Sunday, May 1, 2011
The sum held in short positions against the world's reserve currency on April 26 is the highest in more than month and $3bn more than the previous week.
The figures, released over the weekend by the Commodity Futures Trading Company (CFTC), indicate that hedge funds have made hundreds of millions of dollars from the recent collapse in the value of the greenback.
The dollar hit a three-year low against a basket of currencies on Friday, and has fallen for the last five months straight. It fell 3.8pc against the basket in April, and is down 7.5pc down so far this year.
The data shows that investors are pulling out of the dollar in favour of almost every other currency except the Japanese yen.
Camilla Sutton, chief currency strategist at Scotia Capital, said: "It's an ongoing build of short-dollar positions overall. Generally, sentiment remains very negative against the dollar." (read more)
Stansberry's Investment Advisory Video on the coming collapse of US Dollar -- A must watch (with caveats)
Three important things you need to know before watching this video:
Thing #1: It is, in the end, nothing more than a giant infomercial.
Thing #2: It's being posted because the first two thirds (the last third is where the selling is done) contains superbly researched financial information regarding the possible coming collapse of the US dollar, including historical tidbits.
Thing #3: Stansberry has nothing on the Sham-Wow guy. This poster makes nothing off of mentioning this video, and he recommends you watch the first hour or so until you reach the overly obvious sales part and then turn it off.
a flock of sparrows to land the plane instead of FAA employees... jk.)
The Federal Aviation Administration on Friday replaced three high-level managers in the nation's air traffic control system following embarrassing incidents of controllers sleeping on the job and making potentially dangerous mistakes.
In a shake-up of the system, new managers were appointed to key positions that oversee the operation of airport towers and regional radar centers that handle planes flying at high altitudes as well as approaches and departures, the agency said in a statement. A new manager was also appointed to run a regional radar center near Cleveland. The previous managers are being reassigned.
The performance of mid-level managers is also being reassessed, the FAA said. And teams of experts are examining several of the agency's more complex facilities, including the Cleveland center and one on Long Island in New York, to ensure agency policies are being followed and professional standards upheld.
"This sends a powerful message, and it's the right message," said Gregory McGuirk, an associate professor of air traffic management at Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University in Daytona Beach, Fla. "It's one way to shake up the culture."
But Missy Cummings, an associate professor at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, said shuffling managers doesn't get at the root cause of many of the incidents. (read more)
In October 1988, Donald Trump threw his wallet into the airline business by purchasing Eastern Air Shuttle, a service that for 27 years had run hourly flights between Boston, New York City and Washington, D.C. For roughly $365 million, Trump got a fleet of 17 Boeing 727s, landing facilities in each of the three cities and the right to paint his name on an airplane. Trump pushed to give the airline the Trump touch, making the previously no-muss, no-fuss shuttle service into a luxury experience. To this end, he added maple-wood veneer to the floors, chrome seat-belt latches and gold-colored bathroom fixtures. But his gamble was a bust. A lack of increased interest from customers (who favored the airline for its convenience not its fancy new look) combined with high pre–Gulf War fuel prices meant the shuttle never turned a profit. The high debt forced Trump to default on his loans, and ownership of the company was turned over to creditors. The Trump Shuttle ceased to exist in 1992 when it was merged into a new corporation, Shuttle Inc. No word on whether the gold-plated faucets survived the merger. (read more)
Law schools give merit scholarships to recruit students, then use rigid grading curves to rip them away -- just to increase school's US News Rank
To keep her grant, all that Ms. Leumer had to do was maintain a grade-point average of 3.0 or above — a B or better. If she dipped below that number at the end of either the first or the second year, the letter explained, she would lose her scholarship for good. “I didn’t give it much thought,” she said. “I didn’t think it would be a challenge.”
Her grades and test scores were well above the median at Golden Gate, which then languished in the bottom 25% of the U.S. News and World Report annual rankings of law schools.
How hard could a 3.0 be? Really hard, it turned out. That might have been obvious if Golden Gate published a statistic that law schools are loath to share: the number of first-year students who lose their merit scholarships. That figure is not in the literature sent to prospective Golden Gate students or on its Web site.
But it’s a number worth knowing. At Golden Gate and other law schools nationwide, students are graded on a curve, which carefully rations the number of A’s and B’s, as well as C’s and D’s, awarded each semester. That all but ensures that a certain number of students — at Golden Gate, it could be in the realm of 70 students this year — will lose their scholarships and wind up paying full tuition in their second and third years.
Why would a school offer more scholarships than it planned to renew?The short answer is this: to build the best class that money can buy, and with it, prestige. But these grant programs often succeed at the expense of students, who in many cases figure out the perils of the merit scholarship game far too late. (read more)
Education is no longer for human betterment -- it's just a business like everything else now.
But a new TV ad by the Hampton Inn chain calls that assumption into question. It shows housekeepers changing sheets in hazmat suits, at what appears to be a competing hotel chain.
"The implication was obviously that other hotels do not change the sheets for every new guest," he says.
Robins is troubled by that.
"It's a disgusting enough thought that the sheets were not changed," he told me. "It gets even more disgusting when one considers the previous tenant's possible activity."
A confession: I changed the last part of Robins' quote to spare you some graphic detail. Use your imagination.
Room hygiene is a hot topic among travelers. Always is. A recent post on my blog that featured a guest at a budget hotel who discovered her housekeeping staff hadn't changed the sheets in her room and failed to clean a shower between guest visits, sparked a spirited discussion. Some felt the traveler was entitled to a full refund for the lapse in hygiene. (read more)
Speaking after a meeting Friday between the four army heads, a Malian officer who attended said: "The situation in Libya is of great concern. There is a risk of destabilising the entire region."
The meeting was to reinforce the fight against insecurity in a region threatened by Al-Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb (AQMI).
"Moreover, because of the Libyan crisis, the security situation in the Sahel has deteriorated, so it is necessary to be careful. We are all on alert and we keep each other informed," he added.
According to a document from one of the participating countries, seen by AFP, "there is now no doubt, several Al-Qaeda fighters are involved in the Libya fighting."
These included "Libyan Islamists who were released by the government a few weeks before the outbreak of the conflict" in mid-February.
The paper adds that among the insurgents fighting Moamer Kadhafi's regime are Libyan combatants from Afghanistan and those who had fought for AQMI in the Sahel. (read more)
Mississippi river levee to be blown up -- Judge rules it OK, despite vast damage it will cause (flood waters will divert over New Madrid fault line)
The decision is in the hands of a federal judge who heard arguments over a plan to intentionally break a Mississippi River levee.
Judge Stephen Limbaugh Jr. heard arguments from attorneys for Missouri and the Army Corps of Engineers Thursday on a corps proposal to blow a 2-mile-wide hole through the Birds Point levee in southeast Missouri. The corps says breaking the levee would ease waters rising around the upstream town of Cairo, Ill., near the confluence of the swollen Mississippi and Ohio rivers.
Missouri says the rush of water would ruin prime farmland, flood about 90 homes and displace 200 people.
Near the beginning of the hearing, Limbaugh said he would expedite the case given the circumstances.
Koster's legal team argued the Corps' action would violate Missouri's Clean Water Act and cause "certain damage" to the state and its people.
A Corps economist testified a levee failure here in Cairo could result in $265 million in damage, although the Corps acknowledged it's still holding.
Judge Stephen Limbaugh took the motion under advisement just after 7 p.m. Thursday, and Koster says the judge has a tough call to make.
"It's a hard set of facts and there are a lot of interests that have to be weighed on both sides of the state line and throughout the federal justice system, said Koster. I think the judge took in the information. I think he's got a very difficult decision that he has to make overnight." (read more)
This post was reader contributed.
It was unclear what the target of the strike was, though Libyan officials said it was Muammar Gaddafi himself, who was giving a live television address at the time.
"They maybe wanted to hit the television. This is a non-military, non-governmental building," said Mohammed al-Mehdi, head of the civil societies council, which licenses and oversees civil groups in Libya.
The missile completely destroyed an adjoining office in the compound that houses the government's commission for children.
The force of the blast blew in windows and doors in the parent-funded school for children with Down's Syndrome and officials said it damaged an orphanage on the floor above.
"I felt sad really. I kept thinking, what are we going to do with these children?" said Ismail Seddigh, who set up the school 17 years ago after his own daughter was born with Down's.
"This is not the place we left on Thursday afternoon." (read more)
"The Arab dictatorial regimes in the Persian Gulf are unable to contain the popular uprisings," General Hassan Firouzabadi, the chief of staff of Iran's armed forces, was widely quoted as saying by Iranian media on Saturday.
"Instead of trying and failing to open an unworkable front against Iran, these dictators should relinquish power, end their savage crimes and let the people determine their own future," Firouzabadi said.
He also denounced "plots" by the Gulf Arab petro-monarchies to "carve out an identity for themselves by rejecting the identity of others," referring to Iran.
"The Persian Gulf has always, is and shall always belong to Iran," the general said.
Firouzabadi, speaking on the annual "National Day of the Persian Gulf", also condemned the regional Arab monarchies for refusing to call the waterway between Iran and its Arab neighbours by its "historical name."
"With the arrival of the British and later the Americans in the region, plots were hatched to try and change the name with fake identities... to distort the history and identity of the Persian Gulf," Firouzabadi said.
Relations between Iran and its Gulf Arab neighbours have deteriorated sharply, with the latter accusing Tehran of seeking to destabilise Arab regimes in favour of popular unrest that has erupted in many Arab countries.
The research, carried out by two NGOs, has revealed disturbing allegations of excessive working hours and draconian workplace rules at two major plants in southern China. It has also uncovered an "anti-suicide" pledge that workers at the two plants have been urged to sign, after a series of employee deaths last year.
The investigation gives a detailed picture of life for the 500,000 workers at the Shenzhen and Chengdu factories owned by Foxconn, which produces millions of Apple products each year. The report accuses Foxconn of treating workers "inhumanely, like machines".
Among the allegations made by workers interviewed by the NGOs – the Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations and Students & Scholars Against Corporate Misbehaviour (Sacom) – are claims that:
■ Excessive overtime is routine, despite a legal limit of 36 hours a month. One payslip, seen by the Observer, indicated that the worker had performed 98 hours of overtime in a month.
■ Workers attempting to meet the huge demand for the first iPad were sometimes pressured to take only one day off in 13.
■ In some factories badly performing workers are required to be publicly humiliated in front of colleagues. (read more)
The map was created by Mark Langfan, a New York attorney and expert on military and strategic issues who has frequently appeared at Congressional committees on Capitol Hill.
A Hamas-Fatah PA state would allow the terrorist organization, whose stated aim is the destruction of Israel, to deploy Iranian and Syrian-supplied Katyusha missiles near all Israel urban centers.
Seventy percent of the population of Israel, and 80 percent of the country’s industrial base is located in the coastal region that includes Netanya and metropolitan Tel Aviv, AFSI pointed out. One large PA city is Tulkarm, located only a few miles east of Netanya and overlooking the high-speech north-south Highway 6 (Kvish 6).
Jerusalem would be within easy range of Jericho, where the PA army is trained on a United States-funded base and by American military officers. (read more)
Police imposed an 8pm curfew in the areas affected and military police began patrolling the streets amid reports of burglaries in homes and stolen cars.
The lootings cast a shadow over the otherwise positive response from community in Alabama, which was the worst affected by the tragedy.
Military sources confirmed that looting had been taking place but that it was 'far less frequent than we expected'.
'There are some people who are using this as a chance to take something for themselves,' the source said.
Shirley Long, from Tuscaloosa, where 42 people died, was a victim of the scavengers.
She said: ‘The first night they took my jewellery, my watch, my guns. Read More
Kicked while they're down: Storm ravaged southerners to get another lashing from mother nature - 1st May 2011
A cold front moving East from Texas will bring thunder, lightning and hail over the next few days to areas flattened by the 200mph twisters.
Up to two inches of rain could fall amid 60mph winds - and the temperature will plunge by up to 60F.
The storm effectively puts a time limit on homeowners trawling through the wreckage of their homes before more bad weather comes and destroys what is left.
But it could also lead to more deaths for those left sleeping in the open air or what is left of their property.
On Sunday the weather front stretched from Texas up to Arkansas and the northern part of Mississippi and was expected to move East over the next two days.
By Monday it would be over Birmingham in Alabama and the surrounding area, which has been the worst affected by the disaster.
Charlie Smits, who lost his home in Tuscaloosa, said: 'This is the last thing we need. We're being kicked while we are down.'
On Monday there ill be a 50 per cent chance of rain but that will jump to 70 per cent on Tuesday.
National Weather Service meteorologist Jessica Talley said that most areas will experience half an inch of rain but up to two inches could fall. Read More
Superman gives up U.S. citizenship... while helping Iranians; becomes "man of the world" -- it's official (and art imitates life)
The 900th issue by DC comics has the superhero in Tehran standing in support of protesters demonstrating against their government. His action causes the Iranian government to believe he was sent there by the White House.
When presidential advisers express their disapproval, Superman decides he will renounce his U.S. citizenship at the UN while affirming his desire to fight crime from a global perspective.
"I'm tired of having my actions construed as instruments of U.S. policy," declares the cartoon crime fighter.
His proclamation, though, is somewhat doubtful since Superman came from the alien planet of Krypton and was "adopted" by a Kansas family.
Publishers Jim Lee and Dan DiDio released a statement about the issue that did not clarify much: "[Superman] remains, as always, committed to his adopted home and his roots as a Kansas farm boy in Smallville."
They also reiterated in their statement Friday: "As a character and an icon, he embodies the best of the American Way."
The spin from DC comics focuses on plot and in a website statement, the company promises the emerging story "will lay the grounds for an insanely epic story coming out this summer in the pages of ACTION!" (read more)
Attacks intensify in Misrata, Benghazi after fatal NATO strike that kills Gaddafi's Son -- Are they creating a man with nothing left to lose?
Eyewitnesses in the embattled city of Misrata reported the shelling intensified about the same time as reports emerged of the strike, which a government spokesman said Gadhafi and his wife had survived. One man who spoke to CNN from about three miles from the city's center told CNN, "It's going to be like revenge."
The eyewitness reported significant damage and some casualties in Misrata, the country's third-largest city. The city remains in rebel hands, with no forces aligned with Gadhafi remaining in the city itself, he said.
Another witness, who agreed to be identified only as "Mohammed," said "very heavy shelling" targeted the coastal city's port.
"I have been here during all days of the conflict," he told CNN. "Last night was the worst." The bombardment had already left 17 dead and 40 injured on Saturday, he said. (read more)
UN buildings and some foreign missions were targeted by angry crowds following a Nato air strike that reportedly killed a son of Col Gaddafi.
A UN official told the BBC its staff would withdraw from Libya and the decision would be reviewed next week.
The UK expelled the Libyan ambassador after its premises were attacked.
UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said ambassador Omar Jelban was "persona non grata" and had been given 24 hours to leave the country.
By not protecting diplomatic missions, the Gaddafi regime had "once again breached its international responsibilities and obligations", said Mr Hague.
He added: "The attacks against diplomatic missions will not weaken our resolve to protect the civilian population in Libya."
The Italian foreign ministry has condemned the "acts of vandalism" on its embassy, describing them as "grave and vile". Italy - which closed its embassy in March and is represented by Turkey - recently joined the Nato mission in Libya. (read more)
Doug Casey: The only things that are doing well are the stock and bond markets. But the markets and the economy are totally different things—except, over a very long period of time, there's no necessary correlation between the economy doing well and the market doing well. My view is that the market is as high as it is right now—with the Dow over 12,000—solely and entirely because the Federal Reserve has created trillions of dollars, as other central banks around the world have created trillions of their currency units. Those currency units have to go somewhere, and a lot of them have gone into the stock market.
As a general rule, I don't believe in conspiracy theories and I don't believe anything's big enough to manipulate the market successfully over a long period. At the same time, the government recognizes that most people conflate the Dow with the economy, so it is directing money toward the market to keep it up. Of course, the government wants to keep it up for other reasons—not just because it thinks the economy rests on the psychology of the people, which is complete nonsense. Psychology is just about the most ephemeral thing on which you could possibly base an economy. It can blow away like a pile of feathers in a hurricane.
TGR: So, you're saying we're confusing the market's performance with the economy's performance?
DC: Yes. The fact is that the economy, itself, is doing very badly. The numbers are phonied up. I spend a lot of time in Argentina. Anybody with any sense knows you can't believe the numbers coming out of the Argentinean Government Statistical Bureau, nor can you (any longer) believe the numbers that come out of Washington D.C. The inflation numbers consider only the things the government wants to look at and are artificially low. It's the same with the unemployment numbers. None of these things is believable. (read more)
“We’re in a legitimate market driven by financial interest in silver and strong industrial demand,” Chief Executive Officer Dennis Wheeler said today at the Bloomberg Link Precious Metals Conference in New York. “Supplies are relatively inelastic.”
Silver has surged 162 percent in the past year, outpacing the 31 percent gain in gold. Investment demand for silver jumped 40 percent in 2010 as inflation rose, currencies lost value and Europe’s debt crisis escalated, said researcher GFMS Ltd. Industrial use gained 21 percent last year and may climb to a record this year, London-based GFMS said.
The rally is “very different” from the surge in the late 1970s, when the Hunt brothers tried to corner the market, and in 1980, when prices touched a record $50.35 an ounce, Frank McGhee, the head dealer at Integrated Brokerage Services, said at the conference.
“There is no manipulation going on in this market,” McGhee said. “It does not take a lot to stop the market until this market decides to go. I’d like to categorize silver as a freight train.”
Silver futures for July delivery rose $1.554, or 3.4 percent, to close at $47.541 on the Comex in New York. Silver reached $49.845 on April 25.
Discovering new deposits has become more difficult, while “older mines cease production at a time when demand continues to grow,” said Wheeler, whose company is based in Coeur d’Alene, Idaho. High prices are not “a short-term phenomenon,” and the metal may jump to $55 by the end of 2011, he said. Integrated Brokerage’s McGhee predicted $62. (read more)
What happened to America? -- A superb collection of quotations to explain the current situation in a dying republic
I posted this list of quotes several months ago, but a lot of the new people haven't seen this yet, so I'll do it again. Just by reading through these quotes, you will have a very clear picture of what happened to America and how we got in this fix in the first place.
It took me a while to compile this list, but it really belongs to each of you. Feel free to copy it to your hard drive and post quotes from this list on other forums so that others can understand what happened to America.
1. "If the American people ever allow private banks to control the issue of their currency, first by inflation, then by deflation, the banks...will deprive the people of all property until their children wake-up homeless on the continent their fathers conquered.... The issuing power should be taken from the banks and restored to the people, to whom it properly belongs." - Thomas Jefferson
2. "History records that the money changers have used every form of abuse, intrigue, deceit, and violent means possible to maintain their control over governments by controlling money and its issuance." - James Madison
3. "If congress has the right under the Constitution to issue paper money, it was given them to use themselves, not to be delegated to individuals or corporations." - Andrew Jackson
4. "The Government should create, issue, and circulate all the currency and credits needed to satisfy the spending power of the Government and the buying power of consumers. By the adoption of these principles, the taxpayers will be saved immense sums of interest. Money will cease to be master and become the servant of humanity. " - Abraham Lincoln
5. "I am a most unhappy man. I have unwittingly ruined my country. A great industrial nation is controlled by its system of credit. Our system of credit is concentrated. The growth of the Nation and all our activities are in the hands of a few men. We have come to be one of the worst ruled, one of the most completely controlled and dominated Governments in the world - no longer a Government of free opinion no longer a Government by conviction and vote of the majority, but a Government by the opinion and duress of small groups of dominant men.... Since I entered politics, I have chiefly had men's views confided to me privately. Some of the biggest men in the U.S., in the field of commerce and manufacturing, are afraid of somebody, are afraid of something. They know that there is a power somewhere so organized, so subtle, so watchful, so interlocked, so complete, so pervasive, that they had better not speak above their breath when they speak in condemnation of it.” – President Woodrow Wilson, In The New Freedom (1913) after signing into passage the Glass Owen Act of 1913 that established the Federal Reserve System. (read more)
520 pound loggerhead turtle found dead "with no visible injuries" -- animal casualties in Gulf of Mexico continue to mount
Rick got out his binoculars and aimed them at the floating mass.
“Oh no, it’s not trash,” he told his wife.
He waded out thirty to forty feet and pushed in the object, which turned out to be a 300-pound plus dead loggerhead turtle.
The couple called the Okaloosa County Sheriff’s Office, which helped them get in contact with the Emerald Coast Animal Refuge. Refuge workers arrived to collect the turtle, with the help of Rick and other folks at the small park.
The male loggerhead, which had no obvious signs of injury, was at least 60 years old, according to refuge director Amanda Wilkerson. The loggerhead turtle is endangered.
His head alone probably weighed 25 to 30 pounds, Wilkerson estimated.
Though the Ellises had never seen a turtle like that in the bay, Wilkerson said they do seek calmer waters at times.
“Particularly if he’s an old guy and the water gets rough, he might have come in to get away from all the waves,” she said. “Hopefully he died of old age.” (read more)
I've put the dots in that sentence so you can insert the word of your choice.
According to a high-level seminar of experts in Oxford earlier this week, there's one word starting with the letter S that would fit quite well, a longer option beginning Kn - and a few more that are even stronger in meaning.
The S option, by the way, is not "secured".
Scientists are famous for staying in silos and never peering over the edge at what's going on in the world around them.
What marked this week's event - convened by the International Programme on the State of the Ocean - as something a bit different was the melange of expertise in the same room.
Fisheries experts traded studies with people studying ocean acidification; climate modellers swapped data with ecologists; legal wonks formulated phrases alongside toxicologists.
They debated, discussed, queried, swapped questions and answers. Pretty much everyone said they'd learned something new - and something a bit scary. (read more)
Average Arctic sea ice extent for the month of March 2011 was the second lowest in the satellite record (behind 2006), according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. The NSIDC reported that sea ice extent reached its yearly maximum on March 7. Covering an estimated 5.65 million square miles (14.64 million square kilometers), the extent tied for the lowest winter maximum extent in the satellite record.Arctic sea ice maximum extent has decreased by 2.7 percent per decade since 1979, a much smaller decline than the 11.5 percent per decade drop in the September minimum. The relatively small decline in winter maximum extent, however, does not mean the ice is fully recovering each winter from dramatic summer melting.
Strong summer melting in the past decade has reduced the core of thick ice that manages to survive all year long. Spring ice cover has become increasingly dominated by young and generally thinner ice that formed over the previous months. Most of the thin, first-year ice melts again in the summer. (read more)
Bizarrely, the reef doesn't appear to be suffering from the effects of ocean acidification just yet. But that may be because it is balanced on a knife-edge between health and decay.
Oceans become acidic when they absorb CO2 from the atmosphere. Once dissolved, the gas reacts with carbonate to form bicarbonate, stripping seawater of the compound that many marine organisms including coral, shrimp and crabs need to build their shells or skeletons.
Bronte Tilbrook at CSIRO in Hobart, Tasmania, Australia, measured the concentration of aragonite - a form of calcium carbonate used by some creatures to build shells - at over 200 locations on the reef.
Corals grow well when the amount of aragonite in the water has a saturation level of 4.5. Below that, coral growth declines. Models suggest that if seawater becomes too low in aragonite, organisms with aragonite shells will dissolve. Studies in the Red Sea have found that some species of coral start to dissolve at a saturation of 2.8.
"Almost every bit of water we sampled was below 3.5," says Tilbrook, who presented his findings at Greenhouse 2011 in Cairns this week. Close to the shore, to the south of the reef, the saturation was 3. (read more)
Warmer temperatures and drought could be the one-two punch that knocks out corn harvests, warn David Lobell of Stanford University and researchers at the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center.
"Projections of climate change impacts on food production have been hampered by not knowing exactly how crops fair when it gets hot," Lobell said in a Stanford press release. "This study helps to clear that issue up, at least for one important crop."
A modest one degree Celsius (1.8 degrees Fahrenheit) rise in temperature could result in a loss of harvest for 65 percent of Africa's corn growing regions. If drought hits as well, all of the African corn belt will suffer some loss with 75 percent of the region losing as much as 20 percent of their harvest.
The warning comes after observations of 20,000 corn trials in Sub-Saharan Africa were compared to weather data collected from the same areas.
Results from the study will be published soon in the inaugural issue of Nature Climate Change.
"Essentially, the longer a maize [corn] crop is exposed to temperatures above 30 Celsius, or 86 Fahrenheit, the more the yield declines," said co-author of the study Marianne Banziger of the International Maize and Wheat Improvement Center in the same press release. (read more)
Over the years, rat poison has spared state residents untold filth and disease. But a new generation of highly toxic, long-lasting poisons is killing not only rats, mice and ground squirrels, but whatever feeds on them, too.
As a result, toxins are rippling outward from warehouses to woodlands, from golf courses and housing complexes to marshes and nature sanctuaries. In California, the victims include bobcats, barn owls, red-tailed hawks, coyotes, kit foxes, kestrels and scores of other predators and scavengers. (read more)
Foreign Secretary William Hague said Omar Jelban was "persona non grata" and had been given 24 hours to leave the country.
Diplomatic missions belonging to a number of Nato states have been targeted after an airstrike reportedly killed Muammar Gaddafi's youngest son and three of his grandchildren.
Mr Hague said: "I condemn the attacks on the British Embassy premises in Tripoli as well as the diplomatic missions of other countries.
"The Vienna Convention requires the Gaddafi regime to protect diplomatic missions in Tripoli. By failing to do so that regime has once again breached its international responsibilities and obligations.
"I take the failure to protect such premises very seriously indeed.
"As a result, I have taken the decision to expel the Libyan Ambassador. He is persona non grata pursuant to Article 9 of the Vienna Convention on Diplomatic Relations and has 24 hours to leave the country. Read More
Troops and tanks remain the town of Deraa in the south and Douma, near the capital Damascus.
Residents say water and electricity have been cut off and medicine and food are in short supply.
Snipers are said to be shooting civilians if they leave their homes.
Young men are reportedly being hauled out of their homes and taken away in buses.
The military assault on the protest movement is in its seventh day.
Tanks have been reported in other towns.
More than 60 people are thought to have been killed since Friday.
Despite the crackdown Syrians are continuing their uprising against the Assad regime.
New footage emerging on YouTube shows protestors being shot in cold blood at a range of less than a 100 yards.
Others stay on the street defying the gunfire. A woman shouts at the police that they are dogs.
Residents in Deraa say overnight women and children took to the rooftops shouting: "God is great, greater than the tyrant."
The Assad regime is defying international condemnation and calls for restraint, but is losing its legitimacy. In the past it has won support across the Arab world for its hostility to Israel.
Now it has turned its guns on its own people and killed hundreds in an effort to quell the unrest and keep its grip on power. Read More
Nuclear Event - Ascó Nuclear Power Plant, Tarragona a leak of 25000 litres of Radioactive Water Forced Security Staff to Evacuate - 30th Apr 2011
El Pais newspaper reported Saturday that the workers were in the building, although none are believed to have suffered dangerous contamination.
Operator Anav said in a statement dated Thursday that "the opening of a valve caused the release of 25 cubic meters (883 cubic feet) of water from the primary refrigeration system toward a pool in the containment building" at its Asco 1 plant near Tarragona. It said the industry regulator had been informed.
The reactor was not fully operational at the time. In 2008 radioactive contamination was found on external surfaces of Asco 1. Source
A leak of 25,000 litres of radioactive water forced security staff to evacuated the nuclear plant at Ascó (Tarragona) yesterday. Workers' footwear became soaked by the water, leading to widespread alarm that they may have been affected by nuclear radiation. An examination of the 14 staff members whose shoes got wet has not so far produced any signs of internal damage.
The Nuclear Safety Council said that while calibrating one of the four semi-automatic re-circulation channels, one of the motorised isolation valves on the sump opened accidentally.
They say they will arrange a full inspection to ascertain the causes, but stress that there has been no impact on the environment or the people living nearby. Following the incident, Ecologists in Action have called for the nuclear plant in Ascó to be closed for good, since they believe there is an inherent risk to workers and to the population as a whole.
The cause of these deaths remains unknown; however, the activists connect it with a recent gamma irradiation experiment of the seeds in the region. The affected animals develop muscle weakness, start limping, and at the end die.
A representative of the environmental protection activists has visited one of the affected villages and asked the villagers about these cases. All 3 respondents have had a dead cow in their farm. They have said that the same situation exists in their neighbor's yards. There are no official statistics available for these fatal cattle cases.
A local veterinarian considers that the disease could be osteodystrophy due to affected metabolism in these animals. He also thinks that the quality of the local forage could be low because of the very hot summer last year , which led to decreased nutritional value and less vitamins in all vegetation. Such problems with feed sometimes can cause similar health problems in cattle in early spring, he says. The environmental activists consider that seed irradiation also can lead to a low content of vitamins in forage plants.
To prove their claims they point out clustering of cattle deaths only in Spasskiy district, where the irradiation experiment took place. The neighboring districts, which had similarly hot summers last year, did not report cattle health problems at all. The environmentalists also cite scientific articles from the 1950s, which document loss of vitamins in irradiated seeds.
Additionally, they say, there is evidence about development of radiation sickness in animals if they are fed irradiated forage. There is an ongoing project in Russia to establish a centralized radiation facility for cattle forage and maybe chicken feeds as well. The local environmentalists consider this a dangerous development and are lobbying for local legislative measures against such radiation projects. Source
Reginald Epps, The True Miracle of Alabama: Eight-year-old Boy Sucked into Tornado... but LIVES to tell the Tale - 1st May 2011
Eight-year-old Reginald Epps Jr was picked up off his feet and pulled into the swirling darkness when one of the Alabama twisters tore through his home.
As his family cowered beneath him he was carried through the air some 30ft before being set down again with just cuts and bruises.
'I had just got some flashlights for me and my wife and we were all in the kitchen when we heard the wind pick up. Then the windows at the back of the house blew out, it was like they popped.
'I shouted at RJ to get up and come with us to the bedroom but when we made it in this roar started.
'I looked up and the walls and the roof came away and RJ few off with them.
'It happened in an instant, he just got sucked away from me. I tried to reach up for him but I couldn't stop him. It was like he was on a bit of string being pulled from behind.
'Then I got down on top of James whilst Danielle got on top of Joel to protect them. I got hit by flying glass and other stuff and we held on and prayed for our lives. Read More
'The EU are trying to Wipe us off the Map': Brussels merges England and France in new Arc Manche region... with its own FLAG - 1st May 2011
The Cabinet Minister condemned the EU for ploughing millions of pounds of taxpayers’ money into the ‘Arc Manche’, the name given by Brussels to an ambitious attempt to merge Northern France and Southern England.
Mr Pickles, the Local Government Secretary, says he is incensed to have discovered that Eurocrats are planning to roll out a new Arc Manche ‘transnational emblem’ across England.
The logo is described by its designers as a ‘series of concentric circles symbolising the flow of projects . . . and bridges between territories’.
It includes the word Interreg, a contraction of inter-regional – the name of a £1billion-a-year EU initiative to reduce the influence of national borders and increase cooperation between countries. The design will be emblazoned on EU ‘vanity projects’ in the cross-Channel area, including:
* A £7.6million network of ‘cross-Channel’ cycle lanes.
* A £5.5million scheme to pay for circus clowns to perform throughout the Arc Manche region.
* A £2million programme of cross-Channel ‘contemporary art’ tours.
Mr Pickles said he had inherited the plans from the Labour Government.
‘Labour has been conspiring with European bureaucrats to wipe England off the map,’ Mr Pickles said.
‘Massive amounts of taxpayers’ money is being wasted on vanity projects. I intend to fight these plans, stop this waste and protect England’s national and local identities from EU empire-building.’
His outburst comes just days after the EU demanded an extra £682million a year from British taxpayers, taking the UK’s annual contribution to the EU budget to more than £10billion – the equivalent of £400 for every household. Read More
The scorching month was the fourth sunniest in the UK in the past 100 years and the sixth driest.
The hottest spot was Wisley in Surrey on St George’s Day, when the mercury reached 82F (27.8C) – the highest April temperature since 1949.
After heavy and prolonged rain in the Western Highlands, the Lake District and Snowdonia during the first week of April, all parts of the UK were unusually dry for the rest of the month.
‘There were some cooler and cloudier days during the second week, but it
was exceptionally warm and sunny between the 16th and 25th,’ said a spokesman for MeteoGroup, which released the figures.
Mean maximum temperatures for April ranged from 68F (19.8C) at London’s St James’s Park to 50F (9.8C) at Fair Isle in Scotland, and the mean minimum temperature was at least 6.7F (3.5C) above the long-term average in all regions.
The average temperature recorded in central England – 53F (11.9C) – was 6.6F (3.9C) above the long-term average and was the highest for April since records began 353 years ago.
The lowest temperature was 22F (-5.4C) at Lochaber in Scotland on April 26. Source
Slaughter of the olive branch martyrs: The brutal Syrian crackdown that has left 500 dead and the West impotently wringing its hands - 1st May 2011
The signs began by demanding reform in a mood of optimism amid the Arab Spring. Then they stressed unity, not sectarianism. Now they are held by small children in a city stained with blood. And they simply say ‘Thirsty’ or ‘Please help – I am hungry’.
Deraa, where the uprising began following the arrest of teenagers for scrawling graffiti on a wall, is a city under siege. Elite troops under the command of President Bashar Assad’s brother Maher moved in on Monday and cut off all communications.
Terrified families now hide in their homes, with food and water supplies running low. Snipers even shoot water butts to worsen the agony.
At least 15 of the 62 people killed on Friday were from nearby villages, gunned down as they carried food and olive branches – a symbol of peace – in a bid to break the siege. More died inside the city, once again at the centre of national bloodletting that has left more than 500 dead. Read More
Rebecca Coriam Vanished from the Disney Wonder Cruise less than 24 Hours after it Sailed, Recent Bank Activity, Is she still Alive? - 1st May
Rebecca Coriam vanished from the Disney Wonder less than 24 hours after it sailed out of Los Angeles on a cruise to the Mexican Riviera in March.
Her disappearance has since been a mystery, with police having found neither a body nor any evidence of foul play.
But last week her mother Anne received an email from her daughter’s bank reporting ‘financial activity’ on Rebecca’s account in the weeks since.
Rebecca’s father Mike said: ‘This could be a very significant development. The fact that her credit card’s been used could only mean someone has stolen it or she’s still alive.
‘We’ve never believed she simply disappeared overboard and drowned. I have always felt she is still alive. We are just keeping our fingers crossed that she is out there somewhere.’
Ms Coriam, 24, a graduate of Liverpool Hope University, had been a children’s worker for Disney Cruise Lines since last summer. Soon after she vanished from the £580million Disney Wonder, the family voiced their fear that ‘something bad’ had happened.
One unverified claim by a crew member said she ‘jumped overboard’ at 3am on March 22, just hours before she failed to report for her shift. Read More
South Korea to stage live-fire drills on Yeonpyeong Island -- where North Korea struck the last time this happened
A defense ministry spokesman told AFP that regular military exercises will be carried out on the two islands but declined to give further details on the timing or whether live-fire drills will be carried out.
But Dong-A Ilbo daily said marine troops will fire K-9 self-propelled howitzers, Vulcan cannons and 81mm mortars deployed on Baengnyeong and Yeonpyeong islands, both located near the tense Yellow Sea border.
About 10 US military regiment and battalion commanders will attend the exercises as observers, it said.
Based in Japan's Okinawa, U.S. military commanders have been taking part in an annual exercise north of Seoul rehearsing the deployment of U.S. reinforcements in the event of conflict, the daily said.
In November, a South Korean live-fire artillery drill from Yeonpyeong island, which dropped shells into waters claimed by both Koreas, was followed by shelling of the island by the North, which killed four people.
Tuesday's drills will be the second live-fire exercise on the two islands this year. The previous drills passed without incident despite threats from the North to hit back. (read more)