Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Western powers attacking Libya have made themselves "legitimate targets" for retaliation, the son of Muammar Gaddafi has warned

Western powers attacking Libya have made themselves "legitimate targets" for retaliation, the son of Muammar Gaddafi has warned.

Saif al-Islam Gaddafi rejected calls for his father to quit Libya as the price of peace with the rebels fighting to overthrow him.

"To tell my father to leave the country, it's a joke, he told the French TV channel TF1. "We will never surrender. We will fight. It's our country.

"We have to fight for our country and you are going to be legitimate targets for us."

Asked if he had a message for the French president, Nicolas Sarkozy, one of the prime movers in the Nato offensive, Gaddafi replied: "You are not going to win. You have no chance, zero chance, to win the war here.

"If you are angry with us because we are not buying the Rafale airplanes, you should talk with us," he added, a reference to the Dassault-built French warplane that Paris had been trying to sell to Tripoli before the uprising against Gaddafi.

"If you are angry with us because oil deals are not going well, you should talk to us. Rebels will not give you anything because they are not going to win." (read more)

Residents brace for raids as tanks surround Hama: Syria

Syrian tanks surrounded the southern city of Hama Tuesday, a day after hundreds of troops and security police killed at least three people in raids in the city that has witnessed some of the biggest demonstrations in Syria's 14-week uprising.

Syrian tanks surrounded Hama on Tuesday, residents and activists said, threatening a large-scale assault on the city after the biggest protests against President Bashar al-Assad’s rule.

Hundreds of youths blocked roads leading to the city’s main residential neighbourhoods with garbage containers, wood and metal to try to prevent a possible advance. Inhabitants joined in their shouts of “God is greatest,” from balconies and rooftops, residents said.

Tanks and armoured vehicles moved overnight to the edges of the city, including 30 seen near a flyover on a road leading west, they said, a day after hundreds of troops and security police entered Hama at dawn in buses, killing at least three people in raids on main neighbourhoods.

Hama, scene of a bloody crackdown by Assad’s father nearly 30 years ago, has witnessed some of the biggest demonstrations and highest death tolls in Syria’s 14-week uprising, inspired by revolts across the Arab world.

“Assad may wait to see whether large-scale protests in Hama continue. He knows that using military aggression against peaceful demonstrations in a symbolic place like Hama would lose him support even from Russia and China,” Syrian activist Mohammad Abdallah told Reuters from exile in Washington. (read more)

Libya "uprising" little more than CNN, SKY news and Al-Jazeera propaganda? Did it ever even happen?



Reader contributed.

Westaway Expects Greece Headed for a 'Backdoor' Default



Reader contributed.

Bugarach: The French City That Will Survive the Apocalypse?

On this rainy spring morning, the Pic de Bugarach in southern France is completely shrouded in mist. But though the peak, at 4,000 ft., is invisible today, its rugged outline is known all over the world. Hundreds of websites are claiming that after an apocalypse on December 21, 2012, only the small village of Bugarach, at the foot of this rocky citadel, will be left standing. (See the top 10 end-of-the-world prophecies.)

Apart from the free publicity, one of the first effects of the end-of-the-world prediction was a boost to the village's real estate market. "Fifteen houses are currently for sale. I have been mayor of Bugarach for 34 years, and I have never seen this before," says Jean-Pierre Delord. The prices asked are four to five times higher than usual.

Not a day goes by without someone asking for information about Bugarach, located in the county of Aude, and about its capacities for accommodation and supplies. "Everyone knows that there might be snow and freezing temperatures in December, and that sleeping bags might not suffice. So people call us to rent rooms and ask us to stock food for them for the last two weeks of 2012," says a local saleswoman from behind her stall filled with foie gras and sausages. "We always tell them no," she says, visibly exasperated by all the "lies" circulating on the Internet. (read more)

South Sudan to bring big changes

Sudan will drop in size by one quarter and lose 8 million people from its population when the state of South Sudan comes into being in a few days, a Sudanese official said Tuesday.

"Sudan has lost a quarter of its size with the creation of the state of South Sudan; its size has decreased from 2.5 million square kilometers to 1.881 million square kilometers," Abdullah al-Sadiq, head of the Sudanese National Survey Authority, told journalists.

"It is now the second largest country in Africa [behind Algeria] and the third in the Arab World [behind Algeria and Saudi Arabia]," he added.

South Sudan is to become the world's newest country on July 9, 2011, after Southern Sudanese voted overwhelmingly last January for independence in a referendum. Sudan was officially the largest country in Africa and the Arab World.

"We no longer have borders with three countries, Uganda, Kenya and Congo, and the length of our borders with Ethiopia and the Central African Republic have decreased," al-Sadiq added. (read more)

Britain should start spying on Eurozone neighbours, former MI6 chief says

Sir Richard Dearlove, Britain’s former chief spymaster has said the country should start spying on its Eurozone neighbours to protect the economy as the common currency is wracked by national defaults.

Sir Richard Dearlove, who served as head of MI6 until 2004, said that Britain must not be “squeamish” about using the intelligence services to defend its economic interests.

The former C said central banks like the Bank of England maintained extensive networks of contacts to secure information on future developments. But specialist intelligence agencies should also undertake the task of financial security.

“I am addressing the future of the euro and how defaults affect us economically,” he told the Global Strategy Forum. “Efficient central bankers should be able to handle themselves but I am indicating they could and might need help from time to time on the currency issue.”

Sir Richard added that 2008 financial crisis had changed his views on the role of intelligence agencies in protecting the economy. Britain needed to be 'forewarned and forearmed’ in anticipation of a future crisis.

He said: “I don’t think we should be squeamish about using all means to protect ourselves financially.” (read more)

Moody's downgrades Portuguese debt to junk status; may need bailout soon

Portugal's debt has been relegated to junk status after Moody's Investor Services warned that the country's prospects had been damaged by the international efforts to rescue Greece.

The credit rating agency singled out the insistence of European leaders on private bondholders taking part in the Greek bail-out as a reason for the downgrade.

Moody's slashed Portugal's debt four notches to Ba2, saying that the country was likely to need a second bail-out before it could raise money in the capital markets.

Based on the conditions imposed on Greece, it was likely that "private sector participation would be required as a precondition" to a second cash injection, said Moody's.

The outlook was left at negative, signalling the possibility of more downgrades. The blow came after markets closed in Europe, but the euro fell against the dollar for the first time in seven days, finishing 0.9pc down on the day. In America markets also slid.

Moody's said that it also had "heightened concerns" that Portugal would not be able to achieve the deficit reduction targets that have been set by the European Union (EU) and International Monetary Fund. The targets in terms of "reducing spending, increasing tax compliance, achieving economic growth and supporting the banking system" represent "formidable challenges", said Moody's. (read more)

"Middle-Aged May Never Get Employed Again"


"The problem is at the consumer level, confidence is low and that is because, as you showed, showed we had underemployment with one out of every six Americans. The worst element of that is that among the unemployed, against the American history, more than approaching half, have [been] unemployed for over six months. That is historically unprecedented in the United States. That is a phenomenon that is seen often in Europe, rarely seen here. In 2007 the average time to get a new job was five weeks. It's now near six months. And that implies a whole segment of the population, the more elderly or the middle-aged who may never get employed again," Charles Krauthammer said on FOX News this evening. (Watch the video here, source)

America and Europe sinking together

In Washington they are arguing about a debt ceiling; in Brussels they are staring into a debt abyss. But the basic problem is the same. Both the US and the European Union have public finances that are out of control and political systems that are too dysfunctional to fix the problem. America and Europe are in the same sinking boat.

The debt debates underway in the US and the EU are so inward-looking and overwrought that surprisingly few people are making the connection. Yet the links that make this a generalised crisis of the west should be obvious.

On both sides of the Atlantic, it is now clear that much of the economic growth of the pre-crisis years was driven by an unsustainable and dangerous boom in credit. In the US it was homeowners who were at the centre of the crisis; in Europe, it was entire countries like Greece and Italy that took advantage of low interest rates to borrow unsustainably.

The financial crash of 2008 and its aftermath dealt a blow to state finances, as public debts soared. In both Europe and the US this one-off shock is compounded by demographic pressures that are increasing budgetary pressures, as the baby-boomers begin to retire.

Finally, on both sides of the Atlantic, the economic crisis is polarising politics, so making it much harder to find rational solutions to the debt problem. Populist movements are on the rise – whether it is the Tea Party in the USor the Dutch Freedom party or True Finns in Europe. (read more)

Donna Simpson: 'My four-year-old daughter is my feeder' -- Shocking confession of world's fattest mother

She holds the dubious honour of being the Guinness Book Of Records' fattest woman ever to give birth, requiring a team of 30 medics to deliver her daughter during a high-risk Caesarean birth.

Now, four years on, Donna Simpson has gained a further 12st and, staggeringly, continues to eat as she attempts to reach 72st and land a second record as the world's most obese woman.

And after splitting from long-term partner and feeder Philippe Gouamba, the 50st mother is relying on her four year-old daughter Jacqueline to bring her food to help her reach her goal.
The single mother-of-two, who eats over 15,000 calories a day to sustain her weight gain, struggles to get around and enlists the help of Jacqueline to buy and prepare food.

She told Closer magazine: She helps me cook and comes shopping. I use a scooter to get around the store and she runs ahead to get my favourite foods.

'Anyone who says I'm setting a bad example should shut their mouth - they don't know how much I love her.'

And Donna, who struggles to walk and suffers high blood pressure, heart disease and diabetes, says that Jacqueline adores her large stomach.

'She's my little angel,' she says.

In contrast to her mother, Donna says Jacqueline eats healthily. 'She loves salad and plays sports,' she insists. (read more -- if you dare)

No recession for Obama's 454 White House aides: They'll make $37,121,463 this year

In his numerous fund-raising and policy speeches around the country these days, President Obama often bemoans the difficult economic times and uncertainties afflicting millions of Americans, including the nearly 14 million still seeking work unsuccessfully.

The Democrat argues that his administration needs more time to straighten out the economic mess left by somebody else, who's been gone almost 900 days now.

But good news this morning: The challenging Obama era and 9.1% national unemployment rate do not include the 454 people now helping President Obama do presidential things.

This crowd is being paid a total of $37,121,463 this year. That's up seven staff members and nearly $4 million from 2008, the last year of George W. Bush's presidency.

Fully 141 Obama aides -- or nearly one-in-three -- earn more than $100,000 a year. That's also up from the 130 with that scale salary in Bush's last year.

Twenty-one Obama aides earn the top-dollar $172,200.

The staff names and salaries report, required annually by Congress, was released on Friday by the White House. The timing, however, was probably an accident because last Friday most Americans were not watching the news closely and were thinking of not working for a three-day holiday weekend. (read more)

Inside the Disappointing (If Not Nonexistent) Financial Comeback

Two years ago, officials said, the worst recession since the Great Depression ended. The stumbling recovery has also proven to be the worst since the economic disaster of the 1930s.

Across a wide range of measures—employment growth, unemployment levels, bank lending, economic output, income growth, home prices and household expectations for financial well-being—the economy's improvement since the recession's end in June 2009 has been the worst, or one of the worst, since the government started tracking these trends after World War II.

In some ways the recovery is much like the 1991 and 2001 post-recession periods: All three are marked by gradual output growth rather than sharp snap-backs typical of earlier recoveries. But this recovery may remain lackluster for years, many economists say, because of heavy household debt, a financial system still damaged by the mortgage crisis, fragile confidence and a government with few good options for supporting growth. (read more)

German court hears case against euro bailouts

Germany's top court began hearing legal challenges on Tuesday against the country's role in last year's bailouts of debt-stricken euro zone peers, just as a second Greek rescue is being drawn up.

The Karlsruhe-based Federal Constitutional Court is unlikely to block Berlin's participation in bailouts altogether, but legal experts expect it will probably set conditions for passing fresh aid for euro zone countries.

Finance Minister Wolfgang Schaeuble, defending the government, attended in person to tell the court that Europe had to act in 2010 to prevent contagion from struggling countries to the rest of the currency union.

"The danger of such contagion ... justified the need to help Greece in April 2010 with coordinated bilateral loans," he said.

Germany is the bloc's economic powerhouse and foots over a quarter of Europe's bill for the bailouts. Many Germans are becoming fed up with financing rescues of what they see as profligate states that have spent beyond their means.

Presiding judge Andreas Vosskuhle said the court would not review the economics behind policies to tackle the euro zone's sovereign debt crisis but focus only on the legal basis.

"Europe's future and the right economic strategy to tackle the sovereign debt crisis aren't debated in Karlsruhe. That's the task of politicians, not judges," Vosskuhle said. "But the Federal Constitutional Court must consider the limits that the constitution sets on the political realm." (read more)

Sorrow and Pity of Another Liquidity Trap

There is only one real law of economics: the law of supply and demand. If the quantity supplied goes up, the price goes down.

Back in the third quarter of 2008, the public held about $5.3 trillion of U.S. Treasury bills, notes and bonds. As the recession hit, tax revenue plummeted, and government spending rose, that total reached $9.4 trillion by mid-2011.

We’re on target to have $10.7 trillion outstanding by mid- 2012 -- doubling the Treasury debt held by the public in just four years. Supply and demand tells us that a steep rise in Treasury borrowings should produce a commensurate fall in Treasury bond prices and thus higher interest rates -- and that increase should crowd out other forms of interest-sensitive spending, slowing productivity growth.

Yet the market has swallowed all these issues without so much as a burp. By all accounts, it’s smacking its lips in anticipation of the next tranches.

In the years of the Clinton budget surpluses -- remember those? -- the U.S. government was repaying $60 billion of debt each quarter. The Bush administration worked hard to make that surplus evaporate. It succeeded.

From 2002 to 2007, the Treasury issued, on average, $70 billion of debt per quarter. Like many watching this shift, I concluded that this expanded supply would exert substantial pressure on interest rates to rise. (read more)

Special Report: A tale of two Europes

Petzetakis likes to call itself the first Greek multinational. The company began making plastic pipes and hoses in the early 1960s and grew steadily over the next couple of decades, opening a plant in Portugal and pushing into Germany. Proud of its role as a pioneer, the firm dreamed of bigger things.

Opportunity came when Athens joined the euro at the turn of the millennium. Like other Greek companies, Petzetakis feasted on the easy credit that was suddenly available to it, snapping up smaller rivals around the world.

But when the global financial crisis hit, the firm found itself overstretched. Late last year, it shut its main plant in Thebes, a provincial city of around 30,000 people an hour's drive north of Athens, and stopped paying its workers. "They employed 150 people from the area," said former employee Spyros Megaritis two weeks ago. "Since November we don't work unless we are paid what we are owed."

The company's German plant is busier than ever.

Woe is a relative thing in the euro zone -- and nowhere is that more striking than in a comparison between Greek and German manufacturers. More than 1,600 km (1,040 miles) north of Thebes, in a town outside the German city of Stuttgart, Stefan Wolf also grapples with the consequences of operating with Europe's single currency. The impact for the CEO of car parts supplier ElringKlinger, though, has been much milder. (read more)

Breast-feeding D.C. cop, Officer Sashay Brown, forced to take leave without pay

A breastfeeding D.C. police officer was forced to take leave without pay after the department refused to bend a new policy and allow her to work a desk job.

Officer Sashay Brown returned to work in May after having her second child. At first, she worked a desk job. Soon after, though, she was forced to patrol the city streets under a new department policy that was meant to force officers who had made dubious claims of health issues back to the street. The Washington Examiner first reported the new policy last week.

"Because of my condition, I am unable to wear my [bulletproof] vest," Brown wrote in her June 12 request to be detailed back to her station on limited duty. "Wearing my vest is extremely painful and could clog my ducts and slow down the production of my milk supply." She was then checked out by a department doctor, who advised that Brown be given a limited-duty desk job.

In a June 24 memo to Brown, medical services branch director William Sarvis wrote, "I have reviewed your case and determined that you will not receive authorization to participate in the limited duty work program."

Sarvis said that until department doctors determine Brown is fit for full duty, she'd either have to take sick leave, or unpaid leave if she didn't have sick days left.

"I'm just coming back from having a baby," Brown told The Washington Examiner. "I don't have any sick leave left."

She and her husband are now a one-income family. Brown plans to breastfeed through her child's first year.

"That's a long time to be without pay," she said. "I'm applying for short-term disability, and am hoping they allow this to be a medical condition." (read more)

Baltimore: Child Shot, Man Dead After Fireworks Celebration; Police Look For Person Of Interest



Baltimore’s Inner Harbor fireworks were rocked by fighting and gunfire Monday night.

After the Fourth of July fireworks show ended, violence erupted all around the area. It left a child shot, a man dead in a stabbing and police using all their resources to get control.

Mike Hellgren reports police say they now have a person of interest in the stabbing and new information on how the child was shot.

As “America the Beautiful” played, the fireworks celebration unraveled at the Inner Harbor. A fight unfolded on the promenade while the light show went on above the rowdy scene.

Minutes later, at Pratt and Light Streets, a 4-year-old boy walking with his parents began crying. They discovered he’d been shot in the leg. Police now believe it may have been a stray bullet from a gun fired into the air. That child will survive and was taken to Johns Hopkins.

“I say over and over and over, it’s really these maniacs with guns,” said Police Commissioner Fred Bealefeld. “We’re going to work and keep working hard to get more and more and more people off the street.”

Police say they now have a person of interest in a deadly stabbing. A man was cut in the neck outside McCormick and Schmick’s in the 700-block of Eastern Avenue as the packed harbor celebration was letting out. The victim was 26 and from Alabama. (read more)

Liberty, a K9 police dog, dies after being left in the back of a hot car after handler "forgot" to return her to kennel



A K9 officer in Greenville has died.

The Greenville Police Department is grieving over the loss of one of its two police dogs. Her name was Liberty, but she died trapped in the back of a hot squad car. Her handler apparently forgot to put her in the police department kennel when he got off work Wednesday afternoon. “This is a difficult time for the Greenville Police Department,” Chief Dan Busken told CBS 11 News. And he adds the officer feels terrible. “He’s devastated, and I don’t know if that term is even strong enough.”

Ironically, the officer, Jeff Gore, created the K-9 unit 11-years ago. He raised Liberty from a pup. A bloodhound, she was used for search and rescue, which is why she was kenneled. The other dog, Ceiko, is a drug sniffing German Shepherd, and goes home with its handler because they get called out at all hours.

Chief Busken says we all suffer from a busy lifestyle and things competing for our attention. “Whether we’re shuttling kids here or there, whether we’re shuttling animals here or there, we get busy and inadvertently things happen. And there’s times when you have a tragedy like we have here.”

Despite the emotional loss to the department it must still determine whether any laws were broken or city or departmental policies were violated, so investigations along those lines are already underway. (read more)

Mac McClelland stages own "rape" to cure "post traumatic stress disorder" -- And we wonder why journalism is failing; just look at the journalists...

Mac McClelland, a civil rights reporter who has seen the impact of sexual violence around the globe, couldn't shake the image of Sybille, a woman who said she had been raped at gunpoint and mutilated in the aftermath of Haiti's catastrophic 2010 earthquake.

While on assignment for Mother Jones last September, McClelland said she accompanied Sybille to the hospital when the woman saw her attackers and went into "a full paroxysm -- wailing, flailing" in terror.

Something snapped in McClelland, too. She became progressively enveloped in the classic symptoms of post-traumatic stress -- avoidance of feelings, flashbacks and recurrent thoughts that triggered crying spells. There were smells that made her gag.

McClelland, 31, sought professional help but said she ultimately cured herself by staging her own rape, which she writes about in a haunting piece for the online magazine Good. The title: "How Violent Sex Helped Ease My PTSD."

Her sexual partner mercilessly pinned her, beat her about the head and brutally violated McClelland -- at her request.

"I was not crazy," she told ABCNews.com. "It was a way for me to deal in sort of a simulated, but controlled situation. I could say 'stop' at any time. But it was still awful, and the body doesn't understand when it's in a fight."

McClelland writes, "It was easier to picture violence I controlled than the abominable nonconsensual things that had happened to Sybille."

The article brought out disgust in some readers, who called her "a racist and a f**ked up whore." But many more were supportive. (read more)

Sandy DeWitt Escorted Off US Airways Flight For Snapping Photo of Rude Flight Attendant

A Miami photographer was escorted off a US Airways plane and deemed a “security risk” after she snapped a photo of an employee’s nametag at Philadelphia International Airport Friday.

Sandy DeWitt said the employee, whose name was Tonialla G., was being rude to several passengers in the boarding area of the flight to Miami.

So DeWitt snapped a photo of her nametag with her iPhone because she planned to complain about her in a letter to US Airways. But the photo didn’t come out because it was too dark.

However, once DeWitt was settled in her seat, preparing for take-off, Tonialla G. entered the plane and confronted her.

“She told me to delete the photo,” DeWitt said in an interview with Photography is Not a Crime Saturday morning.

DeWitt, who already had her phone turned off in preparation for take-off, turned the phone back on to show her that it didn’t come out, but deleted the photo anyway.

“I complied with her wishes but it’s not something I would normally do,” she said. “It just wasn’t usable.”

But Tonialla G. wouldn’t let the issue go. She then walked into the cockpit to inform the pilot that DeWitt was a “security risk.”

Next thing DeWitt knew, she was being escorted off the plane by two flight attendants. Her husband followed.

“I announced to the other passengers that I was being removed because I took a photo,” she said. “ I announced that photography is not a crime.”

By this time, she had Tonialla G.'s named memorized, so she didn't even need the photo anymore.

Off the plane, she spoke to a Michael Lofton, a US Airways manager at Philadelphia International Airport, who told her she would not be allowed back on the plane because she was a security risk.

But even though she was supposedly a security risk, Lofton directed her to American Airlines where they supposedly had a flight back to Miami leaving soon. (read more)

Ramirez Tijerina attempts to escape prison... in wife's suitcase

Police say a woman was caught trying to sneak her common-law-husband out of a Mexican prison in a suitcase following a conjugal visit.

A spokesman for police in the Caribbean state of Quintana Roo says staff at the prison in Chetumal noticed that the woman seemed nervous and was pulling a black, wheeled suitcase that looked bulky.

Spokesman Gerardo Campos said Monday that prison guards checked the bag of 19-year-old Maria del Mar Arjona and found inmate Juan Ramirez Tijerina curled up inside in the fetal position.

Ramirez is serving a 20-year sentence for a 2007 conviction for illegal weapons possession.

Arjona was arrested and charges are pending. (source)

Greece may default even *with* a bailout

The European Central Bank will continue to accept Greek debt as collateral for loans unless all the major credit rating agencies it uses declare it to be in default, said a senior finance official.

The ECB would rely on the principle of using the best rating available from the agencies – Standard & Poor’s, Moody’s and Fitch – the official said. The comments came after S&P on Monday became the first agency to warn that a plan, pushed by France and endorsed by Germany, for banks to roll over their holdings of Greek debt into new bonds would constitute a “selective default”.

The ECB’s continued support for Athens is crucial given that Greek banks are almost entirely dependent on the European Central Bank for funding. Analysts had feared that the ECB’s seemingly tough Greek stance could lead to the collapse of the Greek banking system, whose borrowings from the ECB topped €100bn (£90bn) last month.

S&P’s move knocked the euro and put bank shares under pressure as a week-long rally in equities faded. Analysts viewed the move as a further obstacle to the second bail-out for Greece in a year as the debt rollover proposal was conditional on it not triggering a downgrade. (read more)

Wild Facebook parties could be banned in Germany



Authorities have called for parties promoted on the social networking site to be prohibited in advance if police believe they pose a threat to law and order.

Last month 100 Hamburg police offers made 11 arrests when 1,600 people gatecrashed a 16-year-old girl’s birthday.

The girl, who had to flee the party, had apparently forgotten switch on her Facebook privacy settings when inviting friends to the celebration.

Later in the same month in the town of Wuppertal police arrested 41 partygoers and 16 people were injured when 800 users of the social networking site caused havoc at another party.

“If public order and safety are put at risk, then Facebook parties must be banned in advance,” Uwe Schunemann, the centre-right Christian Democrats’ interior minister for the state of Lower Saxony, told the newspaper Welt am Sonntag. (read more)

5.0 Magnitude Earthquake NIAS REGION, INDONESIA - 5th July 2011

A magnitude 5.0 earthquake has struck Nias Region, Indonesia at a depth of 15.9 km (9.9 miles), the quake hit at 19:09:11 UTC Tuesday 5th July 2011.
The epicenter was 193 km (119 miles) WSW of Sibolga, Sumatra, Indonesia

No tsunami watch, warning or advisory is in effect. No reports of Damage as yet.

It never rains but it pours... Now scorched New Mexico faces threat of flash floods as monsoon season is on its way - 5th July 2011

It's been ravaged by the worst wildfire in its history, with more than 123,500 acres of land scorched in little more than a week.

But now devastated New Mexico is bracing itself for a new threat as forecasters warned the state's seasonal rains are on their way - and they could trigger flash floods.

The grim prediction came as evacuated residents slowly began returning to their homes after firefighters managed to contain part of the fast-burning Las Conchas fire, which had threatened the Los Alamos nuclear research lab.

It has burned its way through 20 square miles of tribal forest, destroying sites sacred to American Indian tribes for generations.

The official arrival of the monsoon season, heralded by showers on Saturday, was greeted with relief by many, as they hope it will reduce the fire risk in New Mexico's tinder-dry landscape. Read More

It's NOT Lauren: Fresh hope for parents of missing student as police reveal body found floating in creek is not their daughter - 5th July 2011

A female body found by police floating in a creek in Indianapolis is not missing student Lauren Spierer, it emerged today.

Dental records showed the corpse was not that of the missing Indiana University college student, a coroner said today.

There had been fears the search for the 20-year-old was nearing an end when the body was pulled from Fall Creek in North East Indianapolis, just three miles from where Lauren went to school.

Just last week, Lauren's mother and father begged her friends' parents for help in finding their 20-year-old daughter in the run up to the holiday weekend.

Rob Spierer broke down in tears as he urged them to help Lauren's friends 'find their moral compass' and come forward if they had any information. Read More

Hackers claim they breached the massive security at Apple - 5th July 2011

The computer giant Apple is the latest major corporation thought to be hit by hackers.

A hacking group has claimed it breached corporate security at Apple and has published what it said were two dozen administrator names and apparently encrypted passwords for a server at the technology company.

The server apparently collected survey information that might have only limited use for criminals.

The data was not tied in any way to the credit card details of more than 200 million customers that are stored on the iTunes online store.

The breach showed that there is no let-up in the recent wave of cyberattacks designed in part to embarrass big companies, CNN reports.

A potential Apple breach was publicised through a Twitter message from AnonymousIRC, one of many accounts associated with the cyberactivist collective Anonymous.

'Apple could be targeted, too. But don't worry, we are busy elsewhere,' the Anonymous account wrote on Twitter.

Lulz Security, a pioneering group of hackers disbanded a week ago.

But it announced that some future attacks would be carried out by Anonymous and called on other hackers to continue working on AntiSec, standing for anti-security.

Apple would not comment on the alleged breach.

It follows recent penetrations at big gaming groups such as Sony, in which details of 100 million online game players were revealed. Read More


13 year Old Boy Killed and 28 People Injured After Escalator Changes Direction, China - 5th July 2011

A 13-year-old boy was killed and 28 other people injured when an escalator at a Beijing subway station suddenly malfunctioned.

The rising escalator reportedly changed direction, sending more than 20 passengers crashing down and killing the teenager, who was on the way to the zoo with his father and sister.

It happened at the exit of Zoo Station and photos of the aftermath were posted by witnesses on Chinese microblogging wite Weibo.com.

The images show people lying on the ground at the bottom of the escalator.

It appears the boy and his family were crushed under others who fell.

His father is said to be in intensive care at the Peking University People's Hospital.

His sister suffered head injuries and is being treated at a children's hospital.

Beijing MTR Corporation, which operates the Line 4 subway, blamed an "escalator malfunction" and said it had launched an emergency response.

It also apologised to the injured and guaranteed medical treatment for those affected.

The city government has demanded an investigation and asked all subway operators to carry out checks of facilities to ensure their safety. Source

Hendra Virus outbreak closer to Brisbane, Australia - 5th July 2011

THE outbreak of Hendra virus that has killed six horses and exposed 26 people to infection has reached the outskirts of Brisbane and is the most virulent in the known history of the fruit bat-borne disease.

As the emergency spread to a property in Logan City, on the outskirts of the Queensland capital, chief veterinarian Rick Symons warned the outbreak was killing horses faster than before, and testing had indicated 30 per cent of samples from a southeast Queensland flying fox population had the virus.

A 30-year-old horse died of Hendra virus on Monday night on an acreage in Park Ridge, 26km south of the Brisbane CBD, it was confirmed last night. It was the fifth property in the area to be hit by the breakout, the most severe since the emergence of the disease in 1994. A horse at Wollongbar near Lismore in northern NSW was put down last Thursday before tests confirmed it also had Hendra virus.

The vet who tended the Park Ridge horse and its owner have joined the growing ranks facing a tense wait for tests results for Hendra, which has killed four of the seven people known to have contracted it from horses.

Horses contract the virus from flying foxes by unknown means. It usually kills 75 per cent of horses in its acute phase.

Dr Symons said the Park Ridge horse died within a day of showing symptoms -- a fast disease progression that is common to this cluster. "This Hendra virus seems to be quite fast in its action," Dr Symons said. "These incidents seem to have quick deaths rather than several days."

He said there was the potential for more cases amid a threefold rise in the prevalence of the virus in samples taken from the local flying fox colony. About 30 per cent of the samples tested positive, compared with about 10 per cent in previous outbreaks.

"We've detected Hendra virus at a larger level than we would expect," Dr Symons said.

Since late last month six horses have died in southeast Queensland and northern NSW. Dr Symons said there was "no justification whatsoever" for stopping the movement of horses, as the outbreaks were contained to the properties. Read More

C. difficile death toll in Niagara area rises to 16 Outbreak of deadly bacteria declared on June 23

Another patient linked to a C. difficile outbreak in Ontario's Niagara Region has died, bringing the total number of deaths in recent weeks to 16.

The deaths have been reported at three hospitals in the region in recent weeks: four at the Greater Niagara General Hospital, 10 at St. Catharines General Hospital and two at the Welland Hospital.

"We truly recognize the loss that the family and friends of this patient are experiencing and on behalf of our staff and physicians we extend our sincere condolences,” Dr. Joanna Hope, interim chief of staff for the Niagara Health System, said in a release Monday acknowledging the death of the 10th patient at St. Catharines General.

The death of the patient, who had serious underlying health issues and also had tested positive for of Clostridium difficile will be reviewed to determine what role the illness played or did not play.

The death has also been reported to the coroner, Hope said.

C. difficile causes diarrhea and is one of the most common infections in hospitals and long‐term-care facilities.

In severe cases, it can cause critical illness and death in elderly or very sick patients.

"I don't think this is so out of the ordinary compared to what we have seen in some outbreak settings, but it is definitely a concerning number," said Dr. Susy Hota, an infectious disease specialist at Toronto's University Health Network, commenting on the outbreak.

The movement of patients or health-care workers who happen to bring the organism with them on their clothing or equipment like stethoscopes could also spread the infection, Hota said.

The outbreak was declared on June 23. Source

Hundreds evacuate shaking shopping mall in Seoul , South Korea - 5th July 2011

Hundreds of people evacuated a high-rise shopping mall in Seoul Tuesday morning as it began shaking for unknown reasons, fire authorities said.

Between 300 to 500 people fled the 39-story TechnoMart mall in eastern Seoul after the upper part of the building began rocking up and down for about 10 minutes, the authorities said. There were about 3,000 people inside the building at around 10:10 a.m. when it began to move.

"I fled the building with everyone else while it was shaking up and down. It almost made me feel dizzy," said Lim Joon-hee, who works on the 20th floor.

The exact cause of the swaying is not known at this time, the local government office of Gwangjin District said, adding it plans to conduct a safety test on the building.

As part of a safety check, district authorities briefly issued an evacuation order, which could last as long as three days.

"We will immediately place the order and conduct a thorough safety examination," a district official said.

The skyscraper accommodates hundreds of retailers selling electronics, housewares and books, as well as a multiplex and a number of commercial offices. Source

Israel forces 'kill two militants in central Gaza' -- Is the ceasefire close to breaking? A new war this summer?

Israeli forces have killed two Palestinians and wounded another in the central Gaza Strip, Palestinian medics and Israeli sources say.

The incident took place near the border fence with Israel after a two-month lull in violence along the border.

Israeli military sources said the army had targeted militants who were trying to fire rockets into Israel.

They seem to be the first deaths since an unofficial April ceasefire between Israel and most Gaza militant groups.

"Two people were killed and one was injured in an artillery shelling east of the al-Maghazi refugee camp in the central Gaza Strip," emergency services spokesman Adham Abu Selmiya told the AFP news agency.

Those who were killed are believed to be from a small militant groups sometimes called Salafist jihadis, says the BBC's Jon Donnison in Gaza.

Salafists did not sign up to the ceasefire but since then, Hamas - which governs in Gaza - has reined in smaller militant groups, our correspondent adds. (Source)

Happy Dependence Day, America! Love, China (P.S. Thanks for all your manufacturing)

Oh say can you see…the end of American independence?

This Fourth of July, the United States celebrates its 235th year of freedom from British rule. That’s emancipated us from yeasty marmite, pesky ‘u’s in our ‘neighbors’ and from having to ask God to “save the Queen”.

Phew. Yes, today we celebrate our independence from Britain.

But we do that by underlining our growing dependence on another country – China. And with our most patriotic of Americana for the day – fireworks and flags.

Nearly 97% of U.S. money for firework imports popped up in China last year, according to U.S. trade statistics. The hard numbers: we paid nearly $200 million for all of our skyrockets, Roman candles, sparklers and other pyrotechnics. More than $190 million of that went to the Middle Kingdom.

As for the Stars and Stripes, about 88% of our money for American flag imports billowed over to China in 2010. U.S. foreign trade statistics show that the U.S. imported $3.2 million worth of flags, and $2.8 million of that went to our top trade partner.

But fireworks and flags, as dazzling or inspiring they may be, are just small examples of a trend that we know has been happening: growing American reliance on Chinese imports and a widening trade gap.

The U.S. China-Business Council’s website highlights America’s burgeoning trade imbalance over the last decade. In 2001, the U.S. ran up a deficit with China of $83 billion. By 2010 however, that number had more than tripled to $273 billion – the largest trade imbalance the U.S. has ever had with a single country.

So as the U.S. suffers from a trade deficit, how does China enjoy its trade excess?

Well, a good deal of that money is found in its domestic infrastructure projects. As an old China hand, I can tell you that around the country China is building out everything from its national road network and subway systems, to its airports, trains and bridges. (read more)

Supermarket nets rare orange lobster in Trois-Rivières, Quebec, Canada

A supermarket in Trois-Rivières, Que., is now the temporary home of a rare orange lobster that looks fully cooked.

The lobster came with a regular shipment two weeks ago.

Ghislain Renaud, who works at the IGA Jean-XXIII's fish department, said he thought it was a joke when he opened the newly arrived crate of live lobsters and spotted one that was bright orange and not any of the usual shades of green or brown.

"I didn't even know orange lobsters existed," he said. "I thought it was cooked."

Renaud called the Quebec Aquarium and found out just how lucky he was to have received the rare lobster.

Only one in about 10 million has the same natural shell colour. The rest need to be cooked to get it.

Renaud, once a Montreal Expos fan, named the lobster Youppi after the ginger mascot of the former baseball club, now the mascot of the Montreal Canadiens.

Youppi won't be sold anytime soon and the supermarket is trying to find a new home for it.

Renaud would like the lobster to stay in the area and is waiting to see if the Centre de la Diversité Biologique du Québec in nearby Bécancour can accommodate it.

If not, the crustacean will likely go to the New Brunswick Aquarium and Marine Centre in Shippagan.

Until then, Youppi is being fed a steady diet of shrimp in his IGA holding tank. (Source)

Moody's warns over China bad debt

Bad debts held by local governments in China are a far bigger problem than first estimated, ratings agency Moody's has warned.

Chinese banks had lent 8.5tn yuan ($1.3tn; £820bn) to the local governments in 2010 in an attempt to boost growth.

However, the agency said the debt burden could be 3.5tn yuan larger than auditors had estimated.

It warned that bad debt could reach between 8% and 10% of the total loans.

"When cross-examining the findings by the 27 June National Audit Office (NAO) report, in conjunction with reports from Chinese banking regulators, we find that the Chinese audit agency could be understating banks' exposures to local governments by as much as 3.5tn [yuan]," said Yi Zhang of Moody's.

Ms Zhang explained that since these loans were not covered by the NAO, they were not considered as real claims on local governments by the audit agency.

"This indicates that these loans are most likely poorly documented and may pose the greatest risk of delinquency," she added.

Moody's warned that given the scale of the problem, the credit outlook for China's banking sector could turn to negative. (Source)

Australia's New South Wales police get new burka powers

Police in Australia's New South Wales state have been given more powers to remove burkas and other face coverings to identify crime suspects.

Anyone who refuses to show their face could now be jailed for up to a year or face a heavy fine.

The move follows the recent case of a Muslim woman who was acquitted after a judge ruled her Islamic veil made a positive identification impossible.

Islamic leaders in the state said they were comfortable with the new measure.

However, civil liberty groups expressed concern that the police were being given powers they did not need. (read more)

India's health minister calls homosexuality a 'disease from the West'

India's health minister has derided homosexuality as an unnatural "disease" from the West, drawing outrage Tuesday from activists who said the comments set back the country's campaign for gay rights and its fight against HIV.

The comments Monday by Health Minister Ghulam Nabi Azad at a conference on HIV/AIDS in the Indian capital of New Delhi echoed a common refrain in the conservative South Asian nation that homosexuality is a Western import.

"Unfortunately this disease has come to our country too ... where a man has sex with another man, which is completely unnatural and should not happen, but does," Azad said.

Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, Congress Party leader Sonia Gandhi and a slew of government ministers were also present at the conference. There was no immediate comment from the Health Ministry, and the prime minister's office refused to discuss Azad's remarks. (read more)

C. difficile death toll in Niagara area rises to 16: Canada

Another patient linked to a C. difficile outbreak in Ontario's Niagara Region has died, bringing the total number of deaths in recent weeks to 16.

The deaths have been reported at three hospitals in the region in recent weeks: four at the Greater Niagara General Hospital, 10 at St. Catharines General Hospital and two at the Welland Hospital.

"We truly recognize the loss that the family and friends of this patient are experiencing and on behalf of our staff and physicians we extend our sincere condolences,” Dr. Joanna Hope, interim chief of staff for the Niagara Health System, said in a release Monday acknowledging the death of the 10th patient at St. Catharines General.

The death of the patient, who had serious underlying health issues and also had tested positive for of Clostridium difficile will be reviewed to determine what role the illness played or did not play.

The death has also been reported to the coroner, Hope said. (read more)