Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Debt ceiling: Moody's puts U.S. on notice

The public pressure on lawmakers to raise the debt ceiling was ratcheted up Wednesday when a major rating agency said it would put the sterling bond rating of the United States on review for possible downgrade.

Moody's Investors Services said it had initiated the review because of "the rising possibility" that Congress will fail to raise the debt ceiling by Aug. 2 -- something that could lead to a U.S. default on its debt.

If the debt ceiling isn't raised by then, the Treasury Department says it will no longer be able to pay all the country's bills in full and on time without being allowed to borrow new money. (Read: Debt ceiling FAQ)

"Moody's considers the probability of a default on interest payments to be low but no longer to be de minimis," Moody's said in a statement.

The United States enjoys its AAA rating in part for having always stood behind its debt and paid its bills on time. As a result, U.S. Treasury bonds are considered the world's safe-haven investment.

The Treasury Department issued an immediate response Wednesday.

"Moody's assessment is a timely reminder of the need for Congress to move quickly to avoid defaulting on the country's obligations and agree upon a substantial deficit reduction package," Treasury official Jeffrey A. Goldstein said in a statement.

In the still unlikely event the United States would default on any of its interest payments to bondholders, Moody's said it expected the default to be short-lived and the loss to bondholders "minimal or non-existent."

But, the agency added, a default "would fundamentally alter Moody's assessment of the timeliness of future payments." Translation: The United States would be downgraded to AA status. (read more)

Boy Scouts being trained by Homeland Security to conduct "anti-terror" raids -- Sound familiar? It should...

US drone strikes kill 48 suspected militants in Pakistan

At least 48 suspected militants were killed by missiles launched by US drone aircraft in Pakistan's northwest, local intelligence officials said today, one of the largest death tolls to date in the controversial air bombing campaign.

Coming a day after Washington announced an $800 million delay in military assistance amid worsening US-Pakistan ties, the attacks could exacerbate tension between the two uneasy allies in the war against militants.

The attacks started last night, when remotely piloted drones fired nine missiles into a militant compound and at a vehicle in North Waziristan, killing 25 suspected insurgents, local intelligence officials said.

Another strike hours later in South Waziristan killed five suspected militants.

Then this morning, a drone fired two missiles at another compound in North Waziristan.

"The missiles were fired as militants sitting in a vehicle were entering into a house used by them as a hideout," an intelligence official said, adding that 15 militants were killed in the strike. "The house is on fire."

Three militants were killed in another strike in the same region.

There was no independent confirmation of the death tolls, and militants often dispute official death figures.

It was the second-largest death toll in a day in the unacknowledged US drone campaign against militants in Pakistan's northwest. In June 2009, about 70 suspected militants were killed in a drone attack in South Waziristan.

Most of the strikes have been concentrated in South and North Waziristan, mountainous tribal regions on the Afghan border that shelter militant groups friendly with Pakistan but who are attacking US and Nato forces in Afghanistan.

"Of course the number of casualties is very high and it will add to the already strained relationship," a senior Pakistani security official told Reuters. (read more)

"European Nations should go back to their currencies"

RFID chips now in active use in people's bodies worldwide

Lagos Flood Is Most Devastating: 15 Declared Dead

Of all the parts of Nigeria hit by flood in the country this year, the one which happened in Lagos on Sunday is most devastating. This is as the death toll resulting from the incident hit 15. The Director-General of the National Emergency Management Agency, Muhammad Sani-Sidi, said this while lamenting the level of the flood that ravaged the entire Lagos state resulting in the governor of the state, Babatunde Fashola, declaring a public holiday for school children to avoid any disaster that may result from the flood which is yet to abate.

Sani-Sidi who engaged in an on-the-spot assessment of areas affected by the flood, said the devastation resulted from heavy downpour, blockage of water channels and drainages, indiscriminate dumping of refuse and building of houses along channels.

He promised government intervention after officials of the Agency would have assessed the level of damage caused by the flood. Fifteen people have so far died from the
flood in the state. (read more)

Fukushima & Ft Calhoun Nuclear Update - July 12, 2011

US Dollar falls below 79 yen in New York: Is the dollar headed off a cliff?

On the New York foreign exchange, the dollar briefly fell to the mid-78 yen range on Tuesday on fears that the Greek debt crisis may spread to other European countries such as Italy and Spain.

Moves to sell the euro and buy the yen helped to push the dollar down to a level last seen after the March 11th disaster in eastern Japan. The dollar was being traded at 78.49 yen at one time.

Earlier in London, the dollar dipped below the 80-yen level.

The yen-buying intensified in New York after a major credit ratings agency downgraded Ireland's sovereign debt to below-investment grade.

A market analyst says the yen is being bought against the euro and the dollar as well. He says this is because of credit worries in Europe and speculation that Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke may express concerns about the future of the US economy in his Congressional testimony on Wednesday. (source)

Fitch downgrades Greece debt to CCC as European situation worsens by the day

Fitch ratings agency announced on Wednesday it was downgrading Greece's status by three points to CCC status from its previous rating of B+.

The move came because of the absence of a new European Union-International Monetary Fund programme for Greece and growing uncertainty of the role private investors would play in any bail-out, said the agency.

It expressed concern that Greece was relying on getting €30bn (£26bn) out of its privatisation programme "and largely unquantifiable private sector participation" to supplement any international bail-out.

"While asset sales of €5bn look attainable in 2011, the privatisation programme will become increasingly challenging," the agency said.

The Greek government expressed surprise at the downgrade, saying the EU finance ministers' meeting had decided to have the new programme in effect by mid-September - when Greece is due to receive the next installment of its bailout payments - while the precise form of private participation is still being worked out.

"It is therefore bewildering why Fitch went ahead with today's rating action, despite the fact that the timetable of eurozone's and IMF's actions is known and adhered to," a Finance Ministry statement said. (read more)

Angry Egyptians in Tahir Square prepare for new revolution, this time against army: Buckle up!

Thousands of pro-democracy protesters are making Cairo's Tahrir Square their home until all of their demands are met.

The famous and iconic roundabout, the focal point of the uprising early this year that forced the departure of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak, is again packed with activists disgruntled by what they see as the slow pace of change.

They have set up camp in the center of the square in what has become known among them as Tent City. The show of force began after a major demonstration Friday in the square.

Many have brought TV sets, laptops, books, sleeping bags and clothes with them, suggesting they plan to stay for the long haul. One man even installed a satellite dish beside his tent, and the organizing committee has brought in dozens of fire extinguishers.

The scene remains cautiously festive as street vendors push their carts through the square selling fruits, fresh juices, popcorn, sandwiches, cold water and more to sustain the face-off against the government.

Several stages have been built, and musicians, artists and comedians have been entertaining the protesters. A barber has set up shop in the center square.

Political discussions flourish on every corner. Chants calling for the resignations of Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, and Prime Minister Essam Sharaf waft across the square. (read more)

San Diego cat owners to be taxed to help with financial woes

Should cats be treated like dogs, when it comes to licensing and immunization requirements?

The San Diego city auditor's office recommends doing just that -- for the sake of health, safety and "cost recovery" for taxpayers.

According to formulas used by the Humane Society of the United States, there are an estimated 373,000 cats in San Diego.

If just 5 percent had been registered at $25 a head, the auditor's office says the city could have saved $536,000 over the past three fiscal years.

Cat owners say the idea defies logic and accounting principles.

"So now you have Animal Control being your tax collector," says Sandee Gilbert, the owner of a 1-year-old Cornish Rex male named Nike. "And as a tax collector, you're going to accrue a tremendous amount of cost trying to find the owner of that cat."

Gilbert, spokeswoman for the San Diego Cat Fanciers group, points out that a high percentage of cats in this community are unowned, or fed and tended by a number of people, or outright feral. (read more)

The Beginning of the End of Europe: Gonzalo Lira

Yesterday, the European contagion spread to Italy and Spain. The sovereign debt of those two countries swooned—for no discernible reason.

No discernible reason whatsoever: The Italian and Spanish bond markets just sort of . . . plopped, like when a learning-to-walk toddler suddenly plops on his behind? Exactly like that: For no reason whatsoever.

The only conclusion that I can draw from this Monday swoon is that we’ve hit the tipping point: This is the start of the eurozone endgame. It is now only a matter of time before the eurozone breaks apart. Therefore, get back in your seats, buckle up, and brace yourselves good—‘cause it’s gonna be a bumpy ride.

Let me explain my thinking:

For those of you who somehow have missed out on this movie: Europe has been in trouble because the nations of the periphery—Portugal, Ireland, Italy, Greece and Spain, the so-called PIIGS—have massive sovereign debts which they simply cannot pay.

Regardless of how the debt of the PIIGS got to be the size that it is, none of them can survive without cash: Cash to maintain their government services, and cash to pay off their debts.

In the case of all the PIIGS, they need more debt in order to raise the cash they need to pay off the old debt. They are simply not generating enough revenue to survive. (read more)

Coming Crisis Magazine: Call for Article Submissions (New posts appear below until midnight)

As you guys already know, The Coming Crisis is looking to put together a professional magazine with all original content from volunteer writers.

We're looking for volunteer writers who would like to submit their written pieces that possess the following qualities:

1) Deals with a subject that the Coming Crisis has touched upon before (such as a major news item, preferably recent. Example: The War in Libya)

2) Is between 1000-1500 words

3) Is based upon fact, and not overly editorialized -- and has sources where needed

4) Has impeccable spelling and grammar

5) Has a title that a) is heart-stopping, and b) you're not married to, since it may (likely) will be changed or tweaked

6) Deadline is August 6th!

Send your pieces to your "Editor in Chief", Matt, at thecomingcrisis@gmail.com (please attach as a RTF or simply copy and paste the article into the letter).

If you've already contacted us wanting to volunteer, you're likely going to receive a featured writing assignment soon (after we make sure you're not CIA -- just kidding. Or are we?) You don't have to write in again, in this case.

Not a writer but would still like to help? Send us your ideas as to what you'd like Coming Crisis Magazine to feature, story-wise, content-wise, or anything-wise. We'd really like to hear your ideas, and you can reach us at the email above.

Let's make this the best magazine ever guys, one that opens eyes and minds and gets people thinking and moving again in the right direction. We appreciate all your help and work.

We look forward to hearing from you,

-- Matt & Lynsey

(Please email us directly rather than through the comments, thanks!)

Iran prepares for nuclear work in bunker: sources

Iran is preparing to install centrifuges for higher-grade uranium enrichment in an underground bunker, diplomatic sources say, a development that is likely to add to Western worries about Tehran's atomic aims.

Preparatory work is under way at the Fordow facility, tucked deep inside a mountain to protect it against any attacks, and machines used to refine uranium could soon be moved to the site near the clerical city of Qom, the sources said.

The Islamic Republic said in June it would shift production of uranium enriched to 20 percent purity to Fordow from its main Natanz plant this year and triple output capacity, in a defiant response to charges that it is trying to make atomic bombs.

Tehran only disclosed the existence of Fordow two years ago after Western intelligence detected it and said it was evidence of covert nuclear activities. The facility has yet to start operating.

"They are preparing (for the centrifuges to be installed) in Fordow," one diplomatic source said.

Refined uranium can be used to fuel nuclear power reactors and also, if enriched to much higher levels, provide material for atomic arms. (read more)

Tamara Lee Mason killed by her three sons over Yahtzee

Tamara Lee Mason wanted to play Yahtzee with her three sons after they all returned home from Christmas dinner at a friend's. When the boys wouldn't, she got mad, grabbed a few things and stormed out of the house.

That's the story Mason's oldest, Dylan C. Clemens, told investigators back on Dec. 27, according to criminal charges filed in Stevens County District Court. A much stranger story is laid out in criminal charges filed Tuesday against Clemens, 25. His half-brothers Andrew Q. Cobb, 18, and Jacob S. Cobb, 17, were charged Friday.

Mason's decomposing remains were found Thursday buried in the back yard of her home in Alberta, a town of about 130 people in far western Minnesota.

The charges said Jacob Cobb strangled his mother on the living room floor. Then he or his brother Andrew put a plastic bag over her head and tightened a belt around her neck. Clemens allegedly drove her body west to South Dakota, then east to Glenwood, Minn., before storing the corpse in a garbage can in a shed for months until the ground thawed enough for the two elder brothers to bury it.

Jacob Cobb is charged in juvenile court with two counts of second-degree murder. A hearing must be held, but it is presumed he will be tried as an adult, authorities said Tuesday. Andrew Cobb and Clemens are charged with accessory after the fact to murder and remain in custody. Clemens is serving time at St. Cloud prison for a domestic abuse conviction and violating an order for protection.

"It is very strange," Stevens County Sheriff Randy Willis said Tuesday. "She wanted to play Yahtzee and they didn't. That seemed to be, in their minds, what expedited her sudden demise."

Of the family, Willis said, "It's probably not the most functional family in the world, but it's not the most dysfunctional, either." (read more)

Jason and Jennifer Steitler, wheelchair bound couple, "search-raped" by TSA: Becoming a trend now, isn't it?

New Port Richey, Florida - Airport security is a part of traveling these days, from walking through X-Ray machines to being patted down. But one New Port Richey couple contacted 10 News to say the search they received went too far.

"It was extremely thorough, almost a violation, "says Jason Steitler as he describes how a TSA official searched him at the Greater Rochester International Airport July 6th. Steitler's disability requires he uses a wheelchair.

"They did the hair then did the neck. Then they had me do a pushup in my chair, then got down into my inner thigh around my back side. It's the most thorough search [I've] had done in my life," says Steitler.

Steitler and his wife, Jennifer, were heading home to New Port Richey that morning. She too is in a wheel chair and was searched by a TSA official.

"She's been using the phrase 'search raped' because it was that thorough. She says it was nearly to her crotch," says Steitler. "I feel the chair should have option of either scanner or searches, but automatically we're being thrown to being patted down." (read more)

Andrea Fornella Abbott arrested for failing to allow TSA to grope daughter's crotch

A 41-year-old Clarksville woman was arrested after Nashville airport authorities say she was belligerent and verbally abusive to security officers, refusing for her daughter to be patted down at a security checkpoint.

Andrea Fornella Abbott yelled and swore at Transportation Security Administration agents Saturday afternoon at Nashville International Airport, saying she did not want her daughter to be “touched inappropriately or have her “crotch grabbed,” a police report states.

After the woman refused to calm down, airport police said, she was charged with disorderly conduct and taken to jail. She has been released on bond.

Attempts to reach Abbott on Tuesday were unsuccessful. The report does not list her daughter’s age. The mother and daughter were traveling from Nashville to Baltimore on Southwest Airlines. (read more)

Figures show thousands of security breaches at U.S. airports



The nation's airports have suffered more than 25,000 security breaches since November 2001, according to a House committee, citing information it says it received from the Transportation Security Administration.

The breaches -- amounting to about seven a day, or about five per year at every airport -- include everything from people who accidentally leave a bag on a checkpoint conveyor belt to those who purposefully evade security and get onto airplanes without proper screening.

A TSA spokesman did not contest the figure, but questioned its significance, saying all breaches are investigated and resolved. The agency said it did not have a breakdown of breaches by severity.

With about 25,000 of these incidents over a decade at more than 450 TSA-regulated airports, this amounts to just over five such incidents per airport per year, according to the TSA. (read more)

Bernanke: Fed May Launch New Round of Stimulus -- Worst idea ever?

Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke told Congress Wednesday that a new stimulus program is in the works that will entail additional asset purchases, the clearest indication yet that the central bank is contemplating another round of monetary easing.

Bernanke said in prepared remarks that the economy is growing more slowly than expected, and should that continue the central bank stands at the ready with more accommodative measures.

"Once the temporary shocks that have been holding down economic activity pass, we expect to again see the effects of policy accommodation reflected in stronger economic activity and job creation," he said

"However, given the range of uncertainties about the strength of the recovery and prospects for inflation over the medium term, the Federal Reserve remains prepared to respond should economic developments indicate that an adjustment in the stance of monetary policy would be appropriate."

Markets reacted immediately to the remarks, sending stocks up sharply in a matter of minutes. Gold prices continued to surge past record levels, while Treasury yields [cnbc explains] moved higher as well.

But some analysts pointed out that, while Bernanke was suggesting the Fed might add stimulus, he also was saying that the current "soft patch" may prove temporary.

"The bottom line is that he has to say he will respond if needed, but it seems he's saying it more as lip service than anything because ultimately he still expects that this slowdown was temporary," said Tom Porcelli, chief U.S. economist for RBS Capital Markets in New York.

The Fed recently completed the second leg of its quantitative easing program, buying $600 billion worth of Treasurys in an effort to boost liquidity and get investors to purchase riskier assets.

While stocks rose about 6 percent through the course of the program, nicknamed QE2 [cnbc explains] , economic progress has remained elusive. (read more)

San Francisco weighs protecting ex-cons seeking homes, jobs

Ex-convicts may soon become a "protected class" in San Francisco - joining African Americans, Latinos, gays, transgender people, pregnant women and the disabled.

A proposal being circulated at City Hall would make it illegal for landlords and employers to discriminate against applicants solely because they were "previously incarcerated."

Sex offenders and perpetrators of some violent crimes would not be covered.

It would also be illegal to ask anyone about their criminal past on an initial job or housing application.

"The mechanics still need to be worked out," said Supervisor and sheriff candidate Ross Mirkarimi.

"This is a very important discussion on the eve of an immense state prisoner realignment that's going to return hundreds of prisoners back to San Francisco," Mirkarimi said.

Ex-cons already are a protected class when it comes to applying for a city job or seeking to live in housing run by the San Francisco Housing Authority. (read more)

Catherine Kieu Becker: Chops Off Husband's Penis, Throws in Garbage Disposal

Catherine Kieu Becker, 48, is under arrest for chopping off her husband's penis and tossing it in the garbage disposal.

After she laced her husband's food with an unknown drug or poison, he lay down, believing something was wrong with the food, according to police reports. Her husband then woke up tied to the bed as Becker cut off his penis with a knife. She then threw the genitalia in the garbage disposal and turned the disposal on, Lt. Jeff Nightengale of Garden Grove, Calif. police, said.

Nightengale said the couple is going through a divorce, but could not confirm why Becker wanted to cut off her husband's manhood.

Becker eventually called 911, asking for medical assistance. When firefighters and police arrived on scene, Becker told officials that her husband "deserved it," said Nightengale. Police found the man, who remains unidentified, tied to the bed and "bleeding profusely." Becker was arrested on several charges, including aggravated mayhem, false imprisonment and assault with a deadly weapon. (read more)

The Coming Crisis' contribution to this article: "Ow." -- Matt

Criminal imprisoned for child sex crimes allowed to view child porn in jail

A man accused of child sex crimes is allowed to view child pornography in the Pierce County Jail in Tacoma.

The sheriff and the prosecutor don't like it. But Weldon Marc Gilbert is acting as his own lawyer in the case and that means he's allowed to review the evidence.

More than 100 videos were seized from Gilbert's Lake Tapps home after his arrest in 2007. Gilbert worked as a pilot and is accused of using money and alcohol to lure more than a dozen boys to his home where they were molested.

KIRO-FM reports that when Gilbert views his videos in the jail he's with an investigator in a separate room visible to jail guards. (source)

Thieves Make Off With Vineyard’s Irrigation System



Thieves crushed a grape crop when they took off with the tools that help a local vineyard to grow.

Grape grower Frank Rashid was on track for a record-breaking year.

“See how beautiful?” said Rashid, gesturing toward his grapes.

But in an instant, thieves crippled all of his hard work.

“A lot of trouble for me, [and] the grapes; I can lose the crop, you know,” said Rashid.

Bad guys stole the grape irrigation system worth more than $10,000. And now, his petite syrah grapes are starting to shrivel away.

Rashid says someone walked on to the 14-acre family vineyard over the weekend and went straight for the pair of tanks.

Each tank has a pump.

“And we have here a flush controller,” said Rashid.

A valve and a motor, and that’s not all.

“These parts would hold the filter pressure pump, and they took it out,” said Rashid.

In his 12 years of growing grapes, Rashid has never been hit by thieves. He believes the criminals will cash in his equipment as scrap metal. He plans to install a fence — and even cameras — to protect his crop. (read more)

Dallas City Hall workers receive counseling for "too much Facebook"

Constantly checking Facebook at work may get you in trouble.

Two dozen Dallas City Hall workers received reprimands or counseling after a recent probe showed they spent too much time on the social networking site.

“It’s [Facebook at work] definitely on the ‘bad idea’ side,” said Dallas attorney Travis Crabtree. “You hear lots of horror stories out there about employees posting things about how they’re either playing hooky, or just fiddling around while they’re at the office and getting in trouble for it when their boss sees it.”

City officials are working on new employee guidelines for social media use. Dallas City Manager Mary Suhm says employees aren’t allowed to do personal business when they’re being paid by taxpayers.

“Computer equipment belongs to the company and technically your time belongs to the company too, while you’re there,” said Crabtree. (read more)

Concord Could Fine Students $500 For Cutting Class

It could soon cost kids, and parents in Concord upwards of $500 if the teenager continues to cut class.

There’s no question about it, said Mayor Laura Hoffmeister, Concord police have their hands full with truant kids these days.

“Often they’re finding that the kid they return at 11 a.m. is back out at 12:30,” said Hoffmeister.

This prompted school officials to look into a school day curfew ordinance. After a general warning, kids and their parents would be fined $100 after the first offense, $200 after the second, and $500 after the third.

Adults in the area seem to largely support the idea, while teenagers are predictably against the proposal.

Kids who had a legitimate reason to be out of school would not be impacted. The proposal goes to a vote by the entire city council at their meeting Tuesday night. (read more)

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Leiby Kletzky, 8, Dismembered body found after Levi Aron Confessed 'I Killed him in a Panic' when missing boy became high profile - 13th July 2011

A man has confessed to the brutal murder of Hasidic eight-year-old Leiby Kletzky, saying he dismembered the child's body in a 'panic' after the search for the boy became high profile, it has been reported.

Leiby was abducted while walking home alone for the first time from the Brooklyn-based Boyan Day Camp on 44th Street on Monday afternoon, sparking a city-wide police search.

But by the time authorities tracked down 35-year-old Levi Aron, the boy's alleged captor, it was already too late, with the gruesome discovery of the child's body, dismembered and hidden in a fridge and a dumpster.

Aron, who works as a security guard in Kensington, was seized by police after he was spotted with the child on CCTV.

Footage showed him enter a dentist's office while the boy waited for him on the street, before he re-emerged and led Leiby to his car.

Detectives eventually managed to source the man's address after retrieving patient records from the practice, but by the time they raided his home, Leiby had been killed. Read More


HIV breakthough as scientists discover pill used to treat Aids can also 'prevent disease' - 13th July 2011

Drugs used to treat Aids can also prevent against HIV, according to new research.

The findings provide the latest evidence that drugs which control the symptoms of Aids might also hold the key to stopping the spread of the disease.

Although these treatments have been used since the mid-1990s, it is only recently that doctors have recognised their potential as preventative medicine.

Two new studies involving African couples found that taking Aids medication daily reduced infection rates by over 60 per cent.

In the larger of the studies, 4,578 Kenyan and Ugandan couples were given tenofovir, a drug made by Gilead Sciences and marketed under the name Viread. In each couple one partner was HIV-positive and one negative.

The rate of infection for the HIV-negative partners taking tenofovir was 62 per cent lower than a control group. For those taking Truvada, a mix of tenofovir and emtricitabine, the rate of infection was 73 per cent lower than normal.

Similarly, a study involving over 1,200 people in Botswana found that those taking Truvada daily reduced their risk of HIV infection by 62.6 per cent. Read More

The Milky Way so close you can almost taste it - 13th July 2011

A star-gazer has come a little bit closer to the final frontier - after spending 18 months photographing the night sky.

With just an ordinary digital camera, Alex Cherney turned thousands of snaps into an incredible time-lapse video of the cosmos.

Using long exposures to allow more light in, these breath-taking pictures from the southern tip of Australia demonstrate how he captured the dramatic way the sky changes at night.

The pictures show planets, shooting stars, the Milky Way, the Moon, satellites and planes as well as rolling clouds, changing tides and passing ships on the horizon. Read More

Katla Volcano REGION has just registered a 3.1 Magnitude Earthquake - 13th July 2011



A 3.1 Magnitude Earthquake has been registered near Katla Volcano at 16:04:04 Wednesday 13th July 2011 at a depth of just 1.1 km

Multiple blasts reported in Mumbai as India placed on high alert



At least two people were killed and 100 others injured in a series of explosions that rocked congested areas of India's bustling financial capital, Mumbai, India's Home Secretary R.K. Singh said Wednesday.

CNN's sister station CNN-IBN reported at least eight deaths, citing local police.

Police said the explosions occurred within minutes of one another in the Dadar, Opera House and Zaveri Bazaar areas, all busy commercial areas that were certainly teeming with people in the evening rush hour.

"The sound was absolutely deafening," said Hemant Mehta, who was in the Opera House area, near Mumbai's diamond market, a small epicenter of the city's economy.

Everyone looked up, he said. At first, some thought that heavy rains had caused a building to collapse. He told CNN-IBN that he was sure the sheer panic would cause a stampede.

The area in Dadar is near a train station used by millions of commuters. Zaveri Bazzar is near a Hindu temple, in which some people were injured, Mumbai police representative Nisar Tamboli told CNN-IBN. Zaveri Bazaar was one of the scenes of a twin bombing in 2003 that killed 54 people.

Authorities issued high security alerts for the Indian capital, New Delhi, and the eastern city of Kolkata, CNN-IBN reported.

Chhagan Bhujbal, the Maharashtra state's public works minister, told CNN-IBN that the intensity of the blasts was not known.

Witnesses told CNN-IBN that their window panes shook and they heard the thundering boom of the blasts. Workers who had not left their offices were advised not to venture out. (read more)

Gold soars to record on debt fears

The price of gold hit a record high Wednesday as investors continued to flock to the precious metal as a perceived safe haven amid global financial turmoil.

In early New York trading, August gold futures contracts soared $17.70 to $1,580 US an ounce. Spot gold prices also hit a record.

Gold has risen for eight straight trading sessions as European debt worries gained new traction. Tuesday's downgrade of Ireland's credit rating to junk status also rattled financial markets.

"With European sovereign debt fears intensifying again, [and] little clarity on what Eurozone officials intend to do next …, gold has been a beneficiary," said UBS analyst Edel Tully in a report. “This should, in theory, be gold’s time to shine as a safe haven and as an alternative currency.”

The inability of the White House and Republican leaders to reach a deal on the U.S. debt ceiling added to gold's appeal, analysts said. (read more)

Obama, lawmakers fail to reach middle ground on debt talks



Top lawmakers are set to meet with President Barack Obama at the White House for the fourth straight day Wednesday as leaders from both political parties struggle to reach a deal to raise the nation's debt ceiling and avoid a potential economic calamity.

Administration officials have warned that a failure to raise the current $14.3 trillion ceiling by August 2 could trigger a partial default. If Washington lacks the money to pay its bills, interest rates could skyrocket and the value of the dollar could decline, among other things.

Obama said Tuesday he cannot guarantee older Americans will receive their Social Security checks next month if a deal is not reached.

"There may simply not be the money in the coffers to do it," the president told CBS News. (read more)

ANALYSIS: Why Canadians should care about a U.S. debt default

When even the U.S. Treasury refers to the possibility of a debt default by the American government as "an unprecedented event in American history that would precipitate another financial crisis," that tends to get the world's attention.

The doomsday scenario is certainly scary: A default causes global interest rates to soar as debt priced in the world's most liquid currency comes to be regarded as more risky, banks become more reluctant to lend — even to each other — and debt, the lifeblood of business investment, becomes less available.

As well, stock markets sell off and plunge the world into another recession.

And Canada, as an exporting country doing three quarters of its trade with the U.S., would share in that pain.

"The nuclear option," Peter Buchanan, senior economist at CIBC World Markets, told CBC News, "is certainly something one doesn't really want to think about."

But whether the sky will fall on Canada if lawmakers in its biggest trading partner don't manage to do a deal on raising their debt ceiling, cutting spending and lowering taxes is far from certain. (read more)

Is Libya's military falling apart? (Or is it just more propaganda?)

Italy's borrowing costs soar as economy teeters on the brink



Italy's borrowing costs soared to their highest level in over a decade amid highly volatile trading as market contagion from Greece forced Silvio Berlusconi to appeal for national unity and "sacrifices" to cut the nation's debt mountain.

"We are in the front line of this battle," Mr Berlusconi said, describing a crisis that threatened all of Europe and the future of its common currency.

The Italian prime minister's appeal -- the most sombre in his three years in charge of his centre-right government -- was intended to rebut widespread criticism in the Italian media and the markets that his coalition was rudderless and divided by disputes between him and Giulio Tremonti, finance minister.

"We have to eliminate any doubts over the efficacy and credibility of our budget," Mr Berlusconi said, insisting that the €40bn package would eliminate Italy's budget deficit by 2014.

Opposition party leaders in Rome pledged their co-operation in parliament to pass the government's three-year austerity programme by Friday in time for a possible emergency summit of EU leaders in Brussels that day.

"This would be a record in Italian history," Enrico Letta of the opposition Democrats told the Financial Times. "Never before has a budget been passed in five days." (read more)

"Flying car" cleared for road use

Bernanke says more support possible if economy weakens

The chairman of the Federal Reserve, Ben Bernanke, has said the US central bank is prepared to renew stimulus efforts if the economy remains weak.

The Fed's second quantitative easing programme (QE2) ended two weeks ago.

Speaking to members of Congress, Mr Bernanke also said the US could expect only "moderate" growth over the coming quarters.

He added that the inflation pressures seen in the first half of 2011 were "transitory" and should ease.

He cited higher commodity prices and the earthquake in Japan, which led to parts shortages and drove up vehicle prices, as reasons for why inflation picked up.

The Fed expects to keep its ultra-low interest rate policy in place "for an extended period", he said.

The dollar extended earlier losses against the euro following Mr Bernanke's comments, with the euro rising more than a cent to $1.4088. (read more)

US wars leave 225,000 dead, cost $4.4 trillion: study

US wars launched since the attacks of September 11, 2001 have left 225,000 dead and cost up to $4.4 trillion, according to a new study by university researchers.

The study published by Brown University this week focused on the wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and counter-terrorism campaigns in Pakistan and Yemen, which came in the wake of the 9/11 attacks on the United States.

The authors argued that governments almost always go to war underestimating the potential duration and costs of a conflict while overestimating "the political objectives that can be accomplished by the use of brute force."

The study said "an extremely conservative estimate" of the casualty toll was about 225,000 people killed and 365,000 wounded in the wars so far.

The number of soldiers killed comes to 31,741, including about 6,000 Americans, 1,200 allied troops, 9,900 Iraqis, 8,800 Afghans, 3,500 Pakistanis as well as 2,300 US private security contractors, it said.

The civilian toll was much higher, with an estimated 172,000 dead, including about 125,000 Iraqis, 35,000 Pakistanis and 12,000 Afghans, it said.

The study acknowledged that estimating the number of dead was difficult, particularly the toll for insurgents, putting the number at between 20,000 to 51,000 insurgents killed.

The report found that 168 reporters and 266 humanitarian workers were among the dead since the United States launched its "war on terror" after 9/11.

The wars also have triggered a massive flow of refugees and displaced persons, with more than 7.8 million displaced, mostly in Iraq and Afghanistan, it said.

The study estimated the financial cost of the wars at a minimum of $3.7 trillion and up to $4.4 trillion, which represents about a quarter of the country's current debt. (read more)

Iran smuggles weapons to Iraq, Afghanistan: report

The Iranian military smuggled new deadly munitions to its allies in Iraq and Afghanistan in recent months in order to to accelerate the US withdrawals from these countries, The Wall Street Journal reported late Friday

Citing unnamed US officials, the newspaper said the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps has supplied its allies with rocket-assisted exploding projectiles, which have already killed American troops.

The officials said Iranians had also given long-range rockets to the Taliban in Afghanistan, increasing the insurgents' ability to hit US and other coalition positions from a safer distance, the report said.

"I think we are likely to see these Iranian-backed groups continue to maintain high attack levels," Major General James Buchanan, the top US military spokesman in Iraq, told The Journal. "But they are not going to deter us from doing everything we can to help the Iraqi security forces."

Violence killed more Iraqis last month than at any time since September, figures showed on Friday after the US reported deaths that also made June the deadliest month for its troops in Iraq for three years.

The Baghdad government blames Al-Qaeda for most of the 271 deaths of its citizens last month, while the US military accuses Iranian-backed Shiite insurgent groups for the attacks that killed 14 Americans.

Data compiled by the health, interior and defence ministries showed that 155 civilians, 77 policemen and 39 soldiers died in attacks last month, 34 percent more than the 177 killed in May. (read more)

Times Writers Group: Historical errors abound

One of my favorite parts of “The Tonight Show with Jay Leno” is Jaywalking, in which the host interviews everyday people about anything from current events to religion and history — especially history.

While I find the bit hysterical, I’m dismayed at how little the average person knows about even the most basic history.

Those interviewed — often college students or young professionals — think Washington, D.C. is in the state of Washington or that the Civil War ended about 1920. When shown a picture of President Franklin Roosevelt riding on the back of a car, one young woman said he was Thomas Jefferson. Nevermind cars would not be invented for another 11 years after Jefferson!

It’s not only college students and 20-somethings on a TV show who mangle American history. In the past few months, our 6th District U.S. Rep. Michele Bachmann (now running for president) and former Alaskan Gov. Sarah Palin, who ran for vice president in 2008, have made bloopers in history.

More disturbing, many Americans either don’t realize there’s been a mistake or don’t care that a person running for the highest office in the land doesn’t know even basic facts about our country.

Columbia University professor Simon Schama pins down a few of these historical gaffes in his recent Newsweek magazine column. He points out reality, not the idealized myths perpetrated by today’s politicians saying what they believe voters want to hear.

In citing Bachmann’s comment of the Founding Fathers working “tirelessly until slavery was no more in the United States,” he not only notes how Southern politicians of that era owned slaves, but what made the U.S. Constitution acceptable throughout the Union was a section that counted slaves as three-fifths of a citizen. This gave the slaveholding South a greater population and more congressional representation. (read more)

A new arms race in the Arctic

Over the weekend, Canadian Defence Minister Peter MacKay and Chief of the Defence Staff General Walter Natynczyk visited the Canadian military contingent in Kandahar, Afghanistan. Their mission was to thank and congratulate the troops which are leaving Afghanistan this week. But, even while foreign (including Canadian) troops are being withdrawn from the country leaving behind a complete chaos with unpredictable consequences, Canada does not seem to be losing the military momentum. Its aircraft are taking part in the NATO-led operation against Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. And the Defence Minister used the visit to Kandahar to declare new far-reaching plans for the Canadian military.

He declared that in August about 1,000 Canadian troops will take part in a massive military exercise Nanook (Polar Bear) in the Canadian sector of the Arctic. “It will be the largest operation that has taken place in recent history,” said Mr. MacKay.

The question is, what prompted the Canadian military to shift their attention from Afghanistan and Middle East to the High – latitude Northern areas? Definitely, they must be realizing that the war in Afghanistan is lost. More so, it has never been a Canadian war. Neither is the war in Libya.

But the High Arctic is an area of vital importance for Canada. And some observers are even toying with different scenarios of a Third World War taking place around the North Pole. (read more)

5.0 Magnitude Earthquake KERMADEC ISLANDS - 13th July 2011

A magnitude 5.0 earthquake has struck Kermadec Islands at a depth of 39 km ( 24.2 miles), the quake hit at 15:27:06 UTC Wednesday 13th July 2011.
The epicenter was 258 km (160 miles) South East of L'Esperance Rock, Kermadec Islands

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

Mumbai Triple Bomb explosions kills 15 and Injures Dozens, New Delhi placed on HIGH alert: India

India was put on high alert after three almost simultaneous explosions rocked Mumbai on Wednesday, killing at least 15 people, injuring a dozen and sending the country’s financial centre into chaos.

The Mumbai police said that the explosions appeared to be the work of terrorists and confirmed that there had been three bomb blasts at separate sites across the city. The National Investigation Agency was rushed to the scene and officials from Delhi were reported to be flying to Mumbai.

News agencies quoted police as saying up to 15 people had been killed in two of the blasts and 60 injured. Nobody has so far claimed responsibility for Wednesday’s attacks.

Mumbai was the target of a terrorist strike in November 2008, which killed 166 people when Pakistani gunmen targeted the city’s luxury hotels and main train station. Those attacks shook the city and soured diplomatic relations between India and Pakistan.


Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan’s president, and Yusuf Raza Gilani, the prime minister, immediately condemned Wednesday’s blasts and expressed their sympathy with the Indian leadership for the loss of lives and property.


One explosion took place at Zaveri Bazaar, the heart of the city gold trade, and another in the Opera House district, both in the south of the city. At least 15 people were killed and as many as 60 injured in these two blasts, Arup Patnaik, city police commissioner, told reporters

The third blast occurred in the centre of Mumbai at Dadar, the heartland of the city’s Hindu fundamentalist Shiv Sena party


Sunny Ghandi, a diamond merchant who witnessed the Opera House blast, told the FT: “I was coming out of the elevator [in my office] and the moment I got out I heard a blast. It was about 60 metres away. It was crazy but luckily I got out. There was something close to a stampede. Everybody was trying to run away from the blast.”


Ankit Joshi, a chartered accountant who works in the Opera House area, told the FT that five or six people were badly injured after what he described as a huge blast. People were helping to take the injured to a nearby hospital by motorbike.


The blasts, which happened just before 7pm at the peak of Mumbai’s rush hour, caused congestion and clogged the mobile phone network Source


Retired Army Col. John Alexander Says UFOs Are Real, but Denies Government Cover-Up - 23rd Feb 2011

Whether you believe or disbelieve the notion that UFOs are visitors from another planet, a former highly decorated military officer now comes forward with information that may infuriate those on both sides in the ongoing ET debate.

Retired Col. John Alexander, using his military savvy and high security clearance, spent a quarter of a century going through the top levels of the U.S. government and military searching for the group of people who were allegedly responsible for UFO information and the supposedly decades-old UFO cover-up.

His conclusions: Not only is there no such group and no cover-up, but disclosure about UFOs has already occurred on different official levels.

With so many people crying out these days for the U.S. government or the United Nations or even the Vatican to issue some sort of "we are not alone in the universe" disclosure statement, Alexander says the information has been dripping out all around us, over decades, with top officials casually making statements about UFOs.

He references this 1950 remark made by President Harry Truman: "I can assure you the flying saucers, given that they exist, are not constructed by any power on Earth."

"Disclosure has happened," Alexander added. "It starts with former presidents Truman, Carter, Reagan and [the Soviet Union's] Gorbachev. I've got stacks of generals, including Soviet generals, who've come out and said UFOs are real. My point is, how many times do senior officials need to come forward and say this is real?" Alexander told AOL News. Read More

A newly-discovered fossil is said to offer 'proof' that the dinosaurs were wiped from the face of the Earth by a giant meteor strike - 13th July 2011

Archaeologists have unearthed a single 45cm-long fossilised browhorn belonging to a group of herbivores that included the famous Triceratops, at a geological site in the south-east of Montana, US.

While this is, in itself, not an unusual find, it is the placement of the fossil in the rock that is most important.

The fossil was found just 13cm below the layer of rock known as the Cretaceous-Tertiary - the point in rock formation that marks the extinction of the dinosaurs.

Scientists now believe this offers proof that dinosaurs were alive right up until the point where they suddenly disappeared - adding weight to the theory that they were suddenly and abruptly killed off.

mportantly, this find bridges the three-million-year time gap between the death of the dinosaurs and the impact of a giant meteor, which hit the Earth near Mexico around 65million years ago.

'This discovery provides some evidence that dinosaurs didn't slowly die out before the meteor struck,' Dr Tyler Lyson of Yale University explained.

'The fact that this specimen was so close to the boundary indicates that at least some dinosaurs were doing fine right up until the impact.'

Scientists have previously identified more than 1,000 species of non-avian dinosaur - however, including birds this number jumps to more than 8,000. Source

A 19-year-old British teenager has been killed in a stabbing on the Greek island of Zante - 13th July 2011

A 19-year-old British teenager has been killed in a stabbing on the Greek island of Zante, according to reports.

Violence reportedly flared in the beach resort of Laganas in the early hours of Wednesday morning after the teenager and four friends angered two local taxi drivers by shining laser torches at them.

A scuffle then broke out between the men and the youths outside a fast food restaurant.

A police official said: "He used a knife and stabbed all five. One of them died, the other four were hospitalised, but they are not in a serious condition."

Another official said the deceased was stabbed in the heart. Source

More dead fish in Oklahoma - 12th July 2011


Large numbers of dead fish continue to show up in waters all over Oklahoma. Today we talked with local fishermen in Marshall County about what they've been experiencing.

"I don't know whether they run out of oxygen or what it is they ought to be able to test the water and find out." said Jack Campbell.

Jack Campbell has been fishing Wilson Creek all his life.
He says 3 weeks ago, small fish started dying and now large fish, many more than 40 and 50 pounds are dying as well.

Out here at Wilson Creek in Marshall County you can see literally thousands of dead fish lining the shore line. People have been coming all day and taking pictures, but they don't hang around very long because the smell is unbearable.

Marshall County residents wonder if the dead fish in their area could somehow be connected to those in the Red River, but state biologist Matt Mauck says he doesn't think so.

Mauck says they have tested the Wilson Creek water, and they feel confident they know why those fish died.

"The Wilson Creek fish are dying as a result of lack of oxygen. This has been measured through some water sampling equipment." Mauck said.

While Mauck says low oxygen levels killed the fish in Wilson Creek, they're still trying to figure out what is still killing fish in the Red River.

"We are still examining all possible sources of the fish kill, and we will hopefully have more concrete evidence and ideas of what's going on within a few days." said Mauck. Read More

Huge underwater volcanoes mapped near Antarctica In a first for the region, a dozen massive peaks, some active, are discovered - 12th July 2011

A string of a dozen volcanoes, at least several of them active, has been found beneath the frigid seas near Antarctica, the first such discovery in that region.

Some of the peaks tower nearly 10,000 feet above the ocean floor — nearly tall enough to break the water's surface.

"That's a big volcano. That's a very big volcano. If that was on land it would be quite remarkable," said Philip Leat, a volcanologist with the British Antarctic Survey who led a seafloor mapping expedition to the region in 2007 and 2010.

The group of 12 underwater mountains lies south of the South Sandwich Islands — desolate, ice-covered volcanoes that rise above the southern Atlantic Ocean about halfway between South America and South Africa and erupted as recently as 2008. It's the first time such a large number of undersea volcanoes has been found together in the Antarctic region.

Leat said the survey team was somewhat surprised by the find.

"We knew there were other volcanoes in the area, but we didn't go trying to find volcanoes," Leat told OurAmazingPlanet. "We just went because there was a big blank area on the map and we had no idea what was there; we just wanted to fill in the seafloor." Read More

Typhoid fever downs 27 in Quezon, Philipppines - 13th July 2011

At least 27 villagers have been hospitalized in General Nakar, Quezon, due to typhoid fever.

A report by dzMM radio said that according to local health officials, drinking contaminated water could have been behind the sudden increase in typhoid fever cases in Barangay Anoling.

The health officials said that 27 residents of Barangay Anoling have been rushed to the C.M. Rector hospital in nearby Infanta town and General Nakar Municipal Health Center since June 31.

One person identified as Benny Soliano has also died, but health officials have yet to determine if the victim was suffering from typhoid fever at the time of his death.

The local health office has taken blood samples from the victims. The samples have been brought to the Department of Health office in Manila for analysis. Source

42 injured in commuter train crash in São Paulo, Brazil - 13th July 2011

At least 42 people were injured in the collision of two commuter trains in São Paulo, according to Brazil's rescue service.

At the time of the incident one of the trains was motionless at a station.

The second train, which contained about 600 passengers, collided with it for unknown reasons.

According to doctors, most of the injured suffered non-life-threatening injuries due to the low speed at impact. Source

Torrential Rain Hits Metro Area, Northeast Colorado - 12th July 2011

Torrential rain hit the Denver metro area Tuesday night, flooding streets and some buildings and prompting calls for water rescues.

There were numerous reports of cars stalled in high water, with people on the roofs of their cars, requiring rescue.

The monsoon moisture moved from the southwest to northeast across the metro area, pounding the downtown area starting just after 9 p.m.

Drains clogged, backing up water to over curbs in some areas, including in front of the 7NEWS building at Speer Boulevard and Lincoln Street.

The National Weather Service had previously issued a Flash Flood Warning, but it was for Elbert County. Denver was under a Flash Flood Watch and a Severe Thunderstorm Warning.

Lightning lit up the night sky across the Front Range, prompting flight delays from ground holds at Denver International Airport. Read More

Heavy rain causes flooding in Eckville, Canada - 12th July 2011

Heavy rains in central Alberta caused flooding in the town of Eckville Monday.

"People are just kind of dumbstruck," resident Sharon Walker said. "We have had washouts of roads. Some people have got 10 to 14 inches of water in their basements ... we've never seen anything like it."

Signs of flooding were everywhere Tuesday. Belongings from water-filled basements were out on lawns and there was a sinkhole on the side of a busy road.

About 100 houses were flooded in the town and more than 700 customers lost power for about 12 hours.

"There's a lot of damage in the basement. Backyard — there's quite a bit of damage," said John Parsons. At one point, the water was up to his hips. His insurance company has told him it could be three to six months before his house is back to normal.

The heavy rain also had an effect on roads outside town.

A portion of Highway 766 west of Rimbey is closed. Drivers using Highway 766 between Eckville and Highway 12 and Highway 53 west of Rimbey are asked to use caution because of water running across the surface of the road.

A rainfall warning is in effect for the area Tuesday with amounts expected to exceed 60 millimeters. Read More

Man attacked by bees in Tucson park dies - 12th July 2011

A 46-year-old man attacked by a swarm of bees Friday night at a west-side park has died from the stings, an official said Tuesday.

Oscar Navarro was stung hundreds of times while walking near the Steve Daru Clubhouse of the Boys & Girls Clubs at 1375 N. El Rio Drive, which is in Joaquin Murrieta Park.

An autopsy Tuesday revealed that Navarro died from “mass envenomation”, which means venom from the bee stings, said Dr. Gregory Hess, Pima County chief medical examiner.

Tucson Fire Department firefighters sprayed the bees with a foam before they could get to Navarro and render aid. He was taken by paramedics to St. Mary’s Hospital in serious condition. He arrived at 6:52 p.m. and was pronounced dead at 7:13 p.m., Hess said.

“You can be stung so many times that you have difficulty breathing and your blood pressure drops. You die from the massive amount of venom,” Hess said.

Navarro was the first death from a bee attack this year in Pima County, Hess said. Last year, there also was one bee attack fatality, and that victim was an undocumented migrant who crossed the border illegally, Hess said. Source