output falling the most since at least the end of Allied Occupation, underscoring calls for the Bank of Japan to add stimulus.

Factory output dropped a record 15.3 percent from February and household spending plunged 8.5 percent from a year earlier, government reports showed Thursday. Retail sales fell the most in 13 years, according to data released the previous day.

The economy's deterioration makes harder Prime Minister Naoto Kan's task of sustaining confidence in government debt after Standard & Poor's on Wednesday downgraded its outlook for the nation's rating.

The BOJ was expected to detail an emergency lending program later in the day for banks in the devastated Tohoku region as a group of lawmakers and former Cabinet ministers presses for more purchases of government bonds.

"Plunges in output and exports will weaken consumer spending and that may prompt discussions for more stimulus," said Masayuki Kichikawa, chief economist at Bank of America-Merrill Lynch in Tokyo. "The Bank of Japan will be compelled to consider adding more stimulus around the middle of the year." (read more)

US Espionage Act ‘makes felons of us all,’ legal expert warns: Buried but not forgotten

The US Espionage Act could make “felons of us all,” a legal expert warned Monday as the House Judiciary Committee announced plans to reexamine the “constitutional issues raised by WikiLeaks.”

Attorneys for WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange have warned that US authorities are seeking to charge him with spying charges under the Espionage Act of 1917 for his role in helping the media publish leaked US State Department diplomatic cables.

Under the Act, anyone “having unauthorized possession of” information relating to the national defense or information that could be “used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation” may be prosecuted if he or she publishes it or “willfully retains” it. (read more)

Southern US Tornadoes death toll now at 300+ ...and the storm season is far from over yet

Tornadoes and violent storms tore through seven Southern states, killing at least 306 people and causing billions of dollars of damage in one of the deadliest swarm of twisters in US history.

President Barack Obama described the loss of life as "heartbreaking" and called the damage to homes and businesses "nothing short of catastrophic." He promised strong federal support for rebuilding and plans to view the damage on Friday.

Over several days this week, the powerful tornadoes - more than 160 reported in total - combined with storms to cut a swath of destruction heading west to east.

It was the worst US natural disaster since Hurricane Katrina in 2005, which killed up to 1,800 people.

In some areas, whole neighborhoods were flattened, cars flipped over and trees and power lines felled, leaving tangled wreckage.

While rescue officials searched for survivors, some who sheltered in bathtubs, closets and basements told of miraculous escapes.

"I made it. I got in a closet, put a pillow over my face and held on for dear life because it started sucking me up," said Angela Smith of Tuscaloosa, Alabama, one of the worst-hit cities.

In Birmingham, Alabama, which was also hard hit, Police Chief A.C. Roper said rescue workers sifted through rubble "hand to hand" on Thursday to pull people from destroyed homes.

"We even rescued two babies, one that was trapped in a crib when the house fell down on top of the baby," Roper said in an interview on PBS NewsHour. (read more)

Feds sting Amish farmer... for selling his own, healthy milk: The persecution of American citizens continues

A yearlong sting operation, including aliases, a 5 a.m. surprise inspection and surreptitious purchases from an Amish farm in Pennsylvania, culminated in the federal government announcing this week that it has gone to court to stop Rainbow Acres Farm from selling its contraband to willing customers in the Washington area.

The product in question: unpasteurized milk.

It’s a battle that’s been going on behind the scenes for years, with natural foods advocates arguing that raw milk, as it’s also known, is healthier than the pasteurized product, while the Food and Drug Administration says raw milk can carry harmful bacteria such as salmonella, E. coli and listeria.

“It is the FDA’s position that raw milk should never be consumed,” said Tamara N. Ward, spokeswoman for the FDA, whose investigators have been looking into Rainbow Acres for months, and who finally last week filed a 10-page complaint in federal court in Pennsylvania seeking an order to stop the farm from shipping across state lines any more raw milk or dairy products made from it. (read more)

Elmer McGuirt, homeless, robs Tampa bank -- and then gives money away to others: Hero

Authorities say a homeless man robbed a Tampa bank, fled on a city bus and handed out stolen cash to passengers.

Hillsborough County Sheriff's deputies say 27-year-old Elmer McGuirt handed a note demanding money to a Wachovia Bank teller about 4:30 p.m. Thursday.

Witnesses told deputies he then got on the bus and started handing out money, keeping some of the cash for himself.

The sheriff's office contacted the bus driver, who stopped the bus and pretended to have mechanical failure. Deputies arrested McGuirt and were also able to get some of the money back from passengers.

McQuirt now faces robbery charges. He is in the Hillsborough County Jail. (Source)

If IAEA implicates Syria in building covert nuclear reactor in upcoming report, UN Security Council action could follow

UN inspectors may say in an upcoming report that a Syrian desert site bombed to rubble in 2007 was probably a covert nuclear reactor, opening the way for the UN Security Council to take up the case, diplomats said.

Previous International Atomic Energy Agency reports have said there are indications nuclear activity may have taken place at the Dair Alzour site, but the next report could use more pointed wording, according to Vienna-based diplomats.

The IAEA declined to comment about the report, which will be presented to its 35-nation governing board in June.

The board has the power to refer countries to the Security Council if they are judged to have broken IAEA rules based on the global Non-Proliferation Treaty that ban diversions of nuclear technology to weapons development. (read more)

Three Convicted in Terror-Related Cases Later Granted U.S. Citizenship by Obama Administration

Three people convicted of crimes as a result of a terrorism-related investigation by the Department of Justice (DOJ) were later naturalized as U.S. citizens by the Obama administration, according to federal auditors.

The March 2011 audit (released on April 21, 2011) by the Government Accountability Office (GAO), entitled Criminal Alien Statistics: Information on Incarcerations, Arrests and Costs, shows that three individuals were among “defendants where the investigation involved an identified link to international terrorism but they were charged with violating other statutes [not directly related to terrorism], including fraud, immigration, drugs, false statements, and general conspiracy charges,” referred by DOJ as Category II terrorism-related cases.

The three individuals in question can be found in a DOJ list of unsealed terrorism-related investigations conducted from Sept. 11, 2001 through Mar. 18, 2010. There are 403 defendants on that list of which, according to the GAO, at least 43 percent were aliens--both legal (26 percent) and illegal (17 percent)--at the time they were charged with crimes. (read more)

Rice says Gaddafi troops raping, issued Viagra -- yet provides no evidence to back up absurd claims

The U.S. envoy to the United Nations told the Security Council on Thursday that troops loyal to Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi were increasingly engaging in sexual violence and some had been issued the impotency drug Viagra, diplomats said.

Several U.N. diplomats who attended a closed-door Security Council meeting on Libya told Reuters that U.S. Ambassador Susan Rice raised the Viagra issue in the context of increasing reports of sexual violence by Gaddafi's troops.

"Rice raised that in the meeting but no one responded," a diplomat said on condition of anonymity. The allegation was first reported by a British newspaper.

Pfizer Inc's drug Viagra is used to treat impotence.

Diplomats said if it were true that Gaddafi's troops were being issued Viagra, it could indicate they were being encouraged by their commanders to engage in rape to terrorize the population in areas that have supported the rebels. That would constitute a war crime.

Several diplomats said Rice provided no evidence for the Viagra allegation, which they said was made in an attempt to persuade doubters the conflict in Libya was not just a standard civil war but a much nastier fight in which Gaddafi is not afraid to order his troops to commit heinous acts.

"She spoke of reports of soldiers getting Viagra and raping," a diplomat said. "She spoke of Gaddafi's soldiers targeting children, and other atrocities." (read more)

NATO: Gadhafi forces caught mining Misrata port

NATO warships have intercepted several boats laying anti-shipping mines outside the harbor of the Libyan city of Misrata, a senior military officer said Friday.

Alliance air strikes, meanwhile, had also destroyed or damaged 600 targets in Libya since NATO's aerial operations were launched a month ago, said British Brig. Rob Weighill, director of NATO operations in this North African country.

Misrata has been under siege by forces loyal to Moammar Gadhafi for several weeks, and though rebels have managed to expel regime forces from the city itself, the enclave is isolated and remains dependent for much of its food and other supplies on the sea link with the rebel capital of Benghazi. It appeared to be the first time sea mines have been used in the Libyan conflict.

"We have just seen Gadhafi forces floating anti-ship mines outside Misrata harbor today," Weighill said. (read more)

CMEGroup hiking Silver margins for the second time in a week

The CMEGroup announced that as of the close of trading this Friday, margin requirements are yet again going up in silver.

For speculators, initial margin is increased to $14,513 per full sized silver contract, up from this week's earlier hike to $12,825.

Maintenance margin is moving up to $10,750 from $9,500.

Hedgers margin and maintenance is rising to $10,750 and $9,500 respectively. (Source)

U.S. gets C credit rating, lower than Mexico: Weiss Ratings Says US Credit Rating Already Near Junk

The U.S. got a sovereign credit rating of C on Thursday, in line with ratings for such smaller economies as Mexico, Estonia and Colombia.

Weiss Ratings, based in Jupiter, Fla., has rated the creditworthiness of financial institutions for several years, but the firm launched sovereign- debt ratings of 47 countries on Thursday. The U.S. rating of C (Fair) ranks it 33rd, Weiss noted in a statement.

A C from Weiss is roughly equivalent to a BBB rating from the big rating agencies like Moody’s Investors Service, Standard & Poor’s and Fitch. That’s about two notches above non-investment grade, or junk, status.

The rating comes just over a week after S&P revised the outlook on its AAA rating for U.S. government debt, cutting it to negative from stable. Read the story here.

”The AAA/Aaa assigned to U.S. sovereign debt by Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and Fitch is unfair to investors and savers, who are under-compensated for the risks they are taking,” Weiss Ratings President Martin Weiss said in a statement. “An honest rating is also urgently needed to help support the political compromises and collective sacrifices the U.S. must make in order to restore its finances.” (read more)

Tens of thousands rush to McDonalds in desperation for work on "Hiring Day" -- And there's an economic recovery?

McDonald’s Corp. (MCD), the world’s biggest restaurant chain, said it hired 24 percent more people than planned during an employment event this month.

McDonald’s and its franchisees hired 62,000 people in the U.S. after receiving more than one million applications, the Oak Brook, Illinois-based company said today in an e-mailed statement. Previously, it said it planned to hire 50,000.

The April 19 national hiring day was the company’s first, said Danya Proud, a McDonald’s spokeswoman. She declined to disclose how many of the jobs were full- versus part-time. McDonald’s employed 400,000 workers worldwide at company-owned stores at the end of 2010, according to a company filing.

The number of applications for unemployment benefits in the U.S. rose last week, a sign that progress in the labor market may be fading. Jobless claims increased by 25,000 to 429,000 in the week ended April 23, the most in three months, according to data from the Labor Department in Washington today. (read more)

55% Say Economy Still in Recession or Depression

A pair of recent Gallup Polls shows distinct loss of confidence in the US economy. The first poll shows Americans' Economic Confidence at the 2011 Low. A second poll shows 55% still think the economy is in a recession, or worse.

Please consider Americans' Economic Confidence Declines Further

Gallup's Economic Confidence Index dropped to -39 in the week ending April 24 -- a new weekly low for 2011. This continues a downward trend that began in mid-February. The current deterioration of confidence contrasts sharply with the improving trend found at this time a year ago.

Slightly more than one in four Americans said the economy is "getting better" last week. This measure has been declining since mid-February, and is now at its 2011 low. Far fewer Americans currently feel the economy is improving than held that expectation a year ago, when 41% said things were getting better. (read more)

Spain's jobless rate tops 21% as all major sectors lose jobs

Spain's unemployment rate rose nearly a point to 21.29%, with 4.9 million jobless for the first quarter of 2011, the government reported Friday, as the prolonged economic crisis continues to squeeze the nation.

Some analysts had predicted the number of jobless might surpass 5 million. But while that didn't happen, the latest statistics were another blow to the economy and to the embattled socialist government.

The numbers for the fourth quarter of 2010 -- 20.33% unemployment and almost 4.7 million jobless --- already represented the highest joblessness rate in 13 years.

The latest numbers, for the first quarter of this year, added more somber news. The number of unemployed increased by 213,000, pushing the overall number to 4.9 million.

All major sectors --- industry, construction, services and agriculture --- shed jobs during the quarter. The number of Spanish households in which no adult had a job increased by 58,000, to a new total of 1.38 million, the government said. (read more)

India rejects U.S. for Europe in big jet order in another blow to American industry

India has eliminated American aircraft manufacturers Boeing and Lockheed Martin from contention for a $10 billion contract to supply new-generation combat planes to the South Asian nation.

Indian Defense Ministry spokesman Sitanshu Kar told CNN that multinational Eurofighter and France's Dassault Aviation remain in the competition for the big military deal.

"Boeing and Lockheed have been eliminated in the elimination round (of the bidding)," Kar said.

The process to acquire advanced fighter jets may be completed by the end of the current fiscal year, he added.

The move came barely five months after U.S. President Barack Obama's visit to India.

Earlier Thursday, the U.S. Ambassador to India Timothy Roemer announced his decision to quit the post in June for what an embassy statement called "personal, professional and family considerations."

Hours later, Roemer expressed his disappointment at India's rejection of U.S. firms for what is believed to be one of the largest fighter-jet contracts. (read more)

15 dead sharks wash ashore in Manatee County -- deaths are considered "mysterious"

A mystery is brewing on Manatee County's beautiful beaches -- researchers are trying to figure out why sharks are washing ashore dead.

Recently more than a dozen dead sharks were found on the north ends of Longboat Key and Anna Maria Island.

"There were no real indicators of what went wrong with them," Dr. Nick Whitney, Staff Scientist for the Center for Shark Research at MOTE Marine Laboratory said. "There are no obvious signs of damage from fishing or net damage or anything like that."

The species of sharks found were bonnetheads, blacknose and sharpnose.

Whitney said he's ruled out the possibility that the sharks died as a result of last year's oil spill.

"Oil spill is pretty unlikely because these animals tend to be coastal," said Whitney. "They move up and down coast, but they wouldn't tend to go off shore and in deep water where oil is."

For now, Whitney says what happened to these sharks remains a mystery.

Researchers have sent samples from the sharks to a different lab to try and see if red tide killed them.

However, they say this is highly unlikely since they have not detected any red tide in the area.

MOTE researchers say finding a dead shark now and then is not rare, but it is uncommon to find a group of them dead within a few days. (read more)

This post was reader contributed.

Fact or Fiction - Ancient Aliens "Underground Aliens" - 29th Apr 2011

There are theories that various underground places may have been extraterrestrial lairs; such as a lost cave in Ecuador said to hold metal tablets containing alien knowledge; the underground city of Derinkuyu in Turkey; Native American legends of "inner-earth" beings; and rumors of a secret U.S. Military-base supposedly built alongside aliens inside the Archuleta Mesa near Dulce, New Mexico.

900 Tornadoes Since April the 1st: U.S. may see Record number of Tornadoes this Year - 29th Apr 2011

A rare and potent combination of cool air clashing with warm, humid weather and extreme winds at varying altitudes ignited the deadly tornadoes that ravaged the U.S. South this week, meteorologists said on Thursday.

"Everything you need for a tornado outbreak was in place," said David Imy, a meteorologist from the Oklahoma-based U.S. government Storm Prediction Center.

April is normally an active month for tornadoes across the region as spring sets in. But weather watchers said this month was on track to be record-setting.

AccuWeather.com said more than 900 tornadoes had been reported since April 1 in an onslaught of severe thunderstorms that has spawned flooding and deadly twisters in parts of the Midwest and Southeast.

On Wednesday, at least 164 tornadoes tore across a region that stretched from Mississippi to Virginia, flattening homes, flipping over cars and leaving a trail of destruction. The tornadoes and storms killed at least 284 people.

"This could turn out to be one of the worst years for severe weather and tornadoes in history," said Dan Kottlowski, expert senior meteorologist for AccuWeather.com. Read More

Bahrain Sentences Protesters To Death - 29th Apr 2011

Four Bahrainis have been sentenced to death for the killing of two policemen during pro-democracy protests in the Gulf nation.

A military court also sentenced three other Shia Muslims to life imprisonment for their role in the deaths of the two officers.

The verdicts were the first related to the uprising, which saw the Shia minority demand greater political representation and freedoms in the Sunni-ruled country.

Bahrain's human rights groups criticised the verdict and said the closed-door trial had no legal credibility.

"This verdict is a message from the government, determined to stop the democracy movement," Nabeel Rajab, the head of the Bahrain Centre for Human Rights, said.

"It's a warning, saying this is how we will treat you if you continue to demand your rights."

However, the Bahrain News Agency said the defendants had "all their legal rights" during the trial for what it called "one of the most gruesome murders in Bahrain".

After a hearing earlier this week, Bahrain state media reported the military prosecutor had presented evidence that showed the defendants killed the police officers "on purpose" by running them over with a car.

Their lawyers denied the charge of voluntary homicide of public officials with "terrorist" intentions.

Bahrain's Emir declared martial law during the protests and invited foreign troops from Saudi Arabia and other Gulf countries to help crush the Shia-led dissent.

Hundreds of protesters, opposition leaders and human rights activists have been detained since March 15. Read More

Obama long-form birth certificate proven a fake, or at the very least tampered with -- And we now have evidence; UPDATED INFORMATION. PLEASE REPOST.

UPDATED INFORMATION: The Coming Crisis has come across additional information regarding the long form birth certificate situation, and will post this update and any others at the top of this article. Please read downward to view the original article that broke the discovery.

1. It has been claimed by naysayers, despite overwhelming evidence, that any scanned document would turn up the artifacts and share the mysterious qualities found in the White House release of Obama's long form birth certificate. Well, someone has done just that, and now there's even more definitive proof that the document has been tampered with:



2. The following following birth certificate, purportedly Obama's, surfaced in 2010, and shows massive discrepancies with the White House release, including, but not limited to:

-- the inclusion of a birth time, which the White House release strangely omits
-- the birth location of Obama as being Kenya, not Hawaii
-- the more historically accurate racial filing of "Negro" as opposed to the politically correct and categorically incorrect "African" as shown in the White House release
-- The signatory party being someone other than Obama's father, as in the White House release
-- The box pertaining to evidence for delayed filing is completed in the 2010 certificate; the reason given is a Kenyan birth and then a delayed registration in Honolulu

Is this 2010 certificate fake? Is it real? Why does its information fall more parallel to historical evidence surrounding Obama than the White House release? Why is there so much inconsistency floating about? Why is there mention of a law in Hawaii to stop people asking about Obama's birth? Is it now against the law to pursue the rightful execution of the law?

The Coming Crisis will continue its investigation into this matter, and will keep readers posted.

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Main Article
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The Coming Crisis has a disturbing news bulletin for all our readers: we have come across definitive proof that Obama's long form birth certificate document released by the White House has been at minimum tampered with, and at most, presented as a forgery.

The White House release of Obama's long form birth certificate can be downloaded here.

In a previous post we determined that something was seriously wrong with the birth certificate, and reposted an article by The Smoking Gun that outlined many strange facts about the timing and content of the document. Others have pointed out further discrepancies.

We have come across a source who we will not name at this time (but will gladly post it if it is allowed -- we want to keep him safe in case something erupts as a result of this) who has taken the White House document and analyzed it through graphic design software, namely Adobe Illustrator.

What he found was truly disturbing, and we present it to you here.

Normally, when one scans a document, it produces a single picture just like with a photocopying machine -- what you see is what you get. However, the graphic design software shows that the document, while appearing as a PDF, is actually a series of "layers" that have been manufactured and assembled into a single document. Most people would never realize these other layers would exist unless they possessed the graphic design software and could conduct the test themselves.

In case this doesn't make sense to you, let me use the following analogy: take the Disney movie Snow White and the Seven Dwarves. This movie was of course hand-drawn. To do this, they would draw the background forest on a piece of glass. Then they would lay another piece of glass over it with the animals, then another piece on top of that with the dwarves, and so on until they had a complete scene composed of layers. Modern graphic design software works in a similar manner, since if you make a mistake or want changes on a specific part of the project, you only have to edit that layer, rather than redo the entire thing from scratch.

With Obama's long form birth certificate released by the White House, a similar design mechanism can be observed. The PDF file isn't a single, two dimensional image -- it is, in fact, a series of layers designed one on top of each other to form what appears as a single image.

This means that the White House document was created (forged) on a computer, and is being foisted on observers unfamiliar with computer design as a simple copy of the real thing.

This is an outright lie, and is constitutionally outrageous.

We at The Coming Crisis have replicated this experiment and can vouch that the discoverer of this forgery is telling the truth -- the PDF distributed by the White House website does indeed break down into clipping masks and design layers, just as he claimed, which acts as ample proof that this document is not real, if all the rest of the facts had yet to convince you.

To conduct this experiment yourself:

1. Download Obama's Long-Form White House Birth Certificate.
2. Open it with Adobe Illustrator.
3. Go to "Windows" and open the "Layers" panel.
4. Continue expanding the layers within the Layers panel.
5. Make various layers visible and invisible to see how the document has been constructed in parts.

In case you don't have the ability to conduct this experiment, we've posted the individual layers below for you to see: it's very clear that this was a manufactured document, and God only knows what's going to happen once word of this spreads. We ask all Americans and bloggers to please repost this so that as many people can learn about this as possible -- the truth must be spread at whatever cost.

-- Matt
(The Coming Crisis has preserved all original documents should they be pulled in the event of an emergency; please contact us if you would like them sent to you.)






NEW: Video proof of elements within the document being capable of moving around -- more evidence that it's not a single scan, but rather a composition of computer-designed elements:



A second video pointing out many strange discrepancies with the long-form video that are beginning to come to light:



And in case you're wondering, this is what an actual, real birth certificate looks like from the time Obama was born -- please note the wear from multiple decades of storage, discoloration, and so on, compared to Obama's near-pristine document:


Certificate number discrepancy from 2007:

And from the top of the most recent form, which reads: 151 61 010641
Where did that 19 go? Surely it represents the year, yet why are the numbers not the same? Why is there no consistency between the documents?

Libya: pro-Gaddafi forces cross into Tunisia as conflict begins spreading

Forces loyal to Muammar Gaddafi crossed into neighbouring Tunisia and fought a gun battle with Tunisian troops in a frontier town as Libya's conflict spilt beyond its borders.

Pro-Gaddafi forces fired shells into the town of Dehiba, damaging buildings and injuring at least one resident, and a group of them drove into the town in a truck, local people and a Reuters photographer in the town said.

The Libyan government troops were pursuing anti-Gaddafi rebels from the restive Western Mountains region of Libya who fled into Tunisia in the past few days after Gaddafi forces overran the border post the rebels had earlier seized.

"There were lots of clashes in the town this morning. Lots of gunshots. The Tunisian military clashed with Gaddafi's forces ... Some of Gaddafi's people were killed," said Reuters photographer Zoubeir Souissi from the town.

"There are a lot of Gaddafi's people who were injured. They are in the hospital in Dehiba," he said.

Two residents also told Reuters that shells had fallen on the town from pro-Gaddafi positions across the border in Libya. (read more)

Deadly fighting resumes at Thai-Cambodian border

Fighting raged on along the turbulent Thai-Cambodian border Friday, one day after a military source said local commanders from both sides had agreed to a cease-fire.

Thai military spokesman Col. Sansern Kawekumnerd said Friday that another Thai soldier died and four soldiers were injured in the fighting.

At least six Thai soldiers and one civilian have been killed in the clashes that started last week. Cambodia has said three of its troops have been killed in the fighting.

The cease-fire agreed upon Thursday was forged at the unit commander level but not at the higher levels of the militaries, a Thai military source said.

The source, who asked not to be named because he is not authorized to speak publicly, had said if peace persisted, higher-ranking commanders might meet on Friday. The commanders would be Thailand's 2nd Region commander, Lt. Gen Tawatchai Samutsakorn, and Lt. Gen. Chea Mon, Cambodia's 5th Army Region commander.

Cambodia's government spokesman could not be reached for comment. (Which always seems to be the case. Is anyone even trying to reach them?)

Clashes between the two started April 22 as both sides accused each other of trying to seize ancient temples.

Thailand calls the temples Ta Kwai and Ta Muen, while Cambodia calls them Ta Krabey and Ta Moan. Much of the border between the two countries remains in dispute. (read more)

Superman 'may end US citizenship', says Action Comics -- Get in line, buddy (A sign of the times?)

Superman intends to give up his US citizenship, a story in the new issue of Action Comics declares.

"I'm tired of having my actions construed as instruments of US policy," the character says in a story that sees him flying to a Tehran protest.

Adopted by an American family, Superman decides he is better-off serving the world.

Though he only talks about his plans to give up citizenship, the story has been criticised by commentators worldwide.

The superhero, originally from the fictional planet Krypton, does not clearly renounce his citizenship in the issue.

Action Comics co-publishers Jim Lee and Dan DiDio said: "Superman announces his intention to put a global focus on his never ending battle, but he remains, as always, committed to his adopted home and his roots as a Kansas farm boy from Smallville."

The disputed story sees the hero standing silently at the protest, wanting to show demonstrators that they are not alone.

Superman's announcement comes after accusations from Iran's government that he has caused an international incident, in the nine-page story written by David Goyer.

"'Truth, justice and the American way' - it's not enough anymore," Superman says, "The world is too small, too connected." (read more)

Boom and bust signals ecosystem collapse

An experiment in a US lake suggests that ecosystem collapses could be predicted, given the right monitoring.

Researchers changed the structure of the food web in Peter Lake, in Wisconsin, by adding predatory fish.

Within three years, the fish had taken over, producing a decline in tiny water plants and an explosion in water fleas.

Writing in the journal Science, the researchers say the change was preceded by signals that could be used to predict similar collapses elsewhere.

In particular, rapid swings in the density of plants and fleas indicated the food web was unstable and about to change.

The idea that such early warning signals ought to exist is not new - but the researchers say this is the first time it has been demonstrated experimentally.

"For a long time, ecologists thought these changes couldn't be predicted," said research leader Stephen Carpenter from the University of Wisconsin in Madison, US.

"But we've now shown that they can be foreseen. The early warning is clear; it is a strong signal." (read more)

China's yuan rises past 6.50 against the US dollar

China's currency, the yuan, strengthened past a key level against the US dollar on Friday, as part of wider efforts to contain inflation on the mainland.

The yuan broke past 6.50 against the dollar, a level not seen since 1993.

Traders and currency strategists believe the move is a sign that China's central bank is prepared to allow the currency to appreciate further.

A stronger currency means imported products become cheaper in China.

"The market is very excited," said Dariusz Kowalczyk, a Hong Kong-based strategist at Credit Agricole CIB.

"Clearly, the People's Bank of China is pushing for a stronger pace of appreciation."

China's central bank actively guides the level of the yuan, by effectively setting the rate at which it is allowed to trade.

Mr Kowalczyk said the yuan had gained by 0.9% against the dollar so far in April, roughly equivalent to its entire gain in the first three months of 2011. (read more)

Canada's economy declines in February -- even one of the world's safest economies is now feeling the pressure; is this a sign?

Canada's economy declined 0.2 per cent in February, hurt by a decline in manufacturing and wholesale trade.

Statistics Canada said the economy declined in the month following a rise of 0.5 per cent in January.

The economy fell to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of $1.26 trillion in February, Statistics Canada said. This was weaker than expected by economists, who expected no change. (read more)

FBI warns U.S. businesses of new Chinese cybercrime scheme -- when will enough be enough?

FBI agents combating international cybercrime are currently battling hackers on two new fronts -- from a remote corner of China to the virtual battlefields of "Call of Duty" emanating from the family playroom.

On the international stage, FBI cybersleuths have informed U.S. businesses that millions of dollars have been fraudulently wired from business accounts in U.S. banks to banks in a remote coastal region of China near the Russian border.

The FBI says apparently legitimately licensed Chinese economic and trade companies have successfully stolen at least $11 million dollars in a series of wire transfers to Heilongjiang province.

U.S. experts don't quite know what to make of the scam that has surfaced 20 times in the past year. But it is increasing in frequency to the point the FBI has declared the problem a "trend." In this investigation agents have discovered Chinese efforts to defraud U.S. businesses of about $20 million.

The fraud scheme prompted the FBI's Internet Crime Complaint Center to disclose the case and issue an unusually detailed description of the problem they confront.

"It is unknown who is behind these unauthorized transfers, if the Chinese accounts were the final transfer destination or if the funds were transferred elsewhere, or why legitimate companies received the unauthorized funds," the center disclosed in its "fraud alert." (read more)

Warning: Dollar Isn't in a Crisis, but a Rout Could Come Quickly

The dollar has yet to descend into a full-blown crisis but market watchers warn that ultra-loose U.S. monetary policy means that one could quickly materialize if the slide in the greenback gathers pace.

The dollar has dropped to new lows since Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke effectively slapped a sell sign on the currency Wednesday, with the greenback hitting historic lows against the Australian dollar and Swiss franc, and even to a major low point against the euro, which is hobbled by an ugly debt crisis.

In response, analysts and investors are growing increasingly nervous that this could snowball. (read more)

More dead dolphins and land animals wash up on Gulf of Mexico beaches (Reader contributed)




Conservation groups sue for sea turtle protection on behalf of a species in peril

Conservation groups sued the Obama administration Tuesday over the fate of the endangered leatherback sea turtle, accusing federal officials of ignoring a legal deadline to protect a huge expanse of Pacific coastal waters as critical habitat for the reptiles.

The National Marine Fisheries Service settled an earlier lawsuit by proposing in January 2010 to designate 70,600 square miles of offshore waters, from Southern California to northern Washington, as a safety zone for the leatherbacks and the jellyfish they consume, the groups said in U.S. District Court in San Francisco.

The agency was required to publish a final rule a year later but failed to do so, the suit said.

Leatherbacks are the largest sea turtles, growing up to 8 feet long and weighing as much as a ton. They also have the longest migration, 12,000 miles each summer and fall from nesting grounds in Indonesia to the West Coast of the United States.

They were placed on the endangered species list in 1970, but their numbers have continued to plummet because of accidental deaths caused by commercial fishing operations as well as water pollution, according to government reports. Conservation groups said the Pacific population has declined more than 95 percent since 1980, with only 2,000 adult females remaining. (read more)

BP used 'biased' study in massive gas lobbying push

Senior executives in the fossil fuel industry have launched an all-out assault on renewable energy, lobbying governments and business groups to reject wind and solar power in favour of gas, in a move that could choke the fledgling green energy industry.

Multinational companies including Shell, GDF Suez and Statoil are promoting gas as an alternative "green" fuel. These companies are among dozens around the world investing in new technologies to exploit shale gas, a controversial form of the fuel that has rejuvenated the gas industry because it is plentiful in supply and newly accessible due to technical advances in gas extraction known as "fracking".

The expansion of shale gas holds out the promise of a glut in gas that is driving down prices and creating a bonanza for the fossil fuel industry. Burning gas in power stations releases about half the carbon emissions of coal, allowing gas companies to claim it is a "green" source of fuel.

Central to the lobbying effort is a report claiming that the EU could meet its 2050 carbon targets €900bn more cheaply by using gas than by investing in renewables. But the Guardian has established that the analysis is based on a previous report that came to the opposite conclusion – that renewables should play a much larger role. The report being pushed by the fossil fuel industry has been disowned by its original authors who referred to it as "biased" in favour of gas. (read more)

Seafood at risk: Dispersed oil poses a long-term threat

The two-hour drive from New Orleans to Venice, La., is like cutting into a slice of apple pie—it’s as American as it gets. Busy streets and high-rise buildings give way to farms, fields, and wetlands, in the perfect picture of rural, small-town America. With the exception of the occasional oil refinery or church, most buildings in Plaquemines Parish stand no more than a single story high. Driving down Louisiana Highway 23, the sole road in and out of the parish, it is clear to see that fishing is a way of life down here; boats or fishing traps are present in the front yards of most homes. The community here is evidence of the seafood industry being one of the leading sources of income and the highest employers in Louisiana. According to a fisheries economics report from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), commercial fishermen in the Gulf of Mexico harvested 1.27 billion pounds of finfish and shellfish and earned $659 million in total landings revenue in 2008.

Seafood is more than just catch sizes and dollar signs, though. Go to any restaurant along any beach in the Gulf, and you’ll likely find a menu full of grouper sandwiches and crab legs, shrimp baskets and oysters on the half shell. Seafood isn’t just a source of food or a way to make a living here--it’s a way of life, and an inherent piece of Gulf Coast culture. It is a culture that has been put in jeopardy as a result of the Deepwater Horizon disaster. (read more)

Antarctic ozone hole affecting weather in tropics, new study says

The hole in the ozone layer over Antarctica is affecting weather patterns across the entire Southern Hemisphere, according to a new scientific study.

The findings published by researchers from Columbia University's School of Engineering and Applied Science is, they say, the first to demonstrate how ozone depletion in the polar region influences tropical circulation and increases rainfall at lower latitudes.

"It's really amazing that the ozone hole, located so high up in the atmosphere over Antarctica, can have an impact all the way to the tropics and affect rainfall there -- it's just like a domino effect," said lead author of the paper, Sarah Kang.

Using state-of-the-art climate models -- created by the Canadian Center for Climate Modeling and Analysis at the University of Victoria, British Columbia -- Kang and co-author Lorenzo Polvani (a research scientist at the LamontDoherty Earth Observatory) calculated atmospheric changes produced by creating an ozone hole and then compared these with observed changes over the last few decades.

The close correlation between the climate model and the observed changes led Kang and Polvani to conclude that the hole in the Antarctic ozone -- first discovered by scientists in the mid-1980s -- to be the likely cause of the atmospheric changes in the Southern Hemisphere. (read more)

Russia's Arctic icebreaker splits opinion as artic withers away from climate change



It's the world's last, great wilderness rich in natural resources, like oil and gas.

But now the frozen seas of the Arctic are being opened up; its vast riches unlocked.

The Yamal is one of Russia's biggest, most powerful icebreakers, and one of the few ships in the world capable of cutting through the thick Arctic pack ice.

It does it for one reason: to clear a path for other vessels, so they can take advantage of the frozen Arctic.

Escorted by icebreakers, cargo ships and oil tankers crossing the Arctic can shave thousands of miles off a journey between Asia and Europe, saving fuel, and vastly reduce their carbon emissions.

Captain of the Yamal, Alexander Lembrik says the Arctic's untapped potential is the reason behind the dramatic increase in maritime traffic. (read more)

Syrian army units fire on each other as soldiers refuse to attack Friday prayers protesters - 29th Apr 2011

Army units in Syria have clashed with each other over President Bashar Assad's orders to crack down on protesters.

Witnesses described army divisions refusing to shoot at protesters and then coming under fire themselves from other soldiers for disobeying orders.

The clashes were said to have occurred between the 4th Division, led by Assad's brother Maher, and the reservist 5th Division.

More than 450 people have been killed across the country - with 100 in protest centre Daraa alone - and hundreds detained since anti-government protests began last month.

It is the latest sign of cracks in the Assad regime after 200 mostly low-level members of the ruling Ba'ath Party resigned over the level of violence.

Ausama Monajed, a spokesman for a group of opposition figures in the country, said clashes among soldiers have been taking place since Monday.

He said: 'There are some battalions that refused to open fire on the people.

'Battalions of the 5th Division were protecting people, and returned fire when they were subjected to attacks by the 4th Division.' Read More

New drought fears as one of the country's reservoirs is already dry as a bone - 29th Apr 2011

A picturesque reservoir has been reduced to dried, cracked mud and a splash of water after the prolonged dry spell.

The Cod Beck reservoir near Osmotherley, North Yorkshire, can now be walked across, and water suppliers are urging people to use water sparingly.

Strengthening work by Yorkshire Water required some water to be drained from the man-made lake, but a lack of rain and hot weather saw water levels dwindle.

A picturesque reservoir has been reduced to dried, cracked mud and a splash of water after the prolonged dry spell.

The Cod Beck reservoir near Osmotherley, North Yorkshire, can now be walked across, and water suppliers are urging people to use water sparingly.

Strengthening work by Yorkshire Water required some water to be drained from the man-made lake, but a lack of rain and hot weather saw water levels dwindle. Read More

Regan Fisher,13, grounds every flight at Heathrow after becoming human fireball in barbecue horror - 29th Apr 2011

A boy of 13 brought Britain's busiest airport to a grinding halt after accidentally torching himself during a family barbecue at his home near Heathrow Airport.

Regan Fisher engulfed himself in flames by accidentally pouring model aircraft fluid onto a barbecue, leaving him with severe burns and needing urgent hospital treatment.

The teenager's parents frantically called 999 for medical help and an air ambulance was dispatched to their home in Colnbrook, near Slough, less than five miles from Heathrow on the airport's flightpath.

Air traffic to and from the airport was then delayed by 20 minutes on Good Friday as planes cleared a way for emergency services to reach the teenager's house on one of the busiest Bank Holiday weekends of the year.

The teenager was treated for severe burns to his legs, chest, right arm, hand and face at Stoke Mandeville Hospital, Bucks and is now recovering.

He had been turned into a human torch after being knocked off his feet by the back garden blast from the family's barbecue.

Regan's parents, Amanda and Darryn, dialled 999, doused the flames and plunged their son into a cold bath as ambulance and fire crews raced to the scene.

Because the family of four live less than five miles from Heathrow Airport on its flight path in Colnbrook, near Slough, Berks, flights were grounded for 20 minutes as air ambulance crews ferried the teenager to hospital. Read More

Police find 38 llamas dead at farm - 29th Apr 2011

Investigators in Huntington County made a gruesome discovery Thursday when they found more than 80 dead or dying llamas in rural Andrews.

About 3 p.m., investigators found at least 38 llama carcasses in various stages of decomposition throughout the property inside and outside of pens and in out buildings on the property, Detective Chad Hammel said.

Hammel said there also were 45 starving llamas found throughout the estimated 15-acre property.

“It was just horrific what we saw out there,” Huntington County Sheriff Terry Stoffel said. “It’s the most hideous thing you have ever seen. The ones that did survive were just skin and bones.”

Thomas D. Andrew, 47, owned and lived at the property at 1145 North County Road 975 West, police said. He was arrested on a felony charge of improper disposal of dead animals and a misdemeanor animal neglect charge.

Hammel said it took investigators a couple of days to get an animal veterinarian and other officials together to remove the surviving llamas.

“Their hooves were so long it was obvious that these animals had not been given care,” Hammel said. “There was no hay on the premises, which is a staple to their diet.”

Investigators found rotten grain and about 40 to 50 pounds of usable grain.

“That wouldn’t sustain them for a day,” Hammel said. “But it was in the barn, not in front of them.”

Hammel said a majority of the removed llamas would probably survive and were having their health evaluated. The llamas may then go to an animal sanctuary, Hammel said.

Investigators had to bring in excavators to bury the carcasses on the property. Read More

1st test for Obama’s FEMA - 29th Apr 2011

President Obama is scheduled to tour the aftermath of Alabama’s deadly tornadoes today as his administration’s approach to emergency management faces its first major test.

On Thursday, Obama called the storm damage “nothing short of catastrophic” and vowed that “the federal government will do everything we can” to help states recover.

Late Wednesday, the president declared a federal emergency in Alabama and dispatched Craig Fugate, head of the Federal Emergency Management Agency, to inspect the damage.

Fugate, a former Florida state emergency management director, said the federal government will take its cues in offering aid from state leaders.

“This is a response being conducted by local responders,” Fugate said, adding that FEMA will maintain “a support role.”

Fugate and his former state emergency colleagues widely panned FEMA’s response to Hurricane Katrina and other deadly hurricanes in 2005.

When he assumed control of the agency in 2009, Fugate retooled the agency’s response plans, placing more control in the hands of regional administrators, who are expected to keep in close touch with state and local leaders.

That plan earned praise Thursday from Alabama Gov. Robert Bentley, a Republican, who had asked Obama to declare a disaster and was touring damaged areas with Fugate by the afternoon.

“We are very thankful that we have FEMA with us here today,” Bentley told reporters in Tuscaloosa. Read More

Sword-wielding 'ninjas' launch crime wave on Pittsburgh - 27th Apr 2011

One man in Pittsburgh caught dressed as a ninja claimed he was 'just out for a jog'

U.S. police are investigating a mysterious crime wave in Pittsburgh of offences carried out by ninjas.

The spate of crimes continued after a sword-wielding ninja smashed 11 cars in the city before attempted to stab a man who confronted him, according to police.

Residents in the South Union Township area of the city said they heard glass breaking and found a ninja hiding in a yard.

The unknown ninja offender then cut one man in the hand as he made his escape.

Santino Guzzo, who was injured in the attack, told the Pittsburgh Trib: 'He was like a gazelle that just got attacked by a lion.

'He got up and fell, and got up and fell. Then he jumped off a cliff.'

Mr Guzzo added that he 'will not live in fear of the ninja's return', as the assailant 'did not move with the grace typically associated with a ninja'.

Another resident who saw the incident said the 'ninja' figure left behind liquor at the scene.

Last month, a man in Scottdale, near Pittsburgh, was charged with child endangerment after wandering streets near his home dressed as a ninja while his child was home alone.

Police insist that Ross Hurst, 28, was dressed in ninja garb when approached. Hurst denies being a ninja and says it was all a misunderstanding.

He was found dressed all in black by police at 1.30am but claimed his mother was watching the child.

Mr Hurst told WPXI News: 'I was playing ninja. I wasn't playing anything. I went out for a jog.'

Two sword-wielding ninjas had previously robbed a gas station in Richland Township, near Pittsburgh, taking cash, cigarettes and lottery tickets.

Local police chief Robert Amman said: 'It did appear they were dressed like ninjas.' Read More

Facebook group calls for 'day of anger' in Syria after Friday prayers after UN's failure to condemn state killings - 28th Apr 2011

A Facebook group has called for Syrians to partake in a 'day on anger' on Friday as protests continue against President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

A notice was today posted on the Syrian Revolution 2011 Facebook page which read: 'Friday of Anger, April 29, in solidarity with Daraa,' as soldiers and tanks continued to line the streets of the southern town.

'To the youths of the revolution, tomorrow we will be in all the places, in all the streets ... we will gather at the besieged towns, including with our brothers in Daraa,' read the statement on the social networking site, which has been used to invoke the uprising in the country.

'We will not leave Daraa isolated,' it continued, also threatening further demonstrations across the rest of the country.

Assad has tried to crush the revolt - the gravest challenge to his family's 40-year ruling dynasty - which began with demonstrations on March 15.

More than 450 people have been killed across Syria in the crackdown, with 120 dead this past weekend alone.

Tanks rolled into the northern port of Latakia - a key city in the heartland of Syria's ruling elite - and security forces opened fire on anti-government demonstrators, while heavy shooting rang out again today in the southern protest hotbed of Daraa, witnesses said.

In a further blow to President Bashar Assad, more than 200 members have quit Syria's ruling Baath Party in the southern province at the centre of the uprising to protest the Assad regime's brutal crackdown on opponents, a human rights activist said. Read More

Future of forensic science: New laser beam that analyses a single hair can reveal what you had for breakfast - 28th Apr 2011

A new laser can tell scientists what you ate for breakfast - just by looking at one of your hairs.

The beam gives unprecedented sensitivity to chemical analysis and allows researchers to create an hour-by-hour picture of what an individual has eaten.

They can even tell where a person has been by examining the chemicals which are in their hair.

Previous techniques had burned hair samples but the new method breaks them down instead and allows far more precise readings.

The researchers hope that it could be used for forensic science or by biologists exploring ruins - in theory they will be able to find out far more about the diet of ancient fossils they find.

Standard chemical analysis involves taking samples and putting them in mass spectrometers, machines which weigh and identify samples.

Until now lasers have been used to create the tiny 50 micron-wide samples but they scorch them because the beam is too powerful.

A team from U.S. Pacific Northwest National Laboratory got around the problem by using ultraviolet rays instead. Read More