Saturday, June 11, 2011

Rebel gains spark fierce battle for west of Libya, as Gaddafi regime under pressure from all sides

A renewed battle for the west of Libya could end the month-long stalemate in the struggle between Colonel Gaddafi's ugly regime and the rebels fighting for control.

In the Jebel Nafusa mountains southwest of Tripoli, lightly-armed mountain farmers drove Gaddafi forces out of a string of villages - some of which had refused bribes to support the Libyan leader - forcing them to retreat to within 60 miles of the capital.

In Misurata, emboldened rebels prepared to break out of the enclave where they had been besieged for weeks by launching a series of probing attacks on Zlitan, the next town to their west.

On Saturday, in a move that startled the government, rebel forces began an assault on the oil port of Zawiya, halfway between the Tunisian border and the capital - leading to the first major fighting in the city since opposition forces there were crushed by Gaddafi troops in March.

The coastal road towards Zawiya from the capital was blocked by soldiers and loyalist gunmen with assault rifles, rushing to prevent the rebels from pushing further east.

There were rumours that government forces were preparing their own onslaught on the rebel-held border town of Wazin, and Gaddafi troops continued to bombard Misurata in an effort to throttle the rebel breakout, killing 31 in a single day on Friday. (read more)

Obese child stroke victim aged just six

Dramatic evidence showing how young children and even babies are falling victim to the obesity epidemic is disclosed today.

Babies are being treated in hospital because of their weight Рsome after being weaned on pur̩ed junk food Рand children as young as six are suffering strokes.

Doctors say rising numbers of babies and toddlers are being diagnosed as clinically obese and even suffering weight-linked diseases that normally appear in later life.

Figures show that hundreds of children under three are being treated for obesity at hospitals around the country. At least 40 babies aged under one have been admitted in the past five years.

Public health experts warned that because hospitals only see the most extreme cases, the true levels of obesity among babies and young children will be far higher.

Specialists working in hospital obesity clinics report that they are seeing one year-olds who weigh as much as three stone – nearly twice as much as healthy youngsters of the same age. (read more)

Orangutan saves drowning chick: A lesson in compassion



The curious ape was in its enclosure, when it noticed the bird's struggle in the pond

It yanked a leaf from a nearby bush and extended its arm out to the bird, beckoning to the chick in the hope that it will latch onto the leaf.

Onlookers cheered as orangutan managed to get the bird to grip the leaf for a split second only to have the bird drop again.

In a last-ditch attempt to rescue the chick, the orangutan gently waved the leaf in front of the bird which managed to latch on to it.

The ape plucked the bird from the water to the delight of the crowd. During the clip, one woman can be heard exclaiming: "Oh my God look, that is unbelievable, he's got him."

The massive ape carried the chick back to the main part of its enclosure, where it tenderly placed it down on the grass and proceeded to gently stroke the bird.

Cathy Smith, from the Orangutan Foundation, said: "They are very intelligent animals and can be very inquisitive.

"This shows how chilled out and good at problem solving these amazing creatures are.

"It's hard to say whether he knew he would be saving the chick but you never know. I have never heard of anything like this before." (read more)

Former adviser says government worsened radiation exposure

A former adviser to Japanese Prime Minister Naoto Kan accused the government of having aggravated the problem of radiation exposure during the nuclear crisis, news reports said Saturday.

Toshiso Kosako, professor of radiation safety at the University of Tokyo's graduate school, said the government had failed to make efficient use of forecasts on radioactivity from the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power station, the Kyodo news agency reported.

The plant was hit by the March 11 earthquake and tsunami and has leaked radioactive substances ever since.

In a report submitted just before he abruptly resigned as an adviser in late April, Kosako highlighted the impromptu handling of the crisis in its early stages and criticized a lack of leadership at the premier's office and uncooperative attitude of the Nuclear Safety Commission, Kyodo said.

Kosako said the government had delayed the release of forecasts on the spread of radiation compiled by the Nuclear Safety Technology Center's computer system, Kyodo reported, citing the April 27 report.

He urged the government to conduct an epidemiological study in Fukushima and neighbouring prefectures as thyroid cancer was expected to develop among children.

Kyodo said Kosako's team gave more than 60 pieces of technical advice but the government failed to make use of most of them promptly and effectively. (read more)

This post was reader contributed.

Chicago State's Attorney Lets Bad Cops Slide, Prosecutes Citizens Who Record Them









When Chicago police answered a domestic disturbance call at the home of Tiawanda Moore and her boyfriend in July 2010, the officers separated the couple to question them individually. Moore was interviewed privately in her bedroom. According to Moore, the officer who questioned her then came on to her, groped her breast and slipped her his home phone number.

Robert Johnson, Moore's attorney, says that when Moore and her boyfriend attempted to report the incident to internal affairs officials at the Chicago Police Department, the couple wasn't greeted warmly. "They discouraged her from filing a report," Johnson says. "They gave her the runaround, scared her, and tried to intimidate her from reporting this officer -- from making sure he couldn't go on to do this to other women."

Ten months later, Chicago PD is still investigating the incident. Moore, on the other hand, was arrested the very same afternoon.

Her crime? At some point in her conversations with internal affairs investigators, Moore grew frustrated with their attempts to intimidate her. So she began to surreptitiously record the interactions on her Blackberry. In Illinois, it is illegal to record people without their consent, even (and as it turns out, especially) on-duty police officers.

"This is someone who is already scared from being harassed by an officer in uniform," said Johnson. "If the police won't even take her complaint, how else is a victim of police abuse supposed to protect herself?"

Moore's case has inspired outrage from anti-domestic abuse groups. "We just had two Chicago police officers indicted for sexual assault, there have been several other cases of misconduct against women," says Melissa Spatz of the Chicago Task Force on Violence Against Girls & Young Women. "And now you have Moore, who was trying to report this guy, and she gets arrested. The message here is that victims of unwanted sexual advances by police officers have no recourse -- that the police can act with impunity."

If the Chicago cops recently indicted for sexual assault are convicted, they'll face four to 15 years in prison. That's the same sentence Tiawanda Moore is facing for trying to document her frustrations while reporting her own alleged sexual assault: Recording an on-duty police officer in Illinois is a Class 1 felony, the same class of crimes as rape. (read more)

Shared by our neighbour blog, Wit's End.

Home prices may drop another 25%, Shiller predicts

Home prices may drop as much as 25 percent, after inflation, over the next five years, economist Robert Shiller, co-founder of the Standard & Poor's/Case-Shiller home price index, said Thursday.

"A 10 to 25 percent further decline in real home prices over the next five years would not surprise me at all," Shiller said at a Standard & Poor's housing summit in New York.

Shiller, a Yale professor, said it's possible that the market will follow the grim path seen in Japan after a 1980s housing bubble. Property values there declined every year for about 15 years, dropping by two-thirds overall, he said.

But he cautioned that he was not making a forecast, saying that since the recent housing boom-and-bust cycle was the biggest in U.S. history, he can't use previous housing patterns to figure out where this market is headed.

"It's impossible for statisticians to forecast," he said. "I honestly don't know."

Other housing analysts have recently predicted that prices will continue to drift lower this year and "bounce along the bottom" for a while, but the loss mentioned by Shiller is larger than most experts have forecast. (read more)

Beijing's secret subterranean city

Meters beneath Beijing’s hectic streets, a warren of bomb shelters extends citywide, dug at the height of nuclear paranoia in the 1970s.

Home to sewer rats, damp and more recently, migrant workers, they’re fast being filled in and forgotten. Seizing what might be the last chance to see the tunnels, a friend and I don flip-flops and a flashlight for a final descent.

“You're in luck -- he's drunk”. Dominic Johnson-Hill reaches over the sprawled, snoring body of the building warden and snatches a flashlight from the cluttered desk.

We’re in Nanluogu Xiang, a gentrified neighborhood of grey-brick alleyways north of the Forbidden City.

Johnson-Hill, owner of nearby design store Plastered T-Shirts and self-styled steward of this tunnel entrance, has been inside 30 or 40 times. “It’s like a secret world, with so much to discover, it became an addiction,” he confesses.

An arched, hospital-white corridor runs steadily downwards. It’s full of junk. Old tables piled with rotting vegetables, beer crates, an iron-framed bed, recently slept in.

The door, wedged open, is lead-lined and about 20 centimeters thick.

“We’re beneath a government building, so the tunnels go deeper, and the construction is better," says Johnson-Hill. "These would have belonged to a senior official.”

Some way along a side tunnel, two bare, concrete rooms face each other: sleeping quarters and a smaller office housing a single desk thick with mold.

Above, an escape hatch is tunneled into the ceiling, a rusty iron ladder poking down. The air is chilly and damp. (read more)

Physician and Epidemiologist Say 35% Spike in Infant Mortality in Northwest US Cities Since Meltdown Might Be the Result of Fallout from Fukushima

As I’ve previously noted, infants are much more vulnerable to radiation than adults. And see this.

However, radiation safety standards are set based on the assumption that everyone exposed is a healthy man in his 20s.

Now, a physician (Janette D. Sherman, M. D.) and epidemiologist (Joseph Mangano) have penned a short but horrifying essay asking whether a spike in infant deaths in the Northwest are due to Fukushima:

The recent CDC Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report indicates that eight cities in the northwest U.S. (Boise ID, Seattle WA, Portland OR, plus the northern California cities of Santa Cruz, Sacramento, San Francisco, San Jose, and Berkeley) reported the following data on deaths among those younger than one year of age:

4 weeks ending March 19, 2011 – 37 deaths (avg. 9.25 per week)
10 weeks ending May 28, 2011 – 125 deaths (avg.12.50 per week)

This amounts to an increase of 35% (the total for the entire U.S. rose about 2.3%), and is statistically significant. Of further significance is that those dates include the four weeks before and the ten weeks after the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant disaster. In 2001 the infant mortality was 6.834 per 1000 live births, increasing to 6.845 in 2007. All years from 2002 to 2007 were higher than the 2001 rate.

***

Data from Chernobyl, which exploded 25 years ago, clearly shows increased numbers of sick and weak newborns and increased numbers of deaths in the unborn and newborns, especially soon after the meltdown. These occurred in Europe as well as the former Soviet Union. Similar findings are also seen in wildlife living in areas with increased radioactive fallout levels.
(Chernobyl – Consequences of the Catastrophe for People and the Environment, Alexeiy V. Yablokov, Vasily B. Nesterenko, and Alexey V. Nesterenko. Consulting Editor: Janette D. Sherman-Nevinger. New York Academy of Sciences, 2009.)

Levels of radioisotopes were measured in children who had died in the Minsk area that had received Chernobyl fallout. The cardiac findings were the same as those seen in test animals that had been administered Cs-137. Bandashevsky, Y. I, Pathology of Incorporated Ionizing Radiation, Belarus Technical University, Minsk. 136 pp., 1999. For his pioneering work, Prof. Bandashevsky was arrested in 2001 and imprisoned for five years of an eight year sentence. (read more)

Libya's Gadhafi writes Congress for cease-fire

Congress has received a letter ostensibly from Moammar Gadhafi that calls for a cease-fire and urges the U.S. to take the lead in negotiating a deal for peace in Libya.

The June 9 letter, which The Hill obtained, is addressed to the White House and lawmakers. House and Senate leadership aides say they have received the document, but have not confirmed its authenticity. The White House declined to comment.

Gadhafi’s liaison office in Washington, D.C., has been closed.

The letter, in which Libya's dictator promises democratic reforms, appears designed to separate the U.S. from its European allies. In the letter, Gadhafi says he would welcome a fact-finding mission if Congress were to send one, and claims that he has long sought a "special relationship" with the U.S.

The letter comes as growing signs of disunity are emerging in Washington over the conduct and purpose of the military action against the North African regime. Last week the House rebuked the White House on Libya, and the Senate has struggled to craft a bipartisan resolution authorizing U.S. action there.

Some believe that Gadhafi is desperate to strike a deal. On Thursday, a senior NATO militiary official with operational knowledge of the Libya mission told CNN that the U.N.-passed resolution justifies the targeting of Gadhafi.

Pressed by CNN on whether Gadhafi is being targeted, the NATO source did not give a direct answer.

Gadhafi is caling for "a cease fire, the funding of humanitarian relief and assistance in fostering and furthering accommodation between the parties within Libya that are at odds." In exchange, he pledges reforms. (read more)

E. coli death toll hits 30

The latest victim was a 57-year-old man in Frankfurt who last month travelled with his wife to the northern city of Hamburg, an epicentre of the outbreak, authorities in the western city said.

The death of a 68-year-old man and a 20-year-old woman were also reported in the northern state of Lower Saxony. The toll is now at least 30, including one woman in Sweden who had recently returned from Germany.

More than 2,800 people were also ill in at least 14 countries with enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) poisoning, which in severe cases can lead to renal failure. Most are women.

Germany had expressed hope Wednesday that the worst of the outbreak was over, with Health Minister Daniel Bahr saying the number of new infections was falling.

Spain's Europe minister meanwhile secured a promise from German officials to make amends for earlier incorrectly blaming Spanish cucumbers for the outbreak by helping to repair the image of the country's produce.

"The German government has agreed to make an effort to improve the image of Spanish produce in Germany," Diego Lopez Garrido said in Berlin after talks with counterpart Werner Hoyer.

"Twenty-five percent of our vegetable exports are to Germany, it is our most important export market. Therefore it is also the duty of the German government to assist us with promotion."

He described as "unfortunate" a false alarm by Hamburg's top health official two weeks ago blaming Spanish cucumbers as a source for the outbreak that prompted an European Union-wide alert, later withdrawn. (read more)

The Bankruptcy of Corporate America

The bankruptcy of Corporate America has seeped into the society and those who toil in its machinery.

Corporate America is profoundly bankrupt. Not in a financial sense, of course; the Federal Reserve's slow destruction of the U.S. dollar has boosted corporate profits most handsomely as the majority of their earnings and profits are obtained overseas; when stated in dollars, those outsized profits swell even higher.

No, the bankruptcy of Corporate America is not found on the bottom line; it is measured by altogether more profound metrics than mere money. Corporate America is bankrupt on levels which are difficult to describe; morally and spiritually bankrupt, not just in the pathologies that guide corporate goals and behaviors, but in the Potemkin shell of free enterprise they present to the world in ceaseless propaganda, and in the manner in which they have cut America loose from their corporate souls.

Corporate America only resides in America because it controls the machinery of governance and regulation here for pathetically modest investments in lobbying and campaign contributions. It would be impossible to replace the global Empire that protects and nurtures it, and so Corporate America maintains its headquarters in America, the better to shape policy and skim gargantuan profits from the Empire and its Central State in Washington.

The return on investment for lobbying and campaign contributions is simply unmatchable anywhere else; it is without doubt the highest return on investment on the planet. And the risk-return is immensely favorable; there is simply no risk that the Empire or the Central State will ever go against the "best interests" of its corporate partners.

Corporate America is not about free enterprise and competition; it's about eliminating competition and forming highly profitable cartels and quasi-monopolies protected by regulations and barriers erected and vigorously maintained by the Central State. (read more)

Former Bailout Inspector General: "I'm Scared, You Should Be Too"

"The Game Changer: Unite or Die" -- Fight together or hang separately

“We must all hang together,or assuredly we shall all hang separately.”- Patrick Henry

One of the biggest struggles in the American Revolution was not necessarily against the British Empire,it was uniting the diverse opinions of the American Colonists. Our Founding Fathers spent years trying to get consensus on what the American experience would be like. The end result was Life,Liberty,and the Pursuit of Happiness. All of the military battles and political declarations were in defense of this basic idea. Once united on a singular cause,Virginians fought and died in Massachusetts and Pennsylvanians fought and died in South Carolina. The colonists adopted this ‘Join or Die’mentality knowing that if they stood individually,they would be no match for the Empire the sun never set on.

“In order for men to do great evil,they must first believe they are doing good.”- Alexander Solzhenitsyn

When we study the Revolutionary War we tend to focus on the people,dates and battles,but the real battle was exposing the evil empire. The Founding Fathers attacked the idea of the Empire through works like Common Sense and the Tea Party. These were more powerful of a weapon as a musket. It is impossible to ‘fight’evil,all you need to do is ‘expose’evil. Evil only exists in the shadows and as soon as the truth comes out about it,evil losses all of its power. Evil only has power so long as the people who support it believe that what they are doing is good. I have always been amazed that the average German citizen supported the fascist Hitler regime. When you realize that they thought they were doing good and the economy was growing,how could you not support Hitler? Look at us,we are supporting a system that relies on debt and war. These two ideas that we would never consider doing personally,but we support passively. We understand that debt is slavery. If you add up all of the debt on our backs,it is close to 1/2 to $1 million per person. We understand that we are now fighting 2,3,4,5,6…wars in the MENA region all to protect the petro dollar. Somehow we think that stealing and killing is patriotic. We must expose the twin evils of debt and the war machine it funds. The best way to ‘fight’this evil is to expose it and offer a better solution. (read more)

Dear Mainstream Media, We Think You Might Want To Cover This: The Bilderberg Meeting

Detractors routinely contend that the annual elite Bilderberg meetings are nothing more than an outdated irrelevant get together of aging has-beens whose power on the international stage has long since withered.

Take one look at the attendees at this year’s confab in St. Moritz, Switzerland, however, and it immediately becomes clear that this is the absolute polar opposite of the truth.

Debating policy at this year’s meeting will be the Jeff Bezos, Founder and CEO of Amazon.com, Chris R. Hughes, Co-founder of Facebook, Eric Schmidt, Executive Chairman of Google, Craig J. Mundie, Chief Research and Strategy Officer at Microsoft Corporation, and Reid Hoffman, Co-founder and Executive Chairman of LinkedIn.

There you have heads of the five biggest online companies, indeed five of the biggest companies on the globe, all in attendance together at a secluded hideaway in the Swiss alps for the weekend.

That alone should be enough to focus the attention of the mainstream media.

Alas, apparently, no, that is not enough to perk their collective interest.

Then lets factor in that also in attendance are the Vice President of the European Commission, the President of the European Council, the Director General of the World Trade Organization, the President of the European Central Bank, the President of The World Bank, and the Executive Director of the United Nations World Food Programme.

No. still not doing it for the world’s media.

OK, how about the US Deputy Secretary of State, the Commander of USCYBERCOM and the Director of the National Security Agency? (read more)

Courtney NaShawn Palmer throws 14 month old baby out of getaway car



A 14-month-old girl was thrown from a speeding getaway car late Thursday night after the suspects were caught shoplifting at KMart, according to the Richland County Sheriff's Department.

Just after 9:00 p.m. Thursday, deputies responded to the KMart at 7325 Two Notch Road for a shoplifting call. "We know that three people went into the KMart with a child in the vehicle. We know that as they arrived at the KMart that they were there to shoplift," said Captain Chris Cowan.

When deputies arrived, KMart security had 21-year-old Courtney NaShawn Palmer in custody.

Security officers told deputies that Palmer and another woman got into a scuffle with officers after being confronted and accused of stealing from the store.

Deputies say a third woman, 22-year-old Kimberly Moody, was parked in the lot waiting in the getaway car when she noticed what was going on in the store, according to the sheriff's department. (read more)

Tysha Jones 'killed for enjoying a day at the beach': Brighton Beach boardwalk shooting


Hours before she was killed in a senseless Brighton Beach boardwalk shooting, Tysha Jones looked like any other carefree teenager enjoying a day of sun and sea with friends.

One of the last known photos of the 16-year-old shows her playfully splashing around with a pal in the Atlantic Ocean, wearing a black bathing suit and red shorts, her beaming face a picture of joy.

A short while later, she was struck by a bullet when a gunman opened fire on the bustling Brooklyn boardwalk, leaving the high school student dead, four others wounded and hundreds of terrified beachgoers running for cover.

"She was just a lovely girl. She was just an innocent bystander," her devastated mother, Cynthia Jones, said Friday morning, clutching her head with both hands. (read more)

Dozens Brawl Outside Downtown San Jose McDonald’s; 2 Stabbed



At least two people were stabbed and hospitalized, and three others injured after a massive brawl involving dozens of people broke out in the parking lot of a McDonald’s near San Jose State University.

The fight happened around 10 p.m. about a block away from the university on the corner of San Jose and Third Streets, and just hours after a free downtown concert let out.

Police said a small crowd started gathering before it quickly turned into a mob of more than 100 people, many of who began screaming, yelling, and throwing punches when a fight broke out.

Witnesses said the friends of one of the stabbing victims literally dragged him into a car and tried fleeing the scene, but police stopped them before they could get away.

Those who work downtown said word is getting out that San Jose is laying off police officers, leading to a spike in crime. (read more)

Pelham Police Zap Wandering Cow With Taser, Owner Furious

Pelham police say they were justified in using a Taser several times on a cow, despite a complaint from its owner.

Last Saturday, one of Wendy Bordeleau’s two cows got loose from her 30-acre farm.

About a dozen people were trying to coral 800-pound Houdini across busy Mammoth Road when police showed up with their tasers.

“They said ‘We’re going to tase her, we’re going to taser it,’ and the group was pleading with them. Everyone was kinda yelling, ‘Please don’t taser the cow, it’s only going to make it worse,” she told WBZ NewsRadio 1030.

Houdini was zapped at least four times. (read more)

Ron Paul: US Inflation will hit 50%

Texas congressman Ron Paul on Friday predicted that inflation will hit 50 percent in the next couple of years, thanks to the massive debt the country has accumulated.

Paul, who spoke to admirers and Republican activists at a Manchester house party, said the inflation will act like default.

Social Security checks will still be cut and interest payments will still be made, but the inflated dollars will allow the government to repay borrowed dollars with devalued money, Paul said.

“They cannot pay the debt,” he said. “I don't think that means you shouldn't try and work things out, but with the size of this debt it never gets paid.”

The national debt is about $14.3 trillion. (read more)

Ryan Giggs is a Sex addict, needs Therapy, DOES KNOWONE TAKE RESPONSIBILITY ANYMORE?

RYAN Giggs has told wife Stacey he will seek professional help for sex addiction in a bid to save their marriage.

The shamed Man Utd star, 37, offered to go into rehab in a bid to rebuild his shattered family life.

And The Sun can reveal that betrayed Stacey, 32, has agreed to try to save their relationship.

Stacey decided to stick by Giggs after he made a string of promises and said he "couldn't carry on" if she left him.

Giggs' Mr Clean reputation is in tatters over his sordid eight-year affair with sister-in-law Natasha and fling with Big Brother babe Imogen Thomas.

Stacey, who has two children by him, told a close friend: "Ryan has an illness and he needs my help. As long as he does what he has promised our marriage will survive.

"He never loved Imogen and Natasha is a liar. Our family will come through this."

The family, believed to be at a villa abroad, will start to pick up the pieces during talks planned for when Giggs comes out of hiding.

Betrayed brother Rhodri - husband of bedhopping Natasha - has agreed to a summit.

A source said: "Ryan's got no choice. He told Stacey he would do anything to keep the family together. He has offered to seek professional help."

Yesterday we revealed dad-of-two Giggs had offered Rhodri £250,000 for his silence.

Rhodri, 34, is now using Giggs' solicitors Schillings, who cost the star a fortune with their overturned super-injunction and advice to sue social networking empire Twitter.

Last week we revealed how mum-of-two Natasha, 28, had romped with FOUR Manchester United aces - Giggs, Dwight Yorke, Phil Bardsley and Danny Simpson.

Rhodri, who has a son by Natasha and is stepfather to her other child, has been staying with actor pal Will Mellor. Source

Fazul Abdullah Mohammed Al Qaeda's East Africa Chief Killed in Somalia - 11th June 2011

One of al Qaeda's "most experienced planners in east Africa" has been killed in a shoot-out with Somali forces, the US Government has confirmed.

Fazul Abdullah Mohammed was reportedly killed in the Somali capital Mogadishu on Wednesday.

The US Secretary of state Hillary Clinton said his death was a "significant blow to al Qaeda and its allies in East Africa".

A senior US official confirmed the militants death and commended the work of the Transitional Federal Government (TFG).

"This is a big win for global counterterrorism efforts," the official said.

"Fazul's death removes one of the terrorist group's most experienced operational planners in East Africa and has almost certainly set back operations."

The terror chief was wanted by America for allegedly planning in the US embassy truck bombings in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam in 1998 which killed 224 people.

Kenya's police chief said Abdullah also announced he was killed on Wednesday - confirming a report from Somali Islamist Shebab rebels.

"We have received that communication from authorities in Somalia," Kenyan Police Commissioner Mathew Iteere said.

"We have been told that there were two terrorists who were killed in Somalia on Wednesday last week."

Officials with the Somali Transitional Government (TFG) said the terrorist pair were killed at a roadblock on the outskirts of Mogadishu after "they refused to stop". Read More

Syrian tanks seal northern city of Jisr Al-Shugur as citizens wait in fear

Syrians continued to cross into Turkey on Saturday to seek refuge amid the government's latest crackdown on dissent, which saw tanks and troops surround the restive northern city of Jisr al-Shughour.

Residents say at least 15,000 troops along with some 40 tanks and troop carriers have been deployed and they fear an all-out government assault on the region near the Turkish border.

Turkish officials estimate at least 4,300 people have fled the violence and relocated to makeshift camps in southern Turkey in the past two days. That number represents only those who have officially registered. Many others are slipping into the country unobserved and staying with relatives.

Government forces on Friday shelled Jisr al-Shughour, where authorities say 120 officers and security personnel were killed by gunmen last week.

Refugees reaching Turkey said the chaos erupted as government forces and police mutinied and joined the local population against Assad forces.

Activists and refugees said troops also burned farmland in the area and shot protesters who tried to tear down a poster of Syrian President Bashar Assad. (read more)

Markets fall on U.S. recovery worries: 6 straight weeks of Dow Jones drops

North American stock markets were trading in the red Friday, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average closing below 12,000 for the first time since March.

Rising worries about the American economy trumped indications that the Chinese economy, a huge consumer of oil and metals, may not be slowing as quickly as thought.

The S&P/TSX composite index finished down 171.74 points, or 1.3 per cent to 13,084.00.

The Dow, which has lost close to five per cent this month, was down 172.45 points, or 1.4 per cent, at 11,951.91. The Standard & Poor's 500 fell 18.02, or 1.4 per cent, to 1,270.98. The Nasdaq composite index was lower by 41.14, or 1. 53 per cent, at 2,643.73.

U.S. stock markets suffered their sixth straight weekly loss, the longest weekly losing streak since the fall of 2002.

Traders also worried about an impasse over Greece's debt crisis.

The Canadian dollar was lower despite jobs data for May that came in better than expected.

The loonie was off 0.54 of a cent at 102.22 cents US as Statistics Canada said 22,300 new jobs were created last month, slightly above consensus estimates following the previous month's strong 58,000 gain. The unemployment rate fell 0.2 percentage points to 7.4 per cent.

China's imports rose 28.4 per cent over a year ago in May, up from April's 21.8 per cent growth rate and beating most forecasts, data showed Friday. Export growth eased to 19.4 per cent from April's 29.9 per cent amid slower global demand. (read more)

Manitoba on alert for more flooding

Officials in Manitoba are scrambling to shore up flood defences, before a major rain storm descends on waterlogged areas of the province Sunday night.

The weather system is expected to bring 30 millimetres of rain to the Souris and Assiniboine river basins and force the Portage Diversion to run over its designed capacity.

The storm could push the Assiniboine back to the record water levels of a few weeks ago.

In Souris, about 60 people evacuated 23 homes on Friday over concerns about flooding. Town officials say they will let evacuees in to check on their pumps a couple times a day. The river is expected to crest in Souris in the last week of June.

Mayor Darryl Jackson's own home is just across the street from the evacuation zone. On Friday, Jackson said even if people are not under the evacuation order, many are still packing up and moving things up from their basements in case of flooding.

"People are using half-tonnes, flatbed trailers from neighbours, farmers, etc. It's hard work today, but people understand and they are abiding by the rules," he said. (read more)

More than 100 million kids worldwide work in hazardous jobs

Every minute of every day, a child laborer somewhere in the world suffers a work-related accident, illness or trauma, the International Labor Organization said Friday.

An estimated 115 million children worldwide work in hazardous jobs, said the U.N. agency in a report issued ahead of the World Day Against Child Labor on Sunday.

That figure represents more than half of the world's roughly 215 million child laborers, who work in everything from mining and construction to agriculture and manufacturing, the study showed.

"Despite important progress over the last decade, the number of children in child labor worldwide -- and particularly in hazardous work -- remains high," ILO Director-General Juan Somavia said in a statement. "Tackling work that jeopardizes the safety, health or morals of children must be a common and urgent priority."

The study showed that although the overall number of children in hazardous work fell between 2004 and 2008, the number of children between the ages of 15 and 17 engaged in that type of work actually increased 20% during the same period.

Children have higher rates of injury and death at work, as compared to adults, and can be particularly vulnerable as their bodies and minds are still developing. (read more)

India's monsoon arrives early (photo gallery)

This year the monsoon arrived in Mumbai almost a week ahead of schedule. It announced itself with whip-cracking thunder on June 5, catching the otherwise prepared Mumbaikar unawares.

Around June 10 in normal years, the average Mumbaikar has umbrellas, rubber slippers, plastic bags, waterproof bags, zip-locked checkbook holders, the works. Girlfriends make dates with each other to shop for gumboots.

The slush and the rush of the torrents of water leave the average worker surviving twice-over: once their normal day in an anxious, heaving city, and once again to wade towards their destinations.

However in contrast to a heavy snow-day elsewhere in the world, no monsoon can stop Mumbai.

Everything looks full and ripe, and children play and nobody is thirsty, and all of a day’s work (and play) is undertaken wet, instead of dry. (read more and view gallery)

U.S. Cities Trying To Pump Up Economy By Minting Coins -- Buried, but not forgotten; is the Dollar done?

"Actually, that's not in the Bible" -- Are people still reading the Bible for themselves instead of just repeating what preachers tell them?

NFL legend Mike Ditka was giving a news conference one day after being fired as the coach of the Chicago Bears when he decided to quote the Bible.

“Scripture tells you that all things shall pass,” a choked-up Ditka said after leading his team to only five wins during the previous season. “This, too, shall pass.”

Ditka fumbled his biblical citation, though. The phrase “This, too, shall pass” doesn’t appear in the Bible. Ditka was quoting a phantom scripture that sounds like it belongs in the Bible, but look closer and it’s not there.

Ditka’s biblical blunder is as common as preachers delivering long-winded public prayers. The Bible may be the most revered book in America, but it’s also one of the most misquoted. Politicians, motivational speakers, coaches - all types of people - quote passages that actually have no place in the Bible, religious scholars say. (read more)

A sudden rise in the yuan would solve nothing -- American and European manufacturing is beyond saving

The main beneficiaries of a stronger yuan would not be American and European companies but the factories of Vietnam and Bangladesh.

Before we start, let me make a full disclosure. I live in China, but unfortunately I am paid in pounds, not yuan.

When I arrived, three years ago, the arrangement seemed generous. At nearly 15 yuan to the pound, sociable expats could be seen on Shanghai's Bund drinking £5 martinis with abandon. But it turns out that, according to the dry martini index, the pound was overvalued. A 28pc dip against the yuan since then has helped Shanghai sober up.

These days I may drink less, but my apartment is smaller. I have a nervous tic of scanning the foreign exchange rates for signs of trouble. And I get a queasy feeling in my wallet when economists and politicians start calling for China to revalue its currency.

So let me try to debunk the various arguments underpinning the non-stop nagging for China to have a stronger currency.

In the United States, politicians have been jumping up and down and threatening a trade war for years. (read more)

Wall Street's Role in Narco-Trafficking and the failed "War on Drugs"

magine what your reaction would be if the Mexican government agreed to pay Barack Obama $1.4 billion to deploy US troops and armored vehicles to New York, Los Angeles and Chicago to conduct military operations, set up check points, and engage in fire-fights that end up killing 35,000 US civilians on the streets of American cities.

If the Mexican government treated the United States like this, would you consider them a friend or an enemy?

This is exactly how the US is treating Mexico, and it's been going on since 2006.

America's Mexican policy--The Merida Initiative--is a nightmare. It's undermined Mexican sovereignty, corrupted the political system, and militarized the country. It's also resulted in the violent deaths of thousands of mostly poor civilians. But Washington doesn't give a hoot about "collateral damage" as long as it can sell more weaponry, strengthen its free-trade regime, and sluice more drug profits into its big banks. Then everything is just Jim-dandy.

There's no point in dignifying this butchery by calling it a "War on Drugs"?

That's nonsense. What we're seeing is a giant powergrab by big business, big finance and the US Intel services. Obama is merely doing their bidding, which is why--not surprisingly--things have gotten a lot worse under his administration. Obama has not only stepped up the funding for Plan Mexico (aka--Merida) but also deployed more US agents to work undercover while US drones carry out surveillance duty. Get the picture? This isn't some little drug bust; it's another chapter in America's War on Civilization. (read more)

North Sudan continues bombing Southern Sudan ahead of independence

Sudan's military has bombed a village in an oil-rich southern region, southern officials say, as tensions increase ahead of the south's independence next month.

Three people were killed in the raid on Unity State, in a move to take control of the region's oil fields, the south's military spokesman said.

Some 140,000 people have fled recent fighting along the border, the UN says.

Sudan's north-south conflict left some 1.5 million dead over two decades.

The war ended with a 2005 peace deal, under which the mainly Christian and animist south held a referendum in January on whether to secede from the largely Arabic-speaking, Muslim north.

Some 99% of voters opted for independence. President Omar al-Bashir said he would accept the verdict of the south, where most of Sudan's oil fields lie.

But last month, his forces seized the disputed town of Abyei. There have also been recent clashes in South Kordofan state, which is in the north but is home to many pro-south communities. (read more)

Heavy rain, melting snow cause devastating floods across Norway, washing away houses, roads - 11th June 2011

OSLO — Torrential rains combined with melting snow have caused devastating floods across central Norway, washing away several houses and roads and causing landslides.

One person has been injured in the floods, but it was unclear Saturday whether their condition was serious.

Spokesman Morten Harangen at the Directorate for Civil Protection and Emergency Planning says the northern part of the country has also been affected, but is more due to high temperatures that have sped up the snow-melting in the mountains.

Harangen says between 100-200 people have been evacuated so far.

Late Friday, Norway's Justice and Transport Minister Knut Storberget met with rescue work representatives to discuss the flood situation. Source

E.coli Outbreak Warning: 'More Deaths Likely' - 11th June 2011

Germany's health minister has warned more people will die from the deadly E.coli bacteria in Europe.

But at the same time, Daniel Bahr has said the worst of the outbreak is over.

The bug, which officials have traced to German-grown beansprouts, has so far killed 33 people and sickened more than 3,000.

All of the deaths - except one in Sweden - were in Germany.

The health minister said: "I cannot give an all-clear. New infections are still to be expected but the number of new infections is clearly falling."

He said it is unlikely the outbreak will flare up again.

But he warned: "Further deaths are not ruled out, as painful as that is."

On Friday, health officials said it was now safe to eat tomatoes, cucumbers and leafy salads - all food originally suspected as the source - after German-grown sprouts from an organic farm in the Lower Saxony area were found to have caused the outbreak.

The farm has been shut down and is no longer delivering vegetables to market.

But authorities have warned to avoid eating sprouts while further testing is under way.

The German government had come under fire for failing to pin down the cause of the outbreak which prompted many in Europe to shun vegetables over the past month.

Even Britons started avoiding or excessively washing fresh produce, despite experts saying there is no evidence food on sale in the UK had been affected.

A survey for The Grocer found 38% of people across Britain were worried about falling ill from eating fruit and vegetables following the killer bug's surface.

Of these, 10% of people questioned said they were "very worried".

The research showed 45% have changed the way they prepare food at home in the wake of the health crisis.

And 7% said they are cutting down or avoiding eating fresh fruit and vegetables altogether, regardless of origin. Source

Billions wasted: New revelations show Balls and Brown ignored warnings that big spending spree would damage the economy - 11th June 2011

Leaked papers have revealed Gordon Brown and Ed Balls ignored warnings from civil servants over Labour's tax and spending plans that ultimately left the country saddled with record debt.

The damning papers presented to Cabinet in January 2006, while Mr Brown was Chancellor and Mr Balls his Treasury aide, insisted that 'ineffective spending' must be 'closed down'.

'We've spent all this money, but what have we got for it?' the confidential document asks.

But Mr Brown ignored these and other warnings about the need to improve the efficiency of the public sector, and instead began a £90 billion spending spree when he became prime minister.

The document, obtained from the personal files of Mr Balls, comes after the publication of papers detailing his role in a plot to oust Prime Minister Tony Blair.

They show he was at the centre of a conspiracy to remove Mr Blair and put Mr Brown into Number 10 after the 2005 election.

In today's Daily Telegraph, 19 previously unseen documents reveal the deep concerns by civil servants over Mr Brown's spending plans.

They warned that any public expenditure should be in line with inflation and highlighted 12 areas where billions of pounds of cuts could be made.

Mr Brown rejected the advice and increased spending by TWICE as much as the recommendations and only reduced waste in four areas. Read More

Chile's Volcanic ash moving towards New Zealand - 11th June 2011

Ash from a volcano erupting in southern Chile is heading towards New Zealand, and could disrupt flights to and from the South Island.

The eruption in the Puyehue-Cordon Caulle volcanic chain, about 920 km south of the capital, Santiago, in Patagonia, belched an ash cloud more than 10 km high that blew over the Andes last weekend (June 4).

While the biggest volcanic ash particles fall to the ground quickly, small particles take a long time to settle out of the atmosphere. The eruption ejected the small particles very high, where strong winds have carried them to the east.

The Civil Aviation Authority said particles could reach New Zealand tonight over southern parts of the country, and spread north through the remainder of the weekend.

Flights over the South Island may be affected.

The plumes are expected to be at cruising levels for both jet and turboprop aircraft (20,000 - 35,000 feet), but at the moment not below 20,000 feet.

MetService said airlines will have to adjust their flight routes and altitudes if visibility gets low.

The country's airspace could be affected for at least a week due to continuing volcanic activity.

Initial forecast indicate air traffic routes over the South Island, the Christchurch to Australia routes, and the great circle routes between Australia and New Zealand and South America may be affected.

The MetService has its Volcanic Ash Advisory Centre in Wellington monitoring the situation.

Meanwhile, there are reports from Invercargill that the ash appears to be already in the atmosphere above the south.

Reporter Malcolm Gayfer said an extremely red sunset was visible this evening over Southland describing it as "deep red" and not normal. Source

Protesters In Damascus 'Defy Crackdown' - 11th June 2011

Protesters in Syria have reportedly defied a government crackdown by taking to the streets of Damascus as thousands flee to southern Turkey to escape the violence.

Activists say thousands of people have joined a march in the Syrian capital and held funeral processions for those killed in the violence.

Human rights groups claim more than 1,100 people have died since the protests, demanding more political freedoms and an end to corruption, began in March.

The march comes as Syrian state television reported the arrest of so-called "terrorist gangs" in the country's restive north.

The government claims they were responsible for the deaths of at least 120 security personnel in the north-western town of Jisr al Shughour - the latest flashpoint in the revolt.

Elite Syrian forces moved swiftly on Friday, raining tank shells on rebellious towns, torching farmland and shooting protesters who tried to tear down a poster of President Bashar al Assad, activists and refugees said.

At least 32 people were killed, activists said, and undaunted protests extended to every major city in Syria.

The leader of neighbouring Turkey, angered by violence that has sent more than 4,000 Syrians streaming across the border, accused the Assad regime of "savagery".

There are also unconfirmed reports of Syrian forces using helicopter gunships to suppress protests for the first time since activists began to rise up against the regime. Read More