Wednesday, June 15, 2011
The protests are planned for the first week of July in the hope of persuading Arab governments to turn against the regime, Wissam Tarif, a prominent activist said.
Meanwhile, refugees who have set up camps inside Syria near Turkey are forming "people's committees" and arming against further government retaliation.
The committees, each 10 men strong, will patrol the hills around the camps, looking out for army snipers and other troops.
The move represents the worst fear of the Syrian government, that opposition groups will be able to gain a foothold from which to operate inside the country.
More than three months of protests have shocked the Syrian regime, which until March thought it had escaped the "Arab spring".
The feared 4th Division of the army, led by the president's brother Maher, has put down successive waves of protest in individual cities, only for protests to resume when the military move on. (read more)
We can all remember the sudden collapse of Lehman Brothers in September 2008, the official launch of the last financial crisis. Panicked investors dumped stocks and bonds around the globe in a desperate flight to cash and quality. Credit froze. Banks buckled. (Some broke.) Trade plummeted. Recession bit hard. Unemployment soared. The global economy was permanent altered.
And here we are, almost three years later, confronted by another possible bankruptcy, that of Greece. We're talking about a country, not a financial institution, but we can paint an ugly scenario in which the impact of a Greek default would reverberate across the world just like Lehman's demise. Bondholders hit by losses on Greek debt dump the bonds of the other PIIGS like Ireland, Portugal and Spain, intensifying the European debt crisis. Perhaps the euro zone folds up. Panicked investors sell off stocks and bonds in emerging markets and anything else considered risky. Financial markets freeze up as banks, swamped by new losses, lock down credit. And worst of all, a default by Greece causes confidence in other indebted sovereigns to wobble, sparking debt crisis for the U.K, Japan – even (oh horror of horrors) the United States. It's 2008 all over again.
OK, so now that we've sufficiently scared ourselves dreaming up worst-case scenarios, we have to ask: How likely is it? Can Greece be the next Lehman?
First of all, how likely is a Greek default? Well, maybe not in the realm of metaphysical certitude, but pretty close. Standard & Poor's cut Greece's sovereign rating yet again on Monday to the lowest level of any country it rates – below even Pakistan and Granada. That's a big fat signal that the agency sees a default on the horizon. We could find out about the future of Greece's solvency over the next few days, as the EU limps towards a second bailout of the country – a total package that could reach nearly $250 billion. The Germans are insisting that part of the deal include losses for bondholders, who would have to swap short-term Greek bonds for longer-term bonds, pushing the repayment out to the end of the decade. That would take the pressure off Greece and reduce the amount of fresh aid the country might require from its European neighbors. But it is nonetheless a form of default. (read more)
Unnervingly, it is starting to look like the answer may be yes. Policymakers this week failed yet again to take decisive action on Greece's debt crisis, rattling markets and prompting billionaire George Soros to brand officials' failure to restructure Greek debt a "mistake."The central problem -- beyond Greece's running out of money again -- is a standoff between bailout-shy politicians and instability-fearing central bankers. The assumption has been that they would come to their senses and make a deal to forestall catastrophe.
But their little game of chicken souvlaki now threatens to jolt Europe and perhaps the world with a new financial disaster.
On cue, Moody's warned Wednesday that a Greek default – which is looking likelier by the day -- could ripple across the European banking system. It put three big French banks on review for a possible downgrade and warned that other reviews may follow.
"We are closely monitoring the risks that would likely result from a Greek default scenario," Moody's said in announcing its review of Credit Agricole, BNP Paribas and Societe Generale. It noted "the potential impact on weaker countries, the capital markets, and funding conditions," and said it is "taking those risks into consideration in our ratings of banks across the Eurozone."
Markets, after ignoring the Greek time bomb for months, are starting to act appropriately terrified. U.S. stocks declined again Wednesday, as the dollar rose against the euro. Government bond prices across Europe's troubled periphery continued to sink. (read more)
Official data showed prices rose 3.6pc in the year to May, the biggest leap seen since October 2008, as an easing in fuel prices last month was offset by rising food bills.
Economists were more concerned that the "core" measure of inflation, stripping out the volatile elements of energy and food, jumped 0.3pc on the previous month.
This was the biggest monthly gain in five years when comparing the unrounded data, according to Capital Economics.
The steady rise seen in core prices in recent months suggests the US could be in for a nasty surprise after two decades of growth without an inflation problem, said economists at Legal & General Investment Management (LGIM), the insurance giant's fund division.
"We believe the US growth and inflation mix is in the process of deteriorating significantly," said Tim Drayson at LGIM. He thinks the Federal Reserve, the US central bank, is making a mistake by keeping monetary policy loose, amid widespread complacency about the pace at which prices are rising. (read more)
Forecasts from the US government show that the Organisation of Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec), whose key members include Saudi Arabia and Iran, will collect a third more in revenues because prices have averaged $111 per barrel this year.
But Fatih Birol, chief economist of the International Energy Agency, said that the current price of $120 per barrel could be the catalyst for a global economic crisis on the scale of the one experienced in 2008.
"If you don't see any softening of the prices, there is a risk of derailing the economy, of a double-dip," Dr Birol told the Reuters Global Energy and Climate Change Summit. "We all know what happened in 2008. Are we going to see the same movie?"
Oil prices fell nearly $3 in London to $117.30 and more than $5 in New York to $94.84 on worries about the faltering global economy.
However, economists believe the price is still at a level near to tipping the global economy back into a downturn. To combat sky-high oil prices, the US is reported to have attempted an ambitious swap with Saudi Arabia in the past month. (read more)
Ahmadinejad's address to fellow heads of state at the summit of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization in Kazakhstan will likely deepen suspicions that the bloc is intended as a counterweight to the United States across the region.
In a summit declaration signed by all the member states, the organization also attacked missile defence programs in another apparent dig at the United States.
"The one-sided and unlimited development of missile defence systems by one government or a narrow group of governments could cause damage to strategic stability and international security," the document said.
Much of Ahmadinejad's fiery speech was devoted to levelling an exhaustive series of thinly veiled accusations against unnamed Western countries, which he described as "enslavers, colonialists, (and) invaders."
"Which one of our countries (has played a role) in the black era of slavery, or in the destruction of hundreds of millions of human beings?" Ahmadinejad said, opening his address. (read more)
In a letter sent Tuesday afternoon, Mr. Boehner, the top Republican in the constitutional chain of succession, said Mr. Obama must provide a clear justification by Friday for committing troops to Libya.
Sunday marks the 90th day since the president notified Congress that U.S. troops had been committed to help enforce a no-fly zone over Libya, which is designed to protect the rebels fighting Col. Moammar Gadhafi’s government.
“The Constitution requires the president to ‘take care that the laws be faithfully executed,’ and one of those laws is the War Powers Resolution, which requires an approving action by Congress or withdrawal within 90 days from the notification of a military operation,” Mr. Boehner said in the letter.
The White House has repeatedly said it has complied with the law by alerting Congress to the initial deployment, and by testifying at more than 10 hearings and providing 30 follow-up briefings about the pace and extent of U.S. troops’ commitment.
But the administration has never sought approval from Congress. (read more)
The garter snakes were so prevalent that the ground around their home appeared to move, according to Ben and Amber Sessions. Ben Sessions killed 42 of the serpents in one day, but eventually gave up and abandoned the home they had bought in 2009.
"It was like living in one of those horror movies," Sessions, 31, told The Associated Press.
They bought the house aware of the snake situation, but they thought it was overblown. Yet everyone in and around the small town of Rexburg seemed to know about the "snake house."
"I felt bad," said Dustin Chambers, a neighbor. "By the time we knew someone had bought it, they were already moving in. It was too late." (read more)
The summer surge of protests, which flared in the southern industrial hub of Zengcheng over the weekend, has been linked to a range of frustrations with modern China - furies that have drawn the government into crackdowns on activism and massive increases in the domestic security budget.
More than 1000 migrant workers went on the rampage in Zengcheng after a pregnant street vendor in her 20s was roughed up by security guards. Such incidents, while distressing, are not uncommon. Witnesses said that the centre of town was bedlam, with smashed windows, blazing police vehicles and teargas explosions as rioters hurled missiles at an official building. One bank worker blogged that the Bank of China had ordered an immediate halt to all ATM transactions.In central Hubei province armoured cars were used last week to quell a riot over the death of Ran Jianxin, an official who had led the fight against corruption in the town of Lichuan but died mysteriously in police custody.
The protests followed bomb attacks on government facilities in two other cities in the past three weeks, and ethnic unrest in the northern region of Inner Mongolia last month. (read more)
Mayor Rahm Emanuel chaired his first Public Building Commission meeting on Tuesday and joined his fellow members in adding three potential terrorist targets to the city’s surveillance network: the Board of Trade, the Federal Reserve and the AT&T switching center.
All three are located in Chicago’s financial nerve center. But, they apparently constituted gaping holes in Chicago’s camera network.
“It’s necessary. They’re key buildings. They were not a part of the network. The fiber had already been laid. I don’t know if I’d use the word weird or strange. But, if you’ve laid the fiber and you have key pieces of critical national security … that don’t have the cameras,” they should be added, Emanuel said.
“Work’s been done. We should complete it because it’s identified as important in the Homeland Security reports. ... The camera network is a part of security and safety for the city.”
During the meeting, Erin Lavin Cabonargi, executive director of the Public Building Commission, disclosed that the commission has already installed 3,300 surveillance cameras at key government buildings and other potential terrorist targets. (read more)
The TSA, in alliance with a whole host of federal, state, local agencies as well as military personnel, is currently conducting a massive “security exercise” throughout Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia.
“The participating teams are composed of a variety of TSA assets including federal air marshals, canine teams, inspectors and bomb appraisal officers. They will be joined by state and local law enforcement officials to supplement existing resources, provide detection and response capabilities. The exercise will utilize multiple airborne assets, including Blackhawk helicopters and fixed wing aircraft as well as waterborne and surface teams,” reports the Marietta Times.
Although the exercise is couched in serious rhetoric about preparedness, it relates to “no specific threat” and the details are nebulous to say the least and seems to revolve around little else than testing out high-tech surveillance equipment and reminding Americans who their bosses are.
“In addition to using three helicopters for aerial inspection, the exercise made use of the Ohio Highway Patrol’s camera-equipped Cessna Caravan, which is capable of transmitting close-up, detailed real-time images of objects on the ground taken from more than five miles away,” reports the Charleston Gazette.
The exercise seems to be about little more than a show of force by the TSA in light of a massive resistance against their agenda, particularly in Texas where a recent bill that would have banned invasive TSA grope downs almost passed and is set to be up for debate again. (read more)
When diplomatic relations between the Communist neighbours were restored in the 1990s, shooting was prohibited, he says, but, as China’s economic and military might has grown over the past decade, strains over contested islands in the South China Sea have been on the rise again.“They’re so big and we’re so small, so what can we do?” asks 50-year-old Mr De, who works as a security guard at a memorial to Vietnamese and Russian soldiers who lost their lives in the Spratly Islands and at the nearby naval and air base at Cam Ranh Bay in south-central Vietnam.
The historic military facility, located within one of Asia’s best natural harbours, is at the centre of a strategic push from Vietnam to counter China’s growing assertiveness over disputed waters in the commercially important South China Sea.
Nestled between soaring mountains and the South China Sea near Nha Trang, a popular resort city in south-central Vietnam, Cam Ranh Bay is one of Asia’s best natural, deepwater harbours.
In the 19th century, French colonial authorities constructed the first modern naval base in the vast bay, which extends for 20 miles north-south and is up to 10 miles wide.
France upgraded the military facilities before Japan invaded Indochina in 1940 and the Japanese then took advantage of the base to launch military sorties.
As the US assistance to the anti-communist southern Vietnamese regime developed into a combat role, the Republic of Vietnam offered Cam Ranh Bay to the US in 1965.
The US handed the base back to the Republic of Vietnam in 1972 under President Richard Nixon’s so-called Vietnamisation programme but communist forces seized the bay in 1975, the year they won the war.
The Soviet Union, a key ally of Vietnam, then pressed for access to the base and in 1979, was given a 25-year lease. The Russians moved out in 2002.
Today, the bay houses Vietnam’s small navy, while the air strip is the main access point for nearby Nha Trang.
Cam Ranh Bay became a potent cold war symbol, first as an American base during the war with Communist North Vietnam, and then as a Soviet base after 1979, hosting nuclear submarines and one of the most important spying stations outside Russia.
When the Russians finally pulled out in 2002, Hanoi vowed never to let any foreign power have control of the facility. But, last year, Nguyen Tan Dung, Vietnam’s prime minister, said he would let foreign naval ships use the base again to dock, resupply and undergo repairs on a commercial basis. (read more)
Flooding in southern China has prompted more than 55-thousand people to leave their homes, according to a state-run media report Wednesday. So far this month more than 170 lost their lives as a result.
The rains lashed Jiangxi, Anhui and Zhejiang provinces and more than 53-thousand people have been evacuated from their homes in Hubei's Xianning City, when heavy rainfall raised the level of a local river by five meters.
In Chongqing, floodwaters raged through small towns, forcing many residents to seek higher and drier ground.
The rain is expected to last until Friday in some regions. Source
Tens of thousands of protesters had vowed to form a human shield around the Greek Parliament to prevent lawmakers from debating new austerity measures Wednesday afternoon.
"This is a joke. It is all a joke," protester Christos Miliadakis, 35, said of the government plans.
"When will we be able to get out of this vicious circle? My wife lost her job. I had a 12% pay cut as a result of the first bailout. The new measures want to cut another 20% of jobs in the public sector," he said. "So if no one has money and we are just more in debt, who is going to drive the economy? We will live like slaves paying all our lives."
Architecture student Maria Iliadi, 23, said that for people like her, "the future in this country has been erased. There will be no big public projects and no one will be building for a long time. Some times finishing my degree seems totally pointless."
Between 25,000 and 27,000 demonstrators were on the streets of the capital by the middle of the day, police said. Two policemen and four civilians were mildly injured and 12 people were arrested, they said. (read more)
Does Justin Timberlake smoke pot? 'Absolutely' -- Yet another failed role model established for our children
"None of it’s true, so I shouldn’t even dignify it with an answer," he says of the Internet rumors about his love life."The thing is, I’m not going to sacrifice my friendships with people who are my co-stars...I’m not going to avoid spending time with people because someone who doesn’t know me makes assumptions about what’s going on. That’s bulls--. My life is not on the internet.”
Of course, one of those supposed relationships was happening with his "Friends With Benefits" co-star Mila Kunis, an affair they've both denied. But about his sex scenes with Kunis?
Timberlake tells Playboy, “I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t completely awkward. I couldn’t tell you the number of people in the crew watching me and my bare a–, but it was a lot."
With all of that awkwardness, it’s no wonder Timberlake sometimes feels the need to mellow out once in a while. On whether he’s a pot smoker, Timberlake answered, “absolutely.”
“The only thing pot does for me is it gets me to stop thinking,” Timberlake says. “Sometimes I have a brain that needs to be turned off. Some people are just better high.” (read more)
Nearly 2,000 people have been evacuated from their homes and the State Emergency Service (SES) says at least 10,000 people are isolated by floodwaters.
The State Government says the floods have caused millions of dollars worth of damage already, and it has declared disaster areas in the worst-hit places.
The wild weather buffeting the region is gradually moving south, with the focus now on the Port Macquarie and Manning areas.
SES spokeswoman Stefanie Heard says the main concern overnight is the Taree area, where residents have also been ordered to evacuate from low-lying areas around Taree and Wingham.
"The BOM has predicted a flood level of around 4.3 metres for the Taree Bridge Gorge at around 3am this morning," she said.
The SES says the Manning River is likely to flood homes and businesses when it peaks there.
Ms Heard says the torrential rain causing the flooding is expected to ease, but it will still be a nervous wait for many residents.
"Heavy rain is still possible for the Hunter and the mid-north coast tonight and with the rain easing tomorrow," she said.
Early Wednesday a man was killed when his car was crushed by a tree brought down by the heavy weather at Hillville, south-west of Taree.
Officials have also urged motorists not to drive through floodwaters after rescuing three people when their car was swept from a roadway at nearby Wherrol Flat.
Oxley SES spokesman Peter Floyd says the Hastings River at Port Macquarie's Settlement Point is expected to rise with Wednesday night's high tide and local residents there have also been ordered to evacuate.
"With the flood peak tonight, there could be some inundation depending how high it goes, but everybody is aware of that and we will be watching that very carefully," he said.
"We do have approximately 10,000 people isolated because of the floodwaters so we may get some resupply issues in the coming days." Read More
Anti Janice Hahn Video by Turn Right USA: Is this the most racist and sexist political ad ever? - 15th June 2011
What is being deemed as the most outrageously sexist and racist ad in political history is being slammed by Democratic leaders after it was released on YouTube.
The video, which was made by Turn Right America, portrays Los Angeles City Councilwoman Janice Hahn, a Democrat, as friendly to gang members.
The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee have called on businessman Craig Huey, Hahn's Republican opponent in a July 12 special election for an open congressional seat, to condemn the video and demand that TRA take it down.
A statement released by his office said: 'The Internet video in question is inappropriate, highly offensive and has no connection whatsoever to the Craig Huey campaign.'
He also said that the campaign doesn't know the makers, and described them as 'very fringe'.
The video portrays Hahn with red eyes and uses pole dancers with money sticking out of their underwear to accompany its hip-hop-style message. Read More
'The recession just outlasted us': Company town will cease to exist after falling victim to economic slump - 15th June 2011
The mining town of Empire in Nevada, about 100 miles northeast of Reno in the Black Rock Desert, was created in 1923.
But from June 20, it will simply cease to exist, its 300 inhabitants will no longer live there, the ZIP code won't even exist any more.
In fact the only thing remaining of the town, which was once home to the United States Gypsum Corporation, will be an eight-foot chain-link fence crowned with barbed wire sealing off the 136-acre plot and a sign saying Welcome to Nowhere - which has never proven so true.
Empire was a company town, completely built around the USG, which is the nation's largest drywall manufacturer.
According to the Christian Science Monitor, the town of Empire had all it needed for its tiny population to survive - four dusty streets lined with cottonwoods, elms, and silver poplars, dozens of low-slung houses, a community hall, a swimming pool, a cracked tennis court, and a nine-hole golf course called Burning Sands.
The residents of Empire were told just before Christmas that the town was to be no more, when 92 workers were told that, not only did they not have jobs, but they no longer had houses. Read More
'You are violating the law': Boehner warns Obama he doesn't have legal right to be involved in Libya conflict - 15th June 2011
President Barack Obama has been warned he will be violating the War Powers Resolution unless he seeks permission from Congress for its involvement in the NATO operation - or withdraws the U.S. from the mission.
This is because President Obama has not sought congressional consent for the operation within 60 days of the first air strikes against Gaddafi's forces on March 19.
It comes as Nato refused to rule out bombing Libya's ancient Roman Leptis Magna ruins, a Senate resolution supporting the entire operation was left in limbo and rumours on the ground indicated Gaddafi was 'losing support every day' in his stronghold of Tripoli.
The leader of the U.S. House of Representatives, Speaker John Boehner, has written to President Obama urging him to explain the legal grounds for the continued U.S. military involvement.
He said that, come this weekend, the White House will 'clearly' be in violation of the 1973 War Powers Act.
The Act states the President is supposed to halt military involvement if Congress has not formally approved it within 60 days. Read More
Schoolboy, 11, raped nine-year-old disabled boy after council ignored warnings he was a danger to others - 15th June 2011
The sickening attack came just 13 days after a child psychiatrist had written the second of two letters urging them to take immediate action.
Despite the warnings, social workers chose to do nothing and instead the disturbed youngster, now aged 13, was free to rape his defenceless victim.
A damning report published today condemned the horrifying catalogue of failings and concluded that the attack was entirely preventable.
The serious case review concluded that Sunderland City Council had ‘consistently’ failed in their duties and had paid little, or no attention, to the repeated warnings about Child X.
It said: ‘The lessons to be drawn from this serious case review for Sunderland Children’s Services Social Care are significant and extensive.
‘They consistently failed in their statutory duties to safeguard Child X.
‘Mental health services were involved and latterly made representation to Sunderland Children’s Services Social Care.
‘Unfortunately these were not listened to or acted upon before a serious offence took place.’
The boy, who cannot be named for legal reasons, carried out the sickening attack on June 8, 2009, after luring his disabled victim to his bedroom with the promise of Pokemon games.
Once inside the room the boy carried out a 15-second attack, ignoring the pleas of his victims for him to stop.
His victim then went home and told his mother who called the police.
Sentencing him to four-and-a-half-years' detention in November 2009 the judge at Newcastle Crown Court said the crime could have been avoided if Sunderland social services had heeded Dr Stephen Westgarth’s warnings.
The psychiatrist first wrote to them on March 23 that year, then on May 26, but received no reply. Read More
Rest of Europe set to spend billions more on bail-out and STILL the Greeks aren't happy: Protesters hurl yoghurt in Athens - 15th June 2011
A 24-hour general strike saw thousands of anti-austerity protesters descend on Syntagma Square, Athens, to demonstrate against potential tax hikes and cuts.
It comes after the European Commission revealed Britain and other eurozone governments could be forced to bail out the country again with an extra £17.6billion to avert economic meltdown.
The European Commission briefing paper has warned that the extra money is needed to recapitalise Greek banks to allow Athens time to cope with debt crisis.
The news comes after Greece was given the lowest sovereign debt rating in the world, 'CCC', by rating agency Standard & Poor's.
A further cash reserve could also be needed for emergency bank liquidity if the European Central Bank refuses to accept downgraded government bonds as collateral.
But critics, led by Europe's central bankers, have warned the German debt exchange plan could provoke a risk of default.
Christian Noyer, Bank of France governor, told CNN: 'If despite everything you try to reduce the debt and you provoke a risk of default, you'll have to finance the entire Greek economy.'
Mario Draghi, incoming European Central Bank president, said: 'All in all, the costs seem to outweigh the benefits.'
Any decision to fund another bail out will prove very unpopular across the rest of Europe. Read More
Are we on the verge of the science-fiction Holy Grail? Researchers 'one step closer' to finding out why matter dominates the universe 15th June 2011
An international team working in Japan has discovered that three of the most basic particles in existence can ‘flip’ into each other.
The research is only preliminary as it was halted by the Fukushima earthquake, but if proved correct will be a breakthrough in understanding the cosmos.
In particular, it will address the question of why the universe is made up of matter and not anti-matter - equal amounts of both were unleashed by the Big Bang.
The experiment by the team at the huge T2K particle detector in Japan involved neutrinos, the most basic parts of matter.
They come in three ‘flavours’ - electron neutrinos, tau neutrinos and muon neutrinos - but are very hard to study because they barely interact with other particles, earning them the nickname ‘ghost particles’.
Previous experiments had observed two kinds of ‘flipping’, where the neutrinos suddenly turn into each other, but now T2K has identified a third.
This involved a muon neutrino turning into an electron neutrino, the first time such a transformation had been recorded.
It raises the possibility that neutrinos - and matter in general - have different qualities to them than anti-neutrinos.
Such differences may one day help explain why it is matter which makes up our universe and not anti-matter. Read More
Police release photofit of English-speaking Ikea bomber after four attacks across Europe - 15th June 2011
Police have launched an international manhunt as they try to trace the English-speaking man.
Officers fear the attacks are linked - and could be in revenge for the far-right past of Ikea's founder Ingvar Kamprad.
German police released the e-fit of the suspected bomber after an attack on a crowded Ikea store in the eastern city of Dresden on Friday night.
Two people were injured after an explosion, which was set off by a mobile phone, in the kitchenware department.
Ikea stores in Lille, northern France, Eindhoven, souther Holland, and Gent, in north-west Belgium, were all targeted on May 31.
Two people were injured in the blasts that were set off by alarm clocks and reportedly caused minor damage.
German police said it wanted to speak to a short, blond-haired man, wearing a baseball cap and sunglasses, who left the Dresden store shortly before the incident.
No-one has claimed responsibility for the attacks, but it is thought they could be in revenge for the far-right past of Ikea's founder Ingvar Kamprad.
Kamprad was a member of a Nazi-style party during the Second World War. But he later said it was a part of his life 'he bitterly regretted'.
Dresden prosecutor Lorenz Hase said: 'There are no firm leads as yet. Read More
Earth facing a mini-Ice Age 'within ten years' due to rare drop in sunspot activity - 15th June 2011
A decrease in global warming might result in the years after 2020, the approximate time when sunspots are expected to disappear for years, maybe even decades.
While the effects of a calmer sun are mostly good - there'd be fewer disruptions of satellites and power systems - it could see a sharp turnaround in global warming.
An absence of sunspots is not an unprecedented situation. It has happened before, but not since the early 18th century.
Lead researcher Frank Hill, of the National Solar Observatory, said: 'The solar cycle is maybe going into hiatus, sort of like a summertime TV show.'
While scientists don't know why the sun is going quiet, all the signs are that it will.
Dr Hill and his team have based their prediction on three changes in the sun spotted by scientific teams - weakening sunspots; fewer streams spewing from the poles of the sun's corona; and a disappearing solar jet stream.
Dr Richard Altrock, the study's co-author and an astrophysicist at the Air Force Research Laboratory, said these three cues show that 'there's a good possibility that the sun could be going into some sort of state from which it takes a long time to recover'.
Their prediction is specifically aimed at the solar cycle starting in 2020.
Experts say the sun has already been unusually quiet for about four years with few sunspots - higher magnetic areas that appear as dark spots.
The enormous magnetic field of the sun dictates the solar cycle, which includes sunspots, solar wind and ejection of fast-moving particles that sometimes hit Earth.
At peak times, like 2001, there are sunspots every day and more frequent solar flares and storms that could disrupt satellites.
Earlier this month, David Hathaway, Nasa's top solar storm scientist, predicted that the current cycle, which started around 2009, will be the weakest in a century.
Mr Altrock also thinks the current cycle won't have much solar activity, after tracking streamers from the solar corona, the sun's outer atmosphere seen during eclipses.
The streamers normally become busy around the sun's poles a few years before peak solar storm activity.
That 'rush to the poles' would have happened by now, but it hasn't and there's no sign of it yet. That also means the cycle after that is uncertain, he said.
Matt Penn of the National Solar Observatory, another study co-author, said sunspot magnetic fields have been steadily decreasing in strength since 1998.
If they continue on the current pace, their magnetic fields will be too weak to become spots as of 2022 or so, he said.
Jet streams on the sun's surface and below are also early indicators of solar storm activity, and they have not formed yet for the 2020 cycle. That indicates that there will be little or delayed activity in that cycle, said Hill, who tracks jet streams.
There are questions about what this means for Earth's climate. Three times in the past the regular 11-year solar cycle has gone on an extended vacation - at the same time as cool periods on Earth.
Sceptics of man-made global warming from the burning of fossil fuels have often pointed to solar radiation as a possible cause of a warming Earth, but they are in the minority among scientists.
Earth has warmed as solar activity has decreased.
Mr Hill and his colleagues wouldn't discuss the effects of a quiet sun on temperature or global warming.
'If our predictions are true, we'll have a wonderful experiment that will determine whether the sun has any effect on global warming,' he said. Source
The safety of deep pools used to store used radioactive fuel at nuclear plants has been an issue since the accident at Japan's Fukushima nuclear plant in March. If the cooling water a pool is lost, the used nuclear fuel could catch fire and release radiation.
As ProPublica reported earlier, fire safety is a continuing concern at the country's 104 commercial reactors, as is the volume of spent fuel piling up at plants.
Officials at Fort Calhoun said the situation at their plant came nowhere near to Fukushima's. They said it would have taken 88 hours for the heat produced by the fuel to boil away the cooling water.
Workers restored cooling in about 90 minutes, and plant officials said the temperature in the pool only increased by two degrees.
The fire, reported at 9:30 a.m., led to the loss of electrical power for the system that circulates cooling water through the spent fuel pool, according to a report from the Nuclear Regulatory Commission. A chemical fire suppression system discharged, and the plant's fire brigade cleared smoke from the room and reported that the fire was out at 10:20 a.m., the NRC said.
Mike Jones, a spokesman for the plant's owner, the Omaha Public Power District, said Fort Calhoun has a backup pump to provide water to the spent fuel in case the main system is lost. That pump, which runs on a separate power supply from the rest of the plant, was inspected and standing by on Tuesday, but plant operators restored main power to the pool before the emergency pump was needed, he said.
Fort Calhoun's single reactor has been shut down since April for refueling. The plant had already been operating under a heightened level of alert because of nearby flooding on the Missouri River, the NRC said. The cause of the fire remained under investigation this morning. Source
A German-inspired plan to reschedule Greek debt could force eurozone governments to provide up to an extra €20bn ($29 billion) to avoid a meltdown of its financial sector, European finance ministers have been warned.
A briefing paper circulated by the European Commission, and seen by the Financial Times, warned the extra money may be needed to recapitalise Greek banks following a proposed maturity extension of Greek government bonds, which would be classified by rating agencies as a "selective default".
A further cash reserve may be required for emergency Greek bank liquidity if the European Central Bank refuses to accept downgraded bonds as collateral. Ministers have been told all the Greek collateral -- some €70bn -- might have to be replaced.
Opponents of Greek default, led by Europe's central bankers, warned of the German debt exchange plan's drawbacks.
"If despite everything you try to reduce the debt and you provoke a risk of default, you'll have to finance the entire Greek economy," said Christian Noyer, Bank of France governor. (read more)
The agency said as credit becomes more restricted there was a possibility of a downturn in the sector.
The news comes as latest data showed that foreign direct investment (FDI) in to China slowed down in May.
Rising property prices have become a hot political issue in China.
Beijing has been trying to rein in lending in an attempt to control surging property prices.
On Tuesday, China's central bank raised the reserve requirement ratio for the banks to a record high of 21.5%, effectively reducing the amount of cash that they can lend.
Government figures also showed that Chinese banks made fewer loans in May compared to April.
The agency said that all these measure are likely to hit the sector hard.
"We're likely to see more negative rating actions in the next six to 12 months," said Standard & Poor's credit analyst Bei Fu.
"Tightened onshore credit conditions and increasingly restrictive government policy have deepened the market downturn," Ms Fu added.
While authorities have been working towards restricting domestic credit, the rise in foreign investment in China has also slowed. (read more)
The body of Obede Loyla Souza was found in dense forest close to his home in the northern state of Para.
The 31-year-old had argued with illegal loggers in the area, the Catholic Church's Pastoral Land Commission said.
Violence in the Amazon prompted the Brazilian government last month to offer more protection for activists.
Police believe Mr Souza was killed last week, but news of his death was only confirmed on Tuesday.
He was found close to his home in a settlement for landless rural workers near the town of Pacaja. (read more)
Northern forces are accused of targeting the area's pro-southern groups, as oil-rich South Sudan prepares for independence next month.
US President Barak Obama has called for a ceasefire following the upsurge of fighting, to prevent a return to the two-decade north-south civil war.
A local rights group said Khartoum's campaign has killed about 65 people.
Khartoum was pursuing a genocidal campaign in South Kordofan, the Sudan Democracy First Group said, AFP news agency reports.
But a spokesman for the Sudanese embassy in London, Ibrahim Mubarak, said pro-south militias were responsible for the conflict.
"They are not disciplined. They attacked UN forces and Sudanese army forces and instigated the whole situation," he told the BBC's Network Africa programme.The UN humanitarian agency, Ocha, said 11 areas were affected by the violence, forcing many people to hide in mountainous areas.
"There is a growing sense of panic among some of the displaced populations who find themselves trapped by the ongoing violence and ethnic fault lines," it added.
Sudanese fighter jets dropped 11 bombs in the areas of Kadugli and Kauda early on Wednesday, apparently targeting an airfield, a UN observer mission spokesman in Sudan, Kouider Zerrouk, told AFP. (read more)
But all nuclear countries should carry out safety tests within a year, said Andre-Claude Lacoste.
The chairman of the French nuclear safety agency (ASN) was speaking at a forum in Paris organised by the OECD's Nuclear Energy Agency (NEA).
Regulators said international control of nuclear safety would be "difficult".
The forum follows a day of political discussions on nuclear safety organised by the French G8 presidency, and comes two weeks before ministers gather in Vienna for a week-long session at the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) that could set new international rules. (read more)
The Famine Early Warning Systems Network (Fewsnet) said areas of particular concern were in Ethiopia, Kenya and Somalia.
It said large-scale emergency assistance was urgently needed "to save lives and treat acute malnutrition" in the region.
It also stressed that the current humanitarian response was "inadequate".
In a statement, Fewsnet said the eastern Horn of Africa "has experienced two consecutive seasons of significantly below-average rainfall, resulting in one of the driest years since 1995".
It said that crops had failed and local cereal prices remained very high.
"This is the most severe food security emergency in the world today," the statement said.
In southern Ethiopia and some pastoral areas of Somalia, the agency said, "poor households are unable to access the basic food supplies needed for survival".
Fewsnet also said that recent nutrition surveys suggested that global acute malnutrition remained above 20% in the region, and more than seven million people needed humanitarian assistance. (read more)
A hundred years ago it was the likes of Rockefeller, Ford, Carnegie who were building the future.
With China closing in on America to become the world's biggest economy, the next century belongs to names like... Zong... Dai... Liu.
We had better get used to it.
As I read ever-more hyperbolic accounts of the Chinese economy, its impact on global trade, and the spending spree of its newly rich middle classes, I wanted to find out about the men and women who are leading this transformation.
I was not after the bosses in government and the Communist Party, although they are pulling the levers in their state-controlled society.
I was seeking the people behind the country's explosive economic growth - the top entrepreneurs.
They are the ones building world-beating companies, leading China's export success and creating new jobs by the million.
Thirty years ago the Party denounced entrepreneurs as: "self-employed traders and peddlars who cheat, embezzle, bribe and evade taxation." (read more)
The government added $5.3 trillion in new financial obligations in 2010, largely for retirement programs such as Medicare and Social Security. That brings to a record $61.6 trillion the total of financial promises not paid for.
This gap between spending commitments and revenue last year equals more than one-third of the nation's gross domestic product.
Medicare alone took on $1.8 trillion in new liabilities, more than the record deficit prompting heated debate between Congress and the White House over lifting the debt ceiling.
Social Security added $1.4 trillion in obligations, partly reflecting longer life expectancies. Federal and military retirement programs added more to the financial hole, too.
Corporations would be required to count these new liabilities when they are taken on — and report a big loss to shareholders. Unlike businesses, however, Congress postpones recording spending commitments until it writes a check.
The $61.6 trillion in unfunded obligations amounts to $534,000 per household. That's more than five times what Americans have borrowed for everything else — mortgages, car loans and other debt. It reflects the challenge as the number of retirees soars over the next 20 years and seniors try to collect on those spending promises. (read more)
Thousands of people have gathered on the parliament building's steps in Athens, creating a human shield to prevent lawmakers from entering the building.
Tear gas has been fired at crowds who have been chanting "Thieves, traitors!" and "Where did the money go?"
They have also thrown stones and yoghurt at police outside the assembly, where politicians were due to debate a five-year belt-tightening campaign meant to slash the budget deficit and save Greece from defaulting on its debt.
Around 5,000 officers, including hundreds of riot and motorcycle police, are on duty, using parked buses and crowd barriers to maintain control.
Sky correspondent Mike McCarthy, in Athens, said anarchists have been hurling bottles through hotel windows and furniture has been flying through the air.
The country's prime minister George Papandreou has been discussing the debt crisis with the president today.
Mr Papandreou is due to address the nation later.
The latest round of cuts comes as the government tries to woo additional bailout funds from international lenders, as the socialist Pasok government kicks off debate over the controversial austerity package.
It is unclear when the vote will be held. Read More
The epicenter was 33 km (20 miles) from Lazaro Cardenas, Baja California, Mexico
No reports of Damage
Hillary Clinton accuses Iran of assisting in Syria's bloody crackdown against pro-democracy campaigners - 15th June 2011
The US Secretary of State's comments come as Syrian government forces push into northern border towns in an attempt to snuff out any spontaneous local uprisings against president Bashar Assad's under-fire regime.
Thousands of Syrian citizens have now fled to the border with Turkey in an attempt to escape the violence.
Many of the refugees have reported that Iranian forces were taking part in last week's assault around the key town of Jisr al-Shughur.
In a statement, Mrs Clinton said: 'Iran is supporting the Assad regime's vicious assaults on peaceful protesters and military actions against its own cities.
'Two years ago this week, Iranian citizens went to the polls in the hopes of expressing their democratic rights.
'When the people reached for their aspirations, the government responded with brutal repression. Two years later, that repression continues.'
Tehran has strongly denied any involvement in Syria and have accused the United States and Israel of supporting 'terrorist' acts. Read More
Didn't get Olympics tickets? Well Britain's richest man was handed 5,000 – and even LIBYA received hundreds and they still claim it was Fair
Lakshmi Mittal, worth £29.8billion, has been allowed more than 5,000 top tickets to the forthcoming London games.
In a separate development, which could pose awkward diplomatic questions for the government, it has emerged that Libya has been allocated hundreds of tickets, which will be handed out by Colonel Muammar Gaddafi's son Muhammad al-Gaddafi.
Britain is currently part of Nato military action against Libya
In return for services provided to Games organisers, Mr Mittal has been handed 320 prime seats a day.
His company, ArcelorMittal, has agreed a deal which allows Games chiefs to rent out the Orbit Tower during the Games.
The firm said it was sensitive to public anger at missing out on tickets in the ballot.
A million applicants were left empty-handed and will be told next week when they can apply for the remaining tickets on a first-come-first-served basis.
The 115-metre Orbit Tower, commissioned by Mayor Boris Johnson and designed by Anish Kapoor, is in a prime spot between the stadium and aquatics centre, and has a restaurant and viewing platforms. Read More
The officials say the attacks happened on Wednesday near Wana, the main town in Pakistan's South Waziristan tribal area. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media.
The identities of those killed were unclear. South Waziristan was the main sanctuary for the Pakistani Taliban until the army launched a large ground offensive in 2009.
The U.S. does not publicly discuss drone strikes in Pakistan, but officials have said privately that they have killed several senior al-Qaida and Taliban commanders. Source
Britain forced to fund second Greek bailout as riot police brace for violent protests in Athens - 15th June 2011
Riot police have blocked off the entrance of the Greek Parliament in Athens this morning ahead of expected mass protests against austerity measures.
A 24-hour strike by the country's largest labour unions is set to cripple public services as Greece's socialist government attempts to push through last-ditch cost-cutting measures.
A European Commission briefing paper has warned that the extra money is needed to recapitalise Greek banks to allow Athens time to cope with debt crisis.
The news comes after Greece was given the lowest sovereign debt rating in the world, 'CCC', by rating agency Standard & Poor.
A further cash reserve could also be needed for emergency bank liquidity if the European Central Bank refuses to accept downgraded government bonds as collateral.
But critics, led by Europe's central bankers, have warned the German debt exchange plan could provoke a risk of default.
Christian Noyer, Bank of France governor, told CNN: 'If despite everything you try to reduce the debt and you provoke a risk of default, you'll have to finance the entire Greek economy.' Read More
Pakistan arrests informants who helped America kill Bin Laden by passing secret photos to the CIA - 15th June 2011
The group allegedly covertly photographed vehicles coming and going from the terror leader's Abbottabad compound in the weeks before he was shot dead.
A Pakistani army major is believed to be among the men being held for passing information to the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA).
The owner of a safe house rented to the CIA to observe Bin Laden's lair before the raid is another of the men arrested, a U.S. official said.
Al Qaeda leader Bin Laden, the world's most wanted man, was shot dead during a daring mission by U.S. Navy Seals on Pakistani territory on May 2 - just yards from a military academy.
The diplomatic fallout from the raid has led to a rapid decline in relations between America and Pakistan.
Officials said the arrests of the informants was just the latest evidence of the fractured relationship between the two nations.
The fate of the informants who were arrested by Pakistan's top military spy agency remains unclear, the New York Times said.
American officials said that CIA Director Leon Panetta raised the issue when he visited Islamabad last week to meet with Pakistani military and intelligence officers.
As relations cool, members of the U.S. Senate Intelligence Committee asked Michael Morell, the deputy CIA director, to rate Pakistan's cooperation with the United States on counterterrorism operations, on a scale of 1 to 10.
'Three,' Mr Morell replied, the New York Times said. Read More
The swab and blood tests of four persons from the affected villages were found positive on Monday. Even the blood samples and swabs sent for tests last week were found positive. The disease has so far affected 25 persons.
Meanwhile, health camps� have been opened in Badaguchuka and Sanaguchuka. The health officials informed that steps have been initiated to disinfect water bodies in the affected areas and the inhabitants have been asked not to consume dry meat.
Condition of the affected persons who were admitted to MKCG Medical College and Hospital is stated to be stable. Source