Friday, June 17, 2011

Lebanese PM sends in troops as Syrian situation sparks clashes

Lebanon dispatched troops Friday to quell clashes that arose in the city of Tripoli over the Syrian crisis.

Prime Minister Najib Mikati said on TV that Lebanese army reinforcements went to two neighborhoods to "put an end to what happened."

The clashes were between Lebanese Alawites who support the Syrian government and Sunni Muslims who oppose it. There also had been a large demonstration in Tripoli in support of the Syrian people.

The clashes in Tripoli killed one soldier and three civilians and injured two soldiers and 10 civilians, the army said. Lebanon's National News Agency said one of those killed was an official with the Democratic Arab Party, an Alawite entity.

"I asked the military and the security forces to impose the law and order in the city and strike with an iron fist," said Mikati, who noted that authorities are investigating.

"I am not accusing anyone. We don't know who started the clashes," he said. "The timing is suspicious, and the civil peace is a red line that no one can cross." (read more)

Why people stick by scandal-plagued pastors

The streets that were once choked with traffic are now bare. The church's sprawling parking lot is half full. Inside the stylish sanctuary, ushers sway to choir music in front of empty seats.

On a typical Sunday morning, New Birth Missionary Church in suburban Atlanta would be hopping. But on a recent Sunday, the sprawling church complex looked half-deserted and the mood seemed flat.

Six months after a sex scandal involving New Birth's senior pastor, Bishop Eddie Long, became public, the megachurch no longer packs them in. Yet there are loyalists, like C.D. Dixon, who have not joined the exodus.

"I come back to the church even more now because the word is more powerful," she said as she stood with a serene smile in the parking lot before a recent service.

Last fall, four young men accused Long of using his spiritual authority to pressure them into sexual relationships, charges that Long has vehemently denied. On Thursday, lawyers for the four men released a statement saying only that "the matter has been resolved." (read more)

"I lost my inheritance to the doomsday prophet! (Harold Camping and Family Radio)"

When the world didn't end on May 21, many people who had given up their earthly possessions were left with nothing.

But one believer never lived to see the day. She left nearly her entire estate - around $300,000 - to the group behind the failed prediction, leaving some family members out in the cold.

Eileen Heuwetter was shocked to find out that her aunt left the majority of her estate to Family Radio, the group responsible for the doomsday warnings that the world would end on May 21. She and her sister were each left $25,000 from their aunt's estate. The rest is going to Family Radio.

The network of Christian radio stations based in Oakland, Ca., is almost entirely funded by donations. According to IRS filings, the group brought in $18 million in contributions in 2009 alone. (read more)

Father locks son, Johan Knelsen, 21, in wooden box for two months



A Canadian man who kept his son locked in a box no bigger than a portaloo for eight weeks has been forced to release him by police.

Johan Knelsen, 21, was forced to live in the homemade wooden prison at his home in Santa Cruz, eastern Bolivia, as punishment for stealing three chickens.

Speaking from inside the wooden cage, Johan showed police the bottles he used to collect his urine during almost two months of incarceration.

David Knelsen, his Canadian father, told authorities that his son was mentally ill and had stolen livestock, while local media reported that the young man was punished for using a phone.

The family are Christian Mennonites, a denomination that follows a very strict interpretation the Bible and shuns the use of technology.

There are dozens of close-knit Mennonite communities in the lowlands of eastern Bolivia. (Source)

IMF: Debt-ridden eurozone countries 'playing with fire'

The International Monetary Fund (IMF) has cut its forecast for US economic growth, warning Washington and debt-ridden European countries that they are "playing with fire" unless they take immediate steps to reduce their budget deficits.

The IMF, in its latest assessment of global economic prospects, said that bigger threats to growth had emerged since its previous report in April, citing the euro zone debt crisis and signs of overheating in emerging market economies.

The global lender forecast that US gross domestic product would grow 2.5pc this year and 2.7pc in 2012, down from its forecast just two months ago of 2.8pc and 2.9pc respectively.

The outlook elsewhere was mixed. The IMF said it was slightly more optimistic about the euro area's growth prospects this year, raising its growth view for the euro area in 2011 to 2pc from 1.6pc. For 2012, the IMF saw growth at 1.7pc, slightly lower than its previous forecast of 1.8pc.

However, the IMF added that a lack of political leadership in dealing with the debt crisis and the budget showdown in the United States could create major financial volatility in coming months.

"You cannot afford to have a world economy where these important decisions are postponed because you're really playing with fire," said Jose Vinals, director of the IMF's monetary and capital markets department. (read more)

Syria shoots dead 18 as regime sacrifices Rami Makhlouf to win back public

Syrian forces shot dead at least 18 protesters yesterday as one of its most reviled figures gave up his business empire in an attempt to assuage public anger.

Security personnel used live fire to disperse protests in the country's two largest cities, Damascus and Aleppo, as demonstrators refused to be mollified by news that President Bashar al-Assad's brother-in-law had been forced to surrender control of much of his business empire.

Rami Makhlouf, who is thought to be Syria's richest man, announced he was giving much of his 40 per cent stake in Syriatel, the country's largest mobile telephone operator, to "the poor" and devoting himself to charity.

The tycoon is one of 13 powerful Syrians close to the regime that has been sanctioned by the EU, a punishment that reflects his role as one of the suspected architects of the brutal crackdown of the protests, during which more than 1,300 people are believed to have been killed.

"I will not allow myself to be a burden on Syria, its people and president from now on," Mr Makhlouf, 41, said during a press conference. "I will not engage in any projects that can generate personal gain and I will devote myself to charity and humanitarian work."

The move appeared to be an attempt by the regime to remove one of the principal targets of popular discontent. (read more)

Greek bail-out hopes rise after German retreat: And the can continues rolling down the street

Angela Merkel was forced to abandon Germany's tough stance on Greek debt amid warnings a failure to yield would trigger the eurozone's first-ever default.

With just days to go before the vital Brussels summit to agree the future of Greece, the German Chancellor agreed to back France and the European Central Bank (ECB) and ask bondholders to "voluntarily" roll-over their debts, rather than force a restructuring.

The concession came as Alan Greenspan warned a Greek default was "almost certain". Speaking in the US, the former boss of the Federal Reserve said the chance of Greece being unable to repay its debts was "so high that you almost have to say there's no way out".

The urgency led to Ms Merkel and President Nicolas Sarkozy swiftly announcing the result of their crisis talks in Berlin on Friday.

Although there were no details, the pair said they had agreed four principles: that any restructuring would be voluntary; it should not trigger a credit event in the financial markets; it should have the backing of the ECB; and that a deal should be reached quickly.

Mr Sarkozy welcomed Germany's retreat, calling it "a major breakthrough". He added there was "no time to lose" and appeared to suggest a deal should be reached by the end of next month. (read more)

Argentina calls Britain "a crude colonial power in decline" over Falklands issue



Cristina Kirchner, the president of Argentina, has accused David Cameron of "mediocrity bordering on stupidity" over the issue of the Falkland Islands.

The Argentine leader then went on to lambast Britain as "a crude colonial power in decline."

Amid renewed tensions over the sovereignty of the islands, the Prime Minister told the House of Commons on Wednesday that they should remain British for as long as the inhabitants want to "full stop, end of story."

His comments provoked a strong backlash in Argentina, where Mrs Kirchner has until the end of next week to confirm that she will run for a second term when the presidential election takes place in October this year.

Despite her refusal to announce her candidacy so far, it is almost universally assumed that she will run with her populist policies on issues such as the Falklands seen as key to maintaining her high approval ratings.

"In the 21st century, [Britain] continues to be a crude colonial power in decline, because colonialism is out-of-date as well as unjust," she said. (read more)

Weiner’s Pension, Benefits Could Top $1 Million -- This is how the corrupt are rewarded

While Rep. Anthony Weiner may no longer have the benefit of Congress’ generous health care plan once he resigns, he will still be able to collect his pension and other benefits that could total more than $1 million during his lifetime.

According to an analysis of his available benefits by the National Taxpayers Union, the New York Democrat’s pension and a savings plan lawmakers have access to similar to a 401(k) could be worth $1.12 million to $1.28 million.

At 46, Weiner will not be eligible for his pension for another decade, at which point he could begin drawing a reduced rate of $32,357 a year, according to NTU. If he waits until age 62 to begin drawing his pension, he will receive his full benefits, or $46,224, according to NTU’s calculations.

Additionally, if Weiner aggressively invested in the Thrift Savings Plan, his balance would be roughly $216,000, the organization said. (read more)

IMF cuts U.S. growth forecast, warns of crisis

The International Monetary Fund cut its forecast for U.S. economic growth on Friday and warned Washington and debt-ridden European countries that they are "playing with fire" unless they take immediate steps to reduce their budget deficits.

The IMF, in its regular assessment of global economic prospects, said bigger threats to growth had emerged since its previous report in April, citing the euro zone debt crisis and signs of overheating in emerging market economies.

The Washington-based global lender forecast that U.S. gross domestic product would grow a tepid 2.5 percent this year and 2.7 percent in 2012. In its forecast just two months ago, it had expected 2.8 percent and 2.9 percent growth, respectively.

Overall, the IMF slightly lowered its 2011 global growth forecast to 4.3 percent, down from 4.4 percent in April. Its forecast for 2012 growth remained unchanged at 4.5 percent.

The IMF said it was slightly more optimistic about the euro area's growth prospects this year, but a lack of political leadership in dealing with Europe's debt crisis and the wrangling over budget in the United States could create major financial volatility in coming months.

"You cannot afford to have a world economy where these important decisions are postponed because you're really playing with fire," said Jose Vinals, director of the IMF's monetary and capital markets department.

"We have now entered very clearly into a new phase of the (global) crisis, which is, I would say, the political phase of the crisis," he said in an interview in Sao Paulo, where the updates to the IMF's World Economic Outlook and Global Financial Stability Report were published. (read more)

China stages military drills in South China Sea as tensions mount to dangerous levels

China is staging three days of military exercises in the South China Sea and plans to boost its offshore maritime patrol force, state media said, as tensions with its neighbours simmer.

China has competing claims with Taiwan, Vietnam, the Philippines, Malaysia and Brunei over potentially resource-rich areas in the South China Sea which have flared in recent weeks.

Beijing has pledged it will not resort to force to resolve the lingering maritime territorial disputes, after the Philippines this week sought help from the United States and Vietnam staged live-fire military exercises.

According to the Global Times, 14 Chinese navy vessels recently staged drills in waters near China's southern tropical island of Hainan, including anti-submarine manoeuvres and the beach landing of troops.

The exercises in the South China Sea were aimed at "defending atolls and protecting sea lanes," reports said.

The China Maritime Surveillance force meanwhile will be bolstered from the current staff of 9,000 to 15,000 personnel by 2020, the China Daily reported.

The force falls under the State Oceanic Administration, an agency that supervises China's coastline and territorial waters.

The patrol fleet will have 350 vessels by 2015 and 520 by 2020, the report said, citing an unnamed senior China Maritime Surveillance official. It will also have 16 planes by 2015.

Disputes at sea between China and other countries have been on the rise, a State Oceanic Administration report said last month. (read more)

China said Thursday it had dispatched a maritime patrol vessel to disputed South China Sea waters but insisted it was committed to peace in the region.

Japan: New Tsunami Video Surfaces

10,000 Detroit Public Schools employees getting layoff notices

All 10,000 Detroit Public Schools employees are getting layoff notices as the financially troubled district faces continued budget problems.

District spokesman Steve Wasko tells the Detroit Free Press for a story published Friday that the move will allow "maximum flexibility for staffing."

Roy Roberts, the district's state-appointed emergency financial manager, is working to trim a $327 million budget deficit.

The layoffs are effective July 29, the last day of summer school, and were expected. In April, the district said 5,500 teachers would get layoff notices.

It isn't known how many will be recalled. The 2011-12 school year starts Sept. 6. (Source)

Kids Lemonade Stand At U.S. Open Fined $500 And Shut Down By Montgomery County



You can make a fortune selling parking spots outside the US Open, but don't even dream of setting up a lemonade stand.

A county inspector ordered the Marriott and Augustine kids to shut down the stand they set up on Persimmon Tree Rd., right next to Congressional. And after they allegedly ignored a couple of warnings, the inspector fined their parents $500.

"This gentleman from the county is now telling us because we don't have a vendors license, the kids won't be allowed to sell their lemonade," Carrie Marriott told us, her voice trembling.

The kids can't seem to understand it. "I don't agree, I think the county is wrong." "We're sending the money to charity." (read more)

Press Conference Marks 40th Anniversary of Nixon Drug War Declaration -- And reminds us of its complete failure

Forty years ago Friday, President Richard Nixon officially declared "war on drugs," citing drug abuse as "public enemy No. 1." Now, forty years, a trillion dollars, and millions of ruined lives later, drug reformers are mobilizing for a day of rallies, vigils, and other actions in towns and cities across the country. Most of the actions are set for Friday and are being organized by the Drug Policy Alliance (DPA) in conjunction with other national and local drug reform and social justice groups.

"Some anniversaries provide an occasion for celebration, others a time for reflection, still others a time for action," said Ethan Nadelmann, executive director of the Drug Policy Alliance. "Forty years after President Nixon declared his war on drugs, we're seizing upon this anniversary to prompt both reflection and action. And we're asking everyone who harbors reservations about the war on drugs -- to join us in this enterprise," he said.

"The objective is to work with legislators who dare to raise the important questions, by organizing public forums and online communities where citizens can take action. We are enlisting unprecedented numbers of powerful and distinguished individuals to voice their dissent publicly, and organizing in cities and states to instigate new dialogues and directions in local policies," Nadelmann added. (read more)

China's Renminbi: Growing clout of a currency

IN the next three to five years the Chinese renminbi (RMB) could become the global reserve currency, especially if the Chinese government pilot programs in RMB cross-border trade settlements are expanded right across the country, says HSBC's head of trade and supply chain, Andrew Skinner.

According to a China-first survey by HSBC of 1300 companies in 18 leading Chinese cities, 80 per cent of businesses not conducting their cross-border trade in RMB are planning to do so.

Unfortunately, Australian business lags behind when it comes to conducting business in RMB, with a recent trade confidence survey indicating just 6 per cent of Australian traders expect to use the RMB to settle trade in the next six months.

However, the RMB has emerged as a top-three trade settlement currency in the next six months among traders overall, led by traders in greater China, the Middle East and Southeast Asia, overtaking the pound sterling for the first time.

The HSBC Trade Confidence Index is the world's largest trade confidence survey, covering 21 markets, including key economies in the Asia-Pacific region, Middle East and North Africa, Latin America, North America and Europe. The latest survey comprises six-month views of 6390 exporters, importers and traders from small and mid-market enterprises.

"Companies need to look at the investment opportunities when they deal in RMB," Skinner says. "Australian businesses will make fundamental gains simply because they will be saving 5 to 7 per cent in foreign exchange costs.

"Furthermore, there's the diversification issue -- with more Chinese companies dealing in RMB, Australian businesses will have more choice." (read more)

Nearly $1bn has disappeared from Kabul Bank in mysterious insider loans; ruined economy, yet no charges

As he saunters into the shisha bar atop one of Kabul's most exclusive hotels, the man accused of rivalling only the Taliban in terms of the damage he has done to Afghanistan does not seem particularly haunted by his actions. Nor does he seem worried that he might have to answer for his role in what is, in relative terms given Afghanistan's tiny economy, the biggest bank collapse in history.

Khalilullah Ferozi, supposedly under house arrest, settles into a seat and orders a shisha and several plates of rice and kebab. On his wrist sits a diamond-studded watch. As he talks, getting animated, a steady spray of half-masticated kebab flies across the table.

Ferozi, a pillar of the Afghan business establishment, lost his job as chief executive of Kabul Bank last year after the Afghan Central Bank belatedly realised he had been in effect running it, along with the bank's former chairman, Sherkhan Farnood, as a giant pyramid scheme. Yet none of the other well-heeled diners at the shisha bar, largely members of Afghanistan's post-2001 nouveau riche, bat an eyelid. Nobody seems disturbed by the presence of a man who helped drain the savings of thousands of depositors totalling $579m (£359m) in a binge of insider lending by the bank's politically powerful shareholders. Because there was never any obligation to pay any interest on these "loans", the total unaccounted sum is $910m. In a country where GDP is just $12bn, that is an extraordinary figure.

The fallout has been immensely damaging as Afghanistan heads towards 2014, when the foreign presence in the country is to be dramatically reduced. One of the world's poorest nations, Afghanistan has to finance a $820m bailout of the bank and the ministry of finance is ramping up its tax collection efforts to pay for it. Public confidence in the banking system, non-existent under the Taliban, has been shattered – 24,000 safes were sold during the run on the bank last summer, as people hoarded cash at home. Of all the problems in Afghanistan the role of people close to the president, Hamid Karzai, in the scandal has soured support for the war in the US Congress. Foreign donors are refusing to make aid payments until the mess is cleared up to the satisfaction of the International Monetary Fund. If a deal isn't reached soon, the Afghan government will, within a month or so, struggle to pay civil servant salaries. (read more)

Western debt explosion

On December 15, 2010, in the GEAB N°50, LEAP/E2020 anticipated the explosion of Western government debt (1) in the second half of 2011. We were then describing a process that would start with the European government debt crisis and then set fire to the heart of the global financial system, namely US federal debt (2). And here we are with this issue at the start of the second half of 2011, with a global economy in complete disarray (3), an increasingly unstable global monetary system (4) and financial centres in desperate straits (5), all this despite the thousands of billions of public money invested to avoid precisely this type of situation. The insolvency of the global financial system, and of the Western financial system in the first place, returns again to the front of the stage after just over a year of political cosmetics aimed at burying this fundamental problem under truckloads of cash.

We estimated in 2009 that the world had about 30 trillion USD in ghost assets. Almost half went up in smoke in the six months between September 2008 and March 2009. For our team, it's now the other half’s turn, the 15 trillion USD of ghost assets remaining, purely and simply vanishing between July 2011 and January 2012. And this time, it will also involve government debt, unlike 2008/2009 where it was mostly private players who were affected. To gauge the extent of the coming shock, it is worth knowing that even US banks are starting to reduce their use of US Treasury Bonds to guarantee their transactions for fear of the increasing risks weighing on US government debt (6).

For the financial world’s players, the Autumn 2011 shock will literally be the ground giving way beneath their feet, since it’s really the foundation of the global financial system, the US Treasury Bond, which will plunge sharply (7). (read more)

'Nepal's Stolen Children' -- The CNN Freedom Project, Ending Modern Slavery

NEPAL’S STOLEN CHILDREN: A CNN Freedom Project Documentary

Actress Demi Moore partners with CNN Freedom Project for a compelling documentary. A passionate advocate for victims of human trafficking herself, Moore travels to Nepal to meet 2010 CNN Hero of the Year Anuradha Koirala and some of the thousands of women and girls Koirala’s organization has rescued from forced prostitution. How were they taken and where were they sent? Hear the emotional, first-hand experiences of these young survivors. And follow along with Moore as she searches for answers in the fight to end this form of modern-day slavery.

WORLD PREMIERE

Sunday, June 26

Hong Kong 20:00
London 20:00
Berlin/Johannesburg 20:00
Abu Dhabi 22:00
New York/Miami 8 PM
Mexico City 7 PM
Los Angeles 8 PM

Senator Chris Harris: “Why Aren’t You Speaking English?”



During committee testimony this week in Austin, a Texas senator interrupted a Spanish speaker and telling him he should "be speaking in English" during a committee hearing.

Antolin Aguirre of the Austin Immigrant Rights Coalition was testifying against Senate Bill 9 that would help crack down on illegal immigrants in Texas. Aguirre spoke through an interpreter even though he had been in the U.S. since 1988.

Two minutes into Antolin Aguirre’s testimony, Sen. Chris Harris, a Republican from Arlington, interrupted asking Aguirre’s interrupter, "Did I understand him correctly that he has been here since 1988?" Harris asked. "Why aren’t you speaking in English then?" (read more)

Nuclear commission: U.S. reactors are safe (but please ignore the level 4 distress at Nebraska!)

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission told Congress on Thursday that the likelihood of a Fukushimi Daiichi-type event in the United States is "very, very small." However, it said an ongoing study of the Japanese disaster will probably lead to changes to increase safety at the nation's 104 commercial power plants.

The commission said, in a nutshell, it expects to require nuclear plants to be prepared for bigger natural disasters, to survive longer power outages and to consider the possibility of simultaneous disasters affecting multiple reactors, as happened in Japan.

Commissioner George Apostolakis said one of the lessons of Fukushima is "humility."

"I believe that, as a community of safety analysts, we were pretty confident that there would be no new surprises," Apostolakis said. "Fukushima has challenged that belief."

Commissioners said the commission's core safety concept, a belts-and-suspenders policy called "Defense in Depth," is sound. The policy requires power plant designers and operators to have multiple, redundant layers of defense to respond to failures so that no single layer of response is relied on. They also endorsed support for regulations that require plants to be designed to withstand the strongest natural disasters on record for that location, with an added margin of safety.

But while voicing support for both concepts, some commissioners said "Defense in Depth" needs to be deeper and margins of safety wider.

Currently, emergency plans for most U.S. nuclear reactors envision one nuclear reactor being in danger. At Fukushima, all four operating reactors were affected by the tsunami that followed an earthquake in March. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission also requires plans to evacuate a 10-mile zone around power plants, but U.S. authorities recommended that U.S. citizens within 50 miles of Fukushima evacuate. (read more)

Toxic chemical leak in central China kills hundreds of animals - 17th June 2011

A truck leaking a toxic chemical in a central China county has caused the deaths of hundreds of livestock and poultry and polluted hundreds of square meters of nearby forests, local authorities said Friday.

Toxic silicon tetrachloride leaked out of the truck's storage tank at about 3 a.m. Friday in the village of Ximo'an, which is located in Puyang County in central China's Henan Province, according to county government authorities.

The silicon tetrachloride reacted with oxygen and released dense clouds of hydrogen chloride after being exposed to the air. The clouds diffused around several square kilometers, killing twenty pigs and dozens of chickens on a nearby farm and sickening several of the village's residents.

The poisoned residents were evacuated by the local government's rescue team.

Firefighters took measures to stop the spread of the chemical, diluting contaminated water to neutralize the reaction.

The leak did not result in any human deaths. The cause of the leak is under investigation. Source

Joseph Naso Suspected Serial Killer 'murdered prostitute with wife's tights' and 'kept a macabre death wish list' - 17th June 2011

A serial killer suspect targeted lonely prostitutes with matching initials and strangled one with his wife’s tights, court documents claim.

Photographer Joseph Naso, is alleged to be the infamous American alphabet killer, is said to have kept a numbered list of 10 women, including the four prostitutes he is charged with killing.

Detectives had been silent on details in the ongoing investigation of the 77-year-old photographer.

All four had matching initials, Roxene Roggasch, Carmen Colon, Pamela Parsons and Tracy Tafoya, and are unsolved murders.

Authorities around the country are also looking at Naso as a suspect in more cold cases.

In a probable cause statement released Thursday it states that Naso may have used his then-wife's panty hose to strangle Roggasch, a prostitute whose 1977 murder has been unsolved for decades.

She was number three on Naso's list of 10 women, the documents state, referred to as 'Girl near Loganitas,' whose body was found about four miles east of Lagunitas, a small town in Marin County.

'DNA testing was done during which the DNA of Judith Naso ... was found on the panty hose around her neck,' wrote Ryan Petersen, a Marin County sheriff's investigator.

Marin County District Attorney Ed Berberian, who is prosecuting the case, would not comment on whether investigators had made progress in looking at the six other women and locations mentioned on Naso's list.

The probable cause statement is used to hold Naso in jail after a police arrested him without a warrant.

It was only unsealed after a coalition of media groups led by news agencies challenged a judge's decision to close the files.

Marin County prosecutors and Naso, who is representing himself at trial, both opposed unsealing the document.

Investigators also said they found numerous nude photos of women who appeared to be dead or passed out, along with logs and journals.

Documents also revealed that DNA collected from fingernail clippings of Colon could also tie Naso to her murder. Read More

James Edward Russell escaped from Jail but was caught after knocking on a random door for help...only to find a Prison Guard from his Prison 17th June

An escaped convict was caught following a day on the loose after he knocked on a cabin door - only to find out the man renting the lodge was an off-duty guard at the prison he just fled.

Authorities said 39-year-old James Edward Russell took off from the Washington state penitentiary Tuesday morning.

Early the next day, Russell - still wearing his prison uniform - went to the cabin asking to use the phone, said Department of Corrections spokesman Chad Lewis on Thursday.

The guard recognized the red, prison-issue shirt and a scuffle ensued, but Russell took off again, Lewis said Thursday.

The guard, whose name was being withheld by the Department of Corrections, reported the incident, and Russell was caught later Wednesday by other corrections officers from the facility near Forks, on the Olympic Peninsula.

Russell was serving his fourth prison term since 1993 and had been transferred to the minimum-security work camp just a day before he ran off, officials said.

According to the Seattle Times, if convicted in the escape, Russell faces at least another year in prison to be served after he serves his current sentence for theft and forgery in Lewis County. And it would most likely be at a higher security facility.

Mr Lewis said: 'Assuming he is found guilty of escape, he's not likely to be put in a work camp, because he becomes an escape risk.' Source

Now you could get X-Men super powers after scientists develop world's first 'living laser' beam - 17th June 2011

Comic book fans have long dreamed of emitting a powerful beam from their eyes like superhero Cyclops of the X-Men.

Now that dream could one day become a reality after scientists this week announced they have created the world’s first ‘living laser’, a biological cell which is engineered to produce a laser beam.

A pioneering team used a cell from a human kidney which had been genetically engineered to produce light in the same way as a jellyfish and flooded it with blue light.

This caused a green laser to be beamed out of the other end that was visible to the human eye.

In the future ‘living lasers’ could be produced inside live animals which would give unprecedented detail on scanners.

They could also have applications for computing and electronics and one day allow doctors to treat cancers by lasering inside the body rather than from the outside.

Lasers have been around since the 1950s but have traditionally used two mirrors on either side of what is known as a gain medium, a material which amplifies light, such as a crystal.

An electrical discharge usually excites the molecules in the gain medium which fire out photons in random directions and are focused into a single point by the mirrors.

The new research replaced the usual material with a human kidney cell that had been injected with green fluorescent protein (GFP), the material which makes jellyfish light up. Read More

David Shaw and Son Robert Shaw Plead Guilty to downloaded hundreds of child porn images on their home computers, son walks free out of court 17th June

Evil David Shaw only received 26 weeks which seeing it's and English Jail, he will prbably be out in 13 weeks.

A pervert father and his depraved son who downloaded child pornography have been jailed after their catalogue of hundreds of images was discovered.

Among the horrific images stored on computers at their home in Burnley, Lancashire, disabled David Shaw and his son, Robert, were pictures of an 18-month-old baby being sexually abused, toddlers being violated and bestiality.

The 59-year-old father was jailed for 26 weeks while his reclusive son, 25, who rarely left his bedroom, was handed a two-year community order and told to seek treatment.

Shaw's daughter, Kathryn, 31, hit out at their punishment saying it had been too lenient.

'The sentence is disgusting bearing in mind what my father had done,' she said.' The other one should have been locked up as well. I never want contact with my father ever again.

'I only found out because he was up in Scotland with me, as he came there to hide. As soon as I found out, I kicked him out.'

Shaw snr's computer was in the lounge which was where he slept and ate while his son lived in his bedroom where he had his own computer.

Both PCs and at least one other hard drive were sent for analysis along with a dozen DVDs and CDs.

Seven of the discs were found to contain either indecent images of children or extreme pornography and some of the child images were classed as level four out of five. They included children as young as two or three being abused.

The computer that Shaw jnr was using at the time was found to have no indecent images on it, but there were some on a hard drive found in his room. The court heard that he had downloaded images of teenagers about five years ago.

Defending Shaw snr, Afzal Anwar said he had been depressed at the time. He said he was disgusted with himself and understood that what he had done was despicable.

He admitted possessing extreme pornography, making an indecent image of a child and four counts of possessing an indecent image of a child.

He will also remain on the sex offenders' register for seven years.

Shaw jnr pleaded guilty to seven allegations of making an indecent image of a child and was also put on the sex offenders' register for five years.

Judge Heather Lloyd told the pair: 'The images I had to view were bluntly revolting and anybody who had images of children being treated in such a vile and revolting way and in particular of babies sexually assaulted deserved particular punishment and condemnation. Read More

Starving blackbirds resort to cannibalism after dry spring and early summer leaves them without worms - 17th June 2011

Starving blackbirds are resorting to cannibalism of their chicks as they struggle to survive the dry spring and early summer.

The weather has forced their diet of worms too far underground for the birds to feed.

As a result, gardeners have witnessed blackbirds resorting to desperate measures to avoid going hungry.

They have been waiting on freshly-watered lawns ready to pick up worms that rise to the surface.

Blackbirds have also been eating tadpoles and young slow worms, and snatching baby mice from their nests.

The mistle thrush and song thrush have also been affected by the unseasonably warm weather.

Paul Stancliffe, from the British Trust for Ornithology, said an annual survey of 250 birds has shown the average weight of a blackbird has plummeted from 130g to 90g this year.

He told the Daily Telegraph: 'The birds have got once chance left for another brood this year and if the weather doesn’t change, things look pretty bleak.

'Taking tadpoles, slow worms and mice is not normal behaviour.' Read More

Deer 'with wings' causes power outage (maybe it was trying to imitate Rudolph) - 17th June 2011

It would have taken an incredible leap for this young deer to end up on the power lines above East Missoula.

But it is unlikely that the animal had an accident while trying to act like its distant-cousin Rudolph.

This fawn took out the power in the Montana town after it was dropped by a bird that bit of more than it could chew.

Lee Bridges said that shortly after the power went at around 9am, she spotted a bald eagle sitting in the top of her tree.

When a worker from the energy company turned up to investigate the power problems he spotted the fawn dangling from the power line.

I ask him the problem,’ she said. ‘He pointed up at the power line and said, "Well you had a deer with wings on it.”

‘I looked up there and there was this fawn, a carcass of a fawn, up in the power line.’

Mrs Bridges suspects that the eagle dropped its prey and could not retrieve it.

Northwestern Energy removed the deer from the line and restored power after about a half-hour outage.

The lineman who removed the carcass from the power line said he had never seen anything like it. Source

Greek crisis divides IMF opinion

Part of the backlash against this week's austerity measures in Athens stems from a breakdown in trust between the Greek people and its elected politicians.

But what the Greek government says and does now has little bearing on the country's financial future. As current Creditor-in-Chief the International Monetary Fund is the one setting the terms.

This begs the question: how much support does the Greek bailout have inside the IMF?

Publicly the IMF says it stands ready to continue its support for Greece – subject, of course, to the “adoption of the economic policy reforms agreed with the Greek authorities.” On Thursday the IMF pledged it would release payment in early July that would allow Greece to honor its debt payments through September.

In an e-mailed statement, the fund said that progress was being made in the discussions to ensure the full financing program. The IMF said it “anticipated a positive outcome on this” at the next Eurogroup meeting which will take place in Luxembourg on Monday.

Yet behind closed doors, some economists at the IMF describe the Washington institution’s decision to grant Greece financial assistance in the first place as “deeply unpopular.” (read more)

Syria unrest: fresh protests erupt

Demonstrators have taken to the streets in towns and cities across Syria in a fresh round of protests against President Bashar al-Assad's regime.

There are unconfirmed reports of security forces opening fire, and of a number of deaths and injuries.

Protests were reported in the cities of Homs and Baniyas, and in suburbs of the capital, Damascus.

The Syrian army has moved into two northern towns as it seeks to end months of anti-government protests.

Tanks, armoured personnel carriers and buses were used to secure Maarat al-Numan and Khan Sheikhoun, both on the road linking Damascus and Aleppo.

The EU is pressing for a new round of sanctions against Syria.

The UN says that at least 1,100 people have died as the government has cracked down on demonstrations that began in March.

Syrian rights groups put the overall death toll in Syria at 1,297 civilians and 340 security force members. (read more)

US builds net for cyber war games

The United States government is building its own "scale model" of the internet to carry out cyber war games.

Several organisations, including the defence company Lockheed Martin, are working on prototypes of the "virtual firing range".

The system will allow researchers to simulate attacks by foreign powers and from hackers based inside the US.

More than $500m (£309m) has been allocated by the Department of Defense to develop "cyber technologies".

The National Cyber Range project is being overseen by the Defense Advance Research Projects Agency (Darpa), which was also involved in early network research that led to the internet.

When ready, it will function as a test-bed for defensive and possibly offensive technologies such as network protection systems.

Having a controllable mini-internet would allow researchers to carry-out experiments "in days rather than the weeks it currently takes," Darpa spokesman Eric Mazzacone told the Reuters news agency.

Unlike the real internet, the in-house version could be wiped or reset between tests, explained Mr Mazzacone. (read more)

Fatal floods hit China forcing over 500,000 to flee



Another round of torrential rains has flooded a once drought-stricken region of southern China, killing 25 people and leaving 25 missing, authorities said Friday.

The flood has forced the evacuation of about 671,200 people and has affected 10 provinces and muncipalities in the middle and lower reaches of the Yangtze River, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs

In Zhejiang province, where the water level has exceeded the historic record set in 1955, officials have raised the disaster alert to the highest level. More than 2,000 soldiers mobilized for the emergency response in the area.

The Ministry of Finance has distributed about 130 million RMB ($20 million) for relief efforts in Hubei and Hunan.

This is the third round of heavy rains in the region this month, according to the Ministry of Civil Affairs.

The last round hit the area on June 9, triggering floods and mudslides that left 77 dead and 33 people missing, authorities said.

The Ministry of Civil Affairs estimated losses stemming from the latest flood at 12.85 RMB (nearly $2 billion), more than the previous two floods combined. (Source)

Vancouver not typical sports riot, sociologist says -- Are frustrations being taken out?

Riots following big sporting events have become predictable. They happen about half the time following a championship game or series, the experts say.

What's more, sports riots are now the most common type of riot in North America.

But they are usually celebratory sports riots. What makes Vancouver stand out, both in 2011 and 1994, is that its street mayhem followed the home team losing the big game.

In fact it is so unusual that Jerry Lewis, the author of Sports Fan Violence in North America, told CBC News that what we saw Wednesday night "might be called the Vancouver effect."

An emeritus professor of sociology at Kent State University in Ohio, Lewis has looked closely at over 200 sports riots in the U.S. and none of them followed a loss by the home team. (read more)

Is the global food system slowly breaking down?

I'm in Manila, the Philippines, making a documentary for Radio 4 about slums, of which more later. For now, speaking to priests and community leaders about what's driving people to leave the land and move into shanty-towns inside mega cities at a rate not seen in human history, there's an interesting and complex answer.

Top of the list is tornadoes: they are devastating agriculture and they usually take three years to filter through into economic impacts. You are seeing not just the young but also the elderly leave the land now because the rural economy is too fragile to cope with the effects of natural disasters.

Second, the impact of land reform: the government gives land to the farmers, but they have no money so they sell it immediately to agribusiness and move into the town.

Third, food security. Thirty percent of the rural population goes literally hungry at night, but 10% in the towns. In some ways you have to begin to see megacities as a survival response - all over the globe - to the climate and financial crises.

What does all this mean? Maybe it means - as the NGOs claim - that the global food system is beginning to break down. (read more)

America's own 'Lost Decade'

The economy is still struggling. And Americans are in for a long and painful adjustment period.

One major reason: their own household debt.

Many experts say private debt owed by households, as well as businesses, is an even bigger problem than the government debt that's getting so much attention lately. And it won't be solved without a difficult stretch of high unemployment and slow growth that will likely last for six or seven more years, producing America's own version of Japan's "Lost Decade."

"I think it's one of the major headwinds we're fighting against right now," said David Wyss, a visiting fellow at Brown University and former chief economist at Standard & Poor's.

Following a real estate bust that hit Japan in the 1990s, the economy fell into a prolonged period of economic stagnation that lasted for years and became known as the country's 'Lost Decade.'

In the U.S., the situation is shaping up to be similarly stubborn. (read more)

World Bank creating poverty (BBC Newsnight) -- Buried but not forgotten

Hotels in 2030 'will feature virtual love making'

Virtual love making, dream management, and high-tech contact lenses that allow guests to check their emails will all feature in the hotel rooms of the future, according to a new report.

The budget hotel chain Travelodge has published a study into how technology could change hotel accommodation by 2030.

It hired the engineer and futurologist Ian Pearson to produce the report, entitled The Future of Sleep.

Mr Pearson claimed that technology will monitor guests energy levels, health and mood to ensure they get a better night’s sleep, while medical conditions could also be diagnosed.

He said that dreams could eventually be controlled, in a similar manner to the film Inception, and we would one day be able to study or learn new languages in our sleep. (read more)

Hubble photograph of Centaurus A reveals bright jewel behind dust - 17th June 2011

Ethereal clouds of dust and gas are illuminated by stars in the giant elliptical galaxy Centaurus A, captured in unprecedented detail by the Hubble space telescope. The photograph was taken with Hubble's most sophisticated instrument, the Wide Field Camera 3. It combines images from multiple wavelengths to reveal a dusty region of the galaxy.

Visible as a bright jewel in southern skies, Centaurus A lies a mere 11m light years from Earth and has at its heart a supermassive black hole that weighs 55m times as much as the sun. The black hole drives powerful jets of particles to within a whisker of the speed of light, releasing intense bursts of radio waves and x-ray radiation.

As well as dark lanes of dusty material, the composite image reveals features in the ultraviolet light range that emanate from young stars. The warped shape of the galaxy hints at a violent past for Centaurus A, which is likely to have collided and merged with a smaller spiral galaxy 100m years ago. The cataclysmic event created shockwaves that caused hydrogen gas to coalesce and a flurry of new stars to be born. Some of these fledgling stars are seen in the outlying regions and in patches of red in this Hubble close-up.

Centaurus A was discovered in 1826 but was largely ignored for a century by astronomers, who dismissed it as another fuzzy, nebulous object thought to be in our own galaxy. Source

Security Alert as 'Suspicious vehicle' closes roads near Pentagon One Person Arrested- 17th June 2011

Several major roads are closed near the Pentagon as officials investigate a “suspicious vehicle” near the U.S. military headquarters.

WRC-TV, the local Washington NBC affiliate, said law enforcement authorities have “rendered the device safe” at 8:10 a.m. Pentagon police spokesman Chris Layman told the Associated Press that one person was taken into custody early Friday and that one or two other people may be involved.

A military official tells POLITICO that Park Police are investigating a vehicle after a suspect found at Arlington Cemetery tipped them off.

CBS Radio’s Mark Knoller reported, on Twitter, that CBS’s David Martin reported one person in custody suspected of planting suspicious devices near Pentagon, Arlington National Cemetery and the Iwo Jima Memorial.

WTOP-FM radio reported that the man arrested on the scene claimed to have an explosive device.

Two others fled on foot and are being chased, according to NBC. Boundary Channel Drive is the lone road into the Pentagon that remains open, which sections of Interstates 66 and 395, Jefferson Davis Highway, Arlington Blvd. and Washington Blvd., remain closed.

An Arlington County Police spokeswoman told WRC-TV only that “we’re investigating a suspicious vehicle.”

WRC said the Arlington Police bomb squad and FBI are investigating the vehicle, which it said was stopped on an embankment on Washington Blvd. between Interstate 395 and Route 110.

The Arlington Police Department did not immediately return a request for more information. Source

Greek Crisis Threatens World Economy - 17th June 2011

European leaders are discussing the economic and political turmoil in Greece amid fears that the country's crippling debt problems could spiral into a global crisis.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel and French President Nicolas Sarkozy are in Berlin discussing ways to ensure Greece can avert a sovereign debt default up to 340 billion euros (£298bn).

They have called for a quick deal on a second bailout for Greece worth 340 billion euros (£106bn) and insisted the European Union must go on aiding Greece.

But they gave no details about how private investors would contribute to the rescue plan - an issue that has split the eurozone and rattled financial markets.

Initial Greek market reaction was positive with bank shares rising by as much as 4% and the Athens stock market index up 2%.

But bond markets remain spooked by fears of a Greek default and most economists are sceptical that Greece can ever repay its debt mountain.

Meanwhile, European Council President Herman Van Rompuy is meeting Ireland's prime minister to discuss how to contain the "risk of contagion" from the Greek crisis.

Greece's Prime Minister George Papandreou is trying to push through an EU/IMF-backed five-year austerity package despite popular discontent, which has led to violent protests.

The bill must be passed by parliament this month if Greece is to continue receiving funds from its $157bn international bailout.

Athens needs its fellow eurozone members to stump up more cash to cover its financing, but there is little political and economic appeaLinkl among some European countries.

Without continued funding, Greece will default on its massive debts, which would have widespread ramifications for the global economy as well as the eurozone. Read More

E. coli sickens 4 after visits to Washington's animal farm., U.S. - 16th June 2011

Two children are among four people sickened by E. coli infections after recent visits to the city of Everett, Wash.'s animal farm.

Dr. Gary Goldbaum of the Snohomish Health District says one child was hospitalized for several days but has since been discharged.

All four people reported vomiting and diarrhea.

The exact type of E. coli has not yet been identified.

The Daily Herald says the animal farm is run by Everett's parks department and has 25,000 visitors a year. Animals include sheep, calves, piglets, chickens, goats, ducks, a horse, a pony and rabbits.

Everett spokeswoman Kate Reardon says the city spent more than three hours thoroughly cleaning the farm after learning of the E. coli cases.

She and Goldbaum say they feel it's safe for children to visit the farm, but emphasize the importance of vigorous hand washing after contact with farm animals. Source