Wednesday, June 29, 2011

US risks "severe shock" over debt talks

America will cause a "severe shock" to world financial markets should Congress fail to agree an increase in the country's debt ceiling in a month's time, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) has warned.

The fund used its annual healthcheck on the world's biggest economy to spell out the dangers of failure, which would likely include the US government defaulting on its debt for the first time in its history.

"It should be self-evident a debt default by the US government would have very serious, far-reaching and dramatic repercussions," said John Lipsky, the IMF's acting managing director. "That's why were are confident it will be avoided."

Republicans and Democrats have been locked in tense negotiations for the past month on how to raise the country's $14.3 trillion (£8.9 trillion) debt ceiling, which the Treasury has said will be reached on August 2.

The talks, which Republicans walked out of last week, are widely seen as a forerunner of the battle over the deficit that will be central to next year's presidential election.

President Barack Obama, who stepped into the talks this week, said that "we don't know how capital markets will react" should an agreement not be struck. Ratings agency S&P said yesterday that the US would have its AAA credit rating slashed if it missed an interest payment on its debts after the deadline. (read more)

Break-up of the euro could usher in a welcome new dawn for Europe

It seems likely that some sort of deal will be struck to provide more funds for Greece and to postpone a formal default.

Yet eventually, some sort of default by Greece seems all but inevitable. And even if it is delayed, a departure from the euro is likely. We must be ready. So this week I turn my attention to the consequences of a break-up of the euro.

Let no one underestimate the disruptive consequences. If Greece left, debts and deposits would be forcibly redenominated in the new currency, which would promptly plummet on the exchanges, thereby wiping out a fair bit of the wealth of anyone who had held assets in Greece.

Banks with substantial exposure to Greek assets would wobble or, without public support, even crash. It would be the Lehmans scenario all over again – and possibly worse.

So, in the spirit of 1066 And All That, euro break-up would be a bad thing, wouldn't it? No. The long-term results of a major economic crisis are often the complete opposite of the immediate impression.

When Britain was forced off the Gold Standard in 1931, that was supposedly a disaster. (read more)

Public Law 105-85: Is the Government authorized to spray us with chemicals and biological agents?



Reader contributed.

Iran secretly tested 'nuclear-capable missiles'

Iran has carried out secret tests of ballistic missiles capable of delivering a nuclear payload in breach of UN resolutions, British Foreign Secretary William Hague said Wednesday.

Hague's comments came a day after Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards said they had fired 14 missiles in an exercise, one of them a medium-range weapon capable of striking Israel or US targets in the Gulf.

In a statement to lawmakers, Hague said: "Iran has also been carrying out covert ballistic missile tests and rocket launches, including testing missiles capable of delivering a nuclear payload in contravention of UN resolution 1929."

He said Iran had also announced plans to triple its capacity to produce 20 percent enriched uranium, adding: "These are enrichment levels far greater than is needed for peaceful nuclear energy.

"We will maintain and continue to increase pressure on Iran to negotiate an agreement on their nuclear programme," including sanctions, he said.

There was no immediate reaction from Tehran, which denies Western claims that it is pursuing nuclear weapons under the guise of its civil atomic programme.

On Tuesday Iranian state media said the Revolutionary Guards fired nine Zelzal missiles, two Shahab-1s, two Shahab-2s and a single medium-range Ghadr on the second day of their Great Prophet-6 exercise.

On the first day of the exercise on Monday, the Guards unveiled an "underground missile silo" which they said was designed for launching their medium-range missiles, state television reported.

The Guards' aerospace commander Brigadier General Amir Ali Hajizadeh insisted Iran's missile programme posed no threat to European nations but was intended to provide defence against "US targets in the region and the Zionist regime." (read more)

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad may be forced to resign within weeks

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, Iran's irascible, unpredictable but devout president, may be forced to resign in the coming weeks as a political crisis far greater than the massive street violence which followed his re-election in 2009 threatens to overwhelm him and his court favourites in the government.

The overweening influence of his close friend and confidant Esfandiar Rahim-Mashaee, the president's chief of staff – who is blamed for the firing of two intelligence ministers and for infuriating even the Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Sayed Ali Khamenei – is expected to bring down Ahmadinejad in one of the most spectacular putsches in the history of the Islamic Republic.

Iranian politicians are already speculating on who will succeed the president – Ali Akbar Salehi, the foreign minister and for four years the head of Iran's atomic agency, is a favourite – as three of Rahim-Mashaee's close allies have been purged in just three days over the past week, arrested by security agencies while Ahmadinejad has remained uncharacteristically silent. Mohamed Sharif Malekzadeh, who served briefly as Ahmadinejad's foreign minister; Ali Asghar Parhizkar, director of the Arvand free trade zone in the south of Iran; and his opposite number in the Aras trade zone in the north, Ali-Reza Moqimi, have all been charged with corruption, a dangerous accusation in the Islamic Republic where a fine line separates "corruption on earth" from "an enemy of God". (read more)

Greek protesters blockade Parliament in Athens as crisis deepens

Greece's parliament is poised to vote on a deeply unpopular austerity bill later today as demonstrators gathered to continue their protests after a night of violent clashes with police.

Protesters were congregating in the Greek capital's Syntagma Square early Wednesday to blockade the parliament building in an attempt to prevent access by lawmakers.

Hundreds of police dressed in riot gear were lining up around the building and had blocked off roads ahead of what was expected to be another day of chaotic protests.

The new austerity measures must be passed in a two-part vote on Wednesday and Thursday if Greece's international creditors are to release the next €12 billion batch of the country's €110 billion bail-out fund and prevent a default that could drag down European banks and shake the European and world economy.

Prime Minister George Papandreou should be able to pass the midterm economic plan as his socialist party holds a majority of five seats but there have been grumblings of dissent within his own ranks.

Voting by the 300 deputies was expected to begin early afternoon. (read more)

Los Alamos Fire: EPA Testing for Radiation, as flames just 50 meters away

The wildfire that surrounds the nuclear lab in Los Alamos, New Mexico, has grown to at least 61,000 acres amid mounting concerns about what might be in the smoke that's visible from space.

Such fear has prompted the Environmental Protection Agency to bring in air monitors, along with a special airplane that checks for radiation levels. So far officials have not been able to find anything.

"Our facilities and nuclear material are protected and safe," Laboratory Director Dr. Charles McMillan told ABC News.

PHOTOS: Los Alamos Wildfires Continue to Light Up Sky

The Los Alamos facility -- the birthplace of the atomic bomb -- was shrouded in secrecy long before it was surrounded by smoke after the Las Conchas fire began Sunday.

"It contains approximately 20,000 barrels of nuclear waste," former top security official Glen Walp said. "It's not contained within a concrete, brick and mortar-type building, but rather in a sort of fabric-type building that a fire could easily consume. (read more)

"John Lennon was a closet Republican" -- Assistant

John Lennon was a closet Republican, who felt a little embarrassed by his former radicalism, at the time of his death - according to the tragic Beatles star's last personal assistant.

Fred Seaman worked alongside the music legend from 1979 to Lennon's death at the end of 1980 and he reveals the star was a Ronald Reagan fan who enjoyed arguing with left-wing radicals who reminded him of his former self.

In new documentary Beatles Stories, Seaman tells filmmaker Seth Swirsky Lennon wasn't the peace-loving militant fans thought he was while he was his assistant.

He says, "John, basically, made it very clear that if he were an American he would vote for Reagan because he was really sour on (Democrat) Jimmy Carter.

"He'd met Reagan back, I think, in the 70s at some sporting event... Reagan was the guy who had ordered the National Guard, I believe, to go after the young (peace) demonstrators in Berkeley, so I think that John maybe forgot about that... He did express support for Reagan, which shocked me.

"I also saw John embark in some really brutal arguments with my uncle, who's an old-time communist... He enjoyed really provoking my uncle... Maybe he was being provocative... but it was pretty obvious to me he had moved away from his earlier radicalism.

"He was a very different person back in 1979 and 80 than he'd been when he wrote Imagine. By 1979 he looked back on that guy and was embarrassed by that guy's naivete." (read more)

Gang violence, not "hot weather" closed North Avenue Beach, as the cover-up attempt alleges

Was it gang violence that forced the unprecedented closure of North Avenue beach last month or was it really just the weather?

Throngs of beachgoers that gathered at the beach to celebrate Memorial Day were ushered away by Chicago Police at 6 p.m. after the city claimed dense crowds were preventing emergency vehicles from assisting people who were suffering from heat-related illnesses.

LISTEN: Audio From 911 Tapes Released to WLS Radio - Click Here

Temperatures in the area were recorded at about 88 degrees near the beach when five people were overcome with heat exhaustion. But numerous reports from people who were at the beach on Memorial Day suggest it wasn't the heat that lead to the closing, it was gang activity.

Listeners to WLS Radio's Don Wade and Roma Show reported seeing dozens of gang-bangers pushing people off their bikes. One caller said those that were causing the havoc were not dressed for the beach and looked like "bad elements."

During an interview with WLS Radio's Bill Cameron, Chicago Police Supt. Garry McCarthy denied the reports, saying that neither gang activity nor violence played any role in the closing. (read more)

North Korea shuts down universities for 10 months to re-route students to factories and farms as country collapses

North Korea has shut down its universities for the next 10 months and sent students to work in factories, agriculture and the construction sector as it struggles to rebuild its economy.

Pyongyang has told the North Korean people that the nation will have achieved its aim of becoming "a great, prosperous and powerful nation" in 2012, which marks the 100th anniversary of the founder of the reclusive state, Kim Il-sung.

In addition, Kim Jong-il will turn 70 in February and the "Dear Leader" hopes to be able to transfer his power and an economically stronger nation to his son and heir-apparent, Kim Jong-Un.

Reports in South Korea indicated that the government in Pyongyang on Monday ordered all universities to cancel classes until April of next year. The only exemptions are for students who will be graduating in the next few months and foreign students.

The reports suggested that the students will be put to work on construction projects in major cities while there are also indications that repair work may be needed in agricultural regions that were affected by a major typhoon recently.

Analysts in Japan claim there may be other reasons behind the decision to disperse the students across the country.

"One reason is that there is a possibility of demonstrations at university campuses," said Toshimitsu Shigemura, a professor at Tokyo's Waseda University and author of a number of books on the North Korean leadership.

"The leadership has seen the 'Jasmine Revolution' in Africa and it is very frightened that the same thing could happen in North Korea," he said. "They fear it could start in the universities." (read more)

Inside the Fed’s Vault: $1 Billion Worth of Unused Coins... that "no one wants"

In the basement of a Baltimore vault the size of a soccer field, 1 billion dollar coins are just sitting there. Thanks, Congress.

NPR’s Planet Money reporters recently investigated the $1 presidential coin program, which was a Congressional effort to get more $1 coins into circulation while also trying to be educational.

The problem is that nobody really wants them. Well, not nobody. Sixty percent of the coins make it into circulation. But that other 40 percent? They’re sitting in vaults. In fact, the Fed’s even running out of space for them.

Each coin costs the government 30 cents to make, so the piles in those vaults have cost the government $300 million so far, according to NPR.

The whole thing started in 2005, when the Presidential $1 Coin Act was written into law. While the legislation seemed to have good intentions, when the U.S. Mint started producing the coins a couple years later, the demand just wasn’t there. I mean, had you even heard of the presidential $1 coins, let alone seen one?

At the same time, the legislation mandated that a certain number of Sacagawea coins be made in conjunction with the presidential coins, which has now amounted to one Sacagawea for every four presidents. And I think we know how well those coins went over. (read more)

100 Teens in a mob assault and rob Center City patrons

The two young women were sitting at a window table inside the Max Brenner restaurant on 15th Street, near Walnut, sharing chocolate fondue after some shopping.

The streets were vibrant. The weather was nice.

"The city had a good vibe," remembered one of the women, Maria, who requested her full name not be printed.

But their night on the town was about to become frightening.

Heading their way was a pack of teens roving through Center City after leaving a North Philadelphia music festival.

They were part of about 100 or more young people who had left Saturday night's event, police said, committing a series of violent assaults and robberies, including one against Maria, 25, of North Philadelphia, and her cousin Cecilia, 29, of Havertown.

Donta Holdclaw was in the crowd of teens that night. On Tuesday afternoon, he stood on the front step of his mother's North Philadelphia apartment and said the group was bound for South Street.

"They were holding fireworks," he said. "That's what we were going to see."

He had gone to the Susquehanna Community Festival, along Susquehanna Avenue near Broad Street, with his older brother, Aleek Hamilton, 19. Last week, Hamilton graduated from Mastbaum Vocational/Technical High School, with plans to attend college and become a mechanic, said his mother, Letitia Washington. He also was working at a West Philadelphia thrift shop.

Hamilton is now in jail, charged with robbing Cecilia. (read more)

Loss of liquidity could spark new financial crisis

WHAT was the real cause of the global financial crisis that climaxed in late 2008?

Many would point to losses on subprime mortgage-backed securities, but alone they wouldn't have led to such a big drop in capital markets and risk appetite. The real fuel to the fire was the withdrawal of liquidity and the forced liquidations that resulted. As the losses market participants were suffering through the downturn grew, lenders' confidence they would receive their capital back receded and those same banks needed the funds as well to cover their own losses. Eventually, without the money on hand to cover their immediate obligations, legacy companies such as Bear Stearns and Lehman Brothers would fail.

Now, as we weigh the possibility of another financial crisis brought on by Greece, the US deficit, a collapse in China's markets or other potential catalysts, we should look beyond that initial spark and focus on the true accelerant, liquidity. Already, we are seeing adverse changes that threaten markets' access to funds. In the euro zone, the yield Greece needs to pay on the open market to raise funds (through bond auctions) has surged to record highs: near 30 per cent for short-term maturities. In the US, there is still capital available for investors to tap, but that pool and record low rates will likely end soon when the Federal Reserve ends its stimulus. Even China is at risk. Efforts to raise reserve requirements and benchmark rates are intended to prevent a collapse. (read more)

Bankrupt Greece Blackmails Europe, Bailout or Euro Zone Dies, Global Financial System Collapse

The Greek population is in constant revolt with another 48 hour national strike underway against ever expanding announcements of economic austerity though to date little of which has actually been implemented and therefore risks at the very a least a delay of the latest tranche of Euro 12 billion in what has now become a permanent flow of funds from core Euro-zone to Greece and other peripheral eurozone countries, therefore tax payers of core Europe and to a lesser degree Britain are being taxed to pay for the unwillingness of the PIIGS to pay their bills.

Core Euro-zone countries are effectively being black mailed by Greece to finance Greece's public budget deficit and the interest payments due on the ever expanding debt mountain, none of which that the Greece population are having to bare the consequences of, for were they then Greece would have gone bust Iceland style a year ago. The facts are that IF Greece were not being financed as a consequence of being within the Euro-zone then all of the middle class of Greece would have already been swiftly wiped out, as the value of earnings, savings and assets would have collapsed along with the Greek economy as a consequence of the markets immediate adjustment to the true level of debt and inability to ever repay.

Some argue that a short- sharp shock Iceland style would prove better in the longer run but there would be blood in the streets perhaps even revolution that would be infinitely worse for the Greek population than what is taking place today as international trade would literally seize up overnight due to the inability to make payments on goods and services and if a country can no longer import foods, then all that would be left would be food aid being shipped in Africa style to prevent starvation.

Therefore the Greeks life style is being subsidised by hard working tax payers elsewhere, and those demonstrating on the streets of Greece are mostly delusional or represent subversive interests such as the communist party that are banking on profiting from debt crisis chaos, for if Greeks actually got what they are asking for i.e. an exit from the Euro and debt default, then the Greek population would soon, perhaps within 24 hours come to regret the outcome as all roads would lead to instant bankruptcy with all of its consequences. So all this talk of the Greeks wanting to leave the Euro-zone is a load of nonsense, for what the Greeks really need to worry about is Greece being kicked out of the Euro as it continues to act as a funding black hole that is currently costing core euro-zone tax payers Euro 100 billion per year that they will never get back.

If Greece were ejected from the Euro-zone then there would soon be an exodus of Greece's best and brightest workers as they sought earnings in hard currency such as the Euro rather than be paid in worthless Zimabwe-esk Drachma's. Something that the Euro-zone politicians may be considering behind close doors in a desperate attempt to save the Euro currency from collapse. (read more)

Russia cuts off electricity to Belarus despite the tiny nation's financial difficulties: Jerks

Belarus forked over an overdue payment for its massive electricity bill to Russia on Wednesday after Moscow cut power to its financially stricken neighbor.

Russia provides about 10% of Belarus' electricity, but the move to turn it off in the early hours of Wednesday put the struggling country under pressure. The government in Minsk has been hit by protests and was forced to devalue its currency recently, causing panic buying of goods and huge lines at currency exchange offices.

Russia has traditionally been Belarus' main sponsor and ally, but it phased out economic subsidies in recent years as it pushed for control of Belarus' industrial facilities. Last week, Moscow provided Belarus with a $800 million emergency loan, but that falls well short of Belarus' requirements.

Independent experts say Belarus, which is suffering its worst financial crisis since the 1991 Soviet collapse, quickly needs at least $9 billion in loans to stabilize its finances. (read more)

Iran testing missiles that could carry nuclear weapon, UK's Hague says

Iran has been carrying out covert tests of missiles capable of delivering a nuclear payload, UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said Wednesday, in contravention of a U.N. resolution.

It has also said it wants to enrich uranium to "levels far greater than is needed for peaceful nuclear energy," Hague said.

Iran's development of missile and nuclear fuel technology has led to U.N. sanctions and accusations from the United States that the clerical regime is trying to develop nuclear weapons.

Iran says it has a right to peaceful nuclear technology, but the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) says it cannot verify whether Tehran's nuclear program remains entirely peaceful.

Iran has not yet responded to Hague's claims. (read more)

Mexico issues hurricane watch as Tropical Storm Arlene strengthens

As Tropical Storm Arlene steadily chugged toward the east-central coast of Mexico Wednesday, Mexican authorities issued a hurricane watch that stretches from the country's eastern municipality of Tuxpan northward to La Cruz, the National Hurricane Center reported.

Arlene -- the first named storm of the 2011 Atlantic hurricane season -- is moving at about 8 mph, packing sustained winds of 50 mph.

It is expected to make landfall early Thursday very near hurricane strength.

Arlene is also expected to produce 4- to 8-inches of rain in some areas. Meteorologists say isolated rainfall amounts of 15 inches over mountainous terrain could cause life-threatening flash floods and mud slides.

Tropical storm force winds are expected to reach the east coast of Mexico Wednesday evening, which could make outside preparations difficult or dangerous, the Hurricane Center said.

When Arlene makes landfall, the storm surge could raise water levels up to 2 feet above normal tide markers.

A tropical storm warning had been in effect for the coast of northeastern Mexico from Barra de Nautla to Bahia Algodones. (read more)

Chilean volcano ash causes fresh disruption

An ash cloud from a Chilean volcano is disrupting air travel in Australia and New Zealand once again, airlines said Wednesday.

"Volcanic ash from the eruption of the Puyehue Cordon Caulle volcano in Chile continues to cause flight disruptions to the Qantas network," the airline said in a statement.

"At Qantas safety is our first priority and a number of flights have been canceled or rerouted to avoid the volcanic ash cloud."

Qantas and Jetstar suspended Wednesday flights to and from Queenstown, Christchurch and Wellington.

Qantas flights between Sydney and Buenos Aires are delayed.

The June 4 eruption of the volcano in the Chilean Andes mountains sent plumes of smoke more than six miles into the air.

The ash cloud forced the shutdown of flights in and out of several Australian cities last week. (read more)

Rare inter-Korean meeting fails

A rare inter-Korean meeting ended prematurely Wednesday with no progress.

North Korea told the South to "go back" according to Lee Jong-Joo, a spokeswoman for South Korea's Unification Ministry, insisting they would not talk with anyone from the government itself.

A delegation of twelve South Korean government officials and businessmen crossed the border into North Korea's Kumgang tourist resort to try to resolve a dispute over South Korean assets there.

The joint project was started in 1998 to boost reconciliation and give North Korea a chance to earn money. Seoul suspended tours in 2008 after a South Korean tourist was shot dead by a North Korean soldier after walking into an off-limit area.

The last discussion at the Mount Kumgang resort was in April 2010 but that did not include government officials.

Pyongyang said last month it will cut off all ties with the government in Seoul, and it refuses to talk to anyone in President Lee Myung-Bak's administration. (read more)

Libya conflict: France air-dropped arms to rebels

France has air-dropped weapons to rebels fighting Col Muammar Gaddafi's troops in Western Libya, the French military has confirmed.

Light arms and ammunition were sent to Berber tribal fighters in the Nafusa mountains in early June, it said.

Earlier, a report in Le Figaro newspaper said the arms included rocket launchers and anti-tank missiles.

France, a leading force in the Nato operation in Libya, did not inform its allies about the move, Le Figaro said.

"We began by dropping humanitarian aid: food, water and medical supplies," said Col Thierry Burkhard, spokesman for the French general staff.

"During the operation, the situation for the civilians on the ground worsened. We dropped arms and means of self-defence, mainly ammunition," he told AFP news agency.

He said the arms were "light infantry weapons of the rifle type", dropped over a period of several days "so that civilians would not be massacred". (read more)

Greek protesters attack finance ministry building

Greek protesters set a fire inside the building housing the ministry of finance in Athens Wednesday, as protesters threw fire bombs and riot police responded with tear gas, in the wake of a vote by Greek lawmakers approving a widely unpopular austerity bill.

Fire services arrived to try to put out the flames in a post office on the ground floor of the building located in the city's central square.

The bill passed 155-138, with the support of all but one government member.

There were fewer protesters Wednesday compared with the thousands who demonstrated Tuesday as police cracked down on access to the square outside parliament, but the confrontations were more violent. Many of those taking part were described by the police as anarchists.

As hooded young men, some wearing gas masks, fought battles with police, several hundred protesters tried to hold a peaceful demonstration in the centre of the square.

CBC journalist Susan Ormiston reported witnessing an "unbelievably violent" day. She saw 50 police on motorcycles charge into the square, trying to push rioters back and end two days of disturbances.

Some demonstrators told Ormiston they felt ashamed that the parliamentarians did not come outside to hear what they had to say. (read more)

Freak Lightning Storm Holland 28th June 2011





As requested, the news report associated with this video:
"It was loud and bright. Cats and children leapt into hiding." -- Associated Press

(Actual report coming soon)

The war against girls: Since the late 1970s, 163 million female babies have been aborted by parents seeking sons

Mara Hvistendahl is worried about girls. Not in any political, moral or cultural sense but as an existential matter. She is right to be. In China, India and numerous other countries (both developing and developed), there are many more men than women, the result of systematic campaigns against baby girls. In "Unnatural Selection," Ms. Hvistendahl reports on this gender imbalance: what it is, how it came to be and what it means for the future.

In nature, 105 boys are born for every 100 girls. This ratio is biologically ironclad. Between 104 and 106 is the normal range, and that's as far as the natural window goes. Any other number is the result of unnatural events.

Yet today in India there are 112 boys born for every 100 girls. In China, the number is 121—though plenty of Chinese towns are over the 150 mark. China's and India's populations are mammoth enough that their outlying sex ratios have skewed the global average to a biologically impossible 107. But the imbalance is not only in Asia. Azerbaijan stands at 115, Georgia at 118 and Armenia at 120.

What is causing the skewed ratio: abortion. If the male number in the sex ratio is above 106, it means that couples are having abortions when they find out the mother is carrying a girl. By Ms. Hvistendahl's counting, there have been so many sex-selective abortions in the past three decades that 163 million girls, who by biological averages should have been born, are missing from the world. Moral horror aside, this is likely to be of very large consequence. (read more)

Conquerors, Debt, Joblessness, and "The Crisis of the Third Century"

Front page photos of the riots in Greece -- heartbreaking.

Everything traces back to human action. Positive constructive action leads to a good outcome. Likewise, the opposite is true.

If the financial crisis tells us anything, it's this. We moved away from person-to-person reciprocity and community orientation. We deconstructed boundaries for expedient profit. We see this in the making of the "Too Big to Fails" (the outcome of Glass-Steagall repeal which separated commercial banking from speculative investment banking) all the way down to the discarding of lending standards. No surprise, then, the devastating result.

I recently came across an article that made me think -- not much has changed.

It starts like this,

It is not often that business people head to Washington to explain how unimportant they are.

But, over the last several months, executives from more than two dozen financial companies and their trade groups have paraded into the Treasury Department, the Federal Reserve and other government agencies to try to persuade top regulators that they are not large or risky enough to threaten the financial system if they should ever collapse.

Really.

In a world of complex financial interconnectedness and systemic risk -- as if that's not enough for us to comprehend -- how can one be sure of anything anymore. I don't know about you, but the financial system, to me, resembles an out-of-control hydra, and, remains structurally flawed. Structural reform is necessary to curb reckless speculation, starting with the "Too Big Too Fails," which have only gotten bigger. (read more)

Artificial meat could slice emissions, say scientists -- but is it healthy, safe?

Meat grown artificially in labs will be a greener alternative for consumers who can't bear to go vegetarian but want to cut the environmental impact of their food, according to new research.

The study found that growing meat in the lab rather than slaughtering animals will generate only a tiny fraction of the greenhouse gas emissions associated with conventional livestock production.

The researchers believe that their work suggests artificial meat could help to feed the growing world population while reducing the impact on the environment.

According to the analysis by scientists from Oxford University and Amsterdam University, lab-grown tissue would produce greenhouse gases at up to 96% lower levels than raising animals. It would require between 7% and 45% less energy than the same volume of conventionally produced meat such as pork, beef and lamb or mutton, and could be engineered to use only 1% of the land and as little as 4% of the water associated with conventional meat.

"The environmental impacts of cultured meat could be substantially lower than those of meat produced in the conventional way," said Hanna Tuomisto, the researcher at Oxford University who led the study.

"We are not saying that we could, or would necessarily want to, replace conventional meat with its cultured counterpart right now."

"However, our research shows that cultured meat could be part of the solution to feeding the world's growing population and at the same time cutting emissions and saving both energy and water. Simply put, cultured meat is, potentially, a much more efficient and environmentally friendly way of putting meat on the table," she added. (read more)

Mental illness faced by 45% of Canadian workers, managers

Mental illness in the workplace is a huge issue hiding in plain sight, says a new report by the Conference Board of Canada released Monday.

The report, Building Mentally Healthy Workplaces, is based on a national survey of more than 1,000 employees — including almost 500 front-line managers, with followup interviews for some. The findings support a new initiative by the Mental Health Commission of Canada to establish national standards for psychologically healthy workplaces.

"When it comes to mental health, misinformation, fear and prejudice remain far too prevalent," says the Conference Board report. "It is time for a change."

The report says that in 2009-10, "78 per cent of short-term disability claims and 67 per cent of long-term disability claims in Canada were related to mental-health issues."

The personal and financial cost is staggering.

The Conference Board found that 12 per cent of its survey respondents were currently experiencing a mental-health issue and another 32 per cent said they'd faced one in the past.

The report found "a significant disconnect" between the perceptions of executives and employees about how well their workplaces deal with mental illness. Four-fifths of executives felt their companies promote mentally healthy work environments, yet just 30 per cent of employees felt the same way. (read more)

Another 11 Killed by Lightning strike in Nigeria Bringing Lightning kills to 30 in Africa - 29th June 2011

Thirty people have been killed by lightning in African countries.

A lightning strike has killed 18 children and their teacher in Uganda, police said.

Uganda has one of the highest rates of lightning strike deaths in the world and its capital Kampala has more days of lightning per year than any other city, according to the World Meteorological Organization.

The lightning hit the victims in a classroom at a school in Kiryandongo, 210 km (130 miles) north of Kampala, police said. Another 38 children were admitted to hospital.

The East African country has suffered a wave of fatal lightning strikes in recent weeks during unseasonably heavy rains. Read More

Eleven people were killed by lightning in two communities in northern Nigeria during torrential rains, Red Cross and local officials said Wednesday.

Eight peasant farmers were killed and another 12 injured on Tuesday during a thunderstorm outside Balanga village in Gombe State, Nigerian Red Cross official Bala Ahmed told AFP.

"The farmers were working on their farms when it started to rain and they sought shelter under a tree which was then struck by lightning," Ahmed said.

In a separate incident in Damaturu, the state capital, three people were struck by lightning during a downpour in a timber market, the head of the market, Abbati Muhammad, told AFP.

Lightning "struck and three people who had come to buy firewood were caught in it and died on the spot", he said.

Lightning strikes occur in Nigeria during the rainy season which has just begun.

Last week, 24 people died in flooding in northern city of Kano following heavy rains.

Nigeria experienced severe flooding last year, which left scores dead and that affected around half a million people in two-thirds of its 36 states, according to the emergency agency, which has predicted unprecedented heavy rainfall and severe flooding this rainy season. Read More

Hunt for teenage girls who attacked three men in violent iPhone mugging - 29th June 2011

Two girls have been caught on camera attacking three men in London.

Police are trying to trace the teenagers, who were with three other youths, for the violent muggings.

CCTV footage shows them attacking the men in the area around Aldgate bus station in the City.

In the first attack, which took place at 2am, one girl beats a young man over the head in an attempt to get his iPhone while other members of the gang look on.

He refuses to hand it over, so they turn on his friend, making off with his Ted Baker bag.

They are then seen rifling through the bag in a bus stop, taking £10 in cash and headphones. They tossed away the papers and passport it also contained, police said.

The group are then captured on the CCTV footage milling around in the bus stop drinking before setting off on their second attack.

The third victim was set upon as he was talking on his iPhone to his bank after an ATM swallowed his card.

He refused to give up the phone and put it in his inside pocket. He was kicked and punched in the face and his phone ripped from his clothing. Read More

Lightning strike kills 18 children in Uganda - 29th June 2011

A lightning strike at a primary school in western Uganda has killed 18 students and injured at least 50 others.

Lightning hit Runyanya Primary School in Kiryandongo district, about 225 kilometres north-west of Kampala, killing 15 girls and three boys, police spokeswoman Judith Nabakooba said.

"The injured were taken to hospital nearby and 15 of those who were seriously injured were transferred to Mulago hospital [in Kampala]," she said.

Local media reported that a further 21 pupils were burned after lightning struck at a second school in Zombo district, around 380 kilometres north of Kampala. Police could not confirm the incident.

Ms Nabakooba could not provide an exact figure for the total number killed by lightning in recent weeks, but local newspaper The Daily Monitor reported a total of 28 killed and scores injured in the past week, including Tuesday's incidents.

Uganda is experiencing unseasonably heavy rainstorms and concern about the number of recent lightning strikes has prompted politicians to demand an official explanation from government. Source

Underwater landslide likely cause of 'mild tsunami' in Devon, U.K. - 29th June 2011

Sailor Bob Brown said the tidal surge swept down the Yealm estuary near Plymouth, at "about four times the normal speed"

A "mild tsunami" along the South West coast was probably caused by an underwater landslide, a coastal expert has said.

The unusual tidal surge struck the Cornwall, Devon, Dorset and Hampshire coastline on Monday morning.

There were reports of rivers changing direction, fish leaping out of water and hair standing on end due to static.

Dr Mark Davidson, from the University of Plymouth, said the surge was quite a "rare" occurrence.

The first reports of the event came from St Michael's Mount in Cornwall.

Boatman Dave Ladner said: "The funniest thing was on the causeway all the ladies' hair was standing on end with the static.

"The sea on the eastern side was probably 8ins (20cm) to a 1ft (0.3m) higher than the rest and it was pouring over the causeway like a torrent rather than just a gentle meeting in the middle."

Roland Stewart from Millbrook, near Plymouth, said: "It was quite violent in a way, my dinghy was moving around with the movement of the water and I just wondered what the hell was going on.... within 15 minutes it was all over."

Amateur video footage shot on the Yealm estuary, to the east of Plymouth, shows the surge.

Bob Brown was launching his dinghy at the mouth of estuary at 1015 BST, an hour after low tide when he saw the wave.

He said: "The tide was coming in from left to right, all of a sudden it stopped coming in from the sea and went back the other way.

"It came back at quite a force, all the boats were bobbing around.

"To see a tide suddenly stop and go back the other way at four times the speed was unbelievable." Read More and Video Link >>>>>

Christina Reed, 25, has been found dead after being swept away while swimming in a remote part of India - 29th June 2011

A British woman has been found dead after being swept away while swimming in a remote part of India.

Christina Reed, 25, went missing in the state of Meghalaya as she swam in the Umkynsan River with her boyfriend Anthony Biddlecombe on Saturday.

Mr Biddlecombe, 28, told rescuers his girlfriend jumped into the river - which was swollen from monsoon rains - after him for a swim, but was dragged away by strong currents.

The pair were travelling around India on a break from their teaching jobs in Chiang Mai in Thailand.

Miss Reed, originally from Torquay in Devon, taught English while lifeguard Mr Biddlecombe, from the Isle of Wight, was a swimming instructor.

He told rescuers: "We tried our best to rescue her, but we failed as she was swept away by the high current downstream.

"Christina is trapped somewhere in the river and what we need now is trained divers to help her out."

Local police officer Sunil Kumar Kataria described the area as hilly and dangerous and said water levels had risen alarmingly due to heavy rains.

On her online profile on a website for travellers, Miss Reed said: "I love life. I love dancing, chatting, laughing and cheeky banter."

She described her philosophy as "never try, never know". Read More

5.0 Magnitude Earthquake VALPARAISO, CHILE - 29th June 2011

A magnitude 5.0 earthquake has struck Valparaiso, Chile at a depth of 49.8 km (30.9 miles), the quake hit at 08:22:14 UTC Wednesday 29th June 2011.
The epicenter was 67 km (41 miles) South of Illapel, Coquimbo, Chile

No reports of Damage as yet.

Mystery fever scare rises in Ludhiana, india - 29th June 2011

There's a mystery fever that has gripped the city of Ludhiana and with even doctors failing to pinpoint the cause or type of the illness, residents have begun panicking. Those complaining of the baffling fever are also more by the day as doctors say the cases pouring in have increased by 60%. The symptoms include high fever, stomach pain and low platelet count.

While the patients and their families have failed to understand the cause of this fever, doctors too are not clear about what is causing it. From next to no case till a few months ago, as many as seven people are daily being now diagnosed with this fever these days.

A doctor is Apollo Hospital's medicine department, Gautam Aggarwal, said, "I am treating as many as eight such patients every day. Monsoons have brought some viral and bacterial infections and this one seems unclassified."

Most of those suffering from the ailment include people in the age group of 15 to 45 years. "Though the cause is still a mystery, it

takes nearly four days for a patient to recover from the fever. People must take precautions but even these can become ineffective as the infections are air-borne," the doctor added.

Medical superintendent of Guru Tegh Bahadur Hospital R S Sodhi said more than 50 patients of mystery fever visit the hospital every week. "The numbers have gone up tremendously. It is a non-specific form of fever and cannot be diagnosed as the city lacks testing equipment," Sodhi added.

Amit Berry, a doctor at DMC Hospital, said they had started receiving patients of mystery fever, adding the number might increase during the coming months. "We call it viral but nobody is sure about the type of fever," he added.

Sangeeta Sharma, a resident of Vikas Nagar, said her 15-year-old son was suffering from this fever, adding the doctors called it seasonal viral fever. "My son Rohan does not eat out... we're not sure what caused the malady," she added. Source

E.Coli - Sweden reports first domestic EHEC case, a Swede with NO connection to Germany - 28th June 2011

For the first time, a Swede with no connections to Germany has been infected with the virulent enterohaemorrhagic E. coli (EHEC) bacteria that has claimed dozens of lives across Europe, Swedish health authorities reported on Tuesday.

“This means that the source of the infection is in Sweden, which is a lot worse, because it might mean that there is some form of infected food product in circulation that we haven’t yet identified, “ said Sofie Ivarsson, epidemiologist at the institute to news agency TT.

The infected Swede comes from Skåne, in southern Sweden, and has not been traveling in Germany. Neither does he have any other known connections to anyone else who have been taken ill after visiting Germany.

“All previous Swedish cases had a connection to Germany, but not this. This is a completely new case, which we identified this morning. We have not left any stones unturned and yet we have not been able to find any connection,” Ivarsson told TT.

The patient fell ill in the middle of June but is now reported to be feeling better, according to the institute.

There is an ongoing investigation to find the source of the infection, but it is not yet known if it originated in Sweden or if a connection to the German outbreak will be revealed.

According to the head of the institute, Johan Carlson, there are now only two alternatives. Either the Swedish man has been infected indirectly, or the source of the infection is in Sweden.

"And then we have more of a problem," he told TT.

The first alternative, that the man from Skåne has been infected indirectly, Carlson finds hard to believe.

"Of course that could be the explanation, but it is fairly unlikely as it would mean that the infection would have travelled. No one from his family has been to Germany," he said.

Which leaves alternative two - that there is an infected food product within Sweden.

"And that puts us in a more serious situation than before, because more people are then likely to be infected by this aggressive version," he said. Read More

Jellyfish halt Torness nuclear units, Scotland - 28th June 2011

Masses of jellyfish entering the Torness nuclear power plant's cooling water inflow area led EDF Energy to shut both units there manually on Tuesday, the company said.

"This is temporary and the reactors will be restarted once the jellyfish situation subsides," a spokeswoman for EDF Energy said.

The two 640-megawatt (MW) units in Scotland went off line on Tuesday afternoon, National Grid data showed.

The presence of jellyfish, seaweed and other marine life is not uncommon at nuclear power plants, EDF Energy said.

Two weeks ago, an Atlantic Grey Seal was rescued from EDF Energy's Hinkley Point nuclear power station in Somerset after it got trapped in the inflow area chasing fish. The plant's operations were not affected. Source