Wednesday, May 25, 2011

It's ever more obvious, Greece must leave the euro

I've hardly been alone, but that's no excuse. For more than a year now, I've been regularly predicting the euro crisis's final denouement, yet still it hasn't arrived.

So I've been forced to reach a different conclusion; perhaps it never will. Instead, the eurozone has entered a seeming state of permanent crisis. In desperation, European policymakers have adopted a very British characteristic – the hope that they can somehow just muddle through.

But though no one can know the exact timing of the endgame – that's ultimately for the politicians to decide, so no time soon might be a reasonable bet – it's now fairly clear what that endgame must be.

What's presently being played out among the GIPS (Greece, Ireland, Portugal and Spain) is final proof that you cannot have a monetary union of such size among sovereign nations without compensating fiscal union. That simple underlying truth leaves the euro facing a choice between two equally unappetising outcomes.

Either the richer countries carry on bailing out the poorer ones more or less indefinitely, rather in the manner that Germany subsidises its formerly communist East, or membership of the euro has to be reconstituted on a smaller and more sustainable basis. There's really nothing in between. The longer European policymakers remain in denial about this choice, the worse the situation will become.

So it's with a sense of weary familiarity we approach the latest impasse. The European Central Bank is implacably opposed to debt restructuring, but the eurozone's solvent Northern states have reached the limit of their appetite for further bail-outs. This leaves Greece in an impossible position; it can neither reduce its debt burden through restructuring, nor will anyone lend it more money. (read more)

UK economy stagnates: held back by weak consumer spending

Britain's economy made a sluggish start to the year as an improved trade performance was more than offset by the sharpest fall in household spending since the recession, revised estimates of first-quarter growth showed.

The latest figures from the Office for National Statistics(ONS) confirmed the initial estimate, that Britain's economy grew just 0.5pc in the first quarter, after contracting by the same amount in the last three months of 2010.

This means the economy has effectively stagnated over the past six months - a far worse performance than Britain's major trading partners.

"The lack of any upward revision leaves the economic recovery earlier this year still looking disappointingly weak," said Vicky Redwood at Capital Economics.

A breakdown of the figures showed growth would have been even weaker had government spending not grown by a robust 1pc over the quarter. Public spending cuts mean this category will be unable to contribute to growth going forward.

Neither is the consumer in any position to drive the economy. Household spending contracted by 0.6pc on the quarter, the biggest drop since the recession, and looks set to remain weak as wages fail to keep pace with inflation. (read more)

Need a favour! (new posts below)

Hello everyone,

You know the menu bar above the posts that says, "Home, About Us..." and so on? Could you let us know if "Contact Us" at the very end fits within the column, or if it's hanging off the edge where the RSS speaker is?

If it is hanging off and doesn't fit, could you please tell us what web browser you're using? Leaving a comment on this post is just fine. Thanks a lot, guys and gals!

-- Matt

Is New Orleans in danger of flood destruction... again?



This post was reader contributed.

‘Gender-Bending’ Chemicals Found in Plastic ‘Toxic Toys’ from China

Greenpeace has found high levels of phthalates banned by the EU and the US in children’s products and toys made from vinyl plastic (also called polyvinyl chloride, or PVC) on the Chinese market. Phthalates are plastic softeners widely added to PVC materials and are linked to hormone malfunctions and toxicity to the reproductive system. Children and infants are particularly vulnerable to phthalate exposure. The EU and the US have banned six types of phthalates in children’s products and toys, but China currently lacks comparable regulations.

Testing by an independent laboratory found phthalates in 21 out of 30 samples of children’s products and toys purchased in Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Hong Kong. Nineteen of the 21 positive samples contained more than 10% phthalates by total weight, with one toy containing nearly half its weight in phthalates at 43.1%. (read more)

Fatal Bat Disease Confirmed in All New England with Maine Find

White nose syndrome, a devastating disease that has killed more than one million bats in the Northeast, has been found in Maine, the last New England state to discover it, wildlife officials said on Tuesday.

Diminishing populations of bats, an important predator of insects, could have harmful consequences for humans, experts say.

Bats at two sites in Maine's Oxford County that displayed signs of a fungal pathogen linked with white nose syndrome tested positive for the disease, said scientists with the Maine Department of Inland Fisheries and Wildlife.

Until this year, Maine appeared insulated from white nose, although nearby states and Canada were not.

Since its discovery in an upstate New York cave in 2006, white nose has been confirmed in 17 states and four eastern Canadian provinces, and it appears to be steadily trekking westward.

North America's loss of bats, a key predator of mosquitoes, beetles and pests that can harm plants, could cost agriculture at least $3.7 billion a year, according to a study published in the journal Science in April.

Scientists predict the disease could wipe out some bat species in New England within 15 years. (read more)

How to Rid the Seas of ‘Plastic Soup’?

Overfishing, oil slicks, acidification — the world’s oceans, which cover 71 percent of the planet’s surface, face plenty of environmental problems. As I note in this Green Column, we’ve added another serious one to the list: the vast amount of trash, 80 percent of it plastic, that ends up in the seas from year to year.

Actually, scientists and environmental campaigners have been aware of the mounting volumes of plastic in the seas since the 1970s. But over the last two or three years, the phenomenon has gained wider attention, stirring concern among policymakers in the United States and Europe.

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, for one, says that marine debris ‘‘has become one of the most pervasive pollution problems facing the world’s oceans and waterways.’’ And the European Union’s commissioner for maritime affairs and fisheries, Maria Damanaki, recently said that the pollution of the Mediterranean had reached ‘‘alarming proportions.’’

Numerous projects have sprung up to combat the problem, including efforts to recycle trash recovered from the seas and campaigns to raise public awareness.

In the United States, NOAA initiated a Marine Debris Tracker mobile application in cooperation with the University of Georgia that enables users to report on trash spotted on coastlines and waterways.

A charity known as Plastic Oceans is working on a major documentary on the issue. Endorsed by the environmental grandees David Attenborough and Sylvia Earle, it is expected to be released by early 2013. And in Europe, Ms. Damanaki recently proposed paying fishermen to ‘‘fish for litter’’ to combat the pollution in the Mediterranean.

The problem is not just one of unsightliness, or of sea life getting caught up in plastic grocery bags or choking on plastic bottle tops or cigarette lighters.

There are also the tiny fragments formed by disintegrating items. Plastic does not fully biodegrade like wood or cardboard, noted Peter Kershaw of the British marine science center Cefas, who advises the United Nations on marine environmental protection issues. For plastic to biodegrade, you need conditions that are really found only in industrial composters and landfills, including high temperatures. (read more)

Two Greenland Glaciers Lose Enough Ice to Fill Lake Erie

A new study aimed at refining the way scientists measure ice loss in Greenland is providing a "high-definition picture" of climate-caused changes on the island.

And the picture isn't pretty.

In the last decade, two of the largest three glaciers draining that frozen landscape have lost enough ice that, if melted, could have filled Lake Erie.

The three glaciers -- Helheim, Kangerdlugssuaq and Jakobshavn Isbrae -- are responsible for as much as one-fifth of the ice flowing out from Greenland into the ocean.

"Jakobshavn alone drains somewhere between 15 and 20 percent of all the ice flowing outward from inland to the sea," explained Ian Howat, an assistant professor of earth sciences at Ohio State University. His study appears in the current issue of the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

As the second largest holder of ice on the planet, and the site of hundreds of glaciers, Greenland is a natural laboratory for studying how climate change has affected these ice fields.

Researchers focus on the "mass balance" of glaciers, the rate of new ice being formed as snow falls versus the flow of ice out into the sea.

The new study suggests that, in the last decade, Jakobshavn Isbrae has lost enough ice to equal 11 years' worth of normal snow accumulation, approximately 300 gigatons (300 billion tons) of ice.

"Kangerdlugssuaq would have to stop flowing and accumulate snowfall for seven years to regain the ice it has lost," said Howat, also a member of the Byrd Polar Research Center at Ohio State. (read more)

Germany 'really worried' by massive E. coli outbreak

Germany's consumer minister expressed deep concern Wednesday at an outbreak of poisoning by dangerous bacteria believed to have killed three women and left hundreds ill.

"This is really worrying," Ilse Aigner said on ARD public television. "We do not know what is the source (of the poisoning) and we cannot rule out there will be more cases."

According to the Robert Koch Institute (RKI), Germany's national disease agency, more than 80 people have become seriously ill in the past two weeks after ingesting enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC).

Across Germany, mostly in the north, there are hundreds of other suspected cases, including some 200 in the state of Schleswig-Holstein, 100 in Lower Saxony, and in Hamburg close to 50.

Three women, including two in their eighties, are believed to have died as a result over the past week, although tests have yet to confirm this.

RKI head Burger on Tuesday called the recent number of recorded cases "scarily high".

Normally in a year there are around 1,000 EHEC infections and some 60 cases of haemolytic uraemic syndrome (HUS), a life-threatening disease caused by EHEC infection.

According to the , HUS is characterised by and blood problems, with a of between three and five percent. It can also cause seizures, strokes and coma. (read more)

South African workers pay the price for cheap Chinese imports



China is now South Africa's biggest trading partner. But cheap Chinese imports are threatening local industries and thousands of ordinary South Africans are paying the price.

Trade between South Africa and China increased from more than $8 billion in 2006 to a record $20 billion last year. As a result China has now overtaken the U.S. as South Africa's biggest trading partner.

Unlike Europe and America, China continued to invest in South Africa throughout the global economic crisis, lessening the blow to the South African economy.

However, its investment is proving to be a double-edged sword because South Africa's once successful textile sector is now struggling to cope with cheap Chinese imports flooding their market.

The repercussions are being felt across the country as thousands of workers struggle to keep their low-paid jobs.

Kwazulu-Natal, a rural village near South Africa's west coast, initially appears far removed from global events and their consequences. But the impact of China's growth is being harshly felt in this remote corner.

Sindi Mkalipi, a local clothing factory worker, irons 70 pieces of clothing an hour to earn $34 a week. She wakes up at 5:30 every morning to begin her hour-long journey to the factory.

She is the only employed member of her family and with seven mouths to feed her job is vital to their survival. (read more)

Holes feared in two Japan nuclear reactors

Two of the damaged reactors at the crippled Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant in Japan may be riddled with holes, according to the facility's owner.

The holes may be as big as 7 to 10 centimeters ( 2.8- 3.9 inches), Tokyo Electric Power Co. said in a 225-page document submitted to Japan's Nuclear and Industrial Safety Agency.

In the report, Tokyo Electric says the containment vessel of reactor No. 1 may have developed a hole as big as 3 centimeters in diameter 18 hours after the quake.

Fifty hours after the quake, the hole may have widened to 7 centimeters, the report said.

In reactor No. 2, the containment vessel may have developed a hole as wide as 10 centimeters 21 hours after the quake.

The nuclear plant has suffered cooling problems and radiation leaks since a March 11 earthquake and tsunami.

The hydrogen explosion four days after the crisis began may have led to the formation of a second hole in reactor No. 2, as wide as 10 centimeters in diameter. (read more)

Dollars, Oil reason for Libya War?

Facebook page calls for beating Saudi women drivers -- will someone just shut Facebook down already?

A campaign has been launched on Facebook calling for men to beat Saudi women who drive their cars in a planned protest next month against the ultra-conservative kingdom's ban on women taking the wheel.

The call comes as activists are demanding the release of Manal al-Sharif, a Saudi woman who was jailed for defying the ban.

The page, titled "The Iqal Campaign: June 17 for preventing women from driving," refers to the Arabic name for the cord used to hold on the traditional headdress worn by many men in the Gulf, advocating the cord be used to hit women who dare to drive.

It has drawn over 6,000 "likes" on the popular social networking website.

Some on the page proposed distributing boxes of Iqals to youths and encouraging them use them to hit women who participate in the June 17 protest.

One joked about the price of Iqals going up due to men buying them before the protest.

The issue has sparked debate in the Saudi press.

The renowned novelist Abdo Khal, writing in Okaz, deplored the ban on women driving, and said he did not know "whether to laugh or cry" over the proposed Iqal campaign.

Ahmed Sayed Atif, writing in Al-Watan, called for women be allowed to drive, and that they not arrested for not possessing a driver's licence, as can happen now.

Meanwhile, a Facebook page titled "We are all Manal al-Sharif: a call for solidarity with Saudi women's rights," has been growing in popularity, with its number of "likes" rising by about 5,000 to more than 19,000 in a day.

"It is not a revolution, it is not a plot, it is not a gathering and it is not a protest -- we are only requesting to drive our cars," one post on the page said. (read more)

Obama reaffirms 'special' relationship between U.S. and UK in historic speech: 'One of the strongest alliances the world has ever known'

President Barack Obama today reaffirmed the special relationship between Britain and America as 'one of the oldest and one of the strongest alliances the world has ever known', as he made a keynote speech to both Houses of Parliament in Westminster.

The special relationship was founded not only on shared history and language but on common values and beliefs, he said.

Mr Obama is the first U.S. president to be granted the rare honour of speaking to both Houses in the historic Westminster Hall, previously accorded only to a handful of eminent figures like Nelson Mandela, Charles de Gaulle and the Pope.

Among his audience were not only Prime Minister David Cameron and throngs of MPs and peers from all parties, but also former PMs Gordon Brown, Tony Blair and Sir John Major.Link

Speaking on the second full day of his state visit to the UK, shortly after talks with Mr Cameron at 10 Downing Street, Mr Obama told MPs and peers: 'Our relationship is special because of values and beliefs that have united our people through the ages.' Read More

Very touching, anyone remember this from 11th Jan 2011?

France is our biggest ally, declares Obama: President's blow to Special Relationship with Britain.

Barack Obama has declared that France is America’s greatest ally, undermining Britain’s Special Relationship with the U.S.

The President risked offending British troops in Afghanistan by saying that French president Nicolas Sarkozy is a ‘stronger friend’ than David Cameron.

The remarks, during a White House appearance with Mr Sarkozy, will reinforce the widely-held view in British diplomatic circles that Mr Obama has less interest in the Special Relationship than any other recent American leader.

The comments follow a pattern of coldness towards the UK. When Gordon Brown was prime minister, Mr Obama snubbed his requests for meetings in the U.S.

He also denounced Britain during his inauguration speech.

The UK has lost nearly 350 troops in the war against the Taliban – seven times as many as France.

And there are more than 10,000 British soldiers serving in Helmand province, compared with just 3,850 Frenchmen.Mr Obama's stance was swiftly condemned in Westminster.Link

Tory MP Patrick Mercer, a former commander of the Sherwood Foresters regiment, said: 'I’m getting a bit fed up with the American President using terms like "best ally" so loosely. Read More

Humans eradicate a disease for only second time ever - 25th May 2011

Update: The World Organisation for Animal Health declared today that rinderpest is now eradicated from the surface of the Earth. At the organisation's 79th annual general session in Paris, France, it was officially recognised that all 198 countries and territories with rinderpest-susceptible animals in the world are free of the disease.

Original article, posted 20 October 2010

FOR only the second time, humans have eradicated a disease: the cattle plague rinderpest. The first victory was over smallpox, making this the first-ever animal disease to go.

The last major rinderpest outbreak was in Kenya in 2001, but making sure the virus wasn't lingering undetected in war-torn Sudan and Somalia has proven difficult. Such pockets of infection allowed the virus to roar back from near-eradication in the 1980s.

A repeat was avoided this time thanks in part to simple diagnostic tests that local farmers could operate. These meant that surviving pockets of infection could be detected and wiped out, no matter how remote.

As a result, Bernard Vallat, head of the World Organisation for Animal Health, declared that he was "confident" rinderpest was gone at a scientific meeting on the disease in Rome, Italy, last week. The organisation is expected to formally announce rinderpest's eradication at a meeting in Paris, France, next May.

The virus only infects bovines, but to people who depend on cattle, it means starvation. It plagued Europe from the late Roman Empire till the 1920s, and when it arrived in Africa in 1887, 80 per cent of the livestock died - as did much of the human population. Read More

Dead fish found in Manasi Ganga lake, India - 25th May 2011

A large number of dead fish have been found floating in the Manasi Ganga lake in the past three days resulting in difficulties for devotees visiting the Mukut Mukharbind temple situated adjacent to the lake.

The Project Manager of Jal Nigam has been asked to remove the dead fish from the lake at the earliest, district magistrate, NG Ravi Kumar said.

Strict action will be taken against the officer concerned if the work is not completed within the next 24 hours, he said.

"Jal Nigam have been asked to replace the polluted water with fresh water before the forthcoming Mudiya Poono fair which falls early July", he added.

Authorities of Pollution Control Board have been instructed to take a daily sample of water from the lake for a week so as to ascertain the real cause behind the incident.

"Sanitary inspector of the area has been asked to ensure that synthetic milk is not sold in the area as it could be responsible for poisoning, he said. Source

Red-Crested Tree Rat Reappears After 113 Years

A red-crested tree rat, a rodent about the size of a guinea pig, has been sighted for the first time in decades. The relatively unknown creature made a casual reappearance in a Colombian nature reserve after over a century, and even stayed around for a photo shoot.

Volunteers at the El Dorado Nature Reserve in the Sierra Nevada were overjoyed to receive an evening visit from the red-crested tree rat. The last recorded sighting was in 1898, when two of the critters were found and studied, and were the subsequent source of all information about the rat, until now.

Spotted by two volunteers working at the reserve, the rat’s reappearance has been credited to the work being done by Fundacion ProAves, a conservation organization founded in 1998 to save endangered species in Colombia. The charity buys forested properties that are on the brink of being destroyed, despite being known to be important for endangered wildlife, and monitors a number of rare species. It’s pretty handy, therefore, that the red-crested tree rat chose this reserve, founded in 2005, to say hello.

Despite its miraculous appearance, the rat, also known as the red-crested soft-furred spiny-rat, seemed fairly relaxed about making history. Lizzie Noble, a volunteer from Britain, had been at the reserve for just a month when she witnessed the creature: “He just shuffled up the handrail near where we were sitting and seemed totally unperturbed by all the excitement he was causing. We are absolutely delighted to have rediscovered such a wonderful creature…. Clearly the El Dorado Reserve has many more exciting discoveries waiting,” she said in a ProAves press release.

The red-crested tree rat is likely eligible for listing as critically endangered under the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s “Red List of Threatened Species” criteria. (read more)

We’ve Just Breached the Debt Ceiling… Next Comes the Default

While Barack Obama is chugging Guinness and Congress is doing… well not much of anything, we’ve breached the US debt ceiling.

That’s correct, the US now has more debt than is legally permitted. We’d crossed the “more debt than is healthy” as well as the “more debt than is sane” levels long ago. However, it wasn’t until the last few weeks that we cleared the legal debt limit.

You’d think that the world’s largest economy (and home of the world’s reserve currency) exceeding its debt limits would be big time news. But we’ve yet to hear a peep about it from the mainstream financial media.

It’s even stranger that we haven’t heard mention of the fact that the US is in fact RAIDING pension funds to continue to fund its debt.

That’s correct, Tim Geithner, who aside from being a tax dodger has managed to make US Treasuries (formerly the ONLY risk-free investment in the world) so unattractive to foreign investors that he is now using money that was promised to retirees to fund his debt orgy.

Let’s think about this for a moment… US Treasuries are so unattractive that investors no longer want to buy them… so we’re using money promised to those who worked… to buy them.

Simply staggering.

Aside from being morally wrong, Geithner’s moves are the usual “I’ve got no solutions so I’m just going to come up with something on the fly” nonsense we get from the DC crowd. Even Geithner himself has admitted that his latest scheme will only buy the US about three months’ time before we start defaulting on our debt.

That’s not a typo… Geithner has publicly stated that barring any sudden changes in the demand for US Treasuries, the US will DEFAULT in August 2011. (read more)

Seventeen Lost Egyptian pyramids found by infra-red satellite images


Seventeen lost pyramids are among the buildings identified in a new satellite survey of Egypt.

More than 1,000 tombs and 3,000 ancient settlements were also revealed by looking at infra-red images which show up underground buildings.

Initial excavations have already confirmed some of the findings, including two suspected pyramids.

The work has been pioneered at the University of Alabama at Birmingham by US Egyptologist Dr Sarah Parcak.

She says she was amazed at how much she and her team has found.

"We were very intensely doing this research for over a year. I could see the data as it was emerging, but for me the "Aha!" moment was when I could step back and look at everything that we'd found and I couldn't believe we could locate so many sites all over Egypt.

"To excavate a pyramid is the dream of every archaeologist," she said.

The team analysed images from satellites orbiting 700km above the earth, equipped with cameras so powerful they can pin-point objects less than 1m in diameter on the earth's surface.

Infra-red imaging was used to highlight different materials under the surface. (read more)

QE2 Has Created a Massive New Bubble

It's cost $600 billion of your money. And it was supposed to rescue the economy. But has Ben Bernanke's huge financial stimulus package, known as "Quantitative Easing 2," actually worked as planned?

QE2 is being wound down in the next few weeks. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke has said it has left the economy "moving in the right direction."

But an analysis of the real numbers tells a very different story.

Turns out the program has created maybe 700,000 full-time jobs at a cost of around $850,000 each.

House prices are lower than before QE2 was launched. Economic growth is slower. Inflation is higher.

Yes, it's sparked a massive boom on the stock market. Ordinary investors have started piling back into shares again. And last week we saw the latest example of the return of animal spirits on Wall Street, as stock in new dot-com LinkedIn (LNKD: 94.00, -1.45, -1.52%) skyrocketed on its debut.

But even the stock market boom hasn't been what it appears. An analysis shows that most of the rise in the Standard & Poor's 500 Index under QE2 has simply been a result of the decline in the dollar in which shares are measured.

The truth? QE2 has created a massive new bubble in dollar-based financial assets, from stocks to gold. Meanwhile, it has had zero visible effect on the real economy. (read more)

CALIFORNIA'S PRISON RELEASE: 40,000 prisoners to be set free

The U.S. Supreme Court ruling Monday ordering California to release nearly 40,000 of its 143,435 inmates has the state in a panic as officials scramble to figure out what happens next.

The SCOTUS ruling affirmed a lower court order that required California to reduce its inmate population to 137% capacity, or about 1,100 inmates. The state’s prisons are now at about 180% capacity and in recent years have operated at up to 200% capacity.

California now has to come up with a plan to cut its prison population by a quarter over the next two years - a massive bureaucratic feat that has the potential to cause real problems for public safety. Here’s what you need to know... (read more)

The top five political comic books people need to read

The word "comic" typically conjures up images of muscly men in colorful tights who possess superhuman powers.

But over the last few decades a growing number of artists have used the medium of graphic novels to tackle real stories of a more serious, earthbound nature.

From the horrors of Auschwitz to the experience of growing up during the Islamic Revolution, graphic novels provide a unique, personal insight into historic events and political situations, taking the reader to places that news cameras cannot access.

Comics historian Paul Gravett, whose book "1001 Comics You Must Read Before You Die" is published in October, gives his pick of the top five political graphic novels.

1. "Maus"

From humble beginnings as an underground comic strip in the 1970s, Art Spiegelman's "Maus" grew into a giant of the graphic novel genre, becoming the first book of its kind to win a Pulitzer prize.

The two-part novel follows Spiegelman's Jewish parents in 1940s Poland, from their early experiences of anti-Semitism to their internment in Auschwitz, intercut with the young author's attempts to coax the story out of his cantankerous father in the 1960s.

This complex subject is handled with a simple, pared-back visual style akin to a journal sketch or diagram -- with the Jews depicted as mice and the Nazis as cats. (read more)

New Pentagon study finds psychological toll on soldiers from years of fighting -- a decade of war has damaged the entire US war machine

A new report paints a stark picture of the toll on the U.S. military of almost a decade of war: higher stress and lower morale.

The report, released Thursday at the Pentagon, relied on questions to soldiers and Marines in Afghanistan in July and August of last year and compared responses with similar surveys in 2005 and 2009.

The report noted "significant decline in reports of individual morale" as well as "acute stress rates significantly higher" than in earlier years.

"Psychologically, it is hard to imagine that these elevated levels of combat are not taking a toll on soldiers. Reports of acute stress symptoms among soldiers surveyed in 2010 have significantly increased and reports of individual morale have significantly decreased relative to 2009," said the report, formally known as the Joint Mental Health Advisory Team 7.

Senior military officers regularly warn that there is a cumulative cost of multiple tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

"Soldiers on their third/fourth deployment report significantly more psychological problems and use of mental health medications than soldiers on their first or second deployment," the report said in the summary of findings for the Army. (read more)

$50 Light Bulbs coming to a store near you -- and all the jobs that make them, going straight to China?

50 Things Every American Should Know About The Collapse Of The Economy

Right now, we are witnessing a truly historic collapse of the economy, and yet most Americans do not understand what is going on. One of the biggest reasons why the American people do not understand what is happening to the economy is because our politicians and the mainstream media are not telling the truth. Barack Obama and Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke keep repeating the phrase "economic recovery" over and over, and this is really confusing for most Americans because things sure don't seem to be getting much better where they live. There are millions upon millions of Americans that are sitting at home on their couches right now wondering why they lost their jobs and why nobody will hire them. Millions of others are wondering why the only jobs they can get are jobs that a high school student could do. Families all across America are wondering why it seems like their wages never go up but the price of food and the price of gas continue to skyrocket. We are facing some very serious long-term economic problems in this country, and we need to educate the American people about why the collapse of the economy is happening. If the American people don't understand why they are losing their jobs, why they are losing their homes and why they are drowning in debt then they are going to keep on doing all of the same things that they have been doing. They will also keep sending the same idiot politicians back to Washington to represent us. There are some fundamental things about the economy that every American should know. The American people need to be shocked out of their entertainment-induced stupor long enough to understand what is really going on and what needs to be done to solve our nightmarish economic problems. If we do not wake up enough Americans in time, the economic collapse that is coming could tear this nation to shreds.

The U.S. economy was once the greatest economic machine in modern world history. It was truly a wonder to behold. It worked so well that entire generations of Americans came to believe that America would enjoy boundless prosperity indefinitely.

But sadly, prosperity is not guaranteed for any nation. Over the past several decades, some very alarming long-term economic trends have developed that are absolutely destroying the economy. If dramatic changes are not made soon, a complete and total economic collapse will be unavoidable. (read more)

Seventeen lost pyramids among thousands of buried Egyptian settlements pinpointed by infrared satellite images - 25th May 2011

A satellite survey of Egypt has uncovered lost treasures including 17 pyramids and more than 1,000 tombs.

Three thousand ancient settlements have also been located by scientists who studied infrared images which allowed them to see underground buildings.

Astounded researchers on the ground have already confirmed that two of the pyramids exist - and they believe there are thousands more unknown sites in the region.

Lead researcher Dr Sarah Parcak, from the University of Alabama, told the BBC: 'I could see the data as it was emerging, but for me the "a-ha" moment was when I could step back and look at everything that we'd found.

'I couldn't believe we could locate so many sites all over Egypt.'

Buildings in ancient Egypt were constructed out of mud brick - the material is dense, allowing satellites orbiting 435miles above Earth to photograph the outlines of structures invisible to the human eye.

The cameras on the satellites are so powerful that they can precisely image objects on Earth that are less than one metre in diameter.

The researchers' findings are a major boost to the relatively new science of space archaeology.

Their most promising excavations are taking place in Tanis, where they are uncovering a 3,000-year-old house.

Excitingly, the outline of the house exactly matches the shape seen on the satellite images. Read More

Kelli Lynn Murphy Charged for the Murder of Her Two Children: 'They're in heaven' - 24th May 2011

A mother who has been arrested for murdering her two young children before trying to commit suicide told the 911 operator they were in heaven.

Kelli Lynn Murphy, 41, was treated at hospital for wounds to her wrists and subsequently arrested on Monday after she called police to her home in Castle Rock, Denver.

When she called police at 7.48am they asked her if there were any children at home and she allegedly replied: 'They are in heaven.'

When they arrived at her home they found Liam, nine, and his six-year-old sister Madigan dead in their bedrooms. Both of the children went to Rock Ridge Elementary School.

According to Castle Rock Police Chief Tony Lane, the bodies had no visible signs of injury.

Murphy now faces two counts of first-degree murder, child abuse and possibly other charges in the deaths.

According to the Denver Post, the children's father Robert Eric Murphy is not a suspect.

Police had visited the home the day before the children were found dead after he had requested a welfare check from police. Read More


Caught on tape: Shocking moment police 'throw disabled man out of wheelchair and slam him to the ground' - 24th May 2011

Two cops have sparked outrage after allegedly throwing a disabled man out of his wheelchair so he slammed face first into the sidewalk.

The Washington D.C. officers allegedly picked up Dwight Harris and forced him to fall forwards onto the concrete with no chance to break his fall.

A video of the incident posted on YouTube shows the newspaper vendor’s head covered in blood and badly bruised as he lies on the ground screaming.

Police in Washington D.C. have claimed he was refusing to be moved on but Mr Harris, who says he has been wheelchair-bound for ten years, has now contacted a lawyer and could sue.

Central to his lawsuit will be the shocking YouTube video, filmed on a bystander's phone, which shows how the incident unfolded near the U Street-Cardozo Metro station.

The clip, which has been viewed more than 25,000 times, shows the two cops grab Mr Harris by both arms as he sits in his electric wheelchair, then lift him up and force him to collapse forward. Read More

WARNING: GRAPHIC IMAGES

Now monster tornadoes slice 80-mile path through rush hour traffic in Oklahoma... just 48 hours after Missouri devastation - 25th May 2011

Violent thunderstorms roared across the Midwest on Tuesday, killing seven people in two states, with several tornadoes touching down in Oklahoma and high winds pounding rural Kansas.

The high-powered storms arrived as forecast, just two days after a massive tornado tore through the southwest Missouri town of Joplin and killed 122 people.

Several tornadoes struck Oklahoma City and its suburbs during rush hour, killing at least five people and injuring at least 60 others - including three children who were in a critical condition.

Five people died west of Oklahoma City in Canadian County, where a weather-monitoring site in El Reno recorded 151mph winds, said a state medical examiner spokesman.

Two people died in Kansas when high winds threw a tree into their van around 6pm near the small town of St. John, about 100 miles west of Wichita, police said. The highway was shut down because of storm damage.

More severe weather was expected after nightfall as the storms continued east - including towards Joplin, which is cleaning up from a Sunday storm that was the nation's eighth-deadliest twister dating back to 1840. Read More

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Visit msnbc.com for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy


Will Norton Is Missing after being sucked into tornado through sunroof as his father desperately tried to hold on - 24th May 2011

The names and faces of the victims of the tornado which ravaged Joplin, Missouri, have emerged today along with terrifying stories from those who saw their families and friends swept into the deadly twister before them.

Will Norton was driving home from his school graduation when the tornado hit and he was sucked through the sunroof of his car.

His father desperately tried to hold on to his son as the car started to flip, but his seatbelt snapped and he went hurtling through the roof of the vehicle.

The high school student’s sister Sara Norton was speaking to their father on the phone as the tornado hit.

‘We left about five minutes before them. We barely made it in the garage. Trees started blowing in,’ she told CBS News.

‘My dad called, he was talking to him. He was telling my brother, “Pull over, pull over”.

‘I heard the tornado whipping them around. I had a feeling they were flipping around in the air. It was just really scary. We just didn't know what to do.’

When the family got to the car, they had to cut the father from the car. The only trace of Will was his cell phone and graduation cap.

Miss Norton said her father has regained consciousness and has spoken about the horrific incident.

She said: ‘He said he had his arms around Will when they started flipping and Will's seat belt snapped and he flew through the sunroof. Read More

Flying bacteria to blame for bad weather, scientists claim after finding microbes in hailstones - 25th May 2011

High-flying bugs in the atmosphere may largely be to blame for bad weather, scientists believe.

Numerous bacteria have been found concentrated in the centre of hailstones.

The discovery suggests that airborne microbes play a leading role not just in hail storms, but other weather events.

All precipitation - rain, hail, snow or sleet - begins with ice crystals forming around cloud particles.

Dust grains and pollution droplets may both serve as 'nucleating particles'. But the new find has helped confirm suspicions that in many cases living micro-organisms cause the rain to fall.

Lead researcher Dr Alexander Michaud, from Montana State University, said: 'Bacteria have been found within the embryo, the first part of a hailstone to develop. The embryo is a snapshot of what was involved with the event that initiated growth of the hailstone.

'In order for precipitation to occur, a nucleating particle must be present to allow for aggregation of water molecules.

'There is growing evidence that these nuclei can be bacteria or other biological particles.'

Dr Michaud's team analysed hailstones over 5cm in diameter that were collected after a storm in June last year.

The large stones were separated into four layers, each of which was analysed in turn.

Living bacteria that could be grown in the laboratory were present in the highest numbers in the inner cores of the hailstones.

The research was presented today at the annual meeting of the American Society for Microbiology in New Orleans. Read More

Ryan Giggs named by Four Celebrities on Twitter over Imogen Affair, and the Circus Continues- 25th May 2011

Four celebrities at the centre of the Twitter row over Ryan Giggs's affair with Imogen Thomas were named today as being Piers Morgan, Dom Joly, Toby Young and DJ Boy George.

The quartet, who between them had 952,200 followers by late this afternoon, could face a massive legal bill for damages after identifying the footballer on the microblogging site.

They were among around 75,000 people who named Giggs, defying a gagging order before Liberal Democrat MP John Hemming identified him as being the person behind the injunction.

But the 'famous four' are the most high-profile Twitter users to be identified - and could now pay the price. Giggs can only be revealed as the footballer who obtained a gagging order thanks to the maverick MP's use of parliamentary privilege to name him.

Today ex-Britain’s Got Talent judge Morgan, Trigger Happy TV star Joly, author Young and Boy George were told they could be in for a 'rude shock' - because they flouted the gagging order.

The case highlights the confusion surrounding Britain’s privacy laws.

Attorney General Dominic Grieve told the Commons: 'Those who I think may take an idea that modern methods of communication mean they can act with impunity may well find themselves in for a rude shock.

'The courts do have the power to punish those who breach injunctions. Those who decide flagrantly to do so should bear that in mind.'

Today Liberal Democrat peer Lord Lester QC told the London Evening Standard: 'Anyone who abuses the internet and can be identified will face significant damages claims, that is why the Attorney General was right to warn them yesterday.' Read More

FaceBook: Mark Zuckerberg: 'Let children under 13 use my website' - 25th May 2011

The founder of Facebook says he will ‘fight’ to allow under-13s to use the social networking website – despite warnings it would put the most vulnerable children at risk.

At present, those under 13 are banned from Mark Zuckerberg’s site in Britain under a voluntary ‘good practice’ code.

In America the age limit, also of 13, is dictated by laws designed to protect young children, but Facebook’s 27-year-old billionaire creator believes the educational benefits of using the site mean the restrictions should be lifted.

His comments sparked a furious response from the family of 17-year-old Ashleigh Hall, of Darlington, County Durham, who was lured to her death by Peter Chapman after he posed as a teenage boy on Facebook.

Her grandfather, Mike Hall, said: ‘What do they want, another tragedy before they do anything? They do not take any notice.

‘It is scandalous really. If they had gone through what we have gone through they would understand. They say they have all these safety features, but to allow under-13s on the site is ridiculous. It just beggars belief.’

Facebook has been repeatedly attacked for its poor online security in the face of appalling cases involving bullies, criminals and sexual predators turning it to their advantage.

Last year the site refused to install a ‘panic button’ for children to alert police to paedophiles, before eventually relenting, while Mr Zuckerberg was branded ‘a disgrace’ after saying concerns over online privacy were blown out of proportion. Read More

Police stats suggest Facebook becoming hotbed of crime - Dec 15th 2010 LINK

Facebook puts vulnerable children at risk of depression, warn doctors - Mar 29th 2011 - LINK

James Orr and Xenia Borichevsky The 'Vampire' teens repeatedly bit victim in mountainside attack - 25th May 2011

Two sick teenagers repeatedly bit a friend in a vampire-style attack on a mountainside that left their victim mentally unstable.

James Orr and Xenia Borichevsky, both 19, bit the victim, who cannot be named for legal reasons, on the chest and arms.

The victim was later admitted to hospital in Wellington, New Zealand, because one of the bites became infected.

Wellington District Court heard that the trio and a fourth person, James Brooks, 22, had been drinking and playing extreme games at Orr's flat in Hataitai.

The group had played a 'consensual slapping game' and had been piercing each other.

They had gone out to buy more alcohol and were returning home via Mount Victoria when the attack took place.

The group stopped in a clearing, at which point the victim was pinned down and the skin on his arms and chest broken by the biting.

He was attacked after allegedly trying to chat up Brooks' girlfriend.

'He was overpowered when he was drunk and vulnerable, he was restrained and bitten,' said Judge Bruce Davidson, according to The Dominion Post.

The victim did not give evidence in court as they were considered too fragile to face the attackers.

Orr and Borichevsky pleaded guilty to injuring with intent and though they have yet to be sentenced the judge did give them some guidelines for their punishment.

Borichevsky, an arts student at the Victoria University, was told she could avoid a conviction if she wrote a letter of apology to the victim and performed 200 hours of community service.

Originally from the U.S., she had only been in New Zealand for two months.

Borichevsky's lawyer, John Miller, said his client had not bitten the victim and had tried to stop Orr and Brooks from doing so, telling them that the victim had 'bad blood'.

Orr, who is expecting his first child with his partner, said he had apologised to the victim but will likely face a stiffer sentence as he has previous convictions for assault.

Brooks pleaded guilty to wounding with reckless disregard for the victim's safety last year and received three monthLinks' community detention, 150 hours of community work, was ordered to pay $400 in compensation and was placed under supervision for 10 months.

He admitted: 'Yeah, I bit a guy. He hit on my missus,'

'My girlfriend and my mate were biting him. I was angry with him, so I used it as an excuse. I didn't bite him to hurt him. I bit him because I was p***** off with him and he was my mate and I didn't want to hurt him.' The Case Continues ... Source

Black hole jets captured in all their glory in most detailed image yet - 24th May 2011

Astonishingly beautiful, this is the most detailed image of particle jets erupting from a super-massive black hole yet captured.

It shows a region in the nearby galaxy of Centaurus A that is just under 4.2 light-years across - less than the distance between our sun and the nearest star.

Radio-emitting features as small as 15 light-days can be seen, making this the highest-resolution view of galactic jets ever made.

Lead researcher Cornelia Mueller, from the University of Erlangen-Nuremberg in Germany, said: 'These jets arise as in-falling matter approaches the black hole, but we don't yet know the details of how they form and maintain themselves.'

The image was taken using radio telescopes located throughout the southern hemisphere.

Centaurus A contains a super-massive black hole weighing 55million times the sun's mass.

Also known as NGC 5128, it is located about 12million light-years away in the constellation Centaurus and is one of the first celestial radio sources identified with a galaxy.

Seen in radio waves, Centaurus A is one of the biggest and brightest objects in the sky, nearly 20 times the apparent size of a full moon. Read More


Now Britain sends in Apache attack helicopters as Tripoli is battered with heaviest air strikes yet - 24th May 2011

Britain is poised to deploy Apache helicopters against Colonel Gaddafi's forces, as Nato warplanes battered Tripoli this morning with some of the heaviest air strikes yet.

Apaches stationed onboard HMS Ocean in the Mediterranean will be sent in alongside French Tiger helicopter gunships, in a sharp escalation of the conflict that could soon see Nato troops on the ground.

The announcement follows months of heavy bombing by RAF Tornado jets, which has crippled Libya's air defences. Now the Apache helicopters will be used for pinpoint strikes in an attempt to break the stalemate in the ground war.

At least 12 huge explosions rocked Tripoli in the early hours of this morning, killing three people and wounding 150, according to a Libyan government spokesman.

As jets swooped low over the city, people could be heard screaming and shouting outside a hotel where journalists were staying. The crackling of anti-aircraft fire could be heard.

Mussa Ibrahim, spokesman for the Gaddafi regime, said strikes had hit a compound of the Popular Guards, a tribal-based military detachment.

But the compound had been emptied of people and 'useful materials' in anticipation of an attack, he claimed, and the dead and injured were among people living nearby.

'This is another night of bombing and killing by Nato,' Mr Ibrahim said. Read More

UK: Transport police get green light to carry guns on trains and Tubes in response to 'terrorism threat' - 24th May 2011

Armed teams of British Transport Police are to patrol the railways and London Underground to counter the terrorist threat - currently at its second highest level.

Until now BTP officers have not carried weapons but today Transport Secretary Philip Hammond announced that the force would have its own armed capability.

He said armed BTP officers would be 'deployed as appropriate in response to the terrorism threat level at any given time'.

Armed police from other forces sometimes patrol stations and trains and the current threat level is severe meaning an attack is 'highly likely'

Today, in a Commons statement, Mr Hammond said that by training BTP officers to carry out armed patrolling of the rail network it 'equipped them with a capability already available to other forces'.

He added that it would not be a daily event to see armed officers at stations and they would be deployed 'according to operational need'.

Mr Hammond said: The Government has been considering the resilience of the overall police armed capability and has concluded that it would be beneficial to enhance this by providing the BTP with an armed capability of its own.

'The timing of this is not as a result of any specific threat, Read More

Felicia Rea McClure, 'tried to sell 13-year-old daughter's virginity for $10,000' - 24th May 2011

A mother has been charged for trying to sell her 13-year-old daughter's virginity for $10,000.

Felicia Rea McClure's alleged proposal was discovered by her boyfriend Richard Glazer, who found a series of text messages discussing the deal on her phone.

The man in question has been identified only as being called 'Don'.

Salt Lake County prosecutor Sim Gill said the woman, 32, had promised 'Don' that her daughter would perform sex acts in exchange for $10,000.

The girl told police she initially consented to the arrangement but later decided she didn’t want to follow through, Gill added.

The mother, from Salt Lake City, Utah, also admitted to taking the girl to a Victoria’s Secret store, where she opened the dressing room door for Don to watch the girl model bras and thong underwear.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported she is further accused of sending pictures of the girl wearing lingerie to another man in exchange for cash.

The negotiations for the pictures and the sex acts are alleged to have occurred between April 1 and May 18.

Gill would not discuss details of any investigation of the man known as Don or the other man who received photos of the girl.

He would not comment on whether police have identified those men or whether their ages are known.

The mother, who is reported to have confessed to police, was charged yesterday at Utah's 3rd District Court with two counts of aggravated sex abuse and two counts of sexual exploitation of a minor.

She was remanded in custody on Monday night. Source

Doesn’t Obama know what year it is? President signs Westminster Abbey guestbook 2008! - 25th May 2011

Everyone wishes they could turn back the clock sometimes, and it turns out Barack Obama is no different.

He got the date wrong by three years when he signed the guestbook at Westminster Abbey today on his official visit to the UK - despite apparently asking the dean what day it was.

As a tough election looms next year and he faces criticism for his handling of the financial crisis, perhaps Mr Obama wished it was indeed May 24, 2008, when he was still a rising superstar.

It was the second tricky moment of his day - as Mr Obama was in the middle of a royal toast when the orchestra seemed to misunderstand a pause and began playing 'God Save the Queen' too early.

The visit comes just a month after millions watched as Prince William married Kate Middleton in the Abbey - an occasion to which the Obamas were not invited.

Following a tradition set by former presidents Richard Nixon, Bill Clinton and George W. Bush, he laid a wreath at the tomb of the Unknown Soldier, before going into the nave to sign a heartfelt message in the Distinguished Visitors' Book.

After apparently asking the Dean of Westminster, Dr John Hall, for the date, he wrote: 'It is a great privilege to commemorate our common heritage and our common sacrifice'.

Even the First Lady affectionately stroking his back as he wrote - and then signing the book after him - couldn't stop him making the gaffe.

Three years ago today Mr Obama was campaigning in Puerto Rico, as he fought a fierce battle in the Democratic primaries against Hillary Clinton. Read More