Thursday, June 2, 2011

How Greece feels about the treatment of its country by the IMF and EU, captured in one stark photograph

The Coming Crisis asks: Is this overdone, or overdue?
And: Is this a Greek opinion, or a world opinion?

For those interested, the Greek writing translates as:
"Thieves, you *******, here come the hangings"

Greek credit default swaps jump as Moody's downgrades again -- when will Greece's bottom finally fall out?

The cost of insuring Greek debt rose on Thursday morning after the debt-laden country suffered another credit-rating downgrade.

On Wednesday night Moody’s dealt another blow to Greece with a further downgrade that pushed its bonds deeper into junk territory. The downgrade places Greece at the very bottom of Moody's league table of credit-worthy European countries.

Five-year credit default swaps (CDS) on Greek government debt rose 40 basis points to 1,470 basis points, according to data monitor Markit. This means it costs €1.47m euros to protect €10m of exposure to Greek debt.

The cost of insuring Portuguese debt against default rose by 15 basis points to 700 basis points.

The three-notch-downgrade takes Greece from B1 to Caa1, giving the country a worse credit rating than Montenegro.

Moody's said it was very concerned about Greece's "highly uncertain growth prospects" and warned that the embattled country is "increasingly likely to fail to stabilise its debt ratios" by the deadline set by its previous €110bn (£96.7bn) bailout. (read more)

US faces credit-rating review from Moody's as debt crisis looms

Moody's said the world's biggest economy's AAA-rating is under threat because the country will run out of money unless policymakers agree to increase the limit on the national debt above the current $14.3 trillion.

The US treasury department has warned that the government risks default if Congress does not authorise more borrowing by August.

President Barack Obama attempted to pass a bill that would have allowed the US to increase its debt limit by $2.4 trillion, but it was rejected on May 31 after Republicans lined up against it.

Republicans are demanding spending cuts be brought into line with tax revenues as a condition of raising the limit, in the face of President Obama's pledge to protect costly social programmes.

"The heightened polarization over the debt limit has increased the odds of a short-lived default," Moody's said in a statement. "If this situation remains unchanged in coming weeks, Moody's will place the rating under review." (read more)

Caroline Lucas leads call for return to wartime austerity as UK's financial situation crumbles

Hay Festival went back in time today with a call to return to a more simple life when we made do with old clothes, shared baths and grew our own vegetables.

Caroline Lucas, Britain’s only Green MP, led the call for “economics as if people mattered”.

Her argument was based on the seminal work of EF Schumacher, the author of Small is Beautiful.

Almost forty years after publication of the book she not only said “small is possible” but “small is inevitable”.

In fact if we do not move to a more sustainable way of living then global warming is a “hideous prospect”.

In an extraordinary admission at a book festival she said “we need to stop writing books and get on with it!”

Even David Cameron, the Prime Minister, has admitted Schumacher is an influence on his idea for a ‘Big Society’. (read more)

Eman al-Obeidy, alleged Libyan rape victim, deported from Qatar back to Libya -- after being beaten and harrassed there as well



Eman al-Obeidy, who grabbed the world's attention this spring when she accused Moammar Gadhafi's security forces of gang raping her, has been forced back to Libya, which she had fled in fear.

Qatari authorities took her and her parents from a hotel in Doha, the capital, and forced them onto a military plane that left Qatar early Thursday and landed in rebel-held Benghazi. Al-Obeidy, who has gone into hiding in the city, said the Qataris beat and handcuffed her before forcing her onto the plane.

Al-Obeidy told a journalist that officials in the Transitional National Council had pressured the Qataris to expel her.

Hours before her deportation, Obeidy told CNN that armed guards had been posted outside her room, preventing the UNHCR representative from assisting her. (read more)

World health officials scramble to stem deadly E. coli outbreak in Europe

Infectious disease detectives worldwide rushed Thursday to find the cause of an outbreak of a rare strain of E. coli that has spread to 10 countries and is blamed for at least 16 deaths and hundreds of illnesses.

Nine patients in Germany had died of a form of kidney failure called hemolytic uremic syndrome, or HUS, according to the World Health Organization, which cited Tuesday figures as its most recent. Six had died of enterohemorrhagic E. coli, EHEC, a strain of E. coli that causes hemorrhaging in the intestines and can result in abdominal cramps and bloody diarrhea. One person in Sweden has also died.

Across Europe, 499 cases of HUS and 1,115 cases of EHEC have been reported, WHO said on its website.

In addition to Germany and Sweden, cases have been identified in Austria, Denmark, France, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Switzerland and the United Kingdom.

All but two of the cases occurred in people who had recently visited northern Germany or, in one case, had contact with a visitor from northern Germany, the organization said.

Scientists at the Beijing Genomic Institute said the outbreak of infection in Germany is caused by a new "super-toxic" E. coli strain, though the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the strain has been seen before. (read more)

Nagasaki staffers exposed to Fukushima radiation -- at least 40% suffering "internal radiation exposure"

Nagasaki University Hospital says that at least 40 percent of local people sent to Fukushima Prefecture, host to the crippled nuclear plant, suffered internal radiation exposure.

The hospital checked staffers and medical experts sent to Fukushima by Nagasaki's prefectural government. They spent around a week helping local government offices and medical institutions in Fukushima after the nuclear plant accident in March.

The hospital says radioactive iodine was detected in the bodies of 34, or about 40 percent, of 87 examinees. Some were also detected for radioactive cesium. Neither substance occurs naturally in human bodies. (read more)

This post was reader contributed.

Ron Paul warns of 'dictatorship in Washington DC'

GOP Presidential candidate Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) on Tuesday warned of too much "dictatorship in Washington D.C." while on a campaign stop in Mason City, Iowa.

"We're not on the verge of having a king, but we are on the verge of having way too much dictatorship in Washington, D.C.," Paul said, comparing the U.S.'s current situation to a Biblical tale in which the ancient Israelites demanded, against their own good, that a king rule their land instead of God.

"Our rights come from our creator, not our government," added Paul according to the The Waterloo-Cedar Falls Courier.

Paul, who announced last month that he will run for president for the third time, faces an uphill battle as many Americans consider his positions to be on the far fringe of the right-wing.

Paul, however, noted that he had recently observed a seismic shift in American politics.

"The mainstream is changing," said Paul. "The mainstream wants balanced budgets, sound government and personal liberties --- that is mainstream.”

Wall Street Baffled by Slowing Economy, Low Yields: Trader -- Time to slap them out of befuddlement?

Wall Street is having a hard time figuring out what to do now that the U.S. economy appears to be sputtering and yields are so low, Peter Yastrow, market strategist for Yastrow Origer, told CNBC.

"What we’ve got right now is almost near panic going on with money managers and people who are responsible for money," he said. "They can not find a yield and you just don’t want to be putting your money into commodities or things that are punts that might work out or they might not depending on what happens with the economy.

"We need to find real yield and real returns on these assets. You see bad data, you see Treasurys rally, you see all bonds and all fixed-income rally and then the people who are betting against the U.S. economy start getting bearish on stocks. That’s a huge mistake."

Stocks extended losses after the manufacturing fell below expectations in May and the private sector added only 38,000 jobs during the month.

"Interest rates are amazingly low and that, thanks to Ben Bernanke, is driving everything," Yastrow said. "We’re on the verge of a great, great depression. The [Federal Reserve] knows it. (read more)

Horror for US Economy as Data Falls off Cliff

The last month has been a horror show for the U.S. economy, with economic data falling off a cliff, according to Mike Riddell, a fund manager at M&G Investments in London.

"It seems that almost every bit of data about the health of the US economy has disappointed expectations recently," said Riddell, in a note sent to CNBC on Wednesday.

"US house prices have fallen by more than 5 percent year on year, pending home sales have collapsed and existing home sales disappointed, the trend of improving jobless claims has arrested, first quarter GDP wasn’t revised upwards by the 0.4 percent forecast, durables goods orders shrank, manufacturing surveys from Philadelphia Fed, Richmond Fed and Chicago Fed were all very disappointing."

"And that’s just in the last week and a bit," said Riddell.

Pointing to the dramatic turnaround in the Citigroup "Economic Surprise Index" for the United States, Riddell said the tumble in a matter of months to negative from positive is almost as bad as the situation before the collapse of Lehman Brothers in 2008. (read more)

Christopher Fussell detained by MTA officers for taking picture -- illegally detained, as no law was violated (he was harassed for over an hour)

PART ONE:



PART TWO:



The Maryland Transit Administration says more training may be called for after three MTA officers detained a man for taking pictures at a light rail station.

Pat Warren has more on the incident.

According to the ACLU, this isn’t the first time MTA Police have overstepped their bounds.

In a YouTube posting, Christopher Fussell left the camera rolling when he was confronted by three MTA officers for taking pictures at the Baltimore Cultural Light Rail Station.

“It is my understanding that I am free to take pictures as long as it’s not for commercial purposes but for personal use,” Fussell said in the video.

“Not on state property, not without proper authorization,” an officer said.

Fussell: “From who?”

Officer: “Nobody’s allowed to take pictures.”

The MTA admits the officers were in error.

“They can most certainly take photos of our system,” Ralign Wells, the MTA Administrator, said.

In addition to being wrong about MTA and state policy, the officer incorrectly cites the Patriot Act.

“Listen, listen to what I’m saying. The Patriot Act says that critical infrastructure, trains, train stations, all those things require certain oversight to take pictures, whether you say they are for personal use or whatever, that’s your story,” the officer said.

“So why don’t you have any signs posted to say I cannot take pictures?” Fussell said. (read more)

Chinese Teenager sells kidney for ipad2

A teenager in Huaishan, Anhui Province has sold one of his kidneys to buy an iPad2 tablet computer, as reported by SZTV on June 1.

The 17-year-old man surnamed Zheng, a freshman in high school, got connected with a kidney-selling agent through the internet, who pledged to pay him 20,000 yuan ($3,084.45 ) for one of his kidneys.

On April 28 of this year, Zheng went to Chenzhou, Hunan Province to have his kidney removed under the supervision of three so-called middlemen, and received 22,000 yuan ($3,392.97). Then he returned home with a laptop and an iPhone.

Zheng's mother discovered her son's new electronic products and forced him to reveal how he came to afford them. Then she took Zheng to Chenzhou and reported the matter to local police. The three agents' telephones have not been answered since that time.

Chenzhou 198 Hospital, where Zheng had his surgery, has no qualifications for kidney transplantation, according to SZTV reporters. (read more)

Russia Warns U.S., NATO Against Military Aid to Syria Protests After Libya

Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov warned the U.S. and European nations not to encourage anti-government protesters in Syria by holding out the prospect of military support like they provided in Libya.

“It is not in the interests of anyone to send messages to the opposition in Syria or elsewhere that if you reject all reasonable offers we will come and help you as we did in Libya,” Lavrov, 61, said yesterday during an interview in Moscow. “It’s a very dangerous position.”

Rallies against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule have swept Syria, inspired by the uprisings that ousted authoritarian rulers in Egypt and Tunisia. Syrian security forces have killed more than 1,100 people and detained at least 10,000, according to human-rights groups. The government blames the protests on Islamic militants and foreign provocateurs. (read more)

Dispute Grows as Egyptian Gas Is Still Not Flowing to Israel

More than a month after saboteurs blew up an Egyptian pipeline supplying natural gas to Israel, the line is repaired but gas is not flowing and foreign shareholders of the company suspect politics to be the reason. They are threatening legal action against Egypt.

American and Thai shareholders in the pipeline have demanded urgent consultations to avoid resorting to binding arbitration based on trade treaties. One letter to Egyptian ministries from an American company with an Israeli chairman threatens a lawsuit of $8 billion.

In Israel, which depends on Egypt for 40 percent of its natural gas, the electric company has warned that customer rates could rise by 15 percent. Officials in the Israeli company that co-owns the gas line say the Egyptian government is afraid of popular opposition to Israel and the perception that Israel has had a sweetheart deal.

“The repair work was completed more than two weeks ago and we are waiting for the government to order the gas to start flowing, but so far the government is paralyzed,” Nimrod Novik, senior vice president of Merhav, the Israeli company, said in an interview. “Partly there is fear of more sabotage. There has been no decision not to supply gas, but nobody in the government wants to be responsible for a decision that is so unpopular in the street.” (read more)

Moody’s Downgrade Puts Greece in Debt-Rating Hall of Shame Alongside Cuba

Greece entered a league of debt- market pariahs when Moody’s Investors Service downgraded its credit rating to Caa1, leaving only Ecuador as a worse sovereign risk. Ecuador, now Caa2, defaulted in 1999 and again in 2008.

Caa1, four steps above Moody’s lowest rating and 16 from the highest, marked a brief stop for Argentina in 2001 on its way to default and devaluation. In 1998, Pakistan was cut to Caa1 after its nuclear-bomb tests isolated it internationally. Cuba, battered by a U.S. embargo and mounting debt to foreign exporters, has had the same rating since 1999.

Greece risks becoming the euro area’s first sovereign default, causing a chain reaction that could rock the financial system of the world’s second-biggest economic bloc. Last year’s 110 billion-euro ($158 billion) rescue of Greece failed to stem the contagion. With the country facing a funding shortfall of 30 billion euros next year, policy makers are trying to put together the latest financial lifeline by the end of the month.

“The Moody’s downgrade was absolutely right,” said Bill Blain, co-head of strategy at broker Newedge Group in London. “It confirms what we all knew.”

Moody’s said in a statement yesterday that there’s “at least an even chance of default over the rating horizon.” (read more)

South Korea admits to secret meeting with North -- what's with all the secretive meetings in Asia these days?

South Korea admitted Thursday that it held a secret meeting with the North last month.

The meeting was to persuade North Korea to apologize for the sinking of a South Korean warship Cheonan 15 months ago and the shelling of Yeongpyong Island last November, Unification minister Hyun in-Taek told parliament.

Fifty South Koreans were killed in those attacks.

However, North Korean officials said South Korea had asked for a series of summits at the May 9 secret meeting.

However, the North Korean National Defence Commission said South Korea had asked for a series of summits at the May 9 secret meeting.

North Korean state media quoted the commission saying South Korea wanted to have ministerial-level talks in late May.

It also wanted to hold the first round of summit talks in June at Panmunjom, a truce village on the border where meetings between north and south take place, and a second round of talks during the nuclear security summit in Berlin in March next year, KCNA reported.

Pyongyang says it declined as the South had asked it to apologize for last year's attacks. (read more)

Zimbabwe's parliament approves $98 million loan from China as new cold war ratchets up

Zimbabwe's parliament has ratified a 20-year $98 million loan from China to build a defense college, despite objections from members of Prime Minister Morgan Tsvangirai's party that the poverty-stricken country should prioritize the spending in other ways.

Zimbabwe's upper and lower houses of parliament passed the deal late Tuesday after heated debate.

Shepherd Mushonga, a member of parliament from Tsvangirai's Movement for Democratic Change party, said he was surprised that Chinese companies including Anjin Investments Private Limited -- which has interests in diamonds - had been contracted to construct the college that is being built about 20 kilometers (12 miles) north of Harare.

"We are talking of a law which says 51% of any business transaction must be for Zimbabweans, but in this deal Chinese have become Zimbabweans," said Mushonga in an interview Wednesday, repeating what he had said when opposing the passing of the loan facility in parliament the previous day.

Other members of parliament said the country needed to first address the ailing economy before constructing the college.

Zimbabwe's minister of defense, Emmerson Mnangagwa, told parliament that the college would offer "specialized military training and learning of security issues" taught by senior officials in defense forces and civilians both in the country and from abroad. (read more)

Rihanna's pro-murder 'Man Down' video 'inexcusable,' parent group says -- Why do we make these people our children's role models?

The music video for Rihanna's newest single, "Man Down," is "an inexcusable, shock-only, shoot-and-kill theme song" that should not be aired on television, according to a group that campaigns against violence on TV.

Rihanna defended her video Thursday with a posting on her Twitter account: "U can't hide your kids from society, or they'll never learn how to adapt! This is the REAL WORLD!"

"The music industry isn't exactly Parents R Us! We have the freedom to make art, LET US! Its your job to make sure they dont turn out like US," she tweeted.

The hip-hop singer, who was herself a victim of a beating by ex-boyfriend Chris Brown, portrays a woman who guns down a man who sexually assaulted her.

The video, which premiered on the BET cable channel Tuesday, "gives retaliation in the form of premeditated murder the imprimatur of acceptability," the Parents Television Council said in a news release.

The founder of the council's "Enough is Enough" anti-violence campaign called the video "a clear violation of BET's own programming guidelines." (read more)

Gmail hackers had access to accounts for months: cyber-security - 2nd June 2011

Hackers who broke into Google's Gmail system had access to some accounts for many months and could have been planning a more serious attack, said the cyber-security expert who first publicly revealed the incident.

Google said suspected Chinese hackers tried to steal the passwords of hundreds of Gmail account holders, including those of senior U.S. government officials, Chinese activists and journalists.

"They were not sophisticated or new, but they were invasive," said Mila Parkour, who reported the cyberattack on her malware blog in February.

"Emailing phishing messages using details from read personal messages is invasive. Plus, they maintained full email access to mailboxes for a long time," the Washington-based Parkour told Reuters. She uses a pseudonym to protect her identify.

"I covered one; they (Google) took it and uncovered many more of the same kind," she said, noting the method of attack was invasive and targeted.

Parkour was initially involved in investigating one such phishing incident, referring to the practice where computer users are tricked into giving up sensitive information, and then started to gather data on other similar incidents, she said.

Google declined to comment on the details of Parkour's report, but a source with knowledge of the matter said there were similarities between the attack she analyzed and the rest of the campaign. The source declined to be identified owing to the sensitivity of the issue. Read More

Jessica Ockman 'left her toddler Son in car with dead body while she took drugs' - 2nd June 2011

A mother left her 20-month-old son in her car along with a dead body for more than an hour while she went to take drugs, authorities say.

Jessica Ockman, 33, of Metairie, Louisiana, was arrested for child desertion and drug related charges after she allegedly left her son with the body of her best friend at a gas station on Friday morning.

Ockman was taken into custody after service station employees found her unconscious in the restroom around 9am. She was found with a lighter and a spoon.

Col John Fortunato, spokesman for the Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office, said her car was parked next to one of the fuel pumps and when employees approached it, they found her son along with the body of 22-year-old Shelby Fleming of Lafourche Parish.

She was pronounced dead at the scene. Her cause of death is unclassified pending the outcome of toxicology tests but Ockman is not being charged in connection with her death.

Investigators have said was not the result of a criminal act.

Deputies found Ockman unresponsive on the restroom floor along with a lighter and a spoon, Col Fortunato told The Times Picayune. They also recovered a white plastic box containing marijuana that she'd thrown into a nearby garbage can.

The toddler was taken to a local hospital for evaluation. Neighbours say he is now with relatives.

A former roommate told WDSU that she was forced to throw Ockman out of the apartment they shared together.

She said: 'For a while I thought it was terrible if he (her toddler) would be taken away by the state. But now, I don't know …that's terrible.'

Ockman was booked at the Jefferson Parish Correctional Centre with child desertion, obstruction of justice, possession of marijuana and possession of drug paraphernalia.

WDSU went to the home where Ockman was said to be living, where neighbours said she showed up a couple of days ago claiming she was homeless and asking for money. Source

Fatoumata Diallo, 21, Was Cut in Half on New York Subway after Fainting and falling in front of a Train - 2nd June 2011

A 21-year-old woman was killed after she passed out and fell in front of a New York subway train yesterday.

Fatoumata Diallo from the Bronx, was standing on the platform at the 77th Street Station in the Upper East Side at around 3:09pm.

As the train, packed with schoolchildren, pulled into the station the young woman fainted and fell in front of the oncoming subway car.

‘A woman was cut in half,’ one horrified witness told the New York Post.

Police said that the woman had been waiting for an uptown number six train.

The accident horrified commuters on the packed train.

Evelyn Carbonell, 50, said the train jolted and came to a sudden halt.

‘I heard something go boom. I looked across and everyone had their hands over their mouths,’ she told DNAinfo.

Shaq Crudup, 31, who was on the train, said that she felt a massive ‘thump’.

‘You could feelt it, I thought someone was shooting a shotgun,’ she said.

The woman was pronounced dead at the scene.

Close to 50 wailing mourners gathered at her West Tremont Avenue apartment last night with her father, stepmother and brother.

'The family's traumatsed. The father can't even speak. This is just horrible,' said a cousin.

Ms Diallo, originally from Ghana, had been studying at Borough of Manhattan Community College and dreamed of becoming a doctor.

She had just celebrated her 21st birthday last Thursday and was returning from a dental appointment, her family said.

An MTA spokesman said that services were suspended and re-routed in the area for several hours.

One friend posted on Twitter: 'We lost a Sister in the Guinean Community. She got hit by the train... I can't stop crying.

'May you rest in peace,' Read More

Jaycee Dugard 'They stole my life': Emotional plea to court as couple who kidnapped her for 18 years are jailed for Minimum of 36 years 2nd June 2011

Jaycee Dugard says her life was stolen by her abductors.

The kidnapping victim who was held captive for 18 years made her first public statement about her ordeal in an emotional declaration at the ongoing sentencing hearing for Phillip and Nancy Garrido.

But her mother read on the statement on her behalf and Dugard did not attend the hearing.

The defendants pleaded guilty to kidnapping and raping Dugard when she was 11-years-old.

She was confined to a hidden backyard compound where she eventually lived with two daughters fathered by Phillip Garrido.

In her victim impact statement, Dugard says she hated every second of every day for those 18 years.

Dugard told Nancy Garrido that her actions were evil and wrong.

The two defendants pleaded guilty to kidnapping and rape in late April under a deal that calls for Phillip Garrido to receive a prison term of 431 years to life.

He also pleaded guilty to committing lewd acts captured on video. Nancy Garrido was sentenced to 36 years to life. Both waived their appeal rights.

The deal was designed, in part, to spare Dugard and her children from having to testify at a trial.

Now 31, Dugard was given an opportunity to present El Dorado County Superior Judge Douglas Phimister with an oral or written statement about her experience.

Prosecutors typically encourage crime victims and their families to prepare detailed victim impact statements so courts can factor their suffering into sentencing decisions.

Dugard, who has written a memoir set to be published next month, has strived to preserve her privacy in the 22 months since she was identified during a chance meeting with Phillip Garrido's parole officer. Read More

Billy Bob Thornton's daughter 'Amanda Brumfield' guilty of manslaughter after killing best friend's baby

The eldest daughter of Hollywood actor Billy Bob Thornton has been found guilty of aggravated manslaughter after her best friend's baby died in her care.

Amanda Brumfield, 32, who is Billy Bob's eldest daughter from his first marriage, had claimed one-year-old Olivia Madison Garcia died at the Orlando home of her friend Heather Murphy in October 2008 after the child hit her head when she tried to climb out of her playpen.

But prosecutors insisted the injuries sustained by the child, including a three-and-a-half inch fracture to the back of the her skull and bleeding and swelling to her brain, were not consistent with an innocent fall from a low height.

Mrs Brumfield was acquitted of first-degree murder and aggravated child-abuse charges. She is expected to face sentencing on the manslaughter charge in July.

Her father, Billy Bob Thornton, has starred in many hit films, including Oscar-winning Monster's Ball, but is best known for his bizarre short-lived marriage to Angelina Jolie.

They were said to have worn vials containing each other's blood around their necks while they were together as a sign of commitment.

Billy Bob claims he is no longer in contact with his eldest daughter, Mrs Brumfield.

After Mrs Brumfield was charged in relation to the child's death in 2008, an autopsy revealed the baby had suffered a fractured skull and a brain injury due to blunt trauma - a type of physical injury to the head. Read More

Dogukan Umut Last Moments as he is Shot in the Head trying to save his Father, Turkey - 2nd June 2011

These are the terrifying last moments of a student captured on CCTV just moments before he's shot in the head at point-blank range trying to save his father.

Dogukan Umut, 23, died in Turkey in January after his father allegedly became embroiled in a row with a bank manager.

He had been studying for a master's degree in International Business Management at Bournemouth University and was on a three-day trip to his hometown.

A Turkish court was told Dogukan's developer father had an argument with a female bank clerk in the southern city of Adana.

He did not want to pay a commission on the transfer of 100,000 Turkish lira (£38,000) because he was a long-standing customer.

The clerk claims she was insulted, and told her husband, a bank manager, who then confronted the father at his office.

Another argument ensued and tearful bank manager Soner Atac told the court: 'In a few seconds I became a killer.'

He said he wanted an apology for his wife.

And he claimed he was provoked, believing he was about to be attacked, and killed Dogukan in panic without realising what he doing.

His solicitor claims the CCTV backs up his claim that he was put under pressure. However, the father said Dogukan tried to protect him when the bank manager produced a gun and aimed at his head.

The student was shot several times, even as he lay on the floor, claims the father.

The prosecutor has asked for a life sentence.

The case has now been adjourned for examination of the CCTV footage. Source

Ryan Liddell a Dunblane massacre survivor who was shot by rampaging Thomas Hamilton faces jail for battering pensioner with intent to rape - 2nd June

A survivor of the Dunblane massacre is facing jail for battering a 76-year-old churchgoer with intent to rape her.

Ryan Liddell was five when he was shot in the arm and chest by gunman Thomas Hamilton, who stormed into his year one gym class at Dunblane Primary School and murdered 16 of his classmates and his teacher.

Fifteen children, including Liddell, another teacher and a classroom assistant survived.

But Liddell, now 20, was today, found guilty of the violent sex attack on the committed Christian, retired nurse, and grandmother-of-two, after barging into her ground floor flat in Dunblane, Perthshire, tearing off her clothes, and saying he wanted sex.

After a trial that lasted nine days, a jury of eight women and seven men at the High Court in Dumbarton took more than four-and-a-half hours to find Liddell, of Dunblane, guilty by majority of assault with intent to rape and to endanger life. He had denied the charge.

He was also found guilty, unanimously, of breaking a bail curfew.

Jurors were not told of Liddell's tragic link to the 1996 massacre before reaching their verdict - but they were told of its effects.

They heard that Liddell had been diagnosed with attention deficit hyperactive disorder (ADHD) when he was six - just a year after being pulled bleeding from the gym and asking his heartbroken mother: 'Mummy am I going to die?'

And they heard he had suffered sleeplessness and anxiety since he was a child - a condition which in adulthood made him semi-nocturnal.

Liddell, who worked as a short-order cook at a local Little Chef, had been stalking the streets of Dunblane on the night of June 14, 2010, when he spotted his victim's door ajar - and walked into her life to rob her of her independence in the 4am attack.

In what advocate depute Jennifer Bain, prosecuting, described as a 'senseless and brutal' assault, he pretended he was her carer and was there to give her a shower, before punching her repeatedly and kicking her on the head as she lay on the ground.

He ripped off her clothes before dragging her through to her bedroom and telling her he wanted to have sex with her.

He might have gone through with the rape, but was forced to flee when the woman's neighbours, alerted by muffled screams, ran downstairs to find her lying naked in her living room in a pool of blood, bruised and battered with two broken teeth. Read More

China Factory Blast Kills 4, Hurts 16; 2 Missing - 2nd June 2011

Authorities say an explosion at a factory making aluminum products in northwestern China has killed at least four people and injured 16. Two more workers were listed as missing.

The explosion early Thursday ripped apart a workshop at the Xinjiang Yuansheng Technology Development Ltd. factory outside the Xinjiang regional capital of Urumqi.

The cause of the blast was under investigation.

An explosion last month at a western China plant that makes Apple iPads was blamed on combustible dust in a workshop that polishes products. Three employees were killed in that explosion in the city of Chengdu.

Businesses in China have been moving into the hinterland where wages are cheaper and regulation weaker. Source

Chinese agency says European E. coli is new strain; Russia sets ban on all EU vegetable imports

Russia announced a ban Thursday on fresh vegetable imports from the European Union in the wake of a deadly outbreak from a possibly new E. coli strain that has swept across parts of Europe.

Scientists at the Beijing Genomic Institute said the outbreak of infection in Germany is caused by a new "super-toxic" E. coli strain, though the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention said the strain has been seen before.

The CDC said the strain is very rare and added that while it is not aware of any cases reported in the United States, it is aware of a few reports of the strain from other countries. Britain's Health Protection Agency has said that the strain suspected in the outbreak is "rare" and "seldom seen in the U.K."

The outbreak is responsible for 15 deaths in Germany and one in Sweden, and has sickened more than 1,000 people in at least 10 countries, according to the World Health Organization. (read more)

Electric-blue lobster caught off P.E.I., Canada

A fisherman hauled an extremely rare blue lobster out of the waters off P.E.I.'s North Shore Wednesday.

Blair Doucette landed the lobster in North Rustico. Only about one in four million lobster is blue. The colour is caused by a genetic mutation.

Wendy Doucette, Blair's wife, told CBC News in 30 years of fishing he has never seen a blue lobster. They are considering donating the lobster to a local aquarium.

The last blue lobster reported caught off P.E.I. was in 2009. (Source)

Saskatchewan forest fire airlift in last stages; Canada -- hundreds being evacuated

Military transport planes and helicopters are airlifting the last of about 1,100 residents escaping a massive forest fire in the remote Saskatchewan communities of Wollaston Lake and Hatchet Lake First Nation.

The massive airlift began about 9:45 p.m. CST Wednesday, after three Hercules planes and four Griffon helicopters arrived in the area in the northern part of the province. The communities are about 800 kilometres north of Saskatoon and only accessible by air. The airlifts continued Thursday morning.

Despite concerns of smoke and shifting winds hampering evacuation efforts, the operation has gone "really, really smoothly, and we're very grateful for the Canadian Forces assistance; we would not have been able to do this overnight," Duane McKay, Saskatchewan's director of emergency response, said early Thursday from Regina in an interview with CBC News.

A federal government news release says the Public Health Agency of Canada is supplying beds, blankets and other essentials for more than 1,100 evacuees. (read more)

Yemen: Forces clash with tribal fighters near Sanaa as tribesmen "march on capital"

About 100 armed fighters loyal to a tribal leader in Yemen have clashed with security forces on the northern outskirts of the capital, Sanaa.

Tribal leaders say hundreds more are marching towards the city in support of their leader, Sheikh Sadeq al-Ahmar.

Flights at Sanaa airport were disrupted due to the fighting, but officials say operations have returned to normal.

President Ali Abdullah Saleh is refusing to step down despite months of opposition against his 33-year rule.

While the protests have been largely peaceful so far, the recent fighting between tribesmen and government forces threatens to drag Yemen into civil war, analysts say.

Fresh battles have erupted between supporters of Sheikh Ahmar, who leads the powerful Hashid tribal federation, and government forces in Sanaa's northern Hassaba neighbourhood.

Resident Talal Hazza told AFP news agency that government troops were shelling opposition forces for a second day running. (read more)

Greece default risk at 50:50 says Moody's -- Greek bonds now just "5 notches above default"

Greece's credit rating has been cut again by rating agency Moody's.

Moody's cut its rating by three notches from B1 to Caa1 - just five notches short of default.

The new rating means Greece is 50% likely to default on or restructure its debts in the next five years, according to Moody's methodology.

Meanwhile, Athens is completing the negotiations for drawing down the fifth tranche of its 110bn euro bail-out from the EU and International Monetary Fund.

Last week, the chairman of the group of eurozone finance ministers, Jean-Claude Juncker, said that the IMF may not approve the latest cash advance unless Greece could convince them it will remain solvent over the next 12 months. (read more)

Syria: Attack on central town of Rastan 'kills 15' as revolution brews

Syrian government troops have heavily bombarded Rastan, near Homs, in the centre of the country, killing at least 15 people, activists say.

More than 50 people have been killed in Rastan since a military operation there started at the weekend, reports say.

The offensive comes despite an amnesty offer by President Bashar al-Assad's government and the release of hundreds of detainees.

The initiatives have been dismissed by Syrian opposition groups.

The opposition groups, which are meeting in Antalya in neighbouring Turkey, say the Syrian government's concessions have come too late, correspondents say.

The groups are working on what they hope will be a roadmap for peaceful transition.

The Local Co-ordinating Committee, which helps to organise and document the country's protests, gave the names of the people it said were killed in Rastan in the latest artillery and tank bombardments.

The committee said the offensive had hit at least two mosques and a bakery, as well as houses that collapsed, killing entire families.

Eyewitnesses told BBC Arabic that army and security forces are not able to take control the town, even though it has been surrounded by tanks over the past few days. (read more)

Templeton Asset Management Says Financial Crisis ‘Around The Corner’

Mark Mobius, executive chairman of Templeton Asset Management’s emerging markets group, said another financial crisis is inevitable because the causes of the previous one haven’t been resolved.

“There is definitely going to be another financial crisis around the corner because we haven’t solved any of the things that caused the previous crisis,” Mobius said at the Foreign Correspondents’ Club of Japan in Tokyo today in response to a question about price swings. “Are the derivatives regulated? No. Are you still getting growth in derivatives? Yes.”

The total value of derivatives in the world exceeds total global gross domestic product by a factor of 10, said Mobius, who oversees more than $50 billion. With that volume of bets in different directions, volatility and equity market crises will occur, he said.

The global financial crisis three years ago was caused in part by the proliferation of derivative products tied to U.S. home loans that ceased performing, triggering hundreds of billions of dollars in writedowns and leading to the collapse of Lehman Brothers Holdings Inc. in September 2008. The MSCI AC World Index of developed and emerging market stocks tumbled 46 percent between Lehman’s downfall and the market bottom on March 9, 2009. (read more)

Writer Nicholas Carr urges Internet junkies to 'switch off' and think

Like tens of millions of others, US technology writer Nicholas Carr found the lure of the worldwide web hard to resist -- until he noticed it was getting harder and harder to concentrate.

He set out his concerns in a celebrated essay headlined "Is Google making us stupid?"

And his latest book "The Shallows" explores in depth what he fears the Internet is doing to our brains.

"The seductions of technology are hard to resist," Carr acknowledges in that book, which has sold an estimated 50,000 hardback copies in the United States alone. But he thinks it's time to start trying.

In a speech at last week's Seoul Digital Forum and an interview with AFP, Carr restated his concerns that IT is affecting the way people think and feel and even the physical make-up of their brains.

Every new technology in history -- like the map and the clock -- changed the way people think but Carr sees special dangers in the Internet.

He got his first PC back in the 1980s and was an avid net user until "a few years ago, I noticed some disturbing changes in the way my mind worked. I was losing the ability to concentrate." (read more)

Bubbling sea signals severe coral damage this century

Findings from a "natural laboratory" in seas off Papua New Guinea suggest that acidifying oceans will severely hit coral reefs by the end of the century.

Carbon dioxide bubbles into the water from the slopes of a dormant volcano here, making it slightly more acidic.

Coral is badly affected, not growing at all in the most CO2-rich zone.

Writing in journal Nature Climate Change, the scientists say this "lab" mimics conditions that will be widespread if CO2 emissions continue.

The oceans absorb some of the carbon dioxide that human activities are putting into the atmosphere.

This is turning seawater around the world slightly more acidic - or slightly less alkaline.

This reduces the capacity of corals and other marine animals to form hard structures such as shells.

Projections of rising greenhouse gas emissions suggest the process will go further, and accelerate.

"This is the most realistic experiment done to date on this issue," said Chris Langdon, a coral specialist from the Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science in Miami, US.

"So I don't have any qualms about believing that what we found will apply in other parts of the world." (read more)

"Why Is The Economy So Bad?"

Millions of Americans have lost their homes, tens of millions of Americans can't find a decent job and 44 million Americans are on food stamps. This is causing an increasing number of Americans to ask this question: "Why is the economy so bad?" There are some Americans that are old enough to remember the Great Depression, but the vast majority of us have never known hard times. All our lives we were told that America was the greatest economy on the planet and that we would always experience endless prosperity in this nation. That was easy to believe because even though we had a recession once in a while, things always bounced back and got even better than ever. But now something seems different. The current economic downturn began back in 2007 and yet here we are in 2011 and there seems to be no end in sight for this economic crisis. So what in the world is going on? Can anyone explain why the economy is so bad?

The following are some of the kinds of questions that the American people are asking about the economy these days....

Why does it seem like it is harder to get a job today than it used to be?

Well, it is because there are far fewer jobs available and far fewer people are getting hired. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, an average of about 5 million Americans were being hired every single month during 2006. Today, an average of about 3.5 million Americans are being hired every single month.

Is there much hope that the unemployment rate will start to decline significantly?

Unfortunately there does not appear to be much reason for optimism. Initial weekly unemployment claims have been above 400,000 for 7 weeks in a row. The "jobs recovery" we have been promised simply is not materializing. Only 66.8% of American men had a job last year. That was the lowest level that has ever been recorded. At the rate we are going things are going to be about the same this year. (read more)

Armed Police Called To Bomb Alert at The Co-operative Bank branch in Watford. - 2nd June 2011

Police in Watford are involved in a stand-off at a bank where a man claims to have a bomb strapped to his body.

Specialist teams from Hertfordshire Police, including firearms officers, were called to the Co-Op Bank in Market Street at 10.18am this morning after reports the suspect was threatening to harm staff.

A cordon has been set up around a large area near the building and police say the man is on his own.

The force says "no members of the public are at direct risk".

It said in a statement: "Clearly, our objective is to resolve this situation as peaceably as possible and thank the public locally for their co-operation and understanding that this is a fast moving and complex situation.

"Can we ask members of the public to continue their co-operation with officers and listen to any instructions for their own safety."

Local hairdresser Lory Pace told Sky News everyone on Market Street has been told to stay inside.

She said it was "scary" not being allowed to go on the streets and not knowing if the area will have to be evacuated.

The Co-operative has said: "We can confirm that there is currently an ongoing incident at The Co-operative Bank branch in Watford.

"We are currently assisting Hertfordshire Constabulary, who are managing the situation."

More to follow... Source

Tunisia: 270 Refugees Feared Drowned At Sea - 2nd June 2011

At least 270 refugees are feared drowned after the boat suspected of carrying them illegally to Europe broke down in the Mediterranean.

Tunisian coast guard officials said they managed to rescue 570 people from the stricken vessel but hundreds more are missing.

The boat, carrying refugees trying to flee the violence in neighbouring Libya, reportedly encountered problems about 12 miles (20km) off the Tunisian island of Kerkennah.

Attempts to rescue them were hampered by bad weather, authorities said.

In recent months, thousands of people fleeing upheavals in North Africa have been heading to Italy on rickety boats, creating an immigration crisis in Lampedusa, an Italian island situated half way between Tunisia and Siciliy. Source

Thousands of dead starfish and other Sea Creatures wash up on Talacre Beach, Flintshire - 2nd June 2011

THOUSANDS of dead starfish, crabs and other sea creatures were found washed up on a Flintshire beach.

But the creatures, which have now been washed away, did not die in suspicious circumstances at Talacre Beach, a county coastal ranger told the Chronicle.

Alistair Hemphill said: “It’s not a natural disaster. It’s not a sudden beaching of starfish.

“It could be that they have just come to the end of their life cycle, died after mating and spawning and have lain dead in the sea for a long time.

“Strong winds and bad weather have then washed them ashore. You see it with jellyfish as well sometimes.”

The coastal rangers left the starfish on the beach as a picnic for seagulls, before the tide washed them back out to sea. Source

Exorcist cures the 'possessed' of Colombia in bizarre ritual ceremony - 2nd June 2011

With willing participants covered in dirt and surrounded by fire, it is not exactly a conventional religious or spiritual ceremony.

But the bizarre scenes are part of a 20-year exorcism tradition led by the mysterious 'Brother Hermes', who claims the ritual rids people of evil spirits.

The Colombian exorcisms see people dressed entirely in white before lying across a stretch of dirt in between red and yellow marker posts.

The 50-year-old spiritual leader, who real name is Hermes Cifuentes, also covers participants with black dirt from head to toe and makes them stand in a deep dirt hole during parts of the ceremony.

Whether Brother Hermes's questionable methods get results it is difficult to say, but the spiritual leader is clearly doing something right judging by the high demand for his services.

It is thought that around 10 people each week at his site in La Cumbre, Valle del Cauca, Colombia, to consult Brother Hermes and practice rituals of healing and exorcism.

Many also have their eyes covered with blackened bandages and are stood inbetween strips of green and white ribbon as Brother Hermes works his 'magic'.

And to complete the thoroughly bizarre look to proceedings, participants are seen surrounded by candles and fruit, with eggs placed on their heads.

The healer then performs his own well-established rituals on people by placing his hands carefully on their bodies and heads. Source

Cousins Corrie Pinney and Jermaine Kraftner both Sadistic rapists face found guilty of horrific Sutton attacks

Two violent rapists could be jailed for up to 15 years after being convicted of battering, raping and falsely imprisoning two women.

Cousins Corrie Pinney, 35, from Yarbridge Close, Belmont, and Jermaine Kraftner, 27, from Poole, in Dorset, were found guilty of 14 charges against the two women in separate attacks in July 2009 and April 2010.

A third defendant, Cassie Webb, 21, from Croydon, was also accused of filming and aiding and abetting the second woman’s rape ordeal, but the jury was unable to come to majority verdict.

Webb, who was found guilty of aiding and abetting assault, could still face the possibility of a retrial on the remaining four offences, if the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) decides it could result in a conviction.

Both attacks had striking similarities, including taking place at Pinney’s flat, the use of a speaker to block the front door and the involvement of both defendants.

The first attack happened on July 29, 2009, when Pinney lured a 17-year-old to his flat after a date.

But the football coach then raped her with his flatmate when she refused sex. In a horrifying twist, Kraftner’s father was said to have joined in after he wandered into the room.

The second attack took place on April 20, 2010, when an evening of cannabis smoking and drinking alcohol turned into a “degrading and humiliating” ordeal, where the 22-year-old woman was tortured and threatened with sadistic violence.

Hanna Llewellyn-Waters, prosecting, told the jury Webb filmed the sexual and physical abuse on a mobile phone, as the victim was put through a horrific five-hour ordeal.

If the victim disobeyed them the defendants repeatedly kicked and punched her and said they would cut off her hair, pour boiling water on her or stab her with a samurai sword. Read More

WARNING: Cambridge students warned not to go out alone at night as bike-riding sex 'predator' strikes for the ninth time - 2nd June 2011

A bike-riding sex attacker with a preference for university students is on the loose in Cambridge.

Nine women have so far been attacked in the city by the serial offender - eight of whom were students.

Each time he has struck, he has prowled the streets on a bike before grabbing and groping his victims - aged between 19 and 32 - but when they began struggling or screaming he has fled the scene.

As fears grow that his attacks could become more serious, all students, staff and fellows have now been emailed by Dr Mark Wormald, a senior tutor at Pembroke College, warning students to remain vigilant.

The attacks started in August with the latest being on Saturday - the first time he has targeted someone who isn't a student.

Police have, however, linked the attack to the other eight and more officers have been put on the beat in the places where he has struck.

Dr Wormald told students: 'The predator continues to operate in the vicinity of the college and its hostels in the west and south of the city.

'You are requested to remain extremely vigilant when walking in and around the city, particularly after nightfall.

'Students who are travelling across Cambridge after dark on foot rather than on bicycles are urged to walk in pairs wherever possible and to carry a mobile phone and if possible a personal alarm.'

The attacker is in his 20s, of medium build between 5ft 10ans and 6ft and has been described as being physically strong.

Detective Sergeant Phil Priestley from Cambridgeshire Police said: 'This latest incident is extremely similar to the other attacks in this series and we have reasonable grounds to believe that they have all been committed by the same man. Read More