Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Obama: '33,000 Troops To Leave Afghanistan' -- Are they on their way to Libya?

President Barack Obama has made a televised address announcing plans to pull out 10,000 troops from Afghanistan by the end of this year, followed by 23,000 in 2012.

In a speech outlining a shift in US policy, the US President said after the initial reduction, more troops will be pulled out at a steady pace as Afghans take over their own security by 2014.

"America, it is time to focus on nation-building here at home," he said.

President Obama said the US is able to remove troops because al Qaeda is under more pressure than at any time since the terror attacks on September 11, 2001, that precipitated the war.

He said the US will join initiatives aimed at reconciling the Afghan people, including the Taliban, as the Afghan government and security forces are strengthened. (read more)

Police Fear Escalation In North Ireland Rioting

Police in Northern Ireland fear violence on the streets could escalate after blaming both Republican and Loyalist groups of leading the trouble.

Dissident republicans are suspected by police of firing live rounds in Belfast which injured a press photographer in the leg on Tuesday night.

Two other men suffered bullet wounds amid two nights of violence in the city.

Senior officers have said the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF), the loyalist paramilitary group, started the rioting on Monday.

Petrol bombs, bottles and bricks have been thrown at officers in the worst violence the city has seen for 10 years.

Pitched battles were fought between loyalists and republicans at a notorious flashpoint in the east of the city. Police were targeted as they tried to restore calm. (read more)

What's going on in Xintang or "Riot town" in China? -- Rare glimpse into a disintigrating china

Federal Reserve now admits US economy is struggling: Jerks

The Federal Reserve has again cut its growth forecasts for the US economy and admitted that "longer-lasting" factors may help explain the current slowing in the recovery.

The central bank took a red pen to its projections for this year and next, as well as to the unemployment rate. The world's biggest economy will expand between 2.7pc and 2.9pc this year, weaker than it expected just two months ago.

Unemployment, meanwhile, will stay above 8pc throughout next year in a prediction that will depress President Barack Obama, who is already on the back foot over the sluggish economy.

The new forecasts come as the Fed confirmed that its second, controverisal round of quantitative easing – or money printing – will end this month and as it pledged to keep the US interest rates at between 0pc and 0.25pc for an extended period.

The latest evidence from manufacturing, the housing market and the consumer – still the engine of the economy – all suggest the deterioration that started in the first quarter of this year has extended into the second.

"Part of the slowdown is temporary, part of it may be longer lasting," said Fed chairman Ben Bernanke. "We don't have a precise reading on why this slower pace of growth is persisting." (read more)

"Britain should save the euro – and then cash in"

Full fiscal union would allow us to profit from Europe, even as we sat on the sidelines, says Jeremy Warner.

For many in Britain, the apparent death throes of the single currency allow a smug sense of “we told you so”. The present crisis was as predictable as it is familiar. In every particular, it provides validation for the view Britain adopted nearly 20 years ago when it was ignominiously forced out of the ERM – namely that it’s tough, if not impossible, to sustain a currency union with Germany.

To survive in such a union, your economy has to become ultra-competitive; you cannot rely on devaluation to do the work for you. Yet however competitive you are, somehow or other Germany always manages to stay a couple of steps ahead.

Britain couldn’t stand the heat and got out. Now the same choice – only a much worse one, because leaving the euro is far more difficult and disruptive than simply abandoning a currency peg – confronts the single currency’s peripheral nations.

Yet break-up is not the only option open to Europe. There is another, which is that the solvent North agrees to bail out the stricken South on a more or less permanent basis. Although the politicians dare not admit it in public, this is in fact what’s being progressively forced upon them.

For the moment, however, the rhetoric continues to be that of denial. In Germany’s insistence that the euro cannot be allowed to fail, because it would destroy the European Union itself, and in its coincidental refusal to contemplate the only thing that will ultimately save the single currency in its current form – a permanent transfer union – we see the irresistible force meeting the immovable object. (read more)

PIMCO: European Economies Will Solve Problems 'Through Default'

The head of PIMCO, the world's biggest bond fund, predicted that Greece and other European economies would default on their debts to resolve their problems as the euro area deals with its debt crisis.

Greece's government won a vote of confidence late on Tuesday, a crucial step toward securing further short-term and longer-term financial aid from the European Union and the IMF as the country tries to avoid the euro zone's first sovereign debt default.

"For the next three years, we're going to see different economies work out different problems. For European economies, especially Greece, it would be through default," Mohamed El-Erian, chief executive of PIMCO, told reporters in Taipei on Wednesday via a video conference.

He didn't identify which economies other than Greece he was referring to.

El-Erian has suggested in the past that Greece would default and that Europe risks wasting money for nothing by pumping billions of dollars into the ailing economy.

"Nothing has been done to enhance growth," he said. "No single (Greek) indicator has shown strength. They are afraid a restructuring would hurt European banks."

He doubted a Greek default could trigger another global financial crisis.

"Ireland, Portugal, Italy and Spain would have to be involved. But Greece is too small in terms of economic impact," El-Erian said. (read more)

Alex Jones: Are we marching towards a Third World War? Military operations against Syria, Yemen and now the Sudan are on the table



Reader contributed.

The Financial Collapse Of Greece: The Canary In The Coal Mine For The Global Economy?

The rest of the world needs to sit up and take notice of what is going on in Greece right now. This is what can happen when you allow government debt to spiral out of control. Once it becomes clear that you can't pay your debts, a financial collapse can happen very suddenly and you start losing your sovereignty to those that you must turn to for financial help. So is the financial collapse of Greece the "canary in the coal mine" for the global economy? EU finance ministers have given the Greek government two weeks from Monday to approve another round of brutal austerity measures. If the austerity measures are not approved, Greece will not receive the next bailout installment of 12 billion euros. If that happens, the whole globe better buckle up because it is going to get crazy.

July 3rd is the deadline. Basically the EU has put a gun to the head of the Greek government. Without this bailout money, Greece will default and economic hell will break loose all across the country.

It is important to keep in mind that this is just the first Greek bailout that we are talking about. Last year, the EU and the IMF agreed to provide the Greek government with a 110 billion euro bailout. The current 12 billion euro installment is part of that package.

Sadly, it has become apparent that the first bailout is not going to be nearly enough for Greece. A second bailout, which will be the same size or even larger, is already being discussed. This is going to put the Greek people even more under the heel of the money powers in Europe.

Keep in mind that all of these "bailouts" are just more loans. There is no way that the Greeks are ever going to be able to repay all of this money. (read more)

Fareed Zakaria: What Greece teaches the U.S.



Editor's Note: The following is a transcript of a Q&A with Fareed Zakaria.

Amar C. Bakshi: What lessons do you draw from Greece's economic crisis?

The situation in Greece highlights for me how different America’s economic crisis is from Europe’s economic crisis.

America’s economic crisis is one that is actually economically soluble but politically very difficult to solve.

If we were to repeal the Bush tax cuts, we'd get $4 trillion of revenue over the next 10 years. If we were to enact Simpson-Bowles, we’d get $1.5 trillion by closing various tax loopholes. With a few simple economic decisions, we can solve America’s budgetary problem.

Now, of course, you have long-term healthcare costs to deal with. That’s a huge problem and I don’t pretend it isn't. But in every other respect you can bring down America’s budget deficit to what would be among the lowest levels of any Western country.

Greece faces a much more fundamental problem. There isn't an easy economic solution.

Greece is simply not going to be able to pay back the loans that it owes. If you do the math, it is inconceivable.

That is what people like Alan Greenspan are pointing out. There’s simply no reasonable set of projections that will get you to a place where Greece is going to be able to pay back its loans.

So you can entirely understand why there is a great, great fear among European policy makers about a Greek default. If Greece defaults - and remember it would be the first rich country to default since 1939 - there would be a huge danger of a kind of Lehman Brothers-like spillover effect. (read more)

"U.S. Finances 'Similar' to Russian Politics"

Matt Taibbi, contributing editor at Rolling Stone, is known in the United States for his coverage of the financial crisis — he once memorably described Goldman Sachs as "a great vampire squid wrapped around the face of humanity, relentlessly jamming its blood funnel into anything that smells like money" — but in Russia, he is remembered for his time as editor of the satirical newspaper The eXile and by some at this paper for his brief period as a journalist at The Moscow Times.

The Moscow Times sat down with Taibbi in New York recently to chat about Russia's political future, his coverage of the financial crisis and being a reporter in Russia and the United States.

Do you still follow Russian politics?

Not anymore. A lot of the Russian friends I had either aren't in journalism anymore or have moved on to other things, so I'm not as in touch with that world anymore. When I was in Russia, I was obsessed with the corruption and scams. I loved that stuff and still followed it for 2-3 years after I left. Part of the reason for that was that I didn't understand American politics as well. I thought there wasn't as much to follow here. But in the last 3-4 years I've gotten into the finance thing here, that's the reason I don't follow Russian politics as much.

When the financial bubble burst here, it became a lot like the Russian story. A very small group of businessmen with financial interests captured the government and used taxpayers and the public as a kind of insurance policy to bail themselves out when they got in trouble. They limit the political influence of ordinary people by manipulating elections. That story was so similar to the Russian story, I had that same feeling that the world is falling apart and you're searching for that corrupt inner circle, kind of like a mystery story. (read more)

Don't Get the Greek Financial Crisis?

The Greek financial crisis has been the most important economic story of the year—but what it actually means can be lost in breathless talk of defaults and loan tranches.

Luckily for those of us who aren’t keeping a close eye on the bond market or the price of the Euro, Reuters has put together a quick guide to the Greek crisis. The takeaway: Greece is on the verge of a Lehman Brothers-sized collapse.

So, why does it matter to the rest of the world? In short, if Greece defaults on its loans, a lot of European banks that hold the debt would suffe. The credit market would freeze—meaning banks may stop lending to each other. Not a positive thing for a global economy still in recovery.

Nor is Greece’s current crisis a sudden event; this has been building up for years. If you’ve got more time this afternoon, author Michael Lewis (of Liar's Poker and The Blindside fame) wrote a longer piece for Vanity Fair last year tracing the root causes of Greece’s woes. It’s pretty astounding. (read more)

Pentagon gets cyberwar guidelines as computer conflict heats up

President Barack Obama has signed executive orders that lay out how far military commanders around the globe can go in using cyberattacks and other computer-based operations against enemies and as part of routine espionage in other countries.

The orders detail when the military must seek presidential approval for a specific cyber assault on an enemy and weave cyber capabilities into U.S. war fighting strategy, defense officials and cyber security experts told The Associated Press.

Signed more than a month ago, the orders cap a two-year Pentagon effort to draft U.S. rules of the road for cyber warfare, and come as the U.S. begins to work with allies on global ground rules.

The guidelines are much like those that govern the use of other weapons of war, from nuclear bombs to missiles to secret surveillance, the officials said.

In a broad new strategy document, the Pentagon lays out some of the cyber capabilities the military may use during peacetime and conflict. They range from planting a computer virus to using cyberattacks to bring down an enemy's electrical grid or defense network.

"You don't have to bomb them anymore. That's the new world," said James Lewis, cybersecurity expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies.

The new Pentagon strategy, he said, lays out cyber as a new warfare domain and stresses the need to fortify network defenses, protect critical infrastructure and work with allies and corporate partners. (read more)


Arizona wildfire burns horses as well as pasture and homes -- Donkey, horse miraculously saved

When fire ripped through the mountain pasture in southern Arizona, old roping horse Charlie panicked and charged straight into a sheet of flame.

"When fear takes over, sometimes they react. His reaction was to pull away and run right into the wildfire," said horse rescue worker Theresa Warrell.

The veteran workhorse, who suffered burns to his hoofs, underbelly, muzzle and eyes, is among hundreds of horses and other livestock rescued as the Monument Fire roared down out of the Huachuca Mountains and galloped across tinder-dry ranchland in this high desert valley.

As around 11,000 people were evacuated and scores of homes burned to the ground, volunteers worked around the clock to save horses, donkeys, cats, dogs and even hens exposed to the wind-whipped blaze that drove residents from their homes often with just with minutes to spare.

For animal experts, saving often panicked livestock presented an even greater challenge to rescuers.

"It's more of catastrophe, because it is very difficult to move your livestock at a moment's notice," said Dusty Prentice, a large animal veterinarian tending to Charlie's burns at the Horse'n Around Rescue Ranch and Foundation in Palominas.

"How do you get 20 or 30 horses or even two or three backyard horses that have not been in a trailer for quite some time ... evacuated within ten minutes?" she added.

Among other animals rescued was Rosie, a shaggy haired donkey reported missing as the fire bore down on homes in the wide open pasture, forcing owners to make a hurried retreat to safety. (read more)

You can't keep breast implants for life, FDA says

Women who get silicone breast implants are likely to need additional surgery within eight to 10 years to address complications such as rupture of the device, U.S. health regulators said on Wednesday.

The Food and Drug Administration will work to revise safety labels for silicone breast implants after reviewing data from several long-term studies, which also showed that implants had a small link to a rare form of cancer.

"The key point is that breast implants are not lifetime devices," said Jeff Shuren, director of the FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health.

"The longer you have the implant, the more likely you are to have complications."

There were almost 400,000 breast enlargement or reconstruction procedures in the United States in 2010, according to the American Society of Plastic Surgeons. That includes silicone and saline implants.

Post-approval studies showed up to 70 percent of all women who received reconstruction surgery, and up to 40 percent of those getting an enlargement procedure using silicone, needed another surgery within eight to 10 years. (read more)

Japan rocked by 6.7 mag quake near Fukushima; Tsunami alert raised, then lifted



Magnitude6.7
Date-Time
Location39.980°N, 142.247°E
Depth32 km (19.9 miles)
RegionNEAR THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN
Distances88 km (54 miles) SE of Hachinohe, Honshu, Japan
99 km (61 miles) ENE of Morioka, Honshu, Japan
157 km (97 miles) SE of Aomori, Honshu, Japan
524 km (325 miles) NNE of TOKYO, Japan




Reader contributed.

Nebraska Flood Alert: It's going to get much worse



Reader contributed.

China warns US to keep out of South China Sea dispute

China urged the United States on Wednesday to restrain other countries from provoking Beijing in disputes over contested territories in the South China Sea, warning that Washington risks becoming embroiled in an unwanted conflict.

Chinese Vice Foreign Minister Cui Tiankai said it would be best if the United States stayed out of the long-standing disputes, but acknowledged that Washington has an interest in freedom of navigation in sea lanes that are vital to trade.

"If the United States does want to play a role, it may counsel restraint to those countries that have frequently been taking provocative action and ask them to be more responsible in their behavior," Cui said at a briefing. "I believe that individual countries are actually playing with fire, and I hope that fire will not be drawn to the United States."

Decades of recurring tensions over rival claims to islands, shoals and reefs in the South China Sea have flared in recent weeks. Vietnam and the Philippines have cited Chinese incursions and provocations in the areas they claim and Beijing has responded by accusing the others of provocative acts.

Cui accused unspecified "other countries" of occupying territory, drilling for oil and gas and endangering fishermen in the South China Sea. But he later suggested he was referring to one country in particular and then said China wanted to avoid conflict with Vietnam.

"China has no intention to get into military conflict with any country, Vietnam included," he said. (read more)

Germany warns Greece over debt restructuring

German Chancellor Angela Merkel is warning that a full-scale restructuring of Greek debt would have "completely uncontrollable"consequences on the financial markets.

Merkel said Wednesday that imposing a so-called haircut on Greek debt - reducing the amount to be repaid - would not only endanger banks and other creditors who hold Greek bonds, but also institutions that sold insurance policies against a default.

Merkel told a parliamentary committee that those credit default swaps have a higher face value than the debt itself.

She says "nobody around the globe knows exactly who holds those papers, who will have to pay how much." (read more)

Israeli leaders test nuclear bunker in defense drill

Israeli leaders holed up in a new underground nuclear bunker on Wednesday as part of annual maneuvers to prepare for a possible missile war with Iran, Syria and their Lebanese and Palestinian guerrilla allies.

Officials said it was the first time the security cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, had tested the "National Management Center" carved out beneath the government complex in Jerusalem over the past decade.

The bunker includes living quarters as well as command facilities. It can be accessed through the western foothills leading to the coastal metropolis of Tel Aviv.

"This is the proper place from which to run the State of Israel in wartime," Homefront Defense Minister Matan Vilnai told Army Radio in an interview.

Israel instituted increasingly sweeping civil defense drills after the 2006 Lebanon war in which Hezbollah fighters fired thousands of short-range rockets at its northern towns.

There have been similar salvoes from Hamas and other Palestinian factions in the Gaza Strip to the south, and Israeli officials say a future war could involve non-conventional missile strikes by Syria and Iran.

Wednesday's exercise, dubbed "Turning Point 5," envisaged heavy shelling and thousands of dead and wounded on several Israeli fronts. Police and medics practiced mass-casualty incidents and air raid sirens were scheduled to sound twice.

"It is certainly an extreme scenario (although) we assume that our enemies would not dare to operate this way, given our deterrent power," Vilnai said. (read more)

Scientists may have discovered water on planet Mercury

It’s way too hot to handle, but scientists in Maryland are unlocking secrets of the planet Mercury.

Alex DeMetrick reports one of those secrets might just turn out to be very cool.

It took years for the Messenger spacecraft to travel to the heart of the solar system and lock into orbit around the planet Mercury. It provided the first high-resolution mapping and analysis of the minerals and chemicals that make up a planet that hits 1300 degrees Fahrenheit. That’s except in some of the deep craters at Mercury’s north and south poles.

“Some of those crater floors have been in shadow for at least a billion years. They act like cold traps. It’s very possible there’s isolated water ice inside some of these things. We’re still working to make that definitive,” said Dr. Ralph McNutt, Hopkins Applied Physics Lab. (read more)



U.S. Postal Service to Stop Paying Into Pension Fund as Crisis Continues

The U.S. Postal Service, facing insolvency without approval to delay a $5.5 billion payment for worker health benefits, will suspend contributions to an employee retirement account to save $800 million this year.

The Postal Service will stop paying employer contributions to the defined-benefit Federal Employees Retirement System, which covers about 85 percent of career postal workers, it said today in an e-mailed statement. The $115 million payment, made every other week, will stop on June 24, the statement said.

Suspending payments to the retirement account will help “conserve cash and preserve liquidity,” the statement said. The agency estimates it has overpaid by $6.9 billion and has asked Congress to pass legislation to return that money.

Congress must “make bold, quick and substantive reforms,” said Art Sackler, executive director of the Washington-based Coalition for a 21st Century Postal Service, which represents corporate mail customers. “The USPS is hanging by a thread.”

The Postal Service said the suspension will save $800 million through the end of the fiscal year. The agency and U.S. Office of Personnel Management will ask the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel to analyze the decision, said David Partenheimer, a Postal Service spokesman. (read more)

America now has more idle men and women than at any time since the Great Depression

The Great Recession has now earned the dubious right of being compared to the Great Depression. In the face of the most stimulative fiscal and monetary policies in our history, we have experienced the loss of over 7 million jobs, wiping out every job gained since the year 2000. From the moment the Obama administration came into office, there have been no net increases in full-time jobs, only in part-time jobs. This is contrary to all previous recessions. Employers are not recalling the workers they laid off from full-time employment.

The real job losses are greater than the estimate of 7.5 million. They are closer to 10.5 million, as 3 million people have stopped looking for work. Equally troublesome is the lower labor participation rate; some 5 million jobs have vanished from manufacturing, long America's greatest strength. Just think: Total payrolls today amount to 131 million, but this figure is lower than it was at the beginning of the year 2000, even though our population has grown by nearly 30 million.

The most recent statistics are unsettling and dismaying, despite the increase of 54,000 jobs in the May numbers. Nonagricultural full-time employment actually fell by 142,000, on top of the 291,000 decline the preceding month. Half of the new jobs created are in temporary help agencies, as firms resist hiring full-time workers. [Check out a roundup of political cartoons on the economy.]

Today, over 14 million people are unemployed. We now have more idle men and women than at any time since the Great Depression. Nearly seven people in the labor pool compete for every job opening. Hiring announcements have plunged to 10,248 in May, down from 59,648 in April. Hiring is now 17 percent lower than the lowest level in the 2001-02 downturn. One fifth of all men of prime working age are not getting up and going to work. Equally disturbing is that the number of people unemployed for six months or longer grew 361,000 to 6.2 million, increasing their share of the unemployed to 45.1 percent. We face the specter that long-term unemployment is becoming structural and not just cyclical, raising the risk that the jobless will lose their skills and become permanently unemployable. (read more)

Congressional Budget Office releases grim long-term outlook for America's finances

Increasing federal debt will be a growing burden on government action, crowding out lawmakers’ ability to adopt tax and spending priorities in good times and reducing flexibility during recessions, all while making a fiscal crisis more likely and hindering long-term growth, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office said Wednesday.

In the annual Long-Term Budget Outlook, the legislature’s budget scorekeepers said that the ratio of debt to GDP this year will be 69 percent, 7 percentage points higher than last year. In 2021, the CBO predicts debt will reach 76 percent of GDP, but under a more dire—and more likely—scenario, the public debt will be 101 percent of GDP 10 years from now, well into the economic danger zone of 90 percent or more.

Last year, that worst-case scenario predicted a debt-to-GDP ratio of 87 percent in 2020, demonstrating that the public debt picture has worsened considerably, in part due to a bipartisan tax deal last year that reduced expected revenue. (read more)

Thousands Without Power In Cranberry Township after Massive Copper Theft; Metal thefts across country seemingly on the rise

Thousands of people are without power in Cranberry Township due to a copper wire theft.

According to First Energy, someone broke into a substation on Route 19 between Cranberry and Zelienople and stole all the copper ground wires.

The suspect had to get through a large fence with barbed wire to access the copper wire.

First Energy said it was an extremely dangerous theft, which has left 3,800 customers without power.

Service is not expected to be restored until late Wednesday.

Cranberry Township Police are investigating and are checking local hospitals for any burn patients. (Source)

New World Order in America - SWAT teams invade homes at will, shoot animals at leisure



Reader contributed.

Will Greece exit the euro?

Is it time for Greece to drop out of the euro?

Greece is running out of options. Unless it can make good on massive debts it will default, with heavy consequences not only for the 17 eurozone countries that share the single European currency, but for the global economy.

The European Central Bank and the International Monetary Fund and eurozone countries have poured money into Greece to prevent default and may have to continue doing so unless another solution can be found.

This has led some to call for Greece to be allowed to quit or be thrown out of the euro, to ease the burden. Some Greeks also support this since they believe it would spare them from harsh austerity measures demanded as conditions for the bail out.

How would quitting the euro affect the Greeks?

This would liberate Greece from the eurozone's fixed exchange rate, allowing it to become a more competitive exporter and an even more attractive tourist destination.

But this would come with a heavy price. It would still leave Greece in debt and reliant on handouts that former eurozone partners would be less willing to supply. It would also mean Greeks would face higher prices for imported goods. (read more)

North Dakota residents told to evacuate ahead of "historic" flooding



Residents in Minot, North Dakota, have until Wednesday evening to leave their homes after authorities ordered the evacuation of some 12,000 people from the area because of expected record flooding.

Minot, located in the north-central part of the state, is the fourth-largest city in North Dakota.

Are you preparing for the flood in Minot? Share your story.

The swollen Souris River flows straight through the city and is expected to overwhelm area levees, said Cecily Fong, spokeswoman for the North Dakota Department of Emergency Services.

"It's really historic proportions of water," Fong said late Tuesday night.

The evacuation order covers a third of the community's population, Fong said. Residents have until 6 p.m. Wednesday to leave.

"The river is rising faster than expectations, so they (city officials) are kind of scrambling to shore up levees and do what they can," Fong said.

The National Weather Service has forecast record flooding and urged anyone living in the affected areas to prepare immediately for oncoming floodwaters. Heavy area rains and dam releases are causing the river to swell at Minot.

"The current best estimate for when water will overtop the lowest dikes in the Minot area is sometime on Thursday afternoon. However, a Wednesday night or early Thursday timeframe cannot be ruled out as the dikes become more stressed due to rising water," the weather service said. (read more)

Greece prepares to slash budget after confidence vote as riots continue



Greece is set to press ahead with new taxes, public-sector job cuts and the sale of everything from airports to gaming licenses after Greek Prime Minister George Papandreou narrowly survived a confidence vote early Wednesday.

Papandreou is planning to cut 150,000 government jobs, slash the salaries of those who keep their posts, and slap new taxes on property, yachts and swimming pools.

He's trying to win confidence from international lenders in order to get a second bailout package to keep the government from defaulting on debts.

But the austerity package is very unpopular. Weeks of protests forced Papandreou to shuffle his cabinet last week, leading to the confidence vote, which he won 155-143.

European markets were slightly down Wednesday morning, though it was not clear if that was in response to the Greek vote.

International lenders have demanded Greece cut spending, lay off public workers, increase taxes and raise 50 billion euros ($71 billion) through selling off state-owned enterprises in exchange for another bailout deal for the cash-strapped nation.

Analysts warn that a Greek default could cripple the euro, the European Union's common currency, and send shock waves throughout the world economy.

"If Greece were to default, I think the idea that you could contain that would be fanciful," former British finance minister Alistair Darling told CNN Wednesday. (read more)

Breakdancing gorilla Zola of Calgary Zoo -- Animals nearly ready to take over for Humans once we've destroyed ourselves



A gorilla named Zola at the Calgary Zoo might not be king of the jungle, but he's internet royalty — after a video of his breakdancing moves went viral on YouTube.

Zola, an eight-year-old Western lowland gorilla, busts a move with some fancy foot shuffles and spins on one foot repeatedly while splashing in water in the 40-second video.

Staff at the zoo captured the footage late last week, then added music that seems to sync perfectly with Zola's b-boy moves.

P.S. The Coming Crisis is firmly against zoos, in case anyone was wondering.

Store sells cartons, gives away eggs to circumvent police-state: Canada

A health food store in eastern P.E.I. is looking for a way around health regulations after provincial officials told them to stop selling eggs they buy from local farmers.

The eggs haven't been inspected, and officials say that violates health regulations. Mary and Chris Mermuys of Turning Point Health Food in Montague have been selling eggs from local producers for seven years, but were only told last week to stop.

The eggs are still available at their store, but they say they're giving them away. If you want a carton to carry them in, however, it will cost you $2.75.

Mary Mermuys told CBC News Tuesday the rules don't make sense because farmers are allowed to sell their eggs directly to customers. (read more)

Senate Bill 978: 5 years in prison for those who embed Youtube videos (March, march go the boots, gently down the road...)



Reader contributed.

Has a World Cyber War begun?



Reader contributed.

Thousands without power after powerful storm hits Chicago area - 21st June 2011

It could take days to restore power to more than 267,000 Commonwealth Edison customers who remain without electricity Wednesday morning after a severe thunderstorm downed power lines and trees throughout the Chicago area Tuesday night.

The storm, which hit after 7 p.m. and prompted numerous tornado warnings throughout the area, according to the National Weather Service. By 9:30 p.m., the most severe portion of the storms passed to the northeast.

The downed trees and power lines have Commonwealth Edison crews scrambling to restore power and Metra working to removed downed trees and branches from the tracks.

As of 6 a.m. Wednesday, 267,000 ComEd across the area are customers without power, ComEd spokesman Tony Hernandez said. In Chicago, 5,600 customers are in the dark, down from the 65,000 without power early Tuesday.

The northern suburbs are hit the hardest, where 187,000 are without power, Hernandez said. In the south suburbs, about 32,000 customers are without power, while the western suburbs have about 1,100 customers in the dark.

“We’re thinking that due to the extent of the damage from the storms, we might be looking at a multiple-day effort,” ComEd spokesman Tony Hernandez said. More than 400 ComEd crews have already restored 144,000 customers to power as of Wednesday morning and will work round-the-clock to finish repairs, he said.

Airlines at O’Hare International Airport have already canceled 250 flights Wednesday and are experiencing some delays of up to 20 minutes, according to the city’s Department of Aviation. Midway Airport is operating normally as of 7:30 a.m.

Meteorologist Samuel Shea said numerous funnel clouds were reported in the suburbs, including Naperville, Grayslake and Sugar Grove, but there are no confirmed reports of tornadoes as of Wednesday morning.

Three teams of meteorologists from the National Weather Service will tour some of the hardest hit parts of the Chicago area Wednesday to determine whether damage was caused by tornadoes or straight-line winds, such as the 80 miles per hour gusts reported in Wheeling. Read More

Large Number Of Dead Carp Reported At Kensington Metropark - 20th June 2011

A large number of carp have died at Kent Lake in Kensington Metropark. Kensington is part of the Huron-Clinton Metropark system and park patrons and local listeners have reported seeing large numbers of dead carp floating in the water and all over the shores.

Officials tell WHMI that they are working with the Michigan Department of Natural Resources on the issue. Communication Specialist Denise Semion says the fish kill could be from spawning stress and a rapid rise in water temperature or from other causes, such a virus that affects mostly carp.

Semion says they will be meeting with the DNR and will provide more information once that happens but in the meantime, visitors may see dead carp in the lake. Source

How American nuclear submarine came close to 'catastrophe' during fatal incident off Devon - 22nd June 2011

A U.S. nuclear submarine came within feet of running aground as it left Plymouth naval base, a report has found.

The drama unfolded as the USS Minneapolis-St Paul entered rough seas and tried to take evasive action resulting in five crewmen being swept overboard, two of whom died.

Chief Petty Officer Thomas Higgins and Petty Officer Michael Holtz were attached to the submarine with safety lines and had been helping the habour pilot to disembark when the submarine changed direction.

They died as they were repeatedly pounded 'like rag dolls' against the hull by the force of 20ft waves. The three other crew members were later rescued.

The 2007 Royal Navy report into the incident, released this week under the Freedom of Information Act, said that the 110m-long, 6,000 ton vessel, 'came within less than her own length' of hitting rocks and becoming stuck with 'catastrophic consequences' as she turned to get back into protected waters.

The report said that the incident, which came as the Devonport harbour pilot was trying to disembark the submarine, was largely the fault of the vessel's commanding officer Commander Edwin Ruff.

But it also criticised a lax safety culture at the naval base, the largest in Western Europe, including failing to heed warnings after a similar but non-fatal accident involving British submarine HMS Sovereign the previous February. Read More

Who's still tracking radiation from Fukushima? And who should we trust?

Three months have passed since the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant spun out of control and began spewing radiation into the air and sea. Things have settled down a bit since the first jittery days, when the Chinese went on a salt-buying spree believing the iodine in it would protect them, Californians snatched up potassium iodide pills to counteract thyroid-gland poisoning, and Geiger counters flew off the shelves everywhere. Uncertainty fueled much of the hysteria. And the question remains: Who can we trust to monitor fallout from Fukushima?

Within Japan, the major monitors are unfortunately all plagued by conflicts of interest. The two main players—the Japanese government and TEPCO, the Tokyo Electric Power Company that operates the site—have so much riding on the outcome of the disaster and such a poor record of handling it thus far that a recent poll found 80 percent of Japanese respondents do not trust what the government says about the crisis and nearly 85 percent think TEPCO is doing a lousy job.

The government defends its initial evasions and obfuscations as necessary to prevent panic. But the Japanese public sees downplaying, foot-dragging, and knee-jerk reluctance to share information. In mid-April, for instance, the Ministry of Education, Culture, Sports, Science, and Technology raised the acceptable level of radiation exposure for children in Fukushima by a factor of 20. The move was a blatant midgame rule change, intended to calm an anxious public and free the government from undertaking more thorough monitoring, cleanup, and broader evacuations. The prime minister's nuclear adviser, Toshiso Kosako, furious about the government's flouting of established safety protocol, quit in protest. Parents of Fukushima children rose up in revolt. Finally, in late May, the government restored the acceptable radiation threshold to its former level. (read more)

Reader contributed.

Obama may cut 10,000 troops from Afghanistan -- are they heading for Libya?

U.S. President Barack Obama is expected to call Wednesday for a major withdrawal of American troops from Afghanistan, with roughly 10,000 coming home to the U.S. in less than a year.

The phased drawdown is likely to start with 5,000 troops recalled this summer and an additional 5,000 by winter or spring 2012, according to a senior U.S. defence official.

Obama is also weighing a timetable for bringing home the 20,000 other troops he ordered to Afghanistan as part of his December 2009 decision to send reinforcements to reverse the Taliban's battlefield momentum.

The withdrawals would put the U.S. on a path toward giving Afghans control of their security by 2014 and ultimately shifting the U.S. military from a combat role to a mission focused on training and supporting Afghan forces.

Obama is to address the nation from the White House at 8 p.m. ET Wednesday. (read more)

California stops lawmakers' wages until budget balances

Californians are fed up with legislators missing the annual budget deadline

Elected representatives in California have been told their wages and expenses have been stopped and they will not be paid until the state budget balances.

State Controller John Chiang took the step after determining that the budget approved last week was not balanced.

It is the first time a law brought in last year, to stop California constantly missing its annual budget deadline, has been brought into effect.

Mr Chiang's decision sparked sharp criticism from legislators.

It is often said if the state of California was a country it would be the eighth biggest economy in the world.

But with a $10bn deficit to match, and residents fed up of legislators missing the annual budget deadline by months, they voted for a new law.

It is the first time Proposition 25 has been put into effect - and it means all 120 elected members of the State Assembly and Senate will not be paid their wages, or their living allowances, until they pass a balanced budget.

There was obvious uproar from the legislators. (read more)

Libya conflict: Italy urges suspension of hostilities

Italian Foreign Minister Franco Frattini has called for a suspension of hostilities in Libya to allow humanitarian aid to be brought to the war-torn country.

Mr Frattini also said Nato must provide data on results of its bombing campaign and guidelines on targeting errors.

Arab League Chairman Amr Moussa also urged a ceasefire on Tuesday, voicing reservations about the Nato campaign.

On Sunday a Nato missile apparently misfired striking a residential area.

The Libyan government said nine people including two young children were killed in the strike.

The alliance acknowledged that civilian casualties may have resulted from it.

Meanwhile Chinese Foreign Minister Yang Jiechi described Libya's opposition National Transitional Council as an "important dialogue partner" and an "important domestic political force".

Rebel leader Mahmoud Jibril has been holding talks with the Chinese leadership in Beijing. (read more)

China in lead poisoning 'cover-up' -- Human Rights Watch

China has been accused of trying to cover up the extent of lead poisoning among children, and of blocking effective testing and treatment.

A report by Human Rights Watch says local authorities in heavily-polluted industrial areas have been sending sick children back to contaminated homes.

It says that in these areas - Henan, Yunnan, Shaanxi and Hunan provinces - anyone who complains is being harassed.

China has promised to clean up chronic pollution from heavy metals.

But reports of poisoning remain widespread - hundreds of thousands of children are suffering from lead poisoning, the HRW report says.

It says that parents are being denied the right to tests and medical help, and says the government should stop delaying a meaningful response as the problem would damage future economic growth and health care.

"Children with dangerously high levels of lead in their blood are being refused treatment and returned home to contaminated houses in polluted villages," said Joe Amon, the health and human rights director at Human Rights Watch.

There was no immediate response from the Chinese government to the allegations. (read more)

15 Mind-Blowing Facts About Wealth And Inequality In America

The rich are getting richer and the poor are getting poorer. Cliché, sure, but it's also more true than at any time since the Gilded Age.

The poor are getting poorer, wages are falling behind inflation, and social mobility is at an all-time low.

If you're in that top 1%, life is grand. (Read the 15 eye-opening facts here)

18 Signs The Collapse Of Society Is Accelerating Read more: http://theeconomiccollapseblog.com/archives/18-signs-the-collapse-of-society-is-accelerat

As the U.S. economy collapses, the thin veneer of civilization that we all take for granted is going to begin to disappear. In fact, there are already an increasing number of signs that the collapse of society is accelerating. In cities such as Chicago, roving packs of young people are "mob robbing" local businesses, randomly assaulting tourists and shoppers and are even pulling people out of vehicles.

This isn't just happening in the "bad areas" anymore. Over the past couple of months this type of crime has been common in some of the wealthiest areas of Chicago. In fact, many Chicago residents are now referring to "the Magnificent Mile" as "the Mug Mile". But it isn't just in Chicago that this is happening.

During Memorial Day weekend, cities all over the United States experienced a stunning wave of mass violence. We are supposed to be an "example" for the rest of the world, but as our economic wealth crumbles we are witnessing the collapse of society all around us. So what is going to happen when the economy gets even worse?

The United States used to be a fairly civilized society. But now very few people seem to care how they treat others. That is even the case with our own government. As you will see below, the government is now sending SWAT teams in and dragging people out of their homes over unpaid student loans.

So if the government is going to be so brutal, what kind of message does that send to our young people? (read more)

This post was reader contributed.

Scientist record decrease in human brain size

THE human species may have passed its physical peak.

Scientists have found that modern-day people are about 10 per cent smaller and shorter than their hunter-gatherer forebears.

Most of the decline has happened in the past 10,000 years, and has been accompanied by a 10 per cent decline in brain size.

The research reverses the popular belief that humans have grown taller and larger.

"When modern humans, Homo sapiens, first appeared around 200,000 years ago they were tall and muscular," said Marta Lahr, co-director of Cambridge University's Leverhulme Centre for Human Evolutionary Studies.

"The fossil evidence for the next 190,000 years is patchy, but shows that humans remained tall and robust until about 10,000 years ago when many populations show reduced stature and brain size. It is a striking change." (read more)

Artist Ai Weiwei, arrested in April for alleged economic crimes, has been released on bail, China's state media reports -- is China cracking?


Detained Chinese artist and activist Ai Weiwei has been freed, state media report.

He was released on bail after pleading guilty to charges of tax evasion, the state-run Xinhua news agency said.

His family members have told BBC Chinese they know nothing of his reported release.

An outspoken critic of China's human rights record, Mr Ai was arrested in April as he boarded a Beijing flight bound for Hong Kong.

Beijing alleges the artist had evaded taxes and destroyed evidence; his supporters say the charges are motivated by his activism.

Xinhua reported that the 54-year-old - who, it said, was suffering from "chronic illness" - had offered to repay the taxes and would be released because of "his good attitude in confessing his crimes". (read more)

Nasa observatory confirms theory that black holes were common in the early universe - 20th June 2011

Massive black holes were common in the early universe, researchers from Nasa's Chandra X Ray observatory have discovered.

The discovery adds weight to predictions that the early universe was peppered with young black holes, which grew in tandem with host galaxies.

And their findings suggest that very young black holes grew more aggressively than researchers had previously thought.

Ezequiel Treister of the University of Hawaii, lead author of the study, said: 'Until now, we had no idea what the black holes in these early galaxies were doing, or if they even existed,

'Now we know they are there, and they are growing like gangbusters.'

Nasa astronomers pointed the orbiting Chandra X Ray observatory at the same patch of sky for more than six weeks, mapping an area they dubbed the Chandra Deep Field South (CDFS).

By combining this with very deep optical and infrared images from the Hubble Space Telescope they were able to search for black holes in about 200 distant galaxies, from when the universe was between 800million to 950million years old.

They found between 30 and 100 per cent of these distant, early galaxies had growing supermassive black holes.

Extrapolating these results from the small observed area to the full sky, they estimated there were at least 30million supermassive black holes in the early universe. Read More

Orbital freighter prepares to crash and burn in ocean after undocking from space station - 21st June 2011

Serving the International Space Station is a valuable job but it is about to come to a spectacular - albeit deliberate - end for one unfortunate spacecraft.

The European Space Agency’s second Automated Transfer Vehicle, which is packed with more than a tonne of station rubbish, will deliberately plummet to its destruction tomorrow in Earth’s atmosphere.

Just like the tonnes of natural space debris that collide with our planet every day, the ten-tonne ATV Johannes Kepler ferry - otherwise known as ATV-2 - will burn up on re-entry.

Only a few hardy pieces might survive and splash into the uninhabited South Pacific. The area’s air and sea traffic has been warned and a no-fly zone will prevent any accidents.

The racks inside ATV-2 have been filled with some 1200kg of waste bags and unwanted hardware discraded by the space station's crew.

ATV-2 delivered about seven tonnes of much-needed supplies to the space station, including 1170kg of dry cargo, 100kg of oxygen, 851kg of propellants to replenish the station tanks, and 4535kg of fuel for the ferry itself to boost the outpost’s altitude and make other adjustments.

During the ferry's hectic mission, two Nasa space shuttles and Japan’s HTV cargo carrier visited the station, along with two Progress and Soyuz spacecraft. These required several changes of station altitude, mostly controlled by the ATV’s thrusters. Read More

South Korean military plane crash leaves two dead - 22nd June 2011

CHEONGJU, South Korea -- Officials say two airmen were killed when their small military aircraft crashed in central South Korea during a training mission.

The air force says the plane crashed Tuesday while attempting an emergency landing in North Chungcheong province. The area is about 75 miles (120 km) south of Seoul.

It says there were no civilian casualties.

Officials are investigating the cause of the crash.

The single-engine Ilyushin IL-103 aircraft, known as the T-103 in South Korea, is used in introductory pilot training. Source