Friday, July 8, 2011

"All signs say Iran is racing toward a nuclear bomb"

The procession of cars carrying Fereidoun Abbasi Davani sped down Vienna's Wagramer Strasse this Monday and into the underground car park of the International Atomic Energy Agency. Outside the building, on the bank of the Danube River, some 30 protesters from the Stop the Bomb movement demonstrated, waving signs denouncing the Iranian nuclear scientist. But Iranian security officers seemed more concerned about the prospect of someone trying to exploit Abbasi Davani's controversial visit to finish the job.

On November 29, 2010, anonymous assailants tried to assassinate Abbasi Davani as he emerged from his home in Tehran. He and his wife, seated next to him in the car, were hit by gunfire, but survived the assassination attempt. Iran blamed the Mossad for the failed operation.

The assassins were more successful in a different attack launched that same day, which killed another nuclear scientist - Majid Shahriari.

The Iranians claimed that Abbasi Davani was nothing but an innocent physics professor. Intelligence sources countered that his university position was just a cover for his secret activity as one of the leading experts in Iran's weaponization, which is working on the final and decisive stage of developing a nuclear weapon under the auspices of the Revolutionary Guards. His name appears on the UN Security Council's blacklist, compiled after the council voted in March 2007 to impose sanctions on companies, organizations and individuals involved in Iran's nuclear and ballistic missile programs. It also appears on similar lists compiled by the United States and the European Union, which ordered that his assets be frozen. (read more)

China warns U.S. officials not to meet Dalai Lama

China's Foreign Ministry warned U.S. officials on Thursday not to meet with visiting exiled spiritual leader the Dalai Lama, saying it hoped Washington "appropriately dealt" with Tibet-related issues.

China reviles the Nobel Peace Prize-winning Dalai Lama, saying he supports the use of violence to establish an independent Tibet. He strongly denies either accusation, insisting he seeks only true autonomy for the remote region.

The Dalai Lama is currently visiting the United States and is due to give a public talk in Washington Saturday.

The U.S. State Department said he met on Wednesday with Under Secretary of State for Democracy and Global Affairs Maria Otero, but that it remained to be decided whether he would have any meetings at higher levels.

On Thursday, House of Representatives Speaker John Boehner, Democratic leader Nancy Pelosi and other senior U.S. lawmakers also met the exiled Tibetan spiritual leader.

Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Hong Lei said Beijing's position on the Dalai Lama's foreign visits was clear.

"We oppose the underhand visits of the Dalai Lama which he uses to engage in activities to split the motherland," Hong told a regular news briefing.

"At the same time, we also oppose any foreign government or politicians supporting or abetting in such activities by the Dalai Lama," he added. (read more)

TSA Agent Caught With Passenger's iPad in His Pants; Allegedly Took $50,000 in Other Goods, Cops Say

While most Transportation Security Administration employees are busy groping people or taking naked pictures of them, the cops say one of those employees was putting fliers' electronics down his pants.

The Broward Sheriff's Office says 30-year-old Nelson Santiago stole around $50,000 worth of electronics over the past six months from Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport's Terminal 1.

Santiago -- a TSA officer since 2009 -- was caught earlier this week by a Continental Airlines employee taking an iPad out of someone's luggage and stuffing it into his pants, the cops say.

After being arrested Monday on two counts of grand theft, police say Santiago admitted to stealing computers, GPS devices, video cameras, and other electronic merchandise from luggage he was supposed to be screening.

The cops say Santiago would immediately take pictures of his new goods and upload the photos online to sell the stuff.

Santiago would typically sell the stolen goods to people before his shift was even over, police say.

BSO detectives estimate that Santiago's haul totaled $50,000 over the past six months. (read more)

New "win a baby" game draws fire as IVF draw takes place in UK

A controversial IVF lottery will launch in Britain this month giving prospective parents the chance to win thousands of pounds toward expensive fertility treatments in top clinics.

The scheme, which the media have dubbed "win a baby," has already run into trouble on ethical grounds with critics calling it inappropriate and demeaning to human reproduction.

Britain's Gambling Commission has granted a license to fertility charity, To Hatch, to run the game from July 30.

Every month, winners can scoop 25,000 pounds' ($40,175) worth of tailor-made treatments at one of the UK's top five fertility clinics for the price of a 20 pound ticket bought online. The tickets may eventually be sold in newsagents.

The lottery is open to single, gay and elderly players as well as heterosexual couples struggling to start a family. (read more)

Julie Bass charged for planting a garden on her own front lawn in Oak Park -- could face 93 days in jail

Their front yard was torn up after replacing a sewer line, so instead of replacing the dirt with grass, one Oak Park woman put in a vegetable garden and now the city is seeing green.

The list goes on: fresh basil, cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, cumbers and more all filling five large planter boxes that fill the Bass family’s front yard.

Julie Bass says, “We thought we’re minding our own business, doing something not ostentatious and certainly not obnoxious or nothing that is a blight on the neighborhood, so we didn’t think people would care very much.”

But some cared very much and called the city. The city then sent out code enforcement.

“They warned us at first that we had to move the vegetables from the front, that no vegetables were allowed in the front yard. We didn’t move them because we didn’t think we were doing anything wrong, even according to city code we didn’t think we were doing anything wrong. So they ticketed us and charged me with a misdemeanor,” Bass said . . .

City code says that all unpaved portions of the site shall be planted with grass or ground cover or shrubbery or other suitable live plant material. Tomatoes, peppers and cucumbers are what Basses see as suitable.

However, Oak Park’s Planning and Technology Director Kevin Rulkowski says the city disagrees. He says, “If you look at the dictionary, suitable means common. You can look all throughout the city and you’ll never find another vegetable garden that consumes the entire front yard.” (read more)

Minnesota Governor Dayton keeps housekeeper and personal chef on staff despite government shutdown

A Political Agenda item yesterday noted that Gov. Mark Dayton has laid off about half of his 40-member staff during the state shutdown, while 20 are considered essential and still working.

On the list of those still working are two staff members, Micah Pace and Michelle Mersereau, who were listed as "Residence Support Staff."

This morning, Michael Brodkorb, the communications director for the Minnesota Senate Republican Caucus (and he's also deputy chair of the state Republican Party), called to say that on the governor's official staff list (PDF), Pace is listed as "chef," and Mersereau is listed as "Housekeeper/server." (read more)

Cat dies from "heroin overdose" from owner's second hand smoke that she deliberately blew into its face



A Boulder woman has been arrested for allegedly killing a cat by blowing heroin smoke into its face, according to Boulder Police.

21-year-old Danielle Blankenship was arrested Tuesday around 11:30 a.m. on charges of cruelty to animals, third degree assault, and domestic violence. She is being held in the Boulder County Jail on $1,500 bond. (read more)

US Government Funded 300 Abortions in 2 Years: Associated Press

For decades Congress has used its power over the District of Columbia to ban the city from paying for abortions for poor women, but during a two-year period when lawmakers reversed course at least 300 women got city-funded procedures, according to data obtained by The Associated Press.

That period when the city was free to pay for abortions ended earlier this year. The city now says that during that time it spent approximately $185,000 providing elective abortions for poor women
who receive health care through government programs. The number of women who got abortions and their cost was provided by city officials after AP filed a Freedom of Information Act request.

Officials in the heavily Democratic city have sparred for years with Congress over the city's ability to cover the abortions with taxpayer money. During brief periods when Democrats have had control of the House, Senate and presidency, the city has been able to pay for them, but that ability has been taken away when Republicans and Democrats have shared power. The back-and-forth over the procedures is part of an ongoing struggle between local officials and Congress over control of city affairs.

The number of abortions the city now says it paid for contrasts with previous statements.

In May, Mayor Vincent Gray reported to Congress that the city had paid about $62,000 to provide 117 abortions to women whose health care was covered by Medicaid and the D.C. HeathCare Alliance, programs serving low-income residents. The mayor's office said Thursday in an email that the discrepancy reflects the fact bills were not submitted on time, but that 300 procedures was the
correct number. City spokeswoman Doxie McCoy said that the exact number of abortions the city paid for could still rise because claims are still being processed. (read more)

Memorial Hospital pays $700,000 settlement to injured child of illegal immigrant

City-owned Memorial Health System paid $700,000 to settle a lawsuit filed by an undocumented immigrant from Mexico whose baby allegedly suffered severe brain injuries during delivery four years ago.

Notice of the settlement, which was paid sometime in the April-June quarter, was contained in a quarterly legal report written by the Colorado Springs city attorney and provided to the city council.

An attorney for Maria Gallardo, who sued the city of Colorado Springs and the United States of America for medical malpractice last year, said the amount Memorial paid could have been a lot higher.

“The hospital settlement was only for the baby, not for the mother,” Springs attorney William Fischer said Wednesday. He said the mother's window of opportunity to file a claim on her own behalf under the Government Immunity Act had closed by the time she had filed. She has until her child's 18th birthday to file a claim on behalf of the baby, he said.

Memorial paid $25,000 for its deductible, and the rest of the settlement was paid by its insurer, Memorial spokesman Brian Newsome said.

“We agreed to a settlement, which we felt was in the best interest of the family,” he said in an email. “We will not discuss detailed information about the care of these patients, out of respect for the family. Our thoughts are with them.” (read more)

Hyper-arid Atacama desert hit by snow (Video)

Chick-fil-A's Cow Appreciation Day: But What About Chickens? - 8th July 2011

According to the fast-food restaurant Chick-fil-A, today is Cow Appreciation Day. Coming from a restaurant chain that supports the slaughter of animals, this may seem ironic at first. But Chick-fil-A has long advertised that consumers should "Eat More Chikin."

Despite recently taking heat for supporting organizations that oppose gay marriage, the food chain declared July 8th a holiday -- Cow Appreciation Day. Chick-fil-A is encouraging people to dress up like a cow in order to receive a free meal.

While the company may be focused on the humorous advertising, they got one part right. Eating cows is bad not just for the cows, but also for the environment. The Union of Concerned Scientists reports that over two percent of total heat-trapping emissions in the United States are due to beef production alone. The process of slaughtering cows for consumption produces emissions equivalent to those emitted by 24 million cars, or 33 coal-fired power plants in a year.

But cows aren't the only ones needing protection. According to People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, "chickens are arguably the most abused animal on the planet." Estimates suggest that over 8 billion chickens are killed each year in the U.S., and without laws protecting chickens from abuse, reports show some animals spend their lives in horrific conditions.

Last December, the Humane Society of the U.S. reported that the largest producer of fresh eggs in the country, Cal-Maine, had farms practicing inhumane treatment of chickens. Their undercover reporter found:

"Birds trapped in cage wires, unable to reach food or water. Cage wires can trap hens' wings, necks, legs and feet, causing other birds to trample the weakened animals, usually resulting in a slow, painful death.

"Abandoned hens. Live birds were roaming outside their cages, some falling into manure pits.

"Injuries. Birds had bloody feet and broken legs from cage wires.

"Overcrowding injuries. Cal-Maine crams multiple birds into one cage, giving each hen only 67 square inches of cage space -- less than a sheet of paper on which to live for more than a year.

"Eggs covered in blood and feces." Read More

Josh Hamilton Very Distraught after Tragic Accident which lead to the Death of a Fan

A fireman who fell to his death in front of his seven-year-old son when he toppled over a railing at a baseball game cried out 'Please check on my son', as he lay dying on the ground.

Shannon Stone, 39, was trying to catch a foul ball for his young son at the Texas Rangers Ballpark when he plunged 20 feet as he reached out for the ball as it was tossed up to the stand.

In his final words, the fire lieutenant called: 'Please check on my Son. My son was up there by himself', as his young son Cooper watched in horror from above, witnesses reported.

Brad Ziegler, who was stood close to where Mr Stone fell, said: 'The people who carried him out reassured him. "Sir, we'll get your son. We'll make sure he's OK".'

'He had his arms swinging,' said Mr Ziegler. 'He talked and was conscious. We assumed he was okay. But when you find out he's not, it's just tough.'

Mr Stone was watching the game at the ballpark in Arlington when he shouted out for outfielder Josh Hamilton to throw him the ball.

The player duly tossed it up to the stands but as he leaned out to catch it he lost his balance and fell over the railings landing on the concrete below.

There was an audible gasp from the stands as baseball fans watched the man plummet down a gap behind the scoreboard.

Officials said the man was conscious after the fall but 'went into full arrest' while being taken to the hospital by ambulance.

Mr Stone was pronounced dead at a Fort Worth hospital less than an hour after he fell.

Texas Rangers outfielder Josh Hamilton said that he is 'very distraught' after the tragic incident.

Fellow fan Ronnie Hargis said he had been chatting to Mr Stone as they had been sitting together in the first row of seats in the left field.

He said he had tried to try to grab the man, who fell headfirst through a gap of several feet that is between the seats and the 14-foot-high outfield wall.

He said: He went straight down. I tried to grab him, but I couldn't. I tried to slow him down a little bit.'

Mr Shannon was a 17 year veteran of the Brownwood City fire department. Read More


C. difficile superbug tied to 17th Niagara death: Canada

Another death has been tied to an outbreak of the C. difficile superbug in Ontario's Niagara region, hospital officials say.

A third patient related to the C. difficile outbreak at a Welland, Ont., hospital died Wednesday afternoon, the Niagara Health System said Thursday.

At least 17 people — mainly elderly — have died in the Niagara region since the outbreak was declared May 28.

Sue Matthews, president and CEO of the Niagara Health System, told reporters that the Ontario Ministry of Health offered a field epidemiologist to help learn more about the outbreak.

The epidemiologist arrived in the region on Thursday afternoon, Matthews said. (read more)

US June jobs report: Hiring slows, unemployment rises

The job market hit a major roadblock last month, as hiring slowed to a crawl and the unemployment rate unexpectedly rose.

The economy gained just 18,000 jobs in June, the government reported Friday, sharply missing most expectations and coming in even weaker than the paltry 25,000 jobs added in May.

It marked the weakest month since September, when the economy was still losing jobs. Immediately after the release, stock futures plummeted and bond prices rose.

"At first, when I heard it, I thought maybe they had announced the wrong numbers, they were so bad," said Robert Brusca of Fact and Opinion Economics.

Economists were expecting government job losses, but few had predicted that private businesses would pull the reins back so tightly.

Private businesses added only 57,000 jobs in June - the weakest growth since May 2010. Earlier this year, businesses had been adding more than 200,000 jobs each month. (read more)

Voluntary Greek debt plan 'unrealistic'

Jan Kees de Jager, the Dutch finance minister, has called for private-sector holders of Greek government debt to be forced to participate in a second debt-relief support package.

Mr de Jager said it was "unrealistic" to expect significant voluntary participation in such a plan, and said mandatory participation should be considered even if it led to rating agencies downgrading Greece's credit rating.

"I think we have to accept that a voluntary contribution is unrealistic," Mr de Jager told the Dutch newspaper Financieele Dagblad after a meeting on Wednesday in London with George Osborne, the British chancellor. "If a mandatory contribution from the banks leads to a short-term and isolated rating event, that is not so bad, because Greece cannot go to the credit markets anyway now or in the near future."

The comments represent a significant change in position from Mr de Jager, who had been insisting since last month that voluntary participation by banks and other holders of Greek obligations could raise a significant portion of the €85bn sought for a new debt support package.

Mr de Jager's comments also put the Netherlands at the forefront of the country's European partners on the issue, as France, Germany, and others are still casting about for ways to involve voluntary private-sector participation without causing rating agencies to declare Greece in default. (read more)

Gaddafi threatens 'martyr' attacks in Europe - 8th July 2011

TRIPOLI - Muammar Gaddafi threatened on Friday to send hundreds of Libyans to launch attacks in Europe in revenge for the NATO-led military campaign against him.

"Hundreds of Libyans will martyr in Europe. I told you it is eye for an eye and tooth for a tooth. But we will give them a chance to come back to their senses," the Libyan leader said in a televised speech.
Source

Rebekah Brooks: 'Worse Revelations To Come' - 8th July 2011

Rebekah Brooks has told News Of The World staff she was aware of worse revelations to come and they would understand in a year why the paper is soon closing, Sky sources say.

Sky News has obtained a recording of part of the meeting, where there were indications of discontent among workers over the shutting down of the paper after Sunday.

Staff who were told without warning 24 hours earlier that the best-selling tabloid is to cease production were summoned to floor 13 of the News International offices.

Workers are angry at News International chief executive Mrs Brooks after it became clear she would keep her job while they were losing theirs.

Most of the paper's present editorial staff were not employed there during the time the phone hacking that led to its demise allegedly took place - but Mrs Brooks was, serving as editor before moving on to run The Sun.

Addressing them for the second time in two days, she said she will try to find them jobs elsewhere in the company.

In the recording, one employee told her: "Can you see that by your actions yesterday, your calling our newspaper toxic, we have all been contaminated by that toxicity by the way we've been treated.

"But can't you see the bigger picture? You're making the whole of News International toxic, and there's an arrogance there that you think we'd want to work for you again."

The News International boss said the move to close the Sunday tabloid was because there was another two years plus ahead of trouble, sources said.

Mrs Brooks also said she has "visibility" on revelations to come and in a year's time they will understand why the company made this decision, sources added. Read More

Congo Plane Crash: Fewer than 40 Survivors out of 112 Passengers - 8th July 2011

At least 40 survivors have been pulled from a crashed airplane that killed at least 53 people at Kisangani International Airport in the Democratic Republic of Congo on Friday.

"Fifty-three dead, that is the last figure I have,'' Stavros Papaioannou, chief executive of the Congolese Hewa Bora airline, told Reuters by telephone, while cautioning that the toll was likely to be revised.

The plane was carrying 112 people when it tried to land in bad weather.

Only 40 survivors were pulled from the wreckage of the Boeing 727, according to a government spokesman.

'The pilot tried to land but apparently they didn't touch the runway,' Stavros Papaioannou, Congolese airline Hewa Bora chief executive, told Reuters.

"The crash happened about 200 metres from Kisangani airport during landing in heavy rain. We have already removed 40 survivors," government spokesman Lambert Mendetold Reuters before adding that "The rescue operations are continuing."

Hewa Bora is on a European Union list of airlines banned due to security concerns, as are all carriers certified in the central African country.

DR Congo has one of the worst air transport security records in the world. Source

Fukushima cover takes shape - 8th July 2011

This is the lower third of a cover to be erected over Fukushima Daiichi 1, pictured yesterday during trial assembly.

With a lightweight construction compared to the thick reinforced concrete of a reactor building, it will form a seal around the damaged building and reduce any ongoing emission of radioactivity and protect the building from the weather.

The top section of unit 1's reactor building was wrecked by a hydrogen explosion, the first at the site, on 12 March. The top structure had covered the service area above the concrete reactor containment, including the used fuel pond, which has now been visually inspected and found to have suffered no serious damage. An increase in radioactivity of pond water is not thought to have resulted from fuel damage due to overheating, but rather from the influx of contaminated dust after the explosion.

In the last three days the fuel pond's normal systems have been brought back into action to maintain water levels. The current temperature is not known, but sufficient water will maintain essential nuclear safety by preventing fuel damage. Cooling is to be restored by the end of this month through the use of an additional system.

According to Tokyo Electric Power Company's schedule, the cover should be completed in place by the end of September. It will be able to handle accumulated snow loads of 30 centimetres and wind speeds of up to 90 kilometres per hour.

All the wall panels will have a flameproof coating, and the structure will have a filtered ventilation system capable of handling 10,000 cubic metres per hour through six lines, including two backup lines. The cover structure will also be fitted with internal monitoring cameras, radiation and hydrogen detectors, thermometers and a pipe for water injection.

Similar cover buildings will be designed to fit around the other three damaged reactor buildings. Source

What's ugly, has a tail and holds the secret to eternal youth? Meet the naked mole rat... - 8th July 2011

Scientists have long searched for an elixir to eternal youth.

But it's unlikely they thought it would come in the shape of the naked mole rat.

The animal is revolting looking - bald and wrinkly with worm-like tails and walrus-style teeth - but healthy.

These East African animals live for 30 years, seven times longer than a normal rat, and they seem to be immune to cancer.

Researchers at the University of Liverpool have just finished mapping the mole rat’s genome structure for the first time, in the hope of understanding what keeps them so healthy.

Lead scientist Dr Joao Magalhaes said: ‘The level of resistance these animals have to disease, particularly cancer, might give us clues as to why some creatures are more prone to disease than others.

'We want to establish the naked mole rat as the first model of resistance to chronic diseases of ageing.’

All good, so long as they can promise we don’t end up looking like the beast.

Nothing’s worth that - even living for ever. Source

Missing teenagers found safe and well in Wales after member of public recognises them: They will be reunited with families - 8th July 2011

Two teenagers missing from their homes for almost two weeks have been found safe and well.

A member of the public recognised Charlotte Ford, 15, and her 16-year-old boyfriend, Luke Jarvis, and called in the police.

Officers in Rhyl, north Wales, acting on the information tracked down the young couple at around 2pm earlier today.

West Midlands police had launched an inquiry to find the missing teenagers after they had gone missing from their homes in Bilston and Wordsley.

And their parents issued an emotional appeal for their return at a press conference after CCTV footage showed them boarding a bus together on Sunday.

Superintendent Stuart Johnson, from Dudley police, said: 'The response we have seen from the media and members of the public has been excellent. My sincere thanks for that assistance.'

And he added: 'We are now able to reunite the youngsters with their families.' Read More

Bognor's own tornado alley: freak twister hits street in coastal town AGAIN - 8th July 2011

They say lightning never strikes twice but tornadoes seem to have a habit of coming back to one street in Bognor Regis.

Eleven years after the seaside town was struck by a freak mini tornado the exact same area was hit again by a twister.

But unlike the destructive tornado of 2000 the latest tornado was over within minutes and for one family it was an unexpected rather than terrifying visitor to their garden.

Onlooker Emma Brooks, 40, told how the twister lifted the heavy 15ft trampoline as if it were a 'frisbee' and dumped it in her next door neighbour's garden.

She said: 'I have never seen anything like it. We were all looking out of the window because the sky had gone so black.

'Then this white, misty cone-shaped tornado touched down in the garden. I quickly shut the back door and we all watched, transfixed, wondering what it was going to do next. It was pretty scary because it could have come towards the house but we couldn't stop watching.

'It got trapped in the children's play equipment and spun everything out to the edges of the garden.

'Then it seemed to change direction and sucked up the trampoline like it was a frisbee. It was spinning in the air, 15 or 20ft high for about 10 seconds seconds.

'Then it moved across the garden, knocked down the fence and dropped the trampoline next door before taking down a 40ft conifer tree which landed on a shed. It snapped it at the trunk. It must have been incredibly powerful.' Read More

US debt limit: Obama says sides are 'still far apart'

Democrats and Republicans remain "far apart on a wide range of issues" in budget talks aimed at averting a looming default on US government debt, President Barack Obama has said.

Mr Obama spoke after concluding a meeting with congressional leaders and said talks would resume on Sunday.

The deadline to raise the $14.3tn (£8.9tn) US debt ceiling is 2 August.

Republicans have demanded steep reductions in the US budget deficit as the price of a debt increase.

"All the leaders came here in a spirit of compromise and of wanting to solve problems on behalf of the American people," Mr Obama told reporters on Thursday following morning discussions at the White House with senior Republican and Democratic House and Senate leaders.

"Everybody acknowledged that in order to do that, Democrats and Republicans are going to be required in each chamber" for an eventual vote.

Mr Obama said the sides had acknowledged they would suffer politically, "but our biggest obligation is to make sure we're doing the right thing by the American people." (read more)

Kill 50,000 moose to curb crashes, Newfoundland urges: Canada

A prominent former labour leader says Newfoundland and Labrador should get serious about moose-vehicle collisions by ordering a large cull of the wild animals.

Richard Cashin, who chairs an advisory group for the Save Our People Action Committee that has campaigned for moose fences, said Thursday a cull of 50,000 moose is needed to save lives on highways.

Cashin said the provincial government failed this week when it announced pilot projects that involved fencing and motion sensors.

"That's just fiddling," said Cashin, who co-founded and led for many years the Fish, Food and Allied Workers union.

"What the minister is doing is fiddling. He's a captive of the ideologues who believe in 'let nature take its course' and no cull." (read more)

Karachi: 'Shoot on sight' orders as violence soars in Pakistan

Security forces in the Pakistani city of Karachi have been ordered to shoot on sight to stem violence in which 80 people have been killed since Tuesday.

The violence is widely blamed on armed gangs from rival political parties.

Pakistan's biggest city is virtually shut down. Many shops, schools and offices are closed and there is hardly any traffic on the streets.

Most people are staying at home fearing more violence. The government says it has deployed an extra 1,000 troops.

Karachi is arguably one of South Asia's most violent cities. It is not only the largest city and port of Pakistan, but also a major industrial and commercial centre.

The city is plagued by extortion rackets, land-grab mafia and armed groups fighting turf wars for their share of its resources.

The level of violence this week has not been seen for some time. Targeted killings and drive-by shootings are widely blamed on armed gangs linked to the city's main political parties.

There were always fears that with last week's resignation from the government by the city's main political party - the MQM - increased violence and instability would bring Pakistan's economic capital to a grinding halt.

Karachi's main political party, the MQM, which resigned from the government last week, has called for a day of mourning.

"People are stuck at home; their food and rations are finishing," Karachi resident Mohammad Shahid said. "Where is the government? Where is the police?"

Sharjeel Memon, the provincial information minister, said: "We have issued orders to the security forces to shoot anyone involved in violence on the spot.

"In addition to the police and Rangers, another 1,000 personnel of the Frontier Constabulary will be deployed in the city to control the violence." (read more)

Preparations underway for South Sudan's independence

The final bricks are being laid on the path leading through the parade ground, the flags have been raised halfway in expectation and in the streets leading to the mausoleum of deceased Southern leader, Dr John Garang, waves of dancers are singing in near-empty streets.

On the eve of South Sudan's independence, Juba, the capital city, is going into virtual lockdown.

Only foot traffic is being allowed in the perimeter of the celebration site. Cars are waved away by sunglass-wearing soldiers.

The airport has also been closed to commercial flights to allow for the arrival of the expected dignitaries.

The arrival of so many guests of honor to bear witness to the birth of this new nation has rendered the Southern Sudanese both incredibly nervous and incredibly proud.

But the ongoing conflict with the North is also casting its shadow. (read more)

Syria: Thousands protest in restive city of Hama

Tens of thousands of people are taking part in an anti-government protest in the Syrian city of Hama, activists say.

Organisers have called on demonstrators to express their total rejection of the government's decision to hold a national dialogue conference on Sunday.

Earlier, the US and French ambassadors visited Hama to show their solidarity.

Syria's interior ministry said the US envoy had met several "saboteurs" and denounced the "direct and unacceptable interference" in its internal affairs.

Tanks were deployed on the outskirts of Hama last weekend after the central city witnessed the largest protest since anti-government demonstrations began in March.

At least 22 people in Hama have since been shot dead by security forces.

"No-one can predict what is going to happen in the next few days," one resident told BBC Arabic. "Many families have left Hama for the neighbouring villages." (read more)

Euro debt market jitters worsen: cost of borrowing for debt-laden Portugal, the Irish Republic and Italy hit new highs on Friday

The cost of borrowing for debt-laden Portugal, the Irish Republic and Italy hit new highs on Friday.

Greek debts also sold off, reversing a recent rally on hopes of a new rescue.

Financial markets were reacting to the European Central Bank's decision to raise interest rates, as well as political developments in Italy.

Italian economy minister Giulio Tremonti, a key figure in shoring up the country's finances, has been drawn into a corruption scandal.

There is growing speculation that the economy minister may have to step down after Neapolitan prosecutors requested an arrest warrant for his close associate, Marco Milanese, on corruption charges.

The minister - who is seen as a stalwart defender of budget discipline - is seen as increasingly isolated within the Italian government.

Prime minister Silvio Berlusconi has said he will amend Mr Tremonti's draft budget in parliament, criticising his own minister:

"He is worried about the markets, I understand him. But I always remind him that in politics the result is made up of consensus and votes. He isn't interested in consensus, but we are."

Italy has seen a sharp rise in its 10-year cost of borrowing over the last week, rising from 4.85% to 5.3% - suggesting markets now view the country as almost as risky as recession-hit Spain, which must pay 5.65%. (read more)

Two new Crop Circles 26th & 28th of June 2011 at Honeystreet and Allington, Wiltshire, UK

In the worst drought in Texas history, 13.5 billion gallons of water used for fracking

Texas is experiencing the driest eight-month period in its recorded history. But in 2010, natural gas companies used 13.5 billion gallons of fresh water for hydraulic fracturing, and that could more than double by 2020. Where's all this water coming from? Oh, it was just lying around, in these aquifers! You guys weren't using it to drink or irrigate or anything, right? Guys?

Crockett County, Tx., near San Angelo (which you probably also haven't heard of, but it's not near much else), has gotten less than two inches of rain since October. But water for fracking could soon make up 25 percent of the county's water usage, according to its groundwater conservation manager. Fracking takes between 50,000 and 4 million gallons for a single well, on average, and could take as many as 13 million gallons. And most of that water is gone for good -- 75 percent of it can't be recovered.

Fracking works with brackish water, the stuff that's not really useful for drinking or irrigation. The equipment is just so precious and delicate, though -- we wouldn't want it getting gummed up! "[G]iven the specific sort of engineering and pressure they're using, it's better to have fewer impurities in the water, so fresh water works better," says the president of the pro-oil Permian Basin Petroleum Association. Thank goodness the same can't be said of people and animals and crops! (read more)

The real causes of the economic crisis? They’re history.

They say that winners get to write history. Three years after the meltdown of our financial markets, it’s clear who is winning and who is losing. Wall Street — arms outstretched in triumph — is racing toward the finish-line tape while millions of American families are struggling to stay on their feet. With victory seemingly in hand, the historical rewrite is in full swing.

The contrast in fortunes between those on top of the economic heap and those buried in the rubble couldn’t be starker. The 10 biggest banks now control more than three-quarters of the country’s banking assets. Profits have bounced back, while compensation at publicly traded Wall Street firms hit a record $135 billion in 2010.

Meanwhile, more than 24 million Americans are out of work or can’t find full-time work, and nearly $9 trillion in household wealth has vanished. There seems to be no correlation between who drove the crisis and who is paying the price.

The report of the Financial Crisis Inquiry Commission detailed the recklessness of the financial industry and the abject failures of policymakers and regulators that brought our economy to its knees in late 2008. The accuracy and facts of the commission’s investigative report have gone unchallenged since its release in January. (read more)