Thursday, May 12, 2011

U.S. states braced for invasion of cicadas as they hatch after 13 years underground

Their haunting chirrup strikes fear into the heart of every gardener.

For thirteen years this cicada hoard has lain dormant in its underground lair, awaiting the right time to strike. And it appears that that time has come.

Even at this very moment, billions of the winged insect are crawling from their exoskeleton cages, ready to suck the sap out of every plant, tree and bush that gets in their way.

But they are here to breed, laying eggs in the twigs and branches of trees as they call out to mates with their deafening song.

The red-eyed army has already reached the southern states of America, prompting many farmers to cover their crops with heavy protective netting.

'There are billions of them in the trees,' Greta Beekhuis told USA Today from her home in Pittsboro, North Carolina. 'The sound of the cicadas is clearly audible over the line.

'When I drove from my house to the grocery store, I ran over thousands of them. They're everywhere. The air is just thick with them.'

There have been reports of mass-hatchings in South Carolina, Georgia, Mississippi, North Carolina and Arkansas.

But now the inch-long insects are heading north, desperate to continue their breeding frenzy. (read more)


Spain earthquake nearly crushes TV reporter to death: Video -- an extremely lucky escape


A Spanish reporter has a lucky escape when a large piece of masonry falls from the church near where he is standing.

The reporter for Spanish news programme EspaƱa Directo had arrived at the scene of the 5.1 magnitude earthquake in Lorca, southern Spain, and was giving a report to camera when the church that he was standing in front of began to collapse.

Luckily the young man managed to avoid being hit by any of the falling stone. (read more)

Too scared to sleep inside: Thousands spend night on the streets amid fear of aftershocks from quakes that left eight dead in southern Spain

Two earthquakes struck south-east Spain in quick succession yesterday, killing at least eight people, injuring hundreds and causing major damage to buildings, officials said.

The highest quake-related death toll in Spain in more than 50 years occurred when the quakes - with magnitudes of 4.4 and 5.2 - struck close to the town of Lorca, with the second about two hours after the first.

Reports suggested that those who died were struck by falling debris in the streets after fleeing their houses, which they feared might collapse.

Dozens of injured people were treated at the scene and a field hospital was set up in the town of about 85,000 people, officials said. Reports suggest around 260 people were injured and some remain in a critical condition.

And fearing that aftershocks might cause further damage to many buildings, up to 20,000 locals slept in the open air last night.

The Spanish prime minister's office initially put the death toll at 10, before revising it down, and the Murcia administration said the deaths included a minor and occurred with the second, stronger quake.

Large chunks of stone and brick fell from the facade of a church in Lorca as a reporter for Spanish state TV was broadcasting live from the scene.

Among the rubble was a large church bell, which missed striking the reporter who appeared to be about 30 feet away when it fell.

The broadcaster reported that schoolchildren usually gather at that spot around that time, and if it had happened 10 minutes later, a 'tragedy' could have occurred. Read More


And the Corruption Continues..' Downing Street admits using false names on letters to the public - 12th May 2011

(Image) - Discovery: Sir Gerald Kaufman forced the admission after he attempted to telephone the lady who sent a letter and was told she didn't exist.

Downing Street has admitted using false names on letters to MPs and members of the public.

The surprising disclosure came after Labour MP Sir Gerald Kaufman said he received a letter signed by a ‘Mrs E Adams’.

But when he telephoned to speak to her he was told she did not exist.

This is because the name was ‘computer-generated’ and her signature was false.

A No 10 spokesman said real names have not been used on correspondence since 2005 for security reasons.

The policy was adopted after a member of staff who handled letters was traced and threatened at her home.

‘The security team therefore recommended that staff no longer use their own names, as it was deemed to pose an unacceptable and unnecessary risk to their safety,’ the spokesman told BBC News Online.

‘In light of concerns raised in the House (of Commons) today, we will look into alternatives to the use of pseudonyms, but we are clear that our priority is the security of our staff.’

Sir Gerald wrote to the Prime Minister on April 26 on behalf of a constituent and received the reply signed ‘Mrs E Adams’.

On contacting Downing Street he was first told ‘Mrs Adams’ did not speak on the telephone, before another staff member revealed she did not exist.

‘I was, first of all, put on to somebody in the correspondence unit who told me that Mrs Adams did not speak on the telephone,’ he explained.

‘I then said that since she had written to me I assumed that she was capable of speaking to me on the telephone.

‘I was then put on to somebody who described themselves as head of the correspondence unit who said that Mrs Adams did not exist but was a computer-generated name - and presumably also a computer-generated bogus signature as well.’

He added: ‘What extraordinary events are taking place in 10 Downing Street whereby they send letters from somebody who doesn’t exist and expect one to accept this?’

In response, Commons Speaker John Bercow said it seemed ‘peculiarly unfortunate’ the MP’s query had been dealt with in this way.

‘I do think it is of the utmost importance that members should be treated with courtesy by the department or agency to which they write,’ he said. Source

US Dollar in graver danger than the Euro

Imagine a country that spends and prints trillions to patch up any problem.

Now imagine another country where there is no central Treasury, meaning that bail-outs are less easy, and which has a central bank that has mopped up liquidity over the past year, rather than engage in quantitative easing.

Why does it surprise anyone that the latter, the eurozone, has a stronger currency than the former, the US? Because of peripheral countries’ debt refinancing issues? And the potential for contagion? These are real and serious issues, but in our assessment, they should be primarily priced into the spreads of eurozone bonds, not the euro itself.

Think of it this way: in the US, Federal Reserve chairman Ben Bernanke has testified that going off the gold standard during the Great Depression helped the US recover faster than other countries. Fast-forward to today: we believe Bernanke embraces a weaker currency as a monetary policy tool to help address the current state of the US economy. What many overlook is that someone must be on the other side of that trade: today it is the eurozone, which is experiencing a strong currency, despite the many challenges in the 17-nation bloc.

A year ago, the euro appeared to be the only asset traded as a hedge against, or to profit from, all things wrong in the eurozone. This was partly driven by liquidity, because it is easier to sell the euro than to short debt of peripheral eurozone countries; and as the trade worked, others piled in. As the euro approached lows of $1.18 against the dollar, the trade was no longer a “safe” one-way bet and traders had to look elsewhere. As a result, the euro is now substantially stronger, yet peripheral bond debt is much weaker. (read more)

Sarah Townsend Mystery: 'It's baffling': Searchers stumped in hunt for missing girl after boyfriend finds unlocked car with her purse and mobile phone

This pretty teenager went missing on the way to school, before her purse and mobile phone were found by her boyfriend in an unlocked car. But searchers have found no other signs of the girl.

Sarah Townsend, 18, left her home in Burlington County, New Jersey, on Monday morning to go to Allentown High School in Monmouth County but never arrived.

Almost 100 police officers and volunteers have been searching for the 5'4" girl and have focussed on Green Acres Park in Burlington where her vehicle was found in a car park.

‘What is so baffling is there was no blood in the car or drag marks outside,’ Burlington Township Police Lieutenant Bruce Painter told the Philadelphia Inquirer.

‘It could be as simple as she walked away. But we just don't know.’ He added: 'Everything leads us to believe she’s alive.'

The car park where her vehicle was found is next to a pond popular with runners and fishermen, and the couple had often been to the park together.

Sarah’s parents have offered $10,000 for information leading to her safe return and said they thought nothing was wrong when she left for school on Monday. Read More

Cocktail of Pharmaceuticals Found in the Fish Caught Near Major U.S. Cities -- Buried from 2009, yet still reported even today, 2 years on

Pharmaceutical pollution is out of control, polluting the waterways of our world to such a disturbing degree that now even the fish are carrying detectable levels of pharmaceuticals in their own bodies! A study conducted by Baylor University researcher Bryan Brooks, and published in Environmental Toxicology and Chemistry, examined fish caught near Phoenix, Dallas, Chicago, Philadelphia and Orlando, testing them for residues of pharmaceuticals. And what did the results show? That fish are contaminated with a chemical cocktail of prescription medications!

The research was funded by a $150,000 grant from the EPA, and it found the fish to be contaminated with:

• Seven different pharmaceuticals, including cholesterol drugs, blood pressure drugs, allergy drugs and psychiatric medications used to treat bipolar disorder and depression.

• Two different chemicals used as artificial fragrance in soaps.

These trace chemicals were found in fish near all of the sites tested... except for one: In order to establish a baseline reference of healthy, non-contaminated fish, researchers also caught fish in the Gila River Wilderness Area of New Mexico, which is far from any cities or developments. Care to guess what they found there? No pharmaceuticals contamination whatsoever.

It is quite clear from this research that pharmaceuticals have become a widespread source of chemical pollution that has permeated delicate aquatic ecosystems and now poses a serious threat to our environment. (read more)

India's Waterways: A Toxic Stew of Pharmaceutical Chemicals Dumped from Factories -- Buried, despite superbugs discovered in India's water supplie

Many of the pharmaceuticals consumed in the United States are made in India, where labor is cheap and environmental laws are lenient on powerful corporations. U.S. drug companies are exploiting this situation to manufacture hundreds of millions of doses of high-profit pharmaceuticals in India, where ingredients purchased for a few cents can be re-sold to U.S. health patients for hundreds of dollars (the markup on some drugs is literally over 500,000%).

There's something else Big Pharma doesn't want you to know about its drug operations in India: Big Pharma's manufacturing facilities dump millions of doses of toxic pharmaceutical chemicals directly into India's waterways.

Researchers were recently stunned to discover that 100 pounds of a powerful antibiotic called ciprofloxacin was being dumped into a local stream every day! That's a quantity of antibiotics that could treat an entire city of 90,000 people every day.

But that's not all: The same waterway contained an astonishing 21 pharmaceutical chemicals reports the Associated Press, some at levels that were 150 times the highest levels of contamination found in U.S. waterways. (And even the levels found in the U.S. were quite alarming.) (read more)

Bayer pesticide banned over threat to honeybees nationwide: US -- Buried but not forgotten, especially as more bees continue disappearing

A U.S. District Judge from Manhattan has banned the sale of spirotetramat, a pesticide produced by Bayer CropScience. Citing allegations by environmental groups and commercial beekeepers that the pesticide is toxic and is killing off the nation's honeybee population, Judge Denise Cote has declared that sales of spirotetramat must cease after January 15.

According to Cote, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) did not follow proper procedure when approving spirotetramat. The EPA did not take public comment about the pesticide before approving it and the agency failed to publish both the Bayer application and the approval documents in the Federal Register. The EPA and Bayer CropScience have 60 days to appeal the decision.

According to Bayer CropScience, spirotetramat is perfectly safe and does not harm honeybees, insisting that the pesticide has been extensively tested. The company laments the fact that the chemical was banned because of procedural faults but did not indicate how it would proceed.

According to Aaron Colangelo, an attorney for the Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC), spirotetramat is a potentially hazardous insecticide that should be pulled from the market and evaluated further. The NRDC in conjunction with the Xerces Society, a wildlife conservation group based in Portland, jointly sued the EPA over its approval of the pesticide.

Amazingly, the EPA admits that it approved spirotetramat illegally but has argued that its actions should have no consequences. This speaks volumes to the agency's arrogance in how it views its role as a regulatory agency. (read more)

Women who travel for sex: Sun, sea and gigolos -- Female sex tourism and the new slavery

The men are young, gorgeous and up for it. No wonder Western women see a Third World holiday as the gateway to casual sex - sometimes in exchange for cash. But as a new film highlights female sex tourism, Liz Hoggard asks who really pays the price.

An attractive woman sips a cocktail under a bamboo shade. The sand is dazzlingly white, the sea aquamarine. A handsome young man approaches her and showers her with compliments: she is the most beautiful woman he has ever seen, he says. For the first time in years, she truly believes she is desirable.

But this holiday romance is not all it seems. The woman is white, in her late 50s; the man, black, 18 - and paid for his attentions. The scene - from the controversial new French film, Heading South, which opened this weekend, starring Charlotte Rampling, makes us confront uncomfortable truths about sexuality in a globalised world, and the legacy of colonialism.

In the film, an intelligent, provocative take on sex tourism in the late-1970s, Rampling plays Ellen, an American professor, who spends every summer at a private resort in Haiti, where beautiful, muscled black boys are available to the female clientele, mostly affluent single women in their forties, who despair of finding mates through more conventional means. "More than sex, they are seeking a tenderness that the world is refusing them," the film's director, Laurence Cantet, explains.

Fast-forward 30 years, and the reality of sex tourism is anything but tender. Today beach resorts in developing countries such as Kuta in Bali, Negril in Jamaica and Boca Chica and Sosua in the Dominican Republic have become Third World pick-up spots for women tourists. Tour companies even market package deals as sex holidays for single and unaccompanied women. Forget Shirley Valentine, these women - who range from grandmothers to teens - don't want a long-term relationship. And there's plenty of live flesh on sale.

Take Jamaica, where 17 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line. Hustling on the beach is the only way that some young men can feed themselves and their families. No wonder they choose older women who pay better than younger ones. InNegril, the men can earn $100 (£60) for sex with a female tourist, £90 for oral sex, which Jamaican men usually regard as taboo. Many others are hired as a guide to the island and throw in sexual services, often just for as meal or a place to sleep. (read more)

UK Volunteer police bid 'a slap in the face' -- a new unpaid wage slavery emerges, adding to the unpaid intership situation

Hundreds of the country's most experienced police officers who were forced to retire under a legal loophole are being encouraged to return to Britain's second largest force as unpaid special constables.

Six retired officers, all with more than 30 years experience with West Midlands Police, said they had been sent letters asking them to return in similar roles but as volunteer special constables.

Martin Heard, who was forced to retire at the end of March after 32 years with the force, said he was shocked when he was asked to consider coming back to do the same job for free.

Two weeks after being forced to leave, he said, "I had a letter through the post from the police, my former employers, asking me if I'd consider coming back and doing the same role as a special constable, as a volunteer".

"I was shocked. On one hand they're saying they don't need me, and then they're asking me to come back in the same role," he said.

Mr Heard, whose work in the All Saints area of Wolverhampton earned him the "Copper's Copper" award last October, now plans to start work as a delivery driver for a catering company in his home town of Bromsgrove next week.

He said he was "devastated" at being forced to leave the force.

"It was a bit of a kick in the teeth really," he said.

Tony Fisher, who was forced to retire as a detective specialising in tackling robbery, said the cost-cutting move was a "slap in the face" after 33 years in the force. (read more)

UK JUSTICE - Teenage girl, who 'robbed boys at knifepoint' is rewarded with RIDING LESSONS - 12th May 2011

A girl accused of robbing schoolboys at knifepoint is being sent on a three-month horse riding course, courtesy of the Youth Offending Team.

Critics have blasted the move as 'ridiculous' and say it sends out the wrong message.

They say well-behaved young people would have jumped at the opportunity.

The 17-year-old will attend the residential course at the Northern Racing College in Doncaster, south Yorkshire.

If she does well she could be found employment in racing stables, continue her apprenticeship or even become a jockey.

She will learn yard duties, looking after racehorses, riding out, attending lectures and studying for qualifications. All meals and accommodation are provided.

The foundation course is open to beginners with no previous experience, but demands a 'strong desire to work with thoroughbred racehorses'.

The girl, who can't be named for legal reasons, appeared at Blackburn Magistrates' Court, Lancashire, on Tuesday.

She was brought from custody after breaching her bail conditions for a third time. But magistrates agreed to amend her bail conditions so she could go to Doncaster. Read More

Kerry Campbell a Pageant mum gives eight-year-old daughter BOTOX and WAXES her legs

When a child smiles and flashes a couple of dimples, people usually comment on how adorable they look.

But when you are the eight-year-old daughter of a pageant mum, even the most endearing imperfection cannot be tolerated.

California mum Kerry Campbell has come under fire after admitting she injects her young daughter Britney with Botox to get rid of 'wrinkles' that appear on the girl's face when she smiles.

In a shocking example of how far some competitive parents will go in the name of pageant success, Kerry also waxes her daughter's upper legs in case she hits puberty and any 'fluffy hair' starts to appear.

Experts said the child is now at risk of long-lasting psychological problems because of the beauty treatments.

Kerry, a part-time beautician who also administers Botox on herself, claimed she only gives her daughter the treatment because when they were applying for pageants, her child asked her for it.

'We were getting into the pageants. I knew she was complaining about her face, having wrinkles, and things like that. When I brought it up to Britney she was all for it,' she told Good Morning America.

'She had watched me do it before. So when we first did it she was fine with it.'

When they spot 'wrinkles', Kerry gives her daughter five injections in three different locations on Britney's face. Read More

No explanation for 'outbreak of insanity' on planes: US

Aviation experts cannot explain what has prompted three airline passengers to try to open cabin or cockpit doors while in flight the past few days, but they say other passengers shouldn't worry.

Exit doors cannot be opened while the plane is in the air, they say, and doors to cockpits have been hardened and locked since the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.

"It's not possible to open an aircraft door in-flight, and cockpit doors have been reinforced," says American Airlines spokesman Ed Martelle.

Former Federal Aviation Administration security director Billie Vincent says he has no idea and no theories for "this outbreak of insanity" by passengers.

The latest incident occurred Tuesday night on a flight from Orlando to Boston. Massachusetts police say they arrested 43-year-old Robert Hersey after his alleged attempt to open an emergency door on a Delta Air Lines Airbus A320. Passengers say he had been drinking and appeared upset when the flight was late.

"The report I saw indicated that the Delta passenger was drunk, but why try to open a door in-flight?" Vincent asks. (read more)

Memphis Mississippi flooding captured via satellite photos


Casey Anthony Accused of 1st Degree murder of her daughter Caylee, 2 - Air sample to be submitted as evidence in murder trial for the first time

A high-profile murder trial in Florida is set to become the first U.S. court to accept a sample of air as evidence.

Prosecutors want to admit the sample – which was collected from the boot of the defendant’s car, canned, and tested by a human decomposition expert – in the trial of Casey Anthony, 25, who is accused of killing her two-year-old daughter Caylee.

Dr Arpad Vass, who analysed the sample, testified that when he opened the can he recognised ‘the smell of human decomposition’.

Jose Baez, Anthony’s lawyer, has dismissed the air sample as ‘junk science’.

Caylee’s disappearance attracted enormous attention in the U.S. and judge Belvin Perry has said media coverage of the trial could dwarf the circus that surrounded the O.J. Simpson case in 1995.

The Orlando toddler was reported missing in July 2008. Her skeletal remains were found five months later in woodland close to her grandparents’ home, where she had lived with her mother. Anthony denies killing her daughter.

In Florida courts, new types of evidence are admissible only if a judge is convinced the technique is generally accepted by the scientific community.

Judge Perry initially stated he would allow the air sample, but later said he needed more evidence following complaints from the defence.

Christopher Slobogin, a law expert in Tennessee, said the biochemical identification of odours – known as gas chromatography – was widely accepted by scientists, but it was controversial to claim a smell definitely came from human remains.

Anthony - who faces the death penalty of found guilty - broke down in tears earlier this week during juror selection for her first-degree murder trial.

She is also charged with aggravated child abuse, aggravated manslaughter of a child and four counts of providing false information to a law enforcement officer. Read More

Mobile phones ARE to blame for killing off the world's bee populations, scientists claim - 12th May 2011

Signals from mobile phones could be partly to blame for the mysterious deaths of honeybees, new research shows.

In the first experiment of its kind, a bee expert placed a mobile phone underneath a hive and then carefully monitored the reaction of the workers.

The bees were able to tell when the handsets were making and receiving calls, and responded by making the high pitched squeaks that usually signal the start of swarming.

Dr Daniel Favre, who carried out the experiment, believes signals from mobile phones and masts could be contributing to the decline of honeybees and called for more research.

But British bee experts say there is still no evidence that mobile phones posed a risk.

They blame the vanishing honeybees on changes in farming, the decline of wild flowers and pesticides.

The number of honeybees in the UK has halved in the last 25 years while in America bees have been badly hit by 'colony collapse disorder' - the sudden disappearance of entire colonies over winter.

Experts say bees have been badly hit by the varroa mite, a blood-sucking parasite that makes colonies vulnerable to disease, freak weather or poisoning.

Some experts say the latest generation of pesticides may disrupt the nervous systems of bees, causing them to get lost and confused. Read More

Syria protests: Thousands of students rally in Aleppo

Security forces have broken up a demonstration by thousands of students in Aleppo, Syria's second largest city, witnesses and activists say.

The dormitory protest is thought to be the city's biggest so far.

The students demanded an end to the military siege of other cities in Syria including Homs, Deraa and Banias, the main flashpoints of dissent against President Bashar al-Assad's government.

Eighteen people were reported killed on Wednesday amid an ongoing crackdown.

Tanks shelled Homs, the country's third city, and clashes were reported in towns and villages around Deraa, where the protests began in March.

Thousands of people have reportedly been arrested and hundreds killed in the government crackdown.

The Syrian government insists it is pursuing "armed terrorist gangs".

On Wednesday, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon called on President Assad to "heed calls for reform and freedom and to desist from excessive force and mass arrest of peaceful demonstrators". (read more)

'We need another 9/11': Bin Laden's captured journal reveals horrifying glimpse into plans of Terror Mastermind - 12th May 2011

(Image) Popular: The killing of Bin Laden has given Obama a huge poll bounce.

It may be the most valuable find of all - an written record that takes readers inside the mind of America's greatest enemy.

Osama Bin Laden's handwritten journal has been found at the Pakistan compound where the terror chief was killed in a dramatic U.S. raid more than a week ago.

In it, he directed Al-Qaeda operatives to not only focus on New York City, but spread their operations to target smaller cities such as Los Angeles.

The discovery shatters previously held beliefs that Bin Laden was a 'has been' - acting simply as Al-Qaeda's spiritual leader rather than its operational chief.

The journal, as well as hundreds of computer 'pen' drives also containing directives, will only add to the heightened threat level across the U.S.

Among the edicts, one particularly macabre note reveals a mathematical calculation of how many people Al Qaeda would have to kill to finally force the U.S. out of the Middle East - concluding it would take another 9/11 at least.

U.S. officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the Al Qaeda leader's diary is filled with planning ideas and details of operations.

Among them were the notes for the potential plots against the U.S. rail system which prompted an advisory from the FBI and Department of Homeland Security last week.

In the journals he tells his disciples that only a body count of thousands, something on the scale of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, would shift U.S. policy. Read More