Monday, July 25, 2011

Apocalypse Now? Not With a Bang, but a Blunder?

t is increasingly possible that the catastrophic unraveling of the Industrial Age may begin in two weeks, not because of global warming or oil shortages or water wars or natural disaster, but because of a stupid political ploy by the Know-Nothings who are now ascendant in the US Congress. Instead of “starving the beast” — by which they mean disabling government by preventing it from raising revenue — they have discovered that they can kill the beast by preventing it from borrowing revenue. Gleefully, they are threatening to refuse to raise the technical limit on US debt, by which means they may throw the government into default on or about August 2.

Granted, the technical limit on US debt is a stupid law. It’s passage was just another way legislators pretend to do something without actually doing anything; it’s as if a club of fat people passed a resolution to go on a diet in two years — every two years. It’s dumb, but a hell of a lot easier than going on a diet.

However, the debt ceiling is not a resolution of a private club, it’s the law of the land, and as it stands, as of Tuesday, August 2, the federal government will not be authorized to borrow any more money. Thereafter, with the ceiling in place, not only will all current bills have to be paid out of the revenues that appear on that day, but bonds that come due will have to be paid in their entirety, instead of simply being rolled over into new ones.

On August 3, according to the Washington Post, the federal government expects to receive $12 billion in revenue, and must pay bills of $32 billion, including $23 billion in social security and disability payments alone. Another $10 billion in bills come due on August 4, offset by just $4 billion in revenue. And on that day, $100 billion in Treasury bonds are due to be retired. (more)

Something Fishy in Your Fish

Globalized industrial fish factories are flooding the markets of the world with dangerously tainted fish laced with toxins and carcinogens banned by law from US food. They are doing this to replace the fish once supplied by industrial fishing fleets that have virtually destroyed the world’s stocks of wild fish; 80 per cent of the fish consumed in the United States is imported, and half the imported fish comes from fish factories. The tainted fish continues to come in despite ineffective efforts by state and national governments to stop the flow — efforts that, weak as they always were, are now being eviscerated by state and federal budget cuts. The fish factories, meanwhile, are making lots of money.

The problems with industrial fish factories (to call them “farms,” as the industry prefers, is to acquiesce to the continuing mutilation of language and meaning) are the same as those that arise in industrial cattle, hog or chicken plants: Close confinement and forced feeding of unnatural diets leads to stress, sickness and high concentrations of manure. To keep animals alive until they reach market weight, industrialists dose them heavily with antibiotics and anti-parasitics, substances whose residues in the treated animals’ flesh can sicken its consumers. (more)

Gay Marriage Opponents Protest New York Law



Thousands of traditional marriage supporters took to the streets of New York Monday, demanding the law legalizing same-sex marriage be overturned.

Demonstrators say Gov. Andrew Cuomo re-defined marriage and didn't give the voters any say in the matter.

"This is going to stimulate a whole new effort on our part to start to turn things around," Bill Banuchi, founder and head of the Marriage and Family Savers Institute in Newburgh, told the Times Herald-Record.

"We're strategizing now about how to do that, but this is not something we're going to settle for," he said.

Meanwhile, hundreds of gay couples were married in New York on Sunday, the day the law legalizing same-sex marriage took effect in that state.

"It's just an accumulation of a lot of hard work of many people, and we're just so happy to be celebrating," one person said. "We think it is a historic day for New York, and we're going to look back with great fondness on this day."

New York is the largest state to approve gay marriage. Forty-one states have banned it. (more)

America isn't bankrupt -- it's being robbed

Crop Circle 23rd July 2011 at Roundway Hill, near Devizes, Wiltshire UK

Crop Circle 22nd July 2011 at East Kennett, near Avebury, Wiltshire UK

Bill Still: Default too risky in US, won't happen -- but needs to

Girl Calls 911 For Help & Gets Hung Up By Cop, Then Later Gets Arrested

Only half of offenders on community orders made to do unpaid work

Only half of offenders handed community penalties are made to carry out unpaid work as part of their punishment, The Daily Telegraph can disclose.

Convicted criminals can be made to carry out physical work for the benefit of a local area as one of 12 requirements a court can place on a community order.

The work, known as Community Payback, can include gardening, removing graffiti, litter picking and clearing wasteland and is seen as a way of offenders giving something back to the communities they preyed on.

But over the last three years just 54 per cent of criminals handed community orders were made to carry out unpaid work.

It means tens of thousands of offenders who avoid prison every year also avoid being put to work in the community.

The figures last night further fuelled claims that the court orders are a “soft” punishment. (more)

Zombie Weeds Attack: Desperate Farmers Resort to Hoes

Farmers across the Midwest and South — those whose crops are not under water or blowing away in a hot, dry wind — are besieged by an enemy straight out of a stupid horror movie: an army of undead weeds that cannot be killed by chemicals. It’s as if you shot the heart out of an attacking enemy soldier and he just kept on coming. Cotton producers in the South have deployed armies with hoes to chop down weeds with stems up to four inches in diameter that shrug off the best herbicides that money can buy.

Industrial agriculture is all about chemicals, and genetically mutilated plants. For decades, it has been all about Monsanto’s Roundup — a glyphosate herbicide that used to kill every plant it touched except those that were genetically engineered to be resistant to it, which are available, at a premium price, from the aforementioned Monsanto. So industrial agriculture has been reduced to soaking the landscape with Roundup, planting it with Frankenfoods that can’t be killed by Roundup, and turning most of the profits over to Monsanto.

But when you drench the landscape with any poison, there are always a few mutants in the population you’re trying to kill that by some accident are immune to its effects. Now that you’ve killed their competition and provided them with an endless cornucopia of their favorite food, they go forth, and multiply. Now who you gonna call? (more)

Chinese fighters ‘repel’ US aircraft

Two Chinese fighter jets crossed the middle line in the Taiwan Strait late last month for the first time in more than a decade to repel a US spy aircraft, according to defence sources in Taipei and Beijing.

This marks the first known encounter between US and Chinese military aircraft in mid-air since a US reconnaissance aircraft collided with a Chinese fighter jet in 2001 and was forced to land on Hainan island, sparking a crisis that severely damaged bilateral relations.

The incident in the Taiwan Strait comes as the US and China are trying hard not to let rising tensions in the South China Sea derail a recent improvement in bilateral military relations.

Highlighting the strategic rivalry between the two countries in the region and the security risks remaining between China and Taiwan despite the recent detente between the two, Taipei moved to downplay the incident.

Taiwan’s defence ministry confirmed that two Chinese Su-27 fighter jets had briefly crossed the so-called middle line on June 29 but added the incident was not a provocation.

“This was not between Taiwan and China, but between China and the US,” said a senior Taiwanese defence official. “The Chinese crossed the line to repel a perceived intrusion by a US reconnaissance aircraft.”

A Chinese defence source said: “This once again shows that US military activity very close to our territory is a destabilising factor in the region.” (more)

Police Knew Norway Gunman’s Name Before Arrest

Despite being portrayed by the media as inept due to the length of time it took them to reach the island of Utoeya, it has now emerged that police knew the name of gunman Anders Behring Breivik before they even arrested him, a startling admission that prompted one of Britain’s top news anchors to question how authorities were aware of the gunman’s identity in advance.

During his Channel 4 News broadcast on Friday evening, host Jon Snow asked “why police knew the killer’s name by the time they had arrived on the island,” reported the Telegraph live blog.

“He surrendered the moment police called his name 3 minutes after they arrived. What we don’t know is how the police knew the terrorist’s name before they arrested him,” said Snow, who is recognized as one of Britain’s most trusted news anchors, and cannot be dismissed as a “conspiracy theorist”.

Snow also posed the question on his official Twitter page.

How authorities knew the gunman’s identity before his slaughter of young Norwegians on the island of Utoeya had even come to an end, and while the overwhelming speculation still centered around Islamic terrorists, is a mystery, as is the question of why the cops didn’t shoot Breivik immediately. (more)

Unraveling Mexico's Sinaloa drug cartel

Never lose track of the load.

It was drilled into everybody who worked for Carlos “Charlie” Cuevas. His drivers, lookouts, stash house operators, dispatchers -- they all knew. When a shipment was on the move, a pair of eyes had to move with it.

Cuevas had just sent a crew of seven men to the border crossing at Calexico, Calif. The load they were tracking was cocaine, concealed in a custom-made compartment inside a blue 2003 Honda Accord.

The car was still on the Mexican side in a 10-lane crush of vehicles inching toward the U.S. Customs and Border Protection inspection station. Amputee beggars worked the queue, along with men in broad-brimmed hats peddling trinkets, tamales and churros.

A lookout watching from a car in a nearby lane reported on the load's progress. Cuevas, juggling cellphones, demanded constant updates. If something went wrong, his boss in Sinaloa, Mexico, would want answers.

The Accord reached the line of inspection booths, and a lookout on the U.S. side picked up the surveillance. He was Roberto Daniel Lopez, an Iraq War veteran, standing near the “Welcome to Calexico” sign.

It was the usual plan: After clearing customs, the driver would head for Los Angeles, shadowed by a third lookout waiting in a car on South Imperial Avenue. (more)

Aquino to China: Filipinos will defend territory

President Benigno Aquino III warned China in a major national speech Monday that the Philippines was ready to defend its Spratly Islands claims by acquiring more weapons and would elevate the territorial feuds to a U.N. tribunal.

In his State of the Nation Address to Congress, Aquino also announced a new chief anti-graft prosecutor and said his year-old government plans to file its first major corruption case this year against corrupt officials and their accomplices. He did not name the officials but vowed punishment for the guilty.

"We do not wish to increase tensions with anyone, but we must let the world know that we are ready to protect what is ours," Aquino said, drawing loud applause at the packed House of Representatives. The address also was televised live to the nation.

Aquino's tough rhetoric echoed past criticisms of China over the Spratlys, so may have been meant to project him as a strong leader dealing firmly with an issue about which many Filipinos feel emotional, political analyst Ramon Casiple said.

"He was playing to a domestic audience. It's more of asserting to the people that he's a leader," Casiple said, adding that Aquino's reiterated position was unlikely to surprise China.

Aquino noted the efforts to bolster the military's capability, citing the recent purchase of a U.S. Coast Guard cutter and plans to acquire more patrol vessels, helicopters and weapons in deals he guaranteed would be aboveboard. (more)

America can now only defer its debt crisis: US needs 2.5 trillion dollars simply to make it to next election

The heat is on in Washington and it’s more than just temperatures in the nineties and summer rain making congressmen sweat. Without a deal to raise the country’s $14.3 trillion debt ceiling, the US will default on August 2.

It has come to this: the world’s biggest economy, head of the triple-A club and home of the financial system’s reserve currency, can pay its bills only if it borrows more money. America needs to increase its credit limit by $2.5 trillion simply to get through to next year’s presidential election.

Billions, trillions, schmillions, chill out, why fret over a few more zeros? Well, for context, America’s 2011 GDP (annual output) will be the same as its “official” debt, $14 trillion to $15 trillion.

This doesn’t tell the whole story. The good news is that $4.6 trillion of America’s debt is accounted for by intra-government loans, money the US owes itself. The bad news is that on top of the $9.7 trillion Washington must repay to outside investors ($1.1 trillion to China), it has $60 trillion of unfunded social security and Medicare obligations, ie, welfare pledges to its own citizens for which there is no pot of savings, only the taxes of future generations.

As Dolly Parton nearly said, it cost a lot of money to sink this deep. America’s commercial and military hegemony came at a terrifyingly high price. (more)

"Is Obama a pathological liar?"

In the weird world that is Washington, men and women say things daily, hourly, even minutely, that they know deep down are simply not true. Inside the Beltway, we all call those utterances “rhetoric.”

But across the rest of the country, plain ol’ folk call ‘em lies. Bald-faced (even bold-faced) lies. Those folks have a tried-and-true way of determining a lie: If you know what you’re saying is patently false, then it’s a lie. Simple.

And lately, the president has been lying so much that his pants could burst into flames at any moment.

His late-evening news conference Friday was a tour de force of flat-out, unadulterated mendacity — and we’ve gotten a first-hand insider’s view of the president’s long list of lies.

“I wanted to give you an update on the current situation around the debt ceiling,” Mr. Obama said at 6:06 p.m. OK, that wasn’t a lie — but just about everything he said after it was, and he knows it.

“I just got a call about a half-hour ago from Speaker [John A.] Boehner, who indicated that he was going to be walking away from the negotiations,” he said.

Not so: “The White House made offers during the negotiations,” said our insider, a person intimately involved in the negotiations, “and then backtracked on those offers after they got heat from Democrats on Capitol Hill. The White House, and its steadfast refusal to follow through on its rhetoric in terms of cutting spending and addressing entitlements, is the real reason that debt talks broke down.” (more)

Egypt clashes increase tensions with military

Tensions between pro-democracy groups in Egypt and the ruling military council have risen sharply after weekend violence in which knife-wielding supporters of the council set on thousands of activists determined to march on the defence ministry.

Analysts and activists say the clashes, which lasted for several hours on Saturday night and injured scores of people, mark a deterioration in a relationship that has come under mounting strain in recent weeks.

Several thousand activists from a spectrum of political groups had organised the march to press the military council to speed up trials of officials accused of killing 850 demonstrators during the revolt that toppled Hosni Mubarak, former president, this year.

But a day before the march, the military accused April 6, one of the youth groups that launched the uprising against Mr Mubarak, of seeking to turn people against the army. In language reminiscent of the Mubarak regime, a senior army general was quoted as saying the group had received training abroad to subvert the state.

The council has also urged “honourable Egyptians” to confront actions that disrupt the return to normal life.

China and Iran plan oil barter

Tehran and Beijing are in talks about using a barter system to exchange Iranian oil for Chinese goods and services, as US financial sanctions have blocked China from paying at least $20bn for oil imports.

The US sanctions against Iran, which make it extremely difficult to conduct dollar-denominated business, mean that China could owe the oil-rich nation as much as $30bn, according to people familiar with the problem.

They said the unpaid oil bills had built up over the past two years and the governments, which are in early-stage talks, were looking at how to “offset” the debt.

Some Iranian officials are growing increasingly angry about the inability of the country’s largest oil customers to pay cash, a problem that has contributed to a shortage of hard currency and has hindered the central bank from defending the Iranian rial, which has been sharply devalued over the past month.

China and India together buy about one-third of Iran’s oil, the country’s economic lifeblood. China’s oil imports from Iran have risen 49 per cent this year, according to Reuters. (more)

Europe on alert after Norway attacks

Police around Europe are on increased alert against far-right extremism as the man accused of killing 93 people in Norway’s bomb and shooting attack prepares to face charges in an Oslo court on Monday.

Anders Behring Breivik, a 32-year-old Norwegian, has admitted bombing government buildings in central Oslo on Friday before shooting dead scores of young people at a Labour party summer camp on Utøya, an island outside the capital. Under Norwegian law, he faces a maximum of 21 years in prison if found guilty of what Jens Stoltenberg, prime minister, called Norway’s “national tragedy”.

His lawyer said Mr Breivik had told him the attacks were “atrocious, but necessary” as a 1,500-page online manifesto emerged in which the alleged killer detailed his preparations and anti-Islamic motivations for the attacks. A YouTube video also emerged of Mr Breivik wearing a wetsuit and brandishing an automatic rifle. (more)

Thieves Steal 140 Wheels Off 35 Cars

Heritage Buick GMC in Rockwall was burglarized overnight Saturday, but it wasn't cars that were stolen -- just parts of them.

Robert Bobo, the owner of the dealership, said the Rockwall Police Department called him Sunday morning and told him that 35 of his vehicles, Yukons and pickups, were up on blocks and stripped of their 20-inch tires and wheels.

Bobo said it's not uncommon for car dealerships to occasionally be the victim of crime, but that in his experience a theft of this magnitude is not only rare, but unprecedented.

"Dealerships deal with minor incidences frequently. I've been in the car business over 20 years and I've never heard of a theft of this magnitude," said Bobo. "[The] police indicated to me that they have never had a report of a theft of this many tires/wheels at one location."

Bobo said they will be offering a reward for information leading to the arrest of those responsible for the theft. Anyone with information is asked to call the Rockwall police. (more)

Anders Breivik tells judge his terror network has two more cells and says he acted to save Europe from Islam

Anders Breivik today told a court his terror network had two more cells at large as he appeared in court charged with mass murder.

Wearing a red jumper, the 32-year-old killer admitted responsibility for the attacks but denied that he was guilty of any criminal charges.

He claimed he had not been trying to kill as many people as possible but instead wanted to send out a 'sharp signal to the people' and to 'stop the takeover of Muslims and Marxists.'

Breivik was driven to the Oslo hearing in an armoured police convoy. A huge crowd of people were gathered outside the courthouse and jeered as the cavalcade arrived.

Some attempted to bang the cars in fury and screamed 'traitor'. Police eventually bundled Breivik into the building through an underground tunnel, avoiding the full fury of the crowd.

He was taken into 828, on the eighth floor of the building - closed to the public to avoid giving Breivik a platform for his extremist views - at around 1.45pm for a hearing that lasted just 35 minutes. (more)

Microsoft tweet turns Amy Winehouse's death into sales opportunity

Microsoft received much Twitter flak after a small PR account for Xbox encouraged followers to remember recently deceased musician Amy Winehouse by purchasing her last album on the company’s entertainment marketplace, Zune.

After about an hour of retweets with comments like “classy,” “crass much?” and “Microsoft – failing at social media,” the account tweeted a follow up.

“Apologies to everyone if our earlier Amy Winehouse ‘download’ tweet seemed purely commercially motivated,” it said. “Far from the case, we assure you.”

Microsoft isn’t the only company that has seemingly attempted to capitalize on the star’s death.

Apple posted an image of Winehouse on the front of the iTunes store with the caption “remembering Amy Winehouse.” Her breakout album, the Grammy winning Back to Black, has subsequently become the number-one album in the store. Amazon also posted a brief obituary that linked to a page where shoppers can purchase the singer’s music. (more)

The cost of weddings spirals in China (even though half the country is impoverished, starving and enslaved in factories)

Every year in China more than ten million couples tie the knot. Weddings are a multi-billion-dollar business and expenses for the big day can quickly spiral out of control.

Cecilia and Ye Min were engaged in February and plan to marry in September in Shanghai. They are investing all of their savings in their big day and then a two-week honeymoon on the island of Mauritius.

Ye Min paid for the ring and has been saving for his wedding for four years, ever since he graduated and started working.

"We went together to buy the ring on February 26th," remembers Cecilia. "It's a diamond ring and my fiancé paid $3,500 (£2,150) for it. That's the average price for an engagement ring in China."

Lawrence Lo runs an etiquette consultancy in Shanghai and is a food and wine commentator in the Chinese media. He says Ye Min is not unusual.

"I run a lot of events and I notice that 85% of the participants are women. Not a lot of guys come because they are too busy working. There is an obligation for them to work very hard to build up their savings for marriage," he says.

"Ten or 15 years ago, if you asked people what diamonds were for they would tell you they were used in power tools. Now China is one of the biggest markets for diamonds - especially for engagement rings." (more)

Human, animal DNA mixing needs oversight

The fast-moving field of mixing animal and human DNA may need new ethical or regulatory boundaries for some experiments, a British panel says.

Friday's report from the Academy of Medical Sciences looks at the use of "animals containing human material" in biomedical research. Experiments mixing animal and human DNA is contentious.

Most experiments don't need stricter regulation, said Martin Bobrow, chair of the group that wrote the report. "But there are a small number of future experiments, which could approach social and ethically sensitive areas, which should have an extra layer of scrutiny," he told reporters in London.

Those sensitive areas include:

--Those where human brain cells might change animal brains.
--Those that could lead to the fertilization of human eggs in animals.
--Any modifications of animals that might create attributes considered uniquely human, like facial features, skin or speech. (more)

Space shuttle: The darker view of the end of an era

As space shuttle Atlantis's wheels touched down in Florida on Thursday, the shuttles' epoch of defining manned spaceflight came to a close. What comes next for the US space agency is a new way of running things - but not everyone is happy about it.

For now, American astronauts and their long-time partners in Canada, Europe and Japan will depend on Russian Soyuz vehicles to get to orbit and the job of developing the shuttles' successors will be carried out in the private sector.

Much of the news coverage of the end of this era has looked wistfully back on the shuttles' accomplishments, principal among them the development of the International Space Station.

As for what's next, Nasa administrator Charles Bolden is just one of many at the agency insisting that the "future of human spaceflight is bright".

However, those rosy views of both past and future are not shared by everyone.

One concern is the sweeping job cuts at the agency. But former Nasa administrator Mike Griffin and space policy expert John Logsdon say that Nasa's grip on leadership in space has this week been lost - possibly forever.

"When you push aside all the puffery and high-flying political announcements, with the landing of Atlantis, the human spaceflight programme of the US will come to an end for the indefinite future," Professor Griffin told BBC News. (more)

Sarkozy drops proposal for bank tax -- and the rich get away yet again

Yields on peripheral European government debt rallied sharply on news that French president Nicolas Sarkozy had agreed to drop a plan to help fund a €115bn Greek bail-out with a €50bn ($71bn) bank tax. The move marks a significant victory for Angela Merkel, the German chancellor, who extracted the concession at a late night meeting in Berlin on Wednesday ahead of an emergency summit of eurozone leaders.

The tax plan, which would have raised €10bn a year for five years through a 0.0025 per cent levy on all assets held by eurozone banks, was strongly resisted by Berlin, which saw the plan as taking too long to implement and raise funds which would have been used for a massive Greek bond repurchase programme.

The deal paves the way for a German-backed initiative for more direct measures to get private holders of Greek bonds to help pay for the bail-out. According to a version of the plan circulated by the European Commission on Wednesday evening, all owners of Greek bonds that come due in the next eight years will be urged to swap their holdings for new bonds that do not mature for another 30 years. Other plans, however, including a French-backed bond rollover plan, are believed to still be on the table. (more)

Debt-limit compromise elusive as separate strategies take shape in House, Senate

House and Senate leaders were preparing separate backup plans Sunday to raise the federal debt limit after another day of intense negotiations failed to break a partisan impasse that threatens to throw the government into default next week.

The rival strategies left Congress poised to start this week locked in bitter and messy legislative warfare, even as financial markets were reopening for the first time since House Speaker John A. Boehner (R-Ohio) abruptly abandoned debt-limit talks with the White House on Friday.

Over the weekend, congressional negotiators focused their attention on Boehner’s proposal to raise the debt limit in two stages. Their goal was to make it more palatable to Democrats — particularly President Obama. On Sunday afternoon, they thought they were close.

But after a 6 p.m. powwow at the White House, Obama, Senate Majority Leader Harry M. Reid (D-Nev.) and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) rejected the emerging compromise, saying it would leave the door open to another wrenching debt-limit battle in just a few months.

“Tonight, talks broke down over Republicans’ continued insistence on a short-term raise of the debt ceiling, which is something that President Obama, Leader Pelosi and I have been clear we would not support,” Reid said in a written statement. “Speaker Boehner’s plan, no matter how he tries to dress it up, is simply a short-term plan, and is therefore a non-starter in the Senate and with the President.” (more)

Mining: Zimbabwe’s Achilles’ heel (and a bringer of doom for its environment)

Zimbabwe’s ecological well-being remains in a precarious position.

But it is the problem of acid mine drainage (AMD) that may be its most perilous hazard in terms of its ramifications.

AMD refers to the phenomenon whereby underground, highly polluted, acidic water flows outwards onto the surface, often, in very high dosages from abandoned mines.

It is necessary to comprehend that ecologically, Zimbabwe is a country that is bereft of water security, while on the economic front, the country is driven by a strong mining industry, most notably gold, and lately diamonds.

The decade-long economic collapse ensured the burgeoning mining sector came to a standstill as firms closed their mines, as a result causing insurmountable environmental disaster for communities whose lives evolved around these mines.

One would think of Harare’s water source Lake Chivero, Zvishavane, Gwanda, Chiadzwa, Bindura, Nkayi, Kamativi, Mhangura, to name but a few places.

Fighting the scourge of AMD becomes not only a matter of environmental importance, but also one of protecting vulnerable local communities that depend upon the country’s finite natural resources.

The AMD scourge may place undue stress upon the country’s resources and industries, and potentially undermine the overall stability of the country. (more)

Israel 'intercepts weapons boat' in Dead Sea

Israeli authorities say they have seized a boat carrying arms in the Dead Sea and are questioning two Palestinians who were on the vessel.

The boat was carrying assault rifles, ammunition and other weapons, according to an Israeli military statement.

AFP news agency quoted the military as saying the weapons were being transported from Jordan to the Palestinian territories.

In March, Israel intercepted a ship it said was taking arms to the Gaza Strip.

It said that ship, which was seized in international waters, was carrying weapons meant for militant groups that were to be delivered via Egypt.

The Israeli military described the boat that was reported to have been seized on Monday as a dinghy. (more)

Italian tanker Anema e Core seized by pirates off Benin

Pirates have hijacked an Italian diesel tanker off Benin in western Africa in an attack of the kind more usually associated with Somalia.

Assailants boarded the RBD Anema e Core early on Sunday in the Gulf of Guinea, officials in Benin and Italy confirmed.

Two of the 23 crew are Italians, the others Filipinos and a Romanian.

Benin's navy said it was following the hijacked ship while Italy's foreign ministry liaised with its owner in Naples.

Three pirates managed to board the ship 23 nautical miles (43km) south of Cotonou, the economic capital of Benin, Italian media said.

"Everything is being done to trace the pirates as quickly as possible," Maxime Ahoyo, commander of Benin's navy, told reporters in Cotonou.

The Gulf of Guinea has become increasingly important for its potential energy reserves which have attracted international interests, BBC West Africa correspondent Thomas Fessy reports from Dakar.

The US, for example, hopes to import about a quarter of its oil supplies from the region by 2015. (more)

5.1 Magnitude Earthquake NEAR THE EAST COAST OF HONSHU, JAPAN - 25th July 2011

A magnitude 5.1 earthquake has struck near the East Coast of Honshu, Japan at a depth of 27.5 km ( 17.1 miles), the quake hit at 21:33:17 UTC Monday 25th July 2011.
The epicenter was 159 km (99 miles) ESE of Morioka, Honshu, Japan
No Tsunami alert Issued - No damage or injuries reported at this time

President Obama to Address UNITED STATES on DEBT CRISIS - 25th July 2011

President Barack Obama will address the nation Monday night at 9:00pm ET on the subject of debt talks, the White House said. (02:00 BST)

The move was announced in a tweet by White House press secretary Jay Carney.

"POTUS to address nation, 9 pm tonight, re stalemate over avoiding default and the best approach to cutting deficits. Watch @ wh.gov/live.," he tweeted.

Obama, who will make his seventh address to the nation from the East Room of the White House, has asked for time from all four networks to discuss the current state of debt talks ahead of a looming deadline to raise the country's $14.29 trillion debt limit.

The president was due to speak on the same day that House Speaker John Boehner (R-Ohio) and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) unveiled separate competing plans to help the country avoid a default by an Aug. 2 deadline. Source

Signs Of Cleveland Volcano Eruption In Alaska - 25th July 2011

Through a satellite some images of the Cleveland volcano, which is situated in Alaska, have been captured. According to scientists, there are signs of the first big eruption of this volcano in ten years.

After observing the signs of volcano eruption, an eruption advisory has been issued by the Alaska Volcano Observatory. The Cleveland Volcano has a height of nearly six thousand feet and it is located at a distance of nine hundred and forty miles from the south-west of Anchorage.

According to the observatory, the advisory has not just been issued on an assumption. It is based on the thermal anomalies which are detected by a satellite. The signs of volcano eruption include the measurements, known as thermal anomalies, which indicate that the Cleveland Volcano can erupt any time. As judged from the signs of the expected volcano eruption, the ash clouds will spew up to twenty thousand feet above the sea level.

These signs warned the international air travel because the Cleveland Volcano lies below the flight path of a commercial air line. According to a scientist-in-charge at Alaska Volcano Observatory, this flight path is in between Asia and North America.

The last major eruption of this volcano occurred in the year 2001 and at that time the ash blasted more than five miles in the sky. It spilled lava from summit crater. Since then the Cleveland Volcano has experienced many smaller eruptions. Now there are signs of another major eruption.

As shown by the satellite images, the signs for an eruption of the volcano are clear but the flight patterns of the airlines have not been changed yet. May be this is due to heat emissions of the Cleveland, as stated by Steve McNutt, who is a scientist at the observatory of University of Alaska Fairbanks. Source

Pensioner's garden falls 40ft into river after violent storm - 25th July 2011

A pensioner has had a lucky escape after her garden shed was swept away by a violent storm just five minutes after she had been inside it.

Patricia Howe, 72, had walked back into her home in Wetheral, Cumbria, from the shed which was situated at the end of her garden.

But when she looked out of her kitchen window just moments later, it had disappeared along with large chunk of her patio into the raging River Eden below.

'The rain was absolutely horrendous,' said Miss Howe. 'I had gone through to the kitchen to make a cup of tea. I turned on the kettle and thought I would feed my two cats.

'I was reaching to the kitchen sink for a knife and happened to look through the window and a big part of the garden had gone.

'There was no noise at all. I didn't hear a thing - no crack, no bang, nothing. The whole lot - including my shed and a big chunk of the patio - had fallen down into the river. The bird table was teetering on the edge of what was left of the patio.

'Five minutes earlier, I'd seen the wall through the window and it was there. Afterwards, I was so frightened by what happened that I was shaking.' Read More

Magnitude 6.2 earthquake strikes parts of NCR, Luzon - 26th july 2011

An earthquake struck parts of Metro Manila and Central Luzon on Tuesday at 1:15 a.m., magnitude 6.2, according to the Philippine Volcanology and Seismology Institute (Phivolcs); but the US Geological Service (USGS) recorded it at magnitude 5.9.

It was recorded at Intensity IV in Clark, Pampanga, Quezon City and the City of Manila; Intensity III in the cities of Makati, Pasig, Taguig, and Mandaluyong; and Intensity II in Baguio City.

It was also felt in surrounding areas like Cainta and San Mateo towns in Rizal.

USGS said the earthquake epicenter was 102 km west-northwest of Metro Manila; 24 km northwest of Olongapo City; 54 km west-southwest of Angeles City in Pampanga; and 108 km west-southwest of Cabanatuan City.

Phivolcs said the earthquake origin was tectonic and shallow (10 km below ground), with its epicenter 13 km northwest of Iba, Zambales.

USGS said it struck at a depth of 61.3 km.

Immediately after the quake, Twitter was abuzz with reports from affected YouScoopers. GMA News received reports that the earthquake was felt as far north as Nueva Ecija, Pangasinan, Tarlac and Baguio City, and up to Cavite and Laguna in the South.

People have tweeted that the earthquake lasted for as short as 10 seconds to as long as 30 seconds, causing tall buildings to shake. Source

5.4 Magnitude Earthquake NORTHERN PERU - 25th July 2011

A magnitude 5.4 earthquake has struck Northern Peru at a depth of 115.7 km ( 71.9 miles), the quake hit at 18:25:10 UTC Monday 25th July 2011.
The epicenter was 90 km (56 miles) NNE from Moyobamba, Peru
No damage or injuries reported at this time

5.0 Magnitude Earthquake WESTERN TURKEY - 25th July 2011


A magnitude 5.0 earthquake has struck Western Turkey at a depth of 15 km ( 9 miles), the quake hit at 17:57:24 UTC Monday 25th July 2011.
The epicenter was 22 km South of Tekirdag, Turkey
No damage or injuries reported at this time

6.0 Magnitude Earthquake LUZON, PHILIPPINES - 25th July 2011


A magnitude 6.0 earthquake has struck Luzon, Philippines at a depth of 61.3 km, (38.1 miles) the quake hit at 17:15:44 UTC Monday 25th July 2011.
The epicenter was 26 km (16 miles) Northwest from Olongapo, Philippines
No damage or injuries reported at this time

Norwegian 'MI5' Had Massacre Suspect On List - 25th July 2011

The man accused of killing at least 76 people in a shooting massacre and car bombing in Norway had been on an intelligence watch list since March after buying chemicals illegally over the internet, Norwegian media has reported.

Sky's Ian Woods said the Norwegian intelligence service said they had not acted on the information about Anders Behring Breivik because it was not "relevant".

In his first court appearance since his arrest on Friday, Breivik admitted he was responsible for Norway's worst atrocity since World War Two but pleaded not guilty.

He also revealed that there are "two further cells" in his terror organisation.

In a statement he said he had carried out the attacks because he wanted to "save Norway and Western Europe from a Muslim takeover".

He accused the Labour party of "mass imports of Muslims" and said the objective behind the terror plot was to give a "sharp signal to the people".

The 32-year-old said his bombing of government buildings in Oslo and shooting spree at a summer camp on Utoya island for Labour's youth wing was aimed at deterring future recruitment to the Labour party.

Judge Kim Heger said Breivik's claim that he had accomplices needs further investigation. Read More

Moody's downgrades Greek debt again, warns of default: European madness continues

International credit rating agency Moody's announced Monday it has once again downgraded Greek's sovereign debt rating - just four days after European leaders agreed on a second bailout for the debt-strapped nation.

A default on Greek debt instruments was near to certain, Moody's said in an announcement published to its website Monday. But EU bailouts to Greece will likely help the country to stabilize down the road and prevent a default domino effect in the Eurozone, Moody's added.

"Moody's Investors Service has today downgraded Greece's local- and foreign-currency bond ratings to Ca from Caa1," Moody's said, calling the probability of a default on Greek government bonds "virtually 100%."

The agency based the default assessment on the "announced EU program" and a statement on debt reassignment by the Institute of International Finance (IFF), which represents financial institutions.

The IFF has indicated that private creditors holding Greek debt instruments would likely take losses over 20%, Moody's said. (more)

Overpopulation: The Making of a Myth

Clinton Calls for Global Response to Rising S. China Sea Risks

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said “the rest of the world needs to weigh in” on resolving disputes over the South China Sea, where confrontation threatens to disrupt one of the world’s busiest shipping lanes.

There has been an increase in “intimidations, the ramming, the cuttings of cables -- the kinds of things that will raise the cost of business for everyone,” Clinton said yesterday in Bali. “At least 50 percent of all global trade goes through the South China Sea every year and it’s important for us to support freedom of navigation, unimpeded commerce.”

Her comments come at the end of a regional security forum on the Indonesian island, where China and the 10-member Association of Southeast Asian Nations agreed a set of guidelines to prevent conflict in the oil-rich waters around the disputed Spratly Islands. Philippine Foreign Secretary Albert F. del Rosario signaled in a July 23 interview that the guidelines won’t be enough to stop tensions continuing to rise.

Hydrocarbon resources “well within” Philippine sovereignty are essential to the country’s energy strategy, del Rosario said at the end of the Bali forum. “The need for us to develop them is greater than China’s. China can afford to wait forever. We don’t have that luxury. We’ve got to move ahead.” (more)

Prepare for a rough ride, US warns world stock markets

Global financial markets face “stressful days ahead”, the White House warned, as American politicians struggle to agree a deal to cut the country’s record debts.

President Barack Obama and senior politicians are locked in talks about tackling a problem which some experts fear could lead it to default on loan repayments.

America is due to reach its self-imposed borrowing limit of $14.3 trillion (£8.7 trillion) on August 2.

Ken Clarke, the former British chancellor, described the deadlock across the Atlantic as the “next iceberg”.

The outline of a deal to reduce spending is expected to be presented to Congress today and negotiations are likely to dominate the next week there.

Bill Daley, the White House chief of staff, warned that the talks were moving into “difficult days” and said it was crucial for the confidence of markets and businesses to get a deal soon. (more)

Asian markets fall on U.S. debt crisis

World stock markets were lower Monday after U.S. political leaders failed to reach a deal to raise Washington's debt limit and avoid a default.

Oil prices fell to near $99 a barrel in Asia amid investor concern the lack of a debt agreement might damage the world's

biggest economy and reduce demand for crude.

Investors were not reassured by Secretary of State Hillary Clinton's assertion that America's economy is sound despite its current woes and the deadlock over the national debt.

Speaking in Hong Kong, Clinton predicted a debt deal would be reached before the Aug. 2 deadline to avoid an unprecedented default. She said the partisan debate over the debt ceiling was a fact of life in American politics.

In Europe, France's CAC-40 was down 0.3 per cent at 3,380.76 and Germany's DAX was off 0.1 per cent at 7,321.78. London's FTSE was little changed at 5,934.15.

Futures augured losses on Wall Street. S&P 500 futures dropped 0.7 per cent to 1,331.40 and Dow futures fell 0.7 per cent to 12,532.

Japan's Nikkei 225 closed down 0.8 per cent at 10,050.01. China's Shanghai Composite Index slid 3 percent to 2,688.75 after a weekend blet train collision killed 38 people. Hong Kong's Hang Seng Index lost 0.7 per cent to 22,293.29.

Elsewhere, South Korea's Kospi shed 1 per cent to 2,150.48 and Australia's S&P/ASX 200 dropped 1.6 per cent to 4,530.40. Markets in Singapore, Taiwan and Indonesia also fell while India and Thailand gained. (more)

Chinese netizens outraged over response to fatal bullet train crash



Nationwide outrage continued Monday in China over the government's response to a deadly bullet train collision last weekend, even as operations resumed on the affected high-speed rail lines.

A bullet train was struck from behind Saturday night by another train near Wenzhou in eastern Zhejiang province, killing at least 38 people -- including two American citizens -- and injuring almost 200. The first train was forced to stop on the tracks due to a power outage and the impact caused six cars to derail, including four that fell from an elevated bridge.

Although Chinese reporters raced to the scene, none of the major state-run newspapers even mentioned the story on their Sunday front pages. A user of Sina Weibo, China's equivalent of Twitter, first broke the story and increasingly popular social media outlets then provided millions of Chinese with the fastest information and pictures as well as the most poignant and scathing commentaries.

By the time the railway ministry held its first press conference more than 24 hours after the collision, the public had seen not just reports of passengers trapped inside dark trains or images of a mangled car dangling off the bridge -- but also bulldozers crushing mangled cars that had fallen to the ground and burying the wreckage on site.

"How can we cover up an accident that the whole world already knew about?" said a defiant railway ministry spokesman Wang Yongping. "They told me they buried the car to facilitate the rescue effort -- and I believe this explanation."

Wang was terse when reporters asked him to explain the fact that a toddler girl was being pulled out of the wreckage alive 20 hours after the accident -- and long after authorities declared no more signs of life in the trains.

"That was a miracle," he said. (more)

Mexican police arrest more than 1,000 in human trafficking raids

Authorities in Ciudad Juarez arrested more than 1,000 people over the weekend in an operation aimed at cracking down on human trafficking, police said.

Federal police said raids in two dozen bars, hotels and boarding houses netted arrests of 500 men and 530 women they suspect are connected with human trafficking and sexual exploitation.

In addition, 20 female minors were rescued, police said.

At least 300 federal police officers were involved in the nine-hour sweep, which began Friday night and ended early Saturday morning, the Chihuahua state Attorney General's Office said in a statement.

Authorities said the operation was part of Mexico's AMBER Alert program, created to help find missing children.

Violence-plagued Ciudad Juarez shares a border with El Paso, Texas.

Earlier this month Mexican President Felipe Calderon approved several changes to the country's constitution aimed at cracking down on human trafficking -- one that requires those accused of human trafficking to be imprisoned during trials, and one that guarantees anonymity of victims who denounce the crime. (more)

Emergency meeting: U.N., donors to meet on Somalia famine as aid groups seek more help

he World Bank pledged more than $500 million for famine victims as the U.N. planned an emergency meeting Monday to address the aid response in Somalia, the hardest-hit nation in the region.

Funds will go toward Horn of Africa nations battling their worst drought in 60 years, including Ethiopia, Kenya and Djibouti, the World Bank said.

The pledge comes as international aid groups warned that a majority of Somalis don't have access to food, and failure to reach them puts children most at risk as their parents trek for days to look for help.

"Women have been telling us throughout the area that they've had to leave children along the road who can't make it, who are too weak to make it and have died along the way," Sheeran said. (more)

Biodiesel: Not Sustainable if it’s Industrial

In 2003, the European Union threw all its weight behind bio-diesel — a fuel manufactured mostly from plant seeds — as the sustainable replacement for fossil fuel. The members created the world’s largest bio-diesel industry, and now to their sorrow are discovering the truth in what has been a mantra of the Daily Impact: renewables aren’t sustainable if they’re industrial. The realization may destroy the $13 billion industry.

The idea of bio-diesel is compelling. Its raw material is grown in fields, and thus renewable; its combustion produces fewer emissions than fossil fuels — in the case of carbon, only whatever carbon they absorbed while growing, allowing the argument that the books are balanced. Since the raw materials for bio-diesel — rapeseed, sunflower seed, mustard, flax and the like — are not used for human staple foods, unlike corn-based ethanol, its manufacture does not directly contribute to human hunger by raising prices and decreasing supply. Key word in the previous sentence: “directly.”

A number of recent studies, commissioned by the European Commission and held as state secrets by them (they leaked, of course), have revealed the Achilles’ Heel of the industry. Its name is ILUC — or indirect land-use change. Industrial-strength bio-diesel production requires, and makes profitable, the planting of so much land to its feedstocks, that two unintended consequences ensue: the land is taken out of the production of foodstuff, thus indirectly contributing to hunger; and marginal lands are converted to its purpose, often by the burning down of forests. (more)

Lights Out All Over the World: Electricity Supplies Are Running Out

Much of the world is slowly losing the struggle to supply its people with the electricity required to maintain the industrial lifestyle. Heat waves and droughts — made worse by industry’s profligate burning of fossil fuels — are at the same time increasing demand for air conditioning and reducing the supply of hydro power. Other sources of electricity — fossil-fuel burning and nuclear fission — are afflicted by rising prices and more frequent disasters.

United States consumers have not yet felt the sting of the double whammy — rising prices for scarcer supplies — in either energy or food to the extent that poorer populations have, and remain secure in their belief that only the other end of the boat is sinking. But even a casual survey reveals that the other end of the boat is very low in the water indeed.

Perhaps the most afflicted country at the moment, electrically speaking, is Pakistan where the Chairman of the National Power Authority says the country is only producing half of its generating capacity due to the lack of money to pay for fuel. Foreign investors have started to transfer their operations to other Asian countries due to the prolonged power outages. One estimate has Pakistan’s industrial production down by 20 to 25 percent, with 400,000 people out of jobs. With 15-20 hours of loadshedding taking place in most areas, many businesses are turning to diesel generators, but this is a major drain on the economy. (more)

Gardening a Crime In Canada, Too

A couple who live on Vancouver Island (off Canada’s western coast) has been threatened with six months in prison for growing food on their 2.5-acre lot in a semi–rural location. When Dirk Becker bought the property in 1999, the soil had been stripped down to bedrock and sold by the previous owner — that was perfectly legal. Since then, Becker has been slowly and laboriously building soil, in which to grow fruits and vegetables. That is illegal.

The Beckers were first informed that they had violated the “unsightly premises” statute of the district in which they live, with “piles of manure and soil all over the property.” (From their property they can see cows and horses grazing — legally — in their neighbors’ fields.) Turned out that was one pile of soil that was semi-legal, so they moved it.

Then they were notified to stop “all agricultural activity” under a law that prohibits growing “crops” on land that is zoned “residential.” This is not a matter of front yard or back yard, lawn or garden, even anal neighbors (although apparently it was one such who started all this for the Beckers). If you grow something and eat it, you’re a criminal. This on an island that has two days’ supply of food available on any day.

If you can read the details of this stone-stupid law and its enforcement and not despair over the survival of a society thus governed, you really have to explain. (more)

Why Have Kids?

As a journalist, my trade certainly hasn't taught me much in the way of humility. Reporters, for instance, speak or write with authority on a subject about which they often know relatively little.

But as a parent the balance changes. When I try and boil down what it is that children give parents I find that Humility is the key thing. In a world where everybody is trying to exhibit what the Italians call Sprezzatura, children are the ultimate enemies of style.

It is hard to look chi-chi with baby-sick running down your cheek. It is impossible to appear slick after a night of broken sleep. It is difficult looking unflappable when your child has set off - shrieking - in the middle of a restaurant.

Kids are agents of a chaos in a world where orderly composure is seen as a Cardinal Virtue. For people who cannot be famous, the next best thing is to be cool. And, dear reader, being a parent and being cool is a living paradox. This matters because coolness often requires a projection of something artificial. Coolness is not a reflection of truth and, I happen to think, truthfulness is closer to Godliness.

All of which begs a further question. How might a society change when there are more people trying to maintain this carapace of cool? What happens to a culture where more of its citizens maintain a fiction of self-sacrifice (giving money to a charity is not the same thing as forfeiting a promising career in order to have children)? (more)

Focus on Islamists let other extremists go under radar: Norway

Security services in Norway and elsewhere in the region had recently shifted their focus to Islamist extremism, letting other forms of terror slip under the radar, experts said.

While there had been initial fears that Friday's twin attacks might have been an act of revenge for Norway's participation in the campaigns in Afghanistan and Libya, everything changed when it emerged the suspect was a native Norwegian.

Named by media as Anders Behring Breivik, the alleged killer has been described by police as a "fundamentalist Christian" whose political opinions leaned "to the right." He had also been a member of the populist right-wing Progress Party (FrP) and was a member of a Swedish neo-Nazi Internet forum.

For some, the suspect is an example of far-right extremism, which has got less attention while intelligence agencies concentrated on radical Islam.

For others, such as Daniel Poohl of Sweden's Expo foundation, a leading group in monitoring far-right activity across Scandinavia, he is representative of a new kind of terrorism fuelled by anti-Islamism.

The manifesto Behring Breivik posted online showed his act was prompted by a hatred of Islam, Poohl told AFP, and in that respect he differs from extremists in violent far-right groups. (more)

Obama to add 20,000 troops to US streets in the event of Civil unrest?

UK: Entire Army battalions to be disbanded, memo discloses

Entire Army battalions and regiments are to be disbanded on their return from Afghanistan, a memo sent to officers discloses.

An extra 5,000 soldiers face losing their jobs in addition to the 7,000 redundancies already announced, the document shows.

The letter appears to contradict assurances to Parliament that no more soldiers would be sacked before the end of the Afghan campaign, planned for January 2015.

Army chiefs are said to be furious that the Government has reneged on a deal to keep the numbers in place. A senior Army source they had a “big problem” with the decision, which has caused friction with ministers.

In his letter to all commanding officers, which has been obtained by The Daily Telegraph, Gen Peter Wall says he regrets the “sobering” impact this will have on soldiers and their families, and the “uncertainties” it will cause.

Revealing an about-turn in the Strategic Defence and Security Defence review, the Chief of the General Staff says the resources available mean “some significant changes to the original SDSR provision for the Army, including significant cuts”. (more)

Donald Trump: Liar, Debtor, Champion of Iniquity, and Worse at Business Than You?

Donald Trump is the most public a**hole since Goatse and has done even more degrading things for fame. He's aligned himself with Birthers and turned the Presidency of the United States into an ad for reality TV, and that's just so far this year. The terrifying thing is that Trump is winning.

He's made such a joke of himself in the process that it's easy to miss the immense balls required to do what he does in public, and get away with it. At a certain point, you have to take a step back and marvel at the rap-sheet of dick-headed insanity he's managed to put together.

In 1988 Eastern Air Lines routes were about as profitable as Indian buffalo hunting grounds, and dying out faster. Trump's cunning plan was to buy them and make them more expensive. He justified the increased fares with the sort of pointless bling typically reserved for silver-plated watermelons. The Trump Shuttles featured maple wood veneer floors, chrome seat belt latches, and gold-plated toilet fittings so that the passengers could know how it felt to value money as much as Trump does.

The purchase was financed by a $380 million loan from 22 banks and not one of them ever saw a cent. As we'll soon find out, Trump has knocked over more banks than the Joker, who at least leaves once he's taken the money. Trump tends not to be satisfied with ruining mere days. (more)

Believers in Mysterious Planet "Nibiru," Comet Elenin Await Earth's End: But is it fact or fiction?

Renowned astrophysicist Carl Sagan once described a "baloney detection kit" — a set of tools that skeptical thinkers use to investigate any new concept. A few of the key tools include a healthy distrust of information that isn't independently verified, critically assessing an idea rather than becoming irrationally attached to it simply because it's intriguing, and a preference for simple explanations over wildly speculative ones.

The waxing obsession with the planet Nibiru , which conspiracy theorists say is a planet swinging in from the outskirts of our solar system that is going to crash into Earth and wipe out humanity in 2012 — or, in some opinions, 2011 — shows that an astonishing number of people "are watching YouTube videos and visiting slick websites with nothing in their skeptical toolkit," in the words of David Morrison, a planetary astronomer at NASA Ames Research Center and senior scientist at the NASA Astrobiology Institute.

Morrison estimates that there are 2 million websites discussing the impending Nibiru-Earth collision. He receives, on average, five email inquiries about Nibiru every day.

"At least a once a week I get a message from a young person — as young as 11 — who says they are ill and/or contemplating suicide because of the coming doomsday," Morrison told Life's Little Mysteries, a sister site to SPACE.com.

What's the origin of this mass panic about Nibiru, which astronomers say doesn't exist? (more)

US Congress "nutters" risk global finance: UK minister

Right-wing "nutters" in the United States Congress holding up a deal to prevent a catastrophic debt default are a greater risk to the global financial system than problems in the euro zone, a British minister said on Sunday.

Business Secretary Vince Cable said "irresponsible" people who had been gleefully anticipating the collapse of the euro currency had been confounded after European leaders agreed a second rescue package for debt-stricken Greece last week.

"The irony of the situation at the moment, with markets opening tomorrow morning, is that the biggest threat to the world financial system comes from a few right-wing nutters in the American congress rather than the euro zone," he told BBC television.

Cable, a former economist known for speaking his mind, has previously denounced bankers as "spivs and gamblers". (more)

Israel seeks to strip convicted terrorists' families of state allowances (like pensions -- gee, that's fair and reasonable)

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday approved a bill proposed by the Yisrael Beiteinu party calling to strip convicted terrorists and their families of allowances paid by the state, such as pension and welfare.

The bill is part of the "citizenship and loyalty" initiative by Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu party. Under the proposed law, the government will revoke the allowances of those who had been convicted of terror acts against the State of Israel. The allowances include state benefits such as pension and welfare, but do not include any state benefits that could harm children or minors.

According to the proposal, the interior minister will have the authority to deny state allowances to convicted terrorists and their families - who will have the right to a hearing in which they could prove that they were not involved in terror operations. (more)

Airline Fee Hike Discussed as Part of Debt Ceiling Talks, Industry Warns

The traveling public could unwittingly play a role in closing the budget deficit, as lawmakers weigh whether to hike airline fees as part of a deal to raise the debt ceiling.

The airline industry's Air Transport Association is raising alarm about what they claim is a proposal to double the $2.50-per-flight passenger security fee as well as impose a new departure fee on airlines.

There have been a host of possible plans floated on Capitol Hill in recent weeks. Lawmakers hit the reset button once again Friday evening as House Speaker John Boehner walked away from talks with the White House, and it's unclear how seriously an airline fee hike is still being considered.

But ATA spokesman Steve Lott said it was still being discussed over the weekend.

The group is working "vigorously" to try and stop it, he said. (more)