Thursday, June 30, 2011

Massive Sinkhole Swallows Queensland Beach

Minnesota braces for a government shutdown

Only a limited array of state services would continue in Minnesota if there is a government shutdown Friday, a judge ruled.

Ramsey County Chief Judge Kathleen Gearin decided Wednesday that the state must continue funding basic custodial care for residents in prisons, treatment centers and nursing homes, as well as public safety and immediate public health concerns.

Also, it must provide benefit payments and medical services, as well as maintain state aid to schools and municipalities. And the state will continue funding programs and services that are paid for by federal dollars, such as food stamps, Medicaid and Temporary Aid to Needy Families.

While many residents can breathe a sign of relief, others will have to suffer through a government shutdown that grows more likely by the hour. Though Governor Mark Dayton and Republican legislative leaders continue to meet, they have not reached an agreement on a budget for fiscal 2012, which starts Friday.

Without a last-minute deal, many state services will be suspended. Highway rest stops will close during the holiday weekend, as will the state zoo. Road construction projects will cease, as will licensing for teachers and businesses. Funding for services such as job training and homelessness support will be cut off.

And up to 23,000 state workers could be laid off, though they will continue to get health benefits and can return to their jobs when the budget impasse is resolved. (read more)

Reader contributed.

Homeless choke the roads to Disney World

'Red' culture campaign sweeps China -- Is China returning to its communist past as political, financial woes grip world?

Walking down the streets of Beijing, it's hard to avoid seeing red slogans lining the sidewalks. Switching on a TV at home, almost every channel hosts a gala show performed on a red-colored stage.

Such things are all part of a country-wide "red" campaign that China has promoted for several months in preparation for its big red-letter day, July 1. On that day, the Communist Party of China (CPC) celebrates its 90th birthday.

The campaign ranges from impromptu singing sessions of "red songs" in city squares to touching personal stories of "red stars" in Chinese newspapers; from showing red movies in theaters to red tours of former party leaders' hometowns.

A focus of the campaign has been on historical sites of the Revolution. According to CCTV, more than 8 billion yuan (US$1.2 billion) has been spent sprucing up famous places like Mao Zedong's hometown since 2004, and thousands of young professionals are encouraged to visit these sites.

In his hometown, Mao a source of pride

In Beijing, preparation for the big day is intense. A giant emblem of the Communist Party, the hammer and sickle, was erected at the heart of Tiananmen Square. Huge flower displays of the number 90 are at all major intersections. Banners with slogans congratulating the Party's achievement hang at pedestrian overpasses. (read more)

Did Afghan security help in Kabul hotel attack?

Chain Reaction Dam Burst to Split Heartland USA? -- Deliberate effort? Fact or fiction?

Is the Missouri River, the longest in the United States at 2,321 miles long, about to suffer a chain reaction failure beginning at the monolithic Fort Peck Dam in Montana, which itself is 21,026 feet long, 250 feet tall, and the largest earth-filled dam in the world?

The massive reservoir behind the world’s largest earth dam, Fort Peck Lake, is 134 miles long with 1,520 miles of shoreline, and reportedly holds enough water to equal the totality of the annual river run off – or one full year’s worth of the Missouri River’s flow.

According to Jody Farhat, chief of water management for the corps’ northwestern division, the six major Missouri River dams in the states of Montana (Fort Peck – the highest dam), North and South Dakota and Nebraska all will release record flows to make room for the incoming mountain runoff.

“We had a very heavy plains snowpack, and as that melted it used a fair amount of the storage that we had in our reservoirs.”

Farhat said this spring’s flood will be the most severe the region has seen since the Missouri River Mainstem Reservoir System was completed in the 1960s. (In other words, the dams have never been tested to this degree before.)

“We’re not going to get to peak releases until early July,” Farhat said. “This flood event is going to go on from now until early August.” (read more)

Reader contributed.

Italian Cabinet OKs 47 billion-euro austerity package: Is Italy next in line for crisis?

The Italian Cabinet approved an austerity budget package Thursday aimed at saving €47 billion ($68 billion) over four years.

"It's a package balanced between increasing revenues and reduction of expenditures," Finance Minister Giulio Tremonti told journalists.

"We have fulfilled our commitment to keep our hands out of the Italians pockets," Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said of the austerity package, which now goes to Parliament.

Berlusconi asked for cooperation from opposition parties.

"We have to reach the budget balance by 2014," Berlusconi said, adding the country cannot live beyond its means.

Berlusconi and Tremonti did not explain specifics of the package in their appearances Thursday.

On the Italian government website there were a few lines regarding the contents of the package: "The package is divided in four parts: the first one is dedicated to the reduction of the costs of politics (parliamentary fees, use of state cars and flights), the second part is dedicated to the measures in general to reduce the expenditures, the third part to fiscal revenues, and the fourth part to measures to increase development."

News reports in Italian media in recent days said that most of the cuts will come from freezing salaries in the public sector and reducing local spending. (read more)

The IMF has turned into Obama's poodle

With disaster in the eurozone once more postponed, if not vanquished, markets are again turning to the US in their never-ending search for trouble.

There's plenty to worry about, from the immediate threat of default if the political system feels suicidal enough to refuse to lift the US debt ceiling, to the imminent conclusion of QE2.

No one really knows what effect turning off the liquidity tap will have on demand. In theory, it should lead to a slight tightening of monetary conditions, with the dollar appreciating a little and bond yields up a bit.

But the read-through is by no means certain. It's a bit like weaning someone off a drug addiction. The patient may respond positively, but it could go the other way. Certainly the UK economy has struggled to show much growth since the QE stopped.

On the debt ceiling, we have to assume that as with the Greek austerity vote, the brinkmanship on Capitol Hill is no more than an elaborate game of bluff and that the limit will eventually be lifted. Even so, Republicans and Democrats alike seem determined to take things to the wire. For markets, trading opportunities abound around the consequent uncertainty.

Neither side wants to be seen as the one that pulled the plug on the economy by causing the US to default; the consequences of such an action right at the very heart of the world monetary system are too awful to contemplate, though admittedly one or two hotheads seem to think the ensuing mass liquidation wouldn't be too bad. These outliers can be safely ignored; default would be catastrophic. (read more)

Jeff Ellis stung by scorpion on commercial flight

An Oregon man got a big surprise on a commercial flight from Seattle to Anchorage, Alaska, when he was stung by a scorpion while sitting in his plane seat.

Jeff Ellis of West Linn said he was trying to sleep on a red-eye Alaska Airlines flight June 17 when he felt something in his sleeve and tried to brush it away. He said he felt the crawling again, looked down and saw the culprit.

"I picked my hand up and said, 'Oh, my God. That's a scorpion,'" Ellis told KPTV.

He said he grabbed the scorpion with a napkin and showed it to his girlfriend, but not before it stung him on the elbow.

"At first I didn't believe him," said Suzanne Foster, Ellis' girlfriend. "But then I saw it. He held the napkin up for me to see, and I saw the tail wiggling. I pretty much jumped out of my seat."

Foster called for the flight attendant as Ellis noticed his elbow burning. He said it felt like a bee sting.

Two doctors on board checked out Ellis, while the flight crew called for medics to meet the plane at the Anchorage airport.

The flight originated from Austin, Texas, where Alaska Airlines officials believe the scorpion got on board.

Alaska Airlines spokeswoman Bobbie Egan said the airline has never had a poisonous creature on one of its flights before. (read more)

Marilee Ann Kolynych beats grandson... for eating all the bacon

A southeastern Pennsylvania woman is accused of beating her 9-year-old grandson and blasting him in the face with a garden hose because he ate too much bacon.

The Delaware County Daily Times reports Marilee Ann Kolynych was arrested Tuesday.

Clifton Heights police say the 63-year-old Kolynych was angry at her grandson because she believed he ate too much bacon at breakfast and didn't leave enough for everyone else.

Police say Kolynych allegedly assaulted the boy, knocking him to the ground. Police say witnesses reported that the woman pinned him down, beat him on the legs and then sprayed him with the hose. He did not require medical attention.

Kolynych is being held on $25,000 bail. It was not clear if she had an attorney. (read more)

Body Was In Fall River Pool During Two Visits By Inspectors

Several investigations are underway following a number of strange twists in the drowning death of a Fall River woman. The woman’s body was believed to be in the public pool in Fall River for days before it was noticed.

On Thursday, Fall River’s mayor revealed “that health inspectors from the City visited the pool on Monday and on Tuesday and inspected the facilities,” which was during the time that body of Marie Joseph was believed to be in the water.

According to officials, the inspectors tested the pool Tuesday, and noted in a report that the water was “cloudy.”

Joseph was at the pool on Sunday and hadn’t been seen since. The pool was open to the public Monday and Tuesday with lifeguards, none of whom noticed the body under 12 feet of water.

It wasn’t until Tuesday night, when some kids broke into the Veteran’s Memorial swimming pool and found Joseph’s body floating in the pool. (read more)

U.S. Monthly Combat Deaths in Iraq at 3-Year High

Three more American soldiers were killed this week, the United States military announced Thursday, bringing the combat-related deaths for United States forces in Iraq to a monthly toll not seen since 2008.

The deaths occurred Wednesday in southern Iraq. A military spokesman confirmed that the soldiers were killed by enemy attack. Recently, the increase in casualties has been attributed to rocket or mortar attacks on American bases by Shiite militias. American convoys have also come under increasing threat from improvised explosive devices. Militants have stepped up their attacks, the military said, so as to claim credit for pushing out the American forces, who are to withdraw by the end of the year.

The casualties are particularly striking given the diminishing numbers of American forces and their reduced combat role. Fewer than 50,000 troops remain, compared with more than 160,000 at the height of the war. (read more)

US Jobs Picture Remains Ugly as Weekly Claims Still High

The number of Americans filing claims for unemployment benefits barely fell last week, a government report showed on Thursday, suggesting the labor market was struggling to regain momentum.

Initial claims for state unemployment benefits slipped just 1,000 to a seasonally adjusted 428,000, the Labor Department said. Economists polled by Reuters had forecast claims dropping to 420,000. The prior week's figure was unrevised at 429,000.

It was the 12th straight week that claims have been above 400,000, a level that is usually associated with a stable labor market. Employment stumbled badly in May, with employers adding just 54,000 jobs—the fewest in eight months.

"Payroll growth is going to be more like last month's rather than first three months of the year," said Troy Davig, senior U.S. economist at Barclays Capital in New York. (read more)

Saudi Arabia will build nuclear weapons if Iran gets them, Saudi prince warns

A senior Saudi Arabian diplomat and member of the ruling royal family has raised the spectre of nuclear conflict in the Middle East if Iran comes close to developing a nuclear weapon.

Prince Turki al-Faisal, a former Saudi intelligence chief and ambassador to Washington, warned senior Nato military officials that the existence of such a device "would compel Saudi Arabia … to pursue policies which could lead to untold and possibly dramatic consequences".

He did not state explicitly what these policies would be, but a senior official in Riyadh who is close to the prince said yesterday his message was clear.

"We cannot live in a situation where Iran has nuclear weapons and we don't. It's as simple as that," the official said. "If Iran develops a nuclear weapon, that will be unacceptable to us and we will have to follow suit."

Officials in Riyadh said that Saudi Arabia would reluctantly push ahead with its own civilian nuclear programme. Peaceful use of nuclear power, Turki said, was the right of all nations.

Turki was speaking earlier this month at an unpublicised meeting at RAF Molesworth, the airbase in Cambridgeshire used by Nato as a centre for gathering and collating intelligence on the Middle East and the Mediterranean.

According to a transcript of his speech obtained by the Guardian, Turki told his audience that Iran was a "paper tiger with steel claws" that was "meddling and destabilising" across the region. (read more)

America enters its sixth war: U.S. drone targets two leaders of Somali group allied with al-Qaeda, official says

A U.S. drone aircraft fired on two leaders of a militant Somali organization tied to al-Qaeda, apparently wounding them, a senior U.S. military official familiar with the operation said Wednesday.

The strike last week against senior members of al-Shabab comes amid growing concern within the U.S. government that some leaders of the Islamist group are collaborating more closely with al-Qaeda to strike targets beyond Somalia, the military official said.

The airstrike makes Somalia at least the sixth country where the United States is using drone aircraft to conduct lethal attacks, joining Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya, Iraq and Yemen. And it comes as the CIA is expected to begin flying armed drones over Yemen in its hunt for al-Qaeda operatives. (read more)

California tells online retailers to start collecting sales taxes from customers -- because clearly, we aren't all taxed enough already

Shopping at Amazon.com Inc. and other major Internet stores is poised to get more expensive.

Beginning Friday, a new state law will require large out-of-state retailers to collect sales taxes on purchases that their California customers make on the Internet — a prospect eased only slightly by a 1-percentage-point drop in the tax that also takes effect at the same time.

Getting the taxes, which consumers typically don't pay to the state if online merchants don't charge them, is "a common-sense idea," said Gov. Jerry Brown, who signed the legislation into law Wednesday.

The new tax collection requirement — part of budget-related legislation — is expected to raise an estimated $317 million a year in new state and local government revenue.

But those taxes may come with a price. Amazon and online retailer Overstock.com Inc. told thousands of California Internet marketing affiliates that they will stop paying commissions for referrals of so-called click-through customers.

That's because the new requirement applies only to online sellers based out of state that have some connection to California, such as workers, warehouses or offices here.

Both Amazon in Seattle and Overstock in Salt Lake City have told affiliates that they would have to move to another state if they wanted to continue earning commissions for referring customers.

"We oppose this bill because it is unconstitutional and counterproductive," Amazon wrote its California business partners Wednesday. Amazon has not indicated what further actions it might take to challenge the California law. (read more)

First Death in Minnesota from Powassan Virus

The first death related to the Powassan virus was recorded in Minnesota Wednesday according to a release by the Minnesota Department of Health

The victim was a Northern Minnesota woman in her 60s.

Another likely Powassan case was identified in Anoka County this year in a man also in his 60s.

Both the female and male cases became ill in May after spending time outdoors and noticing tick bites -- the Powassan virus is transmitted by blacklegged or “deer” ticks in Minnesota and Wisconsin.

They both developed brain infections due to the virus. While the female passed away from the infection, the male was hospitalized and is now recovering at home.

The Powassan virus was first identified in 1958 in Powassan, Ontario. Since that time about 60 cases have been identified in North America.

The virus was mostly seen in eastern Canada and the northeastern U.S. until the last decade when, cases were reported in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Minnesota.

Locally, Powassan infected ticks have been found in Houston County, and the heavy forested hardwood areas of southeastern Minnesota and western Wisconsin offer a good home to ticks that can carry the virus.

Powassan virus is related to West Nile virus and both diseases can cause severe infections of the central nervous system.

These infections involve inflammation of the brain or the lining of the brain and spinal cord. (read more)

Long Island Officials Warn Of Rapidly Spreading Whooping Cough Virus

A cluster of whooping cough is growing on Long Island, with dozens of people infected by the virus.

As CBS 2’s Hazel Sanchez reports, a warning was sent out as children begin to head to summer camp – a certain breeding ground for the illness.

Parents in Smithtown are on high alert, as the highly contagious whooping cough is spreading through their community.

“It’s one of those diseases you don’t think you’ll ever hear about again,” parent Rick Vollkommer said.

Donna Wilson said she’s not taking any chances with her daughter, Kayla.

“She has been coughing a little bit here and there, so I’m contemplating maybe taking her to the doctor tomorrow, just to do a quick test,” she said.

At least 40 people in Suffolk County, mostly children, have been diagnosed with Pertussis, the virus more commonly known as whooping cough. (read more)

UK: 'Hundreds of thousands' of public sector workers strike

The leader of one of the four unions involved in a national strike has said that the government will be "proved wrong" in its predictions that few will walkout in protest at an overhaul of public sector pensions.

Mark Serwotka, general secretary of the Public and Commercial Services union said "hundreds and hundreds of thousands" were expected to take part in Thursday's strikes because the government was "failing to compromise" over pension reforms that he claimed were unfair and politically motivated.

Picket lines were mounted outside schools, government buildings, jobcentres and courts today by striking public sector workers in the biggest wave of industrial unrest since the coalition was formed.

Union leaders said early indications were that the 24-hour walkout by the National Union of Teachers (NUT), Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL), University and College Union and the PCS, which between them cover 750,000 public sector workers, was being strongly supported.

A third of schools are expected to close and two-thirds of universities have cancelled lectures. Benefits will go unpaid, court cases will be postponed, police leave has been cancelled in London and airports are bracing themselves for backlogs at immigration. (read more)

Texas lawmakers let TSA pat-down ban die, and freedom die along with it

Texas lawmakers adjourned their special session Wednesday without passing a ban on Transportation Security Administration pat-downs, to the dismay of staunch conservative critics of the agency.

The bill, which would have criminalized touching passengers' genitalia during hand searches at airport security checkpoints, had already been watered down by the Texas Senate. The upper chamber of the Texas Legislature added provisions to allow TSA agents to deliver a hand search if they have a reasonable suspicion one is necessary.

The provisions were added to the House version of the bill, but the chamber adjourned without taking a vote on the tweaked bill it had already passed.

The bill's sponsor in the Texas House, state Rep. David Simpson (R), vowed Wednesday to try again next year.

"We will never give up the fight for liberty," he said on his Facebook page. "Though we were not successful in passing the TSA bill to protect travelers' dignity, I am continually encouraged by the efforts of so many Texans who have fought hard to see the Constitution upheld." (read more)

Nigerian Olajide Noibi Accused of Flying from JFK to LA With Invalid Boarding Pass -- And TSA just let him on by

Federal agents have arrested a Nigerian man after he successfully flew from New York to Los Angeles, and tried to fly from there to Atlanta, without having a valid boarding pass for either flight.

Investigators say Olajide Noibi boarded a Virgin Atlantic flight that left John F. Kennedy Airport last Friday.

Neither the airline nor the Transportation Security Administration noticed that his ID -- a University of Michigan student card -- did not match the name on his boarding pass. While the plane was in the air, flight attendants became suspicious because Noibi was sitting in a seat that the passenger list indicated was empty.

Noibi handed them a boarding pass that was for a flight the day before. Investigators say he told them he had missed that flight.

The flight crew then realized that his name didn't match the name on the boarding pass and that he was not on the passenger list. An FBI agent later discovered that the boarding pass Noibi presented had been printed out by a New York man who lost it in the subway on his way to Kennedy Airport for that same flight. (read more)

Feces smeared at Virginia transit station -- What has gone wrong with society?

A Metro rider found an unpleasant surprise on his daily commute at the Franconia-Springfield station on Monday: human feces smeared on the pedestrian bridge into the station.

And making matters worse, it was still there Tuesday and Wednesday. No one had cleaned it up.

Austin Lasseter said he spoke to the Metro station manager on Monday, then each day thereafter. But she told Lasseter it wasn't Metro's problem. The stairs belong to Virginia Railway Express even though it was on the Metro side of the bridge.

"Everyone walks past it on their way into the station, and it stinks," Lasseter said. "The station manager's attitude is a perfect example of what's wrong with Metro. They just don't care about anything, even crap in their stations."

The case highlights two problems: communication between customers and agencies -- and the unfortunate things that happen in public places.

The Franconia-Springfield station is not the only transit station to be treated as a public toilet. Human excrement also was found at VRE's Alexandria station on Wednesday, VRE spokesman Mark Roeber said. And it has been found at other stations, with multiple cases occurring at a time.

Officials don't know who is responsible or have an explanation for why it happens in clustered cases. But it is challenging for agencies such as VRE, which runs commuter trains from Virginia into Washington each weekday. The agency does not have employees manning each station, so it doesn't always learn of such problems immediately. (read more)

Virginia Subsidized Housing Tenants Live Large On Your Dime

Resort-style swimming pools with fountains and heated spas, billiards rooms, granite counter tops, ceramic tile, indoor basketball courts, stainless steel appliances -- many Fairfax County taxpayers cannot afford such luxuries. But they are paying for these amenities for use by low-income residents who live in subsidized housing in affluent neighborhoods.

"They're a part of our rental program where we subsidize the rents for the individuals in the units, and we end up having to pick up the condo fees," supervisor Pat Herrity told 630 WMAL News.

Herrity does not advocate putting low-income residents in "ghetto-style" housing but he takes issue with taxpayers who cannot afford such luxuries being forced to pick up the tab for people who qualify for subsidized housing.

"These are resort-style amenities that the majority of the taxpayers that are subsidizing it don't have on their own," said Herrity, adding that "luxury has no place in subsidized housing."

"If the occupants of these homes improve their lives financially, they will be forced to move out. And the housing they could afford without the taxpayer subsidy is well below the quality of these homes," he said. (read more)

Oops! Obama messes up his daughter’s age... twice: Too much golf?

They grow up so fast. But not that fast, Mr. President.

In a news conference Wednesday, President Barack Obama twice referred to his oldest daughter, Malia, as being 13 years old.

Not quite. She's 12.

Perhaps the president was already thinking ahead to Malia's approaching birthday: She turns 13 on July 4.

Obama spoke about both of his daughters as he characterized congressional Republicans as procrastinators who only get work done at the last minute. The president is prodding Republicans to reach a deal on raising the national debt limit before the government taps out its borrowing ability on the expected date of Aug. 2.

"You know, Malia and Sasha generally finish their homework a day ahead of time," Obama said. "Malia's 13, Sasha's 10." (read more)

French President Sarkozy assaulted as respect for world leaders drops to an all new low

Edmund Stoiber Calls for European Economic Integration

The financial crisis in Greece could have worse consequences on the global financial system than the collapse of Lehman Brothers, according to statements made by European Union anti-bureaucracy czar Edmund Stoiber on June 10. In an interview with Focus, Stoiber recounted how he warned against letting Greece in the eurozone in the first place.

“I wanted a smaller eurozone,” he reminisced (translation ours throughout).

In a speech made three weeks earlier, at the nrw Academy of Sciences, Stoiber presented his solution to the crisis. “We can only defend the euro together,” he said. “The next step is a common economic policy. Only then can a transfer union be prevented.” In other words, like European Central Bank head Jean-Claude Trichet and others, Edmund Stoiber sees the need for a pan-European financial authority.

Unlike most other European leaders, however, Stoiber has actually been blunt concerning the consequences awaiting eurozone nations that do not get their financial house in order. “When a state refuses to bring its finances into order, then it should be possible for the other members of the eurozone to exclude it,” Stoiber said last year.

With Greek citizens showing up en masse to protest new austerity measures, it is looking more and more likely that Greece will not be able to get its finances back on track. If this is the case, the other members of the eurozone may indeed exclude Greece in order to stay afloat. (read more)

Mystery object falls from sky in Norfolk, England - 30th June 2011

Police were called to Litcham, near Dereham, last night following reports of an unidentified object falling from the sky.

The alarm was raised by a member of the public just after 9pm and officers are investigating what it might have been.

A police spokesman said they would like to hear from anyone who may have been in the area last night, including hang glider pilots.

The object looked like a hang glider or a parachute. No further details about the object are available and a photograph was not taken.

Call police on 08454 456 4567 with any information. Source

Or Alternatively contact us here at Coming Crisis if you witnessed this object.

Government sends aircraft equipped with radiation monitors over Los Alamos and scientists are called in to check area Over Nuclear Lab

A plane equipped with radiation monitors has been sent over the Los Alamos nuclear laboratory as a 110-square-mile wildfire burned just 50-feet from its doorstep, putting thousands of scientific experiments on hold for days.

There are growing fears that toxic material stored at the lab - which houses as much as 20,000 barrels of plutonium waste - is at risk from the wildfire at it edges closer to the facility.

But according to fire chief Chief Doug Tucker the waste, which is stored in drums, is kept on a blacktop with no vegetation around and are safe from fire that he is confident will not spread onto the facility.

'It's looking real good right now,' Mr Tucker said on Wednesday night. 'By having that buffer I'm pretty confident that we'd be able to stop any spot fires from coming into the lab.'

The twin-engine plane, which can take digital photographs and video as well as thermal and night images, was sent to New York City to take air samples after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

It has flown over wildfires and areas damaged by Hurricane Katrina. It monitored the 2002 Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City. It also helped locate debris from the disintegrated space shuttle Columbia shuttle.

In a testament to the sophisticated research done at Los Alamos, the plane was developed with technology from the lab, the desert installation that built the atomic bomb during World War II. Read More

Unprecedented FDA vote declares Avastin, the world's best-selling cancer drug, UNSAFE - 30th June 2011

A shock vote has seen a panel of cancer experts rule that Avastin, the best-selling cancer drug in the world, should no longer be used in breast cancer patients.

The unprecedented vote by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) clears the way for the government to remove its endorsement from the drug.

The advisory panel's comes less than a year after the same panel reached the same conclusion.

The six members of the FDA oncology drug panel voted unanimously that Avastin is ineffective, unsafe and should have its approval for breast cancer withdrawn.

'I think we all wanted Avastin to succeed but the reality is that these studies did not bear out that hope,' said Natalie Compagni-Portis, the lone patient representative on the panel.

The vote is not binding and FDA Commissioner Margaret Hamburg will make the final decision sometime after July 28.

The drug is approved for multiple cancers and will still be available for breast cancer, though insurers are expected to drop coverage if it loses FDA approval.

The FDA began steps to remove Avastin's breast cancer approval in December, but Roche took the rare step of appealing that decision and lobbied the agency and Congress for a second hearing.

The dramatic, contentious tone of the two-day hearing underscored the difficulty of removing an option for cancer patients, even when backed by scientific evidence. Read More

Palm Beach invaded by giant 7ft-long lizards as residents are warned if you see one... run - 30th June 2011

Giant lizards up to seven feet long are invading some parts of Florida.

Wildlife groups are warning residents in Palm Beach and Broward counties to run if they see a Nile Monitor Lizard following a sharp rise in sightings.

The scary-looking predators are native to Africa and Asian - not the sunshine state - but experts say they have been kept as pets and set free in the past.

Their numbers are now multiplying at an alarming rate in canals amid the sub-tropical climate.

One five-foot long lizard is known to have slithered into one resident's house through a dog flap.

People are being warned the creatures get nasty when captured - they have long tails that they can use like whips, sharp teeth and claws and typically prey on birds and small pets.

'They can also run at speeds of 15mph and swim for one hour under water.

'The concern is that these critters can not only be defensive when cornered, but they also threaten our native species and ecosystem,' said Gabriella Ferraro, an spokesperson for Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission (FWC).

Residents are advised not to try to capture the lizards themselves.

'This is a high-priority species for us,' added Scott Hardin, coordinator of the FWC's Exotic Species Coordination Section.

'We plan to go after them aggressively to either try to eradicate them or suppress their numbers.' Source

Dr George Kenney Investigated over deaths of THREE students after he hypnotised them to improve their performance - 30th June 2011

Police have launched an investigation into a high school principal who hypnotised three students who later died.

George Kenney was suspended from his job after he admitted hypnotising a 16-year-old boy who a day later committed suicide.

But it has since emerged he hypnotised another student who killed herself and a 16-year-old who died in a car crash days after seeing the principal for the private session.

Investigators with the North Port Police and Florida Department of Health have launched a joint investigation into the activities of Kenney.

It follows a report by school chiefs who found that he had lied to officials about hypnotism sessions and defied three separate orders to stop the practice.

An investigation by officials at the North Port High School following the April suicide of of Wesley McKinley uncovered other students who had come under the principal's influence.

He is alleged to have hypnotised 17-year-old Brittany Palumbo five months before she killed herself on May 4 and had hypnosis sessions with 16-year-old Marcus Freeman six days before he died in a car wreck on March 15. All three were students at his school.

He first told police he never hypnotised the girl but later admitted he had lied.

Kenney, who has been suspended since April, has denied any wrongdoing. Read More

Toyrianna Smith of Harvey charged with first-degree murder after she killed her infant son and then carried him around shopping the next day

A mother has been accused of killing her three-month-old son before taking his dead body shopping with her.

Toyrianna Smith is alleged to have suffocated her newborn son to stop him from crying after his screams disturbed her sleep.

Hours later she dressed the boy and took him out in a carrier while she went shopping near her home in Harvey, Illinois.

Ms Smith, 20, later dropped in to see a friend who noticed that the baby wasn't moving and noticed blood on the child's blanket and called emergency services.

The child, identified as Ken Blackman Jr., was rushed to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Medical examiners said he had been dead at least eight hours when he was brought to the emergency room and ruled his death a homicide.

Police believe Smith dressed the baby and took him out as the boy's father was due to return home and she was unable to explain his son's death. Read More

Danilo Restivo has been given life in prison for killing Heather Barnett - 30th June 2011

A killer who battered a mother to death, leaving a ‘calling card’ of another woman’s hair in her hand like another ‘strikingly similar’ deaths, was last night facing life behind bars.

Danilo Restivo, 39, bludgeoned his neighbour Heather Barnett, 48, with a hammer and cut her throat at her home, leaving her mutilated body to be found by her two children.

A 4in lock of unidentified hair had been placed in the seamstress’s hand, while her own hair had been cut off and taken as a trophy.

Yesterday the victim’s daughter, Caitlin, who was 11 at the time, sobbed as Restivo was convicted at Winchester Crown Court.

Now the Daily Mail can reveal that the Italian is suspected of killing a student exactly four months earlier.

The killing of Miss Barnett was in Bournemouth on November 12, 2002, and police believe he chose to kill on the 12th of each month.

Restivo is also facing extradition to his homeland to stand trial over Elisa Claps’s murder, which bore the same chilling ‘hallmark’ of a woman’s hair left by her body.

The 16-year-old vanished on September 12, 1993, after arranging to meet Restivo at a church in Potenza, south Italy. Her body was found in the loft only in March last year. Read More

Scientists discover new quasar: Distant nucleus of a young galaxy powered by a black hole is 12.9billion light years away - 30th June 2011

A bright beacon in space believed to be powered by a black hole may shed light on a hidden era of the early universe.

The object, named ULAS J1120+0641, is the most distant quasar known.

Quasars are incredibly bright sources of energy thought to be the hot centres of young galaxies swirling around enormous black holes.

They can emit thousands of times more radiation than our own galaxy, the Milky Way.

The new quasar is 12.9 billion light years away, meaning its light began travelling across space when the universe was just 770 million years old.

Light rays from such distant objects are stretched by the expanding cosmos, making them redder.

Astronomers use this 'redshift' to estimate the distance of very far away objects.

ULAS J1120+0641 is the first quasar discovered in the infrared part of the spectrum. It was identified by the United Kingdom Infrared Telescope based at Hilo in Hawaii. Read More

The true cost of the war on terror: $3.7trillion and counting… and up to 258,000 lives - 29th June 2011

The cost of U.S. military action in Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan will run to at least $3.7trillion, a study has revealed today.

The staggering figure could reach as high as $4.4trillion, with the deaths of up to 258,000 people, according to research by Brown University's Watson Institute for International Studies.

In human terms, 224,000 to 258,000 people have died directly from warfare - including 125,000 civilians in Iraq.

Many more have died indirectly, from the loss of clean drinking water, health care and nutrition.

Another 365,000 have been wounded and 7.8million - the combined population of Connecticut and Kentucky - have been displaced.

In the 10 years since U.S. troops went into Afghanistan to root out the Al Qaeda leaders behind the September 11, 2001, attacks, spending on the conflicts totalled up to $2.7 trillion.

Those numbers will continue to soar when considering often overlooked costs including obligations to wounded veterans and projected war spending from 2012 through 2020.

They also do not include at least $1trillion in interest payments and expenses. Read More

Girl, 16, and man, 21, arrested after gang attacks on three men to steal iPhones - 30th June 2011

A teenage girl and a young man have been arrested this afternoon after a series of violent muggings in London.

Police picked up the 16-year-old girl, from Hackney, and 21-year-old male, from Lambeth as part of an ongoing investigation.

The pair were caught on camera, along with three others, attacking three men to try and steal their iPhones in two separate incidents near Aldgate bus station in central London.

The attack was described by one officer as the most violent he had seen in the last couple of years.

In the first attack, one of the girls can be seen hitting a man over the head in a bid to get his phone as other members of the gang watched.

When he refuses to hand it over they turned on his friend and they ran off with a Ted Baker bag. They were later filmed on a bus stop CCTV camera as they rifled through the bag taking £10 and set of headphones.

They threw paperwork inside the bag away along with a passport following the robbery at 2am on May 14.

The group then stayed at the bus stop, drinking before launching their second attack, again targeting their victim for his mobile phone. Read More

Python born with two heads - 30th June 2011

This is one snake who is likely to be more than a little snappy if provoked.

The mutant black and gold python regius - royal python or ball python - was born in Villingen-Schwenningen, southern Germany, with two heads.

Snake breeder Stefan Broghammer said the slippery customer is around one years old and has grown to around 20 inches.

He said the creature is only the second python known to be born with two heads.

The snake is non-venomous, found in Africa and are a popular pet.

Adults generally grow up to around 4ft and when threatened their instinctively curl into a ball to defend themselves. Source

Man decapitated after falling 'on railings' from fourth floor window - 30th June 2011

A police inquiry is underway after a 32-year-old man was found decapitated after falling from a fourth floor window.

Emergency services were called to the address in West Kensington at 9.26pm last night and the man was confirmed dead at the scene.

One neighbour, who did not want to be named, claimed that man’s head had been severed on railings.

He told the Fulham and Hammersmith Chronicle: ‘I spoke to a man who said he had seen it all. He was in a dreadful state, crying and screaming. He said it was the most horrific thing imaginable.’

Another added: ‘I was woken by the sound of sirens and screaming. There were huge numbers of police officers and when I heard what had happened I felt sick to my stomach.

‘I don’t know anyone in that block but it seems shocking that something like that should happen there.’

The victim is believed to have fallen from the upper window of a four storey house that had been converted to flats.

A police spokesman confirmed: ‘The body was decapitated, seemingly on descent.’

His next-of-kin are aware, although police are waiting for formal identification.

The death is believed to be non-suspicious and an inquest is set to open today at Fulham Coroner’s Court. Source

Huge underwater landslide causes 'hair-raising' tsunami... off the coast of CORNWALL - 30th June 2011

A massive underwater landslide 200 miles off the coast of Cornwall caused a series of mini-tsunami waves and tides on Monday.

Holidaymakers, fishermen and conservationists were stunned when the tide suddenly shifted up to 50metres in a matter of minutes.

The rapid drop in tide led to a perceivable shift in air pressure which remarkably created so much static in the air that it cause people's hair to stand on end.

Dozens of reports of fast tidal shifts - and bore-like waves surging up estuarine rivers - were reported across the south coast as a 3ft wave hit Britain.

Although dramatic for the South coast of England, the scale of the tsunami is minute when compared to the waves of up to 133ft that struck the coast of Japan in March.

Amazing photos taken by witnesses to this week's event show the tsunami travelling up rivers against its natural flow.

Experts today confirmed the extraordinary events were probably caused as a result of a landslide on the continental shelf 200miles west of the Cornish coast.

The mini-tsunami was recorded on tidal gauges from Cornwall to Hampshire which revealed the 2ft-high column of water moved from west to east. Read More


Police drag boy, 13, out of bed at midnight for throwing an APPLE - 30th June 2011

When two police officers turned up on his doorstep at 11.20pm, Clive Lindoe feared the worst.

But the father of three was shocked and angry to learn the reason for the late-night visit – an allegation that his youngest son had thrown an apple at another boy.

They even threatened to arrest Charlie, 13, when his father initially refused to let them see him until the morning.

The schoolboy was then woken up and taken to the ‘bullying and brutish’ officers, who made him sign what is believed to have been a neighbourhood resolution agreement, used to resolve minor disputes – even though he denied hurling the apple in the first place.

Mr Lindoe, 50, has since made an official complaint to Essex Police, accusing the force of leaving his son traumatised by the heavy-handed treatment. ‘We had been enjoying a lovely evening together as a family,’ said Mr Lindoe, who lives with his wife Lyn, 48, and their children Charlie, James, 14, and Robyn, 16, in Great Horkesley, near Colchester.

‘The boys had gone to bed and then suddenly there was a banging at the door – really hard knocks.

‘When the police told me they were investigating reports of an apple being thrown I could not believe it was about such a petty issue.

‘I told them they would have to come back in the morning, but they said, “We can’t do that – get him out [of bed] or we will go in there and arrest him”.

‘Charlie was crying and shaking and saying, “Dad, I didn’t do it, I didn’t throw the apple, don’t let them arrest me”.

‘If they were investigating a murder or a serious assault, I could understand the need for coming late at night.

‘But they arrived five days after [the incident] was supposed to have happened.’ Read More

Warning 'rapists and killers will walk free' after judge rules that suspects must be charged or released after 96 hours - 30th June 2011

Tens of thousands of killers, rapists and thugs could escape prosecution after an alarming legal judgment.

The ruling tore up 25 years of bail rules for criminal suspects, left a gaping hole in police powers to protect the public and could undermine a string of major investigations.

It means alleged offenders can no longer be released on bail for weeks or months while officers conduct painstaking investigations. Instead they must be charged within a maximum of 96 hours of arrest.

Senior officers have branded the ruling ‘bizarre’, and indicated that offenders are already being released from custody as a result.
Ministers could be asked to bring in emergency laws to reverse the decision within days.

As a result of the ruling made by a district judge in the case of a murder suspect, all the 85,000 suspects now on police bail in England and Wales will see it revoked unless officers can bring charges against them within hours.

The protections offered to victims by bail conditions will also go. These include:
■ Requiring criminals to hand over their passports as part of bail. Suspects could now flee the country.
■ Insisting pedophiles do not go near schools or children’s play areas as part of their bail conditions;
■ Suspects being forced to tell the police where they are living.
■ Victims of domestic violence being offered the protection of the court, so their abusive husbands cannot return home.

The ruling also means suspects who are not charged cannot be brought to justice unless new evidence emerges – giving defense solicitors a new legal weapon to challenge prosecution. Read More

Britain and the U.S. top league table of countries that would be worst affected by an asteroid strike - 30th June 2011

If you live in Britain, the U.S. or China, start preparing now.

Scientists have drawn up a league table of the countries which will be worst affected in the event of an asteroid strike.

They have identified for the first time those which will suffer catastrophic loss of life or be so crippled it will be almost impossible for them to recover.

Developed countries make up the majority of those on the list, but China is there too because of the sheer number of people who would die.

Even smaller countries like Sweden are in grave danger because of the damage to their infrastructure.

The list has been compiled by researchers from the University of Southampton using software called called NEOimpactor, short for NASA's ‘NEO’ or Near Earth Object programme.

Overall the top ten countries most at risk are: China, Indonesia, India, Japan, the U.S, the Philippines, Italy, the U.K, Brazil and Nigeria.

Looking at population loss, the U.S, China, Indonesia, India and Japan are most in danger.

Those countries which face massive devastation to their infrastructure are Canada, the U.S, China, Japan and Sweden. Read More

WHICH COUNTRIES ARE MOST AT RISK?

The top ten countries most at risk are, in no particular order:

  • China
  • Indonesia
  • India
  • Japan
  • The U.S
  • The Philippines
  • Italy
  • Britain
  • Brazil
  • Nigeria

Gaza flotilla sabotaged, organizer says

An organizer of the Gaza flotilla said Thursday that one of its ships has been sabotaged while anchored in Turkey's territorial waters.

The propeller of the Irish ship Saoirse was damaged by what one organizer says is plastic explosives, the second ship to be damaged this week ahead of a flotilla that intends to challenge Israel's maritime blockage of the Gaza strip.

The flotilla, which is expected to leave soon but has faced a series of bureaucratic and technical delays, is a commemoration of the one-year anniversary of a similar flotilla that resulted in a clash in international waters with Israeli navy commandos that killed nine people, including an American.

"We believe that plastic explosives were used to blow and weaken the propel shaft, and this would have sunk the ship in open sea," said Fintan Lane, one of the Irish boat coordinators. (read more)

Bin Laden's death is not the end of terror, Napolitano says -- What exactly would be the end to this never-ending war?

The death of Osama bin Laden "is not the death of terrorism, unfortunately," U.S. Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano told CNN at an international security conference Thursday.

Al Qaeda has been reaching out with "English-language publications and the like," prompting an increase in the number of individual potential terrorists, she said.

U.S. counterterror strategy now includes both "widening our borders" by preventing potential terrorists abroad from boarding planes to the United States as well as dealing with "this growth of homegrown extremism," she said.

Napolitano was speaking a day after President Barack Obama's counterterror adviser outlined key points of the new strategy.

ohn Brennan called it "the first counterterrorism strategy that designates the homeland as a primary area of emphasis in our counterterrorism efforts."

"We are doing everything in our power to prevent another terrorist attack on our soil ... it's not enough to simply be prepared for attacks, we have to be resilient and recover quickly should an attack occur," he said. (read more)

Toddler used as weapon on Toronto streetcar

Police have identified a woman who they say used her three-year-old daughter to hit a passenger on a Toronto Transit Commission streetcar.

The incident occurred on Friday at around 5 p.m. on a streetcar travelling along Dundas Street east near Broadview Avenue.

"She gets into an altercation with a [woman] on the streetcar and then she uses her child and takes her child and starts hitting the woman with her child," said Toronto police Const. Tony Vella.

The woman then pulled the hair of another passenger who tried to intervene, police said. The woman got off the streetcar at Broadview Avenue with the child and walked away.

Police believe the child was not hurt. But they are concerned for the little girl's well-being.

Police have identified the mother but are not releasing her name until they speak with the woman. So far, no charges have been laid. (read more)

Tribunal indicts Hezbollah for Lebanese PM Hariri's killing: War drums beat



Two of the four people indicted in the 2005 assassination of former Prime Minister Rafik Hariri are senior members of the Lebanese Shiite movement Hezbollah, multiple sources in the region told CNN on Thursday.

The Special Tribunal for Lebanon issued the indictments, and a U.N. source familiar with the body said the people include alleged perpetrators on the ground. The sources said they include Mustafa Badreddine and Hasan Oneisa.

Badreddine -- who is the brother-in-law of Imad Mughniyeh, a former Hezbollah commander who was assassinated in Syria in 2008 -- is reported to be a member of Hezbollah's advisory council. The other names on the list are Salim Ayyah and Asad Sabra.

Two additional lists of indictments are expected later this summer and are expected to include the organizers and planners of the attack, the U.N. source said.

A U.N. source said Lebanese State Prosecutor Said Mirza had been informed of the indictees' names and arrest warrants, but that Mirza didn't immediately know the substance of the indictments.

Suspected connections of Hezbollah and the Syrian government to the killing have raised tensions in the country, stoking fears of sectarian conflict erupting in the ethnically and religiously diverse nation, which endured a civil war from 1975 to 1990.

Hezbollah has had longstanding animosity toward the tribunal, based on the expectation that some of its members would be indicted as conspirators in Hariri's assassination. (read more)

China's new Jiaozhou Bay 42-km sea-bridge is world's largest

China has opened the world's longest cross-sea bridge.

The Jiaozhou Bay bridge is 42 kilometres long and links China's eastern port city of Qingdao to an offshore island, Huangdao.

State-run CCTV says the 35-metre-wide bridge is the longest of its kind and cost about $1.5 billion Cdn.

CCTV says the bridge passed construction appraisals on Monday and the bridge and an undersea tunnel opened to traffic on Thursday.

It has taken four years to build the bridge, which is supported by more than 5,000 pillars.

According to the Guinness World Records book, the previous record-holder for a bridge over water is the Lake Pontchartrain Causeway in Louisiana. The Chinese bridge is more than four kilometres longer. (Source)

Libya: Russia slams French arms drop to Libya rebels

Russia has strongly criticised France for dropping weapons to Libyan rebels and demanded an explanation from Paris.

"If this is confirmed, it is a very crude violation of UN Security Council resolution 1970," Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov said.

The African Union has also criticised the move, saying it risks causing a "Somalia-sation" of Libya.

The French military says it has dropped arms to Berber tribal fighters in the mountains south-west of the capital.

Mr Lavrov said Russia had formally requested information from France about the move, to check that it "corresponds with reality".

Mr Lavrov is due to meet French counterpart Alain Juppe in Moscow on Friday.

Moscow abstained from the UN Security Council vote in March that authorised an international mission in Libya to protect civilians.

Russia and China have both criticised the Nato campaign in recent weeks, saying it had gone beyond the remit of UN resolution 1973.

Another resolution, 1970, had imposed an arms embargo on Libya.

But US and UK officials have argued that resolution 1973 could nonetheless allow weapons to be supplied to rebels fighting to topple Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi. (read more)

Inequality in China: Rural poverty persists as urban wealth balloons

The rapid growth of China's economy over the past three decades has been greeted with largely unquestioned assumptions that increasing affluence would lead to a happier, wealthier and more equitable society.

Of course, such assumptions came with an implicit acceptance that some would get rich faster, but also that these benefits would eventually trickle down.

The emergence of a middle class, combined with high levels of personal savings and low levels of personal debt, offers tantalising evidence of China's new-found wealth.

Yet, behind these headlines, there is compelling evidence that although economic growth has created vast wealth for some, it has amplified the disparities between rich and poor.

These disparities indicate an often hidden vulnerability in China's rapid growth, but one which is neither unique nor new to China's leadership. (read more)

E. coli outbreaks linked to Egypt -- the game of musical virus plays on

E. coli outbreaks in Germany and France could have come from seeds sourced in Egypt, the European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control has said.

A report said there was still "much uncertainty", but fenugreek seeds imported in 2009 and 2010 "had been implicated in both outbreaks".

More than 4,000 people were infected during the German outbreak, 48 died.

Investigators traced the source back to a bean sprout farm in Bienenbuettel, Lower Saxony.

The outbreak in Bordeaux affected 15 people and was linked to seeds sold by a company in the UK - Thompson and Morgan, although the firm said it had no evidence of a link.

Both outbreaks involved the rare strain of E. coli known as O104:H4.

The European Centre for Disease Prevention and Control (ECDC) said the strain was so rare in humans the outbreaks were unlikely to have been isolated incidents and both were linked to eating sprouting seeds. (read more)

'Monster' black hole driving cosmic beacon

Astronomers have spied a monster black hole - the brightest object yet seen in the early Universe.

Detected by a UK telescope in Hawaii, the hole is seen as it was a mere 770 million years after the Big Bang.

This means its light has taken an astonishing 12.9 billion years to reach us here on Earth.

Scientists report the discovery in the journal Nature. They say it will help them understand better the conditions that existed in the early cosmos.

It should also provide new insights on how so-called super-massive black holes come into being.

As has become clear from a number of recent observations, these giants seem to have established themselves very early on in the Universe.

"Technically, this object is what we call a quasar," explained Dr Daniel Mortlock, the lead author of the Nature paper from Imperial College London.

"The super-massive black hole itself is dark but it has a disc of gas or dust around it that has got so hot that it will outshine an entire galaxy of stars."

As bright as it was in the early Universe, the object appears now to us on Earth as just a faint dot in the infrared.

It glows in this part of the electromagnetic spectrum because the brilliant ultraviolet light with which it once shone has been stretched to longer wavelengths on its passage through the expanding cosmos. (read more)

Security researchers discover 'indestructible' botnet on millions of computers

More than four million PCs have been enrolled in a botnet security experts say is almost 'indestructible'

The botnet, known as TDL, targets Windows PCs and tries hard to avoid detection and even harder to shut down.

Code that hijacks a PC hides in places security software rarely looks and the botnet is controlled using custom-made encryption.

Security researchers said recent botnet shutdowns had made TDL's controllers harden it against investigation.

The 4.5 million PCs have become victims over the last three months following the appearance of the fourth version of the TDL virus.

The changes introduced in TDL-4 made it the "most sophisticated threat today," wrote Kaspersky Labs security researchers Sergey Golovanov and Igor Soumenkov in a detailed analysis of the virus.

"The owners of TDL are essentially trying to create an 'indestructible' botnet that is protected against attacks, competitors, and anti-virus companies," wrote the researchers. (read more)

UK: Massive public sector strike hits services and schools

Hundreds of thousands of public sector workers have gone on strike across the UK over planned pension changes.

Teachers from three unions have walked out and about 40% of state schools in England and Wales have been closed or partially shut.

The Public and Commercial Services union, which includes police support and border staff, are also on strike.

The government says the plans are "fair to taxpayers" and other unions are continuing with negotiations.

It has condemned the strike as has the opposition, although Labour leader Ed Miliband has accused ministers of mishandling negotiations with the unions.

The action by the National Union of Teachers (NUT), the Association of Teachers and Lecturers (ATL) and the University and College Union (UCU) affects England and Wales.

The unions say the proposals would mean more work and contributions for a reduced pension.

Department for Education data suggests that 11,114 of the 21,500 state schools in England were hit by the walkouts. (read more)