Thursday, July 21, 2011

Bones of Hitler Deputy Rudolf Hess Exhumed, Burned... Because They Were Becoming a Neo-Nazi Shrine

The bones of Adolf Hitler's deputy, Rudolf Hess, have been removed from their grave in a small Bavarian town that had become a pilgrimage site for neo-Nazis.

Before dawn Wednesday, workers exhumed Hess's bones from the grave in the Wunsiedel cemetery, then cremated the remains and scattered them secretly in a lake, whose name and location are not being divulged, cemetery administrator Andreas Fabel told The Associated Press.

"The grave is now empty," he said on Thursday. "The bones are gone."

Hess was captured in 1941 when he parachuted into Scotland on a mission to negotiate peace between Britain and Germany.

The attempt was denounced by Hitler, and Hess later told British authorities that the Nazi leader knew nothing of it.

In recent years, Hess has come to be seen as a martyr by the far-right and thousands of neo-Nazis have used the anniversary of his death as an occasion to hold large rallies, with Wunsiedel -- near the Czech border -- often a focal point.

Most such rallies have been banned since stricter laws were implemented in 2005, but the grave continued to attract far-right extremists to the town. (more)

Texas Inmate Mark "Arab Slayer" Stroman Executed Despite Victim's Forgiveness



Texas inmate Mark Anthony Stroman was executed Wednesday for the killing of a man from India in what Stroman believed to be revenge for the September 11, 2001, attacks, a spokesman for the Texas Department of Criminal Justice said.

Stroman was put to death at 9:53 p.m. ET, the spokesman said.

Stroman, 41, made national headlines after he fatally shot Vasudev Patel during a shooting rampage after the 9/11 attacks. An admitted white supremacist, Stroman targeted those he believed were Middle Eastern in revenge for the attacks.

Patel was shot at the Mesquite, Texas, gas station that he operated.

A Pakistani man, Waqar Hasan, was also killed, and a Bangladeshi man, Rais Bhuiyan, was seriously wounded in separate attacks committed by Stroman, prosecutors said. (more)

What isn't mentioned in this article was that Rais Bhuiyan had forgiven his attacker and fought ardently for him not to be executed, arguing that doing so would hurt society more than practicing forgiveness. Might have been an interesting exploration, but I guess now we'll never know.

All eyes on Hurricane Dora, the category 4 storm hurtling toward Mexico

Congress curbs enthusiasm for 'Gang of Six' plan to solve US debt crisis

The burst of enthusiasm for the "Gang of Six" debt reduction plan as a way out of the debt ceiling crisis has appeared to fade as Democratic and Republican lawmakers studied and found fault with the details of the proposal.

Most notably, both sides highlighted well-worn party-line divisions: conservatives complained the plan would raise taxes while liberals warned it would cut entitlement benefits.

"It would be irresponsible for us to try to rush through such a complex package without time for meaningful review," said Sen. Jeff Sessions, the top Republican on the Budget Committee who said his staff has already identified "serious flaws" with the proposal.

"This great 'Gang of Six' would save $4 trillion over 10 years," Rep. Peter DeFazio, a liberal Democrat from Oregon, said sarcastically. "Seniors will pay more. Working people will pay more. Veterans will pay more. Rich people not so much. But it would save $4 trillion over 10 years."

Despite some strong pushback from liberal groups and labor unions to the proposed changes to entitlement programs, House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi seemed to leave the door open to the plan, telling reporters, "We haven't seen it but it has some good principles in it." (more)

Two confirmed dead in chopper crash in Sydney suburb

TWO people are confirmed dead after a helicopter crashed in bushland in a northern Sydney suburb this morning.

About 9.15am, police responded to reports the Bell 206 helicopter had crashed into bushland at South Turramurra near Kissing Point Road.

Two people are now confirmed to have died in the crash. The sex and ages of the deceased are not yet known.

Emergency services are still trying to confirm the number of people on board.

The helicopter is in fairly inaccessible location in rugged bushland near the Ku-ring-gai Netball Association courts, and emergency services are having to be winched into the crash site.

Kevin Williams, who is a volunteer with the Ku-ring-gai Netball Association, told the North Shore Times he was in the clubhouse at the time of the accident. (more)

Corruption Charges for 111 Officials at Mexico Attorney General's Office

The Mexican Attorney General's Office says 111 of its officials have been charged with fraud, embezzlement and abuse of power and 192 others have been fired for botching investigations.

Inspector General Cesar Alejandro Chavez says dozens of other agents and prosecutors are being investigated on criminal charges.

The fired officials are accused of carrying out illegal raids, receiving bribes and freeing suspects.

Chavez says it is the largest purge at the agency since President Felipe Calderon took office in December 2006, declaring a war on drug cartels. (more)

12 dead, 45 injured in Malawi protests in Malawi Anti-Government Demonstrations

Twelve people have died in national protests that erupted in Malawi, government officials said as demonstrations continued for a second day Thursday.

Nine people died in Mzuzu, in the northern part of Malawi, on Wednesday, Ministry of Health spokesman Henry Chimbali said. Another died in Karonga district, also in the northern region.

It was not immediately clear how the 10 died, but officials were investigating, Chimbali said. Sources at Mzuzu Central Hospital who requested anonymity said the victims had been shot.

Two other people were fatally shot in Blantyre in the southern part of the nation, police spokesman Superintendent Davie Chingwalu said.

Amnesty International called for an immediate investigation into the Mzuzu deaths, asserting that security forces were responsible.

"At least 44 other people, including six children, are being treated for gunshot wounds at Mzuzu Central Hospital," the human rights organization said in a statement.

The protests began Wednesday as people demanded immediate action from the government on Malawi's economy and government issues. (more)

Commentary: Vietnam war a 'Haunting Legacy' -- will the same be said of today's American Imperialism?

f journalism is the first draft of history, the current phase of journalism with blogs, tweets and miscellaneous bells and whistles is once-over-lightly history that bears little relation to reality.

Mercifully, there are exceptions. Some journalists still spend five or more years researching a subject they already know well and that has already generated scores of books -- but the brass ring on history's carousel is infuriatingly elusive.

This time nonpareil journalist/scholar Marvin Kalb and daughter Deborah Kalb have documented how Vietnam's "Haunting Legacy" has spooked every U.S. president from Ford to Obama. And the richly deserved brass ring is in the family vault.

Most Vietnam War books have been written by journalists who were part-time war correspondents who had made up their minds -- many of them before their first reporting stint in the rice paddies or the highlands -- the United States didn't belong in Vietnam. They saw the United States as a clumsy, purposeless giant grinding up poor defenseless Vietnamese whose only ambition was freedom and democracy. (more)

A New Surge In American Job Layoffs

As Congress and the President wrangle over who will pay for the New Austerity—guess who!—and Larry Summers seeks a guarantee that no big financial institution in any country should be allowed to fail, the Real Economy is suffering through a new surge of layoffs. The Wall Street Journal tells the story in Layoffs Deepen Gloom.

Layoffs_unwelcome_uptick Companies are laying off employees at a level not seen in nearly a year, hobbling the job market and intensifying fears about the pace of the economic recovery.

Cisco Systems Inc., Lockheed Martin Corp. and troubled bookstore chain Borders Group Inc. are among those that have recently announced hefty cuts, while recent government numbers underscore how companies have shifted toward cutting jobs.

The increase in layoffs is a key reason why the U.S. recorded an average of only 21,500 new jobs over the past two months, far below the level needed to bring down unemployment, which now stands at 9.2%.

The cuts also reflect the shifting outlook of employers, many of whom had expected the economy to gain speed as the year progressed. Instead, growth has faltered. If the pace continues to disappoint, more companies will feel pressure to pull back. "Layoffs have played a big role [in weak job growth] over the last few months," said Mike Montgomery, an economist at IHS Global Insight. "The soft patch is more layoffs and nothing else to pick up the slack."

In May, U.S. public and private employers shed 1.78 million workers, the highest level since August 2010. Among those layoffs, 1.66 million were from the private sector [graph above].
Other data indicate that employers are cutting more jobs. The government's most recent comprehensive jobs report, released in early July, showed the number of people out of work for less than five weeks—a figure many economists use as a proxy for layoffs, since it tallies those recently let go—grew 15.5% from May to June to a total of 3.1 million. (more)

UK: 34,000 police jobs to be axed in country where crime is already on the rise

Her Majesty's Inspectorate of Constabulary said that about 16,200 police officers - more than one in ten - will be axed by 2015 amid fears crime could go up by 3 per cent.

Up to 1,800 community support officers and 16,100 police staff will also go as part of an overall reduction of 14 per cent, the study of 43 forces across England and Wales said.

Protecting frontline policing will be "very challenging" over the next 18 months, inspectors found.

"Forces will have to transform their efficiency if they are to protect frontline services," the report added.

Roger Baker, of HMIC, said it "went without saying" that forces were facing their biggest financial challenge in a generation. (more)

Wall St. Makes Fallback Plans for Debt Crisis

Lawmakers in Washington are racing to reach a deal to save the country from defaulting on its debt, but on Wall Street, financial players are devising doomsday plans in case the clock runs out.

These companies are taking steps to reduce the risk of holding Treasury bonds or angling for ways to make profits from any possible upheaval. And even if a deal is reached in Washington, some in the industry fear that the dickering has already harmed the country’s market credibility.

On Wall Street, Treasuries function like a currency, and investors often use these bonds, which are supposed to be virtually fail-proof, as security deposits in their trading in the markets. Now, banks are sifting through their holdings and their customers’ holdings to determine if these security deposits will retain their value. In addition, mutual funds — which own billions of dollars in Treasuries — are working on presentations to persuade their boards that they can hold the bonds even if the government debt is downgraded. And hedge funds are stockpiling cash so they can buy up United States debt if other investors flee.

The rating agencies, which control the fateful decision of whether the nation deserves to have its credit standing downgraded, are surveying other entities that would be affected by a United States default — like insurance companies and states — and issuing warnings that a United States downgrade could result in several other ratings cuts. States that might be downgraded, in turn, are trying to reassure the market that they could still pay their bills on time. (more)

Iraq, Iran issue border demands after clashes -- A sign of things to come?

Iran must respect its borders with Iraq, authorities in Iraqi Kurdistan said on Tuesday, after Tehran's forces clashed with Iranian Kurdish rebels leaving several people dead.

Iranian security officials, however, fired back by demanding that Iraq prevent the Party of Free Life of Kurdistan (PJAK) from attacking Iran from bases located within Iraq.

The rhetoric on all sides has heated up in recent days, barely a week after Iranian officials stated that they reserved the right to attack PJAK bases in Iraq's autonomous Kurdish region.

"We demand Iran respect the sovereignty of the Kurdistan region as part of the sovereignty of Iraq," regional government spokesman Qawa Mahmud told AFP, a day after Iran said it had taken "full control" of three PJAK camps on Iraqi soil.

"There was Iranian infiltration along the Iraqi border," Mahmud added. "If there is any border problem, the best way to resolve it is through negotiations and peace, not by bombing civilians."

In Tehran, a senior officer in Iran's elite Revolutionary Guards demanded on Tuesday that the Baghdad government and Kurdish authorities in Iraq prevent Kurdish rebels from attacking Iran from Iraqi territory. (more)

Anonymous: We Hacked NATO

Anonymous said Thursday morning that it had breached the databases of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and was sitting on about 1GB of data.

"Yes, #NATO was breached. And we have lots of restricted material. With some simple injection. In the next days, wait for interesting data," the group tweeted via the @AnonymousIRC feed.

The group said it "cannot" publish most of the data because that "would be irresponsible." This morning, it did post a link to a restricted NATO PDF, which Anonymous said related to the outsourcing of a communications and information system in Kosovo in 2008, but the doc crashed because of too many connections. Last night, it posted a 2007 document about a similar IT project in Afghanistan.

A NATO spokesman told the Telegraph that it is investigating the claims.

The move comes about two months after NATO called out Anonymous in a draft general report about information and national security. That report noted that "Anonymous is becoming more and more sophisticated and could potentially hack into sensitive government, military, and corporate files."

NATO pointed to Anonymous' February hack of HBGary Federal, which happened days after the firm's then-CEO Aaron Barr told the Financial Times that he knew and planned to expose the identities of leaders behind the Anonymous collective. The subsequent Anonymous attack resulted in the defacing of Barr's online networking profiles and exposure of 71,800 e-mails at AnonLeaks, prompting Barr's resignation.

"It remains to be seen how much time Anonymous has for pursuing such paths," NATO concluded. "The longer these attacks persist the more likely countermeasures will be developed, implemented, the groups will be infiltrated and perpetrators persecuted. (more)

"Threat of Jail Would End U.S. Budget Gimmicks"

It is obviously good news, if true, that Republicans and Democrats may be approaching compromise in the negotiations over raising the federal debt ceiling.

Yet one has to wonder whether the so-called Gang of Six’s proposed $3.7 trillion in long-term debt reductions will ever come to pass, or is even an accurate, well-vetted figure. Or is it, as usual, the federal government plans to thrill us with numbers so artificial that they might land a company president in prison?

The central problem with the federal budgeting process -- and with the way it is reported by a complaisant media -- is its thorough lack of transparency. When officials announce, with great drama, that they have developed a “plan” to reduce the “deficit,” they are usually sincere, but rarely accurate.

The plan is almost always a piece of paper -- the Gang of Six’s struggles to fill five pages -- without any means of enforcement, based on guesses, often poor ones, about the future. Meanwhile, the budgetary process continues to chug along, impenetrable to the mind of man.

Remember the Budget Enforcement Act, adopted in 1990 to limit discretionary spending, while ensuring that Congress adopted no new tax cuts or entitlements without future revenues to pay for them? You don’t? Of course not: Congress gutted the thing once it began to get in the way of distributing benefits without regard to cost. (more)

Longest Polar Bear Swim Recorded—426 Miles Straight, cubs drown along way

A female polar bear swam for a record-breaking nine days straight, traversing 426 miles (687 kilometers) of water—equivalent to the distance between Washington, D.C., and Boston, a new study says.

The predator made her epic journey in the Beaufort Sea (see map), where sea ice is shrinking due to global warming, forcing mother bears to swim greater and greater distances to reach land—to the peril of their cubs.

The cub of the record-setting bear, for instance, died at some point between starting the swim and when the researchers next observed the mother on land. She also lost 22 percent of her body weight.

"We're pretty sure that these animals didn't have to do these long swims before, because 687-kilometer stretches of open water didn't occur very often in the evolutionary history of the polar bear," said study co-author Steven Amstrup, chief scientist for the conservation group Polar Bears International. Amstrup is also the former project leader of polar bear research for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), which led the new study.

Another female bear in the study swam for more than 12 days, but appears to have found places to rest during her journey. (more)

Get Used to New Weather Extremes: US now experiencing weather only seen in the Mideast

We're seeing records fall in all directions this year—wettest, driest, warmest, coldest, snowiest, stormiest, fieriest—across the globe. In the US alone, in the month of July alone, 1,079 total heat records have been broken or tied. That's 559 broken, 520 tied...so far. The map below, generated today at NOAA's US Records page, shows how records have fallen nationwide, including in Alaska and Hawaii.

In fact, every state except Delaware has broken heat records so far this month.

In Iowa yesterday, the heat index exceeded 130°F/54.4°C—an extremely rare occurrence in this part of the world. According to Jeff Masters, writing at his Wunderblog, the only place where a 130°F heat index is common is along the shores of the Red Sea in the Middle East. (more)

Florida makes $63M selling people's names, addresses, dates of birth, a list of the vehicles they drive... and it's legal

The state of Florida made $63 million last year selling what many think is personal information.

Local 10 has learned the Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles is selling people's names, addresses, dates of birth, a list of the vehicles they drive, and it's legal.

"Per federal mandate, there are companies that are entitled to this information. Insurance companies, for example, are entitled to this information. Employers are entitled to this information," said Ann Howard of the Florida Department of Highway Safety and Motor Vehicles.

The state is currently selling this information to companies including Lexus Nexus and Shadow Soft. Those companies gather data on people and then sell that data. The companies must sign contracts with state claiming they won't harass people.

"This information cannot be sold to a company that plans to solicit business, such as companies that want you to come to their ice cream store or companies that want you to buy their vehicles," Howard said.

The state does not sell Social Security numbers or driver's license numbers, and a Florida judge said what the state is doing is legal.

No one outside the driver's license office in Lauderhill believed it.

"This is my own personal information, and I don't think it should be out there," said John Platt.

"You're kidding me," said Bebe Neice

"That's crazy. I didn't have a clue about it," said Mischka Peralto. (more)

Joan Langbord Loses Fight With Gov't to Keep Rare Gold Coins (Could it be because they're worth $7.4 million each?)

A jury has decided that a set of rare gold coins found in a bank deposit box rightfully belongs to the U.S. government.

The decision, made on Wednesday, caps an unusual civil case that combined history, coin collecting and whether the set of rare $20 "double eagles" should have ever let the U.S. Mint in 1933.

Federal prosecutors had asserted that the coins never circulated when the country went off the gold standard. Most of the batch was instead melted down.

But Joan Langbord, the daughter of a Philadelphia jeweler, said she found the 10 coins in her father's bank deposit bank after he died.

She said that her father could have acquired them legally, perhaps through a trade of gold scrap.

One 1933 double eagle sold for $7.6 million in 2002. (source)

96 injured in torrential downpours in North Korean border city

Recent heavy rains in North Korea have slightly injured 96 people and destroyed thousands of houses in a border city alone, an international relief agency said Thursday.

Among the injured people, 14 patients were moved to a nearby hospital in Kaesong, the International Federation of Red Cross and Red Crescent Societies (IFRC) said in a report, without elaborating on their conditions.

The relief agency said about 4,500 houses were either fully destroyed or partly damaged in South Hamgyong and South Hwanghae provinces, noting the preliminary data is based on its assessment of the situation in the North.

The North's state news agency has reported that North and South Hwanghae provinces and South Hamgyong Province were hit hardest by last week's downpours.

The report raises fresh concern that the North's already serious food shortages may worsen. (more)

Chihuahua Chases Armed Robbers Out Of California Store



An enraged, barking chihuahua succeeded in foiling a robbery attempt by two armed men at Ace Gifts and Tobacco, in Altadena, California.

You read that right! The attempted robbery took place around 7:30 pm on July 7.

Last Monday, Los Angeles County sheriff’s officials released the surveillance video of the event, in the hopes of catching the two assailants. It shows two hooded men, one armed with a rifle, running into the store and demanding money.

It also shows Paco the chihuahua running up to the men and barking fiercely, as they beat a hasty retreat, taking less money than they might have. Paco then chases the thieves down the street, nipping at their ankles as they run.

Neither the owner nor the dog was injured in the incident. (more)

5.1 Magnitude has hit CHRISTCHURCH NEW ZEALAND - 22nd July 2011


A magnitude 5.1 earthquake has struck Christchurch, New Zealand at a depth of 12 km, the quake hit at 05:39 Friday 22nd July 2011.
The epicenter was 40 km West of Christchurch
No damage or injuries reported at the time

Christchurch Quakes: Interesting questions and coincidences raised over quakes by New Zealand rapper "Trillion"

PART ONE:



PART TWO:

Euro Crisis: 24 hours to avoid meltdown

Angela Merkel and Nicolas Sarkozy held crisis talks in Berlin amid warnings that a failure to break the debt crisis deadlock within 24 hours would send shockwaves around the global economy.

Early on Thursday morning, after seven hours of talks, Germany and France reached a common position on a second bailout of Greece but details of the the accord were not revealed.

The German chancellor and the French president had been barraged with pleas from political and financial leaders to reach an agreement – or risk the collapse of the single currency.

The accord between the two most powerful states in the eurozone will now be presented to the crisis summit in Brussels on Thursday of all 17 leaders of the bloc, described as the "last chance saloon" for the euro project.

Mr Sarkozy decided to travel to Berlin after the pair repeatedly failed to agree on how to get private bondholders to share the costs of a new €115bn (£101bn) bail-out for Greece.

Jose Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Commission, said: "Nobody should be under any illusion: the situation is very serious. It requires a response. Otherwise the negative consequences will be felt in all the corners of Europe and beyond." (more)

New Terror Report Warns of Terrorists Working Inside Nuclear, Chemical, Oil Facilities



Sabotage by an insider at a major utility facility, including a chemical or oil refinery, could provide al Qaeda with its best opportunity for the kind of massive Sept. 11 anniversary attack Osama bin Laden was planning, according to U.S. officials.

A new intelligence report from the Department of Homeland Security issued Tuesday, titled Insider Threat to Utilities, warns "violent extremists have, in fact, obtained insider positions," and that "outsiders have attempted to solicit utility-sector employees" for damaging physical and cyber attacks.

"Based on the reliable reporting of previous incidents, we have high confidence in our judgment that insiders and their actions pose a significant threat to the infrastructure and information systems of U.S. facilities," the bulletin reads in part. "Past events and reporting also provide high confidence in our judgment that insider information on sites, infrastructure, networks, and personnel is valuable to our adversaries and may increase the impact of any attack on the utilities infrastructure." (more)

Department of Homeland Security Video Characterizes White Americans as Most Likely Terrorists



A new promotional video released by the Department of Homeland Security characterizes white middle class Americans as the most likely terrorists, as Big Sis continues its relentless drive to cement the myth that mad bombers are hiding around every corner, when in reality Americans are just as likely to be killed by lightning strikes or peanut allergies.

The video is part of Homeland Security’s $10 million dollar “See Something, Say Something” program that encourages Americans to report “suspicious activity,” which in every case throughout history has been a trait of oppressive, dictatorial regimes.

In the course of the 10 minute clip, a myriad of different behaviors are characterized as terrorism, including opposing surveillance, using a video camera, talking to police officers, wearing hoodies, driving vans, writing on a piece of paper, and using a cell phone recording application.

Despite encouraging viewers not to pay attention to a person’s race in determining whether or not they may be a terrorist, almost all of the scenarios in the clip proceed to portray white people as the most likely terrorists. Bizarrely, nearly every single one of the “patriotic” Americans who reports on their fellow citizen is either black, Asian or Arab. Imagine if the video had portrayed every terrorist as an Arab and every patriotic snoop as white, there’d be an outcry and rightly so, but this strange reversal must have been deliberate on the part of the DHS, but why? Is this merely political correctness taken to the extreme or is something deeper at work? (more)

David Cross: Sold "lemon", refused refund, refused discount on buying 2nd car, smashes entire dealership -- Hero?

Unhappy that a Lafayette Road car dealer wouldn't take back the van he bought on Monday, David Cross drove "the lemon" back after the dealer closed on Tuesday and crashed it into six cars parked on the lot for sale.

"I hit the first $25,000 car I could see," Cross told the Herald. "I didn't hit a car under $20,000. Then I moved a van that they wouldn't come down on the price for. I moved it with the lemon they sold me. I just held it to the floor until I couldn't move it anymore. I took out seven vehicles, including my own."

Cross, a Salisbury, Mass., resident who turns 42 today, is charged with six felony counts of criminal mischief, one for each of the cars he damaged, excluding his own.

He said his story began on Monday, when his wife bought a van at the Portsmouth Used Car Superstore.

"It was a piece of crap," Cross said, elaborating that his mechanic looked at the van after it was purchased and found a host of problems, including an odometer that didn't work. He said an Internet search showed it had been in a wreck and his insurance agent told him he couldn't insure it with a broken odometer, so he followed his mechanic's advice to "take it back."

Cross said he went back to the car dealer, asked for a refund and was told "you're stuck with it." So he began negotiating the price for another van, but a salesman wouldn't budge, he said.

He said he and his wife returned home in the van they bought Monday, and he waited for her to fall asleep. He then drove back to the car dealership just before midnight and started driving into cars.

He said he was about to call the police and turn himself in when he saw a cruiser, flagged it down and told the officer "the deal." After his arrest, he was released on personal recognizance bail and he's scheduled to be arraigned Sept. 19 in Portsmouth District Court.

"I was pretty crazy last night," he said. "I woke up this morning and wondered if it was a dream, but then I looked over and there's my bail papers."

Cross said he was not under the influence of any substance, just driven by anger. (more)

Is this man a criminal, or a hero for standing up to a business class that abuses human beings in order to reap a profit? Should more people follow suit?

Uproar as BBC muzzles Climate Change Skeptics

THE BBC was criticised by climate change sceptics yesterday after it emerged that their views will get less coverage because they differ from mainline scientific opinion.

In a report by its governing body, the BBC Trust, the corporation was urged to focus less on opponents of the “majority consensus” in its programmes.

It said coverage should not be tailored to represent a “false balance” of opinion if one side came from a minority group.

The report was partly based on an independent review of coverage by Steve Jones, Professor of Genetics at University College, London.

Although he found no evidence of bias in BBC output, he suggested where there is a “scientific consensus” it should not hunt out opponents purely to balance the story.

He highlighted climate change as an example along with the controversy over the Measles, Mumps and Rubella vaccine potentially leading to autism.

On climate change, Professor Jones said there had been a “drizzle of criticism of BBC coverage” arising from “a handful of journalists who have taken it upon themselves to keep disbelief alive”. (more)

Alabama Still Collecting Tax For Confederate Vets

The last of the more than 60,000 Confederate veterans who came home to Alabama after the Civil War died generations ago, yet residents are still paying a tax that supported the neediest among them.

Despite fire-and-brimstone opposition to taxes among many in a state that still has "Heart of Dixie" on its license plates, officials never stopped collecting a property tax that once funded the Alabama Confederate Soldiers' Home, which closed 72 years ago. The tax now pays for Confederate Memorial Park, which sits on the same 102-acre tract where elderly veterans used to stroll.

The tax once brought in millions for Confederate pensions, but lawmakers sliced up the levy and sent money elsewhere as the men and their wives died. No one has seriously challenged the continued use of the money for a memorial to the "Lost Cause," in part because few realize it exists; one long-serving black legislator who thought the tax had been done away with said he wants to eliminate state funding for the park.

These days, 150 years after the Civil War started, officials say the old tax typically brings in more than $400,000 annually for the park, where Confederate flags flapped on a recent steamy afternoon. That's not much compared to Alabama's total operating budget of $1.8 billion, but it's sufficient to give the park plenty of money to operate and even enough for investments, all at a time when other historic sites are struggling just to keep the grass cut for lack of state funding. (more)

U.S. Consumers Relying on Credit for Basic Necessities as Economy Continues Its Collapse

Consumers in the U.S. are increasingly using credit cards to pay for basic necessities as income gains fail to keep pace with rising food and fuel prices.

The dollar volume of purchases charged grew 10.7 percent in June from a year ago, while the number of transactions rose 6.8 percent, according to First Data Corp.’s SpendTrend report issued this month. The difference probably represents the increasing cost of gasoline, said Silvio Tavares, senior vice president at First Data, the largest credit card processor.

“Consumers, particularly in the lower-income end, are being forced to use their credit cards for everyday spending like gas and food,” said Tavares, who’s based in Atlanta. “That’s because there’s been no other positive catalyst, like an increase in wages, to offset higher prices. It’s a cash-flow problem.”

Rising costs of food and gasoline are leaving Americans less money to spend discretionary items, slowing the pace of the recovery, Tavares said. Household spending accounts for about 70 percent of the world’s largest economy.

After-tax income adjusted for inflation fell 0.1 percent from January through May, according to figures from the Commerce Department. The drop came as Labor Department data showed energy prices rose 8.2 percent and food climbed 2 percent during the same period. (more)

Mark Anthony Richardson, who wore diapers to lure in babysitting victims, sentenced to three years in prison and permanent registry as sex offender

An Oklahoma City man who wore diapers as part of a con was sentenced Wednesday to three years in prison.

Mark Anthony Richardson II also must serve five years on probation after his release and register as a sex offender. Last year, he fooled two women into baby-sitting him at their Oklahoma City homes, police said.

He pretended to be autistic and have the mind of a young child. He used a pacifier, drank baby formula and threw childlike fits.

Richardson, 21, pleaded guilty in June to sexual battery, a felony, for grabbing the breast of a baby sitter's daughter. The victim, then 18, was asleep.

He pleaded guilty to seven misdemeanor counts of outraging public decency for the seven times his diapers were changed.

“You've got some issues. I understand that. But, at the same time, it's time for you to grow up,” Oklahoma County District Judge Jerry Bass said.

The judge chose the punishment.

A prosecutor had asked the judge to give Richardson six years in prison. A defense attorney asked for two years in county jail because of concerns about Richardson's safety.

Richardson told the judge, “I am very sorry and promise to do all that I can to get my life back on track.” (more)

Myron Helms and Victoria Cross have sex in public pool... for 30 minutes... in front of children...

An Indiana couple is facing public indecency charges after they allegedly had sex for 30 minutes Sunday afternoon in a community pool while dozens of witnesses, including children, watched the illicit aquatic action.

Connersville Police Department officers were summoned to the Roberts Park Family Aquatic Center (seen at right) after pool patrons complained to the facility’s manager.

Cops initially issued no trespass orders to Myron Helms, 33, and Victoria Cross, 40, but prosecutors yesterday decided to charge the pair with the misdemeanor indecency count.

Pool manager Cindy Schwab told cops that she walked up behind Helms and Cross “when she realized what they were doing,” according to a Connersville Police Department report. After telling the pair to stop, Schwab said that Cross moved away from Helms, which was when “she could see the male’s penis.”

The police report states that one concerned adult stood near the trysting couple “to make sure her children didn’t get too close to the subjects.” Additionally, cops noted, “All the witnesses were visibly disturbed by the incident.” While it is unclear what drove the couple to allegedly engage in public fornication, the heat wave gripping the country’s mid-section has forced many sweltering Americans to seek a cool, watery respite. (more)

Beef Prices May Jump As Drought Creates Cattle Surplus -- Slaughterhouses at Full Capacity



For 17 days straight, the Dallas-Fort Worth Area has reached triple digit temperatures.

With the hot weather and lack of rain, nearly the entire state remains in a serious or severe drought. Currently, 246 of Texas’s 254 counties are under a burn ban.

That is creating a surplus in the number of cattle heading to auction, as livestock owners can’t afford to feed them and are looking to sell.

Jess Elrod, of Sanger, has been in the cattle business all of his life, but right now, keeping his cows seems to cost more than they’re worth.

“The hay prices and feed prices have gone up and the grass is all burned up. There’s nothing to eat,” he said. “The grass is like it is in December or January, and the grass that’s left doesn’t have any protein in it. Anything that you can do without needs to go to town.”

That’s why Elrod and many other cattle raisers are thinning out their herds by taking some to market early.

“We typically run between 1,200 to 1,500 a week,” said Roland Davie, of Decatur Livestock Market. “Today we’ll be close to 3,000. Last week we were at 2,700.”

On a typical week there would be about three full cattle pins at the Market, but Monday, they had to use more than double that because of the heat index. (more)

Heat 'Dome' Covers 1 Million Square Miles Across US, Opressing 141 million Americans

Some 141 million Americans over nearly 1 million square miles were under a heat alert on Wednesday, the result of a heat "dome" that's only slowly moving away from the central U.S. — and into the East Coast.

The National Weather Service said 22 deaths in recent days were potentially heat related.

"This heat is dangerous on many levels," NWS Director Jack Hayes said in a statement. "Temperatures and humidity levels are high, the heat will be prolonged, and very warm temperatures overnight won’t provide any respite. All of these factors make this an unhealthy situation, especially those in the upper Midwest who are not accustomed to such heat."

Hospitals in Wichita, Kan., treated 25 heat-related illnesses, according to the Weather Service report. In Des Moines, Iowa, 16 people were hospitalized because of the heat.

In Minneapolis, dozens of fans at recent Minnesota Twin games have been treated for heat issues, even though the club did take extra precautions such as providing free water stations and having first aid and guest service staff on hand to monitor crowds.

Day after day of high temperatures and humidity with no relief overnight was taxing the region.

"It's just draining, physically draining," said Chris Vaccaro, a Weather Service spokesman.

At least 27 states were under some sort of heat warning, watch or advisory.

An atmospheric high pressure ridge hanging over the Midwest is blocking moisture, causing a buildup of heat that acts more like a dome than a heat wave. The ridge will weaken by the weekend, permitting cooler temperatures and some rainfall in the Midwest. (more)

Aid agencies deal with "terrorists" to reach Somalia's starving -- Are they seriously blaming "terrorists" now for the famine?



For aid donors and humanitarian agencies, it is a Faustian bargain: reach and save tens of thousands of people on the verge of starving to death. The price: come to an "understanding" with one of the most active affiliates of al Qaeda, and perhaps help it retain control of large swathes of Somalia.

Such is the equation in the Horn of Africa, where the worst famine in a generation threatens more than ten million people. Many of them live -- or rather cling to life -- in areas of Somalia controlled by the militant Islamist group al Shabaab, which has sworn allegiance to al Qaeda and is designated a terrorist group by the United States.

Previously, al Shabaab has either refused to allow aid agencies to operate in areas it controls, or imposed tight conditions on their work. In 2009 it banned many foreign aid organizations from providing aid in southern Somalia -- describing them as western spies and Christian crusaders. In January 2010, the UN World Food Program pulled its workers out of the region after they were threatened and harassed by the group. That worsened an already parlous humanitarian situation. But now al Shabaab says it is prepared to allow aid groups back into areas it controls.

Last week, the UN Children's Fund, UNICEF, flew emergency supplies into Baidoa, a town under Shabaab's control, for the first time in two years. It said it had unhindered access to those in need. (more)

Three stories from Africa's drought, famine

I recently visited Garissa, Kenya -- a city of at least 180,000 people not far from the border with Somalia -- and areas to the north to see how this year's drought has impacted families in the area.

From an outside perspective, it's easy to hear about drought in the Horn of Africa and glaze over. It's one of those creeping natural disasters that people in the West hear about almost every year.

But this isn't just another annual drought -- this is the worst crisis the region has seen in 60 years. (The United Nations officially declared a famine in Somalia on Wednesday.) To put that in historical perspective, the situation is looking more grim than the massive drought in Ethiopia in the mid-1980s that prompted the Live Aid concert, and the drought in Somalia in early 1990s that led to the well-known United Nations peacekeeping mission.

Garissa and the rest of the region -- including parts of Kenya, Somalia and Ethiopia -- usually have two rainy seasons, one in the fall and one in the spring. This year, neither rainy season happened and the earth is bone dry.

Here are three people I met while in the region and their personal stories of the drought. (more)

'Al-Qaeda jihadist animation targets children' -- Who really made the film?

Al-Qaeda supporters say they are making an animated children's film aimed at inspiring them to take up armed struggle with the militant group.

Stills were published on the Arabic-language al-Shamouk jihadist website, reported Qulliam, a London-based "counter extremism" think tank.

It said the movie would show "heroic acts" including "armed engagements".

But a US government adviser on counter-terrorism expressed doubt that such a cartoon was really being made.

The post on the al-Shamouk website was authored by someone calling himself Abu al-Laith al-Yemen, Quilliam said.

It quoted him as saying: "The cartoon movie al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula is a very exciting story that tells the facts about who let down the Islamic religion and the Prophet...

"It aims to catalyse the youth and the children to follow the steps of Islamic jihadist figures. It includes real incidents and features heroic actions by the mujahideen in the Prophet's peninsula.

"These incidents include raids, armed engagements and assassinations."

The film was an "alternative to the poison that is broadcast by other TV channels to our children and youth", he added. (more)

World Health Organization calls for TB blood test ban: Doesn't work, and the disease "lies dormant"

Blood tests designed to detect active TB are inaccurate and should be banned, the World Health Organization has said.

More than two million such tests are carried out annually, but the WHO says they are unethical and lead to misdiagnosis and the mistreatment of patients.

The organisation's review of these tuberculosis test kits says they give wrong results in around 50% of cases.

The kits are mainly sold in the developing world.

However, most of the 18 kits on the market are produced in Europe and North America.

According to Dr Mario Raviglone, the director of the WHO Stop TB Department, the tests must be banned.

He said: "A blood test for diagnosing active TB disease is bad practice. Tests are inconsistent, imprecise and put patients' lives in danger."

The tests work by detecting antibodies or antigens in the blood that are produced in response to the bacterium.

But some of these commercial tests have what's called "low sensitivity" which leads to large numbers of patients being told they do not have TB when they do. (more)

Stony Stratford: The tiny town that refused to give in to a fresh-air fascist

Stony Stratford calls itself the jewel of Milton Keynes, a real corker of a catchline, a bit like rebranding Nunhead the pearl of Peckham. Yet putting aside jokes about applying lipstick to a pig (and then turning the ear of said pig into a silk purse), Stony Stratford is the jewel of Milton Keynes. As it turns out, it is the jewel of the whole godforsaken country.

This is why: last month, councillor Paul Bartlett announced his intention to create a new bylaw that would outlaw smoking in open places. “Stony Stratford is a historic town which is blighted by cigarette butts,” announced Mr Bartlett, as hordes of fag ends ran behind him, wearing hoodies and tanked up on cider.

“Why should people have the freedom to smoke in my face, pass on diseases and spoil the environment?” At that, a giant ciggy strolled up to him, puffed its poisonous smoke in his face, and ashed all over his suit.

Mr Bartlett’s proposal is not the reason Stony Stratford is a gleaming jewel. It is the town’s dogged refusal to accept it. On Tuesday night, smokers and non-smokers alike protested with a “mass light-up”, forcing the council to postpone a public meeting to discuss the bylaw.

As one resident told a newspaper: “People who don’t smoke don’t support him. People who have kids and don’t smoke don’t support him.” (more)

Deadly New Zealand earthquake unearths Israeli spy ring; prime minister won’t comment

A New Zealand newspaper group is reporting that the deadly February earthquake in Christchurch unearthed a suspected Israeli spy ring.

Three Israelis died in the quake that killed 181 people. Other Israelis escaped the quake.

The Fairfax newspaper group, which didn’t state how it obtained the information, said one of the Israelis who died was carrying at least five passports.

Fairfax said New Zealand Prime Minister John Key took four calls from Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu following the quake, and that an unaccredited Israeli search and rescue squad searching a cordoned area in Christchurch was stopped by New Zealand officers.

Key, who is traveling in California, told media Wednesday that it wasn’t in the national interest to comment about the report. (source)

Britain's deleveraging nightmare threatens its AAA credit rating

As the eurozone lurches from one crisis to the next, UK gilts have become seen as something of a safe haven asset. The yield on ten year gilts is not quite at Germany or US levels, but it’s not far off. Everything is relative; compared to some parts of the eurozone, our economic woes seem trivial. Or do they?

Paradoxically, confidence in Britain’s triple A sovereign debt rating has hardened even as the country’s growth prospects have deteriorated. This is scarcely logical. The Chancellor, George Osborne, likes to think of this phenomenon as a vote of confidence in his deficit reduction programme, and up to a point he’s right. By taking tough and decisive action, he’s headed off the sort of sovereign debt crises that have engulfed the eurozone periphery.

Yet a substantial part of the Chancellor’s plans for eradicating the deficit rely on quite brave assumptions about the scope for future economic growth. With nine months of economic flatlining now under our belts, these assumptions are looking ever less credible. The Office for Budget Responsibility will almost certainly have to trim its forecast of 1.7pc growth for this year in its next update, and many will begin seriously to doubt its independence if it doesn’t adjust longer term forecasts down too.

In other words, the whole economic strategy hangs on a quite slender thread which could easily break and plunge the UK into the same vicious cycle of one austerity programme after another that has been forced on the European periphery. (more)

Famine in Somalia: desperate refugees flee drought in Horn of Africa (Photo Gallery)

5.0 Magnitude Earthquake KERMADEC ISLANDS REGION - 21st July 2011

A magnitude 5.0 earthquake has struck Kermadec Islands Region at a depth of 51.5 km ( 32 miles), the quake hit at 19:12:00 UTC Thursday 21st July 2011.
The epicenter was 151 km (94 miles) from Raoul Island, Kermadec Islands
No Tsunami alert Issued - No damage or injuries reported at the time

4.4 Magnitude Earthquake SOUTHERN GREECE - 21st July 2011

A magnitude 4.4 earthquake has struck Southern Greece at a depth of 8 km ( 5 miles), the quake hit at 16:44:23 UTC Thursday 21st July 2011.
The epicenter was 76 km (47 miles) SSW of Kalamata, Greece
No Tsunami alert Issued - No damage or injuries reported at the time

Mid-air scare for 134 passengers onboard Jet Airways flight as they avert mid-air collision - 21st July 2011

A Jet Airways flight with 134 passengers onboard, had a mid-air scare over Lucknow today, triggering panic aboard, passengers said.

Sources say the Boeing 737 Jet aircraft - flight number 9W 2280 - from New Delhi to Guwahati was taking a right turn when at the same time there was a Boeing 747 exactly above it. There was, however, adequate separation between them, claim sources.

While the pilot of the Jet aircraft was executing a right turn, it was hit by what pilots call 'wake turbulence' - rough air generated by a jumbo plane.

After being hit by wake turbulence, the Jet plane began to plummet for about five seconds. The place was on auto-pilot and it corrected itself, the sources added.

"First the flight abruptly turned right and then began to plummet. We thought it would crash. There was chaos and people were screaming inside," Caushik Bezboruah, chief executive officer of News Live, a satellite TV channel from Guwahati said.

"I heard people crying, some praying on top of their voices. It was a chaotic situation for close to a minute before the pilot took control," added Bhaskar Sharma, director of News Live.

Sources say no warnings of breach of separation were generated in the cockpit. Even the Air Traffic Control (ATC) did not warn the pilot of an aircraft overhead.

"The pilot said the flight's computer system automatically navigated the plane and moved away from the path of the approaching flight to avoid a mid-air collision," Bezboruah said.

The incident took place around 11.35 a.m. The Jet Airways flight landed safely in Guwahati around 1 p.m. Read More

12 Sickened By Mystery Illness Investigation Continues At Ronald McDonald House , Baltimore - 21st July 2011

Health and fire officials are looking into what caused a dozen people to become sick at the Ronald McDonald House in downtown Baltimore on Wednesday evening.

Fire officials said nine adults and three children reported becoming sick at around 8:30 p.m.
Wednesday at the facility in the 600 block of West Lexington Street.

Investigators at the scene were at a loss as to what made so many people so sick so quickly."We had brought in fire units to check for possible CO leaks and things of that nature, but all those things have been ruled out at this time. There are no hazardous situations at this facility," said Baltimore Fire Department Capt. Roman Clark on Wednesday.

All of those treated at the hospital are recovering from their nausea symptoms, 11 News learned Thursday morning.The city Health Department said it plans to continue investigating the illnesses. Source

Severe weather causes damage and disrupts traffic throughout Hungary - 21st July 2011

Trees fallen on railway tracks caused disruptions and significant delays on several rail lines due to the heavy storm and rain overnight, the communications office of Hungarian State Railways (MAV) told MTI on Wednesday.

Repair work and a clean-up is under way between Budapest and Szolnok where traffic has been temporarily suspended, MAV added.

The extent of the damage caused by the severe weather is under assessment and will be later announced by the Disaster Management Authority.

The National Meteorological Service (OMSZ) has issued a second-level warning for the central and eastern areas of Hungary.

In Kecskemet (C Hungary), mobile communication services broke down for a couple of hours due to violent storms on Wednesday morning. Fire fighters were called several times to sites where hurricane-force winds pulled down trees, MTI's correspondent said.

In Balatonalmadi in western Hungary, a wall collapsed due to heavy rain and damaged a gas pipeline, the disaster management authority told MTI. Repair work is under way to restore the service, they said. Fire fighters were also called in the town to pump water at 20-25 homes flooded by a brook. Read More