Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Syrians accuse United Nations of abandoning them -- and they would be correct

Refugees fleeing the advancing forces of the Syrian army have accused the United Nations of abandoning them to their fate, saying they fear they will be massacred.

Syrian troops sweeping through the restive towns and villages around Jisr al-Shughour in the north of the country were last night spotted just two miles from the Turkish border.

Men trapped inside the country told The Telegraph which travelled along mountain paths over the frontier to interview them that they had spotted snipers taking up position.

They said they had been warned by Turkish soldiers that the Syrian troops were preparing to attack them and said they were defenceless against any assault.

“What is the United Nations doing? Nothing,” Abu Ahmed said, as three small children and two women sheltered behind him from the heat of the sun in a tent fashioned from tree trunks and plastic sheeting.

“They are just talking and doing nothing to help. Why were they so quick to help Libya but do nothing for us?” (read more)

Barack Obama: there are days when I say one term is enough; funny, 300 million Americans seem to be saying that, too!

President Barack Obama has said his family was "not invested" in a second term in the White House and would have been content if he had decided against running for re-election.

He said first lady Michelle Obama would be the first to encourage him to do something "a little less stressful" if she no longer believed in what his administration was doing.

"Michelle and the kids are wonderful in that if I said, 'You know what, guys, I want to do something different', they would be fine," he told NBC.

"They're not invested in daddy being president or my husband being president."

There were, he conceded, days when he thought "one term was enough", but "if the family is doing well and Michelle is putting up with me I've got enough energy to do the work I am doing".

Despite the hothouse atmosphere of the White House, he said that his two daughters Malia, 13, and Sasha, 10, were turning out to be "poised, kind and well mannered". (read more)

Is this the beginning of the end for Facebook?

Here’s a sad statistic: Facebook users spend 23 hours of every month browsing the website. That’s 500 million people staring at a computer screen as a social network swallows up 700 billion minutes of their time. Shouldn’t they all get a life?

The bad news for Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook’s 27-year-old billionaire creator, is that many people are doing just that. They’re using Facebook less, or leaving it altogether – which is known, would you believe it, as “Facebook suicide”.

Figures show that 100,000 British users deactivated their accounts during May, reducing the total number to 29.8 million. And six million logged off for good in the United States. What started off as an exclusive online social club at Harvard University has saturated Western society. Now it could be on the way down.

Facebook suicide is still too bold a move for some. It would be unthinkable for a 16-year-old to kick the habit. Your teenage children might tell you they are “revising” for exams upstairs, but how many hours have they frittered away, sharing hilarious YouTube clips with friends or “poking” each other? For this crowd, Facebook has penetrated every facet of their lives. It is how they communicate (they don’t use email or text messages). It is how they swap articles and videos. As one technology writer put it recently, for them “it’s becoming a web of its own”. Just as Zuckerberg planned.

For others, young twentysomething professionals, for example, it’s a lot easier to quit. My friends use Facebook as a kind of address book, a back-up to their iPhones. At university, we would compulsively check the website because everybody else did. But these days, indifference is catching on. It’s a social epidemic in reverse. (read more)

Colonel Gaddafi's eldest son officially allocated hundreds of 2012 London Olympic tickets -- Seriously, we couldn't make this stuff up!

The Libyan regime has successfully requested close to 1,000 tickets to events at the London Olympics and the country’s attendance at the Games is being co-ordinated by the Gaddafi family.

The Libyan Olympic Committee is headed by Muhammad Gaddafi and the Government now fears a major diplomatic embarrassment over the attendance of regime figures.

The decision to grant Libya the valuable tickets will infuriate the million Britons who have missed out on attending over-subscribed events.

Government sources warned of a diplomatic crisis last night after it emerged that Col Gaddafi himself may try to disrupt the event as a publicity coup if he remains in power in 2012.

The organisers of the London Games are obliged to sell Libya tickets, after the International Olympic Committee failed to expel the regime despite international condemnation of its bloody crack-down on opponents. (read more)

Human rights victory for rapists and paedophiles as they win ability to remove themselves from "lists"

Thousands of sex offenders, including rapists and paedophiles, will be able to apply to be removed from the sex crimes register under human rights laws, the Government has announced.

A Supreme Court ruling has forced the Government reluctantly to draw up new rules allowing serious sex offenders put on the register for life to have their place on the list reconsidered.

The Home Office plans were opposed by child protection campaigners and Conservative MPs, who said some offenders could never be considered completely “safe”. The new rules were drawn up because the Supreme Court ruled that automatic lifetime inclusion on the register breached the Human Rights Act.

David Cameron said the ruling was “offensive,” but ministers say they have no choice but to comply by changing the rules on the register.

The case is the latest involving the Act to set judges against political opinion. It has increased calls for reform of the Act, which is being reviewed by a Coalition committee.

Under current rules, anyone sentenced to more than 30 months in jail for a sexual offence is put on the register for life on release. Those on the register are monitored by police and visited regularly by officers. The Home Office estimates that there are about 44,000 people on the register, about 25,000 of them for life. (read more)

Obama: ‘Crisis’ if debt ceiling isn’t raised, and if someone doesn't fix the ball-washer at hole 7

The United States risks a financial meltdown if Congress doesn’t raise the debt ceiling, President Barack Obama said Tuesday.

“We could actually have a reprise of a financial crisis if we play this too close to the line,” Obama said in an interview on NBC’s “Today” show.

Obama said there will be hard work over the next month on a deal to avoid breaching the limit and that “we’re going to get it done in a sensible way.” The White House says the ceiling needs to be raised by Aug. 2 to avoid default.

Republicans want spending cuts in exchange for raising the borrowing limit, which now stands at $14.3 trillion. A bipartisan group led by Vice President Joe Biden gets back to work on Tuesday on a deal.

Republican presidential candidates also used the issue to burnish their campaigns in a debate on Monday night. Mitt Romney, the field’s front-runner, didn’t directly answer a question about whether the limit should be raised but called for spending cuts. Michele Bachmann, meanwhile, bluntly said she wouldn’t vote to raise the limit without big spending cuts. (read more)

Radioactive Particles From Japan to Seattle Virtually Undetectable when Inhaled or Swallowed

"Greek Default Is Inevitable"

The European Central Bank, with its staunch opposition to sovereign debt restructuring in Europe, is making a bad situation worse. By threatening to withdraw support for banks in countries such as Greece if they restructure their debts, the ECB is practically inciting runs on banks.

The debt problem of peripheral Europe is structural. It cannot be solved by piling debt on debt. There is an analogy to a Ponzi scheme, under which more money is continually paid in to keep the pyramid-like edifice from collapsing. The debt/GDP ratio increases over time because new loans are given to pay old debt and to finance the remaining fiscal gaps.

In addition, the share of the debt in official hands continues to increase and eventually taxpayers bear the complete cost of the adjustment. This may, however, take time and, since the pyramid is unstable, the construction could break down at any moment -- a source of increasing uncertainty.

The International Monetary Fund so far has not performed well in peripheral Europe. It was a mistake to assume that a country like Greece can re-enter the private-sector credit markets next year. This is impossible. It is even more difficult after 2013 under the perverse permanent bailout scheme where protection for private-sector creditors is progressively lowered. Programs are based on illusory "debt sustainability scenarios" that ignore that they lead to recession where countries have no chance of outgrowing their debt.

The argument that Greek state paper could no longer be used as collateral in such cases hardly justifies such a potentially destabilizing step. The ECB is effectively the lender of last resort to such banks. If depositors believe it is about to pull out, then they will withdraw money from the banks -- and we will face a self-fueling downward spiral. (read more)

"Gold Should Break $1,600, Silver Near $50 by Year End"

Gold should trade to just over $1,600 an ounce by the end of 2011 and silver should be flirting with $50 an ounce as governments will need to maintain a loose monetary policy despite the phasing out of stimulus packages in the U.S., according to the director of a major research firm.

Philip Newman, research director of GFMS, said in an interview on the sidelines of the International Precious Metals Institute’s Precious Metals Conference here there may be too much focus in the markets on the second quantitative easing versus a possible third program.

“I think irrespective if there is no QE3 that comes into the market, the U.S. governments and all other governments frankly, in a sense, still have to maintain fairly loose monetary policy given how slow or how stubborn the rise in GDP growth has been and continues to be,” Newman said.

He said that even though at times there might be a healthy increase in GDP growth, the underlying economy still has unemployment rates that are still stubbornly high.

“So, if you have that background then, the outlook for inflation remains fairly upbeat, so investors in commodities and precious metals - gold and silver - we think, would still return to the market later this year,” he said. “What that then tells us that the outlook for precious metals prices is fairly upbeat.”

Newman said investment demand continues to be important in silver and that drove prices up, so the lack thereof now also contributes to the weakness. He said at the same time there is a much stronger underlying demand for silver, principally from the industrial sector, a fact that is sometimes forgotten. (read more)

JEREMY GRANTHAM: We're Headed For A Disaster Of Biblical Proportions

Legendary investor Jeremy Grantham of GMO has published a treatise on the root cause of exploding commodity prices.

He has also offered a startlingly depressing outlook for the future of humanity.

Grantham concludes that the world has undergone a permanent "paradigm shift" in which the number of people on planet Earth has finally and permanently outstripped the planet's ability to support us.

Specifically, Grantham says, the phenomenon of ever-more humans using a finite supply of natural resources cannot continue forever--and the prices of metals, hydrocarbons (oil), and food are now beginning to reflect that.

In other words, Grantham says, it is different this time.

Grantham believes that the trend of the last 100 years, in which the prices of almost all major commodities have steadily declined, is permanently over. And from here on in, humans will be competing more--and paying more--for ever-scarcer resources. (read more)

$6.6 billion in missing Iraq money may have been stolen, auditors say

After the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003, the George W. Bush administration flooded the conquered country with so much cash to pay for reconstruction and other projects in the first year that a new unit of measurement was born.

Pentagon officials determined that one giant C-130 Hercules cargo plane could carry $2.4 billion in shrink-wrapped bricks of $100 bills. They sent an initial full planeload of cash, followed by 20 other flights to Iraq by May 2004 in a $12-billion haul that U.S. officials believe to be the biggest international cash airlift of all time.

This month, the Pentagon and the Iraqi government are finally closing the books on the program that handled all those Benjamins. But despite years of audits and investigations, U.S. Defense officials still cannot say what happened to $6.6 billion in cash — enough to run the Los Angeles Unified School District or the Chicago Public Schools for a year, among many other things.

For the first time, federal auditors are suggesting that some or all of the cash may have been stolen, not just mislaid in an accounting error. Stuart Bowen, special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, an office created by Congress, said the missing $6.6 billion may be "the largest theft of funds in national history."

The mystery is a growing embarrassment to the Pentagon, and an irritant to Washington's relations with Baghdad. Iraqi officials are threatening to go to court to reclaim the money, which came from Iraqi oil sales, seized Iraqi assets and surplus funds from the United Nations' oil-for-food program. (read more)

Mexican drug lords kidnapping bus passengers for gladiator-like fights to the death

The elderly are killed. Young women are raped. And able-bodied men are given hammers, machetes and sticks and forced to fight to the death.

In one of the most chilling revelations yet about the violence in Mexico, a drug cartel-connected trafficker claims fellow gangsters have kidnapped highway bus passengers and forced them into gladiatorlike fights to groom fresh assassins.

In an in-person interview arranged by intermediaries on the condition that neither his name nor the location of his Texas visit be published, the trafficker also admitted to helping push cocaine worth $5 million to $10 million a month into the United States.

Law enforcement sources confirm he is a cartel operative but not a fugitive from pending charges.

His words are not those of a federal agent or drawn from a news conference or court papers.

Instead, he offers a voice from inside Mexico's mayhem — a mafioso who mingles among crime bosses and foot soldiers in a protracted war between drug cartels as well as against the government.

If what he says is true, gangsters who make commonplace beheadings, hangings and quartering bodies have managed an even crueler twist to their barbarity.

Members of the Zetas cartel, he says, have pushed passengers into an ancient Rome-like blood sport with a modern Mexico twist that they call, "Who is going to be the next hit man?"

"They cut guys to pieces," he said.

The victims are likely among the hundreds of people found in mass graves in recent months, he said. (read more)

Japan city to give radiation counters to children

Japan's Fukushima city said Tuesday it would hand radiation measuring devices to 34,000 children to gauge their exposure from the crippled nuclear power plant about 60 kilometres (40 miles) away.

The city will hand the "dosimeters" to all children aged between four and 15 for three months from September so that they can wear them around the clock, an official at the city's education board told AFP.

The city is located outside the government's no-entry zone 20 kilometres (12 miles) around the tsunami-hit Fukushima Daiichi nuclear plant, but many residents are concerned about radiation, he said.

"There have been fixed-spot radiation measurements but parents and citizens are concerned about individual exposure," said the official.

"We also believe the distribution of dosimeters will help ease parents' worries if they confirm their children's exposure does not pose health risks."

He added that radiation in the city had been below the official threshold for health risks, and said the children's dosimeters would be read out once a month to assess cumulative radiation exposure.

Since the March 11 disaster, Japan has raised the legal exposure limit for people, including children, from one to 20 millisieverts per year -- matching the safety standard for nuclear industry workers in many countries.

Environmental activist group Greenpeace called on Japan last Thursday to evacuate children and pregnant women from the town. (read more)

France warns of soaring commodity prices

French President Nicolas Sarkozy called Tuesday for tighter controls on the speculators he blames for soaring food and energy prices threatening global growth.

Saying the world had "worked extremely hard" to revive growth in the aftermath of the global financial crisis, Sarkozy said "one of the main threats to growth is the rising cost of commodities."

The president has said he plans to use France's chairmanship of the Group of 20 top economies to push for regulations to curb speculative trade in the commodities markets but this has met strong resistance from suppliers such as Brazil and Argentina who have benefited from high prices.

Sarkozy, speaking at the invitation of European Commission president Jose-Manuel Barroso, said "the G20 nations are the first concerned by this issue and it is up to them to install conditions for sustainable growth."

The same rules applied to curb financial market speculation needed to be used to crack down on commodities prices which threaten inflation and social tensions.

Speaking ahead of a meeting next week of G20 farm ministers, Sarkozy won support from Barroso, who said the issue was vital as the commodities markets expanded and price volatility increased with the involvement of new investors.

Sarkozy said deregulation in the financial and banking sectors had brought the world to the edge of an abyss.

"A market with no rules is no longer a market ... What caused catastrophe for the financial markets can lead to the same catastrophe on the raw materials market," he said. (read more)

Soros: Time working against euro zone solution

The chances of positively resolving Europe's serious debt problems are decreasing from day to day as authorities focus on "buying more time," not solving problems, billionaire investor George Soros said on Tuesday.

"You have a very serious problem in Europe, the over-indebtedness of some countries: Greece, Portugal and Ireland," Soros told an economic conference.

"The authorities are not providing a solution but basically buying time. They have always done that, that is the normal thing for authorities to do. In this case, I'm afraid they are making a mistake."

"There is a resolution, probably under pressure of the crisis, a resolution will be found but the sooner it is done the better." (Source)

Beating Caught On Tape On New York City Subway Train Uploaded To YouTube



The witness who filmed the incident gives the following description of events (which we've left unedited, and can be found on the Youtube page):

"The incident occurred at around 10:40AM on a Manhattan bound E or M train at E53rd and Lexington Ave ( I get on at Court Square-the previous stop and didn't notice which train).
I was reading an article on the train on my IPAD2 on my way to work , when I got off the train I heard a heated argument and saw fists start to fly. I immediately turned on my camera and began to record when I noticed the doors closed but the train not move- thinking police might need the video as evidence of the crime I kept recording.

As I recorded I noticed the train was full and I heard a girl crying and saw an old lady clawing at the door for the fight to stop.
After a minute I heard the doors open and people hurrying out of the subway car.
The fight then spilled out onto the platform at which point the old lady started hitting (her palm) the african american gentleman to try to stop the fight.
At this point the person who was assaulted kicked a bystander who thought was involved.

At this point the 2 men then headed up an escalator while yelling obscenities.
the Assaulted then came to the foot of the escalator and started yelling at the 2 men saying they are about to have "Round 2" and started running up the escalator.
The caucasian gentleman went first...he began to run down while the other guy was running up the stairs. They clashed and started rolling down the escalator stairs- I believe I slowed their
tumble by one of them smashing into my leg.

The man in the colorful shirt ran down a few seconds after first 2 clashed. Only he tripped, fell and started to roll down the escalator stairs.
At this point I reached the top and ran outside to flag down the police."

China rebukes US over South China Sea disputes

China criticized the U.S. on Tuesday over a senator's call for multilateral negotiations to resolve festering territorial disputes in the South China Sea.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said only those countries with territorial claims in the vast resource-rich waters should get involved in such discussions.

"We hope countries not related to the disputes over the South China Sea will respect the efforts of directly related countries to resolve the issue through direct negotiations," Hong told a regularly scheduled news conference.

China, which claims the entire sea and its island groups, will assert its rights and interests but won't use force to resolve disputes or impede navigation, Hong said.

Hong's comments were in response to a call by U.S. Sen. Jim Webb on Monday for Washington to condemn China's use of force and facilitate talks on the dispute.

That followed accusations by Vietnam that Chinese boats cut a cable attached to a vessel conducting a seismic survey off its coast on May 26 and hindered operations of another vessel on June 9. The claims prompted rare anti-Chinese street protests in Vietnamese cities.

Meanwhile, the president of the Philippines, another claimant which has also accused China of harassment at sea, said the American military presence deters aggression in the area.

"Perhaps the presence of our treaty partner, which is the United States of America, ensures that all of us will have freedom of navigation, will conform to international law," Benigno Aquino III told a news conference Tuesday. (read more)

New Egypt? 7,000 civilians jailed since Mubarak fell

Egypt's military rulers told human rights advocates Monday that at least 7,000 civilians have been sentenced to prison terms by military courts since Hosni Mubarak was ousted — an astoundingly high number likely to fuel debate over how much the revolution has changed the country.

Advocates said the military promised to review the cases and vacate any improper guilty verdicts and commute the sentences. But the advocates voiced skepticism and demanded more information about civilians in military custody.

"This is not the first time they've promised," said Mona Seif, a member of a rights group called No Military Trials that met with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, Egypt's ruling body. "We were offered no guarantees whatsoever."

The use of military courts to try people who've been detained in anti-government protests in recent months is highly charged here. One of the complaints against Mubarak's regime was that it silenced dissidents by quickly prosecuting them in military courts. The caretaker government that took over after Mubarak's resignation has done little to alter the practice, however.

Seif said the military council told her group that 7,000 civilians had been tried in military courts since Mubarak resigned Feb. 11 and other cases were pending. But the council offered no details, Seif said. "We asked the council to provide the exact number and the names of any civilian held by military police," she said. (read more)

Syrian army pursues 'scorched earth' campaign

Syrian armed forces continued a "scorched earth" campaign near the country's borders with Turkey and Iraq, witnesses said Tuesday, as the US and Europe stepped up condemnation of the Syrian government's deadly crackdown on protests.

Six civilians were killed Tuesday and tanks were deployed near Syria's border with Iraq, activists said as President Bashar al-Assad came under sharp pressure to halt a crackdown on democracy protests.

The latest deaths came after fresh protests erupted in the eastern town of Deir Ezzor, a human rights activist told AFP and troops pursued a scorched earth campaign in northern mountains, sending thousands fleeing.

"The armed forces are continuing their operations and the sweep of the villages near Jisr al-Shughur," the flashpoint northeastern town which the army took by force on Sunday, the activist said.

"Six civilians perished in the past few hours in Ariha," east of Jisr al-Shughur, he said, without providing further details.

"Some 10 tanks and 15-20 troop carriers were deployed around the town of Abu Kamal," 500 kilometres (310 miles) east of Damascus near the border with Iraq, the activist added.

The United States stepped up its condemnation of the crackdown, which rights activists say has left at least 1,200 people dead since mid-March, and again called on its president to allow for a political transition or step aside. (read more)

Chinese Spying Devices Installed on Hong Kong Cars

For years now Chinese authorities have been installing spying devices on all dual-plate Chinese-Hong Kong vehicles, enabling a vast network of eavesdropping across the archipelago, according to a Hong Kong newspaper.

The report in Apple Daily states that the recording devices began being installed as “inspection and quarantine cards” in July 2007. They were installed without charge by the Shenzhen Inspection and Quarantine Bureau on thousands of vehicles.

Smugglers were the first to note something strange about the devices. A source told Apple Daily that after the cards were installed mainland authorities had no trouble picking off the cars carrying illicit goods.

“For every ten cars we ran we only had [smuggled goods] in three or four to reduce the risk, but the border agents caught all of them. The accuracy was unreal!” Apple Daily quoted the smuggler saying.

The device, no larger than a PDA, is taped onto the vehicle’s front window. Protective tape covers the screws, presumably to prevent tampering—though it didn’t stop Apple Daily from removing the devices, taking them to experts for inspection, and presenting pictures of them splayed open on their website, with neat graphics indicating the various internal components. (read more)

Storm warning: The moment tornado makes 'direct hit' on cruise ship, Croatia - 14th June 2011

This amazing photograph shows the incredible moment a deadly tornado of water appears to strike a cruise ship.

The towering torrent of water stretched over 300ft into the air as it 'hit' the water close the cruise ship off the coast of Dubrovnik, Croatia.

But luckily for the passengers onboard, the powerful tornado connected with the surface of the Adriatic - creating the illusion it was a direct hit.

Generated by monstrous grey clouds, passengers in the luxury liner had headed straight for the eye of the storm to take pictures.

But as the vessel sailed towards it, another identical spout appeared just a few hundred feet away - forcing the boat to make a quick U-turn.

Stormchaser Daniel Pavlinovic captured the amazing pictures from the safety of dry land.

Mr Pavlinovic, who has chased storms in his native Croatia for six years, said: 'The waterspout emerged from huge stormy cumulonimbus clouds that developed above the sea near the coast.

'It had been a very unstable day weather-wise and I wasn't surprised to see them spring up so close to land.

'At first the yacht headed straight for the waterspout - I assume to take some beautiful photos - but they quickly turned around when another developed really close to them.'

Tornados occur where an area of cold air rises above warmer air, creating cumulonimbus clouds. If the warmer air then rises quickly, a spiralling effect can then take place creating the tornado - which is in contact with the ground or water and the base of the clouds.

Mr Pavlinovic added: 'Waterspouts can be very powerful and may even capsize a boat if it got directly in the path of it.

'Luckily the storm stayed mostly out to sea, so no real damage was done.

'It was pretty intense just watching it from the land let alone on that boat.'

'Anyone who loves the weather and meteorology loves storms - because they are so unpredictable.' Source

Scientists genetically engineer female 'Frankenstein' goats in male bodies to create 'human' breast milk - 14th June 2011

Genetic engineers are deliberately breeding transgender goats to see if their milk is similar to that produced by humans.

The goats being created are effectively a female trapped in a male’s body, complete with the full male anatomy.

The company behind them wants to see if their milk contains the same proteins as human breast milk - with a view to one day possibly selling it in stores.

The goats have been christened ‘goys’, a mixture of ‘girl’ and ‘boy’ and 15 have been bred at the research facility in New Zealand.

Critics have however already called for the breeding programme to be closed down amid concerns the scientists are ‘playing God’.

They have also asked about the dangers posed if the goats escaped and their DNA was introduced to the wider gene pool.

AgResearch has said that 75 per cent of the goats bred at its facility in Hamilton are transgender as a result of the programme.

All the ‘males’ have been sterilised to stop them breeding.

In total there are 15 ‘goys’ and one of them has so far produced milk at the age of six months.

The development sparked an appalled reaction on blogs and comment posts.

On one blog Carol Hill wrote: ‘I shudder to think what mankind is doing to innocent animals to help out mankind and kill off these innocent animals.

‘I just don't get it at all, I simply don't’. Read More

Home Office concedes it's a sex offender's 'human right' to apply to be removed from register after 15 years,(Victims do not Qualify for Human Rights)

Paedophiles and rapists have the 'human right' to apply to be removed from the sex offenders register, the Home Office has said.

Thousands will now be able to apply to have their names removed 15 years after being released from jail.

In February the Supreme Court ruled it was a breach of offenders' human rights to be put on the register for life with no review.

Home Secretary Theresa May said at the time the Government was 'appalled' at the ruling and would 'make the minimum possible changes to the law'.

Under the proposals laid out today, sex offenders will only be able to ask to be removed from the register 15 years after being released from jail, the Home Office said.

The reviews would be led by police with information from the authorities involved in the multi-agency public protection arrangements (Mappa).

Crime and security minister James Brokenshire said: 'Protecting the public is our number one priority and tough checks and a range of tools are already in place to manage known sex offenders.

'We recognise that we can build on this which is why we are seeking views on extending and strengthening the notification requirements which will further enhance our ability to manage offenders in local communities.

'Today the Government has also laid the proposal to make the draft order which will ensure that strict rules are put in place for considering whether sex offenders who are placed on the register for life should ever be allowed to be removed.'

Mr Brokenshire also outlined plans that mean sex offenders would have to report to the authorities before travelling abroad.

They will also have to let the authorities know if they are living in a house with children and will have to provide a weekly update of where they can be found if they have no fixed address.

To ensure sex offenders can no longer avoid being on the register when they change their name by deed poll, they will have to notify police of passport, bank account and credit card details, and provide identification at each notification.

Assistant Chief Constable Michelle Skeer, the lead on the management of sexual and violent offenders for the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo), said Mappa provided 'some of the most effective tools in the world to manage registered sex offenders'.

'Protecting the public from harm is a fundamental role for the police service but we recognise that this must be balanced with the rights of individuals, as highlighted by the Supreme Court judgment,' she said.

'The reality is that the risks posed by some offenders can never be completely eliminated, but we will continue to do all in our power to keep them to a minimum and believe that the proposed review process strikes the right balance between individual rights and public safety.' Source

James Cooper and James Kouzaris gunned down in Florida were forced to strip before being shot dead - 14th June 2011

A pair of British tourists gunned down in Florida were forced to strip before being shot, court documents reveal.

Students James Cooper and James Kouzaris were found shirtless and with their trousers around their ankles following a botched robbery in a crime-ridden suburb of Sarasota in April, according to documents released by Florida state officials.

They were shot multiple times while attempting to flee.

The court papers also claim that the 16-year-old suspect, Shawn Tyson, allegedly told another prison inmate: 'I did it', when asked about the shooting deaths.

The teenager is also alleged to have said the only physical evidence against him was the discovery of the same type of bullets used to kill the pair being found in his home.

'They found the bullets' in the house and 'That's the only thing that's gonna f*** me up', he is alleged to have said in a recorded call from his prison cell.

Tyson is being held on remand charged with the murder of the two University of Sheffield friends. Read More

Nato refuses to rule out bombing ancient ruins in air strikes aimed at taking out Gaddafi - 14th June 2011

Nato has refused to rule out bombing Libya's ancient Roman ruins if Colonel Gaddafi is using them to hide military equipment.

Rebels in the divided country claim the under-pressure Libyan leader could be hiding rocket launchers at the UNESCO World Heritage site of Leptis Magna - which is between the capital Tripoli and rebel-held Misrata.

Wing Commander Mike Bracken, a spokesman for Nato's Libya mission, said it would be a concern for the alliance if Gaddafi and his forces were to violate international law and hide themselves in such a location.

According to CNN, he said: 'If we were to take on any targets we would consider all risks.'

However, he said that Nato could not confirm rebel concerns that weapons might be placed at the heritage site.

The Russian head of the World Chess Federation revealed today that Colonel Gaddafi told him during a game of chess that he is open to talks with Nato and the country's rebels.

Kirsan Ilyumzhinov said Gaddafi told him that he was ready to immediately start peace talks once Nato stops air raids, but shrugged off international demands for him to leave. Read More

China blames Vietnam for rising tensions over disputed sea



China Tuesday blamed its neighbors for escalating tensions in the South China Sea, one day after the Vietnamese navy held a live-fire drill in disputed waters.

"Some countries took unilateral actions to impair China's sovereignty and maritime rights and interests, released groundless and irresponsible remarks with the attempt to expand and complicate the disputes," said Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei at a regular press briefing.

Beijing and Hanoi have exchanged increasingly heated words in recent weeks, accusing each other of territorial intrusions in the South China Sea, which is claimed in whole or in part by China, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia, Brunei and Taiwan.

The vast area of waters, dotted with partially submerged atolls and reefs, contain some of the world's busiest shipping lanes and are thought to hold large deposits of oil and natural gas.

Hanoi authorities have announced a few recent incidents, charging that Chinese ships last week intentionally severed electric cables on Vietnamese survey vessels in Vietnamese waters. Beijing has countered that Vietnamese vessels have been illegally surveying in Chinese waters and harassing Chinese fishing boats.

Computer hackers from both sides have also attacked websites in the other country, posting nationalistic images and messages, according to Chinese media reports.

Although tensions flare up periodically among the various claimants of the disputed waters, the current situation is drawing more international attention amid China's fast-growing political and military power. (read more)

NATO refuses to rule out bombing Libyan Roman ruins

NATO refused to say Tuesday whether or not it would bomb ancient Roman ruins in Libya if it knew Moammar Gadhafi was hiding military equipment there.

"We will strike military vehicles, military forces, military equipment or military infrastructure that threaten Libyan civilians as necessary," a NATO official in Naples told CNN, declining to give his name in discussing internal NATO deliberations.

But he said the alliance could not verify rebel claims that Libya's leader may be hiding rocket launchers at the UNESCO World Heritage site of Leptis Magna, a Roman city between the capital Tripoli and rebel-held Misrata.

Wing Commander Mike Bracken, a spokesman for NATO's Libya mission, later said it "would be a concern for us that Gadhafi and pro-Gadhafi forces would choose to contravene international law in hiding themselves in such a location."

And, he said, "If we were to take on any targets we would consider all risks."

But he underlined that NATO could not confirm suggestions that weapons might be placed at the heritage site. (read more)

Arizona wildfire spreads across the border to New Mexico



Firefighters have stopped the northward advance of the second-largest wildfire in recorded Arizona history and are now focusing on its eastern flank, which has burned its way into New Mexico.

Light winds after dark and an atmospheric inversion -- a layer of cold air sandwiched near the ground by warm air above it -- will hold smoke at the surface overnight going into Tuesday morning, authorities said.

At the same time, another fire burned in southern New Mexico at Carlsbad Caverns National Park, officials said. Hundreds of visitors were evacuated as crews tackled the 3,000-acre wildfire inside the park.

The Arizona blaze, known as the Wallow Fire, has burned 706 square miles, officials said Monday, up from 694 square miles the day before. The fire remains about 10% contained, but officials are optimistic the number could grow to 15% on Tuesday. (read more)

North versus South Sudan tensions increase as people suffer

Protesters, security forces clash in China as unrest continues



A rash of violent protests in China continued over the weekend as migrant workers and security forces clashed in a rural city about 60 miles northwest of Hong Kong, local government officials and witnesses said.

The protest erupted in Zengcheng over what witnesses described as rough handling of a pregnant street vendor by security guards Friday. Local government officials said the protests involved hundreds, while other unofficial reports estimated tens of thousands of protesters.

The demonstrators hurled bottles and bricks at government officials and marched to the local police station, where they damaged several cars, according to the local government officials. Protests continued Saturday and Sunday, according to local officials.

The situation in Zengcheng remains tense, according to a businessman who asked to be identified only by his surname, Hu, because he was concerned about reprisals from government officials.

Looting and violence is widespread at night, despite the presence of security forces, according to Hu, who said he witnessed nighttime violence before deciding it would be safer to stay inside at night.

The Zengcheng riot is the latest disturbance in China, whose government is apparently unnerved by scenes of masses of protesters across the Middle East and North Africa seeking, and in some cases winning, reform from their governments. (read more)

Is China's economy about to wobble due to too much spending on infrastructure?

Facebook loses 1.5 million users in Canada as exodus continues

Is Facebook’s reign as the king of social networking coming to an end?

Facebook, known for its meteoric rise in popularity, lost 1.5 million users in Canada in May. Facebook also reported a loss of approximately 6 million users in the United States in the same month.

Overall, Facebook gained 13.9 million users in April, and 11.8 million users in May – compared to a typical month in 2010 where the company gained 20 million users per month on average.

A report published Monday morning on mashable.com says that if this slowing trend continues for two consecutive months, it could be a significant indicator for Facebook’s future. (read more)

780-year-old religious relic stolen just hours after put on display



A 780-year-old religious relic of the patron saint of lost causes and missing objects was stolen from a Catholic church near Los Angeles on Monday, just hours after it was put on display to commemorate the feast of St. Anthony, police said.

The relic, which is only brought out on special occasions, was stolen from inside a cabinet beside the altar at the St. Anthony Catholic Church in Long Beach on Monday morning, police Lt. Paul Arcala said.

The Reverend Jose Magana said he decided to bring out the relic this year, on the 780th anniversary of the death of St. Anthony, because many of his parishioners have lost hope in the rough economy.

“It has no financial value, but it’s our history, so it’s irreplaceable,” Magana said. “It belongs to the church, not just the church here in Long Beach, but the entire Catholic church.”

The church opened at 6 a.m., and when Magana turned to the relic during the 9 a.m. Mass, it had disappeared. Magana could hear his parishioners gasp when they realized it was gone, but he continued with the service and called police immediately afterward.

Arcala said the relic is housed in a 16-inch tall case with angel-shaped handles made of gold and silver on either side. He declined to describe it further because that might jeopardize the investigation.

The last time it was on view was eight years ago, to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the parish. In Catholicism, relics are usually part of a saint’s body or clothes, revered as a physical connection to the saint. (read more)

Food poisoning kills 2 pupils, downs 42 in Cagayan, Philippines - 14th June 2011

Two students died while 42 others were hospitalized after eating noodles mistakenly cooked with what authorities suspect to be oxalic acid in Cagayan province Tuesday.

The National Disaster Risk Reduction and Management Council (NDRRMC) said the incident occurred at 8:45 a.m. at Larion Bajo Elementary School in Tuguegarao City.

"Forty-one pupils and three teachers were rushed to the different hospitals in Tuguegarao City. Two of the 41, identified as Eloisa Marie Ballad, 5, and Jessica May Bangayan, 5 died while undergoing treatment at Cagayan Valley Medical Center, Carig, Tuguegarao City, Cagayan," the NDRRMC said in its report.

Police said their initial investigation showed the victims ate noodles cooked and sold by one Mrs. Nicolasa Fresado.

Tuguegarao police said their initial investigation also showed a white crystalline substance placed in a plastic jar believed to be oxalic acid.
Investigators said the oxalic acid may have been "mistakenly used as ingredient/condiments at the Home Economics Kitchen" of the school.

A sample of the oxalic acid was brought to the Philippine National Police Regional Office 2 Crime Laboratory for investigation.

Oxalic acid is naturally found in some foods and combines with metals such as calcium in the body to form oxalate crystals which can irritate the gut and kidneys. The most common kind of kidney stone is made of calcium oxalate, according to the website Juicing Book.

"Healthy individuals can safely consume such foods in moderation, but those with kidney disorders, gout, osteoporosis or rheumatoid arthritis are typically advised to avoid foods high in oxalic acid or oxalates," it said.

It is also used in bleaches, some anti-rust products, and some metal cleaners Source

50 children hospitalised with Food poisoning symptoms in Tver region, Russia - 14th June 2011

Fifty children and four adults were hospitalised with symptoms of food poisoning from the holiday camp Chaika in Russia’s Tver region on Tuesday, the regional administration told Tass.

They said the poisoning was not so serious. “There are no grave cases,” the sources said. “Specialists believe that most of patients may be discharged from hospital already on Tuesday,” they stressed.

A commission was set up to establish the source of infection. It includes representatives from the regional Rospotrebnadzor consumer rights watchdog, the healthcare and education departments as well as the emergencies ministry. Specialists have made all necessary tests and examined the personnel.

Over 270 children aged between seven and 16 are holidaying at the camp at the moment. Source

World's smallest dinosaur found by Dave Brockhurst, 51, ... who kept it in a drawer for two years - 14th June 2011

An amateur fossil hunter found the world's smallest dinosaur - but kept it in his bedside drawer for two years not realising the importance of his discovery.

Collector Dave Brockhurst, 51, stumbled on the fossilised vertebrae of the foot-long creature - nicknamed the Ashdown Maniraptoran - at a disused brickworks near his home in Bexhill, East Sussex.

But he held on to the amazing discovery for two years before contacting experts, who realised it was the smallest non-flying dinosaur ever found.

Mr Brockhurst said: 'I knew there was something about it that was different but I had no idea what it would turn out to be.

'It lay in my drawer for a while because I didn't know what to do with it.'

The fossilised vertebrae was examined by palaeontologists Dr Darren Naish and Dr Steve Sweetman, who were able to piece together the dinosaur's likely shape and size.

The 7oz, feathered creature would have hopped around on two legs like a bird, and probably had a short tail, long neck and clawed arms and legs.

It lived during the Lower Cretaceous period, between 100 million and 145 million years ago, and would have run around with 10-metre-long Iguanodons and 12-metre Giganotosauruses.

Because the dinosaur's skull has not yet been unearthed, Dr Naish said he cannot be sure what it ate. Read More

Citigroup hackers broke in 'through the front door' using bank's website - 14th June 2011

Hackers who stole the personal details of more than 200,000 Citigroup customers 'broke in through the front door' using an extremely simple technique.

It has been called 'one of the most brazen bank hacking attacks' in recent years.

And for the first time it has been revealed how the sophisticated cyber criminals made off with the staggering bounty of names, account numbers, email addresses and transaction histories.

They simply logged on to the part of the group's site reserved for credit card customers - and substituted their account numbers which appeared in the browser's address bar with other numbers.

It allowed them to leapfrog into the accounts of other customers - with an automatic computer programme letting them repeat the trick tens of thousands of times.

The security breach, which was only spotted in May during a routine check, follows the high profile and embarrassing hacking of Sony's Playstation network.

Security experts said it also showed the threat posed by the rising demand for private financial information from the world of foreign hackers. It was also a 'sign of things to come', they said.

One expert, who is part of the investigation and wants to remain anonymous because the inquiry is at an early stage, told The New York Times he wondered how the hackers could have known to breach security by focusing on the vulnerability in the browser.

He said: 'It would have been hard to prepare for this type of vulnerability.'

It is not known how much the incident is going to cost Citigroup and its customers.

Spokesman Sean Kevelighan declined to comment as it was an 'ongoing criminal investigation'. Read More

US intercepted North Korea ship over arms fears - 14th June 2011

The US Navy intercepted a North Korean ship suspected of carrying missiles or other weapons to Myanmar and made it turn back, a senior US official said Monday, APA reports quoting AFP.
The comments by Gary Samore, special assistant to President Barack Obama on weapons of mass destruction, confirmed reports of the incident, which happened last month, in The New York Times and South Korean media.

The New York Times said the ship was intercepted south of the Chinese city of Shanghai by a US destroyer on May 26. In an interview with Yonhap news agency, Samore identified the cargo ship as the M/V Light and said it may have been bound for Myanmar with military-related contraband, such as small arms or missile-related items. "We talked directly to the North Koreans. We talked directly to all the Southeast Asian countries including Myanmar, urging them to inspect the ship if it called into their port," he was quoted as saying. "The US Navy also contacted the North Korean ship as it was sailing, to ask them where they were going and what cargo they were carrying."

North Korea is subject to international and United Nations sanctions designed to curb its missile and nuclear programmes. UN Resolution 1874, adopted in June 2009, one month after the North’s second nuclear test, toughened a weapons embargo and authorised member states to intercept such shipments. Another North Korean ship, the Kang Nam I, was forced to reverse course in 2009 after being suspected of trying to deliver military-related supplies to Myanmar.

The New York Times said the Light was registered in Belize, whose authorities gave the United States permission to inspect the ship. It said the US destroyer McCampbell caught up with the Light somewhere south of Shanghai and asked to board the vessel under the authority given by Belize.

The paper, quoting unidentified US officials, said the North Korean refused four times. But a few days later, it stopped dead in the water and turned back to its home port, tracked by US surveillance planes and satellites.
"Such pressure from the international community drove North Korea to withdraw the ship," Samore was quoted by Yonhap as saying.
"This is a good example that shows that international cooperation and coordination can block the North’s weapon exports."

The United States has frequently expressed concern at military ties between Myanmar and North Korea. Last month Deputy US Assistant Secretary for East Asia and Pacific Affairs Joseph Yun expressed concern directly to Myanmar’s new army-backed government.

US diplomatic memos released last year by the website WikiLeaks said Washington has suspected for years that Myanmar ran a secret nuclear programme supported by Pyongyang.
A top Myanmar official told visiting US Senator John McCain this month that his country is not wealthy enough to acquire nuclear weapons. Source

Vintage B-17 'Flying Fortress' bursts into flames with seven people on board... who all make miraculous escape - 14th June 2011

A vintage B-17 bomber built during the Second World War burst into flames yesterday morning in a cornfield outside Chicago.

The vintage plane, which carries passengers for around $400 a seat, took off from Aurora Municipal Airport and made an emergency landing about 20 minutes later in Oswego.

According to FAA officials all seven people on board the plane escaped uninjured, spokeswoman Elizabeth Isham Cory said.

Mrs Cory said: 'The plane is burning.'

The pilot reported a fire shortly after taking off, said Sugar Grove Fire Chief Marty Kunkle.

Mr Kunkle said: 'He attempted to make a return to the airport, but couldn't make it so he put it down in a cornfield.'

Firefighters from Oswego, Sugar Grove and Plainfield responded to the crash.

Fire officials said they were having difficulty accessing the crash because of wet fields.

Speaking to the Chicago Tribune, Jim Barry - who was at his home when he heard a plane - said: 'The windows were rattling. I said, 'That's a crop duster.'

He said he looked out and saw an engine on the left wing on fire.

He added: 'Not a lot of flames, just more smoke than flames.'

The paper also spoke to a 92-year-old WW2 veteran who had narrowly avoided the crash after he turned down a ride on the plane.

Ira Weinstein was due to fly with his grandson last Friday, but the trip was delayed after the plane developed a minor oil leak.

The trip was rescheduled for today, but luckily the veteran decided the long drive was not worth it and took lunch with his grandson instead.

He said: 'I was lucky this morning. Read More


How $6.6billion of taxpayers' money sent to Iraq by Bush may have been STOLEN - 14th June 2011

It is thought to have been the biggest international cash airlift of all time, when $12billion in aid was flown by the Bush administration to postwar Iraq.

And now, for the first time, investigators auditing the cash have admitted that more than half of that huge amount may have been stolen when it got there in 'the largest theft of funds in national history'.

The Pentagon is finally closing the books on the reconstruction programme in Iraq but still cannot say what happened to $6.6billion of the money.

The massive amount of taxpayers' money is the equivalent of the amount needed to run the Los Angeles Unified School District or the Chicago Public Schools for a year.

In 2004, the U.S. sent $2.4billion in packaged bricks of $100 bills to Iraq in a giant C-130 Hercules cargo plane, followed by 20 other flights full of cash.

The loss of $6.6billion in taxpayers' money is a continuous embarrassment to the Pentagon.

Iraqi officials are also threatening legal action to reclaim the money, which came from seized Iraqi assets and Iraqi oil sales.

Now, for the first time, rather than put the loss down to an error in accounting, investigators have suggested the cash may have been stolen on the ground.

Stuart Bowen, special inspector general for Iraq reconstruction, said the money could have gone missing in 'the largest theft of funds in national history', according to the Los Angeles Times.

'Congress is not looking forward to having to spend billions of our money to make up for billions of their money that we can't account for, and can't seem to find,' said Rep. Henry A. Waxman. Read More