Friday, May 6, 2011

Bin Laden -- More Dangerous Dead Than Alive: Eric Margolis

The assassination of Osama bin Laden by US Special Forces in Abbotabad, Pakistan will likely assure Barack Obama’s victory in the 2012 presidential race. Republican hawks will have a hard time pressing their claims that Obama is “soft on terrorism.”

Details about the killing of bin Laden remain obscure. The mission, a joint operation between CIA and Special Forces, appeared to have been mounted from a US-controlled air base in Pakistan – without the advance knowledge of Pakistan’s government. US sources say Osama was shot twice in the head; his son was also killed.

Bin Laden’s body was photographed and then apparently dumped into the sea from a US aircraft. Washington claims this was done to observe Muslim funeral rites calling for almost immediate burial. This sounds preposterous.

The real reason was more likely to prevent bin Laden’s burial site from becoming a shrine and, some cynics will assert, getting rid of the evidence. Expect endless claims that a bin Laden double was killed while the real McCoy still haunts Pakistan’s badlands. Various fakes videotapes used to depict bin Laden as the mastermind of the 9/11 attacks used doubles.
Gleeful Americans are rejoicing that the man credited with the monstrous crime of 9/11 has been killed after a ten year search. More thoughtful ones may stop to ponder the remarkable Quixotic drama of a single man who set out to overturn the mighty American Imperium.

To people of the Muslim world, where many hailed bin Laden as a hero and liberator from Western domination, his killing in Pakistan will recall American gangland rub-outs and bodies dumped in New Jersey’s waters and swamps. Particularly after NATO warplanes killed Muammar Gadaffi’s youngest son and three grandchildren in Libya.
Expect already acid US-Pakistan relations to yet worsen as Americans accuse Pakistan of sheltering bin Laden for a decade. This writer has long said that Bin Laden was in Pakistan, and likely with at least some knowledge of ISI, Pakistani intelligence, though its able former Director General, Hamid Gul, whose word I respect, disputes this claim.

It is most unfortunate that bin Laden was literally rubbed out. If he could have been taken alive, the co-founder of al-Qaida should have been brought to the United States to stand trial in New York City, or, failing that, on a military base – but with lawyers and a civilian jury under full US law.

The whole story of 9/11 and al-Qaida remains murky and confused. Fully a third of Americans don’t accept the official US government version of 9/11, believing the US government or Israel were somehow involved – without any conclusive evidence but a lot of angry questions. (read more)

The US Maxes Out Its Credit Card: Eric Margolis

The US dollar sank further last week and gold hit $1,500 an ounce, frightening investors and destabilizing financial markets. A leading credit rating agency warned the US AAA rating might be downgraded.
While Rome burned, President Obama and the Republican-controlled US Congress traded childish taunts and hot air. Both parties refused to tell Americans the painful truth: government’s yawning $1.4 trillion US budget deficit had to be slashed to prevent a financial meltdown. That would mean pain for everyone.
But the two political parties are deadlocked: Obama’s Democrats want to raise taxes. Republicans demand tax cuts. They want to cut health, education and welfare, all three sacred cows to the Democrats, while increasing military spending when 40 million Americans draw government food aid.
This dishonest debate mostly ignores the 800-lb gorilla in the room: America’s bloated $750-900 billion annual military spending. Some experts put total annual US military and intelligence spending at $1.2 trillion.
Few American politicians dare suggest seriously trimming the Pentagon’s runaway spending.
The US National Priorities Project estimates that in 2011, out of one dollar of US federal spending, 27.4% is military; 21.5% health; 13.8% interest on the debt; 10.9% social security benefits; 3.5% on education; and 23% on everything else.
In 2010, US military spending exceeded by 50% the average spent in the Cold War years when America had a serious rival in the Soviet Union. Since 2000, US military spending has grown by 67% (all figures adjusted for inflation). Yet today America has no real military rival. (read more)

U.S. drone strike in Yemen is first since 2002 -- is war now expanding?

The U.S. military used a drone to strike Thursday at an al-Qaeda target in Yemen, the first such U.S. attack using unmanned aircraft in that country since 2002, according to U.S. and Yemeni officials.

Two al-Qaeda operatives were killed in the attack in the remote, mountainous Yemeni governorate of Shabwa early Thursday, a Yemeni security official said.

Drones operated by the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command were redeployed in Yemen last year as part of a secret U.S. effort to reinvigorate the hunt for al-Qaeda operatives in the country.

Previous strikes in Yemen over the past 18 months involved cruise missiles fired from naval craft off Yemen’s coast.

Thursday’s attack was “the first drone strike,” a U.S. official said. The aircraft have patrolled portions of Yemen for much of the past year, the official said, but had not launched any missiles because of a lack of sufficient targeting information.

U.S. officials said the strike was not related to intelligence gathered since Sunday’s raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound in Pakistan. (read more)

Mob of Thieves Swarms Las Vegas Convenience Store



Caught on camera, a mob of young people bombarded the City Stop convenience store on Sunset Road and Pecos Road and stole $600 in merchandise.

"It became a feeding frenzy," said City Stop owner Jon Athey. "They were in the store for three minutes and 30 seconds… It's a pretty scary thing."

Athey says the crowd darted in and snatched numerous items from the store. "Beer to jerky to candy bars to soda, whatever hit their fancy… potato chips," he said.

Athey says this tactic is known as a "swarm". After 42 years in the convenience store business, Athey says this crime stands out.

"This is the biggest one I've ever seen," he said.

If you walk into a convenience store, you expect every move to be recorded on camera. Surveillance cameras in every direction, however, didn't stop this crew.

"Now, you're seeing droves swarming in the front doors - right here - as fast as they can come in," Athey said as he watched the surveillance video. "You can see them milling around by the beer doors. Now, you're going to see them start selecting products they're putting in their coat pockets. They're putting it down their pants."

The crowd started walking out without paying, only to return. "Here it is, two minutes into the deal. They're all coming back for seconds," Athey said.

Seconds later, they grabbed more beer and the clerk's cell phone. They then rushed back out the door.

"We were blessed nobody was hurt," Athey said. Athey says the clerk followed his training. He hopes this crowd doesn't try to swarm another store. (read more)

Fears linger of new Stock Market ‘flash crash’

In the space of just 20 minutes a year ago on Friday, Wall Street tumbled hundreds of points, dumbfounding dealers, only to rebound sharply. The extraordinary gyration in stocks, dubbed the “flash crash”, stunned investors and revealed gaping holes in the equity market’s structure.

Such a chronic breakdown in the operation of the world’s largest stock market sparked an investigation by regulators, scrutiny from Washington and a flurry of new rules.

Yet one year later, unease lingers that in spite of new safeguards, stock prices are vulnerable to bouts of sudden selling. For all the talk and action, the big concern remains that the Dow could suffer a repeat of last May’s crash.

“We will have another flash crash, yes without question,” says James Angel, associate professor of finance at Georgetown university. “The combination of human nature, markets and technology means that at some point, something will misfire.” (read more)

Debbie Ellis Sacked for 'abuse' after saving schoolboy from possible pedophile

A respected deputy head was sacked after she helped carry a boy of six into school when he refused to leave the playground.

Debbie Ellis, who had an unblemished 20-year career, was accused of ‘physical and emotional abuse’ after she and a teaching assistant lifted the boy by his armpits – even though his mother didn’t complain.

Mrs Ellis had taken action because a sex offender had recently been spotted at the school gates.

Yesterday her solicitor described her dismissal as ‘incomprehensible’ and vowed to clear her name.

Mrs Ellis, a policeman’s wife, had been in charge of Hafod-y-Wern primary school in Wrexham, North Wales for the day last June because the head was away.

When the boy refused to come inside after playtime, staff phoned his mother, but she wasn’t able to come to the school straight away.

So Mrs Ellis and a teaching assistant went outside, lifted the boy under his armpits and carried him indoors.

Mrs Ellis told the head on his return and school governors launched an investigation, which lasted nearly a year.

Police were informed at the time, but there were no grounds on which to prosecute. Now, however, Mrs Ellis has been sacked for ‘gross misconduct by physical and emotional abuse’. (read more)

Cows left to starve as economy worsens: Cadaverous-looking cattle discovered in Okeechobee County



Two West Palm Beach residents are under arrest following the discovery of several emaciated cows.

Acting on a tip deputies responded to a field in the 170000 block of NW 96th Street in Okeechobee County and found 47 cows and calves.

The Okeechobee County Sheriff's Office says one cow was on its side and appeared to be "skin pulled over bones."

Another was on its side on the incline of a dry ditch with a calf nearby.

Investigators say the pasture had no grass and was covered with cow feces. Two cows had to be put down.

Hay and water was brought in and a neighbor is allowing the animals on his property where grass is plentiful.

Deputies say they later discovered the owners of the cows had another 40 acres of land which had 27 head of cattle and calves in the same condition.

Thursday night they arrested David N. and Kathlene Howell of West Palm Beach.

“We are seeing an increase of these types of cases and the economic situation is probably the leading cause. I don’t consider this an excuse, the price of beef has been good recently and before it gets to where we have to intervene, something could have been done,” said Okeechobee County Sheriff Paul C. May, in a written release.

The Howells each face 4 counts of cruelty to animals. (Source)

Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Resign: Announcement expected shortly; BREAKING NEWS

A political dispute between Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the Iranian president, and Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the country's supreme leader is reported to have intensified.

Ahmadinejad is said to be contemplating resigning after Heidar Moslehi, the intelligence minister he had sacked, was reinstated by Khamenei.

The president is understood to have shirked some of his duties and skipped cabinet meetings for the past ten days in anger over the decision.

Mehrdad Khonsari, an analyst with the Centre for Arab and Iranian Studies in London, told Al Jazeera on Friday that the dispute, which began last month, had become "serious".

"It shows the level of disunity at the very top of the Iranian [political] hierachy [with] Ahmadinejad having already polarised the internal political scene as a result of fraudulent election results that were announced more than 20 months ago," Khonsari said.

"He is now beginning to encroach on the powers and privileges vested in the supreme leader, and he and his constituency - mainly among the Revolutionary Guards - have tried to do this.

"And, of course, the supreme leader has tried to make a stand and in this stand he has been joined by many people from the ruling establishment who have been cast aside by Ahmadinejad."

Khonsari said that since the president came to power "powerful people like [Akbar Hashemi] Rasfanjani and ... [Mohammed] Khatami and many of the key reformers as well as the president of the current Council of Experts" have been sidelined.

"This is quite a standoff," he said. "Ahmadinejad, I think, at this particular time, has bitten more than he can chew and has been forced to essentially step back, but the fact [remains] that both he and the supreme leader are damaged as a result of this conflict." (read more, with video)

Pakistani fighter jets were close to firing on U.S helicopters during raid to kill Osama Bin Laden -- nearly sparking a military conflict

Shamefaced Pakistani officials admitted to intelligence "shortcomings" Thursday after Osama Bin Laden was found hiding in plain sight in their country.

But officials there warned that any further secret raids would result in "disastrous consequences" for already strained U.S.-Pakistan relations.

Pakistan's leadership insists it had no idea that the world's most wanted terrorist was living in a $1 million compound in Abbottabad, just outside the capital.

The U.S. suspects such a glaring oversight could only have occurred with government help, which led them to conduct Sunday's commando raid without informing Pakistan.

As a result, Pakistan ordered that America's military presence in the country be reduced to "minimum essential" levels.

The U.S. only has 275 declared military personnel in the country, but is widely believed to have a larger clandestine intelligence presence there as well.

While pointing to "shortcomings in developing intelligence" on Bin Laden's whereabouts, Pakistan insists it provided everything it knew to the CIA.

"The CIA did not share further development of intelligence on the case with the ISI \[Pakistan's intelligence service\], contrary to the existing practice between the two services," the army said in a statement.

During the raid, Pakistani fighter jets were closing in on U.S. helicopters, but the strike force escaped just before the planes arrived, officials said.

Pakistan's Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir said two F-16s were immediately scrambled when foreign helicopters were detected over Bin Laden's compound.

The new detail revealed just how close U.S. forces came to a potentially deadly confrontation with the Pakistani military. (Source)

David Mason a Paedophile with a long history of abuse was able to foster a child after council failures - 6th May 2011

A paedophile was allowed to foster a child despite his history of abusing young boys, it has emerged.

David Mason, who is in his 50s, did not have his identity checked by Kent County Council, which permitted the placement.

And only a quick check on his home following his application.

The council has now been heavily criticised by a High Court judge.

Formal checks on Mason's application may have exposed his true identity and a history of sexual abuse, said Mr Justice Baker.

He urged the authority to 'urgently review its practice' saying he hoped those responsible 'learn the lessons'.

Kent County Council has publicly apologised, admitting the care and attention 'was not good enough'.

The case is the latest in a series of distressing episodes for Kent social services, which was ordered by Ofsted to improve child protection services after an inspection last year found them to be inadequate.

It emerged from a High Court judgment delivered behind closed doors last month, which has just been made public.

The case would have remained secret had not Mr Justice Baker decided, in view of the "alarming matters" that emerged, to allow the 'unusually extensive and troubling' wider issues it raised to be publicised.

Had the council carried out its duties properly and conducted a proper assessment of the man, the fact that he was a paedophile would have come to light sooner.

Malcolm Newsam, KCC's interim director of families and social care, said: 'What happened in this case is deeply regrettable. Read More

Fury erupts outside U.S. Embassy in London as hundreds stage mock funeral for Osama Bin Laden - 6th May 2011

A protest by hundreds of Osama Bin Laden supporters sparked fury outside the US Embassy in London today as they staged a mock 'funeral service' for the terror leader.

Police stepped in to separate the protesters and members of the English Defence League amid threats of violence from both sides.

Radicals carrying placards proclaiming 'Islam will dominate the world' branded US leaders 'murderers' and warned vengeance attacks were 'guaranteed'.

The protest came shortly after the verdict into the 7/7 inquest was released by Lady Justice Heather Hallett.

She recorded that the 52 victims had been 'unlawfully' killed when four terrorists attacked three tubes and a bus in 2005.

Lady Justice Hallett made a string of recommendations to both MI5 to prevent further atrocities and to 999 workers to react more effectively to major events.

However the protesters outside the embassy claimed 'it is only a matter of time' before another attack and that the 'West is the enemy'.

The capital has seen heightened security in recent days over fears of a revenge attacks by Al-Qaeda members. Read More

Greece Considers Exit from Euro Zone: Breaking News from Der Spiegel

The debt crisis in Greece has taken on a dramatic new twist. Sources with information about the government's actions have informed SPIEGEL ONLINE that Athens is considering withdrawing from the euro zone. The common currency area's finance ministers and representatives of the European Commission are holding a secret crisis meeting in Luxembourg on Friday night.

Greece's economic problems are massive, with protests against the government being held almost daily. Now Prime Minister George Papandreou apparently feels he has no other option: SPIEGEL ONLINE has obtained information from German government sources knowledgeable of the situation in Athens indicating that Papandreou's government is considering abandoning the euro and reintroducing its own currency.

Alarmed by Athens' intentions, the European Commission has called a crisis meeting in Luxembourg on Friday night. In addition to Greece's possible exit from the currency union, a speedy restructuring of the country's debt also features on the agenda. One year after the Greek crisis broke out, the development represents a potentially existential turning point for the European monetary union -- regardless which variant is ultimately decided upon for dealing with Greece's massive troubles.

Given the tense situation, the meeting in Luxembourg has been declared highly confidential, with only the euro-zone finance ministers and senior staff members permitted to attend. Finance Minister Wolfgang Schäuble of Chancellor Angela Merkel's conservative Christian Democratic Union (CDU) and Jörg Asmussen, an influential state secretary in the Finance Ministry, are attending on Germany's behalf. (read more)

Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant should shut down, Japanese prime minister says

Japan's prime minister said Friday he has asked the operator to shut down the nuclear reactors at the Hamaoka nuclear plant until earthquake and tsunami protections can be built.

The plant -- located on the Pacific coast in Omaezaki, southwest of Tokyo -- is vulnerable and could produce "grave damage to Japan" similar to the problems at the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant that was damaged in the magnitude-9.0 earthquake and subsequent tsunami in March, Prime Minister Naoto Kan said.

"The primary reason for this request is in the interest of the safety and security of the people of Japan," Kan said. "We came to this conclusion because of the grave impact on Japan's people that could be incurred as a result of a serious accident at Hamaoka Nuclear Power Plant."

The prime minister stressed that he could only ask the plant's owner, Chubu Electric Company, to shut down the plant. The Japanese government can not order the company to close the plant, he said. (read more)

Toronto 'slut walk' spreads to U.S. -- can we export the people who started this as well?

An international series of protests known as slut walks, sparked by a Toronto police officer's flippant comment that women should avoid dressing like "sluts" to avoid being raped or victimized, is taking root in the United States.

Some women and men who protest dress in nothing more remarkable than jeans and T-shirts, while others wear provocative or revealing outfits to bring attention to "slut-shaming," or shaming women for being sexual, and the treatment of sexual assault victims.

"It was taking the blame off the rapist and on the victim," said Nicole Sullivan, 21, a student at the University of Massachusetts-Boston and an organizer of the SlutWalk planned Saturday in that city. "So we are using these efforts to reclaim the word 'slut."'

The police officer made his comments in January to a group of York University students at a safety forum. He later apologized, but his comments were publicized widely on Facebook and Twitter. They inspired a march in Toronto last month that drew more than 3,000 people, as well as slut walks since then in Dallas, Asheville, N.C., and Ottawa, Ontario.

In addition to Boston, marches are planned in cities including Seattle; Chicago; Philadelphia; Reno, Nev.; and Austin, Texas.

The events are similar to "Take Back the Night" rallies and other marches that aim to bring attention to sexual violence. But there are key differences.

SlutWalkers have danced to hip-hop, worn T-shirts with the word "slut" and held signs that read "sluts pay taxes." Some women have skated around on Rollerblades in lingerie, while their male supporters wore shirts reading, "I love sluts." (read more)

The Agendas Behind the bin Laden News Event

The US government’s bin Laden story was so poorly crafted that it did not last 48 hours before being fundamentally altered. Indeed, the new story put out on Tuesday by White House press secretary Jay Carney bears little resemblance to the original Sunday evening story. The fierce firefight did not occur. Osama bin Laden did not hide behind a woman. Indeed, bin Laden, Carney said, "was not armed."

The firefight story was instantly suspicious as not a single SEAL got a scratch, despite being up against al Qaeda, described by former Pentagon chief Donald Rumsfeld as "the most dangerous, best-trained, vicious killers on the face of the earth."

Every original story detail has been changed. It wasn’t bin Laden’s wife who was murdered by the Navy SEALs, but the wife of an aide. It wasn’t bin Laden’s son, Khalid, who was murdered by the Navy SEALs, but son Hamza.

Carney blamed the changed story on "the fog of war." But there was no firefight, so where did the "fog of war" come from?

The White House has also had to abandon the story that President Obama and his national security team watched tensely as events unfolded in real time (despite the White House having released photos of the team watching tensely), with the operation conveyed into the White House by cameras on the SEALs helmets. If Obama was watching the event as it happened, he would have noticed, one would hope, that there was no firefight and, thus, would not have told the public that bin Laden was killed in a firefight. Another reason the story had to be abandoned is that if the event was captured on video, every news service in the world would be asking for the video, but if the event was orchestrated theater, there would be no video.

No explanation has been provided for why an unarmed bin Laden, in the absence of a firefight, was murdered by the SEALs with a shot to the head. For those who believe the government’s story that "we got bin Laden," the operation can only appear as the most botched operation in history. What kind of incompetence does it require to senselessly and needlessly kill the most valuable intelligence asset on the planet? (read more)

Mass culling for foot-and-mouth 'may be unnecessary'

The mass cull of farm animals to control the spread of foot-and-mouth disease may be unnecessary if there is a new outbreak, scientists suggest.

A new analysis of disease transmission suggests that future outbreaks might be controlled by early detection and killing only affected animals.

The scientists said their findings did not suggest the mass slaughter policy during the 2001 UK outbreak was wrong.

The research, by a UK team, is reported in the journal Science.

Until now, vets had assumed animals could be infectious while they carried the virus that causes foot-and-mouth, which may be for between four and eight days.

However, by exposing calves to infected cattle and closely monitoring them, researchers from the Institute for Animal Health in Surrey and Edinburgh University discovered that the period of infection was less than two days.

Perhaps more importantly, the researchers also discovered that animals were not infectious until they showed symptoms of the disease.

Scientists had previously thought animals were infectious for hours or even days before manifesting any symptoms.

These results suggest that any future outbreak could be brought under control by closely monitoring animals and slaughtering them as soon as they become ill.

This approach is in contrast to the policy adopted to bring the 2001 epidemic under control. (read more)

Tax Exempt Foundations and Think Tanks: The Process of Invisible Power

Philanthropy is the essential element in the making of Rockefeller power. It gives the Rockefellers a priceless reputation as public benefactors which the public values so highly that power over public affairs is placed in the Rockefellers’ hands. Philanthropy generates more power than wealth alone can provide.” – Myer Kutz Rockefeller Power (1974)

The hidden influence of tax-exempt foundations and think tanks in the halls of power has dramatically impacted our society, and in turn the world. The Rockefeller dynasty paved the way for eugenics in 20th Century America and heavily influenced the education system. Now Bill Gates’ various philanthropic institutions are impacting the globe, with a new initiative promising to make the next several years the “Decade of vaccines“. These institutions are impacting the globe to such an extent that some have suggested that the large foundations are monopolizing development. The United States has seen a shift of power to individuals who have been called “action intellectuals”. Who’s agenda are they serving? We didn’t elect these individuals, but large foundations are functioning like national governments.

The United Kingdom’s Ministry of Defense has picked up on this trend in its Strategic Trends program. The MoD’s Global Strategic Trends – Out to 2040 document foresees “…the emergence of a global elite, a powerful network of individuals and institutions that sits above the level of individual states and influences the global agenda…”

Our health, society and future are all impacted by these elites. Who are they? What agenda are they pursuing? (read more)

Ozone Hole Linked to Climate Change All the Way to the Equator

In a study to be published in the April 21st issue of Science, researchers at Columbia University's School of Engineering and Applied Science report their findings that the ozone hole, which is located over the South Pole, has affected the entire circulation of the Southern Hemisphere all the way to the equator. While previous work has shown that the ozone hole is changing the atmospheric flow in the high latitudes, the new Columbia Engineering paper demonstrates that the ozone hole is able to influence the tropical circulation and increase rainfall at low latitudes in the Southern Hemisphere.

This is the first time that ozone depletion, an upper atmospheric phenomenon confined to the polar regions, has been linked to climate change from the Pole to the equator.

"The ozone hole is not even mentioned in the summary for policymakers issued with the last IPCC report," noted Lorenzo M. Polvani, Professor of Applied Mathematics and of Earth & Environmental Sciences, Senior Research Scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, and co-author of the paper. "We show in this study that it has large and far-reaching impacts. The ozone hole is a big player in the climate system!"

"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 Sarah Kang, Postdoctoral Research Scientist in Columbia Engineering's Department of Applied Physics and Applied Mathematics and lead author of the paper. (read more)

London Olympics pollution on course to land Britain hefty fine from IOC

Britain could be fined up to £175m by the International Olympic Committee if it continues to break air pollution laws by the time the Games begin next August.

The prospect of the air pollution penalty is becoming a major source of embarrassment to the government and Olympic organisers who set a goal of making the Games "the greenest ever" but have already watered down green measures planned for the event.

To meet the legally binding agreement, London may have to reduce traffic levels by more than 30% over a period of nearly a month, raising the possibility of draconian measures such as banning cars with number plates ending in odd and even numbers on alternate days.

Under the non-negotiable host city contract with the IOC – signed by the government and the mayor of London in 2005 – the IOC can withhold 25% of the expected £700m broadcasting income generated from the Games should air quality levels exceed EU limits during the games.

The contract has been given a temporary extension until later this year by the EU for the reduction of levels of small particulate matter (PM10), but has so far failed to find a way to do so and London risks a £300m fine from the European commission later this year. (read more)

Flame Retardants found in pet dogs and their food

A previous study from our laboratory showed that pet cats had much higher serum levels of flame retardants compared to humans, despite sharing the same household environment. Dogs, on the other hand, are expected to have lower serum levels of flame retardants because they are metabolically better equipped to degrade these compounds.

Thus, we hypothesized that dogs might be more similar to humans in their response to these environmental stressors and be better indicators of human exposures to these contaminants. Serum samples and their food were collected from 18 dogs and analyzed for PBDEs and other emerging flame retardants. The concentrations of PBDEs in dog serum and dog food averaged 1.8 ± 0.4 ng/g wet weight (ww) and 1.1 ± 0.2 ng/g ww, respectively. While the dog serum samples were dominated by the tetra to hepta BDE congeners, BDE-209 was the most abundant congener in the dog food.

This difference in congener pattern was analyzed in terms of half-lives. Assuming food as the main exposure source, the average half-life in dog serum was 450 ± 170 days for the less brominated congeners and 2.3 ± 0.5 days for BDE-209. Dust was also considered as an additional exposure source, giving unreasonable residence times. In addition to PBDEs, other flame retardants, including Dechlorane Plus, decabromodiphenylethane, and hexabromocyclododecane, were identified in these samples. (read more)

Forest fires around Chernobyl could release radiation, scientists warn

A consortium of Ukrainian and international scientists is making an urgent call for a $13.5m (£8.28m) programme to prevent potentially catastrophic wildfires inside the exclusion zone surrounding Chernobyl's ruined nuclear power plant.

The fear is that fires in the zone could release clouds of radioactive particles that are, at the moment, locked up in trees, held mainly in the needles and bark of Scots pines.

The consortium says an automated fire detection and monitoring system and new firefighting and forestry equipment are needed to guarantee safe management of Chernobyl's forests.

Since 1992, six years after the nuclear accident at the Ukrainian power plant which released large quantities of radioactive contamination into the atmosphere, there have been more than 1,000 wildfires inside the Chernobyl exclusion zone (CEZ), the 18-mile radius ring around the plant where access restrictions apply.

If there is a catastrophic or "crown" fire (a high-intensity wildfire affecting a large part of the CEZ) radionuclides could be dispersed over a wide area; a big fire could send radioactivity as far as Britain. (read more)

Al Qaeda confirms bin Laden death and vows revenge - 6th May 2011

Al Qaeda confirmed the death of Osama bin Laden on Friday in an Internet message that vowed revenge on the United States and its allies, including Pakistan, according to a statement issued by the Islamist militant group.

Five days after President Barack Obama announced bin Laden's death in a U.S. raid in Pakistan, al Qaeda confirmed the death of its leader as a historic moment, and vowed not to deviate from the path of armed struggle.

"In a historic day for the great Islamic nation... the mujahid (holy warrior) Shiekh Abu Abdullah, Osama bin Mohammed bin Laden, God have mercy on him, was killed on the path taken by those before him and will be taken by others after him."

"Congratulations to the Islamic umma (community) for the martyrdom of its son Osama."

The global militant group, which said it will soon release an audio tape made by its leader a week before he died, vowed not to deviate from the path of armed struggle and said bin Laden's blood "is more precious to us and to every Muslim than to be wasted in vain."

"It will remain, with permission from God Almighty, a curse that hunts the Americans and their collaborators and chase them outside and inside their country," the militant network said in a statement released on Islamist Internet forums.

"Their happiness will turn into sorrow, and their blood will be mixed with their tears," al Qaeda said.

"We call upon our Muslim people in Pakistan, on whose land Sheikh Osama was killed, to rise up and revolt to cleanse this shame that has been attached to them by a clique of traitors and thieves ... and in general to cleanse their country from the filth of the Americans who spread corruption in it." Read More

Massacre of the Martyrs: Syria 'washes pools of blood' from the streets as army arrests all men over 15 in rebel city - 6th May 2011

Syrian security forces have carried out another wave of arrests in Daraa and have been detaining all men over 15, residents said today.

Authorities moved into central Syria and coastal areas before Friday prayers in a test of will for demonstrators determined to maintain protests against the rule of President Bashar al-Assad.

In a show of force, tanks have taken up positions near the urban centres of Homs, Rastan and Banias in the past two days.

Further protests across the country were expected today as part of the nation's Martyr's Day.

Last week, Assad ordered the army into Daraa, the centre of the uprising that began with demands for greater freedom and an end to corruption and is now pressing for his removal.

Estimates have suggested over 500 Syrians have been killed and a further 2,500 detained during the protests.

Reports have also claimed Syrian security forces have been washing blood from the streets ahead of a planned visit by a UN human rights delegation.

An ultra-loyalist division led by President al-Assad's brother Maher shelled and machinegunned Deraa's old quarter on Saturday, residents said.

Syrian authorities said on Thursday the army had begun to leave Daraa, but residents described a city still under siege. Read More

Osama bin Laden: UN watchdogs demand mission details - 6th May 2011

Human rights chiefs want to know if US operation ever considered capturing al-Qaida leader alive.

Two United Nations human rights watchdogs have asked the US to provide details about the operation that killed Osama bin Laden, in particular whether it ever included the possibility that he could be captured alive.

A series of questions have arisen about the potential legality of the mission after it emerged that four of the five people killed when US Navy Seals raided the house in Abbottabad, Pakistan, were unarmed, Bin Laden among them.

Pentagon officials initially talked of "a great deal of resistance" from inside the compound, but it was revealed that American forces only came under fire in the first few minutes of the operation.

In a statement released in Geneva, the UN's special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, Christof Heyns, and the special rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism, Martin Scheinin, said the US "should disclose the supporting facts to allow an assessment in terms of international human rights law standards".

They added: "For instance it will be particularly important to know if the planning of the mission allowed an effort to capture Bin Laden. It may well be that the questions that are being asked about the operation could be answered, but it is important to get this into the open."

Their call follows a demand by the UN's high commissioner for human rights, Navi Pillay, for "a full disclosure" of the facts connected to Bin Laden's death.

In their statement, Heyns and Scheinin acknowledged that such issues were difficult to gauge during anti-terrorism operations. "Acts of terrorism are the antithesis of human rights, in particular the right to life. In certain exceptional cases, use of deadly force may be permissible as a measure of last resort in accordance with international standards on the use of force, in order to protect life, including in operations against terrorists.

"However, the norm should be that terrorists be dealt with as criminals, through legal processes of arrest, trial and judicially decided punishment. Actions taken by states in combating terrorism, especially in high profile cases, set precedents for the way in which the right to life will be treated in future instances." Read More

Nigel Leat, 50, Evil primary school teacher pleads guilty to 36 sex crimes against girls as young as six - 6th May 2011

A depraved primary school teacher has admitted a catalogue of horrific abuse against his own pupils - who he filmed, sexually touched and attempted to rape on school grounds.

Nigel Leat, 50, of Bloomfield Road, Bristol, pleaded guilty to 36 sexual offences during a brief hearing at Bristol Crown Court.

These included multiple charges of sexually assaulting a child under 13; one charge of attempted rape of a child under 13; one charge of causing or inciting a child under 13 to commit sexual activity; and two charges of possessing child pornography.

The disgraced teacher, who wore dark glasses, a blue shirt and brown zip-up top, showed no emotion as he clearly answered 'Guilty' to each count.

The offences were committed at a school in North Somerset - which cannot be named for legal reasons - against five girls, the youngest of whom was aged six.

Leat admitted sexually touching the girls, referred to only as Child A, Child B, Child C, Child D and Child E, between September 2006 and December last year.

The teacher also pleaded guilty to filming one victim in a 'private act' without her consent.

Police arrested Leat at the school in December last year after a schoolgirl broke down and told her parents he had abused her.

When officers searched his home they discovered around 30,500 indecent photographs and 720 indecent movies in his possession - including many at the most serious level, level 5.

He appeared in court the following day and was remanded into custody where he has since remained.

Leat, who had a long teaching career, will be examined by a psychiatrist in the next few weeks, the court heard. He was remanded in custody until sentencing on June 10. Read More

No doubt the human rights lawyers are waiting in line to get this one off as well

Debbie Ellis, Sacked for 'abuse', teacher who carried naughty boy of six in from playground - 6th May 2011

A respected deputy head was sacked after she helped carry a boy of six into school when he refused to leave the playground.

Debbie Ellis, who had an unblemished 20-year career, was accused of ‘physical and emotional abuse’ after she and a teaching assistant lifted the boy by his armpits – even though his mother didn’t complain.

Mrs Ellis had taken action because a sex offender had recently been spotted at the school gates.

Yesterday her solicitor described her dismissal as ‘incomprehensible’ and vowed to clear her name.

Mrs Ellis, a policeman’s wife, had been in charge of Hafod-y-Wern primary school in Wrexham, North Wales for the day last June because the head was away.

When the boy refused to come inside after playtime, staff phoned his mother, but she wasn’t able to come to the school straight away.

So Mrs Ellis and a teaching assistant went outside, lifted the boy under his armpits and carried him indoors.

Mrs Ellis told the head on his return and school governors launched an investigation, which lasted nearly a year.

Police were informed at the time, but there were no grounds on which to prosecute. Now, however, Mrs Ellis has been sacked for ‘gross misconduct by physical and emotional abuse’.

She is taking her case to an employment tribunal claiming unfair dismissal.

Yesterday her solicitor, Tudor Williams, said Mrs Ellis felt ‘a deep sense of grievance’.

‘What’s happened is incomprehensible,’ he said. ‘For acting in the best interests of the child she gets the sack. It’s totally unfair and over the top.

‘She’s had a 20-year teaching career without a stain on her character, ten years at this school.’

Mr Williams said Mrs Ellis had been sacked despite CCTV footage of the incident showing she hadn’t used excessive force. Read More

Smackdown: Patrick Larrison a Police officer 'takes out drunk girl, 15, outside school in violent attack' - 5th May 2011

A police officer is being investigated after a horrific video surfaced on YouTube of him fiercely pushing over a 15-year-old girl against a wall and to the ground.

The teenager appears to pose no threat at all to cop Patrick Larrison, but is seen walking away from an incident scene when he suddenly runs up and violently slams her to the floor in Phoenix, Arizona.

The video shows Officer Larrison running after the allegedly drunk teenager after she was kicked out of her school. She is walking slowly before being taken out, handcuffed and led away.

The girl was allegedly being removed from school on January 25 because she assaulted a male teacher and her mother, with police believing she had been drinking.

She was reportedly serving alcohol out of a water bottle to other students and was belligerent and drunk, a police spokesman said. Read More

U.S. set to have worst outbreak of measles in more than ten years as disease sweeps Europe - 6th May 2011

America is on course to have its worst outbreak of measles in more than a decade.

At least 89 cases have been reported in the last four months alone, compared to an annual average of around 50.

Most of those are linked to a big outbreak in Europe, where more than 6,500 people across 33 countries have fallen victim to the disease.

Travellers are catching the highly contagious illness while on vacation, then bringing it back to the U.S. when they return home.

There have been particularly bad outbreaks in Utah, where nine children were infected after one spent time in Poland, and in Minnesota, where 21 fell ill after one child contracted the condition in Kenya.

American children have been vaccinated against the disease for more than 50 years.

But in Europe immunisation rates have fallen over the last decade after a discredited study linked the MMR vaccine to autism, sparking the outbreak.

Now international health officials are warning all travellers to get the recommended two doses of vaccine before they go abroad.

Dr Cuauhtemoc Ruiz Matus, an immunisation expert with the Pan American Health Organisation, said: 'The risk of getting infection is very high.' Read More

'He took the spotlight': 9/11 families angry over Obama's handling of Bin Laden's death - 6th May 2011

When he visited Ground Zero today, President Obama kept the ceremony deliberately low key to fend off suggestions he was revelling in the death of Osama Bin Laden.

But that hasn't stop some relatives of the 9/11 victims criticising him for his 'self-congratulatory' handling of the killing.

One, Debra Burlingame, said the president was 'using families in what is a transparent political ploy'.

Her brother, Charles Burlingame, was the pilot whose plane crashed into the Pentagon.

She said she was pleased Bin Laden had been killed, but was shocked when Mr Obama turned his back when she confronted him over the prosecution of the CIA agents who interrogated 9/11 mastermind Khalid Sheikh Mohammed.

She told Fox News: 'I was very upfront, I said Mr President, I've been one of your most ardent critics, but on Sunday night I was very proud of you, I was very appreciative of what you helped make happen, and I was very proud of America.

'And then he hugged me, but then I said I have a question for you.'

She said: 'As a former attorney I know you can't tell the Attorney General what to do, he said, "No, I can't."

But I said "we - that shouldn't stop you from giving your opinion. We wouldn't be here today if they hadn't done their jobs. Can't you at least give them your opinion."

And he said "no I won't," and he turned around and walked away.'

David Beamer, whose son, Todd Beamer, helped stop hijackers on the fourth 9/11 plane, also criticised the president.

Mr Beamer said Bin Laden's death was 'a cause for joy', but he told Fox News: 'I feel some chagrin now, though, about how the rest of it has been handled.

'And frankly it started May Day 2011 when the president announced what had happened.

The excessive use of the personal pronoun that he used in his remarks, I really felt that was the beginning of the Commander-in-Chief putting too much spotlight on himself, taking too much credit for what the remarkable Americans had done.'

Mr Beamer went on to criticise the praise heaped on Mr Obama for taking the decision to kill Bin Laden, saying once the CIA had found the compound there was nothing else he could have done.

He said: 'It's been hailed as one of the greatest wartime decisions, bold, gutsy, but quite frankly under the facts and circumstances I think it was anything but that.' Read More

Letters containing suspicious white powder and the words 'AL AQEDA-FBI' sent to 20 Washington D.C. schools - 5th may 2011

Letters containing a suspicious white powder have been mailed to 20 schools in Washington D.C., it has been revealed.

The first letter was reported this afternoon at Mary Church Terrell Elementary School in south east Washington.

At least six of the letters, postmarked from Dallas, contained white powder, and a letter with the words 'AL AQEDA-FBI,' according to a bulletin released by the Washington Regional Threat and Analysis Center.

All the address labels had been typed and the letters were identical to those sent to District schools in October last year, the bulletin added.

Four of the letters have since been examined but no hazardous materials were found, a spokesman for the FBI said.

The agency is still looking at the others envelopes.

The letters had been mailed to schools around D.C., including Ronald H. Brown Middle School, whose principal told The Washington Post, that the school was preparing for an on-time dismissal.

Everything is OK,' Principal Darrin Slade said. 'Everything’s safe here. No problems.'

Pete Piringer, a spokesman for D.C. Fire and EMS, said some of the schools were evacuated for precautionary reasons. Read More

Thousands of Fish Dead in Lake Dubay - 5th May 2011

The DNR is investigating why thousands of dead fish have turned up in Lake Dubay and the Stevens Point Flowage over the past two weeks.

DNR Fisheries Biologist, Tom Meronek says, it appears that a virus is responsible for killing off large amounts of 3 year old Black Crappie in the bodies of water.

Meronek says, there is always viral activity in the water and when conditions are right and fish are under high stress, a virus can spread.

He says it's unusual that it only seems to be affecting 3 year old Crappie.

"From the numbers that I've had people call in about and what I've seen myself, I'm a little concerned about the one year class that's affected. It could set the population back", said Meronek.

You can't see the virus itself, but you can see the secondary effects on the fish. The diseased Crappie have been observed with popped out eyes and black fungus on the fin.

With bodies of water the size of Lake Dubay and the Stevens Point Flowage, there isn't much the DNR can do about the virus. They have to let it runs it's course and determine the effects afterward.

Samples of the fish have been sent to fish health labs to try and pinpoint exactly why the virus set in. The results are expected in a few weeks.

The first reports of the dying fish came in on April 25th. Source

Dale O’Malley, 28, was Swept off his Feet and Flung in the Air Like a Rag Doll by Speeding Motorist.. and Left for Dead - 5th May 2011

This is the heart-stopping moment a man is hurled into the air in a shocking hit-and- run incident.

Dale O’Malley, 28, is swept off his feet and flung upside down before slamming on to the road. His twisted body is left lying in the street.

The horrific images were taken from a bus parked near where Mr O’Malley was struck in Stockport, Greater Manchester. His family asked police to make them public in the hope it would persuade the driver to hand himself or herself in.

The incident happened at 11.05pm on Sunday as Mr O’Malley was crossing the road near McDonald’s in Wellington Road South in the town centre. A silver five-door Peugeot 206 hit him and drove off in the direction of Hazel Grove.

Mr O’Malley suffered a broken leg, broken arm and head injuries and was taken to Stepping Hill Hospital for emergency treatment.

He was transferred to Hope Hospital where his condition remains critical.

The vehicle suffered damage to the front nearside and a smashed windscreen.

Inspector Susan Redfern, from Greater Manchester Police, said: ‘The images of the collision are quite upsetting to look at, but I make no apologies for making them public.

‘We now need to hear from either the driver, or someone who saw the collision.

‘Also, the car would have suffered extensive damage to the passenger side.

‘I want to hear from anyone who may have seen a damaged 206 driving round Stockport or from any mechanics who have been asked to repair such a car.’ Read More

'I've never seen it this bad': River residents brace for floods breaking 84-year records after thousands forced to evacuate homes - 5th May 2011

Thousands of people from Illinois to Louisiana have been forced to evacuate their homes as officials predict a slow-motion Mississippi River disaster could break flood records dating back to the 1920s.

Hickman, Kentucky, is anxiously watching the levee that adjoins the floodwall after 120 prisoners from Fulton County jail filled 120,000 sandbags in less than 10 days in an effort to help the community.

Mississippi River residents say it could be up to two weeks before some of the most severe flooding hits and levees have already been broken in non-residential areas to protect populated communities.

‘I've never seen it this bad,’ said 78-year-old Joe Harrison, who has lived in the same house in Hickman since he was 11-months-old.

Floodwaters turned his house into an island - dry but surrounded by water. He has been using a boat to get to his car, parked on dry ground along a highway that runs by his house.

Morrison Williamson is confident the floodwall about 10ft from the hardware store he manages will save it. He has kept the shop open for customers requiring flood-fighting supplies.

The decision to break open a Missouri levee upstream has kept the river from topping the floodwall, and that has saved many communities 20 miles to the south in Tennessee. Read More


Richard Heffron Caught on CCTV: Shocking Footage shows 'Intoxicated' off-duty Police Officer Waving Loaded Gun in a Bar - 6th May 2011

A police officer has been suspended without pay and forced to hand over his weapons after he was caught on camera pointing a loaded gun at a bartender.

Richard Heffron was drinking while off duty at the bar in Farmingdale, New York, last Tuesday when he suddenly pulled out his weapon and aimed it at the man behind the bar.

While no shots were fired, the officer has been disciplined for his potentially fatal show of bravado.

Shocking surveillance footage from the South Main Street Pub begins by showing Heffron chatting to a friend and knocking back shots while bartender Charlie Ball turns his back to pour a drink.

As he leans on the bar with his left arm, Heffron reaches down with his right hand before suddenly pulling out the weapon and aiming it at Ball.

When Ball then turns around to speak to his customers, he is greeted with the terrifying sight of a gun in his face.

It is only later, when Heffron takes out the gun for a second time and pulls out his ammunition clip that the bartender realises the weapon had been fully loaded and could have gone off in his face. Read More


Mark Bruton-Young, believed he was Suffering from Male Post-Natal Depression as Trawled the Internet for Information on how to Kill a Baby

The father of an unplanned daughter trawled the internet for information on how to kill a baby before suffocating the six-month-old in her cot, a court heard yesterday.

Mark Bruton-Young, a 36-year-old architect, believed he was suffering from male post-natal depression and resented little Harriet’s ‘intrusion’ into his married life.

After researching various methods of killing, including choking and poisoning, he Googled information on cot deaths and smotherings days before Harriet died.

The court was told she was an unplanned child – despite the couple being married professionals in their 30s – and that the father had failed to bond with her.

Bruton-Young also blamed Harriet for marital problems with his wife Clare, also an architect, who yesterday supported her husband at the start of his murder trial.

A few months after Harriet was born in December 2008, Bruton-Young used an office computer to look up getting an unwanted baby adopted, the court heard.

He later gathered information on how a child might be harmed or die, as well as what physical signs might be detected if a baby was suffocated.

Police searches on the hard drives of work computers found that Bruton-Young made hundreds of searches between January 2009 and June. Read More

150,000 customers at Lloyds are in negative equity - 6th May 2011

Around 150,000 homeowners who have a mortgage with Lloyds Banking Group are in negative equity, the banking giant admitted yesterday.

The astonishing figure highlights the mortgage misery facing families around Britain, many of whom took out super-size loans during the boom.

They are being crippled by the toxic combination of a large mortgage – but a home which is plunging in value.

Negative equity means that the size of your loan is larger than the value of your property, a nightmare which traps people in their homes.

The scale of the problem is massive because Lloyds is Britain’s biggest mortgage lender with three million mortgage customers.

It admitted 13.5 per cent of the total value of its mortgage portfolio is caught in the negative equity trap, and about five per cent of its customers.

House prices peaked in the North East, for example, at £130,000 in October 2007. The same house is currently worth about £101,000 today.

This is a fall of 22 per cent, which leaves many homeowners trapped in homes which are falling in value with a mortgage they are struggling to pay.

Official figures show property prices have fallen in every region of England and Wales over the last year, except London.

And the situation is likely to get far worse following warnings earlier this week that house prices could fall for the next five years. Read More