Tuesday, June 21, 2011

In defense of Greece: Democracy vs Mythology -- The Battle in Syntagma Square

I have never been more desperate to explain and more hopeful for your understanding of any single fact than this: The protests in Greece concern all of you directly.

What is going on in Athens at the moment is resistance against an invasion; an invasion as brutal as that against Poland in 1939. The invading army wears suits instead of uniforms and holds laptops instead of guns, but make no mistake – the attack on our sovereignty is as violent and thorough. Private wealth interests are dictating policy to a sovereign nation, which is expressly and directly against its national interest. Ignore it at your peril. Say to yourselves, if you wish, that perhaps it will stop there. That perhaps the bailiffs will not go after the Portugal and Ireland next. And then Spain and the UK. But it is already beginning to happen. This is why you cannot afford to ignore these events.

The powers that be have suggested that there is plenty to sell. Josef Schlarmann, a senior member of Angela Merkel’s party, recently made the helpful suggestion that we should sell some of our islands to private buyers in order to pay the interest on these loans, which have been forced on us to stabilise financial institutions and a failed currency experiment. (Of course, it is not a coincidence that recent studies have shown immense reserves of natural gas under the Aegean sea).

China has waded in, because it holds vast currency reserves and more than a third are in Euros. Sites of historical interest like the Acropolis could be made private. If we do not as we are told, the explicit threat is that foreign and more responsible politicians will do it by force. Let’s make the Parthenon and the ancient Agora a Disney park, where badly paid locals dress like Plato or Socrates and play out the fantasies of the rich. (read more)

EU urged to block Greece bail-out: Good news in Greece turns sour as crisis is back in full swing

European leaders have been urged to scrap plans for a second Greek bail-out – as the Athens government wins a critical vote of confidence in parliament.

Leading London-based think tank Open Europe has claimed that a fresh bail-out, expected to be around €120bn (£106bn), will almost triple taxpayers’ existing exposure to Greek debt.

“Despite a second Greek bail-out being EU leaders’ preferred option, it is only likely to increase the economic and political cost of the eurozone crisis,” said Open Europe in a report.

The warning came ahead of a crucial vote of confidence in the Greek government, which was won - as expected - late last night.

The vote came at the end of a three-day debate on George Papandreou’s unpopular package of spending cuts and asset sales, which faces another vote on June 28. The prime minister has just a six seat majority in the 300-member parliament.

On Sunday, European leaders said they would not release the next €12bn tranche of international aid unless Greece passes the measures. (read more)

US political wrangling risks downgrade to debt as media quietly forgets massive looming debt crisis in Washington

US politicians are risking a downgrade to America's credit rating unless they reach an agreement to raise the country's legal borrowing limit, two of the world's biggest rating agencies have warned.

The outlook for America's government debt - the most widely held by investors and historically one of the world's safest investments - would be cut to negative from stable should Congress fail to deliver an agreement before the August 2 deadline, according to Andrew Colquhoun, head of Asia-Pacific sovereign ratings at Fitch.

Republicans and Democrats are locked in negotiations in Washington DC over how to raise the $14 trillion limit, which is legally required for the US to keep borrowing.

With the deficit set to be a key issue in next year's presidential election, there are fears that neither party will give up the ground necessary to reach a compromise until the last minute.

The Republicans are seeking significant spending cuts as a condition of any agreement, while the Democrats are keen to delay fiscal retrenchment until the economy is stronger.

The warning from Fitch was echoed by Moritz Kraemer, the head of sovereign ratings for Europe at Standard & Poor's. "The problem is this flexibility needs to be employed and for that you need political consensus," Mr Kraemer told a conference in London yesterday. "That's not very visible right now." (read more)

Bank of England: 'More QE could be needed'

Britain's economic recovery remains fragile and more quantitative easing could yet be needed if deflation becomes a risk, BoE policymaker Paul Fisher said on Tuesday.

Speaking a day ahead of the release of minutes from the Bank of England Monetary Policy Committee’s June meeting, Mr Fisher said, "If we get stuck in a deflationary rut it's not clear we have sufficient ability to get out of that quickly.

"I've said in the past it [QE] is still very much on the table as one of our potential policy actions, and it's certainly not ruled out and people need to be aware of that."

Only one member of the BoE's policy panel, Adam Posen, has voted in favour of expanding the QE programme to pump more money into a UK economy whose struggle to generate firmer growth has pushed back expectations for a first rise in interest rates.

Mr Fisher was taking questions after a speech at a bond conference in London in which he defended the bank's policy of keeping rates at rock-bottom despite inflation running at more than double its 2pc target.

Mr Fisher admitted the central bank had underestimated the risk to inflation in recent years, but said it was hard to argue that policy should have been set differently. (read more)

"Scarlet fever mutation alert": Hong Kong disease mystery follows E.Coli mutation in Europe; what's going on?

A germ that causes centuries-old scarlet fever has mutated into a new strain more infectious and toxic for young children.

So far one girl has died - the first in 10 years - and two boys have suffered complications.

The Department of Health yesterday issued an alert over the high level of cases, calling for vigilance against the disease, which is caused by Group A Streptococcus pyogenes bacterium. Symptoms of the disease include fever, purple tongue and body rashes.

University of Hong Kong assistant professor and medical microbiologist Samson Wong Sai-yin told The Standard: "It is the first time we have seen this kind of mutation in that particular type of Streptococcus."

The "unique gene fragment" from a common bacteria in the mouth was inserted into the genome of the Strep bacterium, with this mix contributing to an increase in transmissibility in this strain, Wong said.

A spokesman for the Centre of Health Protection last night said: "A simultaneous increase in scarlet fever cases is also noted in the mainland and in Macau, suggesting a regional phenomenon at play."

The alert was triggered when a seven-year-old girl at St Stephen's College in Stanley died last month.

Two boys, aged six and 11, also developed complications. The younger boy, in whom the mutant germ was found, is still in intensive care at Queen Mary Hospital after developing septicemia, or blood poisoning. (read more)

Reader contributed.



Arab League has expressed doubts about the bombing campaign to get rid of Col Muammar Gaddafi after civilians were killed

Amr Moussa, who is a leading candidate to be Egypt's next president, broke with the international consensus that Col Gaddafi must step down unconditionally and said there should be a ceasefire and peace talks while the Libyan leader remains in power.

Mr Moussa played a vital role in March in helping unite international support behind the air campaign when it was launched to protect civilians.

"When I see children being killed, I must have misgivings. That's why I warned about the risk of civilian casualties," he told The Guardian.

He expressed doubt that the military campaign can now succeed. "You can't have a decisive ending. Now is the time to do whatever we can to reach a political solution," he said.

As the air campaign continued on Tuesday, an attack helicopter which Libyan government forces claimed to have shot down was revealed to have been a new type of unmanned drone, United States defence sources said. (read more)

What makes the IMF think it's right about Greece?

When did the IMF learn about the economy?

That's what people around the world should be asking as the IMF presents its latest assessment of the fiscal and economic prospects for nations around the world last week. Much of the world remains mired in the worst downturn since the Great Depression; a downturn that the IMF totally failed to predict, as noted by the IMF's own Independent Evaluation Office.

This was not a minor mistake; this was a horrendous failing. It's comparable to the surgeon amputating the wrong leg or leaving his operating tools inside the patient. This is the sort of incredible mess-up that most people lose their jobs over and likely never find work again in the same field.

Yet, as far as the world knows, not one person at the IMF lost their job. In fact, it's not even clear that anyone missed a scheduled promotion. As far as anyone can tell, an economic downturn that ruined the lives of tens of millions of people around the world has had no impact whatsoever on the people who actually have the responsibility for preventing such calamities, at the IMF and in other major governmental and international financial institutions. (read more)

Coast to Coast AM Caller gets a warning for the East Coast -- Fact or fiction? Anythign to do with military exercises on East Coast?

Why the Merkel/Sarkozy “Solution” to the European Debt Crisis Will Fail … Miserably

On June 3rd, 2009 German Chancellor, Angela Merkel, while addressing a crowd in Berlin, rebuked the European Central bank and counterparts in Britain for having gone too far in fighting the financial crisis, which may be laying the ground work for another major financial meltdown. Merkel said, “We must return together to an independent central bank policy and to a policy of reason, otherwise we will be in the same situation 10 years from now.” In other words, it was not the policy of the European Central bank or counterparts to “bail out” failing financial institutions or governments which acted recklessly with lending or borrowing money without justifiable means to repay. It was statements like these that earned Angela Merkel the title of the “Worlds Most Powerful Woman” by FORBES from 2006-2009.

In many ways, Angela Merkel was considered the only true hope for the future of the European Union. Her words were reminiscent of great financially responsible leaders like Ronald Reagan. It was her conservative leadership and policies which centered on fiscal responsibility making Germany an attractive country for investors. We achieved incredible returns in ETFs like (NYSEArca: EWG) iShares MSCI Germany, returning nearly 40% since the lows of 2008. Merkel outwardly opposed using taxpayer money for the excesses of other governments and poor judgment of investors. (read more)

Iceland's President Warns Alaska On Economic Collapse

When towering financial institutions fail, an economy that can fall back on fish, energy, clean water and the human need for wild places will survive.

That’s what Iceland learned in the wake of its dramatic 2008 economic collapse, the country’s President Olafur Ragnar Grimsson told leaders in Anchorage on Monday.

Alaska should take note, he said.

“Future prosperity will not be based or sustained…by building big financial sectors,” he said. “It is an economy based on real resources: On energy, ocean, natural resources, as well as the capabilities of people.”

Grimsson addressed the Alaska World Affairs Council in Anchorage as part of a trip to talk about the future of the Arctic at the Arctic Imperative Summit.

A silver-haired, bespectacled scholar and politician, Grimsson hails from the remote western fjords region of Iceland – a land of mountains, ocean and tough winters, and the part of the country “most similar to Alaska,” he said.

His country’s spectacular boom and bust is both a cautionary tale and a call to action for natural-resource rich northern communities, Grimsson said.

For a thousand years the people of Iceland fished and farmed, eking out a living from the land.

Then, in the late 1990s and early 2000s, they got rich by riding a global wave of investment and speculation. People stopped catching cod and started trading stocks.

“Icelandic banks joined this great circus of easy money,” Grimsson said. “To get a loan was the easiest thing ever.”

Then in 2008 the economy blew up like a volcano, smothering Iceland in debt. (read more)

Greek Government Survives Confidence Vote as Europe Holds its Breath

Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou's government has survived a confidence vote in Parliament - gaining more than 151 votes.

Papandreou called the vote to stop an internal party revolt and help him pass unpopular austerity measures that have caused strikes, protests and a slump in his popularity.

A heated debate in the parliament saw some members of the opposition briefly walk out.

Protesters have been gathering outside the building throughout the evening.

If the government had lost the vote, there would have been early elections and doubt over whether a new austerity bill could have been passed by the end of June, as demanded by the country's international creditors.

Greece's parliament had to pass the bill in order to receive the next instalment of 12bn Euros (£10bn) from its international bailout.

The country needs the loan to pay its debts.

On Friday, Germany and France called for a quick deal on a second bailout for Greece amid fears that the country's crippling debt problems could spiral into a global crisis. (read more)

Huge Marine Drill Confirms Ground Invasion of Libya?

On Sunday, CNN reported on a huge Marine war exercise dubbed Exercise Mailed Fist.

“The exercise is designed to test the capability of every type of Marine Corps aircraft, including MV-22 Ospreys and F/A 18 Hornets, as well as some Navy ships and Air Force planes,” CNN reported.

The exercise will encompass a large area on the U.S. East Coast – from Quantico Marine Base in northern Virginia to the Navy’s Pinecastle Bombing Range in Florida. Most of the exercise activity will occur above North and South Carolina.

The drill begins today and ends on Friday.

Thousands of Marines will take part. According to CNN, it will be biggest drill of its kind ever held on the East Coast.

“Exercise Mailed Fist is the first exercise of its specific kind and the largest 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing exercise conducted in recent history,” Staff Sgt. Roman J. Yurek, Marine Corps spokesman, told CNN. “In the past, 2nd Marine Aircraft Wing units had to deploy to the West Coast to conduct this type of training.”

It appears the Pentagon has released information about the exercise exclusively to CNN. A Google News Search produces scant results on Exercise Mailed Fist.

CNN is a notorious focal point for Pentagon psyops. In 2000, the Pentagon confirmed that psyops personnel, soldiers and officers, have worked in the CNN headquarters in Atlanta. In February of that year, Dutch journalist, Abe de Vries, reported on the presence of U.S. Army personnel at CNN for the Dutch daily newspaper Trouw. (read more)

Souris River Valley flood a "disaster unprecedented in history" -- and it's about to get worse

Disastrous. Unstoppable. Historic. Unprecedented.

All words used to describe what city, county and state officials warn is an imminent assault on all residents of the Souris River Valley.

The highest flows ever recorded on the Souris are approaching a city whose defenses are destined to be over run. Can the city hold?

Dikes currently in place, recently improved greatly to combat high flows, are now expected to disappear under the traveling torrent. The amount of water flowing with a vengeance down the Souris River Valley is forecast to inundate Minot to a level seven to eight feet higher than the catastrophic and benchmark flood of 1969.

Saddened with that horrific knowledge, officials announced during a late afternoon press conference Monday that very little can be done to stop the powerful onslaught. Massive secondary dikes that were built by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to save much of the town from the previous high on the Souris this year fall far short of defending against the impending and rapid rise of the Souris.

Mandatory evacuations were ordered Monday for all evacuation zones within Minot. Mayor Curt Zimbelman said all affected residents and businesses must vacate those areas no later than 10 p.m. Wednesday. Within minutes of the announcement residents once again began the laborious and hastened work of moving out of their homes for the second time this year.

"It's a sad day in Minot," Zimbelman said at the end of a press conference Monday. (read more)

Texas strikes back: TSA anti-groping law to be pushed forward despite efforts to crush it

Gov. Rick Perry announced he had added legislation that would make it illegal for TSA agents to engage in “intrusive touching” at airports security checkpoints without probable cause to the list of items for the legislature to consider during the special session.

The measure had previously failed to pass in the Texas Senate after the Justice Department wrote a scathing memo against the bill that threatened legal action against the state and the bill became enmeshed in Senate politics.

There are questions about what impact the legislation might have since airport security is a federal matter.

Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, who was accused of lobbying against the bill in May said he was “pleased” by Perry’s decision.

“I’m very pleased that Governor Perry agreed to add this legislation to his Special Session call,” Dewhurst said. “Addressing unreasonable and unlawful searches of innocent travelers by some TSA employees is an issue that affects all Texans who use air travel, and it should not wait until next Session.” (read more)

Radioactive tritium has leaked from three-quarters of U.S. commercial nuclear power sites

Radioactive tritium has leaked from three-quarters of U.S. commercial nuclear power sites, often into groundwater from corroded, buried piping, an Associated Press investigation shows.

The number and severity of the leaks has been escalating, even as federal regulators extend the licenses of more and more reactors across the nation.

Tritium, which is a radioactive form of hydrogen, has leaked from at least 48 of 65 sites, according to U.S. Nuclear Regulatory Commission records reviewed as part of the AP's yearlong examination of safety issues at aging nuclear power plants. Leaks from at least 37 of those facilities contained concentrations exceeding the federal drinking water standard - sometimes at hundreds of times the limit. (read more)

Police Investigate Car Part Thefts Along SEPTA Regional Rail Lines as Metal and Parts Crimes Soars



If you “park and ride” along SEPTA Regional Rail lines, it could be a much more expensive trip than you expected.

An exclusive CBS 3 I-Team investigation reveals that since March 12th, riders have had catalytic converters, a pollution control device, stolen from beneath their vehicles.

Most of the SEPTA riders victimized in lots at eight separate stations in Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties had no idea the converters were stolen until they started their cars and they began roaring “like a motorboat” as one victim described it.

In almost all cases, our investigation found the riders left their cars in lots all day, discovering the thefts when they returned in the evening. (read more)

Arizona Sheriff: Why More Troops at Korean Border Than U.S. Border?

Arizona Sheriff Paul Babeu said the Obama administration’s decision to extend the deployment of 1,200 U.S. National Guard troops along the U.S. border with Mexico until Sept. 30 is “pandering” and that those numbers “fall far short” of what military power is needed to keep the country safe.

Babeu noted, for comparison, the 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea to help defend it against North Korean aggression; U.S. troops have been stationed in South Korea for 58 years.

Babeu is the sheriff of Pinal County in southern Arizona and is on the frontlines against illegal immigration, human traffickers, drug smugglers, and potential terrorists. He was named the 2011 National Sheriff of the Year by the National Sheriff’s Association on Sunday, June 19.

“What are we doing?” Babeu told CNSNews.com by telephone. “We need 6,000 armed soldiers on our border to protect America. Homeland Security starts at home.” He was talking about the National Guard. (read more)

Italy Will Fight Last Stand in Debt Crisis

For more than two years, we have witnessed the economic demise of several European countries. This soon led to the financial community systematically assessing the health of several peripheral southern European countries, tumbling investment grade ratings and spikes in required rates of return on government debt of these sovereigns. As the European Central Bank continues to dole out rescue packages, many are now looking for the next country to suffer a financial attack and wondering if the euro will even survive.

Some analysts feel that Spain is the last bastion for the euro’s survival. We do not. We believe that the final battle will be fought on the picturesque shores of Italy, resulting in Rome’s emergence as either hero or villain with respect to the survival of the euro.

Most European politicians dearly want the “run” on several of its “club” members to end and its rescues to restore confidence.

This is, unfortunately, a dream that is likely to be shattered as the next domino – Spain – suffers the scrutiny of intense solvency analysis.

Spain, which has almost twice the amount of government debt outstanding as Greece, has well known infirmities – namely an anaemic economy, an unemployment rate more than 20 percent, a devastating real estate debacle and a consequent banking crisis. (read more)

Greek Streets 'Explosive' as PM Faces Confidence Vote

European stocks rose early Tuesday and the euro stabilized versus the Swiss franc on hopes that euro zone officials will find a way to prevent a Greek default.

Pressures to avoid bankruptcy intensified as rating agency Fitch said it would consider a voluntary rollover of Greek bond maturities – something European officials have been hoping to achieve – as a default and would cut the country's rating.

The new Greek government faces a vote of confidence on Tuesday night, with the outcome critical to the survival of the government, and to the disbursal of loans from the 'Troika' of the European Union (EU), International Monetary Fund (IMF) and European Central Bank (ECB).

Voting is expected to take place at midnight, and most analysts are predicting that Papandreou will survive the vote. By bringing more PASOK party insiders into his cabinet – at the expense of technocrats – the Prime Minister should be able to head off opposition from within his own party.

To pass, Papandreou needs an absolute majority in parliament, and an attendance rate of more than two-fifths, equivalent to 120 members.

Eurasia Group's European director Wolfgango Piccoli wrote in a note that in the "low probability scenario" of a no-vote would lead to early elections, which would mean that the vote on austerity would be delayed, and so would the next tranche of the EU/IMF package. This would heighten the risk of default, unless some form of bridging financial agreement could be arranged to fill the financing gap. (read more)

Shame Of America: Desperate Man Robs Store For One Dollar In Order To Go To Jail To Get Health Coverage -- James Richard Verone had no other choice

James Richard Verone of North Carolina spent his whole life playing by the rules and staying out of trouble. Having worked as a delivery man for Coca Cola for 17 years, Verone was known as a hard worker and honest man.

Yet when he was laid off from Coca Cola three years ago, Verone was desperate to find work. He eventually found employment as a convenience clerk, yet he began to notice a protrusion in his chest. He developed arthritis and carpal tunnel syndrome, and soon the pain became too much for him to bear. He filed for disability, but he was denied any sort of coverage by the federal government.

So earlier this month, as the Gaston Gazette reports Verone drove to a local RBC Bank and told the teller he was robbing them for a dollar. He said he wanted to rob the bank in order to go to jail and get medical coverage:

Verone didn’t want to scare anyone. He executed the robbery the most passive way he knew how. He handed the teller a note demanding one dollar, and medical attention. “I didn’t have any fears,” said Verone. “I told the teller that I would sit over here and wait for police.” [...]

Verone says he’s not a political man. But he has a lot to say on the subject of socialized medical care. He suspects he wouldn’t be talking to a reporter through a metal screen wearing an orange jumpsuit if such an option were available in the U.S. “If you don’t have your health you don’t have anything,” said Verone. The man has high hopes with his recent incarceration. He has seen several nurses and has an appointment with a doctor Friday.The ideal scenario would include back and foot surgery and a diagnosis and treatment of the protrusion on his chest, he said.

Verone told the local press he would like to serve in prison long enough to be able to get out in time to collect Social Security benefits that he paid into his entire life. He also hopes to be able to retire along a beach some day. Verone says that he doesn’t regret landing behind bars and that he had no choice. Between continuing a life in pain and choosing prison, he is happy with his decision. “If I had not exercised all the alternatives I would be sitting here saying, ‘Man I feel bad about it,’” he said. “I picked jail.” The United States is the only wealthy country that does not offer comprehensive universal health care to every citizen; in no other rich country would anyone be faced with such a choice. (read more)

This post was reader contributed.

Geese go surfing! Yeah!

Scarlet fever hits Hong Kong

Officials are warning of an outbreak of scarlet fever among children in Hong Kong.

There have been more than 400 cases of the disease this year, including the death of a six-year-old last month.

Initial tests suggest a five-year-old boy may also have died from the bacterial infection, which is spread by coughing and sneezing.

Scientists in Hong Kong believe the bacteria may be spreading more quickly than usual due to a genetic mutation.

Cases have also been seen in mainland China and Macua.

Scarlet fever

  • Scarlet fever is due to a throat infection caused by a bacterium called streptococcus
  • A strain called group A streptococcus causes scarlet fever
  • Scarlet fever causes a sore throat, high temperature and a rash
  • It usually occurs in children
  • The tongue may become pale but coated with red spots (strawberry tongue)
  • Treatment is with antibiotics like penicillin
  • Source: Patient UK

Dr Thomas Tsang, controller of Hong Kong's Centre for Health Protection, said: "If the genetic mutation is responsible for the increased transmissibility of the bacteria, the outbreak may be sustained for some time." (read more)

Emperor penguin from Antarctic visits New Zealand beach -- a rare and strange occurence

A young emperor penguin, normally found in the Antarctic, has turned up on a New Zealand beach.

It is a rare event, the first confirmed sighting of an Emperor penguin in New Zealand in 44 years.

"I saw this glistening white thing standing up and I thought I was seeing things," said Christine Wilton, who found it while walking her dog.

The department of conservation is baffled by how it arrived, saying it may have taken a wrong turn.

"It's amazing to see one of these penguins on the Kapiti coast," says the department's Peter Simpson.

The visitor has attracted crowds of onlookers, who are being advised not to disturb the penguin and keep their dogs on leads.

Conservation experts say the bird is a juvenile, about 10 months old and 32in (80cm) tall.

Emperor penguins are the tallest and largest of all penguin species, growing up to 4ft (122cm) high and weighing more than 75lb (34kg).

Colin Miskelly, a penguin expert at Te Papa, New Zealand's national museum, said the bird was likely born during the last Antarctic winter.

It may have been searching for squid and krill when it took a wrong turn and arrived on New Zealand's North Island.

"Usually they stay among the pack ice," said Mr Miskelly.

"This one just kept going north and it's a very long way from its usual range." (read more)

5.0 Magnitude Earthquake Papua, Indonesia - 21st June 2011

A magnitude 5.0 earthquake has struck Papua, Indonesia at a depth of 51.9 km (32.3 miles), the quake hit at 16:45:07 UTC Tuesday 21st June 2011.
The epicenter was 137 km (85 miles) SSW of Jayapura, Papua, Indonesia

No reports of damage or injuries

Don't Worry Be Happy - Smiling Dog Captured in Photograph with a wacky cartoon Grin - 21st June 2011

When the person taking this picture said, 'Smile for the camera,' they probably were only expecting to see one set of gnashers.

But thanks to his unexpected human-like expression of happiness, this gleeful dog has become an internet sensation. Read More



5.1 Magnitude Earthquake Southern Sumatra, Indonesia - 21st June 2011

A magnitude 5.1 earthquake has struck Southern Sumatra, Indonesia at a depth of 21 km (13 miles), the quake hit at 16:25:07 UTC Tuesday 21st June 2011.
The epicenter was 96 km (59 miles) South of Padang, Sumatra, Indonesia

No reports of damage or injuries and NO Tsunami Warning Issued

LulzSec Hackers deny They Stole 2011 Census Data (Despite mainstream media attempting to blame them, below article) - 21st June 2011

Special Note: We apologize for the confusion regarding this post; what we were meaning to get across was that this erroneous mainstream media article was attempting to blame Lulzsec for the hacking, but Lulzec denied having any involvement, as was announced in their twitter feed (in the posted picture). You guys sure keep us on our toes!

The Office of National Statistics' entire 2011 Census, containing the personal information of millio
ns of Britons, has reportedly been hacked.

The infamous online hacking group LulzSec have issued a statement claiming to have obtained a copy of the Census database.

But the ONS has said there is no evidence to suggest the claims are true.

The allegations come as a 19-year-old Briton suspected of being a mastermind behind Lulz Security - and a recent hack on the CIA - was arrested in Essex.

It also follows a day after the group was successful in forcing the Police Serious Organised Crime Unit (SOCA) website offline.

Daniel Hamilton, director of the civil liberties and privacy campaign group Big Brother Watch, said it was "profoundly concerning" if the group had accessed the 2011 Census.

"This comes, however, as no surprise to Big Brother Watch who have for months been warning the government about the risks of this information falling into the wrong hands," he said.

"The personal information of millions of members of the public may now be at risk.

"If these rumours are proved to be correct, it will demonstrate that each and every one of the promises made by the Office of the National Statistics about the safety and security of their databases were entirely bogus."

He added that the Government must act immediately and establish an inquiry into how such a breach was possible.

The ONS said in a statement: "We are aware of the suggestion that census data has been accessed. We are working with our security advisers and contractors to establish whether there is any substance to this."

"The 2011 Census places the highest priority on maintaining the security of personal data. At this stage we have no evidence to suggest that any such compromise has occurred."

LulzSec is said to have established itself as a formidable splinter group to Anonymous, the hacking group embroiled in the WikiLeaks fallout.

The group was believed to have initially targeted only US broadcasters, including PBS and Fox, and gaming firms.

But the Twitter page @LulzSec recently declared its intention to break into Government websites and leak confidential documents. Source

Justice for Owen Wightman Man: Arrested Following Death Of Six Year Old In Hit And Run Collision - 21st June 2011

A 21-year-old man has been arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving after a six-year-old boy was knocked down and killed.

The man, from Huddersfield, is to be questioned by police over Owen Wightman's death in Wakefield, West Yorkshire.

It comes after an appeal for anyone who had seen a male driver of a light blue or grey hatchback in the area at the time to come forward.

Owen and his friend had been playing just five minutes from their homes and were crossing the road when he was hit at around lunchtime on Saturday.

The driver of the car was seen stopping further down the road to inspect his car for damage.

Police have also analysed CCTV taken from a bus that passed the scene and have had a "good response" to appeals for help.

Older brother Jack, 12, has visited the road in the Chapelthorpe area and described Owen as the "best brother ever".

His handwritten note, left alongside masses of other tributes at the scene, said: "You was the best bro ever, even when we used to fight and argue I still loved you anyway."

On Monday, Owen's parents Joanne, 33, and Neil, 31, said they had lost their "baby" and appealed for someone to come forward so they could "lay him to rest".

In a statement they said: "He was a perfect little man who was taken from us - just perfect in every way. Read More

Greece: Voluntary bank help would be a default

The Fitch credit ratings agency has said that if commercial lenders roll over their loans to Greece, it will deem the country to be in "default".

As Greece awaits further bail-out money from the EU and International Monetary Fund, private investors are under pressure to extend their loans.

Last week, France and Germany reached a compromise over whether such investors should assume a greater burden, saying any such move should be "voluntary".

But few think their help is by choice.

Fitch's comments come as the Greek government is due to face a vote of confidence, a crucial first step towards gaining another 12bn-euro ($17bn; £10bn) loan from the EU and the IMF.

If the government survives the vote, Greece's parliament will be asked to back the latest spending cuts - worth 28bn euros - on 28 June.

Fitch Ratings believes that any softening of terms by commercial banks would come only as a result of political pressure and therefore cannot be deemed "voluntary".

Categorising a borrower as "in default" will mean a further lowering of Greece's credit rating. (read more)

Marine life facing mass extinction, report says

Marine life is under severe threat from global warming, pollution and habitat loss, with a high risk of "major extinctions" according to a panel of experts.

These are the conclusions of a distinguished group of marine scientists who met at Oxford University, England, in April to discuss the impact of human activity on the world's oceans.

The meeting, led by the International Programme on the State of the Ocean (IPSO), examined the combined effects of pollution, acidification, ocean warming, over-fishing and depleting levels of oxygen in the water.

The panel found that oceanic conditions are similar to those of "previous major extinctions of species in Earth's history," and that we face losing marine species and entire marine ecosystems, such as coral reefs, within a single generation. (read more)

Aggressive deer stomps B.C. woman in her yard as wildlife behavior across globe goes wacky

A woman was seriously hurt Monday after being attacked by an aggressive deer in her own yard in southeast B.C., police say.

The woman was taking her dogs out when a deer came onto her property and stomped her, Kimberley RCMP Cpl. Todd Preston said.

"She did absolutely nothing wrong," Preston said. "The deer obviously had a fawn and was very aggressive."

Travis Fooks said he was driving by the home when he heard screaming.

"She was cut, there was blood everywhere, her clothes were ripped to shreds," he said. "I could see gashes [25 centimetres] long and where she wasn't cut she was purple. She was huddled on the ground with her two little dogs underneath her."

"I helped chase the deer off," Fooks said. "But it kept coming back. There were two other deer around as well and one neighbour was fending them off with a shovel."

Fooks says he called the police, the ambulance and conservation officers.

"While we were waiting for them to get there, the deer just kept trying to come at us. Once they got there, the [conservation officer] shot the deer," he said. "He waited until it moved up against the hill where there was no one around and shot it." (read more)

Trades reveal China shift from dollar

China began diversifying away from the US dollar in earnest in the first four months of this year, most likely by buying far more European government debt than US dollar assets, according to estimates from Standard Chartered Bank.

China's foreign exchange reserves expanded by around $200bn in the first four months of the year, with three-quarters of the new inflow invested abroad in non-US dollar assets, the bank estimated.

"It certainly appears that China's finally following through on its policy to diversify its foreign reserve holdings away from the US dollar," said Stephen Green, the bank's chief China economist.

For over six years, Beijing has continued to accumulate US government debt even as officials insisted they wanted to reduce the weighting of US dollar assets in reserves, which exceed US$3,000bn. Between December 2007 and March this year, China's foreign exchange reserves doubled to $3,044bn and over that time most analysts believe the proportion of US dollar assets remained relatively steady at between 60 and 70 per cent of the total.

Beijing, however, routes purchases through custodian banks and overseas financial centres, such as London and Hong Kong, to disguise its offshore dealings.

Standard Chartered compared China's inflow of new foreign exchange reserves to net purchases of US government debt by buyers in China, Hong Kong and London. These purchases fell dramatically in the first four months of this year to $46bn -- equivalent to just 24 per cent of the $196bn in foreign exchange that China accumulated over the same period. (read more)

Melting polar regions causing even more methane to be released, which will in turn accelerate warming

Growing number of adults developing hayfever as health problems pile upon modern civilization

More than half a million more middle-aged people will develop hay fever over the next decade, as a surge in late-onset allergies baffles scientists.

Experts say more and more adults are suddenly finding themselves with the allergy that causes sneezing, itchy eyes and a runny nose throughout the summer.

According to the business information group Datamonitor, there were 12.5 million people over 20 in Britain in 2010 suffering from allergic rhinitis - a range of conditions including reactions to grass and tree pollens.

That number is expected to rise to 13.1 million by the end of the decade.

Climate change, the introduction of new species of exotic plants into the country, new infections and the tendency to live in more sterile internal environments are four theories put forward to explain the rise.

Of the current 12.5 million, 2.5 million are aged between 20 and 34 but the vast majority, some 9.5 million, are middle-aged.

Andrew Williams, a consultant allergy nurse at Homerton University Hospital in East London, said: "There seems to be a prevalence of late-onset hayfever cases.

"My experience shows me that even in the last two to three years we’re really seeing more hayfever patients in the older age bracket.

"Before, I would typically see patients who are mainly in their 20s and 30s, but I am now seeing an incidence of many more sufferers in their 40s to 60s." (read more)

Pill to mend a broken heart 'developed by scientists'



British-based researchers claim they may be just a decade away from perfecting a way to persuade the heart to rejuvenate – a process thought to be impossible just five years ago.

That means that when a heart attack occurs, the muscles and blood vessels around the organ could rebuild themselves – massively reducing long term damage and improving the quality of life of the victim.

The researchers at University College London have discovered that a protein known as thymosin Beta 4, key to heart growth in the young, appears to reawaken dormant stem cells in the organ of adults.

They now hope to begin human trials in a few years after experiments on mice showed that it improved the performance of the heart by as much as 25 per cent.

Professor Paul Riley, the research leader, said: "I could envisage a patient known to be at risk of a heart attack – either because of family history or warning signs spotted by their GP – taking an oral tablet, along the lines of a statin, which would prime their heart so that if they had a heart attack, the damage could be repaired."

Unlike other organs, it was thought until recently that the heart lacked the the ability to heal damage to itself.

That meant when someone had a heart attack they had to live with damage and their quality of life was often severely curtailed. (read more)

If prisoners worked, we'd all be better off: Give inmates real jobs and they can start to repay their debt to our society

The Government's sentencing changes have sparked controversy, but prison reform plans are about more than just numbers. Kenneth Clarke wants to fix a system that fails on rehabilitation – partly because prisons do not do enough to make their captive audience more employable.

Last October, the Justice Secretary said: "We need to instil in our jails a regime of hard work." People expect prisoners to work, but the default life of most prisoners – especially those on shorter sentences – is just a few hours a day of association and "purposeful activity" such as education, with only a small part of that involving work. The rest is lounging around on bunks, bench-pressing and lots of television.

Literacy and drug treatment should be the priority for most prisoners, but without adequate work schemes, the captive opportunity to develop the skills and work ethic of prisoners is lost, leading to poor employment rates and high reoffending. In the economy, 29 million people work and pay their way, but our 85,000 prisoners do not. Rules require prisoners to engage in "useful work" and privileges can be used to encourage compliance, but no inmate is compelled to work and most do not – partly due to lack of incentives and partly because work opportunities do not exist for the majority, let alone a full working week.

Our prisons have never been fuller, and yet half of their workshops are empty. At most, there are 24,000 work places. Huge investment and expansion since 1995 did not create more work places and the system has been in decline for decades. In 1962, Henry Brooke, the then home secretary, told Parliament that a "working week of 35 hours and upwards" was generally achieved in most prisons. Since 2005, however, it has fallen from 13.3 hours a week to 11.8 hours.

Some good practice does exist, like HMP Dovegate that has prisoners employed on electrical lighting work with a company that insourced that business from Eastern Europe. But such examples are rare. Most work pays a token sum, involves no payback to society, and is nothing like real employment. As work has declined, prisons have become increasingly comfortable. Prisoners do not pay tax, nor do they cover accommodation or food costs. They typically have free access to gym equipment, and other privileges are granted for a token sum. (read more)

LulzSec Hacker's Hunt - Essex Teen Arrested In FBI Global Hacking Probe - 21st June 2011

A 19-year-old suspected of being a mastermind behind notorious international computer hacking group LulzSec has been arrested in Essex, after a joint operation by the FBI and Scotland Yard.

It comes just days after the group claimed it brought down the US Central Intelligence Agency's website.

The alleged hack on CIA.gov occurred on the same day the group opened a telephone request line so its fans could suggest potential targets.

On Twitter, the group wrote: "Tango down - CIA.gov - for the lulz".

The teenager is being questioned under the Computer Misuse Act and Fraud Act.

He was arrested by officers from the force's e-crime unit.

A Scotland Yard spokesman said: "The arrest follows an investigation into network intrusions and distributed denial of service attacks against a number of international business and intelligence agencies by what is believed to be the same hacking group.

"Searches at a residential address in Wickford, Essex, following the arrest last night have led to the examination of a significant amount of material.

"These forensic examinations remain ongoing."

The Met and Essex Police are working "in cooperation" with the FBI, the spokesman said.

The teenager remains in custody at a central London police station. Source

LulzSec Strikes Again! Now hackers take down Britain's top crime-busting website in latest high-profile attack - 21st June 2011

Hackers have brought down the website of the Serious Organised Crime Agency, which targets organised crime in Britain and overseas.

Lulz Security, a loosely-aligned hacker group, has claimed responsibility for crashing the Soca website on Monday.

It was likely a denial-of-service attack, during which hackers bombarded the site with so many messages that it was unable to cope and went offline.

Lulz has targeted numerous high-profile websites in recent weeks - just last Thursday it brought down the CIA's public website after launching an attack on the intelligence agency's computer network.

Soca spokesman Richard Sellors said: 'We are aware of claims that the Soca website has been attacked. The picture is not clear at this time, but we are investigating the matter with our service provider.'

The website went down for a bit yesterday afternoon but it was then brought back up.

Soca then decided to take the site down for the night to take the pressure off its Internet service provider, which works with a variety of local businesses and organizations, said Mr Sellors.

The website was still down this morning. Read More

TIMELINE OF RECENT HIGH- PROFILE CYBER ATTACKS

April 29: Fox Broadcasting alerted its users on it had been hacked, and attackers gained access to emails and passwords for hundreds of employees

May 29: PBS website hacked; user names and hashed passwords released. A false story was also posted claiming rapper Tupac Shakur was 'still alive in New Zealand' 15 years after his death

June 2: SonyPictures.com hacked and personal information of its one million users compromised

June 5: Nintendo announces its computer system was hacked, but no personal or company information was lost

June 8: NHS confirms potential security breach after computer hackers gained access to health service passwords

June 10: IMF confirms it was hit during the last several months by what it called 'a very major breach'

June 13: Lulz Security accessed a Senate server that supports the chamber's public website but did not breach other files

June 16: Lulz claims cyber attack on CIA computer network, causing public website to shut down

June 20: Lulz brings down the Serious Organised Crime Agency's website

Electrical Glitch Shuts Down Nuclear Reactor In Southeastern South Korea - 21st June 2011

A nuclear reactor in southeastern South Korea went offline on Tuesday because of a glitch in the power transmission line, a state-run nuclear power company said.

Korea Hydro & Nuclear Power Co (KHNP) said the Gori-2 reactor northeast of Busan, the country's largest seaport, was shut down at 10:30 a.m. when a 345 kilovolt power line experienced an overload, Yonhap News Agency reported.

"Electricity in one of the three high-voltage power lines was cut off suddenly, triggering an overload in the remaining two lines," the company said.

"The reactor's emergency power relay system kicked in, causing the reactor to stop electricity generation."

The power line is used to send electricity from the nuclear reactor to the nearby industrial city of Ulsan.

"Because it was a precautionary shutdown, the reactor was in stable condition and there was no release of radioactive materials into the environment," KHNP said.

The operator said engineers were examining why the power lines failed and checking the reactor to make certain there are no unseen problems.

The company said the Gori-2 will go back online once all inspections are completed and the power line is fixed. It, however, declined to say when normal operations will recommence.

The 650-megawatt light-water reactor started commercial operations in July 1983 and is the third-oldest nuclear unit in the country after the Gori-1 and Wolsong 1 reactors.

The Gori-1 reactor experienced a shutdown in mid-April that caused the government to keep the unit offline for about a month to give inspectors plenty of time to check for possible safety problems.

Seoul has moved to strengthen monitoring and enhance safety requirements for all of its 21 commercial reactors, following a rise in public concern after Japan's Fukushima nuclear disaster. Source